I know it’s only been three days since she actually moved out. But I miss her. I really, really do. I miss everything about her. I miss her smile. I miss the sound of her voice. I miss the energy she brings into the room when she enters it. I miss the warmth of her head on my shoulder as we lie in bed at night. I miss the smell of her hair. I miss her freezing cold feet. I even miss her sometimes harsh, argumentative nature. I miss it all: the good, the bad, and the in-between.
Dealing with an obstinate spouse is hard. Dealing with an obstinate spouse who is committing adultery brings another flavor to that experience, but at the same time adds a few rays of hope. It’s different, because an obstinate spouse is just obstinate. They have no other reason for doing the horrible things they want to do, other than they have convinced themselves that exiting the relationship is the only path to happiness. They are usually wrong about this. The wayward spouse does have another reason for the horrible things they do, and it includes one of those horrors: adultery. That’s where the hope enters in, since adultery never lasts. They think they’re “in love.” They believe they’ve met their “soul mate.” They honestly do not believe they are wrong about anything they are doing: not the betrayal, not the hurtful words and actions, not the packing of boxes, not the threats of never coming back, not the references to the residence as “your house” (not “ours”), not the desire to split assets, not anything. They are never, ever wrong.
Except that they are wrong. They just don’t realize it yet. They certainly feel guilt. They certainly have all sorts of bad feelings about what they are doing. They certainly have had to learn how to turn off their emotions and harden their hearts to the persons closest to them. They do this because they are addicts. Dopamine junkies. There’s really not a whole lot more to it than that. They are addicted to the affair and the biochemical high it provides. They get a thrill, and some temporary relief from the pain and sorrow that they have created in their lives. That’s not to acknowledge that authentic pain and sorrow might not have been there, but this all sort of goes out the window when a spouse decides to throw in the towel and have an affair without making an honest and productive effort at healing the primary relationship. From that point on, all of those authentic qualms take the big back seat. The will not and cannot be dealt with until this new source of pain and sorrow — not just for themselves, but also for their spouses — is dealt with first.
But how do you deal with the pain and misery of adultery? You let it die. That’s what they tell you. You simply get out of the way and let it run its course. That’s much easier said than done. I know where the adulterer lives. I could easily shatter his life, humiliate him publicly, and send him running with just a few emails, a few phone calls, or maybe a few Facebook posts. Sure, that would probably be effective in terminating the affair, but it would also cause immeasurable damage to my relationship with my wife. She made the mistake, she committed the sin, and so she has to pay the price that is exacted by living through the full range of experiences and emotions that the adulterous relationship will provide.
I probably don’t need to remind you that adulterous relationships are not healthy. They never are. They attempt to take root in filthy soil that has been thoroughly poisoned by countless lies, deceit, and secrecy. There is just so much pressure in the world that will eventually kill such relationships that few, very, very few actually succeed. (This begs the question of what “succeed” might mean in this context.) Adulterers are selfish, insecure, and often very immature individuals. The sometimes are acting out repressed scenarios from earlier in their lives. The adulterer who attempts to break into a marriage may have serious self-esteem issues, and be using the affair to bolster his/her feelings of insufficiency: they are competing directly with the spouse, and seem to be winning. Then they get all sorts of crazy ideas in their heads: they can live together, they can start families, they can build new lives together, and so on. It’s all a giant sham.
At some point, something quite magical happens. The relationship cycle kicks in. This means that the newness of the relationship begins to wear off, and the mundane aspects of maintaining a relationship start to take hold. It is at this point when the external pressures really begin to be felt. That “in love” feeling — the dopamine high — isn’t there anymore, or it’s just not there enough of the time. If the adulterers are spending a lot of time together, this can happen pretty rapidly. All of the stressors that were there but were ignored because of the dopamine rush start to stick out. New stressors kick in. Distasteful habits and personality quirks arise. Tension builds. Arguments start to happen. Disapproval from friends, family, colleagues, or others may begin to be heard and felt. Pressure starts to rise. Then, at some key moment, the whole thing comes crashing down. It’s impossible to say just exactly what might make that happen. It could be a huge argument. It could be a phone call from a friend. Or, it could just be that one of the adulterers gets tired of feeling guilty all the time. But it does end.
Friends, that’s what I’m waiting for. My wife has done everything she can so far to try to derail my efforts to reconcile our marriage. She said all sorts of hurtful things. She packed box after box and left them in the house for two months. Then she actually hired movers and took her stuff out. The timing of this last event was somewhat curious: she had taken the dog for the “weekend”, left on a Friday, and returned five days later on a Wednesday. Her first words were “I need to pack.” I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that the adulterer convinced her that she had to do this, because I just wasn’t “getting it.” That is, that he’s the man in her life, not me.
Except for one thing: he’s not. He never has been, and never will be. There is basically a zero percent chance of him ever being anything other than a huge mistake. He is the force of massive destruction in her life, but she just doesn’t realize that yet. She has had to disrupt everything: living arrangements, sleep cycles, professional commitments, financial obligations, future aspirations, and all for what? I’ll tell you for what: for nothing, that’s what. The problem is that my wife, like most adulterers, has no previous experience with this situation, so she doesn’t realize that she’s acting out a script that has been written in advance. It progresses according to formula and comes to a predictable conclusion. It’s a very weird thing to watch, too, because like watching a movie on the screen, the actors cannot hear you when you shout at them that they’re in danger. No matter what I or most others might say about the stupidity of her actions, she won’t hear it. She’s simply not wrong. The whole world is wrong, not her. It does not matter what society thinks of adultery: society is too conventional, and people are brainwashed by cultural norms. It does not matter what statistics say: statistics simply do not apply in her case.
Did you notice that, in the previous paragraph, I used the expression “like most adulterers”? This was deliberate: her adulterous partner has been there before. He has committed adultery, and he has been on the receiving end of it, too. Early on, when I discovered this affair, I intercepted some communications between them in which he said, “I told myself after the last time, ‘no more married women’! — and there you are.” That phrase is burned into my mind, even more so since I learned that his first wife cheated on him and left him in the dust, leaving him nearly suicidal. This man clearly has learned nothing from his previous life experiences in this regard. I would say it’s a fair bet that he is playing out a repressed agenda, acting out in ways that he thinks can allay some of his deeply seated insecurities. I guess that makes sense, except that it doesn’t. If you know from experience that these things don’t work out, then why would you think this time is any different?
I’ll be blunt here: it’s just because he’s a scumbag. I know I shouldn’t be critical or judgmental, but I cannot find any other descriptor that is appropriate. I’ll never forget the look in his eye as he talked to my wife last September, when they encountered each other at a cultural event. She was wearing a bright red summer dress and looked, well, fantastic. He watched her from afar, and then eventually engaged her in conversation. I didn’t think much of it at the time. In retrospect, I distinctly remember a lecherous glint in his eye, and it kind of gave me the creeps. He friended her on Facebook shortly thereafter, but to my knowledge there was no communication. Then we went for an event at the shrine he belongs to. She went looking for him, but I did not realize this. That night, he pounced. He contacted her via Facebook, and the rest is history. Sordid, sordid history.
So where does that leave us? In a holding pattern, basically. I’m like one of those jumbo jets stacked up at 10,000 feet somewhere to the west of London, waiting to land at Heathrow. I’m just circling, circling, taking care of business, and circling some more. Sooner or later I’ll get my clearance to land. That will be a happy, happy day, folks, but first I likely have to endure some more of this tedious circling. There’s a big hole in my heart that only she can fill. And while I’m circling, I continue to miss her, every day, day after day.