The ultimate test grappled with when faced with an unfaithful spouse. Can you forgive? So many peripheral aspects intertwined in this one word which make this subject very multifaceted and totes interesting. It's confusing, it's upsetting, it's freeing, it's empowering, it can be highly charged and extremely difficult or seen as a gift and relatively easy. It can be all of these things at once or change minute by minute like an indecisive teenager trying to pick out what to wear.
In the beginning I realised, for my own sake I needed to forgive. I could not bear the thought of being a bitter, angry mess for the rest of my life. The thought of holding that kind of a grudge filled me with dread, I didn't want it at all, but I also had no idea if forgiveness was possible after such a monumental betrayal. I decided very early on to let it go, or try to at least. Not for anyone else really but myself, and then my kids. Whatever I chose to do, I wanted to do it with dignity, not hate, so whether I stayed or left, what was done, was done and I wanted to let it go. I didn't want my kids growing up with a cynical, ranting, man hating mum. I wanted to show them you can be strong and empowered without having to take the other person down, prove yourself right or get your own back. I wanted to show them compassion but strength and how to assertively stand your ground without making a scene about it. Sounds so bloody trite doesn't it? So after such a declaration, did I manage it? Well.........yes and no!
I did forgive and I have forgiven, but it has been a gut wrenching process. I was able to let go for my own sake, as I said, very early on. I felt very clear about that. I absolutely was not going to let the actions of others destroy my insides and determine how the rest of my life was defined. However, I have found the word "forgive" difficult to reconcile and I think we need to come up with a new one! I know that forgiving doesn't mean condoning. I know by saying you forgive someone you're not saying you are ok with what they did. I know that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, blahdy blah blah blah. I get it, I've read the books and seen the social media memes, but in reality, it's not as easy as that and I have found it a very, very fine line. Very fine. In fact so fine, take your eye off it and it disappears from view completely. Why so fine? Well, for me I think it's because of all the other extreme emotions that are involved in this process. I can let it go for my sake. I can recognise how unhealthy it will be for me to hate and hold a grudge. I can understand there's nothing I can do about it now. I can, not waste my energy on the actions of others, but as for forgiving? Just because I've chosen to let it go, does it mean I have forgiven? Hmmmmmmm......
First of all there's the rage. OMG!! And there is definitely RAAAAAAGGGGGGE! It is so difficult to forgive when exploding with fury about what I'm supposed to be forgiving. Where frenzy fulled lava is excreting from me like my seams are bursting from the pressure. Where every cell in my body is screaming at me "HOW FUCKING DARE THEY?" and I feel like I'm going to explode at the mere mention of their name. Where murder is a genuinely considered option, if only I could figure out how to get away with it (and I'm not joking with that one). It is a very, very engulfing and overpoweringly frightening sensation feeling that ferocious, and just as a side note, I'm deliberately not using the word "angry" as it simply doesn't even touch the sides. This feeling is not anger, it's blood boiling, vein popping, all consuming, hulk inducing rage. Where I literally felt like I could rip someone's head off with my bare hands without even blinking, if they got too close. Where forgiveness was definitely NOT the "f" word at the forefront of my mind, and with that level of rage comes the desire for retribution. For someone to pay. For them to pay. For something to happen so horrific that they feel the pain that I have. It's deserved. Justice must be served. Surely there has to be some form of punishment for this level of behaviour? In the consuming depths of hurt and rage my mind was very good at convincing me this would make me feel better. This is what I needed. To see them/him/her suffer would be my justice and witnessing some form of justice would make me feel better. It was a very powerful and credible feeling, driven by my darker instincts. Villains and demons deserve to be punished, not forgiven, don't they? A really, really tough fight. An internal battle like never before. At times it literally felt like I was being torn apart inside. At its worst, it made me roar with infuriation and contention. At best I was able to present a very plausible case for the death penalty. Forgiveness? Pah! What fucking forgiveness? These fuckers deserve to burn.
But then there's the stupidity. The idiot complex. Another painful and tedious internal battle between showing compassion and feeling like a doormat. The invisible smog of judgement with "stupid is as stupid does" written on it, that followed me around like one of those rain clouds you see in cartoons that floats over just one character and rains on them wherever they go. Doesn't matter how much intelligence you have, if you do something stupid, then you're still stupid. I have really struggled with this one. Does forgiving someone for such betrayal make me stupid? After all, this is not just "someone" is it? This is my husband. The one person who is supposed to have my back no matter what and absolutely, categorically didn't. It definitely feels like it at times. It has been very difficult to shake the lingering feeling of being a complete and utter idiot on so many levels. I have been conditioned to feel that I "should" have walked away. I "should" not let him get away with it. That I am not standing up for myself. That I am giving a bad example to other women, to my daughter. I feel I am a drip for believing in my family. That I am stupid, weak and deluded for still loving him and my last act to regain my empowerment is to walk away head held high leaving him/them to their chosen paths. Go high while the others go low. I guess I feel all the things I felt about my mum when I watched her stay and struggle for so many years for the sake of her family. Wow! Now that's a deep realisation right there. Something maybe to explore at a later date!
But, as I said, I did forgive my husband and I have forgiven, but I waver in how I feel about that and I still don't like that word. To me, forgiving does make it sound like I'm saying it's ok. I do feel a pushover for doing it. The "shoulds" do grate on me like nails down a blackboard. I have let it go because I do not want this event to eat me up, contaminate and consume my life moving forwards and I did not like those feelings of rage one little bit. That choice has brought some empowerment, for sure. I'm not going to lie, watching someone else suffer definitely would give me some reprieve, but for how long and then how would I feel about getting pleasure from someone else's pain? I have seen my husband suffer intensely. It hasn't brought me pleasure, but it has helped me see his remorse, which in turn has helped my healing. When it comes to the other woman this has been a whole lot harder. Really fucking hard. As I have explained in other blogs, the feelings of retribution and payback were incredibly overpowering, mainly down to the effects of the PTSD I was suffering. It was entertained to a point as it fooled me into feeling a level of safety, but on the whole it was out of control and heavily unwanted. Following through would put me on her level, or worse, and that I am definitely not. Life will emit its own form of justice without my involvement if these patterns of behaviour and the refusal to accept accountability continue for her. I just have to step back and let that take its own course. A lot easier said than done, I must add.
At this point in my recovery, when the pain and the shit subside, I do feel empowered by the level of compassion and understanding I managed to find, how I've been true to how I feel, how I've managed to put my healing first and gradually recover from such a hideous and horrific ordeal and keep my family together. I feel content in the strength of love I have for my husband and for honouring my vows, however.......at times it still makes me want to rip his fucking head off, firebomb her house and the spider's weblike stupidity for staying is very difficult to brush off. So I put it to you, have I forgiven or am I stupid? Do we need to find a different word for forgive or do I just need to give it more time?
I definitely think another word would be more suitable.