We had our final official group marriage meeting today. It went until 3:30. We worked through our personal statements individually, then read them to our spouses, and then after lunch, sat in a circle and had a time where we could share as much or as little as we wanted with the group. That was hard and terrifying in a way. Yeah, I wanted to share with the group. I really wanted to tell my story to someone, anyone, live. And since all of the people in the group were there because their marriages were going over the falls in a barrel as well, it was as safe a setting as I could image. But to actually say the words, to actually read aloud what I had written from my heart was daunting. It was a several part written process. 1. How you met. 2. How you felt when you were first in love. 3. When the disillusionment set in and the strains and problems that led up to… 4. The misery. What had happened to derail the marriage. What led to you coming to actually attend the program. And then 5. How you felt now that you had gone through the program. What was happening with you? This was you sharing your story not your partner’s story. And it was up to each person to share or not as they saw fit.
You could read any segment in any order you wanted. Or share the entire thing as you saw fit. Several people went and mostly shared their feelings about after they had fallen in love. One person shared two pieces of her story. And I had an overwhelming urge to share everything. Absolutely everything. So when a pause came, I stepped in and said that I was reading for the long haul. And started to read. From 2 on, since we had already earlier told our stories about how each couple had met.
You keep a respectful silence when someone else shares, and the only thing that you are allowed to say at the end is Thank You. You’re not to judge, discuss, chip in, or otherwise distract from the person sharing. You are there to receive. But I don’t think that I’m exaggerating when I said that you couldn’t hear a pin drop while I read my story, paused to occasionally cry or catch my breath, and laid it all out in front of the group. My great joy in discovering a true partner after a divorce that was steeped in misery. Our sorrow about not being able to have a child but his reassurances that I was more than enough for him. My fears and pulling away that put strains on our marriage. My discovery that he had been unfaithful to me, the anguish that followed, and my descriptions of feeling like I had been flayed alive, with salt water poured over me, and walking with bloody footsteps. The fact that during our post-sessions, he had been convicted of a DUI, and that I had left him after discovering his secret stash of porn that he had willfully hidden. That I didn’t know how our story was going to turn out. That while I had sunrays of hope trying to break through the clouds of despair and deceit, that no matter if our marriage survived or not, I knew that I would be OK.
I was the first person to actually “go” there. And I could see that it seemed to rock some people. That someone actually DID go “there.” And that there didn’t need to be a happy ending. That is was OK to be a work in process and maybe a couple that wasn’t going to make it. I think that it gave a bunch of people courage, since several other people shared deeply painful stories of where they were at and why they were here. FWH actually stepped in and shared his story too. And had to pause several times when he was reading to compose himself.
At the end, one of the presenting couples sort of broke with their rules, and said that he had been greatly affected by something that had happened while both FWH and I shared. He asked me, if I had realized that when I started choking up, that FWH had put his hand on the back of my neck and caressed me. I said, yes, I remembered that. And then he said that when FWH started having a rough time reading, I had put my hand on his leg to reassure him. He said that it was evident that there was a lot of love there, and a lot of caring. And that he hoped that other people had seen it as well and could understand that there really WERE a lot of caring people in the room and his hopes that we could all tap into that for each other.
So, the journey continues. And I have to say, it felt good. Really good, to have told my story out loud to others. And to have FWH tell his story, take full blame for the A, out loud. It was rough, hard, emotional, and made me feel very sick at times, but it felt really GOOD to have said it.