A friend came to me recently, knowing my history and needing someone to confide in. She shared that she thinks her husband of 30 years is cheating on her. Shock only lasted for a moment, quickly giving way to more of a “why am I not surprised?” emotion. Not that I have reason to feel this way. I have never met her husband. But I’ve heard enough stories similar to the tale she proceeds to tell me.
It’s been going on for years, she suspects, yet has never been able to prove. “Why?” She asks me. “Why has no one ever just told me? I see the way people look at me, I can tell they know something. Why won’t someone just tell me so I can move on with my life?”
My heart immediately breaks for her. I’ve been in her shoes. Knowing something is not quite right in your marriage, but if you dare to question anything, you’re met with more lies and cover stories. It’s enough to drive a woman completely mad.
And it does.
She pours out more details over the next few days, sharing pieces of truth mixed with paranoid theories. She stops and looks me straight in the eye, looking for judgment she will never find from me, “I sound crazy, don’t I?”
My memory takes me back in time, to a time when I had found out just enough truth to prove that I wasn’t just being paranoid, that I wasn’t going crazy… but it was too late because I did do exactly that, I went a little crazy. All of the lying and sneaking around leading up to that moment had turned a once quiet, mostly even-keeled woman into a stark raving lunatic who drove to the other woman’s house, knocked on her door, stood in her kitchen, and in front of that woman’s husband told her to back off and leave my husband alone. (There may have been a few expletives thrown in there, crazy times call for crazy measures.)
It was an act that a well-mannered, sane woman would never dream of, and when I think of that moment now, I cringe. This memory does not make my top ten list of things I am most proud of. (Spoiler alert: My threat didn’t work. Go figure. Cheaters gotta cheat, so they just got craftier with their deceit, making my job of seeking out the truth drag on for another year. And with every lie, I grew a little crazier.)
I recognize the desperate look on her face too well. “You’re not crazy, but all of the lying is making you crazy,” I assure my friend. She is smart and successful and has a heart of gold… and to other people, she may sound a tad bit loony when she lists off the suspicions she has of her husband. I don’t judge her for a second. I’ve been in her shoes. I know how the mind can turn dark and go to very strange places when you are trying to sort through all of the lies and discover what ugly truths they could possibly be covering up.
I wonder, how many lies does it take to drive a woman this crazy?
I think of the commercial from my childhood, the one with wise old Mr. Owl sitting in the tree minding his wise old self until little Johnny disturbs the peace with his silly question, “Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the middle of a Tootsie Pop?”
Mr. Owl quickly and confidently takes the Tootsie Pop from little Johnny, removes the wrapper and counts, “One. Two. Three.” Crunch. “Three.”
And the narrator confirms what we already know, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.”
Like that Tootsie Pop, is it one lie? Is it two lies? Certainly, it can’t just be three lies to drive us to the point where we find ourselves hiring private detectives or confronting meddling floozies in their kitchens. The world may never know how much a woman can tolerate, how many lies she ingests before they make her go off her rocker completely.
I want my friend to just walk away. I ask her if she can, but she can’t. She needs to know the truth. It’s too late for her, he has driven her to Crazy Town and dropped her in the middle of it. She has too much invested in this relationship now, be it time, love, money, or pride… she has to know. This has gone on so long that she can only walk away if she has the iron-clad proof that the man who promised to love and to cherish her all those years ago has indeed broken those vows. I acknowledge her reasoning because I have been there myself and I empathize with her pain and torment. I pray for her to find the answers or at least find peace so she can move past this chapter of her life. I even pray for the lying husband, because in the end, karma is as unforgiving as the lies he tells.