Infidelity in a marriage isn’t easy on anyone. It hurts, it triggers fears, it ruins the status quo, it just totally and completely sucks. Once it enters your world you will never be the same.
I wonder then why some people are able to move beyond a betrayal to rebuild a stronger relationship or to at least improve their own character – and others never do. Some women just get stuck.
I read some blogs recently that were posted on a ‘divorced moms’ site. I think what struck me most is the self-righteousness of the author and the anger that lurked behind every word. One blog in particular was fueled by a belief that simply by kicking her husband to the curb that she had somehow become a stronger, better person. I’m not saying that it doesn’t take a degree of strength to kick your spouse out of your life – but in the case of this particular woman that act alone didn’t seem to change her. Years after the divorce she was still experiencing the same degree of hate and anger – but now she was doing it alone. The hatred that seeped into her words were heartbreaking. Hatred for her husband, for men in general, for women who sleep with married men…it was pretty upsetting. This woman has children with her ex – I can’t help but wonder how much of that hate is felt by those kids – and what happens when one day those children are old enough to read their mom’s blog. Ugh.
I do understand when women decide to divorce their husband because of infidelity. As much as I’m a believer in staying, I do think there absolutely are cases when leaving is the best thing to do. But it doesn’t negate the need for those women to try to move beyond the anger, to deal with the pain, to forgive rather than hate, to own up to their own patterns and to open their hearts. These things that need to be done whether you stay or you go. There is no sense in dwelling in the pain. It’s needless suffering. Holding onto that hatred and all the feelings that go with it can never benefit anyone and won’t prepare you for the possibility of a healthy future relationship.
If you are struggling with the idea of forgiving an ex or a current partner who betrayed you – maybe you can start by praying for that person. Perhaps that can be the first step down a lighter more positive path. A path that is lit by empathy, caring and love.
Yesterday, I shared a full disclosure with my husband about the ways that I had acted out in response to his cheating. I wrote about the fear I had going into the disclosure in my post “the more you look the more you see”
It was exactly as hard as I knew it would be. I was crying before we even entered my therapists office…and sobbing uncontrollably by the time we settled in and were ready for my confession. Somehow I managed to read aloud the list of the sins I had committed. I didn’t expect my husband to be so surprised by what I had done. It makes me wonder if a man’s sixth sense differs from the female’s sense. I always knew in the back of my mind that he had acted out with this one or that one – but he seemed utterly shocked by the things I told him. I had told him bits and pieces over the years about how I had reached out to my ex-boyfriend for comfort when I felt scared, hurt and alone. He knew that I emailed and texted with my ex, he even knew we talked about reuniting if we had ever decided to divorce. He knew all of that for all these years but apparently he never considered that maybe I had seen him. Perhaps he was just in denial all that time, or maybe he was so caught up in his own acting out and addiction that what I did just wasn’t on his radar. Or maybe (and this hurts) he thought I was better than that.
It’s amazing to me that I was lost for so long – and was willing to do things that so severely went against my nature. I said to my husband yesterday that in those fearful and lonely moments I wanted to return to someone who knew me before I was changed by my husbands betrayal. I think that hit the nail on the head. The discovery of my husbands betrayal changed me into someone I didn’t even recognize. I started to dress differently, act differently, walked on eggshells, stopped being sexual. I buried myself under a pile of shame. When I saw my ex it was like a turning back of time to a person I used to be before I married an addict, before my world crumbled down in front of me. But all of that was a fantasy. We are who we are because of our life experiences. I could spend the rest of my life with the ex and not really ever be that carefree girl that I was before I was betrayed. My husbands behavior changed me in dozens of ways – as I’m sure my disclosure with change him. But here we are – for better or for worse – supporting one another in our own personal recovery. We are moving beyond…
I have heard in the S-Anon meetings that I attend, that working the steps is an amazingly powerful thing to do. It didn’t make sense to me. I thought “I’m not the addict…why do I need to do the 12 steps?”. It always felt like something that should be required of the addicted person rather than the partner or family member of the addict.
Cut to one night last month, when my husband and I squeezed in a dinner between getting off of work and his 12 step workshop. When it came time to say good-bye for the evening, our co-dependency kicked in and he asked me to go with him to his meeting. He had been telling me recently about the leader of the workshop, Herb K, and what an impressive speaker he is so I decided to go along with him to see what it was all about. All I can say is that it was completely fascinating, enthralling and made me WANT to learn about and possibly work on my own steps. The effort one puts into learning about one’s self and developing one’s spiritual self needn’t be limited to addicts – or even to those family members affected by addiction. This 12 step program is a process that can help all.
In one of the weekly sessions, Herb K said “you can’t make a tulip grow by pulling on it”. What a funny visual about an obvious truth. All of us standing by the side of an addict hope they will grow and change and be exactly what we want them to be (SOBER!) and we want them to do it on our timetable (NOW!). But the truth is that change comes when it comes. Some say it’s on God’s time. Some say that it’s about hitting bottom. But while you, the partner, are waiting for change to truly take place, the only thing you can do is care for yourself. This is so hard for us partners to do. It feels so much more natural to take care of the sick one, or to obsess on his actions, to try to control his movements and thoughts. But none of this helps anyone – and it hurts yourself. When the stress and fear and anxiety of the addiction start to overtake you, this is when you need to reach out to someone in your support group, or write in your journal, or start a blog, or go for a run, or meditate. This is the time for SELF CARE. I will end by stealing another analogy of Herb’s: When the oxygen mask drops, put yours on first before helping those around you.