I recently watched Esther Perel’s Ted talk on infidelity and marriage again. I have always found her words and insight useful and refer to it when my anxiety peaks. And in my experience, her words around shame and infidelity feel true; that while historically divorce was the ‘old shame’, the ‘new shame’ is the decision to stay together.
Very shortly after the truth of the situation presented itself to me, we shared the same with our close circle of friends, revealing the facts and asking for their support, to give us time and space to work through the situation in private and to protect the boys from speculation and gossip. And this they have done and respected our wishes.
However, in hindsight this has perhaps left us in a bit of our own bubble. And as we break out of it, tentatively and nervously, speaking, seeing and being sociable again we naively thought that everyone would be on the same page as us. And yet, I feel that perhaps Esther’s words are actually correct; staying together incites shame, that some would find it easier to understand if we were to separate, divorce and continue life on our own separate path. If the roles were reversed, I would probably feel the same, having previously said if it were to ever happen to me, I would repeat the actions of Mrs Bobbit and disappear off in to the sunset, clutching my most precious boys and never looking back.
There is a side of me that welcomes their anger and disgust towards him, for it is perhaps justified.
There is a side of me that welcomes their unwavering support towards me, their protection, their mistrust of him, for it is perhaps justified.
There is a side of me that welcomes their desire to understand how and why it all happened, for it is perhaps justified.
But there is also a side of me that is sad that they cannot see what I see and feel.
If they have seen inside our bubble for the last 6 months, they would have seen that we talk about everything, every day and it is painful on both sides; we talk about it all with both sadness and regret, anger and tenderness, disgust and total remorse, tears and screams; they would have seen our many, many, many therapy sessions which unravel the how and why that helps us accept even if not fully understand what happened.
And yet I ask myself, do they deserve the answers or to see inside our bubble? Isn’t the role of a good friend, in this scenario, to be non-judgemental and accept my decision either way and trust that I am wise enough to know what is right?
Perhaps they see this as a miracle and don’t believe it.
Perhaps they see this as a miracle and fear for me, the boys, us and that is why they don’t believe it.
Perhaps if they saw it as I see it, as a miracle and believe in it, because I choose to see the love in our future, and not to live in fear of it they too would also believe and be happy for us and relieve us of our shame.
Esther also says that infidelity can be the death nail in a marriage that is already dead or dying, but also that where love remains, couples can turn a tragedy in to something to learn from and grow into something beautiful.