The Middle Path
I chose to stay in a relationship, 15 years in, after learning of betrayals. It was not a decision I broadcast. I wasn’t particularly proud of the decision at the time. Truthfully, I wished people didn’t know about it, but it was impossible to hide.
I stayed because my partner showed remorse, willingness to engage in counseling, and a motivation to change habits and regain trust. I stayed because he was trying to make amends. I also stayed because I wanted to learn about forgiveness, something I couldn’t fathom at the time, and if he was willing to change so many habits, then I was at least willing to try. And if I really believed in forgiveness, why wouldn’t I try?
My Bible wasn’t helping much at the time. Nor was my yoga practice. Prayer either.
It had to be better than being so angry I could melt paint from the walls.
My partner had to prove beforehand that my effort was worth it. Because I’d be an idiot if I just jumped right back in. The guy had proven himself a master of omission, a lover of high risk situations, and a class act player of keep away. He had to earn me back to the bargaining table.
And slowly, over 6 months, he did. With the help of our counselor, he shared uncomfortable truths. He opened up in a new way. This guy who seemed calm and unflappable actually had a lot more going on under the hood than I ever realized. More anger. More resentment. More pain. More guilt. And some of the truths were painful to hear.
He shared a new person with me. I came back to the table because he was more interesting and complex than I realized, and I thought we had a chance to be one of those couples that says, “that was a rough few years and I’d never want to do that again, but we are stronger now than ever before.”
It was the bravest, most loving thing either one of us could do- reach out to each other across fear, anger, remorse, distrust, and guilt. It wasn’t a quick decision, nor one either of us made lightly. And of all the things I wish had happened differently, now I am damn proud of the way we both reached out to each other, tentatively, through all the bleary eyed pain, hurt and shame.
Reaching out to someone you hurt or reaching out to someone who hurt you - this is the stuff of love that doesn’t feel good.
We lasted another 3 and ½ years before it became clear that what had happened before was a cycle. A cycle is profoundly different than a mistake. He wasn’t willing to change. Or didn’t understand enough to change. Nor did I have the skills or presence to navigate through it.
I turned to myself instead. I turned to faith and my own personal sense of truth. As a result, I am more myself than ever before. My heart is softer, and I hope I’ve gained some wisdom in the process. There are hard truths I just couldn’t understand until now - like how forgiveness is a daily choice, like how it feels to be unappreciated, like how truth resides in the subtlest moments. And, I’m trying to share, hoping that it might inspire others to live more mindfully and seek help when it’s needed.
And also I’m sharing to let people know that they aren’t alone. Few people write about betrayal. But, it remains a huge teacher in my life.