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My husband recently told me that when we were first dating as teenagers he knew I’d be the woman he was going to marry. I didn’t feel that way. Marriage, or even a long term relationship were far from my mind. I was fresh out of an abusive relationship and having had an abortion. I just wanted to feel like a teenager.  I chose him because he was always fun to be around. And more importantly, he felt safe to me. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with him. I’m not even sure when it happened. But it did. His spirit. His energy. His confidence. His soft hopeless romantic side. He made me feel special. Loved.

But I held back a part of me. That part that vowed to never be a victim again. The part that never got to properly mourn my baby. The part that never got to heal from the abuse. The part that felt like a monster. I was a child, too immature to deal with the situation I was in. A child with no help or tools to deal with what I just lived through. My emotions were swept under the rug. Nobody could see them. But they were still there. Just out of sight. If anyone lifted that rug they would have seen the ugliness underneath. The dust and dirt just shoved under there instead of being properly disposed of. So it lived under the rug. At some point I was able to step on the rug; walk over it without being sucked in, but it still lived there. Last year, a little more than 20 years after my experience I finally opened up about my abortion and the abuse. I told my therapist and then my husband. I cried as if it just happened. It felt so good to get it all out. To finally have my husband see me for who I thought I was. A monster. Someone undeserving of love.

The strange realization is that because I thought I was undeserving of love, I acted that way. I made it impossible for my husband to show me his love. To accept it. I couldn’t accept a compliment, nor did I give many. I was unable to connect with my husband emotionally and physically. That’s not to say that I was a horrible person every day and never showed loved and compassion. I just never really let him in. Not all the way. And certainly not the way he wanted in. I hated myself and saw only the negatives in me. So that’s what I saw in others, particularly him. I focused on what he did wrong. How he failed me. I wanted him to be my knight in shining armor. Then we he wasn’t (because no man is) I resented him for it.

That’s not to say he’s perfect and blameless and didn’t contribute to our marital issues. Even before the affair he carries blame. He put me on a pedestal early in our relationship. He had unrealistic expectations of who I should be and how our relationship should be. When I didn’t live up to those, I had failed him in his eyes. He also looked at what was lacking and not what was good.

We basically have always wanted the same thing from each other. We just didn’t know how to communicate effectively and wound up doing more damage.

What I’ve learned through his affair is that life isn’t fair. Sometimes you have to accept that life isn’t going to turn out the way you hoped it would. That your perception of people and situations was wrong. That people will hurt you. That bad things happen to good people. Marriage is hard ass work. Its hard for people that have their shit together and its damn near impossible for the rest of us. Life will knock you down -even kick you while you’re there. But you have to get up. Keep fighting. Change your game plan. Change your perspective. Find an opportunity for growth in every situation. What could life be teaching me in this instant? What can I learn about myself, my husband, our marriage and our future from his affair? The answer is ALOT. I’ve already learned so much. I’ve learned how much pain my husband was in for many years. I’ve been able to deconstruct our marriage and see where and how we went wrong. I’ve been able to see my own flaws and own them, but also forgive myself. I am sorry for the pain I’ve caused. It was never on purpose, or even conscious. He didn’t deserve how I held back from him. He didn’t deserve not getting all of me. I’m learning that I am strong. That I’m capable of more than I thought. That I am worth loving. I am worth fighting for. I am beautiful. I am funny. I am smart. I am caring. I am loyal. I am capable. I am a good mom. I am good enough just as I am. I am me – and nobody else on earth can say that. There is nobody else just like me. I’m learning that if someone doesn’t see me or appreciate me, it doesn’t mean I’m not worthy. It doesn’t make me any less important. Their opinion of me doesn’t matter. Its my opinion of myself that truly counts.

If nothing else, his affair has forced me to look more closely at my life. Appreciate who I am and what I have. Change what I don’t like. Know that I have the power to make the rest of my life the best of my life.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. 

He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.” – Bob Marley