The name of the blog
"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Is there a "love language" a "nice guy" can understand?
Oh horrors; for the first time in eight months it truly sank in the other night that I might have played a role in my husband falling in love with someone else and leaving me. I had flirted with that idea in the early weeks after the disclosure, but M had assured me that him cheating and falling in love with someone else had nothing to do with me, that I deserved better than he had treated me, and that he loved me as much as he loved her. My belief in those sentiments finished unravelling at the end of September when I read an email from him to her in which he tells her he loves her more than he has ever loved anyone. That was the end of any contact between us, and the beginning of me wondering if our situation had anything to do with polyamory at all, or was that just a convenient lie to tell me because she was in an open marriage? My resolute faith that I had done nothing to contribute to the end of a marriage I was happy in took another hit in December when he wrote me at Christmas and told me he had loved me and the time we had together. That could only mean that at some point he had fallen out of love with me; a different tale than he had told me between June and September.
Always on a quest to learn what I can and grow from my experience, or simply find comfort, I just finished reading the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The book is easy to read and took the time of four baths for me. And like any book worth its salt, it got me thinking; the more I read, the more I thought about the love languages. It was very easy for me to recognize and surmise what my own love languages are, and also how my ex-husband had expressed his love to me. The quiz at the end of the book confirmed my suspicion that I am actually trilingual, which means I can recognize and absorb loving messages through: time spent with me, affirmations, and physical touch. And my ex-husband did all of those things, as well as perform acts of service and occasional gift giving. Which suggests M was incredibly rare and quite genius. And he continued to offer me all those acts that kept my “love tank” full, right up until the day of the disclosure. Which is how I got blindsided and why I fell so very far off the pedestal he had put me on.
More than that though, the book got me thinking on what my ex-husbands love language was. The author suggests that whatever language you recognize your spouse as offering to you with regularity is most likely what he or she wants in return. Which does make it somewhat challenging to pinpoint what my ex-husbands language was, but without fail, he offered acts of service to me daily. Almost every day of our marriage he brought me coffee in bed. If he couldn’t be home to do that, he would have the coffee maker set up and ready to brew for my awakening. If acts of service was his primary love language, I wondered if I ever reciprocated enough to make him feel loved? He did so much for me, and just as the book suggested, I gave back loving words of support and gratitude, I ensured he knew I wanted to spend time with him, and I was physically loving towards him, because that is how I recognize and communicate love. Now I question whether my actions actually filled his love tank at all.
Near the end of the book I was horrified to read about a husband who had started an affair but wasn’t telling his wife; he was only telling her he no longer loved her and wanted to end the marriage. The client told the author he didn’t want to hurt his wife, and he didn’t know what had happened, he wished it could be different, but he no longer had any feelings for his wife. Those sentiments were far too close to what I heard from M for me not to be shaken reading them. The author notes that the client was “thinking and feeling” what “hundreds of thousands” of husbands before him had thought and felt; these men convince themselves they no longer love their wives so they have the “emotional freedom” to “seek love with someone else”. The author suggests these men and women are pushed to fulfill their emotional needs outside the marriage when their spouse cannot communicate to them in their love language.
The book speaks at length to the difference between the “in-love experience,” and the emotional need to feel loved, as have many other authors and speakers I have encountered in my research during the last eight months, some of whom I have referenced in previous blogs. While I won’t touch on that massive topic at this time, it disquiets me greatly that my marriage may have been lost to lust essentially. That in a few years, my ex-husband will be single and wondering what happened to our relationship and family. There will be no satisfaction for me if this scenario unfolds as most researchers of the human condition, and my friends, predict it will. I, in fact, hope he stays true to his polyamory claims, or that he has found his soul-mate in Stephanie. I do not want the agony of our break-up to have been for nothing. I do not want my marriage to have failed because of something I did, or did not do. While I do not understand polyamory, his choice to engage in that lifestyle as opposed to monogamous marriage lets me off the hook accountability wise.
Reading chapter 11, Love Makes the Difference, I unglued a little more. The author speaks about how love interfaces with the known psychological needs for security, self-worth, and significance that all human beings share. And in doing so over the next three paragraphs, he validated my pain, longing and struggles since the break-up, a validation I no longer want or need. I don’t want to be reminded that I lost a cheerleader and safe place, that my self-esteem is cheap toilet paper thin, or that I am no longer romantically significant to anyone. I have been working so hard to overcome these issues and create meaning in my life that this reminder of where I was recently, and how far I still have to go in my journey to emotional well-being, seems unfair and untimely. I have just had the most beautiful, content, and joyous six days in years. I finally felt peaceful in the stillness and quiet of my life, I didn’t felt lonely, I hadn’t cried, I had felt joy and happiness just to be alive, gratitude for what and who I had in my life, and I was finally thinking forward with anticipation of things I could do for myself that would make me happy. I wasn’t relying on a man to come and rescue me. It is those strengths and achievements I want validated. This chapter reminded me that I do want love, that I value men and relationships, and that no matter what anyone says or what I read, I will not likely change my mind about my belief that my life will be more complete when I am in a loving relationship.
Earlier that same day I read an article on the website www.loveumentary.com about nice guys that unsettled me too. My husband was a nice guy. Everyone knew that. I was proud of the fact I had married a nice guy. There was simply nothing unflattering that could be said about him until the end; I had nothing but praise for him for 12 years. I felt blessed to be sharing a life with him, and felt unconditionally loved, which I have now learned is not actually possible outside of the parent/child bond. The article, written by Nate, a reformed nice guy, hit me in the gut with the truth about the lack of honesty in my marriage. Nate writes that a good guy can never be the jerk or source of unhappiness, which consequently translates to not rocking the boat or having difficult conversations about the ugly truth within self or between two people. For Nate, it also meant bottling up feelings when something was wrong, stewing in resentment, and pushing the person he cared about most, away.
Last but not least, the hallmark of the “nice guy”: no closure, which is my situation. A 12 year relationship and marriage ended without a conversation and no effort made to salvage anything. And that remains the deepest sorrow that I carry with me. I have accepted the end of my marriage; I have made peace with M never being a part of my life again; I am moving on. Yet, I really struggle containing my deep grief when I think of how little effort was made by him, or he allowed me to make, to work through whatever created the space in our relationship for infidelity to occur. M told me there was no problem in our marriage, that he had just changed, so what could I say to that? What could I have done differently? How am I supposed to learn from this situation and not have it repeat in another relationship?
Nate acknowledges that, “A nice guys fear is that honestly expressing the truth will make him unworthy of love”. Did I somehow contribute to making my love feel unloved? When I read the sentence “The fear of rejection, loneliness, and being not-enough ironically fuels the exact behaviour that will prevent the nice guys from ever experiencing genuine connection, affection, and love,” I wonder if my husband ever felt loved by me? Were we never genuinely connected? Am I that blind and foolish? I know the worst consequence of his cheating is that I now question whether or not he ever loved me, or when he stopped loving me, and whether or not he was ever faithful to me. Are both of us taking away deep insecurities from the wreckage of the failed marriage?
And if all of those punches to the gut weren’t enough, the Universe sent me another clear message after I had written the first draft of this blog via an article by Jayson Gaddis on the website goodmenproject.com. The article, Why You’d Rather Have Sex With Someone Else Than Work On Your Marriage drove the point, that I would rather not consider, home: “it always takes two for an affair to happen. I’m not talking about the third party. I’m talking about in the primary relationship; both people contribute equally to an affair happening (hard pill to swallow for some).” Jayson has his own website, Relationship as a Path, which is chock full of musings and observations which provides me another perspective for my healing. Jayson also has a brief article about my husbands comment “I deserved better than him”. That statement is a cop out so the man doesn’t have to examine his insecurities and an insult to the woman because it is taking away her choices. Thank you for validating my frustration with that statement Jayson and helping me understand why I felt so icky and defensive when M would say that to me.
My marriage seems to have been a sham and I never pushed too hard to get beneath the veneer; I loved my life, I loved the idea of being in a good marriage, and I loved the man my husband acted like. Therein lies at least some of my culpability in the failure of the marriage. I liked the status quo, being treated like a princess, being convinced I was loved unconditionally, that we didn’t fight much, and for all those reasons I didn’t want to rock the boat either. However, 12 years of my life seems like a pretty steep price to pay for this lesson. Even during the marriage I knew some of the pitfalls of M being the nice guy; I challenged my ex-husband at times during our marriage to stop being a doormat and stick up for himself. When he said it (whatever the topic at hand was) just didn’t matter that much to him, I accepted him at his words. Perhaps what I should have heard him saying was that the marriage just didn’t matter that much, or he didn’t feel like he mattered that much. As I go forward in life, I now have a new skill set knowing the different love languages, but how will I differentiate between truly caring people doing good things, and the fake nice guy?