Five years! Wow! Really? Five years, seriously, how did that happen? I haven't written much this year, mainly because my house extension took over my life, literally! I spent every weekend for four months laying a reclaimed parquet floor after watching video on YouTube! Madness, I know, but it looks amazing! Since then, I've had little house projects to do. I've made a bench for my kitchen island, started a sewing project for my old rattan garden furniture and tried to get round all the tiny little niggley bits that have been left to do. My husband has been regularly absent too, due to Army deployments, which always makes life more complicated and exhausting.However, more of that a bit later, today is five years since D-day. Time to reflect on where I am now, 1825 days after that fateful day.
I was just reading over my last few blogs and reminding myself of my thoughts and feelings over the last year. As I read through what I wrote on the fourth anniversary, I can feel the sense of disappointed resignation I hadn't managed to shift yet about what happened to me. I was still very much soaked in the ever-present and ingrained effects of d-day and my husband's choices. I can tell from how I relived it all again, quite vividly, through the first few paragraphs. I've always just written from my heart and my disgust and disdain are very apparent in what I chose to write about that day. Please note, that's not a criticism of that blog or what I wrote, simply an observation. It's very interesting to me to see where I was, compared to where I am now, so I can describe the progression and journey to anyone who reads my story.
I think this fifth year has actually been the most transformative in the sense that I don't have that same urge to relive and retell those experiences as intensely. My life is cementing itself more. When I say that I mean, feeling stronger and more grounded, without the constant presence of the affair being in my consciousness. Reading back that blog from the four year marker, I didn't ever think that was possible. I didn't ever think it wouldn't be on my mind. I was resigning myself to a life living alongside it forever being played on the projector in my subconscious, without my consent, in some shape or form. However, my current life and thoughts are much louder. The volume on affair noise has definitely been turned down. That in itself is a huge milestone, as it's been so loud and dominating for so long.
A couple of weeks a go, I even realised I was actually smack bang in the middle of "the vortex" (the time from when the affair started, to when I found out about it) and I hadn't even noticed. My son's birthday was approaching, which was something that I have struggled terribly with since 2018, and the affair had not featured in my thoughts at all. But when I did notice its absence, it popped back into my consciousness and made me feel sick for a while, so it's not gone completely. I still get triggered, just not as intensely and if I start to talk about what happened and go into some of the specific details, the levels of disgust, anger and scorn still reveal themselves again. My feelings about affairs, how they happen, who participates in them and what they entail have not changed in the slightest, but I don't feel the need to repeat them as much, unless I'm asked.
Recently I was contacted by a good friend of mine, Jack (name change) who had found out his wife (also a good friend) had been crossing the line with someone she shouldn't. To what degree, I am not sure, but it was enough to send him into emotional chaos and their marriage into meltdown. He had spoken to a mutual friend who knew about my experiences, this blog and my podcast and she advised him to give me a call, which he did, very much to my surprise. When Jack called, my sense of protection for him was instant and very powerful. I set up a meeting with him almost immediately, I wanted to make sure he was ok, I wanted to make sure he knew he could contact me whenever he wanted, I wanted to be there for him. Note, I haven't said I wanted to help him, even though he said I did help, as I don't think there's much you can do in these situations to help. Once the shit hits the fan, help is futile, but I've had a couple months of very being a very amateur infidelity counsellor for him, a sounding board, a sympathetic ear and someone who could relate to what he was feeling, not understanding and desperately trying to navigate. He told me I had a way of expressing exactly where he was and what he was feeling, without him even knowing himself. It has been triggering to some degree. Watching them both struggle through their resentments, anger, grief and narrative controlling has been difficult and deeply saddening. It brings back how extraordinarily destructive actions can be and, despite my efforts to be there for my friends, how helpless we are to actually stop the runaway train once it leaves the tracks. The path you have to follow in these situations is incredibly personal, intensely lonely and even more incredibly and intensely difficult.
However, when I came home from my first chat with Jack, it made me realise how far my husband and I had come. How we had made it through the most impossibly challenging time of our marriage intact and still moving forwards, embarking on a new stage of our lives together. Our kids are solidly in their teenage years, we are living in a place we have chosen to be in, with no moves on the horizon, we are creating our home with purpose and passion and accepting the ever changing landscape of our relationship. So, I think this is where I am now five years later......through the very worst, rebuilding my life and focusing on being true to myself. Being unapologetically me, putting myself and my family first without guilt or regret. Holding space for others in the same situation, providing support and solace when needed.
I think a large part of the feeling I described earlier about feeling stronger and more grounded has been down to working on our house, as stressful and difficultly miserable it has been at times. Building an extension has done a few main things. Firstly, it created a sense of evident security for me. So when my anxiety and doubt would creep in about my husband's intentions and potential hidden thoughts, it gave me concrete proof he was committing to stay. He was investing in a very obvious permanent future with me, in terms of the time, effort and money he was contributing to the project and our life together. Surely, he wouldn't be thinking of leaving when he's investing so much time and money into our house.
It has enabled me to take control of my environment and create a home of personality and choice, which I have been unable to do for the majority of my married life. This has been a missing part of my existence that gave me a permanent ache I couldn't shift for so very long. I now have a sense of control and ownership in my life, I have craved. This is my home and I am NEVER moving again.
Finally, it has been something we have be doing together. Joined forces, discussed, planned and executed on the same team for the same purpose. It's been a little bit like the infidelity recovery process in that I've only really been able to see the benefits now we are through the worst. P has said it a lot - that we've been rebuilding literally one brick at a time and how the extension has been very symbolic of our journey together, and I can finally see what she means. Still quite a few bits to iron out, tweak and titivate, but we've redesigned, remodelled and recreated our house, how we live in it and how we live together, which is pretty much what we've had to do with our marriage over the last five years. Now, I'm not suggesting everyone trying to recover from betrayal should undertake a house extension, but as I said to Jack, you have to find a new way to exist as the way you were before is fucked. Irreparable, unrecognisable and impossible to recreate, so you need to rebuild in some way shape or form metaphorically and physically.
So, after five years of blood, sweat and a ridiculous amount of excruciatingly painful tears, the affair has not gone away, but it's definitely much quieter, holds a different role in my life, as I've very slowly and carefully rebuilt it brick by brick.