Monday, March 24, 2014

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. Lovely written Elle, I think we all have to be responsible for our own healing and our the decisions we make post betrayal. It's extremely unfair to point the finger unless it's at the ow or the h. You know I'm a regular on this site but as my healing moves forward I feel like I need to use this site less, which I think confirms I am moving forward hooray. I'm still only coming up to 6 months post d day but d day feels like such a long time ago. I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart ELle that you and this site is what kept me sane in so many ways. I can't thank you enough for your support and kind words. I'm sure I can speak for many in this site too. Your a one in a million Elle :) x

    1. Sam,
      That's great news. That's exactly what healing looks like, I think. After being able to talk about and share your pain, we exorcise it. We find ourselves needing to talk about it less and less. The betrayal becomes part of our story, not the whole of our story. It's hard for so many, just starting on this path, to believe. Glad it's true for you.
      (That said, I hope you'll continue to pop in now and again and share your own experience and wisdom with others.)


  2. 'Our husbands behave in bizarrely similar ways.'

    Goodness, how true that is.

    You can't always follow advice from a stranger on the internet but you can be comforted by feeling that you're not alone with your experience.

    I could have followed the house-advice of another blog (which I like too btw, for other reasons) and could be divorced by now. What Elle's blog provided, however, was a place to feel I wasn't necessarily an idiot for staying married. The only idiots in the story above are a man who couldn't find the wherewithal to be honest and an ow who thought that in these circumstances he was a good bet. I'm very sorry that the commenter mentioned has to go through more of this excruciating pain, but she need not feel she made a mistake by giving her marriage another chance. She was brave and she took a risk - I bet she wasn't relying on Elle's judgement - and she can be brave again and rise above the mess others have created.

    1. I have been accused of being an affair apologist, which I most decidedly am not. I don't for a second think that anyone should stay in a marriage in which there has been betrayal UNLESS SHE TRULY WANTS TO AND SEES GENUINE HOPE OF HEALING. But, really, none of us should ever think there's a right or wrong way through this hell. I offer a place where readers can find support of those who've chosen to reconcile. In some cases it has worked; in others, it hasn't. Just as, on other sites, there are those happy for having divorced and those who have regrets. Vive la difference!


    2. you - an affair apologist? That is really bizarre..

    3. Yeah, for some people there is only one acceptable response to being betrayed and that is to leave. If you don't, and especially if you don't think everyone should, then you're somehow an affair apologist. I know...doesn't make sense to me either.


    4. Iris and Elle, after I read this new blog post I decided to read the comments before posting and thankfully I did. Iris, I second your thoughts and Elle, you are a flipping saint. We are all in this together. Thursday will be 10 months post D-day for me and with therapy, mindfulness, putting my own life mask first and a whole lot of other tools I can more often than not see the light of day. My H is working hard and has made so many positive changes in his life which, in turn, has increased our happiness and hope. Today is another blank slate on which I will watch my day unfold with a hopeful and happy heart.



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