I have been listening to Esther Perel’s new book on Infidelity. Sometimes I tell myself it is like picking at a scab, deliciously, enticingly painful… but really, I am still so curious about it all. What happened to me, the deception and intricate web of infidelity was mind-blowing. I am clearly not that imaginative… or perhaps just too innocent to believe anything like that would happen, not to me anyway, especially not us – the couple who had been together for ever and had everything, the picture postcard perfect couple and family and life…
Her book enlightened me to the fact that far lesser acts of infidelity can be more damaging and far greater acts can be more sustaining to a marriage.
I learnt new words and concepts – like polyamorous. I learnt more about sex and what people want than perhaps I ever really wanted to know. I learnt that marriage doesn’t have to be as traditional as I was led to believe, that many couples don’t adhere to the vows of one person for the life, or even just the duration of the marriage.
In some cases, I turned off the tape in furious frustration! Why bother getting married? No, I don’t believe in all cases it is the fault of both parties, or all parties!
In our couples’ therapy, we have learnt a lot about him. About how he felt. Why and how he was able to do what he did.
And I have learnt a lot about me in the aftermath of infidelity and a long love affair with someone outside of our marriage.
But what I haven’t learnt is what I did wrong, or what I wasn’t doing prior to the affair starting. Each time I ask the question, the answer is always the same: “It wasn’t about you. You did nothing wrong. It was all me.”
I don’t like that answer. Maybe why that is why I keep asking questions, why I am still searching for the answers.
If I did nothing wrong, if I wasn’t the trigger. How can I control the fact that it won’t happen again?
And if I can’t control it, what happens after this new ‘honeymoon’ period and the novel, open, honest way we are living now when we inevitably slip back in to the way we were? Will he, or even perhaps will I, go looking for something new, exciting, look for thrill and adventure to wake up and shake up our relationship again?
She says that infidelity can leave a legacy in one of 4 ways; destruction and the delivery of a final blow to a marriage or relationship that was already dead or dying; it can sustain it, an agreed, sometimes unspoken but known, rule so everyone gets what they need; force a badly needed change, the wake-up call to realise what you have is enough and you will do or change anything to keep it; or it will create a new relationship by ending the first and beginning again with one of the parties involved.
Perhaps this is also another reason why I continue to be curious; for I don’t know what our legacy is. It is definitely not either the first two. Not in this chapter anyway.
It was a wake-up call. And it has forced a lot of change and we are living through that chapter now; new house, new schools, new social networks, new career (for me), new confidence, new honesty, new appreciation and humility, new attitudes, new visions for the future.
But I no longer feel like I am married or in the same relationship. Not to the same man I married nearly 12 years ago or fell in love with over 20 years ago, nor do I want to be. In that space, I feel like I am Bambi, skating on thin ice. Treading lightly, testing the strength… collapsing frequently… and always tempting that crack that will divide us and leave me under water again.
Today is our 6 weekly check-in session. I think I should probably bring this up. They are emotive topics, one best served in a safe environment.
We have progressed so far from where we have come; and the last climb is always the hardest.