I walk into my house like someone just back from the battlefield; my mind, body and soul weary. I am totally and completely drained. Rather than encourage me, seeing Anita has only served to confuse me further. I feel even more muddled than I did when I left the house.
Walking by the guest room, I hear Marshall’s voice, still in prayer. I stand by the door, my heart heavy, wondering if I am the reason my husband has been in such a lengthy prayer marathon. I notice Odion loitering nearby.
“Has he been out of there today?” I ask her.
She shakes her head. “Not even to eat.”
It is almost 1 pm.
With legs as heavy as lead, I manage to drag myself up to my room. The destroyed sofa, TV and wall mirror have been removed, leaving vacant spots that are a sore reminder of my actions. With a clearer head, I struggle to believe that that raving lunatic was me. I am ashamed as I remember the viciousness with which I wrecked all that havoc; breaking, slashing and even burning things. Not to mention almost killing my husband.
I turn off the lights and pull the drapes, determined to kill all the illumination in the room. At least, with the cover of darkness, the reminders of my actions will no longer be in my vision. But I am wrong, as sitting in the darkness, my mind replays everything in Technicolour.
And then I think about my attempted seduction of Mofe, and I am ashamed anew. I do not recognise this person I have become.
“Help me, Lord.” I moan in the darkness. “Save me from all this.”
I realise it is time for me to answer some very pertinent questions, the first being if I still want to be in the marriage. In the multi-faces of my husband’s betrayal, do I still want to remain here? Do I still want to be with him? Do I still love him?
But I know the answers even before the questions finish forming in my head. I love my husband. I love him with every fibre of my being. Before the bombshell of Eniye and their daughters dropped on us, he had been my very definition of perfection. He had been every single thing to me; friend, brother, father, confidant, life coach, Prayer Partner, gossip pal…and lover. The issues we’d had with Henry aside, my life had been idealistic…perfect. Which is why the shock and devastation from that revelation had been almost catastrophic. And even though we’d eventually found our way around that problem, and come together as a family, I now wonder if we’d done enough to handle the situation. Had we truly rebuilt our marriage…or had we just hidden the debris of the earthquake? Swept it all under the carpet? Was one week enough time for me to not only have fully forgiven my husband for his betrayal, but to heal our marriage…our love…our union? Had we done enough?
And then I remember the more recent tsunami…Eniye’s revelation of her intense sexual dominance over my husband. As my heart squeezes in pain anew, once again visualising her doing unthinkable things to him, I hear Mofe’s and Anita’s voices in my head, chiding me for not doing enough for my husband sexually. And then I feel resentment and hatred and pain build up in my heart all over again. As much as I love Marshall, will I ever be able to get over this pain?
And then something in my spirit prompts me to read the book of Hosea. I try to ignore this prod, but the leading is so strong, it is like God is nudging me himself. Reluctantly, I pick up my Bible and lead myself to what used to be one of my favourite books. Reading through the book, I know what God wants from me. Forgiveness. Reconciliation.
“No, Father.” I mutter, not ready to surrender my anger. “Marshall has hurt me too much. Hosea and Gomer lived in a completely different world. I can’t be like Hosea…I just can’t.”
Putting down my Bible, I lie on my bed, but the words from the book still haunt me.
Go, take a harlot wife and harlot’s children, for the land gives itself to harlotry, turning away from the Lord. So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. (Hosea 1:2)
I can see the parallel as clear as day. I can also see how, despite the number of times Gomer returned to prostitution, Hosea loved her unconditionally…even paying a hefty price to rescue her from her lover. And this was a woman who wilfully hurt him again and again and again. But yet, here I am, unable to forgive the man who hurt me once…a man who has been doing everything in his power make up for his mistake.
And I feel ashamed.
I recognise that I have still tried to remain in control, never really releasing the situation to God. Last year, I’d felt more in control pretending the affair never happened rather than submitting everything to God…and allowing Him lead the way. Rather than going through the pain that would bring about true healing, I’d decided it was better to skip through all that, and go on with life as usual. Deep in my heart, I always knew they were all right…Pastor Lanre, Anita, Angela, my mother…all of them. They were all correct about Marshall and I needing counselling, because that would have been the only way to really treat the wound. But rather than treat it, I’d slapped a bandage over it and decided in my mind that it was enough to heal it. Except it didn’t heal it. The pain remained in temporary remission…but with the bandage now ripped off, I can see that the wound has not only worsened, it is on the verge of turning gangrenous.
If we still have any hopes of saving our marriage, we need to treat it fast…or else, just like a gangrenous body part, it will be chopped off…destroyed.
And then I realise, with more clarity and comprehension than I have ever had, what we need to do to get out of this hole.
Walking out of my bedroom, I am surprised how much time has gone by. The house has retired for bed, but the quietness only amplifies the muffled sound of Marshall’s voice. As I approach the door, his voice is not as strong as it sounded earlier in the day, and I am suddenly overwhelmed by sorrow over his weakened state… which I have, no doubt, caused.
I tap lightly on the door, and I hear him pause in his prayer. I am taken aback when he opens the door himself, but he seems to have been expecting me. From the look of him, I can tell that he has neither showered nor eaten the whole day. His eyes look even more sunken and hollow, his beard has fully covered his face, and there is the very perceptible smell of stale sweat around him. His clavicle bones are also more pronounced, and I suddenly realise today might not be his first day without food.
He steps aside and lets me into the room, and I see his well read and beaten Bible spread on the bed. Food must not have been the only thing Odion snuck out to him over the weekend.
I turn around to look at him, and we both stand there, neither of us knowing what to say.
“I was lying. I didn’t sleep with another man.” I suddenly say.
He nods sombrely. “I know.”
“We have a lot of work to do. You and I.” I croak.
He nods in agreement, still not saying much.
“I think we need to go for counselling…so that we can fix this once and for all.” I say.
He nods again. “It was a mistake not to have done so sooner.”
“What about the girls? Are they still with Lanre? When are they coming home?” I ask.
“They still have 3 weeks left of their vacation. I was thinking we could send them to your parents…to give us enough time to work things out.” he says.
I am about to nod in agreement, but stop short. “You’d already thought that far? How did you know I would be open to reconciliation? How did you know I wouldn’t serve you divorce papers?”
His eyes cloud with tears. “Neither my tongue nor my heart have rested all weekend. The times I have been too tired to speak, my heart has done the speaking for me…pleading with God to heal us. I know my prayers would never have gone in vain.”
“But you can’t return to our bedroom just yet!” I say, suddenly eager to put some space between us.
“I will wait for as long as I have to, Omolara.” He answers. “But what I do know is that you are the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh. Nothing shall separate us…not even death.”
I walk out of his room, both frightened and pleased by his conviction…his determination to make us work. Maybe we will after all.
The next day, I manage to go to work, and Marshall uses that time to make arrangements for the girls to leave for London that very night. I am saddened by my inability to speak or talk to them. But I know now is not the time. Hopefully, by the time they return, all will be well with their father and I.
Later that week, Marshall and I meet with Pastor Lanre, who is very pleased that we have finally decided to seek help for our marriage. To my surprise, he refers us to a Counsellor in a nearby Church.
“I am too vested in your relationship to be dispassionate.” is what he says to us.
The man we are referred to, Dr. Aluko, is a kind looking Septuagenarian. A retired Medical Practitioner, I find myself surprised by Pastor Lanre’s choice…until the man introduces himself, telling us he and his wife have been married for over 50 years.
“Fifty years that have been as sweet as honey…and also as bitter as gall. We have fallen asleep on rose petals…and have awoken with thorns.” he says. “Our experiences…and God’s guidance…are what have qualified us to answer this calling.”
“And where is she? Your wife?” I ask, wishing to have a woman’s perspective during the process.
“Undergoing medical treatment outside the country.” he answers, with a knowing smile. “You’re afraid I will be partial to your husband?”
“Would it make you more comfortable to know that in the first 20 years of our marriage, we had 4 cases of infidelity? Three of these were by my wife.” he says, stunning Marshall and I. He laughs good-naturedly, and says. “So never mind, lovely lady. I have been in your shoes 3 times…and your husband’s once.”
He proceeds to ask Marshall and I to tell our versions of the story. I tell him mine, starting with the day I got the shock of my life over the realisation of his infidelity and secret children, and how I did my best to get over it, choosing instead to focus on healing my husband’s fractured relationship with his children and building us into a cohesive family unit…something I was able to do successfully…until his ex-lover resurfaced.
Marshall tells a more honest version of his original story, laying less blame at Eniye’s feet and taking more of it himself. He admits to giving in to his sexual desires and allowing those rule his head. He also admits sleeping with her many times…even after the birth of their second child. But he swears not to have been unfaithful after the experience with Eniye, dedicating himself fully to me and doing everything in his power to make things work.
Dr. Aluko listens keenly, not interrupting us once. When we are both done talking, he nods and is quiet for a while, as if mulling over our words and what to say in response to us.
“The thing with infidelity is it involves betrayal of so many kinds. There is the emotional and psychological betrayal…which I think is what you…” he looks in my direction, “chose to focus on last year. Your heart was broken by the thought of your husband even being with another woman…something you never would have been able to fathom before. But you didn’t take into consideration the sexual betrayal…which is just as big a factor as any of the others. That is why, when intricate details of the affair where revealed by his former mistress, you were knocked off balance.”
Marshall and I exchange a look, just as the old man’s words sink deep in my heart. I realise he is right. Yes, I had agonised over the thought of my husband sleeping with another woman…but I had never allowed myself to think any deeper about it. I had never allowed myself to think about the possibility of it being more than anything purely physical…anything different to what he and I already had.
“The three times my wife cheated on me…were with the same man.” Dr. Aluko continues talking. “So I can fully understand how you would feel inadequate, when compared with the other woman. Back then, I would cry for days on end, feeling so emasculated and incapable of satisfying my wife, sexually or emotionally, that she kept on returning to the same guy…her ex-boyfriend…over and over again. It took a lot of work for me to rebuild, not just our relationship…but also my own self worth and esteem.”
I nod in agreement, as he echoes my own inner sentiments.
“And I also know what it is like to be so addicted to another woman…even though I loved my wife with everything!” he says to Marshall. “What started as me trying to get back at her for hurting me so badly, led to an affair that I found myself unable to get out of. The woman was like a drug to me. But the love I had for my wife was all the strength I needed to pull myself out of that situation…just like you did.”
It is Marshall’s turn to nod in agreement.
“But, as you both know, love is not enough to heal a fractured relationship…especially one fractured by infidelity.” he says. “Trust is. Restoring trust is extremely important…but also incredibly difficult. Even though your affair happened about 16 years ago, how does she know you won’t do it again? How can she take your word that you haven’t done it again? How can she be assured that your ex-mistress has not remained your sexual fantasy, even till this day?”
I steal a look at Marshall, but his head remains bowed.
“And I need you both to express your feelings. Talk about how you really feel.” Dr. Aluko continues. “Omolara, I believe this is more for you. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to need you to tell Marshall how you felt last year…and how you feel now. Don’t sugar coat anything or try to soften the bite. You will need to say it as it is.”
It is my turn to bow my head, as I realise he has seen right through me. He has seen through my preference to pretend the world is rosy and perfect, and hide from anything that contradicts this theory.
“And then, we will focus on forgiveness. Not lip service forgiveness…but the kind of true forgiveness that will make you genuinely want to commit to a future together. The kind of forgiveness that causes permanent amnesia over what happened…not the kind that will make you remind your partner of an old mistake many years later.” he looks from Marshall to myself. “Do I have your commitment to work with me on these key things; rebuilding trust, full expression, forgiveness and rebuilding?”
Marshall and I nod, and thus begin the long journey with Dr. Aluko. We have daily sessions with him, Sundays inclusive, and the days that follow are the most emotional and heart wrenching of my life.
We spend two days understanding how it all happened, and we have to accept the role my family played in everything, with their ill-treatment of Marshall. But Marshall also has to accept that he could have walked away, especially when he felt an unnatural pull in Eniye’s direction. He could have declined her offer to come upstairs when he gave her a ride that fateful day of their first sexual encounter…and he could have resisted when she seduced him. But we both have to accept that his sexual addiction to her arose largely as a result of his own sexual naiveté, and also our misinformed sexual beliefs as a married couple.
As hard as that session is, harder still is when we have to express our true feelings. I start cautiously, just talking about how ‘hurt’ and ‘betrayed’ I felt…but the more I speak, the more all my suppressed feelings rise to the fore. I talk about how I hate him for seeking sexual pleasure when I was knocking at death’s door, I talk about resenting him for getting away with it so easily…getting only a mild slap on the wrist from our past and present Pastor, my parents, and the society at large. I hate him for going about his life as normal, while I initially had to deal with his broken children…all by myself. I hate him for gaining from the publicity of it all, when all I have for myself are vivid images of his lover, the much younger Eniye, and spending the last year wondering how I measure up to her. I tell him how, hearing her voice out my own deepest fear, of the power she once had, and maybe still even does, over him, makes me hate him even more. Imagining him romping with her, doing things we had convinced ourselves were ungodly, makes me feel cheated and irate. I tell him how, even now that we are in counselling, thoughts of him and Eniye still find their way to my head, tempting me to end this whole process and just walk away from it all.
Even though it is a very intense session that leaves Marshall, especially, shocked and speechless, that is the session that is the turning point for us. I find myself feeling so much lighter and better. Dr. Aluko makes Marshall answer to every point I have raised, and I can see true sorrow and contrition in him. I see that he is truly sincere about doing all he can to undo every single bad thing…and that makes all the difference.
Our last few sessions with Dr. Aluko are on reconciliation.
“I like to spend a bit of time on this, because this was the hardest for my wife and I.” he says. “Of course, we paid lip service to it, and did the whole ‘I forgive you’ song and dance. But had we really forgiven each other? Not at all.” he smiles, as if in memory. “We spent the next 10 years rebuilding. We had to learn that reconciliation is a process…and not an event. It is also a two-person job. You two might be thinking the responsibility falls on Molly…being the aggrieved party. But just one hand clapping makes no sound at all. It takes two to reconcile. Another thing we learnt was that reconciliation is a process of removing…not adding.”
He laughs at the look of confusion on mine and Marshall’s faces.
“When trust is broken, suspicion, fear and confusion take its place. Where there was once love, fear takes over. Where there was once certainty, uncertainty becomes the order of the day. Where there was compassion, there is now contempt and resentment. For true reconciliation, all these negative obstacles have to be removed…so that trust can be restored.”
I nod in acknowledgement, every word he has said ringing true for me.
“True forgiveness is the most important job.” he continues. “While it is important to work on your sexual issues…and I have made plans for you to see another therapist for that shortly….and also your communication and trust issues…none of these is as important as working on forgiveness. Without forgiveness, absolutely none of the rest matter. None. As a couple goes through the various stages of forgiveness, you will find that all the conflicts, resentment and other heavy issues fall away naturally. The truth is, it isn’t love that fades…it is resentment and bitterness that build up like plaque over time, concealing that love. It is forgiveness, true forgiveness, that permanently removes bitterness and resentment. Once these are gone, you will be surprised by how quickly your love will blossom again.”
I look at Marshall and I see that he too is looking at me. Even after all we’ve been through, the love we have for each other is still very apparent.
“I don’t want you to think it’s going to be easy. It will take a lot of work on both your parts…but if you are committed to it, your love will be the better for it.” he pulls out a picture of him and a beautiful, silver-haired woman. “That is my Abike. I love her today much more than when were young and sprightly. It took us almost 30 years to get to this place of beautiful and undiluted love…but it has been so worth it. I pray you and your wife are lucky to have the kind of love that we have.”
He pulls out a card from his drawer. “We will meet once a month from now on, as I believe you two have enough to work on, on your own. But I need you to see a good friend and colleague of mine, to address your sexual issue…because that is an extremely important and sensitive part of the process.”
I take the card from him, my heart in my mouth. The truth is, after these sessions, I am already willing to do all I can to work on my marriage. But I have also refrained from thinking about this aspect. Sex. I am so worried that what I will hear will send my 45 year old self into a tailspin, shattering all the notions I have held onto for all 22 years of my marriage.
As if in reassurance, Marshall squeezes my hand and I squeeze back. If facing this demon is what I have to do to heal our marriage…then so be it.
Catch up on Molly’s story here:
- You, Me…Them! 1: My Beloved Husband
- You, Me…Them! 2: Struck
- You, Me…Them! 3: Hanging in the balance
- You, Me…Them! 4: Heavy Cross
- You, Me…Them! 5: Back where they belong
- You, Me…Them! 6: Vivid Imagination
- You, Me…Them! 7: No Excuse
- You, Me…Them! 8: The Confession
- You, Me…Them! 9: The Assailant
- You, Me…Them! 10: A Mother’s Love
- You, Me…Them! 11: Pain & Rejection
- You, Me…Them! 12: The Getaway
- You, Me…Them! 13: Battle
- You, Me…Them! 14: Joy…and Pain
- You, Me…Them! 15: Blackmail
- You, Me…Them! 16: Rushing Things
- You, Me…Them! 17: Damage Control
- You, Me…Them! 18: Fallen Hero
- You, Me…Them! 19: Stale News
- You, Me…Them! 20: A sacrifice too big
- You, Me…Them! 21: The Sisters
- You, Me…Them! 22: Failure Father
- You, Me…Them! 23: Breaking Point
- You, Me…Them! 24: Beautiful Beginnings
- You, Me…Them! 25: Hurricane Eniye
- You, Me…Them! 26: Heathen Sex
- You, Me…Them! 27: Right…or Wrong
- You, Me…Them! 28: Pagan