Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bending Towards the Sun: When Is It Time to Leave?

Kelly Diels, whose wonderful site Cleavage details the ups and downs of her creative and personal life, recently posted a blog entry about sticking with a tough relationship. Though she doesn't speak specifically to those who've been betrayed, she does note that, as a society, we tend toward the cut-and-run approach to long-term relationships rather than sticking it out.
I'm not entirely sure that's true. At least not in marriages. Sure the divorce rates hovers at about 50%, which doesn't exactly speak to stick-to-it-ness. On the other, close to three-quarters of relationships that have experienced infidelity will remain intact.
Of course, that doesn't tell us how healthy these remaining three-quarters of marriages are.
And it certainly doesn't offer us much help with the agonizing decision of whether to stick to it...or get the hell out.
I blame or credit (depending on my mood) emotional paralysis for the fact that I didn't walk out on D-Day. I had always been quite adamant that I would nevah, EVAH put up with a cheating spouse. But that, of course, was then...
So I stayed in large part because I didn't have anywhere to go. Didn't have the strength to pack my bags. Didn't have the emotional strength to tell my kids that I – or Daddy – was leaving. I was scared. Confused. Exhausted.
And I'd read, in one of the books I'd read on affairs, forgiveness, blah blah blah, that it makes sense to wait at least six months before making any big decisions. It takes that long, so the thinking goes, for all the initial anger and shock to wear off, to enable you to make a decision you can live with for the rest of your life, rather than a kneejerk response.
I was also confused. I figured clarity would eventually return and my course would suddenly light up like Vegas, making it clear which path I should follow.
I'm still waiting.
That's not to say I'm unhappy. It is to say that marriage is messy. Hell, LIFE is messy. And frankly, four years post D-Day #1, my marriage isn't much different in many ways than it was before (except for the rather crucial fact that my husband is no longer banging strangers). We have great times, we have tough times. We laugh, we argue. We cuddle, we retreat. In other words, our marriage is probably pretty normal.
Which brings me to the point of this post, which, as you'll note, I titled "Bending Towards the Sun."
Like anything alive, it's important to seek out that which helps us grow strong and healthy. Plants, to stick with my metaphor, bend toward the sun, in order to benefit most from the warmth and nourishment it provides.
When you're in the midst of the confusion and wonder if you can ever forgive and heal, or if you simply must get out, it really can boil down to a simple question:
"Does this relationship help me grow into my best self?" Or perhaps a more accurate question under the circumstances is, "Can I see a point where this relationship could help me grow into my best self?"
A big part of that equation, of course, comes down to your spouse's character. Was the betrayal evidence of a moral defect...or a poor choice? Is your spouse willing to examine how he came to make such a poor choice and do his best to ensure he never does again? Or is he casting blame and making excuses? Is he a good person who made a bad decision? Or someone you'd warn your daughter to stay away from if she was involved with a similar man?
Of course, there are life circumstances that can prevent leaving when you might want to – young children, economic issues, health concerns... Those likely won't alter your long-term course, but simply delay it.
In the end, you need to make a decision that enables you to bend toward the sun...wherever that may be.


  1. It is apparent to me now, but was never even a thought before, that I would never have been my best self with him.
    His affair was evidence of a moral defect... a defect he has come to embrace rather than mask in his dealings with me since we separated. He continues to blame me, make excuses and tell anyone and everyone that he is the victim. And he is a bad person... I made so many excuses for him during our marriage and always gave him the benefit of the doubt... but the truth is that he as always been a liar and manipulator. The little respect that I once received (or imagined) is no more. He is mean and deluded.
    I am leaning into my family and God... 3 months in, I still feel like I'm buried beneath the cold hard ground, but with their love and constant support, I am hopeful that one day I will grow again.

  2. Children/ finances here. I feel certain I'm just delaying the inevitable.

    Without any game playing I asked my husband to leave the house last night (as in went crazy after he told me he didn't care for me- yet again).
    It took an hour of me feeling quite happy with my decision and looking forward to the future without him... that I realised I had forgotten that no matter how much protection I have given myself (Financial agreements, Lawyers, and freezing assets so he can't use/sell them) I can do nothing to prevent the partial loss of my children to shared care.
    I put every one in the car and found him and he came home.
    Back to my reality again.

    1. I understand...completely. I just add, for me, that not so much as partial loss of shared care of children, but fear of my children to be exposed to the immorality and poor parenting that will abound if he (the troll) should (and would, thanks to our terrible divorce system of no-fault) have lone access to them.

  3. Marti,

    I am just so sorry. I hope he isn't killing your spirit with such horrible comments. The man sounds completely heartless. Why does he stay if he doesn't care for you? And are you sure he wants shared custody?

  4. My spirit has not be crushed. Not totally. I know you have said it before in your post- about being an optimist. I too have that trait. I find myself just hoping or waiting or trying to make things better or looking on the brite side of what I have left (when I haven't sunk into a massive low that is, this seriously affects you).
    I have started retraining for going back to work and I feel a remarkable lightening of my mood from this.

  5. I'm glad to hear re. work. Hopefully that'll help you regain some strength. Parenting is incredibly important work, of course, but there' something to be said for a job in which we don't have to wait decades for the rewards. :)

  6. This gives me hope. I didn't walk out when I first found out. I was confused and scared that I won't be able to make it on my own. The second time it was logistics, had to find a place closer to my daughter's school and my work (were they just excuses?? I won't know). It was also his manipulation. He cried, hurt himself, threatened to take away my child, fight for custody, leave me with no money..etc etc...

    I still want to separate. He is a very selfish guy who only does things his way, when and what he wants. He's very good with the extended family though, charming with a sense of humor. They all love him, and am sure will find fault with me!

    I hope I can find the courage to take a decision and bend towards the sun!

    1. I generally encourage people unsure of whether to stay/go to determine if this was a good guy who did a bad thing...or a bad guy. I think you've made it clear that he's just a bad guy. Manipulative, selfish, controlling.
      If you haven't already, get to a lawyer and determine exactly what you should be doing to ensure that you get a fair settlement. Don't let him know what you're doing...but set the stage so that you can leave whenever you're ready. And then ask yourself what you're waiting for. Exactly. For him to cheat again? For him to start his mind games with your daughter? You need to show her how a woman treats herself with respect. I hope you will.




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