An acquaintance in her early 50s once said to me,
“It gets easier to lie to yourself as you get older.”
Both she and her husband had affairs. They decided to ignore their infidelities, forgive, and stay together for their three children. I didn’t say anything when she said this to me. I was silent.
It struck a nerve though.
We do seem to settle more, for less than we deserve, as we grow older. I pondered this idea, and wondered if I would ever feel that it is okay to settle just because I am older, set in my ways, with mortgages, school tuitions and car payments to consider, and closer to death.
I judged her though.
I take marriage seriously and a litany of questions ran through my mind.
How could she stay married to someone who lied to her not once, but many times? How can she trust him again, and what about her affair? If a person wants to sleep around with other people, why are they married? Don’t they feel like a phony? How do you sleep with the man of your children when you know he has slept with not just one woman, but several? I have spent time with this couple. They are well past their respective affairs…had they now been respectful and loving toward each other with a deeper more understanding connection, I guess I could see the point, but they were barely nice to each other. They rarely saw each other. What they have in common is their children. Is that the kind of relationship you want to give your children an example of?
I want more than that. I was judging her for her acceptance of something I could not settle for.
Then I found out about my husband’s affair.
I have never been good at fooling myself. I’m onto me immediately when I attempt to dupe myself about something I know not to be true. I’m missing that gene. I lack the ability. My husband has this trait in spades; maybe he got my share of it.
His mastery of denial and playing the victim are skills he honed as a child from having an alcoholic father, and a controlling, distant mother. The codependent father/son relationship they continue to play out only serves him in a non-productive and harmful way, especially now. My husband is the classic enabler, and a master at diluting the reality of situations.
The predicament I now find myself in – my husband of eleven years having an affair and lying about it – has me asking myself if my life would be easier or better if I had the ability to fool myself? Do I possess the ability to believe the lie, and find meaning in other areas of my life, like my daughter, and not in the number one most important relationship of my; life with the man I chose to commit my life to.
For myself, a lie can’t be un-rung… or is it that I’m just incapable of forgiveness?
Growing up, I always heard from my parents and siblings, “You’re so honest…too much so.” I would seek the truth of the matter in all instances, whether it was a fight with a sibling, or an injustice I felt was done to me by my parents, a teacher or a friend. The absolute truth is important to me, in all areas of life, even the unpleasant truths, which are usually the ones people hide from themselves.
As a twelve year-old, and even up until my twenties, I thought the truth was black and white with no shades of gray (an idea that seeped into my subconscious from the values of my overbearing and intolerant father). I did not consider that people perceive things differently based on their experiences. I know now that most of perception is based on upbringing and what you view as “normal.” The life experiences we have is what colors our ability to see clearly.
Since college, I have been interested in becoming the best version of myself in all areas of my life, and finding out who my authentic self is, and what kind of life I need to be content – to live mindfully – at least for the majority of my time on this earth.
In college, I became a voracious reader of self-help books. My first roommate, and the first person I lived with other than my immediate family, exposed me to the genre. I admired my roommate’s togetherness, her emotional maturity, and I wanted some evolution of my own. I knew I had a long way to go because of my more than a little dysfunctional childhood.
Each book she recommended I devoured and found some gem of wisdom, and was on to the next. And of course, I’m a product of the Oprah self-help generation…always room for improvement.
The last twenty years was a period of tremendous personal growth. I got married in my late 20s, and with my new husband relocated across the country to California, the farthest I could get, geographically, from my family without leaving the country. I learned who I am outside the confines of my family dynamic. I found the person I am to be much different from the little girl who was trying to survive a dysfunctional upbringing. I became more tolerant, flexible and open, and at peace with who I am.
I liked who I was in the process of becoming…truly me.
The birth of my first child propelled me into being the best version of who I am and to hold a higher standard for myself. I continued to read, learn and experience. In the process, I became a more compassionate person, for my daughter, my husband and my friends.
It happened around age thirty-eight…I finally liked myself. I came into my own. I was content in my skin. It only took thirty odd years, but better late than never, as they say. At forty, I finally signed up for that writing class I had been talking about taking for years, and the month I did…my husband had an affair.
Now, in my forties, I’ making a conscious decision to…not necessarily lie to myself…but rather… adopt a “fake it until you make it” attitude. I decided to do something that that naive twenty year-old college student would never do, I was going to forgive my husband for cheating on me, and stay with him. I decided to “work it out” for the sake of our daughter.
A compromise I was not entirely sure I could make.
That bright-eyed twenty year-old would be very disappointed in my forty year-old self while my friend’s words, “It gets easier to lie to yourself as you get older” keeps gnawing at me.