Liza sent me a very thoughtful note on the question of sympathetic-ness and authenticity, in which she raised a number of questions – many of which I expect I’ll return to in the coming days. But for this post, I want to cover a key question she asked that my form of narrative may have obscured.
She writes that she wonders “whether [my] diffuse narrative and aloof style lead readers, especially new readers, to think that [I am] having non-consensual extramarital affairs and [am] consistently seeking same.” I’m not.
She also asks, “how do you go from all the (presumably secret) cheating to having what seems to be a pretty healthy and positive open relationship? With the same woman? Who clearly was able to come to terms with the situation. All the other stuff I can wrap my head around. This is the part that leaves me scratching my head. In a good way, but also in a ‘I cannot imagine ever going there/coming out of it’ sort of way.” My very short answer: good luck and hard work, in that order.
I understand that this is a crucial question. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s one this blog never can answer.
Partially, this is a problem of narrative structure: if you’ve read every word of this blog (a dubious achievement, to be sure) you know that I’m obsessively, painfully honest and disclosing. There are no (longer any) secrets in my life. My wife reads this blog, she vets much of what I write, and exercises welcome editorial control over subjects and approaches. I suspect that she learns little by reading this, other than the occasional flash of insight into the deep recesses of my brain that our conversations hadn’t unearthed.
You also know that I wasn’t always honest – that for a long time (twelve years), there was a disconnect between the “me” my wife saw and the “me” I was. I lied, cheated, and was increasingly out of control.
And, to get to what I imagine is Liza’s point, you have absolutely zero insight as to how my wife interacted with the me that was, how we, how she, made the transition from what we were to what we are.
(How) did she forgive me?
(How) can she trust me?
Does she trust me?
(How) can she love me, after all I did?
(How) can she join me, as she does, in much (but not all) of my dissolute life?
And, perhaps most important, how the hell did we get from there to here?
This blog has a structural problem, in that T doesn’t write in it (other than voting in my little poll on the upper right hand of the page), or at least, hasn’t written or commented so far (I think she knows she’d be welcome to participate in whatever way she might wish). That’s not a structural problem for me, or for T, but it is for a reader hungry to know the full story, including the backstory, of my dissolute life. Suffice it to say, if T ever were to write her own blog on these matters, it’d be a doozy (and if you like this one, you’d love that one.
And I’m sorry, but I have little to offer there. If my wife is to speak, she’ll do so to her own audience, on her own terms, on her own timetable. I don’t know that she has any interest in entering the fray here. Nor do I (frankly) care – I love her desperately, and am enormously grateful for her love and loyalty. She owes me nothing, and while I understand Liza’s (and perhaps your) hunger to learn a bit more about her, you will get what you get on that front.
Here’s what I can offer you (and if you’re reading this, you should know that it’s been through T’s filter, and she’s approved these words): like many marriages, ours has been through the wars. And like every marriage, the apportionment of blame (or credit) is never as crystal clear as anyone, within or without, might like to imagine. I have committed horrendous, enormous sins. I also have worked mighty hard to right the wrongs I did. Every day, I wake up grateful to my wife – not just for loving and supporting me, sticking by me, but for being herself, for being the person with whom I fell in love all those years ago, and for remaining (seemingly) in love with me after all this.
I came out of my closet to T almost three years ago. In the time since then, a lot of water has flowed under a lot of bridges. I have reinvented myself – physically (lost 20% of my body weight), professionally (changed careers), spiritually (adopted a mindfulness meditation practice the likes of which I would have scoffed at three years ago), familially (I’m a stay-at-home dad for the time being), and psychologically (I’ve totally reinvented my conception of who I am, what it means to be me).
I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that anyone who knows me would have a hard time reconciling much about who I am today with who I was three years ago. And yet… and yet… there remains an essential continuity.
And – and this is where the blog really falls down – the same is true of T. So much has changed for her, both as regards herself personally and as regards her participation in our marriage, in our family.
Those few who know us both, who know both of our “sides” of the “story,” such as it is, are struck both by how similar both sides are, and by how credible, how believable, our shared construction of one another’s sympathetic and less-than-sympathetic moments have been.
Everyone is agreed that “99% of the women in the world would have left me.” I think that, at the same time, none of T’s friends or family EVER has suggested that she should have left (or should leave) me. If they have, I don’t know about it. (That’s not strictly speaking true, as I think about it – I have a vague memory of one of her friends trying to fix her up with someone at a particularly difficult moment for us.)
This may not answer whatever questions my words so far have raised, and I apologize for not being more concrete, not giving more details. I’ve tried a few times to write a simple re-telling of the story, but it’s impossible to do so without speaking for T, and I wouldn’t presume to do that.
I’m happy to do my best to answer any specific questions you may have – feel free to ask away in the comments. I’m genuinely not trying to be opaque or to hide anything – I just am reluctant to speak for anyone other than myself.