Monday, September 17, 2018

From the Vault: I Cannot Walk Your Path

"The maps and travelogues left behind by others are great blessings, full of useful information and inspiration, but they cannot take the journey for us."~Author unknown

Many of us knew exactly what we would do if our husbands cheated on us. And then it happened. Suddenly we not only weren't doing what we always said we'd do (almost without fail, throw him out), we were behaving in ways that were confusing to us. That made us wonder if we'd lost our minds. And within that confusion lay such judgement of ourselves. So many of us were ashamed of ourselves for not sticking with what we said we'd do.
Thing is, none of us really knows what we'll do until we're in the situation. And once we're in that situation, the best we can do is treat ourselves with compassion for the challenge we're facing.
And, of course, none of us knows what another woman should do because we're not in her situation.
I bring this up because a BWC member commented a while back that she had taken my "advice" and stuck with her husband only to find out that his affair had never really ended. There she was, another year or so invested in her marriage, and only deeper in pain.
She was leaving him then and only wished I had encouraged her to do so earlier.
I told her I was very sorry for her pain. Sorrier still that her husband wasn't able to accept the deep gift of her desire to rebuild their marriage.
But, I pointed out, I never told her to stay or leave and I felt badly that she had interpreted my response to her as such. I, frankly, haven't a clue whether any of you should stay or leave. Actually that's not true. If there's abuse of any kind, get out. Now. (Though even with that, I know that some women simply can't leave for any number of reasons that I might not understand.)
But beyond that, there's isn't a right way to respond to this. 
Life is messy. Marriages that look hopeless somehow get stitched together to everyone's benefit. Others just don't make it despite valiant attempts. Some survive betrayal only to fall apart down the road for other reasons. 
I wish I had a crystal ball and could therefore predict which marriages were worth fighting for and which should be hastily exited. Of course, I don't. I don't pretend to.
What I do offer here is hard-won wisdom from walking my own path. Though each of us is unique we face similar challenges. Our husbands behave in bizarrely similar ways. We can benefit from each other's experience as long as we recognize that we don't all walk the same path to healing. As long as we understand that what worked for her mightn't work for me and vice versa. 
There are times when I will use such words as "here's what you should do" and then outline the steps a BW can take to, for example, get back on her feet, get some sleep, or regain her self-respect. But I don't have all the answers. I haven't even faced all the questions. I have my own experience and an understanding of what so many of you have faced as you've trusted me with your stories. That's all.
Each of our stories is our own. Each of us walks her own path to healing. I cannot walk yours and you cannot walk mine. But we can hold each other up along the way.


  1. This is a great post! I, too, would have told anyone who would have asked me that if my husband ever cheated on me, that would be it. Yet, my reaction upon finding out about his affair was completely the opposite. I wanted more than anything to make my marriage work. I was so confused by my actions ... first, shock, then a million different combinations of hurt, fear, insecurity, sadness - you name it, but initially (shockingly) anger was way down the list. I second-guessed myself like crazy. Who WAS this woman? Certainly not the strong, self-assured, independent woman I was so proud to be. I have been through every human emotion in the past 8 months, and I continue to surprise myself on so many fronts. I, too, wish I had a crystal ball. Though our relationship is better today than it was for the three years leading up to his affair, I still have bouts of incredible anxiety/insecurity/self-doubt, and I wonder if it will ever go away. It has gotten better, but damn it, still not where I want to be. I know with certainty that the affair is over. I know that he loves me, wants to make it work. He has become more honest, forthcoming and communicative than I ever thought he could be. In fact, it bugs me more than a little bit - why does he seem to be doing better than me? (that's probably a whole different post) I have read on this site, and others, most of the BW's at one time or another dealing with their husbands admonitions to "get over it". The one time my H actually said that, I was furious. But honestly, that is what I am telling myself. Move on, I'm only punishing myself by replaying the whole sordid thing over and over again. I want, more than anything, to feel like my old self - and I want to start this 'new' marriage that we have both committed to. So this is my path. Wish it weren't so damn unknown.

  2. Love this Elle, you know how much regard I have for you and your opinion and your almost always right. However as you say we have to make decisions for ourselves you CANNOT be held responsible for any of the decisions we make. I’ve been coming to this site 5 years Elle and I do this daily, it’s like a daily mantra for me because I get so much out of coming here, I like to think I can give something back. We each walk our own path but like you said we can be there to hold each other up and I think we do a grand job of doing that .. big hugs Elle .. xxx

  3. I loved this article. I was so convinced in the past that if my husband ever cheated on me that would be it. Our marriage would be over. End of story. On D-day after I threw my husband out my best friend came over to my house. I had already been alone in the house for 4 hours. I had a cut throat divorce lawyer on speed dial. I had changed the past words on our accounts. I had hidden all our financial papers and blank checks. I didn't know who my husband was anymore and I certainly didn't know what the COW would get him to do. So anyway, in walks my best friend (who was far more spiritual than me) . After several moments of hugging and crying she looks at me and says " You are not going to divorce him are you ? You know that this is the work of satan?" WOW did she take the wind out of my sails.
    it just confirms your point that while we all have been betrayed our paths have all been different. Our reactions are unique to us. What the BWC has done for me is provide a safe place to express feeling and ask questions. Next month it will be 3 years since d-day...the struggle is real but my husband and I are still together working very hard on our marriage.Thanks for just being here

  4. I too feel the same as the others. I always said I would never tolerate this or stay with someone who did what my husband did. Here I am over 3 1/2 years later still working through it. I think just like anything in life no one can tell you what to do. Even medically you can always find different experts with different paths to healing. It is rare that anything is that black and white.

    I feel like I have always been a good support and listener for others but since dday I have elevated that part of my personality. I find most people just need someone there to listen to them and be there.

    Thank you to you Elle and everyone else for providing such helpful words and guidance throughout this entire traumatic experience.



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