I was listening, as I often do, to a recent podcast of Dear Sugar, featuring advice givers Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed. I can't recall the question but a comment struck me. It referred to a "moment of transformation".
I got wondering about my moment of transformation. At what point in my healing did I shift from anger and despair to compassion and hope? At what point did I realize that I was going to make it? Be okay? Not only survive but emerge from this in a better place than I'd been?
My transformation, I think, began on Father's Day 2007.
It had been six months of agony. Six months of tears and trauma. Thoughts of suicide. Thoughts of homicide. White-hot rage. Deep sadness. Stomach-churning fear.
We were returning from my nephew's christening in another city. Our three kids had fallen asleep in the back seat. My husband and I were chatting about a co-worker, someone who'd been friends with my husband's work assistant, his "other woman".
For six months, I'd been baffled by the affair. Why? I asked endlessly. Why her? I simply couldn't understand. "It was just sex," he'd tell me, but that answered nothing. I knew he didn't find her physically attractive. Hell, I knew he didn't like her. He'd spent years telling me he wished he could fire her.
And so, while we were talking about this other co-worker, my antennae were up. I didn't like this other co-worker. I didn't trust him. But when my husband made some off-hand remark about the time they were all at a "strip club", alarm bells went off.
Strip club? My husband didn't go to strip clubs. They were exploitive? They were...gross. What the hell?
In the darkness of our car, with our kids asleep in the back seat, I took off my wedding band, placed it on the console between us. "When we get home and the kids are in bed," I said quietly but with total resolve, "you are going to tell me everything."
And he did.
I learned about the years of sexual acting out that pre-dated our entire relationship. I learned about the many, many other women. And that missing puzzle piece – why? why her? – clicked into place.
My husband told me he was in treatment for sex addiction. That he'd sought treatment immediately after D-Day #1. For the past six months, he'd been working really hard to face up to what he'd done and try to understand why he'd done it. His counsellor consistently told him he needed to tell me everything. My husband consistently said 'not yet', sure that I would leave and he would lose everything that mattered to him.
Curled in a ball on the floor, my husband sobbed. "I am so sorry," he said, over and over and over. I had never seen anyone so broken. This was my children's father. My husband. In spite of everything, my friend.
When he finally stood up, he told me he would pack and leave. Something shifted inside me and I told him, "No. Don't leave. But I can't promise you anything more than that I will be your friend through this." And I meant it.
My moment of transformation.
I can't say that I didn't continue to have periods of anger. I certainly cried many more tears. There were times I hated him. I hated what he'd done. I never have put my wedding band back on, convinced that our marriage vows, offered during a time when he was already violating them, mean nothing.
Nonetheless, transformation began that night. A transformation that opened me to compassion for his pain. A transformation that let light into the cracks of my heart. A transformation that gave me a glimpse of a life beyond this pain – where the two of us rebuilt something amazing.
I resisted. I told myself that I was waiting only to ensure that he was emotionally healthy enough to be a good father to our children. Until I felt strong enough to go it alone. For many more months, I had one foot out the door.
But over time, that moment of transformation became greater. I saw myself differently. I transformed my life in a way that made it so much more my own. I placed greater demands on the people in my life to behave with integrity. I spent my own time and energy and money more carefully on things that gave me joy.
That's not to say things are perfect. Life is full of challenges and I'm constantly learning and growing and considering where I am and where I want to be – as a wife, friend, parent, writer.
Transformation isn't a one-time thing. It's a process.
For those just landing on this site, I want you to know it's possible to emerge from this changed in a good way. For those who feel stuck, I want you to know you won't always be stuck. Stuck might just be a resting spot along the way. And for those of you transformed? Tell us how it happened. What was your moment – or process – of transformation.