We have all heard that in-flight message as we are preparing to take off on an airplane. At first it sounds quite counter-intuitive and selfish to suggest that before we help another passenger, even our own child, that we take care of ourselves first. After all, society always praises those that help others without consideration of their own safety or circumstances, and here they are asking us to do the opposite. The fact is, however, that you are much more effective to others when you yourself are taken care of. You are a better help to more people, and can save more lives if you take a moment to help yourself, and strengthen yourself. That is what my blog post today is about, in part, as it connects to a big bold move my husband made this week.
The truth is, I have ALWAYS felt a great deal of guilt about them not knowing. I too, am a parent, and I would want to know if my son was going through a hard time, if his family was in peril, and if I had a secret grandchild. Keeping this information from them seemed so selfish, but in the early phase of my recovery (the first year at least), I couldn’t invest the emotional energy in worrying about them, their needs, their feelings, or even what was “right”. My marriage was faltering, and I needed to put on my own oxygen mask and take care of myself before I could consider helping others, or doing the right thing by them. I had to come first.
As my healing journey has progressed, and I no longer need the spotlight focused on my own needs, I have started to give a lot of thought to those around us. As my husband’s shame has also subsided over time, and as he has been forced to reveal the truth to others due to the OW’s vengeful behaviours, he has come to realize that his actions won’t necessarily be criticized, and that people do support him, and us.
I sat with my in-laws this week, as we were celebrating my husband’s birthday. I watched them play with the grandkids, marvelling at the littlest thing that they do, asking questions, trying to be involved. I saw how the small pleasures of just watching my youngest son in the bathtub brought great joy to my mother-in-law, and made her feel a part of something. Watching this woman enjoying her only three grandkids, I also felt exceptionally guilty that she has a grandchild she doesn’t know about. Now, I am not advocating that she needs a relationship with the child – far from it – but I was simply guilt-ridden that we were controlling a knowledge of her life that we have no right to control. She has every right to know that she has kin. Keeping that from her felt like I was playing G-d, and I felt guilty.
I have three sons. I have never had, nor will I ever have a daughter. My husband is an only child, and had no sisters. His father often talked about how much he had wanted to have a girl, especially when were were growing our family, and I kept birthing boys I think that being a male, and having a male son, he longed for the feminine, the delicate, that something sweet. The OW had once emailed me antagonizing me over email about how unfortunate it was that I wasn’t able to give my husband the daughter that she was. It’s funny now, in retrospect, that her tone implied something broken in me that wasn’t broken in her because she bore him a daughter. Does she not know that the male sperm actually determine the gender of a baby, not the woman? Anyway, since this isn’t a biology lesson, I digress… Knowing how much my FIL wanted a girl, it felt even more inappropriate for me to hold back the information that he actually HAD ONE in his lineage. Once again, we were playing G-d with the information we withheld.
After my blog post about secrecy last week, my husband became upset. He thought my post was ill-timed, as it was the day before his birthday, and for whatever reason, the post upset him, as if the material was new to him and came out of left field. Rather, it was information we have discussed many times, and spending time with his mother the day prior had unearthed the feelings of guilt again. I posted because the guilt was fresh and the topic relevant to what I was feeling at the time. It wasn’t a way to lash out at my husband the day before his birthday…in fact I don’t think I lashed out at all.
When he read my blog, he angrily said that he would tell his father this week, and his mother the next. I knew it was his anger talking, but I said “good”, because whether he was angry or not, it was the right thing to do.
He had a belated-birthday dinner with his father two days later, and I reminded him before he left the house of his intention to tell his father. I wasn’t sure if he actually would, and truthfully, I assumed deep down that he would return home later that night with an excuse for why tonight wasn’t the right night, and a plan to delay this talk to a “better time”. To my surprise, when I asked him about it the next morning, it turns out he had told him. The two of them sat at dinner, and my husband revealed to his father that he had had an affair with a crazy woman, and that it has produced a child. I was completely surprised that he had told him, and simultaneously completely proud of him.
I think it is always hard to own a mistake. I think it is even harder when the mistake is of this magnitude, and harder still when you are telling someone whose relationship you value, and whose approval you bask in. My husband is an only child of two divorced parents. He is the golden child to both, and they hold him in very high esteem. Now, it must be reiterated that my FIL was a serial adulterer. He had several mistresses over the years of his marriage, and while his marriage ultimately disintegrated, he will tell you to this day that his affairs were caused by his wife. It was her lack of respect for him. It was her lack of spontaneity. It was her lack of sexual attention. It was her lack of trust in him. It was her lack of ___________. Regardless of what it was, it was HER FAULT. She was likely fed this information as well, when the affairs became known to her, and it likely stunted her healing. In fact, she has never healed, and it has helped shape her.
My husband didn’t want to tell his father. Perhaps he was afraid of falling from grace with his dad. Perhaps, as he told me, he was worried about his father blaming me, as he had blamed his own wife over the years. Perhaps he was worried that his father would now want a relationship with the child and the OW, and that it would open the door to a connection between our family and the OW. Whatever his worry, he took the step in telling his dad, and from what little I know of what transpired and was said, it was positive. Being a cheater himself, I don’t think he could ever find fault with his son, or see him as faulty. If anything, he may blame me, or make assumptions that I am not a good wife, or that I don’t meet his son’s needs. Truthfully, it doesn’t at all matter what he thinks. His father hasn’t liked me since we were married almost 13 years ago, and I haven’t seen him in almost three years. I could not care less what interpretation he holds, or what he thinks. It doesn’t at all change what I know to be true.
I am proud of my husband for taking that step. At first, I thought that the unburdening by telling his family was a step in the path of MY healing. I now think that it really is a step in the path of HIS. He attended the “Man of Honour” weekend in May, and they talked about integrity and character. How can you be a man of character and integrity while holding information from others that is their right to know, just to save yourself? After all, on March 19th, 2010, he confessed his affair to me with the preface that he could no longer allow me to live my life not having the accurate truth about my own life. He felt it was wrong to hold back information of this significance from me, and that he felt guilty watching me live my life blind to the information. How was this different from his parents then? Was he not holding a secret from these others who also had a right to know that they have a grandchild? Was that not considered important information that they have a right to know? It felt the same to me.
For now, he hasn’t told his mother, and I am still hopeful that he will be able to find a way to tell her that won’t compromise her health or cause her to suffer a mental decline. It is one step at a time, but I think they are steps in the right direction, and for that I am proud of him.