It seems like a lifetime ago that I found out about my husband’s affair. Actually it was 5 years ago this week. 5 years that started in intense pain and are now full of much joy. And although there were many times in the early days when it all felt too hard and I wanted to give up, I do not regret a minute of the time that I spent rebuilding my marriage.
But how do you make a decision to stay in a marriage? Every bone in your body is saying run, run, run as fast as you can, but the inertia of heart break and devastation makes running impossible and in a way, buys the time needed to really evaluate the situation – what is important and how to take the next step. I wanted to be as far away from him as possible. But there was a warning system going off in my brain saying don’t do anything you will regret – even in my devastation I understood that I was making a life changing decision and needed to do this carefully and clearly – there was too much at risk.
Whilst there is never a good time to find out that your husband has had an affair, looking back, the time that he chose to tell me was probably as good as any. Ironically as a couple and as a family (our children were at that time 8, 6 and 3) we were as happy as we had ever been. As my world spun out of control I knew in my heart that what I had was real but didn’t know how I would get it back again. Somehow I separated the man from the deed and understood that he was still a good man who had made some really bad choices.
I made my exit plan but committed 2 years to rebuilding. I had come from a chaotic and broken family and had made a real and conscious promise to each of my babies that I would do all I could to ensure that their reality was very different. But I also knew a marriage held together by kids was not going to give them what they needed either. What I rebuilt with my husband needed to be the real thing and that would take time. I needed to see real effort to put all the wrongs right on his part. I needed to give him time to show me he could do it. Given the level of lies and deception that had surrounded the affair, the leap of faith that was required at times was like jumping over the Grand Canyon. There were many times when he lied, yet again, that I felt like we had hit the end of the road but I stuck to my timeframe because change is hard – we are only human and sometimes with the best intentions we fall short of the ideal we hold for ourselves as well as others expectations of us.
A marriage is so much more than sex. We had been friends since we were teenagers and even when things got really bad we could laugh together – humor, the WD40 of healing! There was always a lot of love: we had goals and hopes and dreams together; had supported each other through rough times; we had made major life decisions together; built a beautiful home together; accumulated debt together and most importantly created 3 beautiful and amazing children together who loved us both and relied on us for their safety and security. The affair did not change any of this (not even the sex which, contrary to affair mythology, continued throughout the affair). What the affair did change was how we saw each other, our relationship and the life we were living. It provided an opportunity to rebuild the relationship in the way that we wanted it to be, not just how we expected it to be. That required us both to change.
With help we made it. We are now an amazing team with real and mutual love, honesty, support, respect, commitment. We see each other for who we are, not for how we would like the other to be. We have tested the limits of unconditional love and really understand now what that means. Do I wish we could have achieved all of this without the affair? Absolutely but I have no regrets.
picture credit http://pinterest.com/pin/575757133581670743/