They say love is blind. I have to wonder, because loving another seems to make us unable, or unwilling to see flaws or major red flags. Perhaps we feel that no one knows our loved one like we do and we cling to hope that our partner loves us equally and would never hurt us.
I admit that love made me more than blind. I recognize now that I allowed it to blind me. Blissful ignorance was my defense mechanism to protect myself from heartbreak.
I would like to think that my blindness stemmed from youth and naiveté, so I wouldn't fall for the same deceptions again.
Trust makes us vulnerable. When we give someone our love and let them occupy our heart, we allow them the benefits of our love, but also full access with which to crush us. Trust is an act of faith wherein we place our fragile hopes, secrets, fears, and future happiness into the hands of our chosen one. Like an egg, that chosen person can either gently cherish our gift or crush it to dust with just one act.
One fateful act can swiftly challenge our perception of everything we know, knock the breath out of our lungs, and leave us questioning all choices, investments of trust, and who the people we love really are.
I never had any reason to believe that my husband was anything but in love with me. About four years into my marriage, I received my first intended wake-up call; only, I ignored the ringing. I was diagnosed with an infection that, although medical literature acknowledges can be spread through a wet towel or other far-fetched means, it is classified as sexually-transmitted because that's just about the only way one can realistically contract it.
The doctor who diagnosed me asked me if I had been unfaithful in my marriage. I hastily shut his question down because I wouldn't have even dreamed of cheating on him! We were trying to have a baby and I was fully committed to what I saw as a beautiful life together. He then asked if my husband had been with anyone else.
I had never thought about it. Had he? Would he? I also denied that there was any way my husband could have been responsible for my situation or been unfaithful. We were both instructed to take medication for the infection, and I was sent home with a pamphlet describing the diagnosis and its causes. I left the pamphlet on his bedside table for him to read, but I didn't challenge his denials.
This event gave me pause for thought because, for the first time ever, I had to question his love and faithfulness for me. He told me he had not cheated, and I wanted so badly for this to be true, that I accepted his word and imagined that we represented the almost non-existent percentage of people who contract this easily-cured malady without infidelity.
Three years later, our marriage ended in divorce. We suffered a barrage of attacks to our marriage including infertility, a cancer diagnosis, and the death of a parent. Instead of clinging tighter to one another to get through these assaults, they drove us further and further apart. I never saw or spoke to him again after our divorce hearing.
I didn't learn the full truth about my marriage until nearly 15 years later when fate introduced me to his second (now ex) wife. She shared with me the fact that he had cheated on me during our marriage with a neighbor of ours, a woman I considered to be a friend. He had also cheated on her throughout their marriage. Clearly, this is just who he was, and we were his unwitting victims.
Although many years had passed and I was healed from our divorce, I was stunned by this revelation. She told me what I think I always knew. I put my own blinders on. I refused to believe that he could or would do this to me; but, I found myself unsurprised.
I suspect that there were probably others besides my "friend." He traveled a lot with work. He was handsome and charismatic. I made excuses for him in my mind. I buried my head in the sand because I didn't want to face up to the fact that he really would lie to me and sneak around behind my back. I constructed my own wall of denial to block out the notion that I wasn't enough for him.
How could I miss him sneaking around with someone who lived two houses away from me? How did I not see them flirting or developing a relationship? I could literally beat myself up all day about what a fool I had been, but the queries I rested on were: how could someone betray their friend by sleeping with her husband? How could a husband mistreat two amazing women and devoted wives?
They were the ones who needed to feel shame for what they had done. They were the fools forever thinking that they could find pride, contentment, or real love in the bed of an affair partner. They didn't deserve respect or the devotion of the people they hurt along the way.
I spit out the taste of their names from my mouth and moved on.
I have made myself vulnerable again because a man I love holds my heart. He could destroy me, and I also have the power to break him. This is the gamble we take in intimate adult relationships. I can either live in fear of being hurt again, never having faith again in another partner, or I can select a partner wisely and monitor my investment with the scrutiny of someone who knows better.
We will both make mistakes. I will do my best to honor his trust in me by not causing him pain or disappointment. I will return his pledge of faith in me by allowing him to love me the best that he can. I will forgive when he stumbles and I will hope he can show me grace, as well.
I will no longer fumble in the dark, electing not to see questionable actions. I know now that if there is a desire to do wrong, one will find a way to succeed. I have expectations for transparency and communication to protect my marriage, and myself. I know that my ex doesn't represent every man, so I won't punish every other man by treating them like the enemy.
Time and wisdom gained through life experience has equipped me to take better care of myself. Yes, we want to "blindly" trust those we love; but that's just not practical. Anyone can hurt us.
I won't own the blame for my ex's actions in the form of "I should've" been more this or that and he wouldn't have had to cheat. He made the choice to soil our relationship with infidelity. I own the fact that I let him hurt me because I put him on a pedestal, believing him to be the "perfect" husband, and I failed to see that he was just a flawed human.
Audrey Cade is the author of "Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision" and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced "divorce warrior" in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey's professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master's in Psychology.