Two days after discovering my husband’s secret life, I took a drive to get away from home. I found a quiet place, parked my car, and pondered. I wasn’t prepared to write down my thoughts, so I had to improvise by jotting down notes on a small strip of card stock I found in my purse. My writing surface was no bigger than a 3×5 card, but the notes that fit on that small space made a big difference in the days ahead.
I finished my notes at my daughter’s house. She was the one who discovered my husband’s online dating emails. After sobbing for what seemed to be forever, I went through my notes with her and added a few more. I needed someone to confirm that I was being reasonable.
Those notes were things that I needed in order to feel ok about giving my marriage a chance. They came from somewhere deep within me. The list included things like using internet filters, taking another employee or family member on business trips, and having another individual take care of business and personal finances.
I presented my list to my husband soon after writing it. The list was still written in a rough format on my tiny card stock slip. I hadn’t read Melodie Beattie’s book, yet. And I hadn’t heard of “boundaries” in a marriage. I just followed my instincts that told me I needed to know things were going to change and they were going to change MY way.
My husband enthusiastically embraced my list when I first presented it, but when I started talking about boundaries, his response was a gruff, “You can’t control me!” He was right. I can’t control him nor can I control anybody else in my sphere of influence. I revised my boundaries so that my expectations were clear and the consequences were such that I could control them. For example, “If my husband lies, I will not sleep in the same bed with him until I feel safer.”
As I worked on formalizing my boundaries, I constantly referred to my first list, which actually seemed to cover most everything I needed. I tried to write my boundaries without letting my emotions take over, so they ended up reading like a business document. I took advantage of that and made my boundaries into a contract and had my husband sign it.
But I wasn’t satisfied.
I wanted a short bulleted list so my husband could always remember our contractual agreement. Then it hit me. If my husband could just be honest and transparent about everything, I could feel safe. Honesty also coincides with many of my boundaries regarding reporting slip-ups and financial integrity. Honesty. That is the core of everything I need.
“Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living. It is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built. Where trust is, love can flourish.”
I need trust. I need love. I need honesty from my husband. I figured if my husband could remember those things, everything else would fall into place. So, I made him a small card that fits in his wallet with a message that has become our marriage foundation and pact:
Our marriage will be based upon a relationship in which there is transparency, honesty, and trust. These elements are the foundation for an enduring, eternal, and fulfilling relationship. “Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living. It is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built. Where trust is, love can flourish” (Sister Barbara B. Smith). I want our love to flourish.
My husband put the card in the front flap of his wallet because he wanted to see it often. Every time he opens his wallet, I can see the card and it reminds me that my husband is doing whatever it takes to work on his recovery. This little card has become a nice gift for both of us.