By Linda

A major thing that we did this past weekend was see our son off to college — away from home — for the first time. 

I know that Doug is probably feeling the effects of our son leaving more than I, because now he is the only male left in the house. In addition to his pre-menopausal wife and teenage daughters, he also has a female dog and two female cats.

My challenge now is to find ways for him to build that testosterone level through sports, nights out with the boys and good old competition.

Our son leaving is affecting me also, but I have no regrets. I have done a very good job at being his mother and feel proud that he has grown up to be an independent, intelligent and caring young man. All the sacrifices have been well worth it.

Talk to me later though, when I have to send my twin girls away in a few years.  I hope that I will be able to let them leave home just as easily!

Thinking about all of this takes me back to a conversation Doug and I had early on after my discovery of his emotional affair. I told him how upset, hurt and angry I was that at this stage of our lives he would decide to find someone else that he thought was better than me to live the rest of his life with. I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and could start being “me” again, instead of “mom,” and he wanted to jump off the boat for someone else!

Doug was confused about this.  I think he couldn’t understand that I was still Linda.  I was still the person he had married, but I had to give some of “me” up to be a good mom. I think he believed that I had forever lost all my free spiritedness, my craziness and was becoming a boring stick in the mud. Not exactly the girl he married. 

The Change is Coming

He didn’t understand that as the years progressed and we had more and more responsibility in our lives, that I had to let most of that part of me go. I learned early on that I couldn’t stay up all night partying and get up to tend to a baby. It is called taking responsibility as a mother, and I believe as a result, most mothers tend to change and grow in different ways than most men do.  But that’s a whole other subject!

He was also skeptical that I really wanted to be that “Linda” again. I think that shows how little men understand women.

I believe most of us moms have given more to our children than we ever imagined we would, yet enjoyed every minute of it. However, when we look ahead we want to begin to pay more attention to ourselves and try to get back some of the person we had lost long ago.

Maybe if men realized that there was light at the end of the tunnel and that eventually they will get back that woman they fell in love with, then they wouldn’t go looking somewhere else.

I know I made mistakes and lost way too much of myself in the process, but I felt I didn’t have a choice.

In my job as a teacher, I have seen way too many children feel the harmful effects of neglectful parents, and I didn’t want to be that kind of mother. Maybe I did go overboard, but as I said, I have no regrets.  I feel I have done the best job a mother could (unfortunately at the price of my marriage) and am very proud of myself and my kids.

If given the opportunity to do it all over again, there are certainly things I could do differently as a wife, but as a mother, I doubt I would change anything.

Doug and I always put our children first. It’s just the way we are and it was sort of an unwritten decision we made long ago. I feel that we are lucky because our children love being with us as we have many of the same interests.  Just because they leave the nest doesn’t mean they will be gone forever. When a parent puts that much into their children’s lives the rewards will last a lifetime.

More Mistakes Made After Infidelity

So what does all this talk have to do with a marital affair?

I believe one lesson learned from Doug’s emotional affair is the importance of paying close attention to transitions and milestones in our lives. 

A couple of months prior to Doug’s affair our son got his driver’s license, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it changed everything between Doug and his son.  Previous to that, Doug would run our son everywhere, or our son would be at home where the two of them would spend time together playing catch, goofing around or watching their silly TV shows. 

After our son began to drive he was rarely at home and I believe Doug became bored and lonely.  I was so busy with the girls I failed to notice. Unfortunately, someone else did and the affair began to fill the void that Doug was experiencing.

With our son away at college, Doug says he is fine, but I want to make sure that I am there for him.  Just like how he will have to be there for me in the next few years when our daughters begin to leave the nest. 

Sometimes our lives are filled with so much stress and running around that we fail to be conscious of problems that may be effecting our spouses, which makes it that much more important to communicate effectively and spend quality time alone together.

    4 replies to "One Less Bird in the Nest"

    • SallyJane

      Wow, how this resonated with me. That’s what I’ve heard from my husband through this episode and before: he just wants back the girl he married; the girl who laughed and had fun doing crazy, things; the girl who didn’t take everything so seriously.
      Well, I’d like her back, too. But, I don’t know how I had any choice along the way. We waited nine years into our marriage before having our first child (so I could finish grad school and we could both be established in our careers and have a home), and when we did, we were thrown into a world of medical nightmares. Our son needed open-heart surgery almost immediately after birth, he never ate so he was tube-fed for the first five years of life, an autism diagnosis at 2. And, of course, 9/11 happened, and the resulting Global War on terror meant my husband would be gone during much of the last few years (9 deployments since 2002). How could I not change with all that stress and responsibility? I thought that by seeing my child through to survival, I was doing what a good mother was supposed to do? Yes, I knew we were drifting apart, and, would I have loved to run off to Margaritaville with him and escape all of our cares together? Hell yes. Many days.
      I was infuriated this last weekend when I constructed a timeline of his ea. While he was overseas having tea and going to nightclubs with his GF, I was in the hospital with our son praying his lung biopsy wouldn’t show a malignancy, standing there when he coded-out (hell on earth), all while worried about our other children, our finances, and his safety in a foreign country. Meanwhile, because I was distracted and not paying attention to his needs, he turned to someone who was younger, childless, and exotic. I swear, this weekend was the first time I wanted to scream “fuck you” at him.
      Wow. I can’t get angry again. Vent over. I guess what I worry about is that our children will always need us … how am I going to balance being their mother, his wife, and ME? Because, as much as he feels he lost that girl, I feel I’ve lost myself too. Sigh … now I’m just rambling … I don’t even know if I have a point. This is all so damn depressing.

    • Jeffrey Murrah

      Linda,

      I enjoyed your post. Many couples forget that when the children leave, it will be back to the couple again. The major change is that health has put some limits on the relationship that once existed. Returning to the ‘couple’ is a difficult thing for some marriages. They have to rediscover who they were, learn how to talk to each other again and learn how to play again.

      The return to the ‘couple’ is a natural stage in the life cycle of couples. Knowing that it is coming helps us to prepare for it.

    • Karen

      SallyJane and Linda: my story is very similar to yours. And what Jeffrey says about the return to the couple is what I was patiently waiting for while my husband was having an EA. Yes, I knew we had grown apart, but I had to make choices as a business owner, mother of two girls, and wife – despite what I was taught in college, a woman CANNOT do it all!! When I turned 35 or so, I was just so exhausted all the time. This is probably when I started to let the “wife” part of me go a bit. Looking back though, I know I was a great mom and financial support of my family – but definitely the wife part was out of balance. I don’t blame myself at all (anymore), but I have regrets. I’m just not sure how I could have juggled my time differently. Unless I did not sleep at all 🙂

      • Doug

        I think any mother and wife can relate to our situation. I have a very good friend who is in her mid thirties and is going through the same dilemma, she was my main support during Doug’s affair so she has experienced it all. We often talk abut how we can do it all, be a career woman, mother, maid and an exciting wife. It is very frustrating because there is only so much time and energy. We often wonder if our husbands understand how much pressure and responsibility we take on in our lives. I know that I neglected Doug’s needs but he neglected mine also. We both could have put forth more effort to give each other what we needed. As I have said before I don’t think we really knew what each other needed, therefore we were really off base on what made our spouse happy. I made a lot of mistakes but they were mainly not speaking up, telling Doug what I needed, not taking on so much responsibility and not taking time for myself and with Doug. I felt that if I would done those things I wouldn’t have harbored so much anger and resentment, which is deadly in a relationship. Linda

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