TEDx talk of my newest muse, creator of Momastery Glennon Doyle Melton. And she said something that made my brain emit a tiny "eureka". She said that our feelings, which so many of us spend considerable time and effort trying to avoid, are simply guides. They are our "personal prophets" pointing the way toward the next right thing.
I've said it here too – the next right thing. Not THE right thing. But the NEXT right thing. Big difference.
Let me explain.
Many of us, post D-Day or as Melton called it "The News", spend the next weeks and months mentally spinning in terror because we're faced with a HUGE decision. Do we stay and rebuild our marriage? Or leave and rebuild a life without him? I spent about two years in that suspended state of fear. Stay or go? My hand constantly on the door handle. My bags metaphorically packed. "One wrong move, buddy..." could have been my motto.
Of course, underscoring that BIG QUESTION is the deeper fear: Will my heart be broken again?
When betrayed wives lay out their story and ask me whether I think they should stay, they might be hoping I'll trot out the statistics about re-offending. They might believe I have some deep intel into the mindset of the average cheater. But more likely, they're looking desperately for reassurance that they're safe now. That they won't ever EVER have to go through such hell again.
Because, man oh man, those feelings were excruciating.
I wish I could offer that reassurance.
I wish I could guarantee that every guy who cheats works tirelessly to become a man who deserves that second (or sometimes third) chance.
Some guys do exactly that, of course, and their marriages become stronger and richer as a result. But we all also know that many do not. That many squander that second (or third) chance and break their wives' hearts all over again.
In the absence of a crystal ball, you need to pay attention to those feelings, those "personal prophets".
They can't predict THE right thing to do, but they can guide toward the NEXT right thing.
perhaps the NEXT right thing is to pour yourself a cup of tea and watch your baby sleep instead of asking your spouse, for a zillionth time, why he cheated.
Perhaps the NEXT right thing is to make an appointment to see a lawyer and figure out your financial situation in case you decide you can't stay in the marriage. Perhaps the NEXT right thing is to change the locks. Or maybe it's to have coffee with a friend who you can trust with your pain.
Living this way eliminates any possibility of falling down that rabbit hole in which you're already rehearsing the conversation you'll have with your daughter on her wedding day (though right now she's in preschool) about how sorry you are that you made such a mess of your own marriage. It eliminates the paralysis that comes with trying to make decisions that you're simply not ready to make. Whether or not to end the marriage? Maybe that's your NEXT right thing...but maybe you just need to separate. Or sleep in separate bedrooms. Or take a weekend holiday together.
Pay attention to those personal prophets and let them guide you to your NEXT right thing.