I've been reading a lot about infidelity and how to recover from it. I visit blogs, I get on forums (which if you know me, is totally not my gig), I talk to others I know who have survived it, I do what I can to deal with the emotions and betrayal that surround my husband's affair.
However, I've come to realize something. I'm not just dealing with the betrayal of my spouse in relation to his extramarital activities. I'm dealing with the betrayal of my spouse in his lack of defense for myself and our relationship to his mother. And that's a whole unfathomable level of betrayal I would never wish upon anyone.
I know I'm not alone in this – in the scores of women with in-laws who see them as less than, who make it known how much they despise and loathe them, who have to stand up not only to the challenges of sustaining a marriage but to also the barrage and emotional warfare of people who really don't belong in the marriage – but that doesn't dull the pain or the bewilderment. It doesn't change the feeling of being thrown to the wolves. It doesn't change that I feel like there are two "Other Women" in my marriage – his mother and the whore.
And oddly, I can almost excuse the whore because, well, that's what she is. She's a whore. Yes, my husband participated and chose to let her into our marriage, but she's inconsequential to me. As some of the resources I've consulted have said, she's really nothing more than the figment of my husband's imagination, not a real person. If she were real, she'd be in my place. And she's not.
But I cannot do so for his mother. I cannot excuse the lies that were told to my face over the years. I cannot excuse the threats made to my face, in front of my own parents, in my own home that she was not welcome in and she knew it. I cannot excuse the way she manipulated my husband to her every whim to try and eradicate me from my own life. I cannot even excuse the way she invaded my home after she had my husband kick me out of it -- the pettiness of buying chemical-laden cleaners and ignoring my environmentally friendly ones so she could scrub my house of me; the throwing of my personal belongings into a rarely-used upstairs closet, including artwork she once claimed she liked; the rewashing and refolding of clean towels in a manor that she approved of; the cajoling of my husband to remove his wedding ring because he didn't need it anymore, and the statement that his affair was acceptable behavior, and the admission that divorce was what she flew across the country to accomplish. The ways she tried to erase me from my own home, from the lives of my family, from my life, are inexcusable.
So I wrestle with more than just the betrayal of infidelity. I wrestle with the betrayal of what I would have considered family. It's like a backhand directly following a right hook. And it leaves twice the damage for my husband to begin to repair, in order to repair our relationship.
Betrayal isn't something I take lightly. I've excommunicated others from my life for far less than this. But I also understand that for as much as my husband is accountable for his own actions, I also know him, how influenceable he is, how honestly weak he can be under pressure, how confrontation frightens him. I know for as much as this is on his hands, it's more so on the hands of at least one other who knew the same of him and warped it, warped him, to their desires. And that betrayal, of him and his trust ... well, that's far worse than any sexual escapade.
So through our joint betrayal, we try to heal ourselves and heal each other. Because that is what real family does -- loves you in the face of adversity, and is there for you in the ways you need them to be, not in the ways that best service them.