Sunday, August 24, 2014

Crystal Balls and Stepping Into The Next Right Thing

I recently watched the TEDx talk of my newest muse, creator of Momastery Glennon Doyle Melton. And she said something that made my brain emit a tiny "eureka". She said that our feelings, which so many of us spend considerable time and effort trying to avoid, are simply guides. They are our "personal prophets" pointing the way toward the next right thing.
I've said it here too – the next right thing. Not THE right thing.  But the NEXT right thing. Big difference.
Let me explain.
Many of us, post D-Day or as Melton called it "The News", spend the next weeks and months mentally spinning in terror because we're faced with a HUGE decision. Do we stay and rebuild our marriage? Or leave and rebuild a life without him? I spent about two years in that suspended state of fear. Stay or go? My hand constantly on the door handle. My bags metaphorically packed. "One wrong move, buddy..." could have been my motto.
Of course, underscoring that BIG QUESTION is the deeper fear: Will my heart be broken again?
When betrayed wives lay out their story and ask me whether I think they should stay, they might be hoping I'll trot out the statistics about re-offending. They might believe I have some deep intel into the mindset of the average cheater. But more likely, they're looking desperately for reassurance that they're safe now. That they won't ever EVER have to go through such hell again.
Because, man oh man, those feelings were excruciating.
I wish I could offer that reassurance.
I wish I could guarantee that every guy who cheats works tirelessly to become a man who deserves that second (or sometimes third) chance.
Some guys do exactly that, of course, and their marriages become stronger and richer as a result. But we all also know that many do not. That many squander that second (or third) chance and break their wives' hearts all over again.
In the absence of a crystal ball, you need to pay attention to those feelings, those "personal prophets".
They can't predict THE right thing to do, but they can guide toward the NEXT right thing.
perhaps the NEXT right thing is to pour yourself a cup of tea and watch your baby sleep instead of asking your spouse, for a zillionth time, why he cheated.
Perhaps the NEXT right thing is to make an appointment to see a lawyer and figure out your financial situation in case you decide you can't stay in the marriage. Perhaps the NEXT right thing is to change the locks. Or maybe it's to have coffee with a friend who you can trust with your pain.
Living this way eliminates any possibility of falling down that rabbit hole in which you're already rehearsing the conversation you'll have with your daughter on her wedding day (though right now she's in preschool) about how sorry you are that you made such a mess of your own marriage. It eliminates the paralysis that comes with trying to make decisions that you're simply not ready to make. Whether or not to end the marriage? Maybe that's your NEXT right thing...but maybe you just need to separate. Or sleep in separate bedrooms. Or take a weekend holiday together.
Pay attention to those personal prophets and let them guide you to your NEXT right thing.


  1. I recognize this commentary! It was me (8 months post D day), who was asking for experiences in the regret of women who chose to stay with their husbands and then a few years down the road regretted it. I am thinking if I stay and look back, even if we break up, then I will have known I did it all. On the other hand, I don't want to waste time either, time I could be learning to live life on my own again. I think I have had a bit of a breakthrough recently which is allowing us something to work on, even though he is doing all the right things, as far as the books are concerned. He is text book remorseful and repair.

    For now though, the next right thing is to see if he's up for dealing with what I need after this last - hopefully my last - revelation. Thanks again for the reminder about My. Next. Right. Thing.

    1. When this happened to me over 25 years ago, I did the right thing for our kids who were very young. My husband was so remorseful and did everything he could to make sure he didn't stray again. But it changed our marriage, changed the atmosphere of the family, and taught me to rely more on myself than ever before. Now that I'm in the reflecting stage of life I can't to be honest say that I did the right thing for myself for our kids, yes, but not for me. You make choices and at that stage it was the right thing then I think. As I get older, I realize that marriage ends either through death or divorce but it does. It's a sobering thought but honest.

  2. I am living in constant fear...and I hate it! It has only been 3 months since finding out about the affair, although it had been over for 8 months.

    I have access to his emails, FB, etc...but I am still in constant fear that it could happen again.

    I think deep down, I know he won't do it again, but there is just that little bit of doubt which creates more problems.

    I don't know what the next right thing is, I wish I did, I wish I had that crystal ball, it would make life so much easier.

    I do know I love him, I do know I want this to work. I know he loves me, I know he regrets what he did and I know he wants this to work!

    1. The worst part of this process is letting it unfold. Feeling the fear, feeling the hurt, feeling the anxiety, grieving the loss of our "old" marriage. But the only way out is through. And I promise you, it doesn't last forever unless you resist it. The little bit of doubt makes perfect sense. He betrayed you. You'd be a fool to not have a little bit of doubt that he could do it again. That's where the rebuilding of your marriage is so important. Each of you could betray each other. But with honesty and slowly rebuilding trust, you'll come to recognize that we all make choices each day....and that you've chosen -- today at least -- each other. That's all any of us ever really have. But it's enough.

  3. It took over two years for me to stop thinking about my husband's affairs every day and maybe really five to be honest. And because he traveled it was so easy for him to cheat if he wanted to. The break through came when I really stopped caring if he did or not. I got stronger and felt I could make it on my own. That's when the threat of an affair lost the power over me. You can never control what someone else does. The hurt is staggering but eventually you can let go of it with therapy I think.

  4. 9 mos. past DDay, the thing I am mostly aware of is that I MATTER. And I did matter back then when he was so self-centered that all he could see was himself and his physical desires. When first learning of the infidelity, I felt so awful, heartbroken, insecure and of little value. And I was so focused on WHY, HOW, WHEN, what were "they" like, etc. that I totally lost me. I am now focused on taking good care of myself, wanting to grow and be a better person. He needs to do the same for himself and hopefully the relationship between us will grow. I have reclaimed myself and now know again that I do and did matter. One benefit of this is that so much the anger I felt is not my primary feeling! For me, this is the NEXT right thing.

    1. Pilot's Wife and J,
      I think you're both saying the same really important thing: that coming to know and love yourself is the most important thing. It's what will keep you "safe" in life, no matter what gets thrown your way. And knowing ourselves -- REALLY knowing ourselves -- helps light the way forward.

  5. Below was read at my Son's Wedding on Sunday. A day I had been dreading for months. Dreading because I knew the point that means so much when two people say their vows to each other. The same words that my husband broke. As a sign of our marriage, my wedding band has not been on my finger since 12th April 2012 my D-Day.

    Listening to the words I realised that we have within the past 33 years become 1 tree. And although my heart is broken I can not move on in life without him!

    “Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love" which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”
    ― Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli's Mandolin

    1. Jane,
      Thanks for much for sharing that. It's really beautiful. And so true. We want our marriages to be "tidy" -- perfect unions of adoration. They never, ever are, but we're nonetheless devastated when that notion of perfection is irrevocably altered. It's what I so often try and say on this site -- you can build a better, more honest marriage in the wake of betrayal. It takes work but so does anything worth having.
      And, incidentally, that book has been on my shelf for months. Must start reading.

  6. Interesting TED talk and an inspiring speaker. Thank you for the link. Relating her experiences to dealing with the aftermath of infidelity provides insightful observations about how we might 'read' our emotions. However, I have reservations about my own emotions. They were never constant in the beginning - even now, after two years they can fox me. Sometimes, if I'm truthful - I can't even name them and sometimes I feel as if I am holding two incongruous feelings at the same time!

    When I look back now, I can see that I lacked the patience required to allow my life to unfold. I wanted to be in control. I wanted everything to be as I wanted it to be rather than as it was. My body was wracked with fear but this manifest itself in a myriad of ways. So I guess, I'm saying, that for me, I wasn't able to read my feelings in the beginning.

    1. I think that's the case for many of us in the early days. Our emotions are all over the place. Nonetheless, I think when we allow ourselves to simply be still, to tune out all the other voices (whether real voices or the ones in our head), and to simply allow our guts to reveal what feels true to us, then our path becomes clearer. It's hard. I remember simply wanting to run away, or sleep until the pain subsided. But once I gave myself the chance to figure out what I really wanted to do -- with no regard to what I thought anyone else wanted me to do -- I could understand that I wanted to keep my children's family intact. that was THE most important thing for me. And that meant staying.

  7. I wish I was there already. Knowing what to do. It only has been 2 months since my husband told me about his affair. I still have fears that he is still wanting to be with her. We are in marriage counseling too. We haven't discussed the affair with the counselor yet just been talking about other issues. Part of me is affraid if we bring it up he will say he wants to be with the ow. Another part feels the affair was revenge for me being emotionally distant. I don't feel I have much clarity in the whole situation and what my gut tells me changes every few days. I do see my husband trying to make the marriage better but sometimes I think it is all a lie. He has cried about what he has done multiple times but I guess I am having a hard time with trust. I feel time will only tell if he is being honest with me or not. I just wish I had some direction on whether to stay or not

    1. It's the question we all deal with: whether to stay or not. And our culture loves quick answers. Unfortunately, this one is worth giving time to figure out (assuming your spouse has cut off all contact and willing to take full responsibility for what he did). Experts recommend six months before making a life decision post-infidelity.
      I would, however, urge to bring the affair into the open and discuss it with your counsellor. Bring your fears into the open. You might be surprised at how wrong they are.



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