Telling lies, being lied to

Lying was a new thing for me, a dubious skill I had not previously possessed, a worrying skill that I had not wanted and did not know I would ever need to perfect. Who knew that it was such an art?

X, it turned out, was a master of the form. I should tweak the wording of this particular lie, he would explain patiently, because otherwise it might result in this outcome, or that one, because people tend to react like this, or like that… He was always right.

I thought he was so clever and insightful and psychologically observant, and I was grateful for his insight. I was impressed. I was appalled. I was so out of my depth.

I was also so grateful to be automatically exempt, due to his love, from the skilful lies that he told so regularly and so easily. I felt special and privileged to be on his side of the glass. I believed him when he told me that this was true, that he would never insult my intelligence with the sort of lies his wife deserved, that I was different, that I was special.

It amuses me now, the starkly apparent fact of my naïveté then, but I realise with hindsight that it must have been an unexpected gift to him. In the beginning, certainly, I questioned so embarrassingly little that he told me, because I had no lived experience at all of liars or of lying.

My husband had never lied to me, and before I embarked on this particular, awful path, I had never lied to him either. So it simply did not occur to me that anything X ever told me would not be true, because why would he lie to me? For my part I had no reason to lie to him, so I just…didn’t.

Foolishly, I believed that this was a two way street – that whatever net of falsehoods we each had to construct out of the temporary necessity to sustain our outside lives, the words that we spoke to each other within our fragile new bubble were true and honest.

This firm and unquestioning belief sustained me through the darker parts of the anxious facsimile of a life that I was now living. I just reminded myself, again and again, that we each knew the other’s truth and that in time, that would be all we needed. X had said so.

“In time.” That little phrase began to trouble me more and more as the summer began and our liaison ran past its half-year marker. If we knew, as X said we knew, that we were meant for each other and all that had to happen was the painful ripping-off of the marital plasters that held together our respective former lives, then surely we should do that ripping sooner rather than later?

Surely, if he felt as he told me he did, and as I now did, so restless and wrong at home, so out of place and unworthy of the honest trust our families continued to place in us – surely, then, we owed everyone the upfront truth as soon as we could deliver it?

But no. X definitely knew best on this one. We needed time, he calmly explained. We had to get things exactly right. After all, he had big races to run that year, and no one needed to wreak personal havoc when there were marathon PBs to achieve and loyal wives still helpfully on the scene to hold drinks bottles and prepare post-race snacks. I mustn’t be selfish. I had to think of everyone, not just my own family.

It might, X told me, take as long as two years to be in a position where we could make a move to a new life on my terms. I had to trust him. Didn’t I trust him? Hadn’t I seen how right he always was, how he always looked out for my best interests? Was I not confident in his love for me? He had all the answers. I stopped asking. I learned to lie better.

A few weeks before my 37th birthday, X made me a picnic in a hotel room I had paid for. Herrings, herby salads, crackers, rye bread, dark shiny cherries. He was quiet and shy and unusually attentive and I felt equally shy, nervous, excited. He told me that he had something important to talk to me about.

I thought: this must be it, now. He has a plan. We are going to end all the lies and the secrecy and that chaotic feeling of falling that I live with every day and we’re going to come out into the open. It will be horrible, truly horrible, but it’s the right thing to do.

No marriage can sustain what you’ve done to yours, and the correct course of action is to slice it off cleanly here and hope everyone’s wounds heal fast. That’s what he’s going to talk to you about. You’re going to do the right thing. I felt so relieved.

I laid back on the bed, then, with my cherries and I closed my eyes because he said he was so shy about this that he couldn’t look at me while he told me what he had to say. I waited.

He began to speak and he explained, quite calmly, that he had forgotten to tell me something and that it was about time I knew because otherwise someone else might mention it to me.

The thing was, he said, that when he told me we’d defined a coup de foudre and he had never done anything like this before and we were soulmates who simply couldn’t help the fact that we were already married and that this was as much of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him as it was for me, he hadn’t been entirely upfront. Hadn’t given me quite all of the facts. Something needed to be revised, added, amended. And now was the time to do that.

So. Yes, he said, the thing was. I was not the first. He had had a whole other affair before he met me.

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