Cleavage details the ups and downs of her creative and personal life, recently posted a blog entry about sticking with a tough relationship. Though she doesn't speak specifically to those who've been betrayed, she does note that, as a society, we tend toward the cut-and-run approach to long-term relationships rather than sticking it out.
I'm not entirely sure that's true. At least not in marriages. Sure the divorce rates hovers at about 50%, which doesn't exactly speak to stick-to-it-ness. On the other, close to three-quarters of relationships that have experienced infidelity will remain intact.
Of course, that doesn't tell us how healthy these remaining three-quarters of marriages are.
And it certainly doesn't offer us much help with the agonizing decision of whether to stick to it...or get the hell out.
I blame or credit (depending on my mood) emotional paralysis for the fact that I didn't walk out on D-Day. I had always been quite adamant that I would nevah, EVAH put up with a cheating spouse. But that, of course, was then...
So I stayed in large part because I didn't have anywhere to go. Didn't have the strength to pack my bags. Didn't have the emotional strength to tell my kids that I – or Daddy – was leaving. I was scared. Confused. Exhausted.
And I'd read, in one of the books I'd read on affairs, forgiveness, blah blah blah, that it makes sense to wait at least six months before making any big decisions. It takes that long, so the thinking goes, for all the initial anger and shock to wear off, to enable you to make a decision you can live with for the rest of your life, rather than a kneejerk response.
I was also confused. I figured clarity would eventually return and my course would suddenly light up like Vegas, making it clear which path I should follow.
I'm still waiting.
That's not to say I'm unhappy. It is to say that marriage is messy. Hell, LIFE is messy. And frankly, four years post D-Day #1, my marriage isn't much different in many ways than it was before (except for the rather crucial fact that my husband is no longer banging strangers). We have great times, we have tough times. We laugh, we argue. We cuddle, we retreat. In other words, our marriage is probably pretty normal.
Which brings me to the point of this post, which, as you'll note, I titled "Bending Towards the Sun."
Like anything alive, it's important to seek out that which helps us grow strong and healthy. Plants, to stick with my metaphor, bend toward the sun, in order to benefit most from the warmth and nourishment it provides.
When you're in the midst of the confusion and wonder if you can ever forgive and heal, or if you simply must get out, it really can boil down to a simple question:
"Does this relationship help me grow into my best self?" Or perhaps a more accurate question under the circumstances is, "Can I see a point where this relationship could help me grow into my best self?"
A big part of that equation, of course, comes down to your spouse's character. Was the betrayal evidence of a moral defect...or a poor choice? Is your spouse willing to examine how he came to make such a poor choice and do his best to ensure he never does again? Or is he casting blame and making excuses? Is he a good person who made a bad decision? Or someone you'd warn your daughter to stay away from if she was involved with a similar man?
Of course, there are life circumstances that can prevent leaving when you might want to – young children, economic issues, health concerns... Those likely won't alter your long-term course, but simply delay it.
In the end, you need to make a decision that enables you to bend toward the sun...wherever that may be.