I'm convinced we can't move forward from betrayal until we've accepted it. I can imagine you reading that line and having a visceral reaction. Accept it? your all likely shouting at your computer. I have to accept his lies? I have to accept his absences? I have to accept that this is okay?
No. That is not at all what I'm suggesting though I've little doubt that I would have heard it exactly that way back in my early days post-bomb-going-off-in-my-life.
I also know that I spent a whole lot of time cursing what had happened to me. I spent a whole lot of time rehearsing what I should have said or done differently to have created a different outcome. I spent a whole lot of time nursing my pain. Days. Weeks. Months. Maybe even a year or two.
And then, eventually, I realized that wasn't working. All the wishing that things were different, all the imagining that if I was different, if he was different, if we were different, if my parents were different – you get the idea – wasn't making a bit of difference in my life, except keeping me stuck in a state of wishful thinking.
It wasn't helping me heal.
What finally made a difference was accepting that there was no way, no how, that I was going to be able to undo my husband's cheating. This was my life and I'd darn well better figure out what I was going to do with it.
The whole nasty package had arrived at my door and it didn't matter that I didn't want to sign for it.
It was mine.
But lord, it felt awful. Finally accepting that this was my life didn't feel good at all. It felt like defeat. It felt like failure.
But that's what often gets in the way of acceptance. We think accepting what happened is the same as liking it. We hear those people who say "my husband's affair was the best thing that happened to me" and we think to ourselves, no way, no how. That's crazy talk. Best thing? You've got to be kidding me. It was hell. It knocked me on my ass. Nope. Not buying it.
But acceptance isn't just "my husband's affair was the best thing that happened to me". Sometimes acceptance is a long deep sigh before signing up for a new class. It might be telling a close friend what's really going on in your marriage. It could include calling a lawyer and asking him to draw up a separation agreement. It might also be the resolve to finally stop looking at the Other Woman's social media accounts.
However acceptance looks in your life, I promise you it's a crucial step on your path to healing from betrayal. It might feel horrible. It might feel as though you're giving up, that you've abandoned any hope of having a better past. And to some extent, that's exactly what it is. It's about recognizing that there is nothing – nothing! – you can do or imagine or rehearse that will change what's happened to do. You might not want to sign for the package but it's there, at your door, and it's not going anywhere.
But here's where acceptance is a gift. It frees up all that energy that you've been using to try and rewrite your past for reimagining your future. It gives you the space and clarity you need to look at your life, right now, exactly the way it is, and take steps, your Next Right Step, toward a better future. It reminds us that, as my friend says, all we can ever do is keep our side of the street clean. And that's all we ever need to do.
Acceptance doesn't at all mean that what happened to you was okay. It will never be okay. But it does mean that YOU will be okay.
I recently heard Tim Storey on a podcast talking about how a comeback isn't the same as a go-back. A comeback, he explained, is the result of accepting where you are in life and developing a resilience, a way of moving forward. A go-back, conversely, is exactly what it sounds like: a backward look that keeps us mired in what happened.
We often need time to digest betrayal. Nobody needs to take immediate action. But when you realize that you've remained stuck, that you're living in some suspended state of wishfulness, then it's time to un-stuck yourself.
And acceptance just might be the solution.