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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