In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

Guest Post: Telling Everyone

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credit:  http://f1.bcbits.com

The week after my husband told me he thought he was in love with someone else, I emailed a
group of close girlfriends with the news. My words must have been hysterical because the very next
night they stopped their busy-lives-kids-husbands-making-dinner-supervising-homework and told me to
meet them at a local café, which I did, where we sat and drank tea and I wept and wept and wept. And
they listened.

After that night, I decided that I simply had to tell people. Everyone. Anyone. My friends, my
family, his family, a few co-workers, the woman in front of me at the supermarket, the moms of my
daughter’s peers. I remember thinking that if I tell enough people, it won’t hurt so much. If I tell enough
people, no one will blame me. If I tell enough people, they will nod knowingly when we get divorced (or
when I kick him out, which I inevitably did, in my rage. He came back though. That’s for another blog
post).

And soon, hearing the news, friends and family began to react in ways that told me more about
them than about me and this infidelity experience. My closest girlfriends started to call, phoning to tell
me they love me, they are here for me, an invisible army out beyond the house where I can’t see them,
rows and rows of people who support me unconditionally, waiting there to hold me in my arms if I
needed holding or walk with me to happiness when I was ready to walk. My mom, in an atypical
expression of outward emotion, told me she would be there for whether we got divorced or stayed
married. A few friends, both male and female, told me they’d happily get in line to kill, maim, or
strangle my husband (one of them sounded uncomfortably serious). A couple of girlfriends admitted
they were so angry
with him that they didn’t know how they were going to work through that (they are
still struggling, I think, because their manner is different around him now). One friend never mentioned
it, not for the entire five months of the affair nor the following two years of marriage recovery; to this
date she does not bring it up or ask me how I am.

I know that my story, and my telling everyone so openly and forcefully, was terrifying to many
of our friends. “If this could happen to her, could it happen to me?” went the unstated refrain. “Would
my husband do this? Is he capable of such a choice?” No one ever spoke those words but I knew they
were there. My experience was a threat, something “other” that loomed on the edge of our nice middle
class world.

And yet. While this support was so beautiful, so unwavering, and so key to my eventual survival,
there was something missing. No one said, “Hey I’ve been there.” No one ventured, “My sister has been
through this.” I felt as if I was the only human on earth whose husband had betrayed her. Of course I’d
heard about infidelity in movies and books, with celebrities and politicians but I did not know
anyone else like me who had been through it. Anyone else like me: educated semi-suburban wife and
mom, married 20+ years, seemingly happy (though the marriage bore cracks) and basically successful.
Feeling so uniquely marked in this way was like a scarlet “I” (for infidelity) worn, invisibly, on my
forehead for an entire year. It was only later, once we began to rebuild our relationship and I started
sharing with people too about that effort, that three girlfriends came to me with their own infidelity
stories. Suddenly I was not alone.

Cross-posted on http://betrayedwivesclub.blogspot.com/, http://counselingwithcaroline.com/blog/, and
http://eldamlopez.com/category/blog/

Laura S.
Executive Director
Infidelity Counseling Network
www.infidelitycounselingnetwork.org 

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Telling Everyone

  1. There is always comfort in commiseration, empathy and sympathy to some degree, but the pain of betrayal reminded me at least that we are essentially “alone in the house of the heart.” That does not mean we cannot be helped and comforted by others’ support eventually. Ultimately, however, some pain is so deep that the outside world disappears momentarily while you bear it, like trying to get your wind back after being knocked to the ground by a mack truck soccer player on the field. No standing spectators telling you to breathe are going to get you your breath back. Eventually, your diaphragm stops spasming and your will to breathe has brought you back past crisis point.

  2. Gaze, your reply here is so beautifully eloquent and poignant, it says so much.

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