I’ve been pretty busy lately and haven’t even taken the time to read through my blog feed, but today I’m sitting idle waiting for other things to finish. I particularly like something Bee wrote the other day, a post titled Love Is a Four Letter Word. I started to write a reply, but then I thought it probably needs its own blog post as I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
Affairs tend to bring up these what if kind of questions for everyone involved. Both the betrayed and the cheater might wonder “did I marry the wrong person?” or “am I making the right decision to stay (or go)?” Both might wonder, “is there something better out there for me?” Both would be a bit daft if they didn’t wonder “would I have been better off now without this affair?”
Early on in my recovery, I would have sworn that I’d be better off without ever even meeting the other woman. The pain was so great and the damage so devastating, that there didn’t seem to be any question that we’d all be better off if I’d have never started down the road to infidelity. I’d still say there’s so truth to that – my wife and I would both have a lot less pain in our lives if I hadn’t done that.
But that’s not how the world works. Every choice we make and every experience we have changes us. Some things change us in big ways, others in small ways, good ways, or bad ways. I’d be a different man than I am now if I hadn’t had an affair. Who is to say that everything would have worked out well if I had turned away from the other woman? There are other women. There are other ways to hurt my wife or myself. For example, I remember very clearly thinking just a month before the affair began that I needed to kill myself. This was not a single idle thought, either. Who is to say that I wouldn’t have killed myself?
It’s not all negative things either. I have learned more about grace and forgiveness in the last three years than I would have learned in 30 years if I hadn’t betrayed my wife. It’s easy to say the price wasn’t worth it, but not learning those lessons have consequences, too – consequences I can’t see now but can only imagine. How happy would my wife and I be if I had continued living in an ungracious and unforgiving manner? Who is to say she wouldn’t have despaired of our marriage and sought the love of another man? How many people that I’ve helped since the affair would not have received the help they needed (and I’m not just talking about this blog either)?
Now if I listen very carefully, I can almost hear the sounds of angry replies being pounded out on keyboards across the globe, people saying “you’re just trying to justify what you did.”
I’m not, because there is no justification for what I did. My point is not to justify or ameliorate the effects of my poor choices. What I’m trying to say is that insofar as closure is a real thing to be seen and experienced, it comes at least in part from recognizing that it all makes sense even when we can’t see it.
I have to make peace with what I’ve done, just as everyone else has to make peace with their choice of spouse, their choice to have an affair, even their choice of what to have for breakfast. You cannot live your life constantly comparing your current existence to what you think it would be if only you’d chosen something else. You don’t know what would be. You don’t know what part of yourself you would lose if you’d have done things differently.
Call it faith if you want, but I believe that good can, does, and has come from my bad experiences and wrong choices. I have hope that as badly as I’ve fucked up, I’m a better person now in spite of having taken the wrong path to get here. The scars I bear are a reminder of what I’ve done but also of how I’ve survived and learned from it. As much as I want to change the things I’ve done and the things I’ve seen, I can’t and I’m better for it.
That’s acceptance. It’s hard and it sucks, but I am who I am meant to be. I just pray that my next lessons don’t come by my own sinful hands.