This is the first of the posts from Shadow Mom. Shadow Mom is all of us. A woman who is not perfect, and has a dark side that is attached to her. No matter how much light we shine, all of us has a shadow that never goes away. To nurture ourselves, we have to acknowledge that shadow, and learn from it. If you would like to contribute a blog entry but are not ready to share your identity, you can share with us under Shadow Mom.--Denise
By: Shadow Mom
Be thankful for the wrong relationships – they teach you, change you, strengthen you, and prepare you for the right one.
A little over a year ago, I met the man of my dreams. We had instant chemistry – so much in common, hours of conversation, from lighthearted and flirty to deep and meaningful. Confessions of secrets no one else knows about to professions of love so deep it’s almost mythical in nature. It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to plans for a future together. Getting finances in order, where we would live, ending our current respective marriages to start a life of our own. Yes, that’s right – I’m “the other woman”… the home-wrecker, the whore with no morals. But this isn’t about infidelity or trying to justify it. My affair with a married man is simply a MacGuffin – a story within a bigger story. And if you’ll reserve judgement for just a bit, I’d like to share that story with you.
My husband and I have been together since we were teenagers. I met him in school and truth be told, I never wanted to be with him. I rejected his advances time and time again, but his persistence wore me down. As I got older I realized that the guys I wanted were not who I should be spending my time or my life with. When it came down to them or him, I settled on him. Yes, I settled. He knows it, too.
In time, I grew to love him. I never had an overwhelming passion for him, though. The butterflies in the tummy, the fireworks, the heart that skips a beat – he was not that guy. We were “Facebook happy” before Facebook was even a thing. In reality though, we weren’t – at least I wasn’t. There were qualities about him that I found endearing and others that if I could have changed, I would have in a heartbeat – but in talking to girlfriends, I’d just assumed that was par for the course in any relationship. In retrospect there were so many red flags along the way that should have sent me running for the hills, but those flags were scattered over the years and only when gathered together do they truly depict the bigger picture of a marriage destined for failure.
And so it went for many years – I was the dutiful wife who cooked and cleaned and worked a full-time job. I’d welcome him home after his day and was often greeted in return with rude comments about my appearance or how terrible dinner was, if I was even addressed at all. It bothered me, but when I’d speak up about it, it became a fight. Things were blown out of proportion and each time I tried to communicate my hurt feelings or upset with a comment, the end result was always the same: I was left apologizing to him, and wondering what had just happened. Eventually I learned to just suppress my upset because it wasn’t worth the fight. That was the worst mistake I could’ve made – for you see, ten years of marriage, three kids, and close to $75,000 in debt later, I found myself in the hospital with anxiety disorder and on heavy meds after “snapping” at work one day, unable to face any more responsibility in my life.
That, too, was put back on me. I can recall being in the ER and having doctors discuss my condition with my husband – hearing them talk about me like I wasn’t there: “it’s all in her head”…. And in my sedated haze, trapped in my own mind, I can recall thinking, “no it’s not – it’s standing next to me, talking to you, pretending to be surprised by this disaster I’ve become.” This new life of mine continued for many more years, relying on grandmas and friends and medication to help me function on a daily basis, because the one person who was supposed to be my support – my partner – was absent. Emotionally I was abandoned and I had no clue how to interact with the man I married, with whom I’d had children, someone who was now nothing more than a roommate to share the bills with. The man I had grown to love became the man I grew to resent.
At the twenty year mark I was truly at my lowest point. Although I had come off all my meds and was able to find coping skills that allowed me to function more successfully, I was still unhappy. I hated the way my life had turned out. I love my children, I’m satisfied with my career – I even had gone back to school, thinking maybe that would fill the void and give me a sense of worth. It did, temporarily. What it really came down to was I was lonely. I had no one to share my thoughts with, my ideas, my hopes, my fears, my life. I’d succumb to the notion that this was it – I gave up. I stopped wearing make-up, wore clothes that didn’t fit properly (“who do I have to impress?”), I became withdrawn from friends and family. My world was encapsulated within the confines of my house. I’d walk up and down stairs with baskets of laundry, little voices trailing behind me asking for juice or help with homework or needinga ride to gymnastics all while their very capable father sat by idly, oblivious to my dismay and adding to it by throwing a few requests of his own on top of the ever-growing pile.
This now brings us back to about a year ago, to a day that has forever changed my life… for the better. It was a chance encounter with a man whom I had known many years ago in a younger, more carefree day. It started as innocent as a sarcastic remark that led to a three hour conversation. We joked at first, and then caught up on life. I went home that day with this strange feeling washing over me. There was an energy coursing through my veins. I walked myself through the conversation over and over again, savoring the memory of him. A few days later, we spoke again. Again, it was exhilarating. Hours spent talking about anything and everything. I felt a freedom around him. There were no boundaries – no question was too private, or too silly. We compared our jobs, our lives, our marriages. In one of those thousands of conversations it hit me. This was the man I should be with; the one who lifts me up, instead of keeping me pinned under a judgmental thumb. I wanted and needed someone who tells me how beautiful I am, how smart and sexy and desirable I am when I had been convinced otherwise. In that moment everything changed. I realized I was worth more than I had ever given myself credit for and I deserved better than what I had allowed myself to accept.
I know what you’re thinking:
“I can’t believe she fell for it”
“How stupid could she be?”
Perhaps they were just lines. To this day I still question him. Why do you love me? How could you even find anything worth loving? “I can’t not love you.” What makes me so special? “Everything.” One day in particular, I can recall feeling incredibly low. Yet another stressful evening at home set me back. I told this man I loved to leave me, I wasn’t worth his time or trouble – something I should have said a million times to my husband, but didn’t. in return, all he said to me was, “just because the butterfly can’t see its own wings, doesn’t make it any less beautiful. I’m not going anywhere.”
He’s seen every facet of my broken self, picked up the shards at his own risk, and placed them back together slowly and patiently, filling every remaining gap with understanding and love, comfort and encouragement, reassurance and friendship. Everything I had longed for so desperately for the better part of my adult life was suddenly staring me in the face, and I was not about to let it go.
Being the other woman isn’t ideal. I have my conversations with God all the time: how can this be wrong? Why did you send him to me when I needed him the most if he wasn’t meant to be mine? Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same thing. If it’s meant to be, then when the time is right, we’ll find our way out of the shadows and stand together to face whatever the rest of our lives have to offer us.
Realistically, I know that I can’t rely on him. He has his life, I have mine. In all honesty, I know the potential of this ending with both of us staying exactly where we are, never leaving the people we’re married to is very great. There may never be a right time, or enough money, or the kids will always need you, or the family will put their two cents in making it even harder to have a clean break. I accept that as fact. Should that be the case and we never live our happily ever after together, I want him and the world to know I am so thankful for the time I’ve spent with him. Ultimately, he has given me something that I never would’ve been able to have without him. This amazing man has given me back my sense of self. I feel beautiful, confident, loved. I’m not just someone’s mom anymore – I have my own identity again. I leave the house; I put myself together and look presentable instead of like a walking blanket; I visit with friends and family and enjoy my life again. I hold my head high and can feel proud of the woman I have become. I don’t want my kids to see me as a doormat or a servant. I want them to see me as someone who they can rely on, but also who serves as an example of confidence and independence.
I was the perfect wife and it got me nothing but heartbreak. While the situation isn’t perfect, it’s what I have and that gets me through the day. I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason.” The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find. I’m happy. For once, I am truly, sincerely happy. Do I condone or encourage infidelity? No. It’s deceitful, hurtful, and selfish. I know that and can admit my sins – but when my time comes, I know where I’ll be. Jesus and I have that part worked out. I’ll be standing in a long line of sinners just like me.
Until then, I refuse to spend the rest of my days walking this earth in self-hating misery. My choice may not be a popular one, but it’s mine to make. Make yours. Choose to be happy. Live the life you were given to the fullest - you only get one. Lose weight. Gain weight! Cut your hair, dye it purple! Be drastic and get a tattoo, or even just try a new shade of lipstick. Try on sexy lingerie – then buy it and wear it with pride! Treat yourself once in a while – you really are worth it! Call a friend and have drinks. Have some laughs. Make some memories. Try something new that makes people look twice at you and think, “I never would’ve pegged you as THAT kind of person!” Start crossing things off that mental bucket list. Someday is today. Learn from me: never let anyone dictate how much you should value yourself. You’re priceless! You’re perfectly imperfect – own it!
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s something worth watching,” Gerard Way