Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Chapter 17 - 4 years and counting

Last month was the 4-year anniversary of d-day, the day I discovered my wife was having an affair. The previous 3 anniversaries were alike. I would spend the day somber and moody and depressed, seeing if she would bring it up. I hoped she would, so I could know that my suffering was important to her. At the same time, I hoped she wouldn't, so I could have a great excuse to get pissed off. Really mature, I know.

This year was different. On February 1, I realized that the anniversary had passed several weeks ago and that it had never once crossed my mind. Now that's progress.

The affair is still a prominent presence in our lives, but not directly and we don't often think about it. But you don't go through something like this without being permanently changed.

I don't trust people like I used to. That isn't to say that I am distrustful of everyone or that I assume everyone is out to hurt me. With my wife, it is not that I think it likely she will hook up whenever she leaves the house. It's just a recognition that it could happen, just like it could happen with me or with anyone else. When you least suspect it, each and every person could make a couple of bad choices and bam -- he or she is betraying everyone they love and everything they once stood for.

It made me more assertive. I'm much more likely to speak up when something is bugging me than I used to. She's a little less likely to do so. For a while, those trends were probably the result of righteous superiority on my part and guilt on her part, but trends become patterns and patterns become habit, so we do not relate to each other in the same way.

A shrink could find other ways we changed. Some changes are improvements, some aren't.

On trust -- someone emailed me and said she was having difficulty learning to trust her husband after he had an affair, and that a counselor had said that she just needed to just move on and trust him.

That's bullshit. You have to earn my trust. It isn't something I just make up mind to do and give it away.

With my wife, trust grew over time. As the evidence stacked up that she wanted to be faithful and that she was structuring her life to make it less likely that she would repeat the same mistakes, I would trust her more.

At some point, the evidence in favor of trust is such that is no longer rational to doubt the other person. It no longer makes sense to assume that they would jump at any opportunity to cheat on you. At that point, yes, a person does need to move on. But that takes time, and lots of it. So while trust is in a part a decision and a matter of will, it is a decision based on evidence of good behavior, not unverifiable promises.