Our Story: Epilogue

Posted: June 18, 2008 in best things, Calvin, Drama, Family, Headspace, Journal, Memory Lane, Warm Fuzzy

Life, she is a funny, complicated thing.

Having an affair with Calvin was the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life; the worst sin I’ve ever committed. Yet, our affair resulted in the best thing that has EVER happened to me, and a more complete happiness than I ever expected. So… am I going to hell? Did I “make up” for my indiscretions by being a good wife to Calvin, and a good mother to Michael and Marie? In one of the first conversations we all had together after Calvin moved in with me, we both apologized to the kids for how things went down. I personally apologized to the kids for the role I played in breaking up their family – it was certainly already headed that way, but I was the catalyst that set things in motion. Michael and Marie both have said multiple times that Calvin and his ex are much better apart than they ever were together, that Calvin is actually a better father now than he was then (because he’s happier, more emotionally open and available to them), and that Calvin and I are obviously meant to be together. They’ve both even said that the damage to them would have been worse, they’re sure, if Calvin and his ex had stayed together “for the kids”.

They describe finding the right person for them as, “Finding their Laura,” so I consider that to be just about the biggest and best compliment and sign of their acceptance that there possibly could be.

I would absolutely NOT recommend an affair as the avenue to find your happiness. I absolutely still believe, hypocritical though it may seem, that one should practice fidelity while married or in a monogamous relationship. The fact that everything worked out for us in the end is SUCH a long shot, a defiance of the odds and the statistics, that we’re incredibly lucky. We’re lucky the kids don’t hate us. We’re lucky that we didn’t discover that we weren’t as great for one another as we thought during the drama and excitement of our affair. Calvin and I both agree that if we had it to do all over again, knowing what we know now, we would have remained respectful to our spouses and not solidified our relationship until AFTER both of our divorces were finalized.

Now, “once a cheater” does NOT mean “always a cheater”. A lot of people who know our story have asked if Calvin and I are confident each other’s fidelity, given how we got together. I have absolutely NO question – Calvin would never cheat on me. And he feels the same confidence in me. In fact, I have less question of his fidelity than I would have if we had gotten together in a more “traditional” sense. Our feelings for one another notwithstanding, it’s a case of the both of us going through our own special versions of hell and knowing, “Well, I’ll never do THAT again!” No way, man.

“Judge not lest ye be judged,” is just about the best set of words to live by. I’m not a Bible thumper by ANY stretch of the imagination, but that little nugget ‘o wisdom (and, you know, one or two more from the same source) is absolutely priceless. Nobody’s perfect – not me, not even YOU. I do absolutely believe that one has to walk a mile in another person’s shoes before they can really understand what their circumstances are like. So when I hear about other people’s affairs, other people who have fallen in love with someone who is not free, other people who are looking longingly toward another while the one they stand next to has expectations of fidelity… I don’t condone it, I don’t encourage it, but I absolutely DO understand it. I sympathize. I’ve been there. It royally sucks.

I can’t give you advice on how to make an affair “come out” the way you want it. I can’t give you advice on how to make sure your spouse doesn’t cheat on you. And I can’t give you advice on how to repair a broken or failing marriage, or even how to keep one from failing. I can tell you what I would do, but there is NO handbook for relationship success, or BELIEVE ME I would have tracked it down. I will say that in my experience (note that), relationships are harder to break the more communication there is. They’re harder to break if both people want to put in the effort to understand one another and to make one another happy. There is no room for selfishness in a successful relationship, and there is no room for complete selflessness, either. Those who care well for others also care well for themselves. There is NO ONE PERSON out there who will meet every single need of another person, but both people can compromise, work around, and work on the un-met needs. Both people have to give 100% to each other and the relationship, as close to 100% of the time as they can.

I will say that in my opinion you can’t fix a failing relationship if the trust is irrevocably gone. You just… can’t. It will never go back to being whole again, if one person can’t completely trust the other. Now, some people can live with that lack of wholeness, but I know that I could not – not if I was the one not trusting, and not if I was the one not trusted.

Calvin and I both are big believers in the thought that it’s better to be alone than to be with the “wrong” person. A lot of people just don’t feel that way. I’m sure we all have countless friends, family members, and acquaintances who stay in the same messed up relationship because “it’s better than being alone”. I think that an exchange of vows does not eliminate the ability to leave a bad relationship. Take those vows seriously, yes, but get the hell out if you’re making each other miserable and there’s no fixing it.

Now, certainly, it wouldn’t do to just throw up your hands and give up at the first sign of trouble. If you can work out your problems so that you come out the other side stronger than you were before, you can actually view that as a positive opportunity for mutual growth. I feel that a relationship that has survived some struggle is a stronger one than a relationship that has never, ever been tested. I guess the breaking point is different for every person and every relationship, and one that can’t be defined by me or anybody else who is not in their situation.

I also believe that staying in a marriage for the sake of your children is not necessarily the right thing to do – especially if the household is poisonous, and if the fighting couple presents a bad example to the children on how a relationship should work. Children absorb an ASTONISHING amount of behavior from their home environment, whether or not you’re purposefully directing it, or even noticing it. I’d rather have my child learn how to peacefully end a relationship than how to fight and prolong an unhealthy marriage. Then perhaps in the future they can learn how to be in a healthy relationship if their parents move on to a situation that is positive.

Michael and Marie have said to me in the past, “We learned how to fight by watching Mom and Dad, but we learned how to love by watching you and Dad.” It’s sad that they ever learned the former at all.

There are no right or wrong answers, there are just your own morals and how you live or do not live by them. I am living proof that a person can go through something that is morally wrong to them, acknowledge to themselves that is is wrong while they’re in the middle of it, and yet do it anyway. In the midst of our affair, I didn’t even try to excuse it or justify it to myself. I loved Calvin, there was no changing it, and pursuing a relationship with him while he was married was W-R-O-N-G. And yet, for me, I could not follow the other choice that was available to me. I just… couldn’t. There are plenty of people out there who would consider me a bad person because of my behavior, and perhaps to them I am. I don’t feel, myself, like I’m a bad person. In the end, just as another blogger whom I regularly read recently said, the only person whose good opinion I really absolutely NEED, is my husband’s.

Because of my inability to follow my own sense of morality, I have the blessings of a loving, exciting, supportive husband who is also my best friend. I have two wonderful step-children who have enriched (and challenged!) my life. I have three beautiful grandchildren whose baby heads I got to smell and whose baby cheeks I got to chomp on.

If this is paying for my sins, what on EARTH would my life be like right now if I’d lived it without fault?

(If you’ve missed any of the installments, here’s the prologue, here’s part one, plus the editorial note, here’s part two, here’s part three, here’s part four, here’s part five, and here’s part six.)

  1. Rebecca says:

    You even tied it up neatly with a South Park, ‘What we have learned today’ lesson. I’m impressed!

    There are a lot of judgemental folk out there that need to think before they throw stones from their glass houses (huh… doesn’t that come from the bible too?)

    To vaguely take a phrase from Nance’s book: People who don’t feed you, f*ck you, or pay your bills aren’t the ones you need to worry about having a good opinion of you.

    They never have the real story anyway – only juicy conjecture.

    … also I’m very jealous of the strong and loving relationship you and Calvin have.

    We should all be so lucky.

  2. Taoist Biker says:

    You… are a very. wise. lady.

    Of course, I probably say that because your view on relationships closely jibes with my own. 😉

    In all seriousness, I believe that there are two types of cheaters: there are the ones who are disappointed in themselves and learn from their mistake, and there are those who don’t, due to an inability or an outright refusal. The latter fit the “once a cheater” rule; the former do not…in fact, quite the opposite. (Unfortunately I think there are a lot more “once a cheater’s” than otherwise, because they’re afraid to look inward, take responsibility, and make a change.)

    It’s only been in the most recent half of my marriage that I’ve figured out a whooooole hell of a lot of things about life, love, and myself. Among those are, as I said earlier and as you say in other words, that there is no straight and easy path through love and into happiness. That sometimes the hard stuff CAN be survived, and that if so, you come out the other side stronger, as metal that’s been through a forge.

    Speaking personally, I have a lot more respect for you for having made a mistake and having the guts to own up to it, make a change, and refuse to let it define you, than I would have for anyone who claimed (truthfully or not) to have never erred themselves.

    And “Finding their Laura” from the kids must indeed be one of the most precious compliments you could possibly hear. That is inspiring.

  3. […] you’ve not read the “Our Story” at Snerkology, I highly encourage you to do so!  Laura writes beautifully and has a very special […]

  4. […] would be Laura, who as the epilogue to her beautiful blog series that she calls “Our Story” gives what I think is a very […]

  5. Calvin says:

    “People who don’t feed you, f*ck you, or pay your bills aren’t the ones you need to worry about having a good opinion of you.”
    Love it!
    I know every situation is different but for me when I was with my ex and was a cheating,manpig,dog it was because emotional doors being left open by both of us due to incompatibility, no respect and lack of communication.
    The relationship I have with Laura leaves no room, want or need for any other person.
    The complete unfiltered communication we have makes for a situation that allows us to talk about anything which means we can solve problems or work on them together so they do not grow into issues.
    In the past I knew I could not go to my ex with most things that were on my mind and it seemed that the new girl(or emotional friend) in the office always seemed to be so understanding with all the right answers.
    Next thing you know the disrespectful, pig would take over and…
    I do know one thing I will never be a cheater ever again.

  6. Laura says:

    Rebecca – Yeah, that South Park ending was what I was striving for! Umm… I think the whole stones/glass houses thing is from George Herbert ca. 1651 (don’t be impressed, I looked it up). I am very, very lucky and I remind myself of that every day!

    TB – Thanks! I don’t feel particularly wise all that often. I hope that others can learn from my mistakes and experiences, which is I guess one of the reasons why I chose to start a blog, write this story and the other saga about my ex… plus the whole self-exorcism thing. You and your wife have been really supportive and I appreciate it. Thank you.

    Calvin – Not the first time I’ve stated that I wish you’d start your own blog…

  7. […] of big ol’ fights. More heart-to-heart conversations than can be counted. Twelve years together. Eight years married. A million happy […]

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