Thursday, October 28, 2010

Your "Story of Us": Don't Censor It

"So how did you two meet?" a new friend asked me recently, about my husband and me.
My stomach clenched.
Of course I have my "Story of Us". Most of us do. It's the one we tell new friends. The one our kids love to hear, at least until they become teenagers at which point they'd prefer us not to speak at all. It's our time-worn, agreed-upon version of how two strangers came together...
Until one steps outside the marriage...and that story suddenly seems more like fiction. How can all that be true? we wonder. And this betrayal be true also? One truth seems to cancel the other out. In our versions of "us", most of us never considered a chapter where one partner violated trust in the worst possible way.
So, when asked, it can be tempting to leave out the painful bits. To give the world the Hollywood version, where even complications are simple and everyone pretty much lives happily ever after, the lighting is never bad and even women who've had three kids have abdomens you could bounce a quarter off.
And, frankly, that's pretty much the version I offer up...though it's clear to anyone looking at me that the abdomen bit is pure fantasy.
But there's a real danger is censoring the story we tell ourselves. In editing out the grief and shame and fear and agony because it just doesn't fit with the version we want.
We just want to get on with it, for goodness' sake. We don't want to keep tripping over the mess and it's so much easier to shove it aside.
Yet it's that mess that often is the soul of our lives.
Honesty can be a balm and a blessing. It can also be painful as hell. But the price we pay for not being honest with ourselves is a sort of half-life. A publicly acceptable life that belies a private hell.
Tell friends and strangers whatever you want and whatever feels safe and right.
But make sure you tell yourself the whole story. Your "Story of Us", especially if "Us" survives intact, just got a whole lot richer and grittier...and real.


  1. Again, your thoughts speak right to me. I'm reminded of what Elizabeth Edwards said in her book "Resilience"...."we had walked side by side for three decades, and in my foolish dreams, would walk side by side, hand in hand, for three will by necessity be different because at the very least, I am a different person now. I was not wounded, not afraid, not uncertain before, and now I always will be. He can try to treat the wound, and he has tried. He can try to make me less afraid, and he has tried. But I am now a different person...with a husband I don't quite know, and I have to accept him, if I can, with the new scars..The way we were is no longer the way we can be. A new reality."
    During the last two years, I've gradually integrated the ugly truth into Our Story. A bitter pill to swallow but I gagged it down and down it stays.
    Liz, married 28 years by D-day, 4 children

  2. Wow. Twenty-eight years seems like a lifetime. It must almost feel like a DIFFERENT lifetime to you.
    I'm curious if you think you would have acted differently if your D-Day had occurred earlier in your marriage. I wonder that about myself, too. I learned after about a decade of marriage. And with young kids, aging parents, etc. etc., it just seemed easier to stay. Three years later, I'm glad I did as I'm now working on a marriage that is worth staying for.
    But I wonder sometimes if I'd been married a shorter time or a longer time (ie. without kids or with grown kids) if I would have been willing to give it a second chance.

  3. Interesting question, I never wanted to divorce, even though our children are young adults living on their own. I felt I had invested more years of my with this man than without him and that there could be many more happy years ahead if he could just get out of the fog. Unfortunately there was a second d-day, which made me rethink that (one year ago tomorrow), but the resulting counseling and hard work brought us to a better place than I ever thought possible.

    I thought he would have left, without our family to raise anymore, but I believe that the threat of exposure to our family deterred him. I think he was expecting me to throw him out, deciding for him, so he could show up on her doorstep with his luggage. I will never make it that easy for him. And now I know he doesn't want me to anymore.

  4. I'm glad for you. I hear that comment often from women and men who've really worked through the ordeal. That they're stronger and that it's better than they imagined it could be. Sort of that whole "love untested can't be really love" kinda thing, I guess.
    I'm getting there...can see it as possible. But not quite there yet.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I get a lot of insight out of hearing from others.

  5. My husband and I were introduced to each other 30 years ago by two high school friends of ours who had married. It was her that he had the 3 year affair with, after her husband died. So now the story of how we met is really sad. We separated for 6 weeks and he begged/pleaded his way back in. I feel like he is a stranger to me now, but the kids are all thrilled that the family is intact. It's a numb feeling mostly that I have.



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