…More on how dishonesty corrodes choice, agency, cooperation, authenticity, connection, and the deep sense that someone is genuinely looking out for you and your best interests.
The moment I discovered DH’s betrayal this is one of the strongest and one of the most enduring feelings: I felt like less of a person and less of a woman. Since then I’ve read that this is a common feeling, but I could not quite understand why until I realized that DH was not respecting my personhood. Of course, logically, I know that I am not diminished. But I also know that this feeling is a valid and founded one. It is less my perspective of myself than my understanding of how DH saw me and treated me. It explained an odd sense that I had been getting for a while before my discovery that in his mind I was somehow connected to his abusive foster mother. He was vilifying me and turning me into less of a person in his own mind. I was no longer wife and partner; I had become something less to him.
I don’t think he realized at the time, but when DH first decided to break my trust in him, he opened a space for his lie to taken an insidious foothold that would erode our marriage. We would end in a space where we could not talk openly for his fear of what might leak out. We could not address underlying problems because DH had already taken things too far to be recovered undamaged. He lost his ability to be authentic with me or around me or any of our friends and family. He had to keep up the lies, which increased every day and tore him apart. They sent him spiraling deeper into the depression he sought refuge from. In a way, he too had become victim to the crushing weight of his betrayals. I can understand that. But I also can’t forget that he was the architect of his house of lies. And every day I look at the wreckage and wonder if parts of that house still remain buried or of they are being reclaimed for use else where. What betrayals are continuing? What do I not know yet? What else will I find out? What new lies are being told? What is he seeking out in others that he should be seeking out in me?
We lived like this, with the lies mounting, for a year and a half so far as I have been able to glean. During this time, I knew that we were struggling. We had an infant, a new house which had flooded, and very little support from friends and family. There was one month that we had to sleep in the dining room while the hepa-filters whirred in our bedroom all night. I was also on a birth control medication that exhausted me further and made me gain ten pounds. On all fronts, we were exhausted and stressed out. Still, through it all, I held faithfully to the belief that DH and I were in the trenches together and that we would, someday soon, come out the other side. I knew that the man I depended on and admired was a kind man with honor and integrity who respected me and was looking out for me through our shared hardships.
There were a few instances where I wondered if there was something going on extra-maritally. One time, I walked downstairs and heard him getting of the phone with a “love you.” I asked him who he was talking to. He said it was a good friend of his. I didn’t question further because it was a common salutation between the two, between all of us in fact. Another time, we were on our way out the door for one of our Friday “date” days, the few hours a week we were able to scrounge for some together time. I heard him on the phone in his shed. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he said he was talking to his step-dad, someone who he knew he could talk to and I wouldn’t complain about its delaying our time together. The other time that I can remember is that we received a returned package. He had made me some brownies and unbeknownst to me made extra for some friends. The package that was returned was from someone I knew about. I was a little upset because he did not mention making extra or spending money for expedited shipping, but I dismissed the thoughts and ate the returned brownies. I did not know that all of these instances were betrayals. I did not know that I was eating from the same tray as the woman DH was having his affair with. At that point, I believed in him and trusted him. I could not see that our connection continued to erode.
It also bears mentioning that while my pregnancy had been a relatively easy one, the birth and breast-feeding had not been. I had a C-section after 36 hours of labor and it took a long time to recover. I was still bleeding after 10 weeks. Breast-feeding was difficult as well. In addition to the usual difficulties new mothers face, with the macerated nipples and constant lactation, I also got mastitis, thrush, and a baby who could not latch well for months. She was lip and tongue tied when she was born. I distinctly remember waking up in the mornings and having to hold my guts into my abdomen because my bladder had a large to the point where it was spreading apart my rectus abdominis muscle and my intestines were pushing out through the opening. I struggled to produce enough milk for my giant infant and was constantly either feeding or pumping for the first nine months. My breasts finally gave out at nine months when I had to return to work full time. I did not get a full nights sleep until my child was 14 months old and finally slept through the night for the first time. I know that while I struggled, my husband felt as though he were losing his connection with me and that in part influenced his decision to betray me. However, I also know that he made his decision when I was struggling thorough the depths of my New mother misery, With very little support from friends or family. The only thing I wanted for Christmas that year was for someone to take my baby in the morning so that I could get a full night’s sleep. That did not happen. And when it was his job to support me more than ever, even though I was exhausted, even though I felt disgusting and unappealing, he chose to remove himself and to devalue the faith and love and trust that I had for him.