I had a distinct awareness, very early on, that it would be incredibly easy and completely justified to dive into throwing blame, shame and insults at my husband for potentially the rest of our lives. I would be forever in the “right” as, after doing the worst of the worst, he had no leg to stand on, ever. Plus the levels his resentment and deceit took him to were pretty fucking bad. I was genuinely flabbergasted at the arrogance of his actions, utterly speechless at the stupidity and cowardice and beyond disappointed at the pointlessness of it all. However, as I said in my very first blog, 325 Days, he is a good man. A good man who made a monumentally huge mistake. Yes, he cheated and yes, he lied, but he is not a demon, a liar or a cheat. Those things are not who he is. He is human and humans make mistakes.
As I also said in To Leave Or Not To Leave?, before this happened to me, I had very stereotypical back and white views on adultery and those who committed it. I would’ve been the first one to throw names like selfish arsehole, lying bastard and total fuckwit about, while telling whoever was affected to leave and never look back. Rinse them for all they could as they deserved it. Show no mercy. That was until I actually experienced it firsthand. I acknowledged my awareness of how easy the blame and shame route would be and with it, recognised I didn’t want to be eaten up by bitterness and anger for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to carry this burden with me and have it affect how I felt forever. So I chose not to take that path. There definitely were some episodes of blame, I’m absolutely not going to paint myself to look like a Saint, however, on the whole, it's one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I surrendered very early on in the process to letting things go. Not for anyone else but me. For my sense of internal peace. I had committed to stay and I knew throwing it back at him every five minutes would not help anyone. Plus, I didn’t want this to destroy me or turn me into a bitter and angry person, I had done enough of that, so I chose to get down off my steed of righteousness and glory and try to humanise my husband’s actions instead of demonise them. And if you’re wondering what that actually means, I’ll try and explain. I had to accept he had his reasons for what he did. I may not agree with them or what he chose to do but if I was going to get through this, I knew I had to find a way to forgive. I didn’t have to be ok with any of it and I certainly didn’t have to stay, if that’s the conclusion I came to, but I could do either of these things, if I wanted, from a position of calmness and acceptance, not from hate and anger. I wanted to at least try to see things from his point of view. I had to understand his truth. What I didn’t understand at the time was, doing that would have to involve facing the pain his truth meant for me.
Ok, so let’s start with the demon side. I said in So, What About The Other Woman? that the vast majority of my upset lay with my husband. I absolutely did not blame the affair partner more than him. It may have looked that way as I chose to stay. Take him back, point the finger solely at her, paint her with the tarred brush of condemnation, however that was not the case at all. The more I realised about her life, I found her involvement particularly sad and pathetic. As I explained I actually had quite a lot of compassion for her until it became clear she had none for me. Even as I write that I think, are you fucking stupid? She was having an affair with your husband is that not evidence enough she didn’t give a shit about you? Duh! However, she tried to palm off that she did, but when she took part in the “final evening” and the nasty antics began, her actual moral compass and genuine position became pretty apparent. However, I wasn’t “taking him back” we hadn’t split up! He had had a wife the entire time, so I was simply continuing with my marriage, not taking anyone back. I can see now that she was irrelevant anyway. If it wasn’t her it could well have been someone else willing. She made it easy for him and was just stupid enough to get involved. My main source of disgust at her was because of her behaviour after the affair was out in the open. Her righteous, self-centred and victim attitude, the dirty revenge tricks and refusal to accept any level of accountability. I simply couldn't believe that my husband had been taken in and allowed this person into our life. This is one of the main reasons why my anger and disgust lay firmly with my husband. He was the one who was married and had a family. I was furious with him, let down, disgusted, disappointed, shocked and devastated at how he could treat me that way. It was so disrespectful on so many levels to such a vast extent it was ridiculous. He behaved as though I didn’t even exist. Like he was genuinely single. Neck deep in resentment and affair fog, he had convinced himself it was over, so was acting as such. Eventually even taking his ring off. Although he hadn’t actually told me that. I just didn’t get it and if I was to find my way through this, I needed to.
How on Earth could I humanise that? You may well ask.
Well, it wasn't easy. In life we're often taught the importance of "being right" and how to use that to enlarge ourselves at the detriment of whoever is "wrong". The easier route would be to do what everyone might expect I was going to do hate, blame and exult my righteousness. Despite how much pleasure it may have given me to even up the amount of pain being dished out, I had to not do that. I couldn't control what had happened. I couldn't control these horrendous, selfish actions taken by those two but I could certainly control how I reacted and responded. I realised that this horrific event in my life could break me or it could shape me and how I moved forwards from this point was entirely up to me. I could take the dirty, bitter route like the affair partner had done. Blame everyone else, exert a heartless, scathing attitude towards my husband in the name of revenge and justice, just like her......
....or I could choose differently. I wanted to heal this profoundly cavernous wound that had been forced on me. As I said, I didn't want it to eat me alive for the rest of my life and whether this happened was completely under my control. The wound may have been inflicted by others, but healing it was now down to me and how I moved forwards was entirely my choice. Continuing with rage and bitterness would slowly destroy my soul until the anger and resentment became who I was and would never let me forget. That really didn't feel like healing. Even though in the beginning I genuinely had no idea if it was possible, I knew true healing came from compassion and understanding. As I said earlier, I realised that even if I chose this route, I still didn't have to stay in the relationship. I could leave and move on with calmness and acceptance, not hate and bitterness. However, the only way to achieve that would be to look at my husband, with any compassion I could muster, as a flawed human, accept his actions from his place of truth rather than berate him forever for what I think he should've done or wished he'd done instead.
God! I know that sounds so trite! But it was true, and just so you know, I didn't float through it like a wise, gracious goddess. I dragged myself through it like I was wading through treacle with no sense of direction whatsoever, hysterically screaming with thick snot streaming out of my nose, kicking off about how I didn't want to be here, how incredibly hard and even more incredibly fucking painful it was. However, this is what I learnt. I'm afraid a little bit more triteness, but....
.....the truth shall set you free.
This was my mantra during those first few months of utter agonising despair when the meltdowns were long, debilitating and frequent. Each time I got lost in their grasp wondering if I was ever going to recover or feel normal again, solace came when I faced the truth of what I was upset about. For example, whenever I tormented over how he could do this, why didn't he care about me, why didn't he just stop, the demonising him would answer because he's a total wanker, lying arsehole, cheating bastard. Now, I guess you can argue there is an element of truth in that, but that’s from my standpoint of hurt, demonising him from my own opinions and perspective, not from his position as a fallible human. And before you say it, this is NOT making excuses for what he did. It’s being truthful about the bigger picture here. It’s not just about me, my feelings and my viewpoint. It’s about him too. I don’t and won’t ever agree with, or excuse what he did, but to find my way through this, accepting his truth and trying to understand it was necessary.
He was unhappy. He was struggling being away from his family and was angry at me for not coming with him. He was questioning staying in the marriage and had been for sometime. He allowed the resentment to take over him and didn’t voice his feelings. He admittedly didn’t think he wanted to be with me anymore. An affair was easy to start and carry out as I wasn’t there and had no clue what was going on. He got caught up in the attention and flattery he was receiving and how it made him feel. Smothered in affair fog, he enjoyed the heightened excitement, carefree life and fantasy escapism and didn’t want to stop. He thought that when I found out about the affair I would take responsibility for ending the relationship and he would be able to just walk away. He was able to justify his selfishness to such a degree, he genuinely didn’t care about me. That was where he was, where he was operating from. Yes, it’s shitty, but that was his truth. His human truth.
And it hurt. Like a spear in the middle of my chest, twisting and turning, tugging and wrenching. It fucking hurt.
And it still hurts every single day to know that this is how he felt about me and that he was able to engage in and initiate behaviours that utterly annihilated me. Regardless of how he felt, I absolutely did not deserve such disrespect from him. In case you hadn't noticed, it is the worst agony I have ever felt in my life so far, but in order to heal the chasm of a wound this pain cascades out of, having compassion for him was, for me, the only way to move forwards. I knew there had to be more to this than him just being a cheating bastard. I had to muster every last bit of strength and integrity I had and it really tested who I thought I was and what I felt for my husband, but I had to understand. I wanted to understand. So, I read books, searched online, watched videos, read articles, joined Facebook groups and really put a lot of effort into seeing things from his point of view and not righting him off simply as a lying arsehole. All of this helped a great deal. I learnt a lot about what leads up to an affair, how they start and carry on, their characteristics, the effects of affair fog, the justifications and mindset required. However helpful this was, the majority of the information focused on the “betrayed”. How we felt, how we needed to heal and what the unfaithful needed to do in order to facilitate that. I wanted to know what it was like from the other point of view. What did the unfaithful feel like? What was going through their emotional system? Was there genuine shame and remorse or was it just self-pity for getting caught? Eventually I found a blog written by a man who had cheated on his wife. https://affairadvice.wordpress.com/about/ It was brilliant and such a breath of fresh air amongst all the heavy betrayed content out there. His openness and honesty about what he had done and why, plus his explanation about his thought processes and feelings afterwards were incredibly insightful. My husband tended to shut down through dealing with his own shame and embarrassment and it was very difficult to determine what was going on for him. This blog really helped me see what he was facing too. It enabled me to have a level of genuine compassion and understanding for him. I didn’t always like what I read or found out, but I could understand it and therefore I could understand him a bit better. It was clear he had made a monumental mistake and was really paying for it. I needed to know that. I needed to know this woman meant nothing, that it was all make believe. I needed to know he was embarrassed and ashamed of what he had got involved in. There maybe some of you who think this is his job to do, to make sure I know these things, and yes I agree to some degree. However, my healing is mainly my responsibility. He was struggling so much to come to terms with the carnage of what he had created, he didn’t know his arse from his elbow. I took charge of getting as much respite as I could. I was able to not only give myself some intermittent relief, I was also able to meet my husband where he was, which also helped him. It’s an incredibly lonely place to be if you’re the unfaithful spouse and remember, he’s a human, not a demon.
I must stress at this point that this way forwards was right for me and my situation. Trying to understand things from his "human" point of view was absolutely right for me, but as I have said before, affair circumstances are all very different and there are some demons out there. I have a friend who I met while writing this blog who's husband has also been unfaithful, multiple times. We are bonded forever through our shared experiences, but sadly our outcomes are totally different. She has recently decided to leave her marriage as her husband is also very controlling and manipulative. She has had to come to terms with the truth but it has helped her realise that leaving is absolutely the best decision for her, her well-being and self worth. The truth has absolutely set her free. We understand each other's pain a great deal and are there for each other in a way that others who haven't experienced this can't. The way I feel about having compassion and understanding for my husband, is not possible for her anymore and may not be the same as how you feel about yours, and that’s ok. There is no right or wrong way to be. You have to do what’s right for you, your unique set of circumstances and your healing process. Just because I was able to do this does not mean you are wrong if you can’t. Please remember though, this act of humanising is just as much about you, if not more so, as it is them. I did it out of necessity for myself and my own well-being because I didn't want to carry the bitterness and anger with me and have it gradually eat away at my soul. Also remember, dropping the bitterness and anger doesn't mean that you have to stay in the relationship. The decision to leave or stay can be separate to this but definitely hinges on gaining an accurate, rounded picture of the full situation. I was able to understand it, get it, forgive it, but it took much longer to decide what I wanted to do about it. Humanising instead of demonising was, for me, one small part of a much bigger and longer process, but one that definitely helped to find my way through. As much as it hurts, the truth shall set you free.