Is Pretend Normal Self-Preservation?

For a variety of reasons after D-day I became disconnected with my family. In a way it surprises me. After all, I come from a family of betrayers and betrayed. I have three siblings. Two have been both unfaithful and betrayed and one has been betrayed. I have been betrayed. Four for four. Our parents were both unfaithful and betrayed in multiple marriages. That’s six for six.

My husband, unfaithful, has one brother, unfaithful, and one sister, betrayed. That’s nine for nine. I believe his parents were both faithful (his father died before the age of 40 but his mom appears to have had a solid second marriage. But as we all know, looks can be deceiving.) That makes nine out of eleven unfaithful/betrayed just in our immediate family.           

We’re proving the national statistics on infidelity to be accurate.       

So with all the infidelity in my family, I expected to have plenty of shoulders to cry on and ears to listen when my own personal agony started. Surprisingly, I was wrong. As a matter of fact, none of my siblings called me until my mother chastised them. Even then, I only heard from them the one time.           

I’m sure my siblings could come up with many reasons why they’ve chosen to distance themselves from me over the past two years. They’re busy with their own lives. They don’t know what to say.

They’re afraid to make me feel worse.        

But I believe that one reason is they don’t want to relive their own pain. Their affairs were years before mine and resulted in broken marriages for my sisters. My brother is still with his wife, a multiple betrayer. For his part, he had a “revenge” affair, something he suggested I try. I ignored that piece of advice. My siblings are living in their own pretend normal and don’t want my pain shaking their hard-fought security. If they don’t acknowledge my heartache they don’t have to step outside their comfort zone. Hence I’m disconnected from my siblings at a time I could use their support the most.          

In a way, I don’t blame them. Pretending to live “normal” lives protects them from acknowledging the worst in themselves or their spouses. I understand. After all, I chose my husband. I chose the person who betrayed my heart.

Pretend normal is safer than acknowledging the truth.

My husband showed up at my work the other day bringing with him a nice large diet caffeine free Coke with a cherry splash. I hadn’t asked him for it but every once in awhile he just brings me one because he knows it’s my favorite. He knows I only drink pop from a fountain and then rarely. It’s a nice treat.  

There are six of us women who work the front office of a medical clinic.  These women think I have the best husband in the world. Why wouldn’t they? He’s funny, handsome and charming. He has a way of making people laugh and feel good.

My co-workers also believe I have an amazing marriage. Again, why wouldn’t they? I have mastered the art of pretend normal. I’m sure you’ve read about it over and over again on the AR web site. If you did EMS then you definitely learned about pretend normal. There are times after my co-worker remarks about our great relationship that I think to myself, “if only you knew.”

Pretend normal keeps me from telling my co-workers the truth. Our neighbors don’t know. Most of our friends don’t know. Except for close family members the rest don’t know. Am I ashamed? You bet! Am I afraid of what they’d think of both of us? Of course! Do I feel obligated to protect my husband’s reputation? The answer is yes. By protecting him I protect myself.

I have wondered if telling my story might help those around me with their own personal struggles. Yet I pretend normal with all but a select few. Is this self preservation? Maybe. But for me what matters most is that my husband and I no longer pretend normal with each other. The world sees a solid, loving marriage that’s lasted over 26 years.

Thanks to Affair Recovery, what the world sees is what we are becoming.

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Finally...

Lisa you are the first person who has experienced almost a mirror of my experience. Affairs in my family caused great disfunction through generations that I had to deal with from early childhood through my adulthood. I thought I choose a husband who understood the deep impact affairs has had on me and yet he still choose to cheat. Now four years later I have distanced myself from my family for the very reasons you suggest - self preservation. Only a very small group of people know in my circle, he told everyone in his family (and all of them have cheated). One of my greatest losses is my mother as I simply can not support her any longer in her lifelong grief. Being with her triggers me as the grief, pain and hatred come to the surface when she discusses my father, my brother, my grandfathers. Do you ever get resentful that you have lost your family because of your husbands actions? How have you come to terms with it encompassing all the family relationships in your life yet you did not choose this path - it was bestowed upon you? How do you look at your loved ones without being triggered? This would be a great specialized support group within affair recovery. It is the gift that keeps on giving no matter how many years have passed.

I could join your group

I could join your group. My great grandmother was her husbands AP...He left his first wife and 7 kids for her...she was 15 years younger than him and shocked when he left her for the next AP. My Father's father was a serial adulter and fathered several kids some we have met some we have only heard about since he normally cheated close to home. My father followed his example...I am not even sure my father has ever been faithful to anyone...My sister says he even cheats on is dog. My mother's father had 3 affair partners that we know about, including my fathers mother...for 2-3 years. My grandmother never knew. My mother was cheated on by 2 out of her 3 husbands. My mom had 2 brothers one has cheated (most likely still does) the other never has. Both of my sister's marriages ended because of affairs. My husband witnessed the devastation caused to my mother and sisters. On my husbands side both grandfathers were cheaters. The grandfather that is still living has lived a life of HELL because his grandmother STILL has not recovered from the damage and it has been over 30 years since his last know affair. The live in an assisted living place and she keeps his Viagra under lock and key "to make sure" she is not paying for him to have an affair, issue is she tells EVERYONE. We (the kids and wives) are pretty sure my husbands father cheated and then divorced his mother, but he has never confessed to anything. Out of 4 brothers, 3 have cheated. One is divorced and living with his AP, but tells all of us that she is just his "sugar momma" and his plan is to get back with his wife in a few years cause she is the love of his life...and he has said this in front of the AP and she just laughs. My other sister in law is the QUEEN of pretend normal. She thinks her husbands affair was just emotional and was because the other woman was chasing my brother in law. I have suggested that she needs to have full discloser. She says no she has forgiven him...I said you don't even know what you have forgiven him for....I know that he had a 2 year full blown affair with my sister in law's ex sister in law, but I am not "allowed" to tell her the truth.

Since my husband was faithful in church and had seen all the damage that affairs cause and never thought that he would...of course I know all women think that....

Yeah dysfunction is the game we play. We have both come from a family that can pretend normal with the best of them, and have for generations. However, I am not playing the game any longer. It has prolonged our recovery...my husband wants to crawl back under the shield of pretend and move on...his self reflection and emotional growth has hit many bumps in the road...but I will no longer pretend. And because none of the family wants their boats rocked I find that the stress of family functions is just to much. I refuse to pass this bull crap onto my daughter and nephew that I am raising...it is damaging and unfair. Now I have not told very many people and the kids don't know anymore than they had to know. I have had support from a few close friends. But I have found distancing myself from the toxic family members has been the best thing I can do. Since "the family" can't be real with each other luckily they don't gather often, so on the REQUIRED holidays I put on my fake smile and show up. I don't blame my husband for the loss of family....I blame fear of change for the loss. I have been told that I should just leave the past in the past and stop trying to change things...this is just how things are...... Well my mother used to say (she passed away) things are what they are....Well things many times are what they are because no one has been brave enough to change things.

Toxic Relationships

I agree that it's important to distance ourselves from toxic relationships, even if they are part of the family. I've had to do that with my brother. He is miserable in his marriage, blames himself for his wife's multiple affairs, had a "revenge" affair of his own, and encouraged me to do the same. His misery permeates everything in his life. We no longer talk. I don't call him and he doesn't call me.

Pretend normal for me has become a shield to ward off the unwanted opinions and advice of others. But in my most important relationships, my husband and children, my dearest friends, I refuse to pretend normal any more. Love me or leave me. That's my motto.

Take care

Family Affairs

My family and I do not live close to each other so I rarely see them. The last time was two years ago at my father's funeral, just three weeks after d-day. Because of all the emotional trauma of d-day and the loss of my father we didn't even discuss what was going on in my marriage. I agree, this would be a special support group! Generational betrayal. I didn't even mention my grandparents, etc. in the post, just immediate family. It's obviously a huge problem of the human heart.

Stay strong and keep moving forward.

Pretend Normal

I hope my husband and I can get to a solid fake normal. We are 9 months out and I still struggle with many intrusive thoughts per day and question my sanity it feels like a private hell on earth

NO Fake Normal

I may not have understood your meaning but the one relationship you definitely do NOT want to fake normal is with your husband. Now is a time for complete and open honesty. No more pretending everything is okay. No more looking the other way. Be real or be gone. At the nine month mark I struggled daily as well. Even well past the first year mark I was triggering more than I had hoped at that point. It wasn't until I was past the 18 month mark that I realized some days were good, happy even. And now I'm past the two year mark and I still trigger but not nearly as often and not as painfully. As long as you're moving forward, making baby steps, you'll find that time helps.

You're stronger than you think, braver than you believe.

I am almost 4 years out from

I am almost 4 years out from Dday 1, have been drip fed info from my husband for all that time. he just dropped another major bomb about 3 Months ago.... And all of this is after he took Hope for Healing and we did EMS twice and he KNEW how important it is to come clean!!!!!' Obviously, he has major issues with telling the truth and while I DO know he is working on himself, I also feel in my gut that there is much more he hasn't told me. We've been married 38 years....he lied and cheated for 20 of those years ( that I know of) and has watched me live in excruciating pain for most of that time. I guess it doesnt bother him enough to provoke him to be truthful...all he doesnis get more emotionally abusive and physically intimidating when I do ask questions concerning his 20 years with his coworker. i am learning to just shut up about his affairs. As long as we pretend normal about everything, we are ok. There are no fights. I have accepted that this is my life. I will never have the marriage I want. He will never have my heart, my trust, or my respect ...he will just think he does. We sleep in separate bedrooms and I will not return to his bed. I don't want him to touch me.
I'm Not going to divorce him due to religious principles and the fact that I made vows as well and I refuse to break them just because he did. I am 60 years old, too old to start over and I wouldn't be able to trust another man with my heart again anyway. May as well stay married and just do what I want and not give all the money to lawyers. We will live mostly separate lives. Really, I'm to the point now, that it's ok with me.

I hope that maybe someday I will feel differently, but for now, I pretend normal on everything. It's easier than having him get mad. I live just waiting for the next bomb to go off. It's coming. I feel it.

I am almost 4 years out from

I am almost 4 years out from Dday 1, have been drip fed info from my husband for all that time. he just dropped another major bomb about 3 Months ago.... And all of this is after he took Hope for Healing and we did EMS twice and he KNEW how important it is to come clean!!!!!' Obviously, he has major issues with telling the truth and while I DO know he is working on himself, I also feel in my gut that there is much more he hasn't told me. We've been married 38 years....he lied and cheated for 20 of those years ( that I know of) and has watched me live in excruciating pain for most of that time. I guess it doesnt bother him enough to provoke him to be truthful...all he doesnis get more emotionally abusive and physically intimidating when I do ask questions concerning his 20 years with his coworker. i am learning to just shut up about his affairs. As long as we pretend normal about everything, we are ok. There are no fights. I have accepted that this is my life. I will never have the marriage I want. He will never have my heart, my trust, or my respect ...he will just think he does. We sleep in separate bedrooms and I will not return to his bed. I don't want him to touch me.
I'm Not going to divorce him due to religious principles and the fact that I made vows as well and I refuse to break them just because he did. I am 60 years old, too old to start over and I wouldn't be able to trust another man with my heart again anyway. May as well stay married and just do what I want and not give all the money to lawyers. We will live mostly separate lives. Really, I'm to the point now, that it's ok with me.

I hope that maybe someday I will feel differently, but for now, I pretend normal on everything. It's easier than having him get mad. I live just waiting for the next bomb to go off. It's coming. I feel it.

So Sad

Karen, what a sad, lonely way to live. My heart goes out to you. I've often been afraid of what I would have done if my husband hadn't been so willing to change, be honest, and give me full disclosure. I'm glad I didn't have to make that choice. You are in my thoughts.

Brene Brown

This afternoon, while on a beach vacation with my family, I sat reading the gift of imperfection by Brene brown. She talks about the courage it takes to own our stories, the darkness in us, our imperfections, our messiness, our vulnerability. Reading it, I felt Shame. Because there are a lot of people who don't know including all of those around us that day--who loves us. I know what it looks like to find out about infidelity and how unsettling and painful it can be to those around the couple. I wouldn't want to traumatize anyone. At the same time, I don't feel genuine. There are people that have shared their sadness with me, and I have left them out. And unlike the author, those whose infidelity I knew about, did rally around me and comfort me in ways that only those who had suffered it could. So owning my story to them helped me survive in real ways. But how do you find the balance between telling everyone co-workers and the lot and honoring the intimacy of the relationship, while simultaneously owning your story and showing up real and authentic. I don't know. I don't have the answers. Perhaps it is a case by case issue. It's hard to say. Thanks for the post.

Owning my story

I believe that as long as my husband and I own our story it isn't anyone else's business. Being real and authentic to my co-workers or neighbors or family members doesn't mean telling them my most intimate secrets. I certainly don't want to know theirs! They are getting the real me, just not the complete picture. It's when the pretend normal creeps into my marriage that I better start worrying. I never want to go back to the past when we refused to acknowledge that we were in trouble.

Thanks for reading my post. It means a lot to me that my words have meaning for others.

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