Tag Archives: In-Laws

Letter from the In-Laws, Redux; Or, Rodion Reflects

I had a rather momentous occasion in my spiritual life yesterday — one that I’ll likely go into on another occasion — that left me with some impetus for reflection. Specifically, I’m thinking about the letter that came from my mother-in-law the other day. The post I wrote about that letter was really quite reactive, and by the end of the day I had developed a somewhat different view on the whole matter. The occasion yesterday gave me further pause for reflection.

I guess my initial reaction to receiving that letter was that it was likely that my wife had directly provoked it in some way, for example complaining to her parents and asking them to write to me. On further reflection, that seems quite unlikely.

You see, I’ve had the chance to think not only about what my mother-in-law said, but also the way in which she said it. Her choice of words was quite peculiar: she repeatedly used the verb “to bother over,” as in “I wish you wouldn’t bother over my daughter.” The suggestion from that word is that her daughter was rather a nuisance, and the implication that lay just beneath the surface was that she absolutely did not agree with her daughter’s choices. Thinking more about my mother-in-law’s motives, it even seems quite plausible that this was a face-saving tactic for her: she finds her daughter at present to be quite intractable and impervious to reason, and possibly thinks that this situation will never end.

Well, she’s wrong about that — the ending part, that is. The imperviousness to reason and intractability, well, those seem pretty accurate. But it is just that intractability that will bring about that inevitable ending.

The tone of my mother-in-law’s letter, despite its somewhat harsh wording, was actually quite mild, and the intent of the letter actually thoughtful, perhaps even kind. It was as if she wanted to reach out to me and implore me not to waste my time on her daughter who seems to her increasingly beyond reach. I can sense that she feels more than a bit of exasperation at this situation, especially considering the shame and embarrassment it has brought upon their family. Japan, for all its modernity, is still a “face” culture, and things like this just don’t go over well, especially with my in-laws’ generation.

I did decide that the best response would be no response, and have stuck to that decision. There simply is no point in saying anything about any of this. I feel truly sorry for my in-laws and the pain and suffering this ordeal has caused them, and would do just about anything to ease that discomfort — except, of course, doing what they asked, as this would only make things worse long-term. The discomfort is temporary, and will ease once my wife’s affair crashes to the ground. There will, of course, be a lot of mending to do; some of it will be my job, but the lion’s share will be my wife’s responsibility. And as that responsibility dawns, as I believe it has been doing in her awareness, she withdraws further from that inevitable reality.

A couple of the things that keeps me hanging in there is the thought of those statistics compiled by Peggy Vaughn that indicate that the overwhelming majority of affairs run their course in 6 to 24 months, and the work of Jeff Murrah, that cites 15-24 months as a typical range for an end-point. Another thing that makes this all the more real — the fact that the affair will end, is the knowledge that an acquaintance recently ended an affair that seemed to have lasted about 18 months. This person apparently left the spouse and shacked up with the lover, and was very public about it, posting frequently on Facebook about it and, worse yet, involving the kids with the adulterous partner. I do not know if the marriage is on the way to reconciliation, but from what I could gather, it seemed as if the betrayed spouse was standing for the marriage.

And the most significant thing that is motivating me to stay the course right now is this momentous event that happened yesterday, but that will be the topic for another post.

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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