Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Memories Can Make Us Wiser...or More Bitter. You Choose...

Memory is fickle. 
On a good day, I find myself reminiscing of wonderful things past. A child taking a first step. A family vacation at the lake. The day I signed my first book contract. 
On a bad day, however, I recall my life as simply one failure after another. The lost friends. The failed projects. The betrayal.
The truth, of course, is that everyone's life – past and present – is filled with both good and bad.
Betrayal complicates things further. By coming into possession of new information about our past, memory becomes distorted. Does knowing now that my husband cheated on me when pregnant alter the joy I felt at my first child's birth? My memory of that incredible moment is now revised. I've let my newfound knowledge color my memories – leaving me with a wedding album I can't bear to look at and family photos that give me pain.
It's important to remind ourselves that we needn't revise our memories. Though it can be helpful to re-navigate the past, to look again at events or feelings that, knowing what we know now, might have given us greater pause, it doesn't ultimately change anything. Especially our truth in those moments. 
My daughter's birth was an incredible time for me. Whether my husband had conflicting feelings, being in possession of the knowledge that he had cheated, doesn't alter my truth in that moment. Nor does it alter all the wonderful days I've spent and successes I've had. 
Of course, I can use memories to determine how I'll respond when faced with similar situations. But I'm applying that knowledge and reassessment to the future.
And that's important.
Wendy Strgar, whom I've quoted on this site before and who has a wonderful business dedicated to healthy "love products", says in this blog that memory can offer us wisdom, when we process what we've learned in order to make better choices for ourselves in the future. "The memories born of this internal struggle have the capacity to heal not only the past, but give us a path to a future that we can invest our hope in," she writes.
Lewis Smedes also reminds us that "a healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for the future."


  1. This is the number one most difficult thing for me in dealing with my husband's betrayal. Some days I am able to sort through the memories, look at things objectively. Other days, I'm not. Can't there be a magic pill to make all the hurt go away? Thank you for your post.

  2. Magic pill?? Oh, how I wish...

    The magic comes with time. And the awareness that memories – bad ones – lose their sting. And good ones can be savoured again.

    The sad truth, though, is that nothing will ever be the same. Betrayal is trauma and we'll forever see the world through a different lens. Coming to terms with that fact can create growth, rather than foster bitterness. Though, I agree, a pill would be faster... :)

  3. I had to take all photo's with my husband out of the the frames, and pack away any photo's with him in them. I just can't look at them and see his happy smiling face and know that he knew all along...
    dating, wedding, honeymoon, 2 pregnancies and births and the young lives of 2 children. All memories to hard to look at anymore.
    Will this change at some point in the future?

  4. Hey Marti,

    I'm glad you found us! You sound really raw...I'm guessing this is a fairly recent discovery on your part. And it sounds as if he's been engaging in affairs your entire relationship -- is that right? That was my experience, too, and my husband has since been being treated for sex addiction. Regardless of whether the cheating is being treated as an addiction or not, it hurts like hell to find out about it. And, I think, especially to wonder if your whole life has been a lie. How, we ask, could he possibly do this? And fool us for so long?
    The answers are complicated and less important, I think, then getting yourself on solid ground so you can be a good mom to your kids and kind to yourself.
    Let him work through his shit...and you concentrate on seeing your way clear of what happened. Nothing you did or are created this situation -- HE created it. It sounds bizarre, but it really had nothing to do with you. Sure, there may have been stress or issues in the marriage or whatever. But the fact that he went outside of your marriage for something that he had vowed to keep between the two of you violates your faith in him and your trust. And trust violations can leave you feeling incredibly scared and fragile.
    If you haven't already, please find a counsellor or a support group who can help you.
    And please know that I -- and many other BWC members -- know your pain. And we've managed to get through it.

  5. I am surprised the past memory thing doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would (6 weeks post discovery). But a few things do. I did find out that he took the OW to a once a year special race (car) that we both enjoyed going to....that ticked me off! I told him I'm never going to that with him again (plus a special restaurant). We also picked out a puppy on a long holiday weekend (out of town). When we got back he had "other plans" for the rest of the weekend. Had I known it was to go see his "ho", I would have never adopted the puppy. I obviously have to deal with her everyday and it reminds me of that weekend and where he really went..........that gets tough! I can't imagine having a baby and dealing with cheating! My heart goes out to all those that are dealing with that! This is my 2nd marriage and we did not have any children together.

  6. Not sure if it's healthy or compartmentalizing but I've decided to take all the bad shit from the marriage and put that under "needs work" and all the good memories are still good. This fucking god awful middle bit, shit show part is just limbo and if my h ever makes up his mind over what he actually wants the next bit is all new as far as I'm concerned.



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