Friday, October 9, 2015
We Don't Make A Choice, We Make Many Choices. Every. Single. Day.
And that, we figured, was that.
What most of us didn't understand was that marriage isn't about making a choice, it's about many choices. Each day, we make a heap of choices that affect our marriage. Everything from whether to replace the empty toilet paper roll to whether to leave a little of the almost-finished cream for our spouse's coffee or use it all up. From whether to sit down over dinner, even though he's late, or leave his leftovers in the oven.
There are bigger choices, too. And a zillion compromises.
Do we respond to that Facebook friend request from our old high school boyfriend even though our stomach still gets butterflies at the thought of him? Or do we ignore it, recognizing the potential danger? Do we make jokes at our spouse's expense at the company Christmas party? Do we roll our eyes behind his back with the kids? Or do we stand alongside him as the kids rail against his "unfair" approach to discipline, which strips them of the computer for a full 24 hours?
Do we talk to him when he made the appointment for the vasectomy without telling us, even though we too were pretty sure we were done having children, or do we resent feeling devalued? Do we quietly seethe when he buys himself a convertible while we're stuck with the minivan?
Of course, he's making as many choices: Whether to talk to us about his stress. Whether to admit to his temptation. Whether to examine his mid-life funk or numb himself with TV and a sports car. And on and on and on.
After D-Day, we're faced with yet another choice.
Do we work to rebuild a marriage with a man who betrayed his wedding vows? Do we forgive? Or do we choose instead to walk into our future without him?
It feels particularly cruel that the choice puts us between that proverbial rock and hard place. And even worse – that it's a choice left to us after HIS choice that completely cut us out of his decision to bring someone else into our marriage.
And so we're left with this Catch-22. If we leave, we wonder if we're short-changing ourselves and our kids out of a new, improved version of this idiot we still love. If we stay, we worry we're short-changing ourselves out of the chance to heal without fear that it'll happen again, and to potentially have a relationship with someone who hasn't broken our heart.
But make no mistake: the common denominator in all of this is agency – choice. We get to decide, each and every day, how we behave in our marriage. And we get to decide, when it's revealed that our husbands have not been behaving in our marriage, whether we want out.
It's a choice we don't make simply once but every single day. We choose. To stay and work it out and create boundaries and rebuild on honesty and integrity and a deepened commitment. Or, should we leave, we get to choose how to live the rest of our lives without him: whether to allow this betrayal to color all future relationships and taint all future possibility of happiness, or whether to choose, each day, to live our own lives with integrity and honesty and an open heart.
Choice is, frankly, not for the faint of heart. It can feel easier, when we're so weary and heartbroken, to have that choice made for us. To have it made clear. To know how it's all going to turn out.
It can feel easier to stay...and hate him for it. Or to leave, because our cultural script indicates that's our only option, and to regret it.
But whether you stay in the marriage or leave it – even if that choice is taken from you by his choice to leave – you still have the choice to respond to it in a way that gives you dignity and self-respect, or to betray yourself.
And that, my dear friends, is power.