On my birthday earlier this week my husband and I spent one day in a resort and the next day in an amusement park. These things are the old us, the us before an affair came in and somehow interjected itself into our life. Yet, nothing about either day seemed like the old us. We were the new us, the us that has went to battle, first against each other, and then against another force. This was the us with evidence of wounds scabbed over at one time and a few fading scars. We were hand-in-hand like always taking in the scenery one day that he had once shared with her, and the next day we were sailing down steep hills with our hands up in the air on thrilling roller coasters. It’s funny, because without really thinking about it, our life has been all about raging rapids and roller coasters, and there we were celebrating with the rapids and the coasters.
Time really does have a way of pushing us along, while grabbing so many things off of our backs. And while we don’t think much about some of the things we leave behind, often we try desperately to hold onto things which would be best to let time take with her. I’m convinced we purposely burden ourselves with loads we cannot carry easily. We sabotage ourselves. We keep dragging behind us things we don’t need.
Most of us feel the burden of the affair. I have had so many people ask me how I was able to let this all go. We want to carry the affair around with us like a badge of honor, to show the world we survived it and sometimes just to show our spouse, look, I made it through this without losing my mind. That badge is really heavy. And it won’t really give you the honor you deserve. It’s a big burden to lug around.
I wanted to carry that badge of courage around with me everywhere. I wanted to show my husband and my family that I was the stronger one here. I survived. I could hear Gloria Gaynor in every moment. And then one day I realized that badge was not helping me. Regardless of the weight that badge carried, it was not helping my mental state or my marriage. That badge was dragging me down even lower than she had. Every day I was struggling to carry it and eventually I was taking fewer and fewer steps forward until all I could do was stand there stationary and hold it tightly. I was unwilling to do what I knew I needed to do and that was to feel something again and move forward. I had felt numb for so long I had forgotten what it felt like to feel anything So, without warning I threw the badge to the ground and took a step without its security.
I won’t say that was easy. I felt more vulnerable than ever, but I also felt free and a lot more weightless. In my vulnerability I was able to do what I had not been able to do for such a long time, and that was to cry. I let all of the emotions I had kept bottled up inside of me out, all of the anger and sadness and numbness finally poured out of my eyes. The release was intense, but extremely gratifying. I felt better. I still felt vulnerable. But, I felt like me again.
Once I let all of that go, I started concentrating on the healing process for me and us. After a deep breath that required the hardest step of all…..forgiveness, first for him. Initial forgiveness isn’t really that difficult. I knew I wanted to save my marriage. He knew he wanted to save our marriage. It all sounds so good on paper. It’s the sticking to forgiveness that is hard. You really have to forgive for this to work. That is much harder than it seems. It doesn’t mean you never bring up the affair again, but it does mean you can’t use the affair to get what you want.
Forgiveness had to also apply to her. Initial and otherwise was difficult in this case. It’s difficult every day still. It’s even harder than with him because I can talk to my husband. We can have a conversation about his indiscretions. He can explain the hows and whys. I can tell him how angry I am or how sad I am or how there are days it all creeps back in. She is a proverbial brick wall. I can’t seem to break through or climb over. And if I go around, she’s still back there, hanging on, much like that badge was. While I can accept that, yes, I will be carrying a part of her around with me for the rest of my life, I prefer not to carry her whole load.
As each day goes by for me it all gets further away. Things that I never dreamed I would forget have been forgotten. Letting that badge go was the best thing that I ever did. Today I can celebrate real rapids and coasters, while also celebrating all of the twists and turns and rocks that was my life not all that long ago. Our life consists of our experiences, the good and the bad. It’s who we are and what we’re about. I have let time steal most of the moments in my life when my husband had an affair, but not all. There’s something to be learned from the bad as well as the good. My load is lighter as I move down the path. Most of the whole sordid thing has truly faded away into the fog.
I now work on letting go of the things I may never be able to confront. And while time keeps tugging at them, urging me to let her have them, I wait for the sake of full healing, but concede that for total healing I may have to go around instead of scaling that last wall.