What you don't hear a lot about is the insanity you'll feel as you experience multiple conflicting emotions at once. Most marriages do not end with both parties feeling like it's time to move on and then waking away gracefully, still friends in the end. It happens, don't get me wrong, but most marriages end because one party feels like enough is enough, or they want to be with someone else, or they no longer want the responsibility of a family, or they feel betrayed and they know they'll never trust their partner again, or a myriad of other possibilities.
My ex had a history of going outside our marriage for sexual acceptance. (That's as nicely as I can put it.) It happened throughout our relationship and for reasons I now question, I tried to forgive him and move on. I said to myself that I knew who he was before I married him. That I could accept that part of him because I knew I was hard to live with and love at times. That once I sorted my shit out it would stop. That once he got older, sex wouldn't matter as much anymore. That he loved me. He loved me. He loved me.
It took a while for me to realize how harmful that was for me. He cheated on me. Often. My friends knew it happened, my family and his family knew it happened. They all tried to tell me that I deserved better. But I didn't see that in myself. I didn't think I deserved better and this is probably where daddy issues come in, but I didn't feel worthy of love. My dad was manipulative, he made me feel bad about myself, he was always in competition with me, and he lied. He showed his supposed love for me through these negative actions and even though I felt in my heart how much that hurt the first time, maybe there was a certain comfort in that feeling with my ex too.
For the majority of our relationship I justified his actions.
Just like when I was a kid, I blamed myself for his shitty actions. I saw the person I was as a flaw that I should be grateful he overlooked and loved anyway. Boy does that sounds pathetic as I write it, but it's the truth. My depression got really bad and I closed myself off when things got too hard. The ex could not do much about it, he did try in the beginning, but he soon found that he didn't know what to do and it was easier to find someone else who was "open" to get him through until I worked things out.
Sex was always a topic of contention with us. He wanted it everyday, I didn't. I didn't think about sex all the time, I was focused on school, on getting a better job, on enjoying reading and traveling and spending time with friends and family. Sex wasn't on my mind. This is where we don't make a good match. We didn't argue about money, or about each other's families, or about how we want to raise our kids. Those things we agreed on so well that I was willing to look past the indiscretions if he truly loved me.
Sex was the wedge that drove us apart, and drive it did. And for the record we both tried to fix things, to change in hopes it would get better. It would work for a year or two, but then stress would come in and we'd escape back to our corners.
I isolated these instances to only poisoning the bad times and not also the good.
To me, the cheating was a set of isolated instances, each having a definite beginning and end. I could mark it on a calendar and chalk that up to our relationship being at a low point in a relationship of more peaks than valleys. Obviously that wasn't the case. The cheating was always there. My ex is a hunter and his eyes were always open. He didn't always have sex with the people he cheated on me with either. There were a number of emotional affairs and sexting incidences that I'm sure I'm not even aware of completely.
Once I realized that this is something a cheater does so many times that it becomes habit, it occurred to me that it was probably happening when I thought we were happy too. He even admitted later that he was probably happier at some times in our lives because he had his side action. I mean how fucked up is that?
I didn't demand respect for myself.
He knew early on that I had a deep ability to forgive. He'd seen me try dozens of times with my dad. I don't let ordinary people walk all over me, you fuck up, I cut you out of my life. I'd done that, quite a few times. But for whatever reason, I could not cut my ex out of my life. It was like I was addicted to his love.
He knew that he could do whatever and eventually be forgiven. He rebelled against me like he would his mother. He lied, lied again when confronted, lied again when presented with evidence, lied again when I saw things with my own eyes. I felt like I was going crazy. I stopped trusting myself. I stopped demanding truth from him. I stopped demanding respect for myself. I became the woman I hated most, the woman who lets a man manipulate her until she hates herself. Many father started the job and my ex took it up when I cut my dad out.
Why did I allow that to happen? Honestly, I don't know. I really don't. It baffles me because I am a strong woman and with everyone else, I see through the bullshit and act appropriately. But with him...I just let it happen. I thought it was worth it.
I focused on the pain of the lies and betrayal and not on the act itself, like the lies came out of the ether.
I've said to my friends and family, to him, and to myself, that what hurts the most are the lies and secrets. That his act of cheating isn't what gets me. I don't know when I convinced myself that was true, but it is certainly not true. All of it hurts me. Starting with the first thought of stepping out on me all the way through to end of his web of lies.
He often complained that when things got tough for me to handle emotionally, I would disconnect and he didn't know how to get the connection back. That is true, I do that. But I fail to see now how fucking someone else and lying about it reconnects us. He says he got his needs met without having to badger me for sex I didn't want and that he felt unwanted and unloved himself but didn't want to leave the relationship. Sounds plausible, and I do feel bad that I made him feel that way. I see the damage of my actions even today. But what I did to him was unintentional. I didn't actively go out and do something I knew would hurt him if he knew. I guess that's the difference, not that it makes either of us better or worse.
In the end, I allowed him to keep doing this to me, whether out of love or fear of him leaving or comfort of having him there everyday or all of it. I don't know. But I do know that I see it now and I can't allow that to happen again.