Project 52, Week 42, Part Two – Truth and Trauma

It’s time for Project 52, Week 42!

42 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 42 — June 14, 2006, to June 14, 2007.

Last time, I covered through Saturday, August 12, 2006, and my going-away party with Sembach Library folks.

The 13th was my last day at church and Sunday School in Germany. And on Monday, August 14, the movers came.

I’m not sure where the kids were. We may have arranged for them to spend those days with friends. Steve’s stuff had already been shipped to Japan on the 10th. (This was a convenient way to officially divide up our possessions. I tried to get Steve to take more than he did, in fact.) On the 10th after the movers left, we had all gone bowling together — Steve was treating me much more kindly that last week we were on the same continent.

On the morning of the 14th, we were waiting for the packers to arrive, and we were talking in the basement. I’m not sure what got us started, but Steve admitted to time with Amy when I hadn’t realized it. I asked if he had been at her house that morning I’d seen him drive on base behind her, and he said, “Sometimes she let me spend the night.”

And then he admitted – with a little smile — that they had been having an affair since that ski trip he took in February 2005.

But she had broken up with him the month before when – I like this part of the story – he found out she was cheating on him. [This was when I found out that, even though she was 9 years younger than him, they did have something in common!]

She was now dating a guy in the band who was the same rank and was actually single. I suspect that when they broke up was when Steve started acting nicer toward me. He said that he thought it was lame when Amy told him that she didn’t think he could handle knowing that she was seeing someone else. And Steve actually saw the parallel and decided it hadn’t been fair for him not to tell me because I “couldn’t handle” it.

After Steve told me, I kept saying, “I thought I was crazy! I thought I was crazy!”

But Steve didn’t want me getting my hopes up. He told me that our marriage was so Over, they should invent a new word for Over. [Never mind those vows about “till death do us part”.]

But he also told me that years before, he’d had a plan to kill me. He’d purchased the tool (a knife for trimming wood) and was going to use it the next time I asked for a backrub. It was when I was getting lots of headaches. He thought “we’d all be better off.”

I tried to joke about it. I said, “Any time I wanted to kill you, I felt sorry for the boys. It would be awful to have one parent dead and the other in jail.”

He answered, “Oh, I had a plan.”

Why didn’t he do it? “I decided to work on the marriage.”

Part of the scary thing about this was that, even going back over Project 52, I haven’t been able to figure out when this would have happened. He was doing lots of wood-chopping when we lived in Gundersweiler. He told me he did that to get out of the house and away from me. I think I remember him showing me a knife and making me really uncomfortable in the bedroom when we lived at Sembach. But I never ever ever had even the foggiest notion such a thought would cross his mind — let alone that he’d make a plan. I really didn’t know him like I thought I did.

And the next day, he said he only told me this to show me that the marriage was bad.

[Excuse me? A plan to kill your wife isn’t a sign of a bad marriage.]

Well, I talked with my friends at the library. I talked with my close friends via email. It seemed that No One At All was surprised that Steve had actually had an affair. Which made me feel all the more Incredibly Stupid.

I think that Steve was pretty quickly sorry he had told me. He did say something about he realized I could use this against him. I said I would only do so if he took me to court.

He tried to get me to not tell anyone about the plan to kill me — he only told me that so I’d know how bad the marriage was — but I felt much safer with him knowing that my family and friends knew!

Days later, I got on the plane with Tim and Josh to move to Virginia. There were tears in Steve’s eyes when he said good-by.

The book NOT “Just Friends” says that discovering betrayal causes trauma. Well, this was a whole new level of trauma.

Steve had his affair from February 2005 to July 2006. He had told me literally thousands of lies in that time. My mind was reeling and spinning over past events, trying to figure out what really happened when. And thinking of all the times when I’d been tempted to track him down and about what I would have found. And thinking of all the times my argument was totally valid but he had shut me down with lies. And thinking of all the things he said were my fault.

And this is what cleared up my problem with guilt. Steve had been blaming me from the start for not being a good enough wife.

But you know what? I don’t care what your spouse does! You simply do not have to have an affair. An affair is never the betrayed partner’s fault. So I was no longer tempted to believe Steve when he blamed me.

I wrote a letter to Steve on the plane, which was never intended to be sent. I also started reading an excellent book called When Your Lover Is a Liar, by Susan Forward. And I wrote out 5 pages of “How dare you” questions for Steve on the advice of that book. This was for me, to try to process the anger and betrayal.

I was already pretty firmly committed to following the example of Charlyne Steinkamp, though, and “standing for my marriage.” My reasoning was that the only way Steve would ever come back to me would be if he had a complete and total change of heart and complete repentance. But at the same time, I was glad to be on the other side of the world from him for awhile.

Besides, while Steve was blaming me for everything I’d done wrong in the marriage, I’d kept insisting that nothing is unforgiveable. It didn’t seem quite fair to turn around and say, “Except that! That is not forgiveable!

My quiet time verse on the day I found out about the affair was Psalm 119:115 — “Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!” It seemed lovely and appropriate for the time when we would move to opposite sides of the world. (And I don’t make apologies for calling adultery and plans for murder to be evil.)

But all mixed up in this was that I still loved my husband-as-he-was. I still missed being married to my best friend (or the person I thought I was my best friend). I was very, very sad.

And I wanted to pray him back because he sure didn’t seem happy. And I loved him. And we had so many good years together before the world turned upside-down! (Or I thought they were good!)

So — I arrived at Dulles airport in Virginia on August 18 completely distraught and preoccupied and befuddled. (That first month if I could go 15 minutes without thinking about Steve, I really felt like I’d accomplished something.)

My cell phone didn’t work in America. And I couldn’t figure out how to work the payphones. Who knew that you had to dial the area code now even when you were calling from the same area code? But somehow, Kathe and Darlene found me. (Maybe Kathe came in to find me?)

When we got into Darlene’s van, 2-year-old Michelle, Darlene’s daughter, started talking to me like a long-lost friend! (She’d never met me before.) And Josh, Tim, and I moved into Darlene’s basement for the next 6 weeks while we waited for our household goods to arrive.

And I will talk about Virginia next time. That was quite enough for tonight! [I may go have a good cry.]

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