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Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Fall From Grace: The Truth About My Affair

"There are always sides. There is always a winner and a loser.
For every person who gets, there is always someone who must give."
- Anna from "My Sister's Keeper"

As I sit here starring at this blank screen and blinking cursor, I am not sure where to begin. This past week has been a blur of pain, brokenness, and trying to find my footing. I am not quite there yet, but I'm slowly making some ground. I have never professed to be perfect, but I have never felt more imperfect in my whole life. I feel like I'm wandering around this town with a giant letter "A" tattooed on my forehead, and for the first time I am on the receiving end of just how unforgiving small towns can be. I know that eventually the gossip queens and finger pointers will move on, but they won't forget. I know that someday someone else will mess up just as badly and their attention will divert from me, but that I have allowed myself to embrace a stigma I will never quite be able to shake. Unfortunately, someday isn't here yet, and I'm in the middle of this battle. A battle for what little of my dignity is left. And trust me, I WILL fight. I refuse to just lay down and die, and allow my past mistakes to define me. I am stronger than this. Watch me.

With that said, this post is more for the people who know me personally. For the people of my hometown who now have my name on their lips. For every person who has called me a "homewrecker" or who have said that I am "threatening and manipulative". This is for my family and friends who have stood by me despite the gossip and hate. And this is for me. This is MY side of the story. And as one of my favorite quotes says, "People want to paint a picture, so give them all the colors". So, this is me. Giving you ALL the colors. Do with them what you will. 

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Part One: The Girl 

 Anyone who really knows me knows that the last thing I am is a "seductress". I'm weird and awkward. I have about as much self-esteem as a 13 year old girl. I like to read novels, not Cosmo. The most scandalous thing I've ever watched on television is True Blood, and when I'm not watching that I prefer things like New Girl and Downton Abbey. My wardrobe is approved by my sisters MOST of the time. I talk too much when I'm nervous and I've never been a "guy's girl". The only time I'm outgoing is when I'm singing on a stage, and that's an act. And in early years of my marriage, I was a judgmental snob. I didn't have a drink of alcohol until the day I turned 21. I was active in our church. I can remember saying things like, "I would NEVER cheat on my husband" or "I will NEVER get divorced", and looking down my nose at people who did those things. I had no sense of compassion or understanding for those that I felt were "lesser" than me. I was a "good girl" if you will. Does that sound like a seductress? No. But, behind the fake smile and nose held perfectly in the air, I was a girl looking for a hero.

At the age of 18, I met the boy who would eventually be my husband. After having a dad who spent as much time as he could away from home and who serial cheated on my mother, I was looking for two things: loyalty and consistency. Randy provided both of those things, but he also had a temper. A temper that no one hardly ever saw...or felt...but me. In the beginning, I didn't know any different. I used to think he'd change if I tried harder to be the woman he wanted me to be. So, I gave up my friends, and began distancing myself from my family. We decided to have Emma long before I was ready, because I thought giving him a baby would make him love me more. I quit a job I loved to stay at home like he wanted me too. I completely lost myself as a person for a long time. And about 4 years into our marriage, I started to feel like I really wasn't ever going to be good enough. I started to fight against the abuse and distance myself from him. I was tired of being hurt physically and emotionally, and because of that I was in a very raw place in my life. All I wanted was for someone to reach out to me and tell me I was worth it. 

I was also angry. SO angry. I literally hated my husband because of the abuse. In many ways I wanted to hurt him like he had hurt me-just like a wounded animal ready to bite to protect itself. I know now in hindsight that I probably should have just left of my own accord. I should have packed up my things, cried for help, and left. But, when you're abused your mind plays tricks on you. For so long you are "told" that you are not good enough or strong enough. You feel like no one else could ever love you. You also develop this dependency. You think that you can't and won't be able to make it without them. I hated how much I needed him, but I had no job and there was a little girl depending on me to "do the right thing". My family is also very religious and divorce is "frowned upon". I can remember my mother saying things like, "Divorce is wrong, Ashley. But, I'm not saying it's okay to be abused".  I literally felt trapped. For me, up until a year and half ago, there was no hope. I felt like I was drowning out at sea until a man came along with the right words and the right touch who was only pretending to throw me a life raft. 

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Part Two: The Boy

I started talking to Chad or "Chili" in January of 2012. We had been friends for a couple of years up until that point. I frequented the bar where he was the DJ to sing karaoke quite a bit. He and I also collaborated on a song together for one of the local singing competitions I had done. We talked off and on after the collaboration and in January of last year things started to escalate. 

For a long time I thought I was developing a relationship with someone who had a similar home life to me. Not only did we both have young daughters but, according to him, his marriage was awful. I was told that she was lazy and didn't care about their marriage or herself. He lead me to believe that he did everything around the house and that he felt unappreciated. And to this day, I only know terrible lies about the woman whose life I've shattered, and that is and will always be one of my deepest regrets. We talked constantly and confided in each other. We planned our weeks around times to see each other. He was my best friend. I trusted him with the darkest parts of myself, and I thought he was doing the same with me. Too bad only one of us was telling the truth. 

For a long time, we were both just getting something from the other that we needed. I was getting a best friend-someone I could talk to and trust, someone who swore he'd protect me. And even though I thought that is what he wanted to, I have since realized that he was using me for the physical parts of our relationship that he swore he wasn't getting at home. Up until I met him, I had only ever been with my husband, and never in my life did I think I would actually be in a place where I would be willing to defy everything I had ever been taught by my family, my Christian education, and through my church. For the first time in a long time the edges of the perfect little “Christian box" I had been raised in were starting to blur. I just wanted him to love me, and I thought giving him my body was the way to get the love I so desperately craved. And to be honest, it wasn't long before we were saying "I love you" and he was asking me to leave my husband and promising me that we would be together. He used to tell me I didn't deserve the way I was treated, and that he would always love me and take care of me. Those promises were like balm to a parched soul, and after a while every hurt and broken piece of me believed him. I thought I had found my hero.

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Part Three: The Slow Death of a Slow Dance

For the last six months, my relationship with Chad had become crazy intense. He had set a date when he told me he would be leaving his wife, and I got tired of living lies and dealing with the guilt in my own home, so I left my husband in April. I got my own apartment, which became a haven for us, and I recently accepted my first full time employment position in 4 years. We were both contributing money to a savings account that we said we would use to start our life together. Things were falling into place…or so I thought.

Despite all of this, I still carried around an unbearable amount of guilt about our relationship. My sisters knew. My mother knew. I could feel everyone’s disappointment in me, and I hated it. I don’t know how many times in the last year and half I have broken down, tried to call the whole thing off, and wanted so badly to tell my husband or Chad's wife what was going on just so I could clear my conscience. I hated the person this affair was turning me into. But, every time I would try to break it off, he would cry, beg me to stay, and I would give in because I loved him and I wanted it to work. There were even times when the guilt would make me sick and I would be ready to break and tell our spouses, but he would get upset and threaten to kill himself, and I believed him. I always believed him. And so as a result of the guilt, our relationship had been very up and down over the last six months. I knew we had these plans. I thought things were working in our favor. But, there was always a part of me that knew it was wrong and wanted to be done with the whole thing. It was tumultuous to say the least. However, I held on. I kept my end of the deal. I never backed down. And even with all the doubts I had,  I still never allowed myself to see the end coming.

This past month our relationship took a turn. I could see that he was becoming increasingly unhappy at home, and worried constantly about me leaving him. We fought a lot the last month. I started to feel like I was the only one moving in the direction of our future, and I felt like he was pulling away. In an effort to show me he was serious, he told me that he told his wife he wanted a divorce and that he had called his parents to tell them about me and what his plans were. A few days after he did all of that, he moved in with a friend. None of that was apart of the original plan, and that frightened me, but I was willing to do whatever it took. The few days he was moved out, he missed his daughter desperately and worried about her constantly…at least I thought that’s what it was. I know now he was probably struggling with the guilt as much as I was. I tried to be encouraging, to stand beside him. But, it wasn’t enough. And on a hot, muggy August morning he pulled the rug out from under me, and broke my heart with a 30 second phone conversation. He shattered all of his promises to me like they were nothing, and I was left holding up the foundation of a life I thought we were building together…completely alone.

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Part Four: Finding My Way Back

It has been one week and four days since he broke my heart, and since I found out everything was a lie. The days that followed our collapse are a blur. I literally cried for days, and I’m still trying to re-learn how to function without him. For a year and half, he was my everything. My free time and nights out revolved around him and getting to see each other, and for a year and half my phone had been like another extension of my body. I even had to change my text message tone, because the old tone literally caused me physical pain every time in would go off. I was…I am…a mess. Our money in the savings account: gone. The plans for our future: gone. The boy who swore he loved me and promised to save me: gone. All that’s left are memories I wish I could forget, but know I never will, and an ache that seems endless. This has changed me. Truly. It has shaken me to my very core. But, it’s true what they say: hindsight is 20/20.

After the fall out, I went immediately to my husband and my family. I came clean. I wanted to wash my hands of the guilt. And despite how broken I am, being able to be completely honest with my husband and my family for the first time has been the most freeing experience. A lot of people say, I only came clean because he broke up with me, but I don’t think that’s true. Because while I’ve been lying and hiding for a year and half, that is not who I am. I think eventually the guilt would have won out and I would have told everyone against his will regardless of his threats. I know that coming clean doesn’t mean I’m forgiven. I know that it will take me a long time to earn back their trust. But, I feel like I am finally on the right path. I am starting to get back to the things that were once so important to me: my faith and my family.

I deeply regret the hurt I have caused so many people, but especially my husband and Chad's wife. Despite Randy and I's past, he never deserved to have me be unfaithful to him. No, Randy and I are not getting back together because of this. I did not run home and cry wolf. I simply told him the truth, because he deserved to know. Because just as in the case with this affair, there are always two sides to every story, and I refuse to allow him to continue to think the demise of our marriage was all his fault. We both made bad choices. We both damaged our relationship past the point of repair, and we will have to live with those consequences. I have long forgiven him for his temper and the abuse. I have made my peace with that chapter of my life. I hope someday he can do the same thing. I want us to be the best versions of ourselves for our daughter, and I realize now that I was going about it all the wrong way. He has every right to be hurt and angry, as does Chad's wife, and I refuse to pretend like they don't. I know that sometimes some things are unforgivable and I accept that. As long as we can parent Emma together and civilly, I can live with the consequences of my actions. I hope and pray that Chad and his wife are able to find forgiveness and peace. I know that she hates me, and that she probably always will. I know I deserve that. Trust me, if I could take it back, I would in a heart beat, but I can't. All that I can do is say I'm sorry, move forward, and try to be better because of it.

In my heart, I know that I am the child of a loving God who recognizes true repentance and who has been waiting for me to turn back around and let Him guide me for a long time. I don't need any man to save me. My hero died for me 2,000 years ago, and I know now I have been clinging to the wrong life rafts. I know there will/are consequences for my actions, and I am willing to accept those. But, I refuse to let my mistakes define me. I have every intention of learning from the past year and a half of my life, and being better because of it. I am also blessed with an amazing and supportive family who despite everything have been there to catch me every time I fall, and this fall from grace is no exception. I know that with their help and guidance, I will make it through this valley and live to tell about it. They are the anchor that holds me to the ground, and the army standing behind me waiting to do battle. They will always see me for who I am and what I’m capable of becoming. They are not blinded by my mistakes and bad choices like so many people in this town are. And as long as they're with me, no one else matters.


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Now that you know the truth, the people of this town and the readers of this blog who don’t really know me can say whatever they want to about me. I refuse to let the words “homewrecker” or “whore” define me, because that’s not what I am. Sure, I've destroyed my family and probably Chad's as well, but I didn't do it alone. We are both guilty. We both made mistakes. I refuse to point fingers and cast all the blame, because it's not worth it. Sure, it might make me feel better for a minute, and trust me, I have my days where all I want to do is scream, "It's not ALL my fault!" and have myself a little pity party. But, I know it won't change the truth or make me a better person. However, I truly believe that learning from mistakes and moving forward without looking back WILL make me a better person, and that's exactly what I'm trying to do. I know all the gossip queens and finger pointers in this small town will be disappointed, but I’m going to be just fine. Because just as they are not defined by the monsters hiding in their closet, neither am I. And I believe that the ability to be open and honest about my past is something not many people are strong enough to do.



I know that I’m a long way from okay, but I’m getting there. I know that I didn't really have any "right" to him. I know he was never "mine" to love. And I wish the truth of those things made it easier, but it doesn't. I expect that this is going to hurt for a long time. A very long time. However, instead of allowing this hurt to make me bitter and angry, I am going to use it as fuel to get myself back to the girl I've missed so desperately.  I definitely don't want to go back to being the judgmental snob I once was, because there is some truth in the words, "never say never".  But, I do want to be better and stronger. I want to find my dignity and self worth again. I want to embrace this whole new sense of compassion I have for others, especially abused women, and I want to use my story to make a difference. This is just a momentary set back…a temporary break down on a very long journey. It is not the end, in fact, I have a feeling I'm a long way from it. I know that if I keep telling myself I'll be okay, that I will eventually believe it. 

After all, the only place to go from rock bottom is up. 

2 comments:

  1. Just keep swimming, dearie! God's grace abounds!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you're stronger than you think. So many people are so quick to judge others because of their mistakes but very rarely do they ever look at themselves the same way. Keep your head up.

    ReplyDelete

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