Every year my husband and I hold an annual holiday party (except for that year. You know the one. The one where I could barely lift my head off the pillow, let alone host a party for four dozen of our closest friends).
This year was particularly fun. I had good friends visiting from out of town, both of whom know the whole story of me. Both of whom love me and my husband, even though they urged me on as I verbally ripped him a new one in the early days post D-Day. They, somehow, have hearts big enough to love him for how hard he worked to repair the damage he caused.
Another good friend was also at our party. Two years ago it was at our party that she confessed to me that she and her husband were separating. He had been seeing another woman. And despite appearances of the perfect marriage, it had been hell for years. He's a charming narcissist and all I saw was the charm. All she got was the narcissism.
The divorce is not settled. He fights her on every single thing just to flex his muscle. He's determined to punish her in every way he can.
Despite this constant hell, she's doing pretty well. She's a highly respected doctor who works shifts and, when she's not saving people's lives (literally), she takes care of her kids, mentors medical students and makes me laugh.
And yet, a mutual friend of ours at the party commented to me that our friend "is still pretty bitter".
Wow huh? "Still pretty bitter."
This less-understanding friend just doesn't get it. Where I see a warrior fighting every day to shield her kids from her ex's manipulations, others see someone who isn't moving on. At least not fast enough for them. Where I see someone who somehow has managed a challenging career as well as two teens with their own issues and an eight-year-old who misses his dad, others would prefer she didn't air her dirty laundry.
I responded that yes, she's pretty bitter though I think she disguises that bitterness brilliantly most of the time. But that this time, this particular night which she spends each year with our family and friends, she felt safe enough to share her pain. And, after all, we're her friends right? The least we can do is listen to her. To remind her she's among friends.
It's this whole culture of infidelity, isn't it? A culture that never really reveals just how shattering betrayal is and so those lucky enough to not personally experience it just don't get it. A culture that prescribes the 'kick-him-to-the-curb' response because, after all, "once a cheater, always a cheater". A culture that thinks we should be over it by some arbitrary period of time that makes everyone else comfortable. A culture that prefers to hear about infidelity on the pages of the tabloids, not in the kitchen of a house party.
A culture in which infidelity is as common as dirt but where nobody wants to talk about it, not really talk about it.
If you've found support in your real life, as I was lucky enough to do with my friends (though it took me close to a year to confide in them), then hold fast to those people. They are rare gems indeed.
And even so, you'll likely also be subject to those other people. The ones who insist that the only response to cheating is to walk away. The ones who know, exactly, what they would do if it ever happened to them, which it won't. Ever. The ones who can't believe you didn't know. That you didn't somehow kinda sorta deserve it.
The rest of us? You'll find us here. Learning to laugh about the inane comments we endure. Remembering that we were, sometimes, those people so smug that our husband would never cheat. Ever.
We'll be here. Somedays we'll "still be bitter" and other days we'll realize that the good days outweigh the bad and amen for that. Some days we'll need a virtual hug and other days we'll be offering up high-fives like a Pez dispenser to the amazing warrior wives who are walking, every single day, toward healing.
Lots of people don't get it. I hope they never have to because I wouldn't wish this on anyone. But that's okay. Because we get it. We really really get it.