18 Months later...
I feel my wife's remorse and it's making reconciliation a whole lot easier.
I think I understand, as well as I am able, her whys. Are they good enough? Well... no, not really. Members tried to tell me, a long time ago, that no why, no explanation, no reason or causality, is ever going to be good enough because there's just no justification for infidelity. This is why they call it cheating, I suppose, but it doesn't make anyone feel any better about it. Still, I had to know, you know? I had to understand this, or at least understand that my understanding might just be understandably limited.
My wife is a good woman, who, like so many of us in this life, "imploded." That's her word for it, btw, one she used early on. She wanted to make a change, as she told me, and she did. Since then, she has continued to make changes, for herself, and I have to admit that I'm fairly impressed by how courageously and tenaciously she's embraced this journey of much healthier form of self-discovery. She's not perfect, of course, but on the whole I think she's become a pretty good rebuilder. Trust is being restored, but it's hard to ignore the feeling, sometimes, that I'm playing a game of Russian roulette. Eventually, if that trigger keeps getting pulled... well... you know.
I wish there was some sort of official "SI Survey" I could take. You know the ones with the statements and you're supposed to fill in the dots indicating whether you: "strongly agree, somewhat agree, don't give a shit, seriously?, or hell fucking no!" Early on I'd have been penciling in all of those hf'ing no's just on sheer principle alone. Today, though, I'm somewhat more agreeable than I was a year and a half ago. My wife deserves a lot of credit for that. She endured the rollercoaster with as much grace and mercy as she possibly could, I think. She's seen me become a pathetic wreck on the bathroom floor and twenty-four hours later, feeling like Captain Ahab... had my chest been a mortar, I'd have burst my hot heart's shell upon her.
I've recovered, I think, for the most part (feel free to debate that amongst yourselves). Pencil in that "somewhat agree" circle. I can still get a little unhinged now and again, instinctively wanting to fill in that "hell fucking no!" circle. Triggers, perhaps? Maybe. But at this point, I think that triggers are more apt to bring up some unresolved, or poorly resolved, issue or question that still needs addressing. Of course, along the way, I find a few more crumbs under the rug that I keep thinking should be pretty squeaky clean by now.
Detaching has been incredibly helpful for me, but it's not an easy concept to understand. I sort of look at it as two people who have struggled to weave the fabric of their lives together in some sort of grand tapestry, but have, instead, produced some horribly nebulous mass of entanglements. One night, my wife decided to take out a machete and start hacking away at that horrible mess of entanglements. Machetes are sharp weapons, though, and not to be used in such a wantonly destructive manner.
So, being the mature and wonderfully self-aware man that I am (wink), I pulled out my own machete, just to show that two could play at that game, and started doing a little hacking of my own. No, I didn't have a revenge affair. What I did do, however, was to start untangling that nebulous mess of issues, taking responsibility for what was mine, and gently--or so I'd like to remember it--handing my wife back what was hers. We didn't always agree, of course, and we still have some more untangling to do, some re-weaving of our own to do, but we now know where and how each of us went so terribly wrong.
Separating out our issues from each other, deconstructing the marriage in search of it's true (truer, truish, close enough) narrative, has been, and continues to be, a very eye-opening experience for both of us. How did my issues clash with hers? How did each of our skewed perspectives affect the narratives we wrote for ourselves, not just about our marriage, but about our own lives as well?
So... now, I find myself reading Gottman's book on the seven principles of a good marriage (it was recommended to me nearly a year ago). And as I read and reflect upon our marriage, I find myself thinking truly scary thoughts, like: am I ready to start working on forgiveness?
(What?! Ahhh!!! shake it off, shake it off, shake it off... I just wrote the f-word. It's okay. It's okay... it's oooookayyyy...)
I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive my wife for some of the things she did and said, but on the whole, I'm starting to understand why being open to the experience is so liberating. It feels good, letting go. It feels very good, indeed. And it's soooo much easier to forgive someone as remorseful as my wife seems to be. As heart-broken as I was on d-day, I knew there was one inescapable truth for me: I love my wife.
(Just don't tell her I wrote that. I don't want it going to her head.)