In the wake of my husband’s disclosure, I felt a great deal of shame. I felt as though *I* was the reason he had an affair. Like many do, I worried that there was something wrong with *me* that made him stray. I thought that maybe I wasn’t good enough, hadn’t been enough, etc. I felt ashamed for having failed at being a wife. I didn’t want anyone to know that my husband had had an affair because I didn’t want them to think the same things I was thinking. I didn’t want people to wonder if I was bad in bed, too fat, not enough, a bad wife, etc. My fragile ego simply couldn’t bear being judged by others, any more than I was judging myself already.
At first, I wanted to hide my husband’s affair for my sake. Soon, I wanted to hide it for his sake. He felt a great deal of shame and embarrassment. He was trying to pick up the pieces of our marriage, pieces that lay strewn across the landscape like shrapnel after a bomb has gone off. He felt intense shame, and had the mistress not told all of the people she knew in his inner circle, he likely wouldn’t have told anyone.
She started by telling my family. She emailed my parents and my brother. She then emailed his best friend. She later emailed his clerical staff and the head of his IT unit. She threatened to tell a group of individuals on an email-list for his profession, linked through their job titles and roles, but strewn across the city. Suddenly, people were finding out left, right and centre, with no way to shut her down, when even lawyers were asking her to cease and desist, lest she be subjected to legal repercussions. She didn’t care. A few months later, she texted another friend of his, to let him know that she had given birth to his daughter two months earlier, a text which came in the midst of a Christmas party that she knew we were hosting (she stalked by facebook and twitter accounts where I had posted images of the prep work before the big night). All in all, two friends, two co-workers and the in-laws were made aware. Aside from these people, he would tell no one else…until she called his work, and made a false complaint to the Chief of Staff at his hospital. In order to indicate that the allegations were false, he had to confess to this man, an elder and a superior on the hospital food-chain. Interestingly, the Chief of Staff had experienced a similar problem when a woman had become irate with him, and had attempted to have him fired, so he knew all too well what had happened. This same incident had been reported to the ombudsperson, so she found out as well.
Once the leak had been contained (i.e. she was subjected to a confidentiality order by the courts protecting the details of the affair from third parties), he told no other persons about his affair. Ever.
Three years into an affair, the affair itself almost becomes a new “normal”. It no longer seems shocking. Like the desensitization to violence that happens to those in war, the details of the affair, and discussions about it no longer bring with it the same shame, sadness, or hurt. It has just become…part of our life.
Despite this new normalcy, my husband still has not revealed the affair to those around him, specifically to his parents. Lately, this has been making me feel bad. I feel like we are holding onto this huge secret, and frankly, I feel like I am complicit in this act of betrayal against his own family. His parents divorced many years ago, and both live on their own now. He is their only connection to the family they once had together, and he shoulders the burden of being the “one and only”. He is held up on a pedestal as the only child, the one who found success, the one who always does the right thing. If only they knew.
What is sad for me, is that these two people have a grandchild that they don’t know about. They have a granddaughter that they will likely never know. This information, being kept from them on purpose. I feel, some days, like a cheat and like a rat for keeping this information hidden from them. It just doesn’t feel right.
As we go about our lives, trying to clean the slate, and start again, I am reminded that we can’t ever truly start again fresh and new, when there are people so close in our lives that have no idea. If this affair hadn’t produced a child, I probably wouldn’t care, but it did, and I am sensitive to the fact that if it were me, I would want to know that I have “kin”, no matter what the circumstances. I would want to know that my son has a child, illegitimately or not. I would want to know. I imagine that they would want to know also.
My husband tells me that he can’t tell his family. He claims that his misogynistic father would blame me for his affair, and see me in a dimmer light. His father repeatedly cheated on his own wife (husband’s mother) and to this day doesn’t take an ounce of responsibility for his actions, claiming that she led him to it with her lack of attention, lack of respect, yada yada yada. So, it is highly likely that he would blame me. His mother, on the other hand, suffers from mental illness, depression and low self esteem. It is no wonder, given the life she has had, and the people who have continuously pummelled her emotionally all these years. His fear is that telling her would throw her over the edge, and that she would likely sink into a deep episode for which hospitalization would be required. Not at all unlikely, as she has been hospitalized in the past from the trauma experienced by watching a thriller-style movie with us more than a decade ago. She is simply too fragile to take on such traumatic news, and he claims he wants to protect her.
So, he wants to protect ME from his father’s judgment, and he wants to protect HER from a downward spiral of mental anguish and decline. Part of me has always wondered, and always will, to what extent the ‘golden child’ simply doesn’t want his pedestal rocked.
In getting a fresh start at our marriage, I feel like a fraud when our close friends don’t know, and his family is unaware. I wonder when I will stop feeling like a fraud for something I didn’t do, but am now complicit in hiding.