I found that sticking around after discovering his …. transgressions…. was a lot like going through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
In my case, the denial stage was short. He wouldn’t have… that condom wrapper is totally trash from outside he picked up, just like he says it is. I found and read the emails, and even then I tried to convince myself that he wasn’t lying when he said he had no idea what a “casual encounter”. Even as the lies grew in outrageousness, I still clung to that hope that what he was saying was the truth. Every time I got a little more of the real truth, I clung more fiercely to that as the truth. It was just texting, but he never actually met with any of them. He left to meet up, but chickened out at the last minute. He met them, but never brought them to our bed.
And I’m sure that’s exactly how the timeline went, gradually escalating bit by bit over the months and years, until that day I found concrete evidence of what had only been a niggling itch at the back of my head at that point.
Two months in, and I had one foot firmly planted in the Anger stage, standing over the Bargaining stage, and the other foot shuffling between Depression and Acceptance like a fucked up game of emotional Twister.
Left foot, red. Right foot, yellow. No, wait, blue.
I was angry all the time, and that anger boiled up into an unpredictable, white hot fury towards him at times. I was angry that he was a coward and a liar. I was angry that he broke me, angry that he stepped out. I was furiously sad that he (unknowingly) had taken one of my sexiest, hottest memories of us, just one tiny phrase between us, and tainted it with his actions and he would never know. How could he have done it? Why couldn’t he just fucking talk to me if things were that bad? WHY?!?! I screamed at myself. What did I do wrong? Yes, I may be guilty of emotionally isolating myself, but that didn’t excuse his actions, because I did make an effort to try. I wasn’t 100% happy 100% of the time, but I didn’t go out and drown myself in strange. I tried to fix things. He made a different choice.
There was sadness, and I plunged deeper into depression even as I was trying to claw my way out of it for the sake of the marriage. It could be a fucking awesome day and then I could suddenly remember what happened, and my world would be crashing down on me again. I mourned the loss of what we had, I mourned my ignorance, I mourned the trust. I had lost so much weight in the previous year that I could no longer wear my wedding band, but looking at new sets just upset me more; should I bother? Or was it foolish to believe that this wouldn’t happen again. Like Mulder, I WANTED TO BELIEVE.
I told him that I wasn’t bargaining for this relationship. It wasn’t a case of I’ll stay if he _______ or if I don’t _______ it won’t happen again. I loved him madly, but I was not going to be competing for his affections or love, and he knew that.
But…. I came to accept that it happened, and that it couldn’t be changed. Sometimes, I fell into that downward spiral, that negative feedback loop sort of thought process of obsessing over things that had happened or what I read or questions that I might have. My mind would revisit the things that hadn’t yet been uncovered as lies, going back to re-imagine conversations we had with different outcomes than what really happened. There were times when I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and yell in his face STOP LYING I KNOW THAT’S FUCKING BULLSHIT. Instead, every time another random one of those random thoughts knocks a cog into place and my the voice in my head prodded me to ask him to be honest, for confirmation of my suspicions, I shut that bitch down. You already know the answer to that, I tell the voice. What good would confirming it do?
The truth is, I didn’t want to know any more. I knew enough.