Call me “murphy.”
I’m in the midst of one of the biggest life crises anyone could ever have.
I’m a stay-at-home father of two boys, 9 and 12. That’s my primary job, anyway. The eldest was born in March 2004; the youngest in October 2007. My wife, Demi, is an attractive, hard-charging insurance executive in Portland, Oregon. We’ve been together since 1996.
We live in Vancouver, Washington, located just across the scenic Columbia River from Portland, in an affluent neighborhood where the cars are all flashy and the schools are all stellar. We’ve lived here for almost two years, after moving from the small town of Battle Ground, where our family thrived together for ten years.
At present, our boys are really great students. They are both at the top of their classes in the most important subjects, and they appear to be developing a sense of responsibility that will last a lifetime. They are also very civil to each other, something not always expected from male siblings.
The eldest, Lee, has played soccer (not his jam), and has run both cross-country and track. While he isn’t the fastest guy in his sports, I’m especially proud that he’s no quitter. He’s dark-haired and dark-eyed and growing to be quite handsome. He wakes himself every morning at 5:30 am, takes his shower, has breakfast, and gets himself ready for school—all without parental prodding. For at least the last two or three years, I’ve never had to check to make sure his homework has been completed, because it always has. People who’ve come to know him describe him as intellectual, responsible, kind, gentle, and compassionate. Lee is clearly on the path to becoming a great man.
My youngest son, Sam, is physically small for his age, and that’s a challenge for him. I’ve taught him to understand that it won’t be forever. Sam is blond and very fair. His bright eyes are so strikingly blue that his freckle-dusted face often arrests the gaze of passersby. He likes to play soccer, and like his brother, he’s no quitter, either. Third Grade in Washington is the first year for “real” grades, and initial reports from the teacher indicate that he is developing into a top student, just like his brother. His habits are developing well. Although we still need to remind him about homework, he’s developed a wonderful habit of reading for up to an hour after climbing in bed at night. He’s getting results: his teacher said he’s by far the best reader in the class at 105 words per minute with 100% accuracy. Again, some things have been going very well.
Now for the bad news.
In March 2016, Demi chose to be unfaithful to me after 20 years together. Chose. That’s the operative word here. Chose. And not just once. Since then, I’ve been deceived repeatedly—so many times that the situation might best be described as “grotesque.” I’m deeply hurt and angry, my masculinity stomped and crushed. I’ve lost the connection I once had with her, and, although we still live under the same roof, I can’t see a path back to her. I’ve resigned myself to my greatest fear—losing her forever. She was the one and only person in my life whom I ever regarded as my true love, my best friend and my soulmate. She was even my drinking buddy. She’s also the capable mother of my two intelligent, charismatic sons. The entire situation makes me deeply sad. Even if she returned to me repentant and contrite, I’m not sure whether I could ever love her again as a man should love his woman.
Something happened to our little dream. And this is our story.
Our story has all the twists and intrigues of an international spy thriller—it’s a story full of passion and anger, intrusion, mistreatment, violence, and imprisonment. It hasn’t been good for me, for her, or for our children, and I know I must eventually bring it all to an end. My finger is on the trigger, but I can’t seem to pull it…
I will begin our story by owning my own truth—my battles with depression and intellectual boredom; letting myself fall into poor health and indolence; difficulties controlling my emotions during the past seven months; and my attempts to assert control over my wife and my marriage situation when I should have just let go, turned my back, and walked away.
Our story is one of compassion and rage, love and hate, but it’s also about revenge and recklessness. For me, it’s been constant work to drive out the pain and darkness. I have never felt pain like this before. Let me say that again: I have never felt pain like this before. My inner Catholic voice says, “surely, some Good shall come of it.”
There’s an unexpected denouement that has yet to play out—my process of turning the pain and bitterness of my wife’s betrayal into a catalyst for personal change. For the last seven months, I’ve been living a life that wasn’t what I signed up for. It wasn’t what I pictured for my kids. Because of how I’ve reacted to the profound level of trauma thrust on me, I’m a very different person today than I was a short seven months ago. But that’s not all good—I have some new characteristics that are going to make it very difficult for me to trust anyone but myself in the future. I would have imagined that I could have handled this episode in my life gracefully, but I haven’t. Instead, I turned vicious. I regret it, and I’m ashamed about it now, but I wasn’t when I was doing it. In any case, I’m in a better place mentally and physically than I was before, every day refocusing and strengthening a cerebral firewall against the recent past.