The recent hacking of the Ashley Madison website which describes itself as, “the online personals & dating destination for casual encounters, married dating, discreet encounters and extramarital affairs”, garnered some pretty hefty media attention and stirred up a lot of stuff! Interestingly enough, I have a handful of friends that are coping and struggling with the aftermath of either their partners’ extra-curricular marital activities or their own. I’ve got a lot to say about this subject. In fact, I’ve had a lot I’ve had to personally make peace with regarding infidelity.
Just last week, a video link was sent my way on the subject. It raises some good points, and you may find some value in it. Personally I feel like it barely skims the surface and that the depths of this aren't fully addressed. I actually wonder if the speaker has had to deal with the touchy subject of infidelity in her own personal life. I’ll share it here and you can decide for yourself. https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_rethinking_infidelity_a_talk_for_anyone_who_has_ever_loved/transcript?language=en
It’s a tough pill to swallow, being “cheated on” causes us to question the very core of our relationship and our own self-worth. Any kind of security and certainty we felt in the relationship becomes questionable, and the, “happily ever after” fantasy gets blown into smithereens. It feels like betrayal of the worst kind and cuts deep, really deep.
I’m not bore you with statistics here, because what’s the point? If you find yourself on either end of the cheating equation it simply is what it is, and now you have some decisions to make. Do you stay or do you go? The choice is yours, and it’s not one anyone can make for you.
There is a tremendous amount of judgement in our society surrounding sex and monogamy, between social ideals and religious perspectives, infidelity is a big “NO NO”, further complicating the decision making process.
I’ve done this dance with my past partner more times than I’d like to admit. Too many times, actually. I’ve taken my lumps, accepted and taken responsibility for my part in the whole sordid affair(s). I took a good look at the things I neglected and took for granted; after all, don’t we all want to feel loved, appreciated and valued by our partners? Even though at the time I felt terribly wronged, I knew I had to face some uncomfortable things about myself and take a good hard look at who I was in my relationship. What I found out is that if I wasn’t willing to step up, there was someone else out there who was. Somewhere in between accepting my own accountability, I got stuck. I blamed myself and that dammed story that I have carried with me for most of my life was right back in my face again. “I am not enough”.
It’s true, a relationship can recover from infidelity, and in my own experience, a whole new level of communication opened up between my ex partner and myself. We were able to become more vulnerable with one another and I think I speak for us both when I say the revelation of the affair created a whole new world for both of us. I’ll even go as far to say that the threat of losing my husband to another woman caused me to seriously step up my game. So, before I get into the next part of this I want to really be clear and say that there was an upside to the “betrayal”, and as with all things in life, good and bad, and there was a tremendous amount of learning that came from it.
Now, here’s where it gets dicey, because the story does not end here. I’ve come to realize a few more things along the way, one of which has become the most valuable lesson I’ve taken from all of this. Every situation being unique and for me there is one very distinguishing factor in my story that is not addressed in the video link above. There is a notable difference between having an affair and living a life with someone who is a slave to their impulses. To be clear, one affair, or disclosure of a few “slip ups” and reconciling and moving forward with renewed commitment versus being in a relationship with someone that will continue to repeat such indiscretions and justify their actions by casting blame and making excuses. At some point, personal accountability needs to come into play and attempting to use “cause” and “effect” as an excuse does not justify behavior. When does the factoring in of risk versus reward take place? Actions speak louder than words friends, and if you’ve found yourself making a mess in your relationships by continuously engaging in casual or extramarital affairs you need to get really clear on what it is you’re after. Because even the most loyal and dedicated people will toss in the towel when too much is enough.
My lesson in all of this?
I am enough.
You heard me. I suppose I had to learn it the hard way, seems that all great lessons come with their own set of challenges. I spent years believing that by loving and supporting my spouse I could make him feel loveable and worthy. I thought by sticking with him through thick and thin, jumping through whatever hoops he put in front of me I would prove this to him. He continuously raised the bar. The hoops got higher, more difficult to jump through and I just kept jumping, to my own detriment. The indiscretions continued, despite me trying to desperately meet his expectations and prove my love towards him. I gave it my best, showing up how I thought he wanted me to be, wanting his fidelity, love and approval. Wanting to be enough.
I have come to realize, that first and foremost, I have to give myself what I was so craving and seeking from my spouse. If I couldn’t love, approve and value myself, how could I expect to have someone else to reflect that back to me? Take it from me, it is impossible to instill a sense of worth in another human being. That all has to come from within. Trying to fill the emptiness in another human being is like trying to keep a boat afloat that has a huge hole in the bottom. There is no amount of coddling, appeasing and loving that can fix a hole like that.
I’ll leave you with this:
Dr. Andra Brosh PhD, a clinical psychologist states this; “If your husband is unfaithful, it's not your fault, no matter what people say. “When a man cheats, he's making a conscious choice to do it.” Charles J. Orlando, relationship expert and author of “The Problem with Women...Is Men" , echoes this sentiment: "Men don't cheat because of who she is; they cheat because of who they're not," he says.
The irony here is that I had to get a good taste of what I didn’t want (again…really?) to become clear about what I do want for myself, and the envelope had to be pushed to the extreme for me to do that. I’ve had to move through these transgressions in order to come to a place of further self-acceptance. It was my through my ex-husband’s habitual unfaithfulness that this was all brought to my awareness, so I try to see the blessing in what at one point in my life was a painful experience.
Wherever you find yourself in your relationship, everyone’s situation being unique, try and find the value in it for your own growth. We all have beliefs that we hold onto and don't serve a purpose in allowing us to move forward. Whether you stay or go know that there is something valuable either way. I’ve done both and have no regrets either way. Things seemingly unfold just as they are meant to.
I’ve since begun a new chapter in my life. I’m grateful to say that the things I hold valuable and true for myself are being reflected back to me by those around me. But in order for that to happen I had to become very clear about what I will and will not settle for. I'm writing the pages to that chapter as I go along and I'm here to tell you the perfect characters will show up and make their way into those pages.
While an entire set of new challenges are on their way (this is life!), I’m choosing to trust, worry less and love more. Whatever path you take, I encourage you to do the same.