I was watching The Vow which was a movie on tv the other night. As the daughter yells at her mom for staying with her father after he cheated, the mom simply said,
I chose to stay with him for all the things he did right and not leave him for the one thing he did wrong.
And it got me to thinking in a different way about why women stay when their spouses cheat. I don’t know if my EX cheated. He very well could have, but I’ve not investigated the time nor efforts to find out since we are already divorced and honestly, it doesn’t matter. Too much time has passed and I don’t really want to know as it wouldn’t change anything in a positive way. It would only make it more difficult for me now to deal with him. So I stay in LaLa Land happily.
But even without adultery, after the demise of our marriage, I had to forgive him and move on. Over twenty years of marriage and he just didn’t want to do this anymore was hard to wrap my head around at the time. I went through all the stages of grief repeatedly until the wounds cleared out and I healed myself.
Part of that healing included forgiving him and forgiving myself.
How do you forgive someone who walks away without trying? Well, it’s not easy when you’re the one who was dumped, the one whose heart was broken wide open and the one who didn’t want the divorce. That’s the truth. But I knew instinctively that if I didn’t forgive him, I’d never move on in my life. I would stay stagnant and attached to the wounds which were festering in my heart, mind and soul.
Looking at the big picture, in observer mode and seeing both sides of the marriage is hard to do, but it helped me immensely. I had good friends who listened and advised as well, sometimes taking his side when I blamed him and sometimes taking mine. More and more as we talked it through, I realized that I didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t want to put effort in to making the marriage work. Even though my heart was broken and I never wanted to break up, the die was already cast and I had no control over fixing the marriage because he refused. Instead, what I had complete control over was me. And that’s when I began to heal.
Forgiving him wasn’t easy because I blamed his not wanting to try, squarely on him. When I got into observer mode, I realized that he just didn’t have it in him to be a husband anymore. He just wanted to quit and if I loved him, then I had to let him go and accept that he couldn’t be the man I loved. As I watched him in observer mode, I realized that he had disconnected from himself and everyone else around him. That piece of me that loved him realized that whether it was a conscious or unconscious decision to disconnect, it was real and I felt sorry for him. I also realized that I didn’t want to be with someone who was so disconnected. I was worthy of someone who connected with me. So I forgave him and I forgave myself for not being the wife who could get him to reconnect with the world.
It’s a subtle place to be in because I’m not all zen all the time as you can see from my blog. I can get angry when he’s not answering important questions about the kids. I can get frustrated that I’m saddled with all the responsibility of everything. But in the end, I have to be me, like me or not and frankly, I have to live with me 24/7, so I better like who I am and who I’ve become.
So give yourself the gift of forgiveness. You owe it to yourself and to him. I guarantee that you’ll feel better when you do because festering wounds don’t hurt anyone else but us. And we deserve peace.