Blowing Up The Myth Of "The Wife"
I wrote this blog for two main reasons and THIS is one of them. I want to speak as a "Wife" and bring the invisible entity, clouded in judgement about my existence, character and performance as a wife, into view. To personalise the impersonal perception of this unseen presence, wafting about somewhere in the background, as a negative, sullen, miserable influence in her husband's life. Clearly not paying enough attention to her relationship, neglecting her husband's needs and opening up the door for him to look for something better elsewhere. In reality, this is utter bullshit and is just a perception that makes it easier for people to engage in something that they really know they shouldn't be and for other's to judge and comment on people's lives. I have been the brunt of so much negative judgement it's unbelievable. One minute I am minding my own business in my life, looking after my kids, trying to adapt to another Army induced life change, missing my husband terribly and the next, that life, the decisions I make in it and who I am as a person suddenly becomes a soap opera for people to discuss, judge and comment on, while they talked about me behind my back and/or smile sweetly to my face.
The topic of adultery is a controversial and explosive one. Lots of opinions and views of whether it's right or wrong, who is to blame, what you should do and what they would do, say or feel if someone cheated on them. People love to talk and they love to pass judgement on what they think they "see". What they don't realise is that it's nasty and very hurtful, at a time when you're dealing with enough as it is. Well, of course there must have been problems in our marriage for me not to move abroad with my husband (forgetting that wives choose for their husbands to move unaccompanied in the Army all the time.) Of course, I must be a terrible wife, selfish and unreasonable. If your wife looked like that, then you'd have an affair. Just look at the way I talk to people. Look at the way I look at people (and YES, these last few comments were made about me, by people who quite frankly, should've known better.) Quite understandable why my husband would have an affair, I'm obviously not paying enough attention to my relationship and my decision to stay at home was completely selfish. Plus I'm a stuck up, moody bitch quite obviously. It's clearly very black and white, no past history contributing to decisions, nothing else going on in my life to consider, just a stuck up, shitty wife getting what she deserved.
Let's blow up this myth right now!
Life is tough at times. Relationships are tough at times, particularly more so when you have so many outside interferences from Army life that are completely out of your control. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, good times and more difficult times. That's life and that's relationships, especially long term ones. They are hard and need work. You can be happy as Larry one minute and then before you know it stuck in a rut, wondering how the hell you got there and why you've been there for so long. Absolutely everyone is entitled to feel how they feel in their relationship. If you're not happy, for whatever reason, you're allowed to be not happy. However, the choice you make about what to do with that unhappiness is yours and yours alone. Choosing to have an affair is NOT the fault of the wife (or husband, if the wife is unfaithful). The choice your significant other makes about their situation is not your fault.
There are two people in a relationship, chances are if one of them isn't happy, then the other one isn't either. If there is an unhappy husband, then guaranteed there is an unhappy wife. Time, energy and effort in a relationship is two sided. Mistakes, resentment, lack of investment, emotional withdrawal, defensiveness, righteousness can occur on BOTH sides. It is the responsibility of both parties in the relationship to address and work on making things better. You both have 100% responsibility for your 50% share. It's what you do next is the most important issue here. Affairs, don't just happen. There is a build up. Little compromises here and there that are kept from your significant other. Things that touch the toe just over the line, gently testing the waters and ignite the tinge of excitement. These compromises, along with the excitement, then progress. While this is happening there is a withdrawal and shift of energy investment by the unfaithful partner. The time, thought and energy they could be putting into communicating, resolving and improving their relationship, they are channelling elsewhere. Now, trust me, this does not go unnoticed.
The summer before the affair started, was spent overseas with my husband and the kids. During that time I was struggling with a huge extended family upset, causing a highly charged rift which sent strong opinions and emotions flying backwards and forwards. As I said in "A Quick Back Story", I was also plagued with guilt about not wanting to move and was desperately trying to think of a solution for all of us. In short, I was buckling under the strain. I wasn't getting the understanding and support I needed from my husband, I was questioning everything and really didn't know what direction to take anything in. I was floundering about and felt like I couldn't put my feet on the ground. He didn't seem interested in what was happening in my family or how badly it had affected me. I know now, he was struggling himself with his own thoughts and feelings about me, being unaccompanied and how it was affecting our relationship. However, whatever resentments were going on for him, he didn't vocalise them, not once. He internalised them, avoided them, withdrew and avoided me and built everything up to the point where he chose the direction he did. So, when I left and went home at the end of the summer holidays, really needing him, thinking we had resolved the dilemma and come up with a plan, his attentions, thoughts and energy started being channelled in another direction, leaving me feeling unsupported, frustrated and angry. Having now read the books on infidelity, it's all very embarrassingly text book. He withdrew, I didn't deal with that particularly well either, so fulfilled the role of miserable wife. But hey, news flash......I was fucking miserable and for good reason!!! Leading up to and during an affair there is a lot of irrational reasoning going on by the unfaithful partner. This is done by building a case against the person being betrayed, in this case, the wife. If the wife has been good to her husband, and he engages in an extramarital affair, it makes him simply a pretty bad person, but if she has failed him in some way, his choices seem more justifiable, and that's the point here. HE CHOSE to have an affair. He and he alone made that decision.
As you can read in "Owning My Shit", our relationship wasn't perfect and I am very open about how I contributed to the difficulties at that time. I absolutely had a part to play in this situation and when my husband explained what he had been experiencing and how he felt, I agreed with him. I didn't get defensive and try to fight back by throwing back at him what he had done throughout our marriage, what I'd had to put up with being an Army wife and how he had wronged me. I didn't try to out do him and prove that he was the reason I was so unhappy, like I had done in the past. I held my hands up and owned it. I owned 100% of my 50% share of the relationship. There are a million and one choices that could be made in the same situation. As I said in "325 Days" there are always plenty of options available to both parties. Options which avoid the total chaos and utter carnage an affair and its aftermath causes. Options which maintain integrity and self worth and allow the level of respect and dignity humans and their feelings deserve. Options which prevent an unimaginably huge, ugly mass of completely unnecessary and hopelessly pointless pain, shame and regret, the simplest being have a conversation with your wife. Easy with hindsight, hey? But he chose what he did and is now paying the consequences. Affairs are a symptom of a hurting, broken person who is trying to numb feelings or escape from something within them, that they’re not facing in a healthy or mature way. It’s very rarely about their spouse. The caricature of me that was created as a result, was done so to justify his (and hers) actions then carried on by people gossiping and judging. People are unfaithful, and affair partners get involved in these type of relationships, because of their own moral code and internal compass, because of their own belief systems and self worth, because of their own standards and actions. Blaming the invisible entity of "the wife", making judgements about her looks, performance and character are a convenient and necessary smokescreen to cover up the underlying knowledge that what they are doing is really fucking shitty, selfish and hurtful. It's so much easier to project onto someone else rather than look inwards at yourself and the decisions you are making in your life.
If you're a wife, like me, finding yourself in this situation, as I did, be prepared to armour yourself against all those projecting onto you, to deflect away from their own consciences. It's really fucking tough and causes a great deal of anger, frustration and hurt. The way I was being portrayed and perceived was deeply distressing to me. The way people were judging and commenting on my decision to stay in the UK with my children was downright intrusive and frankly, none of their business. The way my looks and character were being analysed and assassinated was unkind at best and dangerously destructive at worst. Due to the fact I had to move out to where it all took place, for a year I was subjected to rude standoffish behaviour, whispers, looks, gossiping, rumours, people trying to persuade others not to associate or befriend me, people realising who I was and bringing up the affair partner in conversation, people discussing my husband's affair (adding on another affair for good measure) at parties and then being told about it, then even a few apologies when people had listened, believed the hype, then got to know me and realised it was all bullshit. I was even asked what I think it must feel like for her when she see's me and my husband together (yep, for real!) It was insufferable, it really was and all while I was trying to put my marriage, my family and my life back together. At times I was consumed with an agonising and unbearable need to stand on the roof tops and scream "I AM A GOOD PERSON! I WAS A GOOD WIFE! THIS IS NOT A SOAP OPERA, IT'S MY LIFE!!"
We, the wives, are NOT some faceless, coldhearted ghost neglecting our duties. I, and other wives like me, are real people doing our best in this life just like everyone else with feelings and flaws, like every human being. Not perfect, but doing our best looking after our kids, running the house, dealing with budgets and food shops, washing and tidying, keeping everyone alive and happy, while making sure clubs and activities are attended, friends are played/socialised with and trying to remember every tiny detail for multiple people. I am just navigating my way through life the same as you are. I don't get it right all the time, I'm not happy all the time, who does, who is? Should I have to explain and defend my choices in life? Am I a bad wife or bad person for making a decision that was right at the time, based on the last ten years of my married life? Do I have to suck it up and smile through any discontent and frustration in my life to keep everyone else happy? Did I deserve the level of disrespect and contempt I received when my husband chose to have an affair, and the judgements from people afterwards?
Hell, fucking NO!
I'll tell you now, until you experience it you have no fucking idea about any of it!! I know I didn't. Despite my experiences growing up with an adulterous parent, I hadn't got a fucking scooby and trust me, the judgements don't stop there. Once you're in it, falling through the abyss, fighting the daily triggers, emotional flooding and panic attacks, nightmares, mental, physical and emotional exhaustion people STILL have an opinion on what you should be doing, how you should be behaving or feeling and for how long, whether you should be still talking about it or not and at what point you really should be moving on. Usually based on what they think they would do or what seems rationally reasonable to them. Suffering with the effects of the shock and trauma of your husband's betrayal is not rational or reasonable. Emotional flooding is not rational. Trying to cope with the most unpredictable, overwhelming and frightening visceral episodes, compulsive behaviours and intrusive thoughts cannot be described as anywhere near reasonable. Unless you have been there, DO NOT judge. Unless you know what it feels like, DO NOT assume. Unless you know what you're talking about, DO NOT comment.
Luckily, there were also people in my life who were amazing, compassionate and patient. Supportive and helpful even when they felt completely helpless in knowing what to say and how to make me feel better. People who listened to me cry, asked me what I needed and what they could do for me. People I didn't have to explain anything to, who just knew me, who I was and what I stood for. Unfortunately for me, many of them I had to leave when I decided to fight for my family and move to join my husband abroad. Much of the support was on the end of a phone or text, but I was beyond grateful for every single bit of it. You need to be told how strong you are and that you're doing the right thing. You need to be hugged and loved often, whether physically or virtually. You need to be told you are not going crazy and you didn't do anything wrong. You need something consistent to keep your feet on the ground and remind you who you are. Then there were the new people I met when I moved who, for one reason or another knew, found out or were told, who were wonderfully understanding and supportive at a time when I felt incredibly lonely and isolated, embarrassed and ashamed to admit what was happening. These people do outweigh the others and are the angels sent to walk with you through these times. Find them. Hold on to them and use their help. You need it. You do not have to do this alone.