I was at a birthday lunch for a friend of mine yesterday and it was a great day. It was one of those winter days where the sky is a crisp blue and completely cloudless; where the blue is so perfect, so undisturbed that the sun kind of melts into it.
Something happened at the party yesterday that upset a few of the partygoers. I thought I’d share it with you to get your opinions on what you think of people who air their dirty linen in public.
We were all just chatting, having a laugh, and the conversation turned to cooking. How to keep variety in the weekly menu, who does most of the cooking in the family, and so on. It was great to see how many men actually cooked on a regular basis and how many teenage children did. I thought that was brilliant.
Then Graham chipped in about his wife Belinda : ‘She is the worst cook I’ve ever met. Thank God she’s so hot in the bedroom.’ Everyone laughed until Graham added : ‘Not.’
‘What are you saying?’ Belinda countered. ‘That not only am I a terrible cook, I’m crap in bed too.’
‘Well, we haven’t had sex for more than two years,’ Graham shouted, a little tidbit I wished he hadn’t shared with the party at large.
Graham cheated on Belinda. Juniors from his office. No one knows for sure how many there were or how long it went on for. But Belinda knows. She filed for divorce three years ago but Graham begged and pleaded for her to give him a second chance. His campaign to win her back lasted for more than 6 months. I was astounded by his focus. Most men would have given up, but he persisted. When she relented he said he was the happiest man alive.
Things went well for a while but after about three months Belinda admitted she was having trouble with intimacy issues. She couldn’t stomach sex – sometimes it made her physically ill. She felt she couldn’t completely trust Graham and the thought that he might still be sleeping with other women as well as sleeping with her, repulsed her. ‘What if I catch something?’ she said.
In the end she admitted that she used sex as a weapon, a shield. If she withheld sex it meant she was protected to a certain extent from his infidelity. She could keep that little part of herself to herself, untouched. She felt Graham didn’t deserve all of her anymore, that he had lost the right.
Once lost, trust is such a difficult thing to regain. So many people I know (both male and female) who have been victims of infidelity say that it is trust they grapple with the most when trying to rebuild their relationships.
It’s easier to say : ‘Ill give you a second chance. I’ll try again. I forgive you’ than it is to quieten the little voice in your head that says :’It’s 11PM and he isn’t home yet. Is he out with her?’ ‘Who keeps sending all these explicit emails?’ ‘Why is he buying me flowers on a week night?’
Belinda has been seeing a therapist who told her that it is very common for people who have experienced infidelity to initially forgive the behaviour and then even as much as ten years later, to suddenly develop problems around issues of trust.
Belinda summed up her fears:
“Just because he’s says he isn’t being unfaithful, doesn’t actually mean he’s being faithful. He told me he wasn’t cheating when he was in the middle of all those affairs. He looked me dead in the eye and said he would never do that to me but he did do it. Talk is cheap when it comes to infidelity. I don’t know if I can truly believe anything he says ever again. And if that’s the case, how can I ever really forgive him?”
And there’s the rub – is it really possible to completely forgive someone who’s been unfaithful to you? Can you ever fully get the trust back or is there always doubt niggling at the back of your mind? And if that’s the case, let’s be honest, should you and that person be together?
Belinda and Graham fought for over an hour. Sly little digs that eventually began to deteriorate into an out and out slanging match. A slanging match that hung her (supposed) lack of sexual prowess out to dry.
A few people and I eventually got sick of it and suggested they either stop or take the argument elsewhere. Then Graham started in on us, that if we hadn’t been bending Belinda’s ears for the last two years she would be in a much more forgiving state right now. Seems like everyone was to blame but Graham himself.
As Graham, Belinda and a few other people left the garden turned an inky green. I got to thinking about the word hurt. It is a word that hangs in the air after you say it, as if part of it is corporeal, as if by saying it you release it into the physical realm.
There is a seductiveness about it, like an autumn leaf with its edges curled up that you cannot resist crunching into the ground. There is a finality about it, as if once you have experienced it, it will be the only emotion you remember experiencing. There is pain in the word, like someone slicing through your flesh. There is a certainty about it, so that saying you are unaffected by its presence sounds unconvincing.
Hurt me and I hurt you back. Isn’t that how it goes? One way or another the hurt binds us, makes us unable to think or hear or see. Sometimes it can work out that the hurt is all we know, all we are. I hope Belinda can relinquish the hurt, that she will not drop the strong parts of herself she has gathered, and move on to a better time where the night will not grow ever colder. And I hope she doesn’t have to go through the humiliation of her dirty linen being aired in public ever again.