My origin myth, continued

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.


  1. I didn't expect anything at all, but I certainly wouldn't expect anything other than your own perspective. And I hope that T doesn't think I have judged her in any way. What you reveal here is pretty spectacular. That you feel healthy and whole, and that you feel your marriage is healthy and whole is fantastic. 

  2. I agree with Liza's comments.However, I think you can tell a more whole story by telling us about your conversations and decisions without speaking for your wife.  It would help us understand the dynamic and how you got to where you are now.Your story is fascinating but I do feel a little pushed away by it.  I am sorry for that.  This post is a great start though.  I can feel a great deal more empathy already from seeing the changes you have made and revealing your vulnerabilities in this way.

  3. I appreciate this. I'm going to work hard on these suggestions, and there will be more to come. "Conversations" and "decisions" are hard, by definition, for me, because I'm so private about our marriage. I guess I misspoke a little when I said my hesitation is in appearing to speak for T – I'm also reluctant to reveal too much about her experience, and that puts a ceiling on what I comfortably can reveal about my own. But I hear what you're saying, and am trying desperately not to push away. If anything, the opposite – I want people to see the challenges we faced (together) and the work we did (both together and apart). The challenge is that the picture you will get will necessarily be two-dimensional by virtue of my attempts to excise T – her experience and her contributions to my reality, both easy and hard, from the picture. That's what I'm struggling with. Simple example: I've indicated, and you know – if you're at all sophisticated – that, as in any marriage, T did, and didn't do, things which were challenging for me, too. I'm disinclined to go into that, because they're really her story. But of course, they affected me. You'll never have a full picture of my experience without understanding those things. But you never will understand those things. Structural limitation #12,435. I'm still working on gaining your empathy and sympathy, notwithstanding….

  4. I’m working my way through your writing in no particular order. I like this loyalty that comes through. My marriage of 21 years ended one autumn day in the midst of my being yelled at. I just said ‘enough’.
    The reaction of those outside the relationship was shockingly unpleasant. People had a need to put all their own shit and prejudice onto us and have us do what they wished they could do in their own lives. We rode it out and now are friends with a child we are equally devoted to raising. Very few people are still in my life from before. Their destructiveness could have put in jeopardy what we have built.
    Some people don’t understand why we’re not still married. I have no need to explain myself. Some still tell me to be ruthless, to have less time as a family,
    to cut him out of my life. Their baggage, not mine. I filter those
    people out.
    It is difficult when you’re in a dark place to sort the good from the bad people in your life I found. I’m better at that now.
    Which is why I am so cautious in my writing. A blog, even anonymous, is inviting all sorts of strangers in with their need to input. I have no wish to go there again. My blog serves a very different purpose. You are brave to invite so much commentary and the courtesy, consideration and appreciation you show to your commenters is a delight to see. It shows a man who is clear about his boundaries and strong in his direction.

    I’ve had some experience of working with substance abusers. You are right. Addiction is a catch-all which is entirely misleading. The addiction object is the end game. It’s what led there and perpetuates the behaviour which is as varied as humankind and I can understand how writing would help and also how sharing the editing would make that more constructive rather than another addiction!! A measured release, so to speak! 🙂
    I hope T does not feel any pressure to put her side of the story. Is not tempted into something which feels any less than entirely natural.
    The world is a judgmental place and between two people the nuances can never be fully known. I never discuss much about my marriage or my current friendship with my ex except with a few true friends. There is a need to know us both well to understand it is possible to have respect and love and still arrive where we are today. You situation seems to show the same albeit with a different outcome.

    1. Thanks so much for this super-thoughtful, super-kind comment. I really appreciate all that you say. To her (great) credit, I think T sees this blog very much for what it is – *my* project. She’s totally welcome here, and she knows that. She’s participated twice, in tiny ways, and often, behind the scenes. She reads every post eventually – some before I post them, some days (or weeks) after. I’m enormously grateful that she understands the role this blog seems to be playing for me, that she welcomes it.

      As for you, congratulations on making your own way…. We all do make different decisions – lots of them.

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