I Don’t Want to be Branded by My Husband’s Affair, or Limited by the Past

Annah ElizabethLeave a Comment

In January, I discovered I’d been living in the past.

And recently I uncovered yet another layer to this existence.

My past, so to speak, the timeline upon which I base my present life, seems to begin and end five-and-a-half years ago.

September 1, 2006.

The day I stumbled upon my husband’s second affair.

And frankly, I am a bit dumbfounded by this realization.

I grew up in a metropolitan city of progressive thinkers; a body of people largely moving forward.

I was a teen who secretly desired to be a part of the “popular crowd,” yet was repulsed by the childishness of the same.

I was always asking questions, never one to simply follow the masses. I guess those traits haven’t changed, given my recent experience of standing up for what I believe in.

A naïve, starry-eyed, in-love, twenty-two-year-old, I followed my newly-acquired fiancé halfway across the country. Sometime I’ll have to share that story with you, but suffice it to say that two months later I found myself alone on the street with my two dogs.

I loved my new job and refused to tuck my tail between my legs and run home to Mommy and Daddy simply because my situation hadn’t gone according to plan.

“Where are you from,” people would inquire after hearing me speak; my accent a dead give-away that I wasn’t from around here.

For years, I faced questions like “Why the hellyou would move here?” and “Why the hell would you move to a place like this?” Even now, with grown children of my own, I still hear such questions when I tell people I was born and raised elsewhere.

I found it hard to believe people could talk with such disdain about this picturesque place, one so rich in history and culture, one that was once so vibrant, so full of passion and energy.

As the pages of calendar years flipped by, I found one other resounding phrase that has echoed through my new community for generations.

The Flood of ‘72.

Hurricane Agnes path of death and destruction in the U.S. began in Florida, with the greatest devastations occurring in the northeast regions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. She was deemed the most costly hurricane on record, and as such, her name was retired less than a year after she made landfall.

Future hurricanes like Hugo (89), Andrew (92) Katrina (05), and Irene (11), would eventually surpass Agnes in terms of damages and loss of life. And while some cities would rise above the catastrophe to become even stronger, others would become paralyzed, perpetually bound by the event.

“…since my husband’s last affair,” I recently heard myself saying, and that’s when it hit me like a flying house in a hurricane: I haven’t moved on as far as I thought I had.

Though I thought I’d put it into perspective, it appears I haven’t resolved all of my conflict.

Despite two other significant events that took place around that time—a hysterectomy, and quitting smoking after twenty-six-and-a-half years—I associate, first, my husband’s affair when referencing that time in my life.

Almost two years ago, I shared my views that yelling is an indication of fear. Since I rarely yell any more, I can reason that I am at least making progress…

I also recognize I am in a bit of a tricky situation, since I write about loss and healing.  My experiences are what lend credibility to what I share, so the references are necessary from time to time. Even though, I can’t deny the obvious.

I knew that the loss of my marriage as I had envisioned it was something I would have to work through, and that it might take longer than the first time around. But now I see that I still have an unhealthy attachment to that time in my life.

Elisabeth-Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grief is attributed to death and dying, but I believe we experience this random, haphazard sequence of effects after any form of loss. I comprehend how complex the grief process is, how the different issues we face intertwine, how they shift and take on different images as they disappear and then reappear in our lives.

These feelings and thoughts I am having are all a part of that grieving process. Recognizing the effects is an important part of the healing process.

I think it is important to recognize that healing doesn’t mean we forget, it doesn’t mean that the event no longer exists. And it doesn’t mean that we are unaffected by the occurrence that brought about our sadness.

Just as physical wounds often leave visible scars, so do emotional traumas. But when we heal emotionally, the event no longer holds us back, no longer restricts us or causes us chronic pain.

Clearly, there remains a piece of grief I still need to reconcile.

I distinctly remember saying, in the early days after my son’s death, “I don’t want to mourn him forever.” I had no idea what that meant, nor how I was going to achieve that goal, but one day at a time, I managed.

It wasn’t until I reached the ultimate place of healing—reconciliation of all of my conflicts—that I could identity where I had ultimately wanted to end up: I wanted to be able to celebrate my son’s life.

Within days of discovering my husband’s second affair, I wrote this:

“This challenge is a “for worse.” And this I know: My marriage hasn’t been an illusion. This situation is a tornado in my life. The winds will die down, the dust will settle, and we will begin to rebuild a new life. A differentlife.”

Sometimes like the hurricanes mentioned above, the initial turmoil will subside, only to regain momentum. But eventually, the currents will die out for good. Rebuilding is a painstaking and often lengthy process, and it first begs questions like How? What? When?

And though I haven’t yet reached the point of knowing, unequivocally, what I do want, I know what I don’t want. I don’t want my legacy, my life to be forever branded, nor limited by The Affair of 2006.


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