Over on the Multiple Affairs thread, there's a common story. A husband cheated, "I forgave him" and now, here she is again. It's chilling to those of us who've chosen to give our husband's a second chance. It feeds our fear that he'll cheat again and we'll have nobody to blame but our stupid selves for trusting him.
But here's the thing. The "I forgave him" narrative rarely includes the blood, sweat and buckets of tears that we know needs to precede forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't a willingness to pretend the betrayal never happened. It's a decision to no longer let that betrayal hold us hostage.
It can be tempting, if your husband is of the "I'm sorry. It won't happen again. But I can't live with you constantly harping about my affair" variety, to let time work magic. Sure there might be a pit in your stomach when he comes home late and, sure, you may have nagging fears, but those feelings are manageable. They're not that I-can't-breathe down on your knees agony of first finding out. Time hasn't so much healed your pain but concealed it. Tucking our pain away allows us to function in our lives. It can mimic healing in a way that fools even us.
My heart still thuds when I remember the agonizing gut-punch of D-Day. It felt crippling. Our impulse is to run from pain. To make promises, to rush to forgiveness, to minimize – anything to reduce the heartbreak, anything to make the pain even slightly more bearable.
But pain will hide in the shadows. It will show up as irritability. It will show up as headaches, stomach issues, chronic illness. It will show up as self-harm. Too much drinking. Too much eating. Too much exercise. Too much Facebook. Too little gentleness or kindness with yourself. Too little stillness. Too little consideration for your own wants and needs.
We need to avoid that impulse to rush toward healing. We need to keep our pain somewhere we can continue to chip away at it. To let ourselves really feel it. To trust that our pain has something important to teach us about our worth, our boundaries, our hearts and that, if we'll let it, it can also show us the way forward.
When we look at the stories of our lives – stories that include heartbreak of all kinds: illnesses, losses, betrayals – we discover that within those times of being broken open, we reinvent ourselves. We draw clearer lines around what we want in our lives, we re-examine behaviour patterns that are no longer serving us, we reconsider the people we surround ourselves with and become more discerning.
Time is no magical elixir without a willingness to go deep into it in order to emerge stronger.
Don't fear the darkness because without it, you wouldn't be able to see the light ahead calling you forward.
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