It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!
40 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 40 — June 14, 2004, to June 14, 2005.
I’m doing it in pieces. This morning, I covered the revelation that my husband was spending time with another woman — walking dogs with her, watching movies with her — behind my back.
He looked me in the eye and confessed with the words, “I’m not having an affair, but…” And so much that followed was pretty much a direct result of my belief in this lie.
I mentioned that I’d always thought I’d immediately file divorce from my husband if he had an affair. Well, at the time I had very black-and-white thinking about divorce. Since I believed him that there was not an affair, I very strongly with all my heart believed that divorce was WRONG.
(Okay, there’s also the element that if I divorced him, I’d lose my job and get sent back to America. And it was Josh’s Junior year of high school!)
But yes, I was still devastated. I think that surprised Steve a little bit. I mean, he wasn’t having an affair, just needed a friend. What was my problem?
Here’s what I wrote in my quiet time journal the next day, March 15:
I feel like my heart has been stepped on, splattering a room full of blood.
When I get busy, I forget about it for awhile.
Then I remember, and pain actually catches in my chest.
I feel so horribly needy, and I feel sure Steve must hate that. But I so desperately want him to love me! So much! And I’m so afraid that that makes me unlovable.
Why do I feel like Steve dislikes me?
Any little criticism now revives all my fears.
Steve said people are defined by their biggest fears. My greatest fear is that Steve won’t like me.
I’m torturing myself by thinking of how his eyes lit up as he left me — to go to be with the dogs and Amy. He barely talked to me those last three days of his trip — and then he went to Amy’s house to watch Mulan. It makes my stomach sick when I think of it.
Now I don’t know what to do. When is it supposed to stop hurting? How do I find out what Steve’s thinking? How do I make him happy? Is it possible?
Oh God, I need HELP!!!!
I just feel so despairing. How can I ever regain his love? How did I get it in the first place?
I so want Steve to be happy.
Why did he hurt me so much?
What should I do? What should I do?
Steve was apologetic at first. I don’t think he’d realized how hugely I was hurt even if I did believe him it wasn’t an affair. But he didn’t sound like he’d enjoyed living a double life. I thought that was that. The secret was out, and it was done.
I did write to Amy at her work email address the next day. I don’t remember everything I said, but I do remember some of what it included. I said, first, that Steve had assured me that absolutely nothing romantic had happened between them — but I really needed to hear it from her as well.
After all, I didn’t want to, when I saw her at band functions, feel like scratching her eyes out.
Notice everyone: This is NOT a threat at all! I believed I was talking to someone who was a “friend” to Steve! A “friend” would want their friend’s wife to know that everything was aboveboard and friendly! A “friend” would not want the wife to think they were making on move on her husband! A “friend” would completely understand and want to defuse that completely natural anger they had unwittingly aroused!
For all I knew, Amy didn’t even know that Steve hadn’t told me he was going to her house. So I explained to her that I didn’t know, and she really should ask him in the future, because she wasn’t helping his marriage.
I told her that Steve had said he needed a friend, so I should thank her for being there for him.
But I also said that, if a married man asks to come over to your house at midnight, a friend says No. So I couldn’t really call her Steve’s friend.
She didn’t answer. The next day or so, Steve found out that she had been crying. Later, he came to me saying that Amy had suffered abuse in the past, so she was upset by my threats of violence!!!
I asked him why she would be upset by my letter if there was nothing romantic between them. He then admitted that she had told him she had “feelings” for him. I asked if they’d done anything romantic at all — even held hands? He assured me that no, they hadn’t.
Though at that point all I could think was, I TOLD you so! I TOLD you she’d fall for you if you went on romantic walks with her! See! I was right all along!
Steve asked to go to Amy’s house to talk with her. I said okay, and I sent her a note saying that I knew he was going, because of course now she would want to be very careful not to see him behind my back. I actually apologized for my earlier note! (Which I regretted before long.)
Steve said she told him to go to hell and that he’d put her in a bad position, and she wouldn’t let him in.
Well, that was fine with me. (Though Steve said I didn’t want him to have any friends.) Okay, so I all the more thought it was done. Steve was seeing this “friend” behind my back, but he’d apologized and I’d explained to her that it was behind my back and now she was mad at him anyway.
So I was wary, but I thought it was done.
However, Steve did start telling me all the ways I’d let him down. Everything I’d done wrong over 18 years of marriage. According to him, three times, I had said, “I hate you.” I remembered one of those times. It was in our first year of marriage. I had apologized for it. (Steve never told me how many times I’d said “I love you” over the years.)
He also said that three times I’d threatened to leave him. I only remembered one of those, too. It was during a recent argument. I’d said, “Maybe I should just Leave!” What I’d meant by that was Maybe I should do the horrible thing of leaving the house in the middle of an argument and drive around for an hour. I did not mean divorce. But when I explained that to Steve, he continued to insist that I’d threatened to leave him three times.
And he had many other grievances. But there was a big disconnect there. Remember, Steve was having an affair — This list of things I’d done were his reasons why that was totally justified.
I believed Steve had “needed a friend” because I had not “been there” for him. Well, I could fix that! I would hereby “be there” for him and satisfy his every whim!
One of his complaints was not enough sex. Well, I could definitely fix that! (And Steve traveled a lot. I wasn’t satisfied with the amount of sex in our marriage, either.)
Steve gave me a little speech about how he shouldn’t really have sex with me now, but he couldn’t turn it down. That was incomprehensible to me. I figured that sex was one thing she wasn’t getting, and I was going to make the most of that! Though there were times in the coming months when Steve actually got mad at me for initiating sex when he was tired! Should have been a big, big, big tip-off, but I still believed that he wouldn’t look into my eyes and lie to me.
That part is almost amusing now. But the truth is, I went into a major depression.
It turned out that the migraine preventative I was taking, Neurontin, can actually cause depression — if you have a reason to be depressed. I didn’t figure this out until much later, though.
But here’s what I wrote in my quiet time journal on March 17. I hadn’t realized this happened so soon after the revelation.
Thank You, Father.
As I was praying to you out on our front doorstep, crying out to you in agony, You suddenly took away my neediness. You told me that if Steve left me, that would not be the end — that You would give me someone new to love me, and my life would be beautiful.
Actually, what I “heard” clear as could be in my mind was “Steve will leave you, and…” Well, I didn’t listen carefully after that, I was so horrified by those first words and was saying, “No, Lord, please No.” But — it really did fill me with peace. And tell me that there was joy ahead. That I should NOT end my life. (And that’s how bad I was.)
My journal entry continues…
Father, I don’t want that second-best wonderful option. But thank You for helping me to stop being a quivering bundle of neediness. Thank You that You reminded me that, even though I am flawed, You made me a wonderful person with glorious possibilities.
Then, yesterday, Steve began doing wonderful things for me. He introduced me [when the Brass Quintet played at the middle school] as “beautiful and wonderful.” And he played, just for me, “Simple Gifts,” the song he played on the day he asked me to marry him.
He really did that. After the concert, when people were milling around, he played Simple Gifts. To me.
He’s making it very clear that he’s choosing to stay in love with me.
However, three days later on the 20th:
Today Steve and I spent a couple of hours talking. He worked hard to convince me that we have a bad, unhappy marriage. Father, he had plenty of evidence.
Lord, I tried to think of our marriage as a good one. We have lunches together. We talk to each other. Steve brought up all the times we’ve caused each other pain. He seems ready to jump on little things and show me why that proves we’re incompatible. Even his band friends have told him they wonder why we’re together.
Lord, he convinced me. He doesn’t sound like he has much hope for our marriage at all.
Father, I always like to look on the bright side. Steve still thrills me. We hadn’t fought in awhile. So I thought things were okay.
Lord, please help our marriage to heal.
Help me to know what changes I should make that will help me to be a better wife. And help Steve to trust those changes and to be able to forgive the past.
Okay, wait a minute. I glossed over Josh’s 17th birthday on the 19th.
It was a Saturday, so we went to Holiday Park that day.
And the next week, was Josh’s Brain Bowl competition, a couple hours away. That year, Josh’s team got 2nd place!
Steve went to Georgia, the former Soviet republic, the next week, which was a fantastic trip for him. But I remember crying on the phone with him. He was already talking about moving out.
And here’s my quiet time journal on April 2nd.
I feel soooo rejected tonight. Talk about up and down and up and down. Any time I feel encouraged about our relationship, Steve pushes me down again.
He won’t tell me he loves me. When I talk about how he loved me when we were married, he talks about the fights we had. He seemed to think they were worth it then.
[He actually said that he’d decided to stop lying to me, and that was why he wouldn’t say he loved me any more. I clung to that and reasoned if he wouldn’t even tell me he loved me, then he was telling the truth about everything else, too! But it was selective truth.]
He’d worked out all these reasons why we should split up. He seems disappointed that I don’t agree.
Lord, I’m wrong to be angry. That will NOT win his heart.
[Oh Sondy, Sondy, I’m not so sure you were wrong!]
He’s rejecting me, and he’s rejecting You, too.
Thank You for the progress today and yesterday. Thank You that he’s giving me three months. Thank You that he sees that things are not the way he thought he had them figured out.
Lord, help Steve to want to fix things.
Right now Steve doesn’t want to read my notes; he doesn’t want to read to me; he doesn’t want to have sex with me; he doesn’t want to go to church with me; he doesn’t want to kiss me.
Lord, Steve is hurting. Put compassion in my heart toward him….
I see from the next entry that Steve was already talking about not attending church any more. I tried switching churches — we went to the bigger Faith Baptist Church near Ramstein. They had a better Sunday School for the kids. Steve went a couple weeks — and slept through the sermon. Then he stopped altogether.
However, Steve did agree to go on the Rome vacation I’d already booked. Josh’s Florence trip started on April 5, and we flew to Pisa on April 9. (That was actually where we met Josh.)
But the day before the trip — when I was busy packing and getting ready — Steve spent a few hours because he “needed” to take Amy’s dogs to a kennel. There had been a sudden change of plans for a Brass Quintet tour that Amy was on, and she hadn’t had time to take them.
I hadn’t even known they were friends again. And I did not see why Steve should spend his time helping her when I needed his help getting ready for the trip. But Steve got mad at me for that reaction.
We did, though, have another wonderful trip. Lots of tension between Steve and me, but fun times, too.
I only got really sad once on the train when Steve sat on the other side of the aisle from me and the kids joined him. I felt like poison.
But anyway, here are some Rome pictures!
One of the awesome things about going after Josh’s AP Art History field trip was having Josh explain things about various works of art during our trip. We saw some amazing museums where I couldn’t take pictures. We especially enjoyed the Museo Borghese.
We finished with a few hours in Florence.
Things continued to be very rocky. But I arranged for Timothy’s friend’s mom to take him on a weekend and for Josh to stay with a friend — and I made plans to visit Steve on his tour in England, now that he was a MSgt and got his own hotel room. I came for a free day they had in the middle of the trip and spent the night before and after.
He showed me Ely Cathedral, where he’d performed many concerts.
Sigh. But on that trip, Steve had openly brought along a book with tips for having better sex with women. I actually thought he was reading it to improve our relationship! I read a bit of it myself. Yes, I feel very, very, very stupid about this. But also angry that Steve was so confident he could fool me — and he could — that he didn’t even hide those things. He also didn’t hide a book he’d purchased called Seduction that he kept in his bedside table drawer. It still didn’t even compute that he was having an affair.
Mind you, I was relieved that we didn’t even see Amy while I was there. Somehow, I thought band people saw more of each other.
We also went into London and visited the British Library, where Jane Austen’s manuscript brought tears to my eyes.
And we visited the British Museum.
So, we had a nice trip — but things weren’t going well. I’d keep trying. We’d keep having setbacks. I was in a very deep depression.
Toward the end of May, Steve said that while Amy was out of town, he’d agreed to walk her dogs. He thought I would have no problem with that, since, after all, Amy wasn’t there.
Well, I wasn’t going to argue with anything Steve said. Because that would make me argumentative. But I was not happy about it. However, I did say that he could do it, if he’d take me along. Then at least I’d get some time with my husband. And I could see for myself that Amy wasn’t there!
Still, my depression was very deep. But four things helped get me out of it.
The biggest help was the least spiritual. Remember how the migraine preventative I was on could actually cause depression? I eventually switched to an antidepressant I’d tried before as a preventative, Zoloft. (Okay, now I can’t find starting Zoloft written in my calendar, so maybe this happened later. But eventually, it really did help, both my depression and my headaches.)
Another big help I mentioned when I told my story. My quiet times were happening in Psalm 103. More about that in a bit.
Another big help was that Kathe came to visit! She brought her kids, Tim and Ben, and her Mom, Patti. I had a wonderful talk with Patti. Her own husband had left her in a very similar way when she was about my age. So to see her vibrant and active and happy, traveling in Europe was inspirational. (Both Kathe and her Mom had left their husbands back at home.)
We took Kathe and her family to our favorite castles, of course!
First, Burg Falkenstein.
And of course Burg Rheinfels!
But — the thing that helped most to pull me out of depression happened on Kathe’s birthday, June 4, 2005.
I’d been singing with the German-American choir all this time? Well, they had a concert on Kathe’s birthday in the gorgeous old Cistercian church in Otterberg. (It looked like a cathedral, but technically wasn’t one.)
Anyway, two days before the concert, our soloist got sick and lost her voice. They asked me to step in and sing the solo.
It was perfect! I didn’t have any time to be nervous. And if I did a bad job — well, I hadn’t prepared.
I don’t remember what song it was, but I do remember that it was a Christian song with encouraging words that really helped.
And what do you know? It turns out you can’t stand up and sing a solo while feeling like you’re worthless. It just can’t be done.
Mind you, Steve managed to miss the solo. He drove Josh to their prom that night. Kathe’s family and my Timothy were there — and Timothy came home with a fever! But we had cake for Kathe after the concert — and I was just encouraged and uplifted.
We were still struggling along. We had started going to marriage counseling. Free on-base marriage counseling. I think when I got where I was thinking about thinking about suicide, Steve thought it would be good to get me in there. And I had convinced myself that Steve’s problem was that he was depressed. (Hadn’t he been telling me how much he needed a friend?) So I wanted to get him to see a counselor. Anyway, at the beginning of the counseling, I was still hoping it would help. But this was an Air Force officer, so it’s not like Steve was ever going to tell him the truth about his affair.
The counselor did enroll us in a Communication Class for couples.
I’ll end with a hopeful note. Here’s what I wrote in my quiet time notebook on my 41st birthday, June 14, 2005.
I’m 41 today.
What will my 42nd year hold?
I’d like it to be the year that my marriage is restored.
Father, even if it is not, I know that You will remain faithful.
And today I’m hopeful. Steve is sweetly working to give me a happy birthday. He can’t come to the Couples’ Class today, but that gives us a reason to start meeting weekly — the first time, I’ll go over what we learned today.
Lord, please restore our marriage this year. Draw Steve back to You. Help him to feel how greatly You love him. Help both of us grow to be the people You created us to be.
The verses I’d like for my 42nd year are Psalm 103:8-14 —
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth
so great is his love for those who fear him,
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.”
Father, thank You for Your tremendous love. Thank You for Your faithfulness. Thank You for the love You’ve put in my heart for Steve. Help him feel Your love for him.
I’d also like for this to be the year I become a published author. But so much more than that, I’d like my marriage to be restored.
I’m afraid, though, that things were about to get much, much worse — before they eventually got much, much better.