Do we get a happily ever after, after infidelity?
The other night one of those sappy pregnancy test commercials came on, and I cried. No… Wept. Mournfully. As I watched those husbands swing their wives around their living rooms in excitement, it made me want to kick mine out of bed.
I felt cheated out of that experience. I felt like he had stolen those precious, irretrievable moments from my boys and me. All for some cheap thrill. All because he chose to cheat. Broken vows, broken promises, broken trust – Laying next to him in bed, he felt more monster than man.
So is this life now? Every love story, every song, every trite love poem: A painful trigger. A bitter reminder of betrayal. Part of my grief… Part of this story?
It’s easy to look at infidelity in a box. It is easy to say what you would do and how you would handle it, until you’re actually living it. Infidelity is a complete abandonment of everything you know about life, love, and the people you chose to share it with. The truth is no one ever plans for this kind of plot twist. And it is extremely difficult for me to process this new reality sometimes. It’s almost like I fell asleep in the middle of one chapter and woke up in an entirely different book: I feel out of body. Out of place. I really don’t know what the hell to do.
I grieve how it used to be. I took it for granted. We both did. And now that part of us is over. We can’t get it back. Things will never be the same. What I thought we had is gone. And Whom he was – the person I knew before the affair – is gone. It’s hard to let him go.
I never thought in a million years he was capable of this. I trusted him completely. Not only did I trust him to be faithful, I trusted he felt just as strongly for me as I did for him. I trusted he cherished and respected the vows and promises we made to each other as much as I did. I didn’t expect him to falter. Honestly, I was completely out of touch with who he was and what he was feeling, and I completely missed the part where he shattered. It didn’t even register in my head. The more he pulled away: The more I persisted, the more I needed him. And as he began to spin out of control, I became obsessed with controlling our relationship. I desperately needed him to love me. I desperately needed him to care. I let him grow a hundred feet tall in my head, and now that my perception of him as my husband is damaged, I am terrified whomever he becomes hereafter can only live in that giant’s shadow. And I know he fears this too. “Deep down, you’re never going to forgive me. You’re never going to look at me the same,” he says.
I pray he is wrong. Every single day. And every single night, as I lie next him, I pray I can forgive him. Wholly. Genuinely. I want nothing more than to forgive. I pray I can change my heart. I pray I will stop second guessing everything he says. I pray I can surrender and trust him again.
Because he is still everything I want. He is still the only person I want to be with. He is the only person I have ever loved and the only person I want to love for the rest of my life, but I realize now that love wasn’t enough. I wish it were… But love alone will not make it work.
Love will not sew us back together again.
Love will not reconcile our hearts.
Love is not self-sustaining.
Love is not the author of happy endings.
Let me say it again.
Love is not enough.
I wouldn’t say I believe infidelity is symptom of a loveless relationship though. It was never a matter of me not loving him enough: I never fell short in that regard. And I believe him when he says he never stopped loving me. But, lately, I have been feeling a lot of guilt for still being in pain from the affair. And it’s confusing. It used to be very comfortable refuge, but I can feel him growing impatient now. I feel myself growing impatient. And I ask myself, how do I blaze on after his betrayal? Does the sting of adultery ever completely go away? Will I ever fully trust that he will never do something like this again? Or do I sleep with one eye open for the rest of my life?
He asks why I hold on. Why I cling to the same fight and same fears over and over. He swears if I could just drop it, we would never fight again. We would be happy.
That pressure is almost crippling. It seems like our happiness is solely placed in my hands now. I feel like all my sadness and grieving has to be on a timeline, so we can just finally be “happy”. I wonder if I should feign indifference to my grief. Act like it isn’t there. Would that be easier?
I think of happiness as something more fleeting than he does. A passing emotion. Not a state of being. I mean, can anyone be happy 100% of the time? I don’t know. But if that’s the case, I feel like I will never measure up. I feel like I will always be the problem – the anchor holding us back from achieving our happily ever after.
It’s hard to look at someone who you love more than anything and try to understand how they could destroy you. It is hard to find the value in marriage again, the purpose. Once all is lost, it’s hard to get it back again. We have to want it. More than anything. We have to be patient. Content. And I have to count the blessings he is giving me in the present.
Right now, peace is a sweeter pursuit.
Serenity : Learning to accept the things we cannot change. Maybe we can’t go back to how things were. Reconciliation is challenging and sometimes downright unhappy. But how can we truly savor our highs, if not for the lows. Peace doesn’t insinuate a life without noise and tribulation. It is the calm amidst the storm – stillness of heart. So I’ll leave the happily ever afters to the fairytales and make-believers, and I will go find my peacefully ever after instead.
I think that’s what we really need.