Saturday, 12 May 2012

Running into The Other Woman


If you’re a married survivor of infidelity and the marriage means anything to you at all, you immediately became obsessed with knowing the details of the affair(s) – and if the details are not made readily available to you (which would be the norm), your ‘life’s mission’ becomes to unearth them yourself. You go through moments when you think you’re going crazy – because your partner almost convinces you that you are, or because of the sudden change in your personality from a balanced individual to an obsessive human being.

Personally, I could not concentrate on my work for the first four months. How God managed to cover me during that period, I will never be able to fathom. With my workload, you simply can’t get away with blanking out for a couple of days, not to mention a four-month period. During that time, I moved through my days in slow motion. My brain just seemed to be in a fog when it came to work. I would spend the first half of the day trying, struggling, fighting to maintain enough presence of mind to at least respond to emails. I was terribly unproductive. The remainder of the day would be divided between staring blankly at my computer screen with my mind far, far away, and googling about ‘marriage,’ ‘Christian marriage’ ‘Christian marriage and infidelity,’ ‘Christians and divorce,’ ‘When The Other Woman is your friend’ – any permutation of words that came to mind and that I hoped would bring answers.  

I understand that unfaithfulness is a really difficult issue for erring Christians to admit to. The implications of unfaithfulness are far-reaching, and it seems logical enough for the erring party to want to avoid causing any further damage – to want to just put it behind them and everyone else and face the future. I cannot emphasize enough, though, to anyone in this situation, that there is no real future without the truth. Withholding the truth does not spell the end for the marriage, necessarily – if the marriage in question is built on outward appearance only. Sure, it’s possible to grin and bear it and limp along. But I’m talking about a real marriage – the kind worth fighting for, the kind we all hope for. In a real marriage – the kind worth fighting for – the truth can, will, and does set you free. The truth is more powerful than the pain. The truth is the starting point for healing.

I’ve run into the other woman (the only one that I really know well) thrice since I found out. The first time, it was by appointment and the other two times, we just happened to bump into each other. The first time, she asked if she could meet with us both to have a discussion. Her sister and another couple, close family friends of ours who stood with us all the way during this ordeal, were also invited. We met at a neutral place, a coffee shop in the neighborhood.

I arrived at the venue eagerly, exhausted by all the deceit and so ready to let them know it was tough, but I’d forgiven them, and I’d get through it. We sat directly across the table from each other on wooden benches in the garden. She talked for at least forty minutes, uninterrupted. I looked her in the eyes, but she wouldn’t look back. Her eyes flitted everywhere as she talked – everywhere but toward me. I continued staring at her in consternation. What was wrong with my friend? How had she changed so drastically? She was here to finally tell me the truth, wasn’t she? Why was she avoiding my eyes – something she had never done in my history of knowing her?

My mind tried to follow her long speech. She talked of all the respect she had for me and my family, about how she looked up to me and my then husband, about how we were the model Christian couple, about how much she loved us … I was getting lost. Why didn’t she just get to the point?  My gaze wandered from her shifting eyes down to her lips. I could no longer hear what she was saying – my mind was no longer following. I watched her lips moving, wondering what she was talking about. My eyes moved back up to her eyes, which still refused to meet mine. The sound of her voice switched back on. She was saying that she had been falsely accused, that this was all a malicious scheme to ruin our close friendship.

I was disappointed. I had left my house and come out here for this? She could’ve told me this on the phone. We didn’t have to meet in person for this. Why wouldn’t she look at me? I took deep breaths and silently chided myself for expecting too much, for expecting anything at all. When would I stop being so na├»ve? When would I ever grow up?

Our family friends moderated this difficult meeting with skill and maturity. I was grateful to have them involved, to have solid people in this land where I have no relatives. My then husband was asked if he had anything to say about all this.

‘Well,’ he began, shifting in his seat, ‘On behalf of my family, I just want to apologize to her for all the pain that she has suffered as a result of being falsely accused. This whole ordeal isn’t fair to her.’

WHAT??!! No, he didn’t!

I honestly could not believe my ears.  I immediately burst into tears in spite of myself. Our family friends – the wife – rushed around the table and handed me some tissue.

That was the first time I cried since I found out.

I sat defenseless next to my then husband and across from my friend of just a few weeks prior and simply cried my eyes out – tears, snot, gasps, shudders, and all. They both responded with silence, neither looking at me: my then husband, staring straight ahead of him, looking like an indifferent statue chiseled out of stone, and my former friend, avoiding my eyes, staring beyond me.

I felt naked, exposed, and ashamed, without a covering.

Well, this is just peachy, I thought to myself. He often complained that I never wanted to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to cry. Now that I was crying, I hoped he was finally satisfied.

We finally dispersed after everyone else said a few words. We all trudged into the parking lot, a defeated party of six. It had been a waste of time for everyone concerned. There were no winners.

I didn’t come face to face with my former friend until probably a couple of years later or more. I rushed into my office building that day, almost late for a meeting. I caught a glimpse of a figure standing awkwardly in the parking lot as I rushed past, and glanced behind me briefly, feeling like I was being watched. Not noticing anyone in my haste, I entered the building and waited impatiently for the elevator by the reception desk.

A figure suddenly approached me. Hesitantly, shyly. I looked up and recognized the figure as the person I had seen standing in the parking lot, but hadn’t recognized. As I finally realized who it was, she greeted me nervously. I greeted her back, not bothering to hide my surprise. I asked politely how she was, as the elevator opened up. She was fine she said, as I entered the elevator. As the elevator doors began to close, she suddenly stepped forward courageously and asked if I could please call her sometime. She had been trying to reach me on my phone for quite a while, but I simply never answered it and she eventually gave up.

‘Please call me,’ she pleaded urgently, desperately. ‘Do you still have my number? I lost my phone, so I don’t have your number anymore.’

‘I don’t have yours anymore, either, but I know how to get it. I’m not sure if I’ll call, but I promise to think about it.’

The elevator doors closed. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror along the elevator wall as I reeled over what had just occurred. I was glad I wasn’t looking bad. The mirror reflected the image of a confident, well-dressed, attractive woman in a hurry to get somewhere - far from the portrait of the miserable, 'abandoned' wife.

Don’t be silly, I said to myself. This wasn’t a competition. It never had been.

She was looking good, too. Thinner, and different in a few other subtle ways, but still essentially the same.

I debated for about a week over whether to bother calling her or not. Call her for what? There was nothing to talk about. But the temptation was strong. She had pleaded with me to call her. Maybe she was finally ready to tell the truth. Although my then husband wasn’t ready to break down yet, maybe she was. Maybe she was as tired of it all as I was.

And so I called. In a nutshell, the phone call was a disappointment. I didn’t get what I wanted. Rather, I got an abridged version of what I got at the coffee shop a few years prior. And so, I hung up, finally accepting that it was time to move on. I had to learn that I would probably never get what I wanted (what I felt I needed) and that this was okay.

Not long after that, I bumped into her in the parking lot of my office building again. She had a doctor’s appointment at one of the clinics in the building. Unlike the last time, when I didn’t have even a split second to think about how to react, this time, I saw her approaching and I thought about it. I decided not to carry on with the charade, pretending like nothing ever happened. She came toward me with hope and eagerness in her eyes, a greeting forming on her lips. I averted my eyes haughtily and openly shunned her. She immediately got the message and made her way into a different elevator.

‘There,’ I said to myself, feeling victorious as I got to my floor and headed to my office.

The feeling didn’t last more than a minute. I was overwhelmed by conviction as soon as I sat at my desk. ‘There, what?’ I asked myself. What had I achieved? There were no victories here, no winners. The minute I sat down, I got back up and marched back to the elevator. I knew which floor she was headed to. I got there and found her standing at the reception desk. I walked up behind her with a message from my heart on my lips. ‘Look,’ I was about to say, ‘I’m hurt and I don’t understand, but I don’t hate you. It’s hard for me to know what to say to you given all that’s happened, but I don’t hate you.’ She turned around just as I reached the desk and immediately began narrating the predicament she was having with her appointment, almost as if she was expecting me.

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ I replied. ‘How are you doing? How have you been?’

‘I’ve been fine. Things haven’t been easy, but I’m fine. I was fired from my job and I’m about to move. I had an accident and broke my leg. Remember my car? It was totaled during the accident - here are the pictures. I’m being kicked out of my house. Auctioneers came by and threw all my stuff out. It’s been really rough.’

‘Oh …’ I was speechless.

I stared at her, taking in the single crutch she was leaning on. I stared at her, thinking of the friend I had known so well. All the responsibilities she had in her family, and how giving she had always been toward them. How much we had shared and how close she had been to me. How on earth was she going to manage in this crazy city without a job? How could things have gone downhill so fast?

There was no room for gloating here. No winners, no victories. This was an all-round tragedy for us all. None of us had come out of this wreck unscathed. 

‘I’m sorry,’ I said simply and sincerely.

There wasn’t much more to say. This time, she had looked into my eyes, and if she still knew me at all, she knew exactly what I was trying to say, what I was trying to do.

I went back to my floor, to my desk and sat down with a sigh. The important thing was to be able to live with myself, and this I could now do comfortably.

What a way to begin the day!





9 comments:

  1. Hey, I want your patience, your love and your honesty. I could think of a hundred things to say to 'the other woman' as i read your blog but like you said at the end, what is the point of gloating? But still, a part of me was satisfied that she had some 'bad luck'... God forgive me...

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  2. I want this person's patience, love, and honesty, too! When I read the write-up, it's hard to believe I'm describing what actually happened to me (and not someone else), but this is exactly how it happened. I have selfish reasons, quite frankly, for handling things the way I have. I could've said a million things, but in the end I'd feel stressed and 'bad,'and I'm bound to run into her many more times in the future unless I relocate. So I was actually saving myself this discomfort. Although I can now see that the write-up makes me sound like some sort of angel, I'm actually anything but. Sometimes, showing kindness toward another person is actually a strategic way of helping yourself. LOL @ the 'bad luck' part. It's only human, and most people I know feel the same way. For some reason, I don't see those catastrophes as 'God's punishment,' though. The marriage had its challenges before she ever came on the scene, and she wasn't the only other woman. Stuff just happens, I guess. Life happens, and we all go through rough patches sometimes.

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  3. My wonder in all this is, why is she telling you all this, her predicament? God have mercy.

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  4. I had to laugh out loud at your comment. I asked her how she was doing, and so she told me. Also, she'd been trying to reach more for quite a while, before giving up, to let me know she missed our friendship, etc., but I stopped receiving her phone calls. In her mind (and is his), nothing happened, I'm imagining things, people are making things up, etc., and so it probably made sense to try and act as if everything was normal.

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  5. This is a really great blog...wish I had found it about four years ago. I'm assuming you write anonymously...I've wanted to say more, but want to protect my kids. And, I'm afraid complete disclosure (with my identity known) is unattractive and would have me more unliked than I already am (just being pragmatic - don't mean to be a martyr here). Would welcome your thoughts on this. I'll check back on this post...unless you'd rather send thoughts via email.

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    1. Gee, thank you. Four years ago, I was looking for something like it, too. It's only this year that I came to discover there are lots and lots of women blogging about this. Haven't found one that's African like me yet, though.

      I do write anonymously. I do it to protect the privacy of my former spouse and his family. I started blogging because I was about to burst and needed an outlet. And because I felt like there was a gap out there that I wanted my stories to fill. It was a challenge in the beginning (being anonymous) because I'm proud of who I am and have no problems, personally, revealing my identity. But I do have to think of others. This is also part of the reason why I'm dragging my feet about self-publishing or about approaching publishers to see if anyone would be interested in taking my story further. I need to really think about what this would mean for others that might not appreciate my being open about my life (and, in a sense, their lives). But I've just been too busy to create time to really think things through. And I don't want to publish under a pseudonym.

      I think protecting one's kids is of critical importance, too. I guess there are different approaches that can be taken to achieve this. If I were to stop being anonymous, I would use my maiden name, in order to keep my professional life as separate as possible, and this would also be some form of protection for the children. I have an older child that I'm very open with, and my younger child is much too young to really grasp any of this yet. My approach, though, is to just remain open and to have conversations about the situation (when necessary) that are age-appropriate. At the same time, I try to maintain a sense of respect for my children's father (and this can be hard) so they understand that whatever mistakes he may have made, we all make mistakes (including me), and this doesn't necessarily mean that we're no longer worthy of respect. I would feel uncomfortable if I felt like I had to be 'in hiding' where my own children are concerned. I let them know that stuff happens, and that's just life. We have to make the best of it.

      Some of the things I've said also depend on what led to the divorce. If there's a possibility of any danger where you are the children are concerned if you did not stay anonymous, then I would definitely revise a number of the things I've said above.

      If you have a 'fake' email address, and if you'd like to, I'm happy to talk some more off the blog.

      Wishing you well.

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  6. She's paying for the evil she did to you and i promise you, she ain't even started!

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  7. I too am facing a similar situation. in my case my husband was a serial adulterer and there was abuse involved. He kicked me out with my kids (after 10 years of marriage)for the current OW a much younger person - she's 28 who claims she's a born again Christian. Long story short, I was relieved at first when he asked me to move out but it has been tough for the kids and I. But I have had peace o! No more wondering how he would hurt me next, being able to be comfortable in my home and feeling uncondemned + the children are safe from his constant criticism.I have to do emotional repair work every time they go to spend time with him. I have prayed for God to touch and change him and restore the marriage (although I often wonder why- my experience as his wife was a nightmare!) for the sake of my kids and because no matter what I've read, I don't think God wants anyone divorced. He has been somewhat involved with the kids and has filed for a divorce - we're still in court. In all this time he hasn't honestly addressed the things he did to me in our marriage even though I have been open about my repentance for my part of the mess. I don't think he has changed, he has been in an open relationship with this OW - living together, parading her as his wife. Its going on 3 years now and I'm wondering, how long more do I have to wait before shutting the door on that marriage? I do not intend to stay celibate for the rest of my life but and still trust that God can and will give me a positive marital experience but..will it be with another man or this one? If with another man, how can I ever trust anyone else again? What will happen to my children? I wonder all the time. Just wanted to see what answers other Christian women in similar situations have and how they reached the point when they stopped praying for the restoration of their marriage. What are some practical steps to take going forward? Answers would be really appreciated.

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    1. Dear Anonymous: thank you for your comment and apologies for the tardy response. I've been swamped since I got back from leave. I just wanted to let you know that I have read your note and will write you a reply by tomorrow at the latest. Warm regards.

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