In my life nowadays there are two kinds of triggers. One is the known trigger Ė the place, song, movie, or whatever it is that I know will remind me of the As or the APs. For those I have my defenses in place. Some I have already assimilated and they donít do much harm anymore (for example, H and I used sage and music to ďcleanseĒ that spot in the park where theyÖ.). Some I know will be tough and I can plan ahead to deal with it (when a particular song comes on the radio we just skip it and share a hug or a knowing look). Some I just avoid, because I can (I donít drive a particular way through the city that takes me by her house).
The other kind of trigger is harder. Thatís the unknown trigger. The one that jumps up and bites hard when you are not expecting it. I had one of those yesterday, and I am still processing what it means. We were walking to a lovely restaurant with a great view of our city for a quick drink before meeting a friend for dinner. We knew the restaurant itself had trigger potential but we felt it would be okay (and it was). However, walking towards it we passed another restaurant where we had celebrated our 20th anniversary. I suddenly had a rush of fond memories of that day Ė it had been so romantic. We had spent the day together hanging out in our city and ended at this very fancy French restaurant with a five course meal, candlelight, champagne, and we had even brought home the menu as a souvenir. But just as quickly it hit me that my memory was only a partial truth. FWS was at that time in the midst of the A with our friend Ė in fact the A was still in its first blush. My fond feeling of our dinner there was immediately trashed and I felt raw and freshly betrayed all over again. I made it through the evening but I was grumpy and out of sorts the whole time. I was struggling with how to deal with my feelings.
When we got home and were able to talk about it, it was hard. FWS is in a very different place now, and itís hard for me and for him to handle my feelings that relate to the past when he is not the same person today. But he listened, and he had a helpful observation. He said that in this instance, I felt out of control of my own story. From now on, walking by that restaurant will be in the known trigger category, but last night it was not. It sprang up on me and I felt out of control as I experienced the clash of the spontaneous feeling (based on how I felt at the time of the anniversary dinner) and my more recent, more complete knowledge about what was really going on in my marriage at that time, and those painful feelings.
One of the most difficult ongoing aspects of this new world we BSs live in is the process of assimilating the history of the As into our own story of our lives. It seems that everything has to be rewritten, re-experienced, re-understood, retold with all this new, crappy information. Sometimes I donít know how to make sense of it. Last night it felt like I just woke up in someone elseís life. The betrayed spouseís life Ė but oh yeah, thatís me. Iím NOT the one with the romantic 20th anniversary dinner to look back on and cherish. Iím the one whose spouse was choosing to be present in our marriage for THAT DAY, while also choosing to carry on an affair with our close friend on other days, and I had no say in it. Iím the one whose romantic 20th anniversary dinner now feels like a sham.
Yes, I will assimilate that. I will learn to recreate my history with that story. And there will be other anniversary dinners in future, in which we are BOTH present in the marriage ALL DAYS. I have already put away the souvenir menu, in some box in the basement. Not ready to throw it out entirely but I need to let the cherishing part go.
So today is another day and there will be other triggers, but not so far on this day. And slowly it will all become easier. And we have each other and we are working on it.