If you are staring down the barrel of a major life shift and the inevitable re-invention that must come from it, why not have your re-invention reflect your deepest truth, and your biggest dreams?
~Laura Munson, author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness
I risk your wrath when I suggest that betrayal can be the catalyst for positive change in your life. And I don't blame you if you would like to wrap your hands around my neck and squeeze. After all, in the early days following betrayal, it's all most of us can do to remain upright, to not smother our idiot husbands with a pillow while they sleep and we remain restless and ruined, to stop obsessing over the harlot that tread on our otherwise pleasant life.
And yet...the benefit of perspective, of being almost eight years out, is that I can see so clearly how that plot point in my life where I was cut open and gutted ushered in a reinvention of myself that has left me far better off than I was.
It's a radical thought, isn't it? To think that such pain can not only dissipate, it can transform? And I still have my moments of sadness. When I see a young couple full of hope and promise. When I wonder what my marriage would be like if it wasn't forever altered by the knowledge that we have not been each other's only since the day we said our vows.
Those pangs can still send me reeling but they inevitably reveal something else about myself that I'm ignoring: A dialogue of self-criticism in my head that begins with "you're old and washed up" and ends with "even your own husband couldn't stay faithful". In other words, my husband's long-done behaviour becomes the tool with which I beat myself despite knowing – absolutely knowing – that his behaviour was about him and not me.
On most days, however, when I'm not looking for evidence that I and my life are a total waste; on days when I'm feeling grateful for the body I'm in, delighted by the mind I've been given, and overwhelmed by the grace I've been shown in my life, I can acknowledge how the abyss into which I fell gave me – finally – the opportunity to heal some long-held wounds that preceded my husband by years and obfuscated who I was.
Betrayal strips us bare and reveals what matters. Love, fidelity, honesty, belonging. But it also forces us to decide who we are. In what other ways was our marriage failing us? In what ways were we failing ourselves? Are we being completely honest about our lives and the roles we play? Are we our best selves?
Betrayal obliterates any belief we might have held that we can control others' behaviour or feelings. Which, once we get over the terror that produces, is actually quite liberating. No more trying to pull other people's strings to love us, to remain faithful, to not abandon us. Clearly that never works the way we think it will. We can only ever control ourself. We can only chart our own course.
There are parameters, of course, Children might get in the way of our plan to chuck it all and travel around the world. Ailing parents who need our care might thwart our desire to move three states away. But dreams shelved aren't dreams dashed. As long as you're remaining open to discovering what's deepest in your heart, you're prepping for the reinvention.
Reinvention doesn't need to be dramatic. In my case, it simply underscored values I'd held all along. Honesty was paramount so no longer did I tolerate lack of it in any of my relationships. A friend lied about why she cancelled plans? Not okay with me. No more pretending I wasn't hurt when I was.
My reinvention helped me redraw my boundaries in permanent marker instead of the shaky pencil lines I'd always relied on and which had failed me repeatedly. I know where I'll compromise and when I won't. And I'm prepared to lose some things – including my marriage – to ensure I never lose my self-respect.
Yes, reinvention can be scary. Especially in the wake of a shattering life event such as betrayal. Take your time to regain your balance. Reinvention is taking place within even when you're struggling to simply get out of bed.
When you do find the space to take stock of how you've changed through this, I suspect you'll see – as I did – that your reinvention has not only ensured your feet are firmly planted on the ground, it has given you wings.