Up until that day I found out my husband had read my journals, I had never told anyone about my affair. I mean nobody—not my dear sister, not my closest friends, no one. I’d compartmentalized my life to such a degree that it wasn’t even hard to keep it a secret. I was afraid of the shame; paralyzed at the thought of what people would think of me. My motto had long been “Never let them see you sweat,” and I wasn’t about to reveal myself and allow myself to be seen.
Louise Hay even said to me once that I deserved an Academy Award for my portrayal as the “perfect wife.”
My husband, of course, knew just which buttons to push. He knew my greatest fear was exposure and he was ready to pin the scarlet letter on me, threatening to tell my family and friends what I had done. Naturally I was terrified. I’d spent so long believing that I wouldn’t be loved if I were imperfect, and that everyone would turn away from me if they found out my truth.
I believe that we’re all hiding something we think we need to hide in order to be loved and accepted.
It might be a skeleton in the closet secret, or an aspect of ourselves we don’t want to identify with or be identified by. The irony is that we’re all longing to be loved for the truth of who we are, yet we fear revealing that truth to ourselves, and others.
Eight years had passed since my infidelity, but the truth suddenly felt like a weight I could no longer bear by myself.
I had designed a marriage for myself where there was no room for the real me. I acted the part of the woman my husband wanted and needed me to be. But I wasn’t good enough, not even at that. So I let him try and mold me into his image of the perfect wife. When he became demanding or controlling, I put my needs aside and tried to be even more of what he wanted.
What happens when you stay in a situation that isn’t working, denying your own needs long enough? Your needs, your health, and your well-being begin to demand to be heard. Even if you don’t heed that call, the truth will come out. Unfortunately, it will come out sideways. Perhaps you’ll become ill. Or depressed. Or if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself expressing those needs in destructive ways.
The woman I am today would have walked away from that marriage rather than have an affair. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Instead, I betrayed my husband. But prior to that, I had betrayed myself. It was self-abandonment that led to my infidelity. I betrayed myself by pretending to be someone I was not. I betrayed myself in my marriage for eighteen years.
Marriage was a long time to be away from myself.
Together, my husband and I had managed to build a strong façade for the outside world. I thought everyone must look at our marriage and assume it was picture-perfect, which was just how I wanted it. If I’d walked away, I would’ve had to admit that the image was false. Because of my deep fear of being imperfect—of being dispensable—I could not even admit to myself that our marriage wasn’t working, let alone admit it to my husband or anyone else.
There was shame for me in admitting that I couldn’t live up to my own idea of who I thought I “should” be. And my idea, of course, was impossible: the perfect Superwoman who could fix anything and juggle everything, without ever letting a ball drop. None of us is capable of that, no matter how hard we try.
Still, underneath the façade of perfection, somewhere deep down where I dared not look, I knew my marriage wasn’t working. I knew for a long time that I wasn’t really happy. But it took me years to admit to myself what I already knew.
Is self-abandonment keeping you in an unfulfilling relationship, job, environment…life? Ready to admit to yourself what you already know? Get support in my free Private Facebook Group, Transform Together: Nancy Levin Insiders. I created this community to foster a supportive and safe space where you can share what you’ve been thinking, feeling or experiencing while finding your own truth.