"Nope," she cut me off, "he pretty much is."
And honestly? I'd thought so, too. I fell in love with Sam with the kind of total trust and joy a child feels when she jumps off a table into a grown-up's arms. I knew with utter certainty that he would catch me.
After we got engaged, he asked me to promise that if I were ever tempted to cheat on him, I'd come to him first and tell him, so we could address whatever part of our relationship had gone awry and was making me crave attention elsewhere. I laughed, because it seemed like such a ridiculously hopeful request. And then I gave him my word. Did I ask him to promise me the same thing? Of course not. It never even occurred to me. Sam's cheating on me was inconceivable.
What is the difference between trusting someone and taking them for granted? I think I fell into that gap. I felt so safe with Sam that it was almost an insult. If you'd stopped me on the street any time during the past five years and asked what was the single thing I loved most about my marriage, I'd have said, "That's easy: trust."
I had grown less in love with Sam than with the security I felt from him.
While it was happening, of course, I wasn't aware of any of this. I knew we were a little off, but I told myself it was just a passing phase, a rough patch on the long road of married life.
Besides, Sam and I went to great lengths to take care of our relationship. Even during the years when he was cheating, we went out on date nights every week (except when he was traveling for work—or for "work"). Every Thursday, as I stood before the mirror putting on eyeliner and brushing my hair, the children would mewl and cling to me like kittens. "Why do you have to go out with Daddy again?"
I would stop what I was doing and gather them around me and explain that our family was a wonderful, precious thing, and that my relationship with their father was at the heart of it. We had to keep our relationship strong for the whole family to be strong.
And sometimes, a few hours later, when Sam and I finished dinner (we never went to movies or shows; we always preferred to talk) and the bill came and we balked at the cost, one of us would offer up what had become a standing joke between us: "Well, at least it's cheaper than couples therapy." Ha ha. (Ask me, when all this is over, how much we've spent on therapy, individual and group and couples. It will be in the tens of thousands.)
And sometimes we'd have a fight, and after it was over we'd congratulate ourselves on the way we fought things through, really aired them and resolved them, didn't let them fester. We agreed that one of the strengths of our marriage was that we fought so well.
The idea that Sam had sat there, echoing all these preening verdicts about our marriage while he was screwing Daphne on the side, walloped me one day, many months after his confession. This kind of thing happened a lot: Some out-of-the-blue realization—some piece of the puzzle I'd somehow missed—would, out of nowhere, just stun me. Each time this happened, I went spiraling down into a three- or four-day depression. After a while, it occurred to me that maybe my mind was parceling out the pain, because I never could have handled it all at once.
"A habitual mild bitterness, a casual scorn, became my default attitude toward Sam"