Chapter Three

@sarahklugman (1st December 2011)

I won’t be beat, that’s not my style. I just need to lick my wounds for a while…

I spent hours talking with my father.  His down to earth male perspective was honest and filled with empathy.  He knew the pain I was feeling, for he had felt a similar pain himself in a time gone by.  He also loved my husband as a son; warts and all.  All of my family did.  I heard my father’s words, but to be honest, I wasn’t really listening; I did not want to accept that my father knew my marriage was over, that my husband had already made his decision.  My mind was totally quiet, silenced by a deep, sad pain.  I was unable to join the dots and make sense of the speed of his actions.

Then we spoke.  I had to hear his voice and hiding in my room, I called him.  He said that he had spoken with his Consultant, who was very concerned about his mental health, as a result of the dose of his steroids.  The Consultant, he said, had told him in no uncertain terms, that he should not make any life changing decisions until he had completely finished the course of drugs, which would take a further four to six months.  I am not sure that my husband totally heeded that advice; or perhaps he did, albeit very short-lived.

My husband said that he felt like he was living life on speed or cocaine; he felt totally invincible.  He admitted that he had been feeling manic and that traveling helped him maintain the high of feeling separate from everything in his life, and he admitted that he was not in touch, or even within the perimeter, with his emotions.  He was living at the epicentre of the storm currently engulfing his head.  He said he was so very sorry and that all he wanted was to come and collect me, take me home and spend time alone with me.  I will honestly admit that I was so relieved to hear those words, that I failed to ask any pertinent questions.  I told my parents that he was coming to collect me and that everything was going to be okay.  I was stronger now and would be clear about my own intentions and needs.  I would hold him accountable for his actions and ensure that he explained himself and was completely honest from here on in.

When he arrived at my parent’s house, he hugged me like we hadn’t seen each other for years.  I held him close, taking in his familiar essence and felt safe and complete.  My parents insisted that we stay for dinner; they wanted to understand what was going on in his mind and be sure that my heart would be safe.  He spoke eloquently, appearing to take responsibility for the pain he had caused and promised my parents that he would do whatever it took to make our marriage work and that what had happened was a mere blip, a temporary loss of sanity.

We left my parent’s home an hour later, and he drove the whole way with one hand on the wheel, the other in my lap.  We collapsed into bed as soon as we arrived home and held each other close that night.  In the morning, we awoke lazily and spent the day relaxing back into each others company.  By the evening however, I could feel the energy charged with unsaid words and I think that I already knew what was coming, before the words had formed a sentence in his mind.  “I slept with another woman in Berlin”, he blurted out, “it was a huge mistake and I regret it; a moment of temporary insanity”, were his exact words.  Then he said that he had done this woman, whoever she was, a real disservice.  No mention of the disservice he had done me…  Oh hindsight, dear hindsight…

I asked if this had been the same woman who had turned his head a few months earlier.  “Yes”, he replied.  ‘But you said you had not been in contact with her since she turned your head’.  “I hadn’t”, he said, “she emailed me out of the blue when I was in Berlin and we just happened to meet up”.  ‘So none of this was planned’, I asked naively.  “No, of course it wasn’t.  There had been a connection between us, but on an intellectual level, I was not physically attracted to her.  It was a huge a mistake and I am so very, very sorry”.

You must know, that at this time, I was in fact falling in love with my husband all over again.  Believing we could create something truly wonderful, now I was becoming more aware of myself and my emotions.  More than that, I wanted to fight for my marriage, fight to keep my husband.  I told him what I thought about this woman, this woman who had knowingly slept with a man with a wedding ring on his finger.  In my mind, you just do not do that, not if you have any integrity or respect for other women.  Yet I still told him that I loved him, loved him very deeply and that we could work through this, so long as he was completely honest with me.

So I asked if it had just been the one time? “Yes it had”, he replied. ‘ Did you use a condom?’ I asked,  “Of course I did!”, he said.  ‘Will you be in contact with her again?’  “No”, he said, “it’s over with her, it was a huge mistake”.  ‘Okay’, I said, ‘okay…’ and after a long pause I asked if he loved me.  “Yes I do, I love you very much and I really want to make our marriage work.  I promise.”

I knew that I was prepared to accept what he had done, providing there was remorse. The thing was, it soon became apparent that he wasn’t remorseful.  He wasn’t in fact displaying anything that could be remotely identified as a remorseful emotion.  He didn’t appear to have any empathy or compassion for me.  He didn’t recognise the enormity of the situation, in terms of the broken trust.  It was all about him and what he wanted.  On the one hand he would be drawing sketches of how we were going to refurbish our bedroom and then on the other hand, he couldn’t even commit to where he would be next week.  He was starting to enter his fight or flight phase.

I wanted to understand what he was so scared of; I wanted to be given a chance, for our marriage to be given a chance.

We carefully skirted the big issues and the depth of eggshells on the ground, deepened daily.  I could see that he had no idea where the hell he wanted to be and appeared to be waiting for a eureka moment, when he would fall ‘back in love’ with me and then everything could and would be fixed.

I don’t know what was worse…  The thought that he was with me, but slowly slipping away, or the dawning reality that this was nothing to do with me and that there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix it.  I was feeling strong, beginning to feel grounded in myself, yet at the same time I was living in the twilight zone.

So we made plans to go away for Christmas, to find a quiet space to talk everything through.  He booked a cottage, deep in the Scottish Highlands, the plan being to escape everyone and spend time reconnecting.  The problem was, he wasn’t talking and as the date for us to leave drew closer, he withdrew into himself more and more.  I had to start every conversation, pushing him to open up and be honest with me about his feelings, yet all the while he sat there oscillating.  Terrified of saying the wrong thing.

So the reality was, he was back with me, Christmas was looming and I had been hurled into limbo land.  He wouldn’t talk.  Couldn’t verbalise anything, well not to me anyway.  He didn’t really need to say anything, it was obvious; there was an enormous bloody elephant in the room.  I saw it.  He saw it.  Everyone around us saw it.  But I would damned if he was going to make me take the lead, make this be my decision.  This was his process and he would have to utter the unutterable.  I was really clear with myself about that.  Despite my pain, I knew that I did not want to be with someone who didn’t love me, but he would have to say those words, take responsibility for his actions, explain why he was unable to make good on the promises he had made.

I started to see clearly that all that was keeping him in the house was a sense of duty to be with me.  I was so disappointed, disappointed that he had stopped caring about our marriage, whenever it actually was that he had stopped caring and disappointed that he had kept that such a big secret.  As far as I was concerned, yes, people fall out of love, but don’t be a coward.  Have some integrity and don’t be unnecessarily cruel out of nothing more than pure indecision.  You cannot have your cake and eat it.

So just a fortnight after he had come to collect me from my parent’s house, declaring that he loved me and would do anything to make it work, he was now saying that he was feeling pressured by everyone to make a decision and that he needed some space to work out what he wanted.

By now my heart had been totally wrung out and I found myself writing the same words over and over again in my journal.  ‘I am present.  I am safe.  My heart will heal.  I will become whole.  I must remain grounded.  I know I will be okay’.  I filled page upon page.  Along with reminders of what he had done, in an attempt to stop myself projecting a love onto someone who clearly no longer loved me.  I started expressing my pain and awareness of my situation through poetry, finding solace in the rhymes, as I tried to make sense of my situation and mend my broken heart.

Untitled (18th December 2011)

You held me back; I know it too

Whilst I kept you safe, whilst you alone grew

I’ve seen your soul; I’ve seen your pain

To see us now, it’s a crying shame

You’ve packed and left to find your heart

It seems our paths for this moment must part

I ache for your body, your feel and your touch

But know it’s not safe to think of that too much

You’re a good man; it’s true, like the words of the song

Reconnect with your heart, heal and grow strong

I’ll miss you and cry for what was and could be

And keep a space in my heart for you to come back to me

Chapter Two

Life doesn’t need to throw the curve balls; we do a great job of that all by ourselves. Freewill is merely the choice; the choice to listen to our heart and listen to our intuition, or choose to ignore both.  If we choose to ignore our feelings and stop taking responsibility for our actions, we become unaware, living without compassion.  Bad behaviour is then justified, truths remain untold and defensiveness dominates…

@sarahklugman (29th November 2011)

We have to talk is what they say, to clear the obstacles, clear the way. A conversation void of blame, an open space to speak without shame.

I awoke with such a heavy heart the next morning, unable to reconcile anything my husband had said to me.  My chest felt tight and tears were welling up in my throat.  I quietly got out of bed and sought refuge in the kitchen, where I sat, as the tears streamed down my cheeks.  The plug had been pulled and everything I had held true was being washed away.

When my husband appeared, his face looked tortured.  He made himself a coffee and sat down.  When he started to speak, he spoke slowly, censoring every word that left his lips, weighing up every syllable.  He said a lot and yet said nothing.  I couldn’t make any sense of what was and what wasn’t being told.  He stressed that no decision had been reached.  No decisions were being made.  Nonetheless, I could see that he was testing the water.  I could feel that his energy had shifted, as he sat uncomfortably within his own home.  ‘Just be honest with me’, I pleaded, ‘talk to me, tell me what you are thinking’.  But he wasn’t capable of doing that; he was a rabbit caught in the headlights.  His face however told me everything I needed to know, but didn’t want to hear, as his mind turned over the thought, “How does it feel if I am no longer with this woman?”

There was nothing I could say and I was scared of hearing words that could truly mark the end of our marriage.  I left him with his indecision and took our dogs up to the woods, seeking comfort and grounding amongst the ancient trees.  Every part of my body churned away, as I recalled the previous nights conversation.  I was so confused.  I felt cast adrift from everything I had thought to be real.  I had never felt so alone in the world.

When I returned, my husband’s Mother and her first cousin had already arrived at the house; they were over from Holland to celebrate his sister’s birthday.

The weekend was completely surreal.  My husband behaved like the past 24 hours had never happened.  He was chatty and attentive.  He spent the whole weekend behaving as if everything was just peachy, as if he cared about me, cared about us.  He had mentioned to his Mother that we were going through a difficult period, but gave no outward indication that he was about to turn both of our worlds upside down.  He talked animatedly of his time in Berlin, singing its praises.  He talked about his work, cajoled by his ego.  He talked and talked and talked, about everything and anything, just not about how he felt about us or me.

I felt betrayed by the man who sat so calmly, chatting away with his family.  How could he pretend so easily, pretend he was still my ever-attentive, loving husband, holding my hand when we went out for dinner with his family, draping his arm around my waist protectively, whilst inwardly preparing to call time on our marriage?  The previous night he had labelled our time together as being for a ‘Reason’, as opposed to a Season or a Lifetime.  I felt like I had been thrust into a play, with no script or direction; standing centre stage in the spotlight.

It wasn’t until the Monday evening, the house now empty of our weekend guests, that I attempted to start a conversation.  Over the weekend I had written a list of what I needed and wanted to know.  I again asked if someone else was involved, as he seemed so detached from the enormity of his revelations, so uncaring, buoyed by someone or something else perhaps. He reiterated his previous answer.  Irritated that I was insinuating that he had cheated on me. Nothing he said made any sense.

What was clear though, abundantly clear, was his repetitive insistence that he wasn’t in love with me.  He started digging around the foundations of our shared history, questioning decisions made years ago, questioning our ideals, our plans…  I felt defenceless and utterly disappointed.  He wasn’t able to give me any reasons and couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me how he was actually feeling.  He didn’t trust me, not one bit, censoring every word that came out of his mouth.  Something was not being said.  I could feel it.  I knew it.  Yet, I didn’t want to venture too far down that path.  I had asked him, twice in fact and he had looked me in the eye and answered me, “No.  There is no one else involved, I have not slept with another woman”.

He didn’t sleep in our bed that night, instead falling asleep on the sofa and when I questioned him about this the next morning, he said that he hadn’t been sure if he was welcome in our marital bed.  Oh hindsight dear friend, where were you when I needed you?

He was a bundle of nervous indecision.  His energy was like a piano pendulum, swinging from one side to the other at breakneck speed.  He again sat down opposite me at the kitchen table and for the first time since he had returned from Berlin, he started to cry.  He said that the marriage was definitely over; he didn’t love me and that was it.  I sat in believed, disbelief.  I couldn’t believe he was actually saying the words.  ‘What the fuck!?’, filled my mind and my heart.

And with that he left, taking a small bag with him.  He would stay with his sister for the night, as he was due to travel back to Germany the next day, for another meeting.  “We will talk when I get back”, were his parting words.

Six hours later, he sent a text, asking to see me and talk.  His sister had listened and talked to him for several hours and he said that he knew that he didn’t want our marriage to be over.  He wanted to make us work, stressing that he would do whatever it took and that we would and could find our way through this.  So back he came and we spoke for several hours, holding each other close.  He returned to his sister’s house that night, to get a few hours sleep before leaving early the next morning.  He would be gone for four days and on his return we would start rebuilding our marriage.  I believed him.  I wanted to believe him.  I needed to believe him.

When he left the house, I felt numb.  I was playing catch up, frantically searching for clarity.  Was this a result of his medication?  Was he having a midlife crisis?  What was real and what was fantasy?

The next morning, before his flight left, he sent me a flurry of texts full of promises, assuring me that he would make everything right and that he loved me.  Twenty-four hours later the texts stopped.  My inquiring texts were ignored and he remained off radar until his flight landed back in England three days later, calling me from the airport to say he would get a train back home.  When I asked how he was, he dismissively said that he was living ‘moment to moment’.

I could feel my heart in my mouth when the call ended, yet I also felt slightly defiant.  How dare he behave like this?  I was his wife.  Our eighth wedding anniversary was on the horizon.  I wasn’t scared.  I was feeling indignant.  I wanted to hold him accountable.  I had questions that needed answering, many questions.

During his trip away, I had felt a great need to write, to make sense of my situation.  I had dug out an old notebook, containing a few sporadic entries dating back over a decade, all written as if I were writing for an audience.  I had never been able to keep a journal, an account of my thoughts and feelings.  I had always wanted to, recognising the light it could throw on the darkness within.  My ego, the voice of judgement, had always stopped me, so on the rare occasion that I did write, I would edit my words, in order to avoid writing honestly, scared of facing how I actually felt and what I really wanted.  Writing meant that I would have to face the very thoughts and fears I had spent a lifetime hiding from.  I had perfected the art of giving my feelings a very wide berth, scared of shining that torch inwards.

@sarahklugman (25th November 2011)

Remember the moments, pause in thought for a while. Keep your heart full of love and don’t let your life become futile.

I knew that I needed to write without thought, to open the floodgates and purge my pain through vocabulary and at the same time get some clarity on my situation.  It was time to be honest with myself.  Neurons were moving at lightening speed, as they attempted to assimilate a semblance of order to the past nine days of my life.  My head felt like it was going to explode, held in place only by my weighted heart.  I was exhausted by all the revelations, exhausted to my very core and wanted to feel the sweet relief of nothingness.  Primal sounds emerged from my throat and were screamed into the world.  Yet within all of this turmoil, a feeling kept emerging, well, more of a knowing really, a knowing that this would not defeat me.  Something in me had shifted; something inside me had changed.  I filled pages with melancholy and pages with questions.  How had I not known that he no longer loved me?  Why was he throwing everything away?  Where was the man I married, where was that empathetic man?

I felt totally bulldozed.  I had been flattened.  My heart was in pieces and all my vital organs knotted in fear.  I was on total autopilot and as the words poured out, a self-preservation started to take hold.  ‘I must keep myself safe’, became my inner mantra, as I shook with tears. ‘I must keep myself safe’.

The decision to end our relationship may be of his making, but there were two of us in this marriage and I was not naive enough to believe that everything about our union shone brightly.  I knew that I had lived in a shroud of fear; being the person I thought I should be, as opposed to, well just being.  You need to understand, that up to that point in my life, I was the eternal doer, a person in perpetual motion, the ‘doing verb’ equivalent of a being human.  Everything had to be just so, I had to keep all the balls in the air and if God forbid I dropped one, well that would be it, Game Over.

So for the first time in my life, I asked myself profoundly searching questions.  Was I living the life I really wanted?  Was I meeting my own needs?  Did I feel safe in my marriage?  Every question was answered with a ‘No’.  I wasn’t happy with my life and I wasn’t speaking my truth to myself, or to others.

I knew that I was being given a choice here, an opportunity to step up.  The Universe was literally shoving me forward, forcing me to get in touch with the pain and feel the emotions.  So I wrote and wrote, writing list upon list, asking myself what I needed, as opposed to what I wanted and for the first time I saw the difference between the two. I wanted to feel loved, I wanted to be looked after, I wanted to be wanted…  What I actually needed though was really interesting in comparison, quite a contrast to my perceived wants.

What I needed was to be present, to be living life in the moment, to be in touch with my emotions and to remain aware of myself within and throughout this process, wherever it took me.

Despite the pain and deep, deep hurt, I knew that the Universe was offering me a unique invitation and that I could feel safe in the knowledge that it would all be okay, albeit in the form of an almighty kick up the arse.  But I knew the invitation was genuine, I knew this because the continual chatter that had been the background noise of my life had stopped.  My head was clear, free of criticism and doubt.

When he walked through the front door, he was buzzing from his trip.  He avoided my gaze, and launched into his pre-prepared monologue, calling time on our marriage.  “It is over”, he said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t love you and I need to leave”.  An hour later, with two bags packed, he walked out of the door.  I called him a coward and I called him disrespectful, but I didn’t scream, nor did I plead or beg for him to stay.  He attempted to place the blame at my door, saying that he had tried to talk to me over the past year, but that I hadn’t listened.  Oh please!  I most definitely would have recalled a conversation that started with ‘we need to talk about our marriage’ or ‘I am not sure I love you’.  He had done no such thing.  He may have formulated these conversations in his head, but had not uttered a word.

‘Go’, I said quietly.  ‘Just go’.

Through my sobs and tears I sent texts to my girlfriends and within half an hour, Sharon was by my side, wiping my tears and plying me with white wine.  She couldn’t believe what was happening.  I sat in shock, unable to move or talk.

The next few days are a blur.  Sharon called my parents and they arrived the next morning, wanting to take me home with them.  I fought them on this, that I clearly remember.  I was scared to leave the house, scared of leaving the marital home.  ‘What if he changes his mind and comes back and I’m not here?’ I cried.  I couldn’t think straight.  I was a mess.  Bags were packed and I was bundled, with the dogs, into the car.

I was devastated.  No other word can describe how I felt.  I hadn’t realised such feelings of sadness were humanly possible.  My parents delivered me childlike, back into my old bedroom, where I sat rocking backwards and forwards, sobbing my heart out.

Ironically, the more I felt the loss, the greater my love for him felt.  Two days passed, the daylight hours engulfed in Kleenex and Sauvignon Blanc and my dreams were full of nightmares.  On the third day an email arrived, a long-winded email, attempting to explain and justify his behaviour in equal measure.  Again, many words yet very little content.  Talk of chapters coming to an end and new books now to be read; metaphors for life, wrapped in the cowardice of avoidance.