MC went overseas and I was truly home with our kids, living in our home state for a full year. We had been “home” for a few months here and there, but never for a full year. I was so happy to be near my family again and to have our kids near my family again.
MC and I would talk on FaceTime multiple times per day. He was in a stressful job in a less than stellar environment and here we were talking for hours every day about very difficult topics. He called me, he checked in on me constantly. I know he was so worried about me, about us and he was vigilant in his concern. When he would wake in the morning, he would FaceTime with us as we ate dinner. When I drove the kids to school in our morning, he would chat with the kids on their way to school. And, while the kids were at school, after my workout, he would call to talk alone with me just before he went to bed. No matter what I dished out, he kept calling, kept checking, kept trying to sooth me, never giving up, never giving in.
I was afraid to let the pain go, afraid to let him not see my pain. Why? A couple of reasons really. First, I feared if he forgot the intense pain I was experiencing he would go back to his old ways. Second, I did not know how to address this pain within myself and I kept looking for him to do something, anything, to make it go away.
When I think about the rings now, I think my disappointment came far less from him not meeting some unspoken expectation in my head, but rather from the fact that new rings didn’t actually change anything, didn’t take away the pain. I did not realize for a very long time that, in reality, there was nothing MC could do to take away the pain. I did not realize for a very long time that, in reality, what I really wanted MC to do was to change the past and that just was NOT possible.
When I was alone, I would often find myself in my walk-in closet, curled up crying and rocking myself to soothe myself. I was again seeing Phil, but we got to the point where his most common advice often was that there were no crystal balls, we could each only do our best and there are somethings we had to just leave to G-d. I needed something more substantive. I needed strategies to learn new coping mechanisms. Our insurance was also giving Phil problems and so I started going less and less and less.
One of my out-of-town cousins came for a visit. We sat out on our balcony, with a glass of wine and a cigarillo each. It was a few lovely evenings with her. I told MC about it and all seemed fine. I noticed a few weeks later something seemed off, I sensed something wasn’t quite right. I asked him about it and he assured me all was well, nothing new to share, nothing new had happened, blah, blah, blah. . .I begged him to tell me if there was something, anything he was keeping from me. He insisted there was not.
At the same time, I met some wonderful friends through our children’s school. I also had a few old friends in town. We started having a life separate from MC. I was going to the gym every day, I was focusing on school, I was driving kids to and from school, to and from extra-curricular actives, in charge of making sure homework was done and the accompanying struggles, making sure the household was running smoothly and just trying to keep it all together.
My youngest child’s best friend was the child of a couple with whom I became closer. As we became closer, they revealed that they were in an open marriage. I still really don’t know why they told me something they clearly don’t share with the greater community. Feeling a bit isolated in my pain, seeing they were more open and accepting about such issues, not fearing that we would be judged and knowing that they trusted me enough to share such private information with me, I decided to share with them some of my struggles with MC. They had a very different perspective than I had ever heard and introduced me to Esther Perel. I started to see beyond my pain and think through things in a different way, getting closer to acceptance than I had ever before.
MC and I talked about Perel and this couple a whole heck of a lot. He did not want an open marriage, but it was an interesting conversation to help us explore what it was we each really wanted. I also saw that between this couple’s professional lives, their relationships with others and their family life, they seemed stretched so thin. To this day, I don’t understand how you can focus yourself in so many different directions and still have something left for family. While these friends are still friends to me and MC, seeing how their relationship works and doesn’t work has also helped me to understand that an open marriage is not something I could ever handle.
MC, feeling bad about the new wedding band presentation, decided to surprise me with a new engagement ring and proposed to me all over again during his second visit home. It was beautiful. He was working on his religious conversion and would have it completed by his third visit home. We made a plan. The kids and I would meet him for his religious conversion ceremony, we would fly back with him to “home” and have a party for 50 friends and family at our home and then the next day have a small, simple, traditional ceremony at the synagogue with close family and friends (about 20 people total). Our children’s teachers were also musicians and, as a gift, played for us at the ceremony. It was all so beautiful.
The next time MC would be home was at the end of his job overseas. Our landlords had returned to the area earlier than expected, so refused to give us the one month more we needed. The kids and I had to move out and into a hotel before MC was back. When he arrived, he had his 3rd polygraph since d-day. Before taking the test, I asked the polygraph examiner to change one question. Instead of “since the last polygraph have you omitted, hidden or lied to TL about any sexually related . . . .”. TO “since the last polygraph have you omitted, hidden or lied to TL about ANYTHING.” These are not exact words, but you get the idea. Before MC took the test, he admitted to the examiner that he had been smoking for months. When I came back in after the test, they shared this with me. At first, I thought, ok, so he smoked while in a stressful place. But, it didn’t take long for me to start ruminating on how he had hidden this from me. I became very very very very very upset with him. He had withheld this from me. How could he do this? I did not know what to do. I was distraught. On the one hand it had nothing to do with sexually related anything. On the other hand, he hid something from me and this was completely unacceptable. The shit really hit the fan!
I had seen how much work MC had done. He had put in so much effort regarding sexually illicit behaviors. Was I going to walk away over this. On the one hand, it was clear he believed in the polygraph so much that he admitted to the smoking upon hearing the question change. This was reassuring. On the other hand, would he have ever told me had I not changed that question? Why did he still feel it was ok to hide things from me? Why would he hide something like smoking, something I would’ve understood given the conditions he was living in, something I would have understood given that I enjoyed a very occasional smoke myself? When I had sensed something was off, it was that he was hiding that he was smoking. I was right. I needed him to help me learn to trust my instincts, he could’ve faced his fears to give me the knowledge that my instincts were spot-on. He chose his fear over doing that. Our new vows had been taken with a lie between us. I was so angry, so sad, and so disappointed.
We had a week and a half before we left to our new home. We spent the nights talking and talking about how this happened, why this happened and what he was planning on doing about it. He was scared, ashamed and he was embarrassed. All of our things were on the way to our new home. We were living in a hotel. I was distraught. I was angry. I was disappointed. I had to decide if this was a set-back or a deal breaker. We talked a lot about his propensity for self-pity, his addiction to it in fact. We talked some about his need to control and compare and where this had lead and where it would lead if he followed those impulses. This was a relapse. Not a relapse in terms of sexually related issues, but a relapse in terms of his self-pity. We talked about how he took a wonderful opportunity to share something he felt shameful about, to share all of himself with me and instead of doing so, he hid it. We talked about why he did that? He didn’t have all the answers. If he wanted our marriage he had to find those answers!