Friday, January 20, 2017
You'll never get over this. And that's a good thing.
It's a common fear. That the pain we feel in the wake of betrayal will be something we carry with us forever. And, I suppose, in some ways it is. It does stay with us. But not in the way we imagine.
It stays with us each time we hear about a woman discovering a partner's affair. In that moment, we know her pain in a way that we wouldn't have understood before it happened to us. In that moment, we can reach out to her and take her hand in a way we wouldn't have been able to before. To assure her that she's going to be okay. That she did nothing to deserve this betrayal. That, no matter what happens to her marriage, she is worth fighting for.
It stays with us in the way we remember to never take things for granted. In the way we're able to appreciate the joy in our lives because we never expected to feel that way again. Not ever. So it's sweeter for being unexpected. Sweeter for knowing it won't last. We now know that no feeling lasts forever. Not hurt. Not joy.
It stays with us at weddings when we see wide-eyed couples blithely promise each other that they will forsake all others. We remember that we said those things too. We probably even meant them, if we'd really thought them through. But we know now that promises get broken. That marriage isn't about what was promised that day but the promises we make to each other every day that follows. Promises backed up by hard choices.
It stays with us at funerals when we see, more clearly than at almost any other time, that it's our relationships with those who love us that matters more than anything else. Nobody's sports car shows up at the funeral. Nobody's bank account shows up, or the credentials at the end of their name. What shows up are the people to whom you mattered. The people whose lives will be emptier for the loss of you.
The pain of betrayal shows up when life knocks us down. When we don't get the job. When we're ignored or rejected. When we put on weight. When we get the diagnosis. When we feel stupid for trying. For a moment, we give in to those old beliefs: We're unlovable. We're not enough. Good things are for other people. But then we're reminded of us what betrayal taught us as we healed from its devastation. That we're so much stronger than we ever knew. That we have always been worthy, always been enough, have always deserved good things. That another's inability to see our value is their failure, not ours.
I'm "over this" in that I don't awake with a knot in my stomach and a dread of the day ahead. I'm "over it" in that I don't fantasize about my husband's death or the brutal murder of the OW. I'm "over it" in that I don't often think about the betrayal itself. But what the betrayal taught me is with me always. I carry those lessons in my heart and they are as much as part of me as what I've learned from being a parent or a daughter or a friend.
I will never stop being a betrayed wife. It's not the whole of who I am but healing from that pain cannot be separated from who I am. There is no part of me where the pain stopped and the old unbetrayed me remained.
I laugh again in a way I never thought I could. I have fun and feel good and celebrate my life in a way I never thought I could.
But I also remember in a way that I always will. I remember that people I love can profoundly disappoint me. I remember that I can only ever control myself and that's all I've ever been able to control, despite my beliefs to the contrary. I remember that I have a deep reservoir of strength that will get me through and that, when it's almost depleted, there is an army of women who will hold me up until I can fight for myself again.
I will never get over that because it was so unexpected – this anonymous support from some women I hardly knew and others I've never met. And it's one of the great lessons of my life.