After 25 years of marriage, I found out my husband was cheating on me with an employee at our company. I was overwhelmed with fear, hurt beyond words and confused as to what to do next.
I sought out a counselor who offered me hope and encouragement that this could all be worked out in time. I also searched the internet trying to figure out what other women had done in my situation. But to say my world had been turned upside down would be an understatement.
During that search I came across your website and an article I believe changed the course of my life. Under a section called "Getting Past Cheating" there was a letter from someone named Marie.
She asked many questions and ended with, "...do you think a person who has had an affair can change enough for the betrayed to forgive and continue the marriage? Is it possible to salvage a marriage after the affair?"
You said, "Marie, a book could be written on each of your questions, but the last question sounds like the one you are really asking. What do you mean by salvage? Do you mean the cake just fell on the floor and the guests are arriving. Can we patch it up and serve it from the kitchen so no one notices what happened?
"Or do you mean, after an affair, can you have the kind of marriage you would wish for your son or daughter?"
I read the article and it resonated because it was the first one that said maybe every marriage isn't worth saving after all. And no, I remember thinking, I wouldn't want this for my son or anyone else I loved. So I put a copy of it on my computer desktop and stuck a copy in my wallet.
In between, there were all the voices telling me if I could just tough it out and try to put it behind me, then maybe, just maybe, I might have some "shadow" of a marriage. But I would take your article out and read it over and over.
I ran across an infidelity survival website, and I remember a woman who said she was "back again" because having made it through eight years of reconciliation hell, she just found out her husband was cheating again. That made me think back to what you had written and stopped me in my tracks again.
Eventually, I found a second counselor who gently but firmly helped me accept that my husband had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NDP). With time, I was able to begin to understand I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship all along.
That insight came way down the road and led me to file for divorce. You can probably imagine what divorcing an abusive man with NDP was like, but I stood my ground and it worked out for me in the end. When I finally reached the point where being homeless was better than staying, I knew however it ended it would be OK.
So here I am nearly three years since this all happened and I've never been so happy. Last year, I moved into my own condo, and although it's not big and fancy like my old home, it's my home. And when on the first night in my new place I found myself sitting on my porch, sipping a cup of coffee and looking up at a sky full of stars, I finally knew what peace is.
Still, even today, I pull your article out of my wallet and read it again just to remind myself how far I've come and how grateful I am that I stumbled across it. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for your wisdom and being willing to be honest.
Noel, we are so glad you found the peace you deserve.
Column for the week of September 1, 2014
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