Say Something in Response

A number of years ago, I was driving in to work on a deserted country road, elevated above agricultural fields about 10 feet below; on each side of the road was a dirt birm that sloped down at a 45-degree angle toward those fields. It was a crisp, November morning, and there was black ice on the road. The sun was just coming up, and I was going about 50 miles per hour. In the middle of the road, I suddenly came upon a bird. It was just standing there, looking at me. I swerved so as not to hit it. Then the car began to fishtail out of control, and I realized I was about to go off the road — at 50 miles per hour.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you’ll know that there is a moment of spaciousness that occurs at such times, when you begin to lose the reference point of the self and things just open up. Time slows down and everything is crystal clear. I was very calm with the realization that I could be in very serious trouble.

I did what one is never supposed to do: I slammed on the brakes. I figured that, if I were going to go down the birm and into the ditch, I might as well do that as slowly as possible. Fortunately, there was nobody else on the highway, and my car exited the road at a 90-degree angle to the pavement on its way to spinning backwards. The car slid down that birm, still going backwards, until it came to rest about halfway down the embankment. Somehow, it did not flip or roll. I then realized that I needed to get out of that car, lest it begin to roll, but the weight of the door at that 45-degree angle I was now sitting at made it hard to open. I thought about exiting the passenger-side door, but realized that, if the car were to roll, it would then roll onto me. I got the driver-side door open, got out, and called a tow truck. That was my response, and I waited for an hour and a half for the tow-truck driver to find me.

Last night, I went to a talk by a Zen roshi, a Western teacher in that East Asian tradition. He was giving a talk about koans, the pithy, often paradoxical statements used in the Zen tradition to disrupt normal, discursive thought. He used the following koan as a springboard :

A student asked Yunmen, “What is the teaching that lasts a lifetime?”
Yunmen said, “Say something in response.”

He then began to talk about mistakes, and the potential that these have to awaken us in our daily lives. The mistake itself is not the problem, but rather our reaction to the mistake: if we can simply embrace the fact that we screwed up, and just genuinely be with that situation, then it all becomes very workable. As a practical example, he gave an anecdote from his life that struck me as very familiar:

One day some years ago, he was driving down a deserted highway at a pretty high rate of speed. He was just enjoying the act of driving, and the fact that he could go along at a pretty good clip, since there was nobody else out there. Then, up ahead, an old man in a big old car (I’m thinking of one of those Buick Skylarks, or something like that approached a stop sign at the side of the highway, which out in this stretch lacked the normal on- and off-ramps. The old man went right through the stop sign and entered the highway at a very low speed, and began to accelerate — slowly. Seeing this car enter the highway, the teacher hit the brakes and tried to swerve, and ended up spinning in circles on that highway. The elderly man in the old car just trundled off, oblivious to what was going on behind him.

When the car stopped spinning, the teacher ended up backwards on that highway, but unharmed. He then put the car in gear, turned it around, and kept driving. That was his response.

We all make mistakes in our lives, some of them bigger than others. I don’t think I’ve ever made a blunder quite as huge and with such life-altering potential as the blunder my wife has made with her adultery. Not only that, it is such an enormous mistake that it has engendered a succession of further mistakes: errors in judgment, improper behaviors, lies, obfuscations, and so on. It truly boggles the mind what can happen when it gets bogged down with ego and its endless need to justify.

So it is that Saturday has arrived, and I have still not seen my dog this week. As I wrote earlier, my wife never delivered the dog on either of the days that she was in town. So I had to say something in response. I’m not going Zen here, or trying to be philosophical, but I did have to say something. I called her, and it quite predictably went straight to voice mail. Then I emailed, with simple question: “Where’s [the dog]?” Her response came back fairly quickly, and in a very offhand manner she said the dog was with her, and that she hoped I was doing well.

Avoidance. That’s exactly what this is. She does not want to see me, speak to me, or deal with me. Not only that, I think that my look into the crystal ball was probably right. That grizzled geezer who visited them last week up there at Camp C-S probably advised her to do exactly what she’s doing: blow him off, don’t give him the dog, make him understand that this is “for real.” If that’s true, and I suspect it is, I can only say one thing in response:

What a jerk.

Well, actually, that’s quite judgmental. It would be much more fair to say, “What a sadly confused human being.”

I did respond to this email, asking her to call me. Predictably, she did not. I gave her an entire day, and emailed again this morning, again asking her to call me, and offered to facilitate that for her if there were (absurdly speaking) some problem with her phone. I’d give it 50/50 odds at best that I get a phone call; more likely than not she will email with some sort of half-baked, blow-me-off-again reply.

The point here is that there needs to be a response to this action. The simple response is how I feel when she does this: I feel violated. My trust has been violated, again. The bigger response incorporates the need for us to talk about the dog. She is a sentient being with emotions and memories. Pets are often adversely affected by marital problems, and my wife’s proposed solution of alternating weeks of “custody” just isn’t working out. She told me that she thought it wasn’t healthy for the dog to be shuttled back and forth between our home and some officially still-undisclosed location, and I agree. But I think it is equally unhealthy for the dog to be housed in one of those two locations without both of us present. It simply isn’t fair to the dog, who doesn’t understand why her “pack,” an association that was imprinted on her very early on, is broken up.

I’m not sure what signs my wife is seeing, but I’m sure she is seeing some. She probably chooses to ignore their significance. The signs I see are clear: when the dog comes home from Camp C-S, she goes to her bed in our marital bedroom, and sleeps for eight hours. This is a very deep sleep, that seems to be occurring as though it were in response to a protracted trauma. I can understand that, as she gets taken to a location that is not her home, and is forced to spend time with a person whose motives she doubtless can sense are impure. Then, the rest of the week that she is here, she will walk around the house at least a few times a day and cry. She’s not crying because she’s hungry or wants to go out. She’s crying because my wife is not there. My wife does not see this and likely will not understand.

At any rate, issues cannot be tabled forever, and this is an issue that does need to be addressed. Of course, the point could be moot if my crystal ball musings are accurate: her parents could call her and clearly object to all the things she has done and continues to do. Were that to happen, the walls could come crashing down in the next few days.

Then I’d have to say something else in response.

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How to Know If Your Marriage Will Survive

There are times in every marriage when disagreements arise, and this includes marriages that are in trouble and attempting to get to the point of reconciliation. I find myself at such a time right now, almost a year in, and getting pushback from my wife that is unlike any other I’ve seen thus far. This is because it is classic pushback coupled with avoidance. There are issues right now and my wife is simply avoiding them. Moreover, she is doing things in an attempt to give me some sort of message, but that message is vague at best, and basically says little more than “I do not feel the need to respect you or your wishes.” I’ll write more about this later. Today may be a day of discussions. Or, it may not. But a discussion of some sort is at hand, because of a situation I wrote about in my previous post.

For now, I’ll let Mort Fertel do the talking. He’s the creator of Marriage Fitness, the program that has really turned things around for me, and that will doubtless lead to the reconciliation of my marriage. It’s not a quick fix by far, but when you make it to the finish line, you’re there for good.

HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR MARRIAGE WILL SURVIVE

 

Do you know whether or not your marriage will make it? I can tell you with near certainty.

Hi. I’m Mort Fertel, author of Marriage Fitness.

If you had to pick ONE THING that best predicts whether or not your marriage will succeed, what would you pick?

You might say “conflict.” If you fight a lot, then that’s not a good sign, right? WRONG.

Would you believe that it’s the opposite?! That’s right; research shows that the number one predictor of divorce is the habitual AVOIDANCE of conflict. In other words, a couple who does NOT fight is at the greatest risk for divorce.

A couple came to me for private phone sessions and I asked them what was going on in their relationship.

“We never talk,” Kathy said.

“Why not,” I asked.

“Because we realized that that’s when we fight,” she responded.

Isn’t it ironic? We try to avoid conflict with our spouse for the benefit of our relationship. But there’s nothing MORE damaging to your marriage than NOT fighting.

Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is! Hate is close to love. To hate someone, you have to CARE about them.

Did you ever feel hate for your mailman? How about the clerk at the supermarket? You never hated them because you don’t care about them. That’s the opposite of love. 

But the closer you are to someone the more likely it is that you step on each other’s toes. Hate is actually a sign of hope. It means you care. It means you’re close. Apathy, on the other hand, is cause for great concern.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advising you to go pick a fight with your spouse. You can’t fight so that you’ll have a good marriage. I didn’t say fighting is healthy. I said people in healthy marriages fight. In other words, the fact that you fight is a sign that deep down you really love each other, that your relationship has potential. But if you want to be happily married, you have to learn to fight WELL.

Successful couples know how to discuss their differences. This is not something that comes naturally to anyone; it’s a learned skill. And once you learn it, all the energy that goes into your fights propels your relationship forward.

EVERY successful couple has areas of disagreement. No two people are perfectly compatible. “Irreconcilable differences” are like a bad knee or a chronic back—they’re part of every good marriage.

The key to succeeding in marriage is not finding the right person; it’s learning to fight well with the person you found. You’ll have “irreconcilable differences” with anyone you pick. The question is whether or not you can learn to discuss them.

If you’d like to learn how to discuss them as well as other marriage renewal tips, then subscribe to my FREE breakthrough report “7 Secrets to a Stronger Marriage” and get a FREE marriage assessment too. To subscribe, CLICK HERE. It’s FREE.

 

Mort Fertel

Author of Marriage Fitness

Marriage Coach

 

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A Look into My Crystal Ball

Today is Thursday. This is one of the two days my wife is in town each week. The normal rhythms of our interactions for the past several months have been that she surfaces on a Wednesday morning and leaves on a Thursday afternoon, and I see her at some point on one of those days. The ruse is to exchange “custody” of our dog, one week with me, one with her. This past week was her week, and this would normally mean that she would contact me on Wednesday morning to arrange for me to come get the dog.

Not this week, though. You see, last week, amidst all the pushback she gave me was a statement about how she did not like having the dog shuffled back and forth. Personally, I agree: I don’t think it’s a good thing for the dog to be shuffled back and forth, and since the dog is clearly much happier here at home, she really should just stay here. Last week she did ask me if she could have the dog “for the week,” so I’m guessing that somehow that a week now means something more than seven days.

She has been quite public about the affair with her various blog and Facebook postings, and from these I’ve seen that there has been a visitor up there at Camp You-Know-What. This visitor is an older male friend of the adulterer. There is a trail of public information on this person, for a variety of reasons, and one of the things I learned is that this guy had a fairly troubled life that led to at least one divorce. Somehow I had suspected this, and was not surprised.

I’ve just had the sneaking suspicion that, with this other failure-at-relationships type around, my wife would look to these two older men, one more grizzled than the other is bald, for some destructively awful relationship advice. Sure, I let my imagination run wild with it, but if I were to tell you that I think they sat around a table and listened to her slander me prodigiously, I probably wouldn’t be too wide of the mark. And if I were to say that I imagined this grizzled, coarse visitor to bluntly tell her to screw me over in some way — you know, a “make him get used to it” kind of attitude — I probably wouldn’t be too off-base, either. So it doesn’t really come as much of a surprise to me that this is happening.

I do, however, foresee a potential shitstorm of surprises in her future. First, I know that she is planning an overseas trip with the adulterer, and that this is supposed to take place in about a week. Second, I know that her parents will be receiving the letter I wrote them in the next few days, and almost certainly before this trip might begin. Not only that, but my parents are planning to send her parents a card to offer their condolences, and this will certainly cause some extra ripples. Third, it seems that my wife has become rather skillful at compartmentalizing her life, especially in the ways she disseminates information. She seems to have several filters through which things go, and her Facebook page bears this out: there is a small amount of public information; the rest is controlled through what I imagine are various privacy settings. Her blog is public, but I do not think she has broadcast its existence too widely, and it seems to be for a select few friends overseas. I do not think her parents know of its existence at all. I imagine they would be mortified to see what she’s doing. They just seem to have taken a big step back from the whole process and are trying to avoid confrontation; that’s my take on it, anyway. She does come from a culture that does value the avoidance of confrontation and the importance of mediation of conflicts, so I guess that makes sense.

Taking out my imaginary crystal ball — and why shouldn’t I, for a guy can dream, can’t he? — here’s what I foretell:

My wife’s family will receive the card I sent; this is likely to arrive in the next few days. They may choose to reach out to me, but will feel very awkward about doing so. However, it is very likely that they will do at least a few, somewhat predictable things. First, they will reach out to my wife and tell her that they received a letter from me. The will describe its contents, remark on the fact that it was handwritten, and seems to have been skillfully translated. There may be other aspects of this conversation that I’ll get to in crystal ball reading number two, below. Second, they will consult various spiritual guides and mentors. I can pretty much count on this happening. My mother-in-law is a spiritual dabbler par excellence, and I don’t mean this in a derogatory manner: she is genuinely curious, and explores all sorts of avenues. She will likely, at a minimum, consult a priest who also does spiritual-medium work. My father-in-law has recently received some sort of credentials in energy healing; I’m not sure entirely what this involves, but it likely has a connection with Reiki. He will likely, at a minimum, talk to an energy worker who has treated him for many years. This man is purported to be a very effective healer, and also is said to be rather clairvoyant. I’d say it’s 90% likely that he gets advice from him. Third, they will also likely consult a family friend who is a fortune teller. The net result of all of these consultations will very likely be the revelation that their daughter is on a path of destruction, and that they can either intervene to derail it, or sit idly by and watch her life implode.

So that’s crystal ball reading number one. Reading number two deals with the confluence of these likely events, and their likely outcomes:

They will intervene, finally. Her father will receive an unambiguous message that tells him that he must intervene. Her mother will receive a message about her daughter walking through a self-induced pit of despair and needing guidance out of that void. The fortune teller will read the various life cycles and talk about luck trajectories, but will be somewhat non-committal, as the key players (i.e. my wife and me) will not be able to be consulted. This is where things could get interesting. They could reach out to me, by phone, email, mail, or Skype. If they choose to speak to me, they will make sure that my brother-in-law is there, as he speaks English, or they will get a translator. They will reach out to my wife, and there will be arguments, disagreements, heated discussions, and fights that send her storming away from the phone. They will discover that she is intending to go out of town, and will wonder how she could be so callous at such a difficult time for the family. They may discover her blog, and they will not be happy with what they see.

But, you know, I don’t have a crystal ball lying around the house. I just have my intuition and my imagination, and they serve me well enough. I don’t discount the possibility of any or all of the above occurring. I do anticipate things getting very dicey up there at Camp C-S in the very near future.

So once again, dear reader, it seems that the old adage is true: patience is a virtue. As you can see from my archives here, I’ve been writing this blog for ten months now. I really thought that, by this time, the affair would be old history and we would have begun reconciling. It seems that things in life never quite work out like you imagine they might. You just have to sit tight and enjoy the show.

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Hypnosis: Good Answers to Some Good Questions

I’ve had a number of questions about hypnosis recently, especially considering what it is and what it isn’t. I’ll let the experts speak for me, as they know the territory much better than I. The following article comes from the good folks at HypnosisDownloads.com.

5 Hypnosis Myths Exploded

OVER the years, hypnosis has picked up all sorts of weird associations from stage hypnotists, the media and superstition. This is a great shame, because in reality, hypnosis is your single most effective tool for change. Hypnosis is your birthright, and you should know how to use it so it doesn’t use you. Here we dispel the biggest hypnosis myths.

Hypnosis Myth 1) All hypnosis is the same

As with anything, hypnosis can be good, bad or indifferent. The most common is old-style authoritarian hypnosis of the type “You are getting sleepy, you are feeling confident”. Unsurprisingly, this sort of hypnosis doesn’t work well with many people. Good hypnosis uses subtle psychological principles and advanced communication patterns.

It’s like the difference between a football coach who thinks you’ll perform best if he yells at you, compared with the more elegant style of a great leader who knows that to get the best from his people, he needs to understand motivation, to cajole, encourage and reward.

Hypnosis Downloads.com offers hundreds of sessions using the best type of hypnosis.

Hypnosis Myth 2) Subliminals work

Subliminals are words that you can’t hear. Common sense says they shouldn’t work, and there’s no research proving that they do.

Hypnosis Myth 3) Some people can’t be hypnotized

The only reason you can’t be hypnotized is if you are incapable of paying attention due to extremely low IQ or brain damage. That’s not to say that every hypnotist can hypnotize you however. The more flexible the hypnotist, the more effective she will be with the largest number of people.

Hypnosis Myth 4) Hypnosis is something weird that other people do to you

If you couldn’t go into hypnosis, you wouldn’t be able to sleep, to learn, or get nervous through ‘negative self hypnosis’. (You know when you imagine things going wrong and it makes you feel anxious? Well that’s self hypnosis!)

Hypnosis is simply a deliberate utilization of the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) or dream state. We’re not giving people medication here – if it wasn’t a natural ability, hypnosis wouldn’t work!

Hypnosis Myth 5) You lose control in hypnosis

Crazy news stories, stage hypnotists and gossip have created the illusion that you lose control in hypnosis. In fact, when hypnotized, you are relaxed and focused – and able to choose to get up and walk away at any time. You choose to give your attention to the hypnotist, and you can withdraw it at any time.

If you have been scared of hypnosis in the past, this article has hopefully convinced you to at least give it a try. But remember, ensure what you’re getting is the real thing. Visit www.hypnosisdownloads.com

Article by Mark Tyrrell of Hypnosis Downloads.com.

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Letter to the In-Laws

It’s an interesting thing, in a way, watching an obstinate spouse struggle with the ramifications of the decisions they have made. The consequences of their actions are often unpleasant, cause much tension and anxiety, and bring grief, guilt, anger, and sadness. Honestly, and I kind of hate to say this, I’d much rather be a betrayed spouse who is committed to the marriage, rather than an obstinate spouse who only desires the destruction of the marriage.

The truth be told, it does seem that the moral universe really does not support the agenda of the obstinate spouse. There usually seems to be some sort of corrective or other reckoning that eventually puts that spouse back in line. It’s almost as if the universe has a set of unseen forces, almost like lines in a three-dimensional grid (well, four, really, if you consider time to play a role as well) along which all actions must be aligned; a spouse who decides to violate the commitment to the marriage suddenly moves out of alignment with that grid, and that’s when the pressure starts. They try to keep themselves out of alignment, and will go so far as to assert that cultural norms and mores are too conventional, and just simply do not apply to a person as “evolved” as him- or herself.

Therein lies the rub: there is nothing evolved whatsoever about betraying your spouse and desiring to leave your marriage. Such actions rest upon violation after violation of those moral codes and cultural norms that supposedly don’t apply: suddenly, it’s not wrong to lie to people, it’s not wrong to break promises, it’s not wrong to betray trust, and it’s not wrong to selfishly abandon others in the pursuit of “happiness.” But such “happiness” comes at a price.

I’ve watched my wife struggle with her choice to commit adultery for just over a year now. Her process has hardly been linear, but it definitely has a trajectory. (I’ll get to that trajectory in a bit.) The pushback was most severe at the beginning, when she discovered that her emotional affair was suddenly giving her, in a very superficial way, some of the things she felt she was missing in our marriage. It only took five days of her soon-to-be mister’s internet fawning to convince her that the grass was greener on his side of the fence. I put a pot down in the wrong place in the kitchen, and she blew up at me. All hell broke loose, and the next three weeks were awful. They became more awful still when she took the affair physical and I discovered this fact. (Seriously, she’s such a bad liar that I don’t know how she could ever have thought I wouldn’t find out.) Then I found Marriage Fitness and began applying its principles and got a couple weeks of pushback, but over the next two months or so, things improved, and improved quite markedly.

Then the new year arrived, and with it her supposed motion through a magical portal that would absolve her of all her sin. She was to have been done with me totally and moved in with him. It did not work out like that. He clearly wasn’t ready for her, and she was moving a million miles an hour in an impulse to make her fantasy a reality. She half-moved out, staying with friends at night, but spending her days at home. Things were often tense as I did my best to reach out to her and build goodwill. We had a counseling session in February and things got worse. She stopped coming by the house entirely. At the end of March, she actually did move out. But the thing is, during this time, the pushback was occasional, and relatively benign.

I didn’t get a whole lot of pushback through April, as she just wasn’t around much, and I was adjusting to the rhythm of her being away 6 days a week, at the now-infamous Camp Chickenshit. But that pushback did come on like gangbusters in early May, and it turned out that she was trying to ready herself to file marriage dissolution papers. This never happened, though; I take it she was not ready on many different levels. Things improved over the next three months.

Then the pushback began again in August, and she disappeared for five weeks. When she resurfaced, it was as if nothing had happened — for about two weeks. Then she vanished again for about three weeks, during which time, I subsequently learned, she went on a trip with the adulterer. She resurfaced again; the first week was fine, and in fact she was quite tender toward me, but the next week she unloaded the worst pushback I’ve seen in about a year. Something must have shifted in her life, and shifted quite dramatically at that.

As a strange sort of coincidence, she received what might end up being a true wake-up call on the very day she lashed out at me. Last Wednesday, her grandfather passed away. He was very much the black sheep of the family, but she had a rather special relationship with him that nobody else in her family had, as she was the only person to have ever stood up to him and earn his respect by showing no fear of his actions or behaviors. She learned about this sometime after I saw her, as far as I can tell. I don’t know if she spoke with her parents or if the news came via email; I suspect the latter. She does seem to be somewhat of an outcast from her family at this point.

I was quite affected by her grandfather’s passing, even though I did not know him well and had only met him a few times. I felt that I needed to reach out to her parents, but I do not speak their language and I didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable, as they are clearly humiliated by her behavior.

So I wrote them a letter.

I’m not competent in Japanese, so I hired someone to translate it for me. I went to the store and bought a calligraphy pen — a felt-tipped brush-style calligraphy pen — and practiced all the kanji, as well as the katakana (native alphabet) characters with which I was not proficient. I literally spent hours practicing this single page of text, which contained only a few hundred characters at most.

Then I got a card. Actually, I had one made. I found a picture of my wife with her grandfather that I had taken on our first trip there together. It is one of the few pictures we have in which he is smiling, and he looks genuinely happy to be with her. It was actually taken on the morning we were leaving to come home, right as we were about to head out for the airport. I also had a print made from another picture from that same morning that showed more of the family.

I subsequently went to buy some quality paper for writing, and settled on some vellum that I could see through, as this would make aligning and sizing the characters much easier. I bought a couple of pieces of high-quality paper to place behind the vellum to make the writing visible, and also bought a matching envelope. Then I went home and practiced some more, and then had a good night’s rest.

Yesterday morning, I wrote that letter and put it in the post. They will receive it in a few days. There will probably be a reaction.

Tomorrow, I should see my wife again, and I’ll have a sense for where she’s at emotionally. I think she has probably been all over the map this past week, so I just don’t know what to expect. There’s a better-than-average chance that she will attempt to blow me off again. She is certainly under a lot of stress: she is supposedly going on a trip overseas with the adulterer in about a week, and this probably has her very tense over all the lies and obfuscations she will have to deliver to me and to others.

When I see her, I will give her a copy of that letter. Transparency is the best policy. I want there to be no secrets over this. It’s just far too important. It’s bigger than the two of us, bigger by far.

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Pushback, One Year Later

Pushback is inherent to the reconciliation process. It can be very disturbing and even quite hurtful when it occurs, and indeed it can be very painful to endure. You simply have to be willing to suffer some pushback if you are in a distressed marriage, and have an obstinate spouse whom you are trying to sway in the direction of reconciliation.

Pushback can also be enlightening. It can be a window into the obstinate spouse’s heart, and soul. It is a method through which the troubled mind expresses itself, and it often does this in very transparent ways. If you understand what pushback looks like, then you can experience it with a calm detachment and sense of compassion that will allow you to endure — and you will need endurance to get yourself to the finish line.

Yesterday was Wednesday, and with every Wednesday comes professional commitments that bring my wife into town for about 36 hours or so. By now I know her rhythms and can largely anticipate her movements. She typically arrives around 9:00 a.m., when the adulterer drops her off at the home of a colleague with whom she stays when in town. This colleague is an older, single lady who commands a six-figure income, yet lives in a tiny, drab little house in a somewhat questionable neighborhood. She has a dingy little basement apartment, furnished with only a bed, in which my wife spends one night per week.

She seems to spend the morning doing frivolous things, like sitting in cafés, drinking coffee and surfing the net. She might have some lunch and then go shopping. Then, she will do a bit of teaching and then go to an evening rehearsal. This wraps up quite late, and she will have someone drive her back to the colleague’s place, where she will spend a depressing evening all alone in that dingy, dank basement, watching the ceiling lights flicker. The next morning will also be spent with frivolous activities, as will the early afternoon, then she will teach a bit in the late afternoon. After this, she will be picked up by the adulterer and driven back to his house out in the boonies 40 miles north of here.

These are her movements as best as I’ve been able to reconstruct them from six months of observation.

Yesterday proved to be no different. She arrived in the morning, and texted me a bit before 11:00 a.m. to ask me to drop the dog off for her week of custody. She claimed in her text to be busy all day and to have no time to see me. I called her back immediately; it went straight to voice mail, and I left her a message asking her to call me back. I also texted a response that said “Please call me ASAP.” I had some tax documents she knew about that needed to be signed, and I needed to get that taken care of without fail.

I then got a call from a client, and during the middle of that call my wife called me back. I returned her call when I got off that call with the client. She was clearly in some sort of public location, and began to prevaricate about how she was busy and wouldn’t be able to see me. I told her about the documents, and she then did assent to see me. We arranged to meet at a shopping center a couple of hours later, as I’d be heading in that direction on my way to work. She also asked me to drop the dog off later in the day, but I declined her request, telling her that I felt uncomfortable dropping our dog off if there were nobody home. I explained this to her very thoroughly, and she understood. She then agreed to let me take her home from her rehearsal and to deliver the dog at that time.

When the appointed time came for our first meeting, I arrived punctually and found her in a clothing store. I greeted her cordially and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She seemed a bit off. I talked her into joining me for a coffee (tea, actually) and we sat at a nearby coffee shop for a few minutes while we signed the documents to prepare them for mailing. She seemed rather distant and preoccupied. I offered to give her a lift somewhere, and she asked me to take her back to her colleague’s house. I dropped her off and made my way to work.

Later that evening, I went to pick her up. I had to run some errands on the way, and this included picking up some photos I had ordered — old pictures of our dog when she was a puppy. These had a pretty high nostalgia factor and followed a specific theme. A couple of magazines had come in the mail for my wife, and I knew she’d read them, so I placed a few of the photos at random intervals inside the magazines. I also had a grapefruit that I had collected from the shrine on Sunday that I would be giving her. I had told her about this in advance, so she knew it was coming.

As I sat in the parking lot and waited for her, I was reminded of a time almost a year ago when I went to pick her up — also on a Wednesday night, right around 9:30 — when I was going to unleash a torrent of emotional violence into her life. On that night, I had discovered her affair, and had resolved myself to kick her out of the house, and to pursue a divorce. But that’s a story for a different time.

She came out of the rehearsal and got in the car. I told her I was hungry and had not eaten dinner yet; she was also a bit hungry, so we headed out to get something to eat. She still seemed rather off and a bit distracted. While we were driving to the restaurant, she began to badger me about logisticals she wanted me to take care of, things I’d been basically ignoring because they would contribute to our separation. I more or less did not engage in this conversation.

We arrived at the restaurant, and she really seemed preoccupied. She would not even look me in the face. I attempted to engage her in conversation, and she began by asking me why I continue to live in our house, which we have rented for about four years now. She told me she was not coming back, she had made up her mind and would not change it, and that I simply needed to accept that and move on. She tried to convince me that it would be better to live in an apartment and save money. I did not answer any of these questions; instead, I asked her why she wanted to talk about these things when we were having dinner. Clearly, she was very troubled.

She then told me that she didn’t like having to shuffle our dog around from one place to another. She said she didn’t want to cut me off from her entirely, but that some other solution needed to be found. At this point, I said, “you know, there is an easier way.” I did not elaborate, but I was implying that she could just come home and begin to reconcile. I do believe she understood the implication of what I was saying. She then began to criticize me, saying that I did not have a peaceful life, and that I was very egotistical for not “letting go” of her. I told her that my life actually is very peaceful, and that she was able to make decisions of her free will. Not only that, but that she took a course of action a year ago without giving me any choice or say in the matter.

This is where her pushback became very transparent: she was simply projecting her own turbulent emotions onto me.

She seemed very adamant about her choices, and was visibly annoyed and frustrated as she ate her meal. I tried to engage her in conversation, and she asked me not to change the subject. She continued to harp on the idea that her mind was made up and that she would not change it. She complained that I call her twice a day (actually, it’s usually about three times), saying, “Do you think that’s going to change my mind? You know, I don’t even listen to your messages.” I did not buy into any of it.

Then she told me that she had received an email from the university telling her that she needed to apply for on-leave status, and that she would be assessed with a large fee if she did not. She had been told by others at the university that she was not eligible for this application because she was overrunning, and that instead she’d need to petition the Dean for an extension once she knew when she’d be likely to finish up. She seemed very concerned and this probably was adding to her overall cocktail of stress. At this point, I counseled her very thoroughly and rather sternly, since I know how these bureaucracies operate. I told her that she absolutely had to go on campus the following day and talk to these people face to face. Not only that, I told her to get all of this information in writing, and further to get names and contact information so that it’s all documented. That way, if somebody did screw up and give her incorrect information, she’d be covered.

The rest of our dinner together was rather tense. Well, actually she was tense; I was more or less fine. We paid the bill and headed out for her colleague’s house. En route, I tried to make conversation. I asked her how her brother was doing. Her response was simply, “I have no idea.” This tells me that she had not spoken with her family in quite some time.

We arrived at the colleague’s house, and she told me I didn’t need to come in with her. I helped her with the dog, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She paused in the middle of the street, clearly wanting to communicate. She told me that she felt trapped, like a bird being kept in a cage. She felt as though she were some sort of zoo animal. “Do you know what happens to birds you keep in a cage? They die.” That’s what she said. She insisted that she would not change her mind. She told me it had been a year, and her feelings hadn’t change. Well, of course they hadn’t — she has been committing adultery for all that time, and her feeling pretty much can’t change until that affair has run its course. I told her that she took that initiative to “be free,” and made choices of her own free will, and that I was given no choice in the matter. I quite simply said that I am married to her and plan to stay married, and that I would always believe in us and in our marriage. This left her visibly quite frustrated, and she turned around, walked across the street, and into her colleague’s house.

I realize this post is getting quite long, but there are two main things to draw from this encounter. First, she is in tremendous pain, and obviously is having serious difficulties with her chosen path in life. This is predictable: any path that begins with an act of gross immorality is a path that ends in ruin. This pretty much always happens. The pushback has been occasional and has come in fits and starts, but has become a bit more frequent these past few months as her path quite predictably crumbles. Second, it is very clear to me that she is about an inch away from a breakdown. She is in an incredibly fragile state right now, and feeling as though she is under tremendous pressure. She wants to blame all of this on me, because it would be much easier for her to just externalize everything and walk away from it all. That never works, though. All of the problems, the pain, and the guilt would follow her wherever she might go. It truly is a lose-lose situation for her.

What also is a lose-lose situation for her is the aftermath of this conversation. I’m sure she has talked it over with someone. She probably talked it over with her colleague that very night. This colleague is much older and has never been married, has put her career before her personal life, and in so doing has never really had any successful relationships. She would really not be in any position to help my wife. But the real lose-lose dynamic occurs with the adulterer himself. She was sure to have been frustrated after this encounter, and likely to want to share that frustration with him. This news would only make him mad and impatient, I would think. Knowing that she would cause him to become mad and impatient, she could instead keep those feelings and that encounter secret from him, and this would simply cause the tension to build.

I know my wife better than anyone. I have seen her break down many times. I know that this breakdown is right around the corner, and could well be preceded by a blow-up. Part of me is just waiting for a phone call with the message “please come get me,” as I think it quite likely that she’ll blow up at the adulterer and he’ll throw her out of his house.

The other thing I know about my wife is that these pushback phases are temporary and that there is some sort of softening that follows. The last time she had given me pushback, it was over the phone, and she emailed to apologize for her behavior later that evening. This time, she didn’t apologize, but emailed the following morning (yesterday) to thank me for preparing the tax documents. She also told me that her grandfather had passed away the day before. Since she is a bit estranged from her family, I believe she had just found out about it that morning, as she indicated the night before that she had not spoken with her family in some time. Her grandfather was 92 years old, and in many ways the black sheep of the family; this story might be the topic for another post.

For now, dear reader, if you wouldn’t mind just holding my wife, her family, and especially her grandfather in your thoughts and prayers, that would be greatly appreciated.

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Apologies and Milestones

It’s been a while since my last post, and that has more to do with my being busy than anything else. After a slow phase at work for the month of September, things have picked up significantly and now I find myself swamped. The other side of this is that, even though I’ve got plenty of cash coming in next month, I find myself scrambling to make ends meet for the time being. This aspect of the whole marital situation has been very frustrating. (Please feel free to donate to this blog if you appreciate the content and feel so inclined.) On top of that, my sister came into town to pay a surprise visit, and she stayed with me for a couple of days. This was a good situation that may actually help, short- to medium-term, with my reconciliation efforts.

In the nine days since my last post, a milestone of sorts was crossed. My wife’s affair hit the one-year mark, depending on how you look at it. It was on October 10 of last year that the adulterer made initial contact with her via Facebook and an emotional affair was launched. It was clear from the very beginning that the two of them were going to take it physical, and they did so about three weeks later. That one-year mark arrives on November 1st. Believe me, dear reader, I never thought that I would be dealing with this situation for an entire year.

In a way, the duration of this affair is one of its most startling aspects. There have certainly been many opportunities for it to end. There have certainly been disagreements and likely an altercation or two by this point. The “in-love” feelings that are nothing more than infatuation have almost certainly burned off by now. It’s as if the world is an alarm clock issuing wake-up calls over and over, yet they just really want to stay asleep. The earplugs and eye masks have now come out in order to keep them sleeping. So what on earth could possibly keep this grossly immoral relationship going?

Fear. That’s what I think, and here’s why.

I saw my wife last Wednesday for our appointed dog-custody swap. This followed another withdrawal phase from her during which I did not see her for three weeks. I had dropped the dog off at her colleague’s house the week before, and nobody was there. She had refused to see me, because she said she was busy, which I later learned was not the case.

There was a subtle difference about events last week. First, she called me. Normally, she just sends me a text. Not this time. I had just woken up, a bit later than usual; I had left the house before 6:00 a.m. to get my sister to the airport for her flight home, and decided to try to sleep a bit more when I got back home. I did manage a couple of extra hours of shut-eye, and then my wife called. This was really a surprise. She just wanted to know if I were coming to pick up the dog. I angled to have some chitchat with her, but she was a bit uncommunicative.

I dropped by her colleague’s place, where again she would be spending the night, and managed to get her to go out for coffee. On our way out, she said that she was hungry, so we opted for dim sum instead. This provide a nice opportunity for us to hang out and connect a bit. We reminisced a lot about things we’d done in the past, and she also told me that she had not dealt with some of the logistical things she had needed to take care of at the university. This got me a bit curious, since she had told me the previous week that she would be doing this, and that was ostensibly why she would not see me that week.

After dim sum, we headed to an Asian grocer and picked up a few staples for her. I asked her if she’d have coffee with me the following morning — I had an agenda — and she said she’d be busy. She suggested that we have coffee just after our grocery shopping, so we did.

I took her to a coffee shop not too far from her colleague’s place, and again we had a nice time hanging out. We browsed an art gallery’s catalogue while sitting there, and it just struck me that this is one thing she and I share — an appreciation for art — that the adulterer almost certainly lacks. (I’ve seen some of the cards he bought her, and believe me, they not only belied no aesthetic sensibility, but also were totally not her taste.) Thus, some more genuine connections were made. Time was getting short, and I had to get to work, so we finished up and left. She asked me to drop her off at a nearby shopping center, and I said I’d oblige.

But I had an agenda, and there was still one part of that agenda that had not yet been fulfilled. I needed to apologize to her for something I had done — something I felt was so egregious that it absolutely warranted an apology. Nearly a year ago, on the evening of November 2nd, I discovered my wife’s affair, which had just gone physical the night before. In a fit of blind rage, I threw her out of the house. It was a cold November evening, a bit before 10:00 p.m., if I remember correctly, and I sent her out of the house on a moment’s notice with only the clothes on her back. It was the single most cruel and heartless thing I had ever done to anyone. She stood on the front lawn, all alone in the crisp autumn night, talking on her cell to the adulterer. He proved to be no Prince Charming, and did not come to her rescue. After a half an hour or so, I relented and invited her back in. This is what I had to apologize for.

Apologies are hard, and most people don’t know how really to apologize. While that topic is beyond the scope of this post, most people just simply say, “I’m sorry,” and think that that will somehow cut it. In reality, a good apology thinks through all the emotions the offended party experienced as a result of the offender’s behavior, and expresses those feelings in the apology. If you do it right, it can be truly cathartic, and it actually feels in a way as though you have lived through the feelings you have caused as though they had been inflicted on you. I thank Marriage Fitness for having given me this truly invaluable skill.

We were nearly at the shopping center when I asked her if we could sit at a nearby park for a few minutes. She did not object. I pulled into the park and we sat in the car. I apologized, and it was very emotional for both of us. But something truly unexpected happened: it turned out that this event was far more traumatic for me than it was for her. She said she did not feel as though she had been thrown out, as I let her back in. She felt that she simply was shown the consequence of her actions and that it more or less had been deserved.

At this point I began to bring up tabled issues. Since becoming a Marriage Fitness “practitioner” nearly a year ago, I had learned that the only way to truly get to reconciliation is to begin by tabling issues — for a time. There were a host of issues that led to our marriage breaking down, but the affair was of course the most serious, even though it has occurred largely as a response to many such issues. I basically told her that I missed her every day, and that I wanted her to understand that our home was still her home and that she was always welcome to come home. She apologized for the fact that we had never had kids, as we were both too busy just trying to make a life for ourselves, and it seems that this was a pretty major issue for her. She also acknowledged that she had truly hurt me and my family with her infidelity. None of this was new, as we’d talked about it before. What was new was that I told her that I had spoken with my family and that they were willing to welcome her back. She told me this was “scary,” and I said in response that I’d already “put cushions there” to soften the blow of that undoubtably hard landing she’ll have once the affair finally implodes.

So this was the big revelation: she is afraid of reconciling with my family. I somehow knew I’d be facing this. I quite stupidly — and, I might add, at her behest — did tell my family about our marital problems a couple of weeks prior to learning of the affair. And, I even more stupidly told them of the affair on the day I discovered it. If there is any bright side to this, it is that there are only three people in family and indeed in my entire world that know of this. In my wife’s world, however, pretty much everyone seems to know. Couple this fact with the fact that she’ll also have to reconcile with three of my family members and you can see that this will be a pretty huge blow to her ego. But that will be one of the inevitable consequences of her actions. Right now, she seems to think that she can avoid it by keeping herself in the fog. Indeed, she probably is trying to convince herself that the affair can last forever. This clearly is not the case: the adulterer is a master at betrayal and failed relationships, and this fact will sink any relationships he tries to have now or in the future.

My thoughts are now that I may have to involve family in my reconciliation efforts. This is tricky, and will likely take professional coaching. (I may have to open a “Rodion’s Counseling Fund” for this…) It does seem, however that, while I undoubtedly took quite a bit of pressure off my wife with my apology, there still is a lot of pressure keeping her in that affair, and that if I can get one or more of my family members to give her the message that she is still welcome in the family and will not be judged, that could remove many of the remaining roadblocks. Basically, I’m trying to open that pathway as far in advance as possible, because she is going to need it very soon. Something will happen in the near future that will cause the affair to blow up, and when that happens she will have to face my family one way or another. Anything I can do now to facilitate this encounter would certainly be appropriate.

Reconciliation is hard, and the hardest part of reconciling with an obstinate spouse is just getting to the point where you can reconcile. Indeed, it’s been said that 95% of the effort expended in the process is needed just to get you there; the other 5% is all that’s needed to actually reconcile once you’re there. I’m thinking I’m somewhere around the 92% mark now, I guess. I’ve made plenty of room for the door to open for us to reconcile, and I’ve taken away the pressure for her to have have to push on that door. At some point that door is just going to swing open. And I think that time is at hand, and will be coming very soon.

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