I didn’t want to tell him, and I did all at the same time. I was afraid, I knew that he would leave me. How could something get so twisted in my head? How could I believe that this stupid idea would lead to connection?
The weight of my secret was taking its toll. Living in anxious energy for weeks left me jumpy, irritable, and in a prison of my own torment. I shamed myself over and over again.
Norma, why did you do this?
You are so BAD?
You don’t deserve him, or your precious little boys.
I don’t remember the exact day that I told him, I think it was so traumatizing that I have hidden some of the memories away. I know that it was a couple of weeks before Christmas in 2007.
I had gone in and spoken to a church leader explaining what I had done. He had told me that I needed to tell my husband. I already knew this to be true, and I planned to do just that. I had wronged my husband and no matter what the cost he deserved to hear the truth from me. I feared that it would be the end of our marriage. I didn’t want it to be, but that choice was not up to me. I was going to own up to what I had done and take whatever consequences came.
Fear itself pulsed through my veins as I approached him. Tearful and beaten I quickly explained what had happened. I told him that I wanted to connect with him, that his friend had been helping me. I told him that we had each gotten naked across a dimly lit room. He sat quietly. Not a word came from his mouth. I told him that I would give him step by step details if he wanted me to. He said nothing. I called his friend to let him know that I had told my husband.
My husband took the phone from me and he went into the garage. I don’t know how long they talked, and I could not make out what was being said, all I could hear were raised voices. I sat in the living room afraid. Afraid of what he would do. I created stories in my head, I assumed that when he came in from the garage he would tell me to get out. How would I explain this to my boys, my family?
To my surprise, he never told me to get out! He didn’t come inside and yell at me. The punishment was silence, one day turned into two, two days turned into a week. I wanted him to yell at me, it would have been easier than the eerie silence, the waiting, the wondering. I lived in my house for two weeks and he did not talk to me. I didn’t exist to him, I walked through my house like a ghost. Unseen and unheard!
I fell back onto the only thing I knew how to do, and that was work faster and harder. I tried to serve him wth every ounce of energy that I had. I cooked, I cleaned, I would ask him if he wanted a massage. I tried everything, but nothing!
I cried, I was drowning in my own shame and misery. I hurt! Negative messages flooded my mind:
Norma, you deserve this.
You are so lucky that he hasn’t kicked you out yet.
He should go out and have an affair so that you can be equal. Then maybe he can forgive you.
You are worhtless.
Returning to ‘Normal’
Eventually, over time things returned to our crazy version of normal. He did talk to me, but the disconnection was more painful than ever. His behavior escalated, but I didn’t feel like I had a right to say anything, after all I felt like I was living on borrowed time. I owed him.
My husband threw this sin at me for the next 7 years. Whenever I was upset about him bailing on me to go with his friends, he would remind me that what he was doing was nothing compared to what I had done. Why would he want to be around a cheater? When I would find girls phone numbers in his bag or wallet. He would remind me that all he got was a phone number, that I had gotten naked with his friend. He used it to remind me that if our family fell apart it was my fault. Everything was my fault, and I took it. All of it!
Even after I found out about the strippers and the affairs he would tell me that my sin was worse because at least he was looking at women that we didn’t know, I actually looked at a person that we did know.
My sin had given him all the ammunition that he needed to say or do whatever he wanted. I was scared to death that he would tell everyone about what I had done. I didn’t want everyone to know how bad I was. I could not get out from under the shame that flooded over me each and every time he reminded me. I went into my shell and I stayed quiet and hidden.
In 2013 when I started working with a counselor I shamefully told her this story. She began helping me work through the reality of the story. She helped me see that I was not BAD. That I was a good person that had made a mistake. She would tell me that mistakes were opportunities for learning. I would tell myself that over and over again. Eventually, my mind started to believe it. She helped me see that I was trusting and deep down I just wanted to connect with my husband. I had trusted his friend. She taught me that one weak moment doesn’t get to define who I am.
My husband continued to throw this at me during our divorce, but as I healed my own shame it didn’t work as well anymore. I got the opportunity to face my shame on my own, and he forced me to face it.
He told his family that I had gotten naked with his friend and that I had done way worse. I remember the day his mother showed me the text message where he told her what I had done.
My heart stopped!
Many family members were at their house and I told her that I would tell her what happened another time. Initially, she didn’t believe what he had said, but I knew it was mine and I owned it. I wanted to tell her he was crazy and making things up, but my conscience wouldn’t let me.
I asked his parents if I could come over and talk to them. I told them everything that had happened. I remember his dad said, “Why should we believe you.” I simply said, “You don’t have to.” I walked away from their house that day hoping that they knew me enough to know that what I said was truth, but knowing that it was not my role to convince them. I had been a part of the family for 18 years, it was a heartbreaking day in 2013.
My ex-husband used this one sin to justify his poor behavior with other women for years.
My sin doesn’t define me
My sin used to paralyse me. I used to wish that I could go back and erase it. Now I can honestly say that
I am so glad that I can’t because I learned so much. It doesn’t make me freeze anymore. I know that it was a mistake. I know that I was wrong. One bad decision does not get to define who I am.
Your mistakes don’t get to define you either. I faced my shame, you can face yours too.
I will tell my story because I own it. The good parts, bad parts, and ugly parts.
When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending. ~Brene Brown
I no longer deny my story because I really want to write the ending.