Tearing at the Fabric

Of the space-time continuum

People, pressure cookers and purging


pressure cooker

It is interesting to me, the cyclical nature of this life. I never really struggled with cycles too much in my life, previous to the cheating, not really. I have PCOS and as such, have never menstruated much at all, six times in my whole almost-48 years on the planet. So, even that very organic and taken-for-granted cycle of life that most women (and probably most of their partners) experience was never a part of my life. Since D-day, which will be SEVEN years ago next month, I cycle. I cycle through periods of strength and despair, and back to periods of strength and coping. I know that even in the very depths of despair, I am strong, even if I don’t actually FEEL strong in that moment. I have always taken my strength as a given, not really for granted, but recognised that I possessed it, and that there are many positives, but also a few weird negatives (eg; not very forgiving…..) in its possession.

This long after the initial devastation of discovery, I honestly thought I would have metabolised everything, and had it reasonably neatly packaged away “somewhere” in my past. I guess I knew I would never forget, but I sure did think that it would be like every other thing that has happened to me in the past, “dealt with.” Whatever that is ;-). It isn’t. I still cycle through these stages, as I was told by the first psychologist I saw for about a year or so, about seven or eight months post D-day, “you are suffering from complicated grief, Paula. And it isn’t an easy thing to resolve. It means you will continue to cycle through those recognised ‘stages’ of grief, until they are resolved, and sometimes they never are sufficiently to move past them.” I accept this. But it doesn’t make life a heck of a lot easier knowing this, and dealing with it. The second psychologist I saw (about a year after finishing with the first) gave me my first tool that made any real impact on how I was trying to deal with my pain, in ACT. I finally had something that seemed to give me agency about the pain I was experiencing. It hasn’t stopped it, or made a huge dent in how I feel, but I do understand things better than ever, and it helped that he admitted that he was dealing with something that he regularly pulled the ACT toolbox out to help him work through, and that he hadn’t found a ‘cure’ or way out entirely either, and didn’t expect that he could now, rather just a way of learning to live with and cope with the emotional detritus when it got too much (he was a youth and violence specialist, and I found him very relatable.)

So, lately I have been cycling through the difficult periods again, I am not surprised. I am trying to play catch up after taking two and a half weeks off to holiday in South America (which BTW was fabulous, and Roger and I went together and had a great time – we always do. He has been my best friend for almost 28 years, we ‘enjoy’ each other and laugh at the same things, wanted to see the same things, do the same things, experience the lived culture as much as you are able on a fleeting visit and are actually a tourist, etc – oh, except for the fifteen months when he was fucking “our friend” – that wasn’t so damn friendly!) We stayed with the exchange student daughter we hosted last year’s family for a part of the trip, and that was so wonderful, so we did get off the tourist path somewhat. Yay!

Oh – I forgot a shout out to temptedΒ – YES – we did go to Salta. Was different to my expectations, real contrasts in economic outcomes, etc…


So, of course I am a little stressed, but I am managing that stress, ticking items off the To Do List methodically. It is just the frustration at this knowledge that it will never really be any better. The decision to live without him isn’t a panacea to the pain I will forever feel about his choices, and the messages I am constantly trying to defend my psyche from. Two weeks after we returned, he asked me if I had enjoyed the trip! I was a little nonplussed. “Um, yeah, of course I did, it was a privilege and a pleasure to be able to do that, and it was nice to do it with you.” He paused for a minute, “it didn’t really seem like you enjoyed it much.” WTF? I sat with that for a moment, and then replied, “well, I have tried to explain this many times to you, gently and as kindly as I can manage. I don’t ENJOY anything the way I once did. All of the glitter and gloss that edged my previous life has gone. I like stuff, I enjoy doing things, but I NEVER LOVE any of it. There is no unadulterated pleasure, joy, Β anymore. Life is bland and not full of colour and wonderment for me. It isn’t a direct criticism of anything about you, merely a fact of the impact of the aftermath of being betrayed for me. I wish I could change it, I HATE that I don’t feel any great heights anymore, I know it is the reason I have lost my ability to orgasm and enjoy anything sexual. It permeates and steals all the flavour from life. I seem to be no longer able to live the FUCK out of life!”

I do feel like a human pressure cooker at times, I temper my temper. I have strategies in place and practice mindfulness in order to function, but there is also a need to not punish Roger forever for making shit choices. I don’t talk a lot about my feelings to him anymore, that just isn’t fair when you make the choice to live separately. It is interesting when we do, though, because you know what? There are no answers. There is no end to the journey of healing from infidelity, like many other things. However, many of the “other things” I have needed to deal with in my life have been able to be catalogued and shelved for long periods of time, and I felt I was pretty healthy in my processing of them. This is like no other, it refuses to be shelved, no matter how many ways I have catalogued, re-catalogued, examined, re-examined. Pressure cookers do need to let off steam, and for this blog, and the mostly anonymous spaces of the online world, I will be forever grateful. It is where the shit goes, and you will have noticed that it is used as the rubbish receptacle for my pain less and less. I think it is a measure of progress. But progress it not victory, not absolute, it never will be. I did realise about two years into this journey, that healing will never be complete, it will never all be bundled away into a neat little package of “this is what happened to me, but my life is better now.” That will not be a path that is available to me. I have another path to travel.

For the friends I have made through this world, one especially, who helps ground me almost daily, listens, shares her own steaming moments, and her triumphs, and never judges, but always provides comfort in her wisdom, I am eternally grateful.

That purged, I am back to my essay! Have a great day all.


26 thoughts on “People, pressure cookers and purging

  1. I started to cry halfway through reading this. I relate to it so much. I am four years past d-day, and I thought this would be a distant memory by now. A horrible one, to be sure, but distant. I relate so much to the tempered feelings you mention. My husband will sometimes say I seem sad or depressed, and it catches me by surprise. Most of my days are good. I am happy, and even content. We have been together since I was 15, and I turned 50 this past year. He has always been my best friend, and I have a good time with him. But I have lost a great deal of the enthusiasm I once had. We still have three kids at home, and I am deeply involved in their lives, sports, schools, etc. They are my greatest joy. I want so much to have back what we had. But I am beginning to believe it isn’t possible. So much was based on things he threw away. We were each others’ first and only. How do you regain that feeling of purity? Sacredness? It alarms him that now, if I want to have sex I will. Even if I am mad at him. Where it was once deeply emotional for me, the balance has shifted more to the physical. I do still love him. Very much. I can’t imagine life without him, and I can’t imagine breaking up our family. He is so genuinely and deeply remorseful. There is just something that is gone now. Perhaps you and I are still working through it. I relate to much to the cyclical nature. I think I do have longer good stretches. But then things happen. Now, for instance, I am due for my yearly GYN checkup. And it reminds me that his ho-worker had HPV. He risked my health for a whore. I ended up having a hysterectomy because of it all. Sorry to ramble, obviously I am triggered and not in the greatest place right now.

    • Oh Grace, I know. You have done exactly what your user name says, and exercised a great deal of grace throughout. But that is because we are “good” people, we are kind, loving, loyal and honest. Always. Unfortunately that does not guard us against other people’s poor decision-making processes. Or HPV. I hear ya, I am overdue for my latest (six monthly) test, and I have promised myself I will make that appointment after graduation – the ceremony is Thursday, and I have all the kids home this week, they bullied me into doing the whole cap and gown palaver! I have never dragged my heels on the smears, etc, they are a very, VERY regular part of my life since the crap he inserted into me, including her damn DNA, ugh. I am tired. Tired of always coping, tired of the smile I wear for other people’s sake. Tired of the constant push I make to get first, my undergrad degree done and dusted, and now, my Masters. I have to keep this up, because when I rest, the mind movies take over. The academic work keeps me sane – but it also comes at an emotional cost. Tired of having to monitor my sexual health, go in for minor, but painful procedures, I can sense that there have been changes to my cervix again lately, it’s been almost three years since my last abnormal result and the procedures that followed to correct them.

      As to the purity, he was my first and only, but I was not his, not by a long way. But I had explained that FOR ME, I attached some importance to that, and had made choices about my sexual health, and my love, and held my sexual self for someone that I fully trusted and wanted to give the gift of my passion to – and part of that, to me meant I would be sexually “safe.” Nyah-uh, made not one bit of difference when the cheating fever hit. My purity is no longer, I am tainted, used and abused for other people’s pleasure. I feel rotten from the inside out. That narrative is one that I have been seriously unsuccessful in stamping out in the last three years. Years 0-4, I was “sexually alive and normal” as such. Then I could no longer keep the feelings of being tainted and dirty away. It is one of my great griefs in life, to lose my sexual self.

      I am sending my strongest, most positive vibes for a great result for you at the GYN appointment. And my biggest hug to help dry those tears and to help them stop flowing when you are ready for them to. Tears help, they do cleanse, unfortunately, they don’t wash anything away entirely, merely soothe the wounds temporarily. This is a very different life.

      Oh dear, I meant to write something comforting and uplifting, and this is what came out! Whoops! I will post it anyway, in the hope that the solidarity of our situation helps ease the pain you feel today xxx.

      • Oh Paula, you words ARE so comforting to me! You truly get it! On SO many levels. “Tired” sums it all up very nicely. Life used to roll along rather nicely. We had our share of ups and downs, medical issues, lost two parents, etc. So it wasn’t easy, but yet it was. We were always an undeniable team. His motives were never in question, his loyalty was a certainty. Now everything seems so much work! Keeping the mind movies away, keeping a good attitude, etc.

        Do you mind if I ask how you cope with it all as far as the kids go? My daughter is at university and my oldest son will be in a year. They both know, and suffered through it all with us, including being stalked and harassed by that woman. My daughter told my son it is hard for her to come home, because it brings it all back. As you may recall, he carried on most of his affair right in our home. So it was very up close and personal for the kids. We had a number of good conversations after d-day, but it’s been four years and I don’t bring it up. I know it would make her uncomfortable, so the best gift I try to give her is showing her my strength. Letting her know I am ok. And mostly that is true.

      • Yeah. I don’t really have anything. Such similar tales. At four years I started feeling the strain. My kids are good. Eldest knows we both still struggle. I am not sure what my son thinks. He knows. But as a second year uni student at the other end of the country, who parties hard and is just coping with a demanding academic workload….hmm? We chat. But not about this. The youngest is still at home. And has developed a dry sense of humour about it. You just try to avoid it without denying it, I guess. I talk more with them about self worth and relationship stuff. But to be honest, they seem to have a really good grip on all of it. It just is what it is and I don’t pretend too much with them. I’m honest. They remember us as the great couple we were but are aware of the sad change.

  2. My husband was my first and only as well and while I loved that, he felt like he might have missed out, although he did have some other sexual experiences. He felt like they had been too little. Thank you to our sex saturated society for that!

    Paula-I’m so sorry you’re feeling all of this. I love that your first counselor referred to it as a complicated grief. While I’m sure grieving is never simple- this grief- it’s shameful and hidden and it does seem endless. The triggers seem endless and there’s a part of me that feels unsafe- it’s not just that I can never trust my husband but when you realize your spouse willfully chose to hurt you – it’s very difficult to accept and process-to put that away in your mind in a tidy manner. It hard to let go off a trigger completely when your spouse is the greatest one!

    Exercise grace- I know you’ve written before about your husband taking the AP to your home. My husband did the same and I struggle with that daily. How did you get through that. Is it any easier 4 years later? I’m 15 months in and I still can’t stand it!

    I’m honestly so grateful for this community! For women who get it, who understand just how ugly and messy all of this is!

    Hoping for better days for all of us!

    • Mine was a friend. They used our home (couch, kid’s bedrooms, etc) our holiday home (MY bed etc – apparently that wasn’t the same as the bed at home???) and our lodge at the back of the farm. Etc. I burned linen. I scrubbed everything. When our dear old Labrador died 18 months ago, I changed the couch (the old one smelled of old dog and was falling apart.) The stench of their betrayal permeated every material thing I have really. I just replaced the car in January! You don’t lose the taint. You just learn to live with it. The ‘meanings’ of the material things change. I have redone the kitchen since. It was mildly satisfying as although he swore it never happened – and I believe him – one of the vivid mind movies was him balls deep in her on the kitchen bench!

  3. Am I the only one who finally has orgasms now that hubby dearest is gone l0l!!! I’m joking about something that’s really not funny though because sometimes I don’t know how to handle it. I definitely have mood swings, and also feelings of very deep and horrible loneliness. It comes and goes. It’s like a hole that I know can not be filled. Not by myself, and not by another man. Something is gone. I know I’ve healed some. I think I’ve made a lot of progress, but nothing will ever be the same. When the bubble bursts, you can’t unburst it. You can only build new. There is no going back. And this next phase feels very lonely. I have nobody holding my hand anymore (but it seems even if I did stay with my ex, it wouldn’t make the journey any easier–I see that with you and KC. Nobody gets an easy ride.)

    • Yay! ORGASMS!!! πŸ˜‰ So damn happy for you. I have an amazing friend who absolutely floored me when she told me she never once had an orgasm with her first husband! Fourteen years, four kids and she is an absolute firecracker. WTF??? I guess the point of this post, Caroline, is that once broken, you cannot get what you had, what you should have. You just find ways to cope xxx.

  4. That flat line of emotions really makes me sad. I am particularly feeling it as we enter the my daughter’s wedding season. I wish my heart was bursting with emotion for her. I remember that feeling, but it just doesn’t happen anymore. I’m genuinely happy for her, and excited for her, but that rush of emotion just.doesn’t.happen. Thinking of all of you. Jules

  5. Oh Paula,

    You got it…. You worded it so correctly…, it is the purity that has been affected and as it is about being pure and innocent and hopeful and all that is associated with it, there will be grief.

    Grieving a relationship that could have been so beautiful…It is way more than the physical consequences…even those who state that they have good sex and orgasms (with their husbands) feel that it is not the same, it has something dirty.

    Rationally we need to challenge that and throw it out… There is no dirt…it is our perception that we trace to bad memories, which means it is the fucking PAST! And even if there was dirt…it never was your dirt.

    In these forums people talk about Grace and Forgiveness and Trust and Happiness, but those who have been around for a while also know that the sparkle that was there before, is no longer there. I want that sparkle back too. I want all of us to have that sparkle back, because we are good people (even when angry and struggling with the stupid forgiveness stuff) and we are too hard on ourselves.
    We are too wise, too insightful and too analytical. We read too much and we think too much. I think we should be permanent stoned to only see the “cool part of our fantastic world”.

    Great you are going for the gap and gown and congrats on getting your masters. I went for the entire stuff for my PhD….I bought it and it is heavy velvet and huge but not bad looking. I am going to wear it again, totally naked underneath and celebrate the women I met on this forum.

    Thursday…I have some time in between my appointments…..I will think about you….Don’t lose your sense of humour…..

    Paula, I read your post before going to bed and it made me sad…but not because I read it, but because I felt it and it was as if you wrote about me.

    Maybe I should do another PhD..(this one without a dissertation).the marks…were like a mini orgasm…you work for it and the reward is there…and then it becomes an addiction….I am sure in this case, “Satan” takes not issue with it.


    • Hehe. Silly ceremony. But thanks Dr E. Grieving a relationship that actually was, as well. I try to never forget that. It actually was a really beautiful and truly wonderful thing. Hard to believe, but twenty plus years of love, respect, passion and happiness. Stupid bastard!

  6. BE was not my one and only. We were actually even in our number of sexual partners at the time of our marriage, but obviously not anymore. Once I made the commitment to him, he was the only one I ever wanted in that way. He still is. I have no problem performing sexually, but the act of making love with him has lost its uniqueness, perhaps forever. Even though I know BE was able to compartmentalize out what we had from his relationships with his acting out partners, I am not. I have had to downgrade the value of sex in our relationship and I put a lot more emphasis on communication… honesty, integrity, and empathy. As betrayed, we are forever changed, mostly not in good ways, but life goes on and it is very much worth living. You have been through so much and your journey is unique to you. We all need to listen to that little inner voice and relinquish what others think or what others want from us. You have done that, you have listened to your gut. You are an inspiration. You have set out on a new stage of your life. Cheers to you, Paula, and I will raise a glass of champagne in your honor this week. I wish I was there to see you in that cap & gown!!! ❀

    • Honestly I am not sure that ‘one and only’ ever held any significance, Kat.

      • Eh. Hit send too fast!

        I never told him he was ‘first’ until after D-day. I personally put some weight on it, but I had been raped, and I also kinda felt he wouldn’t? I wasn’t a teenager and I didn’t feel prudish about it, or my body. I knew he had been with a decent (but not indecent, lol) amount of women. It seemed a non-essential to mention. He actually feels bad I never told him. I just never quite knew how to.

      • Working on ourselves is a life long project.

      • It did to you. It does to my brother because he told me so. He physically shook when thinking about his wife betraying him in that way. Neither of them have “been” with anyone else. BE used to feel like my one and only. *sigh* we lose things we didn’t know we cherished and we gain things we didn’t ever want. I know a lot of people who are faithful, but are also not happy. Life can be a bitch, but I know you are capable of knocking her on her ass my dear friend. xoxo

      • I guess that is what I mean about it not carrying a lot of weight, Kat, the whole “first and only” thing. I think I would have been every bit as betrayed, would have shaken just as much, shed as many tears, and been just as heartbroken had I screwed thousands of men BEFORE I faithfully committed to him, and believed he had to me, also. Yes, It is sad that we “saved” ourselves (uh, I really am not a prude who lives in the nineteenth century!) for the person we committed to, but no sadder than anyone else who has been betrayed emotionally and sexually. I suppose it speaks of loyalty and self respect when there haven’t been lines out of the dorm room, but hey, I have lovely friends who did that, too! They just took a different path, and are loving, loyal partners to their significant others. I don’t judge the way they lived, they made choices, and had basically very similar amounts of information about love, sexual health and self respect as me It isn’t a numbers game, and had it taken me fifteen more years to meet Roger, I would not have remained chaste! Timing is everything, and then again, it is also nothing xxx. Just because you had another lover before BE doesn’t change the pain, the lies, and the path of recovery.

  7. Paula I cannot WAIT too see these photos Thursday, you’re going to rock that cap’n’gown.
    I feel like calluses grow in the places that were especially soft and vulnerable before, and then it’s difficult to make new. There is a lot gone between Rich and I that will never come back. I admire your decision to not talk to Roger about this anymore, it is separation in the most literal sense – and that must be hard to do fully after so many years.
    You rock my darling, always x

  8. I’m sorry guys. I owe you an apology. I did not mean to make the “first and only” thing sound in any way as if that makes my pain “more than”. It doesn’t. Betrayal is betrayal. It is just something I struggle with. Maybe it is more of a comparison. Maybe I would have been better off if I HAD more experience. Maybe then I would be able to separate out types of sex? Or be able to look back and see that the sex I had with one partner, (even one I had loved?) didn’t compare to the sex with the man I truly loved, and married, and pledged my life to, and had children with, and worked towards a future with. My husband has told me sex with his AP wasn’t good. It was full of guilt and self-loathing for what he was doing and who he had become. My experience of sex has only been with him, and for me it was always so spiritual and intimate. Fulfilling on many levels. I know for him the affair wasn’t about the sex. It was about the attention and adoration. It was the reflection she mirrored back to him that he liked. He is getting ready to leave on a business trip and those are just an extreme trigger for me, as he took four or five with the whore. This too will pass, I’m just buckled in to the front seat of the struggle bus right now!

    • I am EXACTLY the same , Grace. It’s the reason I never had any recreational sex. I know me. Sex is (was) a spiritual experience for me, too. I guess my thing is this. Because we didn’t bed hop, the betrayal does feel pretty damn personal. We treasured the physical intimacy. I’m sure others do/did too. But for some reason…. hang tight. I’m buckled in right beside you. We can hold hands and tell each other we are gonna be okay xxx.

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