I read someone’s story today, and it resonated with me in so many ways. She wrote so eloquently about all the memories that she had over the years that she felt were now lost to her, because they were stained with the fact that all the time she thought that they were happy times, her husband had in fact been having an affair and lying to her. So everything that she thought was, was not. Every happy occasion, every milestone event had never been what she thought it had been, because all the time she was being lied to; because her husband was not the person that she believed him to be. The post was so poignant and it got me thinking about us and how infidelity destroys so many things, even if you have been able to rebuild….
So here we are over twelve years on from ‘The War’ and we have rebuilt; in fact my reflections after reading the ladies post made me realise that we had not rebuilt, we had actually built something completely new, because what we had before ‘The War’ was in fact, just as she had said, not what I thought it was at all. I had met Danny and believed that he would always protect me, not realising that all the time Danny was in fact terrified of losing me every day. He convinced himself that he was not good enough for me, no matter how much love and support I had shown him, and in fact what we had, from the very beginning, was not what I thought I it was at all.
I know, even thinking the worse, that Danny’s affair could not have taken place for more than two years because we had not known ‘her’ for more than that length of time. But this post made me realise that it is not just about the memories that were made whilst the affair was taking place that were tainted, it was in fact all of the memories of the life we had before the affair took place. The post touched me so much that I sat and brought back memories from before ‘The War’ and I asked myself if I could look back at them fondly, now, all these years later. I could remember parts of them that made me smile, but as I thought of them there was always something that tainted them: just a little bit.
After ‘The War’ I had put all of our wedding pictures away, the albums and the photos and I never revisited them for years. I even wrote in my journal how I could not bear to look at them..
‘I explained to Danny how it has affected me: my wedding photos mean nothing; you might as well throw my dress away because when I look at them they mean nothing. That I look back on the last nine years and feel that what I had never actually existed, it was just crap. (But as I am writing this I realise that there must be something, or I would not be here.)I want to stay but that is how I feel.’
So today I looked at the one photo that we have out of our wedding, a very very small photo, that we only got out after moving to France, and I thought about how much peoples memories are tainted after an affair takes place; and how this is one of the most difficult, and I believe, misunderstood parts of the aftermath from infidelity. People lose huge chunks of their life, because to look back on it is too painful. But the pain of feeling that is so immense that I think it is important to acknowledge it, to understand that someone has lost a huge part of their life because of an affair, a huge chunk of who they were and what they based their foundations on; and I think it should be acknowledged so that people feel able to speak about it without defensiveness from the other side. I told Danny, I told him often, in fact their is a big clue with regard to our wedding photos being shoved in a cupboard!
I look at our wedding photo and all I see (as I have said in previous posts ) is a woman whose heart is going to be broken. All I see is a woman who does not know how much pain the man beside her is going to bestow upon her. Even now, that is what I see.
This morning I thought back to our wonderful holiday that we had in Menorca, the year after we married. Ethan was only ten, and we had such a wonderful time. But then I think of the photo of Ethan and Danny, the one that was lost in the aftermath of ‘The War’, and it reminds me that what I thought I had, we had, at that time was not what I thought it was at all. Danny would tell you that it was; that he loved me so much; and all of that would be true. But for me my memory is that I believed I was with a person who would love and protect me, and never break my heart. I was wrong. Whether my memory is tainted because of what happened, or whether my memory is tainted because my expectations were unrealistic with regard to someone always being able to look after me and protect me is up for debate. I know now that I should never have expected that from someone, because people are human and they make mistakes. And so I understand when Danny tells me that I am wrong to think of that memory as tainted because he loved me so much then (and in fairness always did). But I don’t have that photo any more, it was lost in the aftermath of war; and when I think of that photo I think of the pain I felt the day after Danny left, every time I looked at it. So you see Danny may well have loved me then, but the memory is still tainted, by the pain and the sadness and the loss.
I thought back to when we first moved into our house by the sea. I remember Danny bursting into tears because he was so happy; and I find it difficult, even now, to reconcile that man to the one who broke my heart. I find it hard also because I thought that we had it all at that point in my life, but now I think of that day and a little whisper reminds me that was when things started to go wrong, that is when we moved to an area and met ‘her’.
If I were honest and I looked back at memories leading up to ‘The War’: the gaslighting and the lying and the manipulation, I cannot think now of one memory that I look back on fondly. I can only think of the time when we sat on our balcony and Danny said that we should invite ‘her’ and ‘her’ partner out with us for a drink; because he believed she was lonely; or when Danny bought me my red glass heart, which I still have because I believed that if it could survive being thrown into a plastic bin liner and onto my friends drive, then it was destined to survive, in the same way we had. I don’t think fondly of the memory of when Danny gave it to me; because ‘she’ had come over that afternoon to ask us to help them with something. But I do think fondly of it now: that it hangs in our house, a little damaged but still together, in the same way as we are.
You see when an affair happens it as if it leaves a sepia stain on the memories which were once in full vibrant colour. I do know that as time passes you can look back on the colour parts and try and ignore the sepia stains on some of the picture. But I also know that can only happen with resilience and strength, and courage.
There are some memories that I think back to and I just erase Danny out of them: If I think about Ethan’s first day at school after our move I think of how excited he was when he came home, and I don’t allow Danny into that memory. When I look back to Ethan leaving for his first school trip, I don’t allow the memory of the wonderful week Danny and I had together whilst he was gone into that memory, because I am not sure that I want it there, and am not sure of what was happening then and so I now exclude it.
I remember our beautiful old dog running towards me along the sea path, with his ears flapping in the wind, and it still makes me smile but I don’t think about how happy I was and how blindly in love I was, I don’t allow myself to think of that because I am not sure that it was as I thought it was. I think back to a time when we all got slightly drunk in a pub near to our house, and how my friend fell over and Danny’s brother shouted ‘we’ve lost one!’ and it still makes me smile; even though the damage done to the relationship with Danny’s family would make it that those times would never come again.
But over time I decided not to look back, although I no longer feel pain when I do, because I have learned that the only moment you can consider is ‘now’. I learned that it was no good me pondering on how I had to leave some of my memories in their boxes, or on what I had lost, and as time wore on I have found that despite the sepia stains there are still some parts of of them that are in full colour, if I allow them to be; but that took time.
We did go on to make new memories, as I always advise people to do. Danny and I renewed our vows on our tenth wedding anniversary. As the Vicar said ‘We knew what we were signing up to.’ We have pictures of that in our home. We have pictures of Ethan’s eighteenth birthday party, that took place the Christmas after ‘The War’. We have so much from the life we built again, only this time as the Vicar said, we know that it is flawed, and real and at times hard.
Reflecting I suppose that as the anger and rage I felt at the beginning subsided I just learnt to not go back, but to only live in the here and now, and to see the past from a perspective that I never thought I would be able to. Perhaps that was one of my lessons!
Making This Better the book is now available including the journal entries for the first 5 years of our recovery & the whole 21 days of ‘The War’. Available internationally in paperback and ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble also available at Xlibris and Apple Books for iPad and Waterstones Bookstores for click & collect
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