February 17th is the six year anniversary of the end of my first marriage. On this day in 2006, I discovered the man whom I pledged to spend the rest of my life with was having an affair. The man I thought he was, the life I thought I had, the home I thought I would provide my daughter all evaporated in a mushroom cloud of betrayal and pain. My anguish came from looking at a person and still seeing the man I thought was my husband. I knew my ex as well as I knew myself; all of his routines, moods, facial expressions, body movements, sounds, opinions, likes, dislikes, joys, and fears. As we began the business of liquidating the life we shared, I remember feeling confused about how to act around my soon to be former husband. During some meetings I would experience extreme sorrow and want the comfort of his arms around me. Other times I wanted to launch across the table and rip out his throat as if I were crazed lioness on the African Savannah. Neither were viable options. Not only was violence (I wouldn’t recommend this) and reconciliation impractical alternatives for my future or sanity but, due to shared custody of our infant daughter, avoiding him wasn’t possible either.
“Time heals all wounds.”
I can’t say the exact time but there was a moment when the unexpected occurred. My former husband, the father of my child, the person that was once the man of my dreams and the deliverer of my most profound pain became simply someone I used to know. No book I read or advice I heard prepared me for that surreal experience. Do others have a similar experience? Did I suffer a mental break? After the fear that I had suffered from a detachment disorder passed, I delighted in how simple and sudden this gift presented itself. One day I looked into my ex-husbands eyes and it was as though I was looking upon a complete stranger. At that instant I realized that my once dominant emotions became neutral. I no longer harbored feelings of hurt, loss, and betrayal. I sighed deeply and felt supreme liberation. Time had granted the gift of total renewal.
Six years later the wounds have long since healed. I’ve remarried and become a stepmother. My ex-husband also remarried and has two children with his current wife. I considered the possibility that time greatly changed him; that the reason I identify him as a stranger is because he is a completely different man now from when I married him. Had my ex received a frontal lobotomy? Was earth invaded by alien pods? Other than looking older, a little heavier and a little less hair, my ex-husband appears much as he did the day I met him. His voice, laugh, jokes, and mannerisms also remain unchanged. I concluded that the explanation was less science fiction and more psycho-drama. The answer became clear; I no longer have an emotional connection to his individual personality traits. The change was not in my ex-husband’s characteristics but rather in the way I perceive him. Once upon a time his characteristics reminded me of someone I once loved…now they simply remind me of somebody that I used to know.