There’s this thing I think I’m supposed to write but I don’t want to do it. I DON’T WANNA.
But things don’t go well for me when I run away. To be fair, I reject ideas all the time, which I’m sure (in the words of Liz Gilbreth) get passed along graciously to the next willing steward of the gift.
However, from time to blessed time God and the universe reject my rejection and instead relentlessly nudge me until I can either say yes or fall off the cliff I’m backing up towards.
The last time I said no, I fell off that proverbial cliff, and wound up crying in the pool on my 36th birthday. Like winners do.
So I think I’m supposed to write about this thing but I’m scared to do it. I’m scared because I know it will force me to touch some wounds that are still tender and unearth some skeletons that weren’t even pleasant the first time around.
So here’s where I need some help. Your help.
Just so I’m clear here and that there are witnesses: I am tentatively saying yes to God and the universe and I am willing to dip a toe into this project if and only if they (and you) will help me with the process.
The thing I think I am supposed to write is how to leave an affair behind.
I have been afraid to even tell Jack about this but I finally did and he was exceedingly gracious about it. His humble suggestion for the project title is “Why My Affair Was F***ing Awesome” but that’s not A) appropriate, B) my tone/style at all, or C) what this project is about. I told him not to worry; that’s actually a pretty bitchin’ post title for some time down the road. Or maybe a companion piece to this one.
But what I think I’m supposed to tackle is slightly different. This would be written from the betrayer’s perspective. The twisted path through a marriage that broke, the distorted reality of the affair itself, the loss of love in both relationships, turning your heart back to your spouse (I think this is the most important key part), and how to rebuild - or build anew - a marriage and a life you truly love. This piece would cover some big topics like trust, communication, money, relationships, faith, sex, family, therapy, honesty, shame, things that still hurt your heart and haunt your mind…. you name it, it’s part of the muck of an affair.
I don’t talk a lot about the a-word here in this blog partly because it’s really personal and embarrassing and partly out of respect for all parties involved. We’re all still healing and trying to find peace and closure and life on the other side. Most importantly, it’s not just my story to tell and it’s not my place to put that story out there. I learned the hard way there are people who will abuse it, distort it, use it as a weapon, seek personal gain from it, and judge unfairly because of it. So I’m not going to allow that story to be exploited or used for harm, and that means keeping it sealed in the vault.
But how my family and I healed from the experience is my story to tell and I think it’s an important one. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve encountered who’ve said some version of “we just don’t love each other anymore like we used to.”
I started to believe that was reason enough to quit.
But what I’ve learned is that you really can choose to turn your heart around. It is a choice. If you truly want to, you can turn your heart back towards the person you promised it to in the first place. It takes two people (and the power and grace of God) to repair something as devastating as an affair, and it starts with eliminating any other options – especially the option of another person.
I remember sobbing on my hands and knees in our counselor’s office, as she asked Jack to step outside after a particularly gnarly session. The look on his face was priceless. Kind of a mix of “Oh, $%&@” and “Now what do I do?”
She said, in no uncertain terms, “None of this is ever going to work if you aren’t willing to let him go.” (Him being the other man.)
I dripped all over her floor and choked out, “BUT I DID.”
She let what felt like an eternity of silence pass and then gently replied, “No, you didn’t, and you know it.” I just laid down on the floor and cried until there were no tears left.
This pain of letting go is excruciating. During that season of my life I felt like everything was one giant suffocating act of letting go, losing hold of the edge of that cliff one desperate finger at a time. Everything I imagined my life would look like, everything I felt I needed and wanted and deserved, everything I ever dreamed for myself and my family, everything I thought I valued and would never betray… I had to let go of all of it. And all that letting go felt impossible.
I’ve never been a Marine but after reading a little about it (and subsequently having the craziest dreams later that night) I understand their process is to break you down through intense training and then push you to overcome your fears to become a warrior and a champion.
This whole affair was kind of like that. Except instead of running and pushups, my heart was ripped out of my chest and then sewn back inside. It pushed me to my limit, broke me apart, and then built me up stronger, softer, more determined, and fearless.
So after becoming a warrior for marriage and life and belief and redemption and faith, this running-scared feeling I have about writing this piece is starting to tick me off.
This is why I need your help. I guess what I’m asking here is twofold:
- Would this piece – in any form – be something you see as helpful/beneficial for people healing from or facing an affair? If so, what format would be most easily accessible and helpful – e-book, blog post, an actual book, article submitted to a larger forum i.e. Focus on the Family, etc?
- What questions or topics do you think could/should be covered to offer people a practical guide for focusing their minds and hearts and healing their marriages? i.e. If you could ask me anything or learn anything from my experience, what would you want to know? There’s much to learn even for people in healthy marriages or singles hoping to start out strong in a relationship.
If you’d feel most comfortable sending me an email or a private message, please feel free. Top Secret: Eyes Only. This stuff isn’t easy, and sometimes it can feel really raw and embarrassing to ask about or talk about. Similarly, if there’s a person you think might have valuable feedback to offer, I’d be so grateful if you’d share this with them.
HP, and ever-grateful for you,