I’m Trying to Forgive Myself
I don’t know if I will ever will be able to.
I was abandoned by my father when I was a toddler, having contact with him only a couple of times throughout my life; none of those experiences being pleasant.
My mom remarried. My stepfather was quiet, and well removed from the parenting that my Mom did, which wasn’t much. Maybe he was afraid to love a kid that wasn’t his? I felt and knew that he didn’t love me the same as he loved my step-sister; his real daughter. In the midst of it all, I did my own thing, made my own rules. And I voiced out-loud, that he was not my real father, being sure that he knew that he wasn’t going to be telling me what to do.
I began using drugs around the age of eleven and started having sex at twelve. Having been left by my father is what I believed was causing me to feel unwanted and unlovable. I discovered sex and it seemed to hold a key to what I felt I needed. It was my new currency.
I was young, appearing older; tall and well developed. I welcomed the attention of men much older than me. I felt wanted by them. I felt beautiful. I felt powerful. I slept with many of them and I was proud of being good at it.
Fast forward twenty years.
I had been married for seven. We weren’t completely happy. Maybe it was the seven year itch? Maybe it was just me beginning to repeat an old pattern from my younger days.
My son was having a hard time with the move, adjusting to school, and he was also struggling in our blended family. I had a growing resentment toward my husband for not embracing him in the way that I believed he should. I tried to talk to him about it. He said it would get better but it never did. I gave him ultimatums, sobbed, and demanded that he love my child the same way that way he loved me. The situation never improved.
We moved. My husband had taken a job and soon became overly involved in his work. I didn’t have any support in our new town and I knew no one. I had a new-born baby on my hip.
I was back to feeling alone, neglected, unwanted, and I felt unimportant. I was growing depressed.
A guy at work began to pay attention to me. I felt drawn to him. Though I knew I had some serious issues to work out at home, before I knew it, I was in the midst of an affair. And I believed that I was in love with him.
I remember feeling horrible. I physically felt the guilt coursing through my body. The inside of me felt awful. The outside did too. I lost fifty pounds while processing the shame and feeling the stress. I couldn’t stand myself and I hated to be in my own skin. I experienced my first panic attack. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I could not stop it. The affair lasted about a year.
It all came to a head one day when I was confronted. My only option was to confess. Anything other than the truth would continue to keep me chained.
After speaking the truth, my entire world began falling apart even quicker than it had been.
The guy I had the affair with moved away, which only added hurt on top of hurt. My husband was broken-hearted and moved in with a friend when we separated. Of course, it wasn’t long before everyone in our small town knew what I had done. My level of shame grew exponentially. I was paying attention to what the other people were saying; that he should divorce me, and that he could do better, anyway. I believed what they were saying about us, about me.
I was the one who had caused him the pain, a man who I have loved so deeply. I did my best to avoid confrontation with him, shutting down emotionally, withdrawing, and isolating myself.
I was angry when I finally approached him with the threat of divorce, saying that I was done trying to make it work. It was my fears and insecurities that were leading me in that moment. What I truly believed, was that we had gotten so far off-track, and that there was no way back. I didn’t believe that I could be forgiven and that wee could find happiness again.
My husband kept trying to make it work despite my reluctance. He would not quit. I could see the pain in his face. I’d hear him cry and sometimes I’d be the one to hold him, even though I wanted him to go away. My only foreseeable choice was to cut the ties and run from it all before it hurt any worse.
I agreed to join him in counseling instead. It was a struggle to participate. The counselor told me that if I wasn’t going to give an inch, then this wasn’t going to work. I acted like I didn’t care but I kept going back.
In the midst of all the turmoil, my husband and my teenage son began to bond. I was happy that they were finally finding their way to each other, but it was heart wrenching because it was me they were united against. They were both angry at me. And I was angry at myself.
While this life-situation is going on, a woman whom my husband knows through his work, shares with him that she has a crush on him. I learn about it. Given this huge chasm in our marriage, it was much easier for her to wiggle her way in. As I understand it, she asked him to spend an evening with her. I continued pretending not to care.
Call it a coincidence. I was driving through town that evening and happened to spot his car. They were in it together. Their date had just begun. I went insane. I called him and forced him to pull over on the side of the road. My car came skidding in sideways behind them. The woman opened the passenger door and made a move to get out. “This is between me and my husband”, I said in the angriest voice I could make, and with a finger pointed her way, shouted at her, “you get back in the car!”. She didn’t hesitate.
It seemed like hours, the two of us standing there on the side of the road, talking, crying, and sometimes screaming. Even though he was out on a date, he still wanted to reconcile. I had been trying to get him to believe that I was no longer in love with him and that I only felt friendship toward him. But I doubted myself; not actually believing that what I was saying was the truth.
We parted ways. I went home to the kids. He spent the night with the woman. It was awful for him and it was awful for me. I’m fairly certain it was awful for her too.
It was just a few days later that I called him and said, “I love you and I want to put my ring back on”. He came home and we began putting the pieces back together.
Ten years later, many experiences, have helped shape the love we now share. We have spent countless hours, having countless conversations, about everything that has ever happened, and why it happened, and how we felt about it, and where we went wrong, and where we went right. It hasn’t been easy and there’s times when we’ve wanted to quit, but we continue to choose not to.
We both took ownership for our unraveling, him saying that he had made his job the priority instead of our family, and that he was not the step-father that he could have been; and that he was grumpy all the time and unpleasant to be around.
I blamed myself. I felt that it was me who had the affair, who made all the wrong choices, and that all of this was my fault.
I chose to believe what he told me that day. He said that he forgave me. And despite that I wasn’t able to forgive myself in that moment, he told me not to worry, that he believed in both of us, and that he would carry me through this, until my faith returns.