Incommunicado, part whatever

Another day, another few phone calls, another few voice mails. That’s how it goes when I try to contact my wife. I could be calling with the best news in the world, or with something truly urgent, and it would still just go to voice mail. She’s more likely to answer a text from me than she is to pick up the phone when I call. In fact, I can only remember 2 occasions in the past 2 months when she actually did answer the phone when I called. Every other time it has gone to voice mail. Every single time.

If this behavior sounds a bit childish, that’s because it is. It is the grown-up equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending that you can’t hear the other person talking to you. It is a bit absurd when a grown woman does this, and it’s also a bit offensive, I guess, when she does it to her very own husband.

Look, I don’t really take it personally. I know she is just being obstinate, and that she just thinks that if she continues not to pick up the phone for long enough, I’ll quit calling. That won’t happen. It’s been two months now since I’ve had to resort to phone calls to try to reach out to her, because she has mostly vanished off the face of my planet. She wants “distance;” yeah, I get that. Being two blocks away just isn’t distant enough, so she has to add the layer of incommunicativeness and silence to the mix. I get that, too. I’m interfering with her plans and her story because, oh, I don’t know, we’re still married, and I believe things should stay that way. Or, if you’d like, I’m choosing to treat her like she’s my wife, and like she’s the ideal wife, even though her behavior clearly runs contrary to that.

I guess my question is, How long will this childishness continue? (Geez, I have a lot of questions these days!) I mean, how much evidence over how many months do you need from me to realize that I am going to stick up for my marriage, no matter what? All I ask is for a little consideration, and to meet me halfway. Actually, I’d even take a quarter of the way — I’d do the rest of the work. I’m basically doing 100% of it right now.

I know these things change, and that when reconciliations occur things tend to happen all of a sudden, at a very unexpected time and in very unexpected ways. From having heard and/or read the stories of others, something happens, or some series of events occurs, and then the tide just suddenly and quite dramatically changes direction. In all the cases I’ve heard of that involve adultery, the first thing that changes is that the affair ends. Maybe it ends because the wayward spouse tires of it and wants it to end. Maybe it ends because there is a fight with the adulterous partner. Maybe it ends because the adulterous partner brings it to an end without the wayward spouse’s consent. But the adultery is always the first thing that has to go.

And it will go. There’s no doubt about that. I know her affair is fundamentally no different from any other. I know that, at its heart it is a totally immature and completely superficial relationship. I know that they are both under a great deal of stress because of this ongoing perfidy. I know that the adulterer is suffering rashes and other things because of the stress this is causing him in his life. (Yes, I have heard this!) I know he is getting the cold shoulder on occasion from his spiritual mentor, and this is appropriate. (I’ve heard this, too!) I even know that his mentor’s wife aired her public disapproval of this situation many months ago. There are likely many other pressures that I don’t know about that are factoring in to the overall situation at this point.

So what’s a guy to do? From the standpoint of modern American society, my behavior would seem quite bizarre? Most people and no small number of so-called “experts” would likely tell me to just give up and move on. But they don’t know me, and they don’t know my wife. They don’t know that I take my vows very seriously, and don’t feel like they can be broken on a whim, or because I get tired or frustrated. They don’t know my wife as the obsessively goal-oriented person who simultaneously is painfully self-conscious, who metaphorically bangs her head on the wall until she either breaks through or passes out. (It’s almost invariably the latter.) I am not an excessively goal-oriented person myself, but I am very dedicated, and will fight for things in which I truly believe.

And I have never believed in anything as much as I believe in this marriage of mine. I believe in her, in me, and in us. That’s my mantra. Well, actually that and a bunch of others, but the practice of mantra recitation would be the topic for another post. For now, I’ll close with three practical mantras that some of my longer-term readers might recognize:

This too shall pass.
I shall prevail.
Fake it till you make it. 

Your feelings will change your story

One of the hardest things to deal with in any marital crisis is the story one tells oneself. We all do this. I looked back over some notes I’d written myself back in October, as this whole crisis started to unfold in my life, and I found that I had a story in which I was wronged, in which I was not chiefly at fault, and in which my wife was the villain. That’s not to say that there wasn’t some truth to that story, often there is truth to stories like that. But what’s more important to understand is that we want that story to be true, so that we can justify our emotions. It was wrong for my wife to say those things. It was wrong for her to do those things. Nothing I ever said or did deserved those things to be said or done.

Nice try. With a little introspection, one begins to see that it’s not so simple. Maybe it was wrong for my wife to have said or done certain things, and maybe her response was out of proportion to anything I may have done — from my standpoint, anyway. But, what I personally began to discover with that introspection was that I did in fact have a role to play, and a pretty big one at that. That doesn’t make her actions any more acceptable, and it might not even make them understandable, but it does begin to show that actions have consequences. I let my marriage fall apart by being emotionally absent. I had no idea it was happening at the time, but it did happen and things did deteriorate. I simply did not know how to deal with it. That’s not unusual: most people don’t know how to deal with these sorts of things. There is an entire industry of “marriage counselors” who supposedly help people “deal” with these sorts of things; in reality, that “counseling” is more of the flavor of identifying problems, exacerbating them by talking about them, and then counseling the partners to terminate the relationship when things don’t improve.

So here’s where I’m at right now: I was feeling pretty despondent and frustrated yesterday morning. It was tough. I’ve been slogging through this crisis for nearly 6 months. I do get tired, both physically and emotionally, at times. Yesterday was like that. All I’ve ever wanted was for my wife to meet me halfway and to get down to working on our relationship. But she took a critical wrong turn right there at the beginning and launched an illicit relationship. That relationship has stood in the way of us meeting anywhere near the middle, since she feels that there is no reason to come back. To her mind, that other relationship is perfect. (Now, that’s a crazy thought right there, but that’s another matter.) I do know that the adulterer gave her the option of returning to work things out with me, and removing himself from the situation — this I learned in that early act of snooping in which I discovered the affair. I also learned that my wife’s response was a very impulsive refusal of that idea. She basically said she would not work things out with me, and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. She had known this man for about three weeks at this point, which is to say that she barely knew him at all. But, emotions were leading, and she had to create a story that would make her subsequent actions seem legitimate.

My despondency yesterday morning turned to a muted anxiety when my wife did show up mid-morning. I felt that I was going to be sitting there, waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. I thought she’d just come right out with what was on her mind, and would just tell me her plans, of which I’ve heard unsubstantiated rumors, and for which I have circumstantial evidence: that she’s going to move in with the adulterer, and that will be it. But she never went there. In fact, there was a tender edge to the whole time that she was here. It was as if this steely exterior had a very soft, open, and bruised side to it that allowed her deeper emotions to show. These seemed to me to be conflicted emotions, complete with second thoughts and indecision. It’s as if she has already made the decisions, but is having trouble accepting them because I do not and will not agree with her agenda. What’s worse is that I’m not being a jerk about it either. I’m showering her with unconditional love and being almost totally uncritical. Yet whenever she bring up this “new path”, I stand in her way by gently showing her the path of healing, wholeness, and righteousness. You don’t leave the marriage just because you are unhappy. That’s just a sign that you have to work on it. You don’t commit adultery just because you feel unfulfilled. You will end up realizing that you are even less fulfilled once the affair fog burns off. Instead, you commit yourself to repairing your marriage and fixing yourself. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s leadership by example and, while I haven’t exactly been as successful in all regards, at least I’m doing my best.

That’s more than I can say for her. She actually has regressed, and is in a much worse place than she was 6 months ago. I do get the feeling that she is starting to sense this. She’s calling this path she’s following her “life transformation.” I wrote about this yesterday. It’s not a transformation, but rather a decomposition. Her story undoubtedly places me as the villain who stands in the way of the true happiness she is certain to find once that path is unobstructed, and once she can be with the adulterer 24/7. That would account for her initial “move out” in January, and her actual move out nearly two weeks ago. It would also account for the supposed plans of moving in with the adulterer. Now that she has basically removed most of the supposed obstructions from her path, my question is, “Where is the happiness?”

Nowhere. She’s probably not quite realizing that yet, or at least not fully realizing it. She’s pushing ever harder to try to find that happiness, and its proving elusive. It will always be elusive, since there is no real happiness to find when one chooses a path of immorality.

Then there’s me. I’m rewriting her story. That’s got to be annoying. I sent her a gift in the mail on Tuesday. I mailed it to the house she has been staying in for the past 3 months. I did not put my return address on it, because I wanted it to be a surprise. I did not know if she would object to receiving it. It was just a box of Salad Pretz (one of her favorite Japanese junk food items) and a seasonal cookbook that is published quarterly by Harumi Kurihara. I sent a little frivolous note with an inside joke along with the gifts.

So I was a bit surprised this morning when I checked my email and saw that at about 12:30 a.m. she had emailed to thank me for the package. Her tone was a bit distant, in the sense of stating she’d enjoy using the cookbook but not share any of the experiences with me, but still appreciative. I think that my gift sent a pretty powerful message, for a few reasons. First, there is the excitement and anticipation of receiving a gift, totally unsolicited, in the mail. You just want to know what it is. Next, there is the realization that it came from me, and that I’m showing her that I’m thinking of her and am with her no matter where she is, and that I know her very intimately. Finally, there is the message that this sends to the “friends” who have been harboring her for the past three months. It just can’t make sense to them that, after all this time, I’d just be doing thoughtful things like this. I don’t think they could see this as an act of desperation, not after all this time and after all my consistency. The gifts will continue to show up once a week from here on out, like clockwork, for as long as she stays with them. And if she does end up moving in with the adulterer, they’ll keep going there, or to some other people who know where she is.

By the way, I don’t see it as highly likely that she’ll move in with that guy. I’ve been rewriting her story for 5 months now, and I won’t stop doing it until she wakes up and sees the light of day. Every gift I send, every phone call I make that goes straight to voice mail, and every rare moment of time we spend together these days sends one message and one message only: I love you and am available for you at all times. That message will not change. That gift showed her how much I love her, and demonstrated the strength of my commitment to our marriage. I’m certain she felt something positive — very positive — when she got the package and opened it. She can’t choose how to feel about something like that. She might be able to rationalize a response, but she cannot choose the emotions as they unfolded in that moment. There have been many such moments over the past five months, and there will be many, many more. At some point, the emotions that those moments trigger will tip the balance, the affair will end, and we will reconcile.