As you know I work in politics. Mostly local but sometimes national. At one time, many years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a man I greatly admired for the work he was doing on behalf of the working poor. That man was Senator John Edwards. Yes. That guy.
Well you can imagine how disappointed I was to learn of his unfaithful ways and the way it would play out in public for his late wife, Elizabeth Edwards. As a woman who works in politics and policy she was kind of a hero of mine- articulate, accomplished, very strong in her progressive convictions, a wife and a mother who in suffering the loss of child persevered and carried on to have two more children to fill her heart and complete her family. When she passed away, before the trial, I was saddened. She certainly deserved more.
When the story of John Edward’s misappropriation of campaign funds to hide his affair and provide for his OW came to light I was shocked and disappointed. Not just in him but my heart broke for her. The trial over it played out last year during the spring and summer of my separation from Green. In the middle of my downward spiral into self hate, depression, self loathing and despair I saw in the trial myself, like her, a woman who’d supported her husband to succeed yet had given so much to him that perhaps she was lost in the mix. I saw in my fractured marriage a reflection of myself as a failure. A failed wife. A failed mother. A failed friend. I was instead a person my husband hated so much that he stopped seeing me and looked for someone else.
During the course of the trial it was revealed how Mrs. Edwards felt when the humiliation of her affair would become public. How she railed at John Edwards for him to understand to empathize, to identify with the profound pain that she felt.
I distinctly remember reading that article and being struck. Feeling like someone had peered into my heart and FINALLY heard what my brain and heart had been arguing about for the last year. An argument that I had with myself because Green could not, at the time, tolerate even entertaining it. In the course of having his affair…. Why didn’t he see me?! After he started the affair and I lost 30 pounds – yet he still lived at home – lying to me… Why didn’t he see me?! I could certainly see him. I saw him change from devoted husband to a deceitful mean-spirited liar who would rather neglect his kids than miss an opportunity to enjoy a game at a sports bar with his whore. Was the fog of the affair laden lust so heavy that I was invisible to him?
Well imagine my further connectedness when I saw this theme play out on the pages of fellow bloggers posts the other day. Posts like This Man Gets It and other that I didn’t pin like I had hoped to mention. (When I find them I will or leave them in the comments please!) This shared sentiment gave me such peace. It was such a great a-ha moment. Perhaps its sad but it was certainly validating. It was not just Elizabeth Edwards and I who felt as if we we’re ignored, cast aside and invisible. I had thought: Is it that women who are driven, professional and independent make our men feel inferior? Do we drive our men away? No fuck that. All women – professionals, stay at home, quiet, loud, docile, strong, young and old – all spouses and NONE of us deserved to be ignored, to be cast aside for the sake of some illicit dream chasing affair.
The other night when I hurt myself I thought perhaps that Green FINALLY saw me. He says he knows I was hurting. But I don’t know yet if he really SAW me. I remember one night, on a weekend that he was taking the kids, that my shirt had slipped and revealed my very skinny frame. I was down to under 100 lbs. Not pretty one someone who is tall. I saw Green do a double take. He asked if I had eaten. I lied and said yes. He didn’t believe me. The kids were in his car but Green said, “Do you want me to stay? Do you want us to stay with you this weekend? You can rest and I’ll cook. You need to eat.” At that I became hysterical, how DARE he try to care about me. I said, “No. You don’t love me. You can’t be here if you don’t love me.” And he left. Later, that night he would text me all night apologizing for what he had done. Claiming all responsibility for the affair and saying I deserved better. And yet the affair did not end. He was living at his mothers, he would live there and continue to see Maria for another 4 months. Lying to me the entire time. Seeing me look like an emaciated hysterical mess? Ugly and worn out? Broken and depressed? He still didn’t see me, then?! Not even to just stop lying and admit that he was still with her?
This thought still plagues me. As I push through the pain and try to accept steps toward reconciliation I am haunted by the fact that Green no longer saw me in his life. He saw a future that didn’t include me. He saw nothing but his own selfish needs being met. Because he was so angry at the world that he decided that only he mattered. I don’t even think he cared about Maria as much as he cared about satisfying himself. So that leaves me with… if someone can’t be invested in enough in seeing ME why should I devote myself to seeing them? I saw Green at his ugliest. He saw me at my most vulnerable. Yet he still chose to continue on his path to destroy our marriage. He says now that he sees what he was doing was wrong, selfish and destructive. How do I forget what I have seen? How do you erase the memories of being ignored and invisible?
Perhaps I should turn to Elizabeth Edwards again. This time not to identify or wallow with her pain but to find solace and inspiration on how she moved on from the affair and faced her ultimate battle – breast cancer. Her marriage would not survive, she was in process of divorce at the time of her death, but she did reveal that she would not be burdened and broken by it. She wanted her children and grandchildren to learn from her experiences and to find strength in recovering from all of the blows that life had dealt to her – the loss of a child, marital infidelity and finally terminal illness.
“I do know that when [my children are] older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm…and when the wind did not blow her way – and it surely has not – she adjusted her sails,” Elizabeth Edwards