There's much debate raging on another site regarding a post by Wendy Strgar of Good Clean Love, whom I've quoted here before. Wendy offers up much wisdom in her approach to creating solid happy relationships but, from what I know and from what she's revealed, she's never experienced a spouse's sexual betrayal.
As a result, as many commenters have pointed out, her post seems somewhat cavalier. As if getting over betrayal is simply a matter of perspective, of viewing the infidelity through a different lens. She calls an affair a "wake-up call". Yet most of us who've experienced it see it less as a wake-up call than repeated kicks to the head by someone wearing steel-toe boots.
And the commenters clearly do, too.
It's painfully clear which of those commenting are still raw from the incredible sting of betrayal. You can almost hear their wavering voices, angry at what they deem a thoughtless post that dismisses their pain and desperate for someone to acknowledge it.
And having someone acknowledge that pain is, I believe, a critical part of healing.
Like any tragedy in life, we need a witness. Someone who nods their head and agrees with us that, indeed, it happened. And it was terrible. But who also stands as a reminder that from tragedy can come triumph. That tragedy can, sometimes, be a wake-up call. Albeit an excruciating one.
The evolution of tragedy to triumph can only occur if we're willing to loosen our grip on the pain. To no longer hold on to it like a security blanket but to let it go and open ourselves to what comes next. It's a bizarre bit of human nature that we'll often hold on to negative emotion that's familiar than risk another emotion that's not. Healing can feel absolutely out of control. It's not a straight trajectory but rather a slow spiral upwards with occasional slips back. And it can be terrifying.
I've been aware lately that I'm holding my husband's betrayal in front of me like a shield. And behind that is a fear that if I let go of it (which feels uncomfortably like letting him "off the hook"), it'll happen again. As a result, I feel the need to constantly keep it front of mind because then I can control it. Well...guess again, Elle. That control is a total illusion. And it's keeping me locked in a position of defining myself by the tragedy not the triumph.
I'm ready to let go of it. While I refuse to acknowledge that it's ever the cheated-upon spouse's responsibility to keep the other faithful, I'm taking responsibility for my own healing. A healing that's hampered by holding on to the betrayal like a fun-house mirror, constantly reflecting back at my husband what a bastard he was and how lucky he is that I haven't tossed his sorry ass on the streets. Though I haven't said those exact words (at least, not in a long while), the sentiment is there, clear to both of us.
Tragedy to triumph. That's where we headed. And with each of us acknowledging the others' pain and giving all of us the freedom to move forward.
While this site, I believe, can play a role in each of us feeling less alone, I'm increasingly aware that we also need flesh-and-blood people in our lives to witness our pain. Well-intentioned friends who respond with hard-nosed advice ("kick him out" or "it's time to get over it") are generally not too helpful. Try and find someone – anyone – who can witness your pain: therapist, friend, pastor, support group, spouse. And please post your story here. It can help you loosen your grasp on the pain to get it out and onto paper.