Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.Or so goes the old adage.
We were fooled once. We were fooled and lied to and deceived. It brought us to our knees. It damn near killed us. And there is no way in hell we're going to be fooled again.
So we put up our guard. We're on constant alert. Did he look me in the eye when he came home last night? Is he checking his phone more than usual? Is that a new cologne he's wearing?? Was he really working late?
We might check his computer, even if we haven't in years. We might sneak a look at his phone.
Even if we've let our guard down, even when we think we can finally relax into a marriage that has been rebuilt, made stronger by the storm it weathered, the slightest something-not-quite-right can send us spiralling back into our conviction that we must NEVER be fooled again.
I've been there. And, in fact, am there.
My husband thinks he's ready to kick his therapy. Over the past six years since D-Day, he's seen a sexual addiction specialist, done EMDR, attended work-benefit-supplied emergency counselling and, finally, a Jungian psychoanalyst. So yes, a lotta therapy. (Though, frankly, he was a lotta messy.)
In that same time, I've watched a man who frequently swung between childlike fear and superhero-like faux invincibility become balanced. I've heard him tell clients that he simply can't meet them in the evenings because that's his family time. I've seen him, finally, stand up to his mother. He pauses to take a breath before he responds to our child's requests. He find humor in what might have infuriated him. He's found space in his heart to learn to love himself with all his mistakes, which, of course, has allowed him to truly love me and our kids. He has wrestled his shame to the ground and though it sometimes resurfaces, he can recognize it and subdue it. In other words, he's a very different man than the one who confessed to me not only an affair but many.
Still...my own fear is awakening. Without that constant check-in with a therapist, I wonder if he'll lose his way. Without being guided along the path, I worry that he'll lose his way. In short, I worry that I'll be fooled again.
And that's the danger. Not that I will be fooled, necessarily, but that the possibility is always lurking in a shadow.
And the reason it's a danger is because it keeps us hostage to the fear. It doesn't, of course, alter the outcome. If we're gonna be fooled again, well it's not because we didn't check his e-mail often enough, or weren't vigilant enough. It's because the person who was broken enough to fool us the first time, is still broken. (And, perhaps, because we didn't set clear enough boundaries around our hearts the first time by insisting that he seek help in whatever form you felt he needed -- by kicking drugs, entering a 12-step program, seeking therapy, finding a new job...)
There are, I'm sad to say, no guarantees. No way to be certain that we'll never feel that heartbreak again – whether from the man who first fooled us, or from a new man. There is only our hard-won knowledge that IF we are to feel our hearts break again, we can trust our own strength to put them back together.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and you're really only fooling yourself.