I have been having sad thoughts (and dreams) the last many days (weeks actually). In the wake of our recent therapy, and advice to start to do things together, I have been struggling with the unfairness of my husbands cheating and I cannot seem to put it to bed. I think about how cold and cruel he was, and how he lavished time, and attention on the others, when he should have been talking to me and devoting the considerable hunting and hiding time on our marriage.
I woke up to a great article in my email from Esther Perel. If you have not seen her TED TALK on infidelity, it is worth the google, it got me through the very rough first weeks after D-day. In this article it speaks about Hilary and Bill Clinton, and her decision to move past her husbands most public spectacle dishonouring their marriage.
I have been grappling with this “dishonour” to our vows, common decency, truth and trust and I cannot seem to get out from under the negative thoughts and feelings.
“In the past, it was divorce that carried the stigma. Today choosing to stay after an affair when you can leave is the new shame. Is it old news that marriage requires work? Recovering from the crisis of an affair (which many couples do) is a sign of resilience, steadfastness, strength, respect and humility”. Esther Perel
I have felt the shame of staying, I have felt that he is “getting away” with it, I have been gazed upon with looks of pity from friends who know and I have heard the standards “I would kick him to the curb”, “clearly you are leaving him right?”, “you need to move on and start over, you don’t want to waste more time on this”. I have found some truth in all these statements, but they do not help, and I don’t feel they are right.
Why is it so easy to think of the negative aspects in every detail, where I was when he was with this one or that one, how I felt when he was hurting me, all the connect the dots moments of his lies, but harder to remember our early years, our wedding, family Christmases, passionate love-making, road trips to the cottage and good times? I know there were more of those than the bad times, but the bad times are like pit bulls hanging on to my brain. He is making the efforts I need to repair, letting me know where he is, investing his time in doing all the little things that have been lost along the way, to renew my trust and restore our connection. Why is my brain hard-wired for disaster, and how long will it be that way?? I have been told many times and in therapy that I have a very forgiving nature but right now it is elusive.
One poster on the Perel article said something wonderful
I stayed with my wife after her affair, something I thought I would never do when it happened. It was difficult at first, but with counselling we have both moved past it now. We learned of other friends’ affairs in the years since and all of them ended in divorce except one. One thing I’ve observed along the way is that divorce doesn’t lead to the revenge or happiness that many people seek, in fact, many divorced couples were still fighting with each other long after we had reconciled our marriage. I learned to view my wifes’ affair and the impact it had on my mental health as a disease that we each had, but have since recovered” – Butch Rittelmann
I know I cannot view my husband as just a cheater, or just a sex-addict, or someone who was able to trample my heart and soul when he was in his sick place but right now, that is a large part of how I view him even when he is being open, communicative, loving and involved. This is my stumbling place.
He has been my friend, my lover, we have buried his parents, taken care of each other in sickness, made some of our dreams into realities. In short we have been a couple with our ups and downs, and the ups have been great. I have often said, before the cheating, that I was in with both feet to whatever life threw at us. When we got married, I knew we would have times when we did not like each other very much, it was all part of the marriage package. Cheating, lies and emotional abuse were never part of that equation in my head. I wish it had been on my radar back then, perhaps I would have looked for the clues or at least not been so blind-sided when it hit me. For now I am seeking to rebuild if possible…