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Wednesday, September 4, 2013
He is I, and I am He
But bear with me as I explain.
I'm writing this post in response to something I've noticed among many commenters, indeed in many betrayed wives (including this one).
It's the practice of "othering". By "othering", I'm referring to the very human (but not always humane) tendency to distance ourselves from those whose behaviour we judge as bad. We "other" drug addicts. We "other" homeless people. We even "other" rape victims ("did you see what she was wearing?") and obese people and mothers who breastfeed their kids until kindergarten. And, oh yes, we "other" the Other Woman.
But, in the wake of betrayal, we also "other" our spouses. We describe our husbands' betrayals as "selfish". We insist that we could never be so "cruel".
Our husbands are bastards who have ruined us. Their selfish acts jeopardized our physical health, our families, our emotional stability.
They're weak. They're self-centred. They're self-absorbed with the discipline of a toddler.
They're, let's be honest, not as good as us.
Because we would never do such a thing. We would never cheat.
Or would we?
What if we had lived our husband's lives? What if we had walked their path? What if our brains were wired differently? What if we had a Y chromosome? What if?
My point isn't that men are more likely to cheat (though there is some evidence that's true) or that certain life experiences lead inevitably to cheating.
And – please – I am not being an apologist for cheating. It's wrong. It's dishonest. And it's so excruciatingly painful for the betrayed.
But I've noticed something within my own healing and from listening to so many stories from betrayed wives: Seeing our husbands (or exes) as the "other" stands in the way. Looking at their actions as utterly abhorrent prevents us from seeing ourselves in them.
Which brings me to my title. It's only when we can see ourselves in others and them in us that we can truly begin to heal. I'll go even further. It's only when we can see ourselves in others and them in us that we can truly begin to live a life with compassion. And isn't that the whole point?
I didn't make the same choices as my husband but I haven't lived his life.
Nor has he lived mine.
My healing truly began the day I finally understood that while I might not have been the one who cheated, I could understand why he did.
None of this is to say you should stay with someone who cheated. Or who won't acknowledge the pain they've caused. You get to decide where you go from here.
But whether you stay or go, you're going to need to walk through some pretty dark places. Places that expose so many of our own wounds, around our worthiness, our ability to trust, our sense of who we are. By refusing to look deeply into those wounds – and into what behaviour we might engage in to avoid seeing them – we close ourselves off from compassion. For him, but also for ourselves.
Compassion isn't about saying it's okay that he hurt you. It isn't about saying you're going to stick around to see if he wages war with his demons. It's understanding that his choices were based on HIS life experience. That his betrayal wasn't about you. Not at all.
Compassion does the exact opposite of "othering". It opens our hearts instead of nailing them shut.