“I’ve always said, it’s not conflict which kills a marriage; it’s unresolved conflict.”
The concept of any decisions needing to be made confronted me by way of my closest guy friend, someone I’ve known fornearlyever. I spilled my guts and he reacted, outraged and indignant and after about 20 minutes of my wringing my hands and his incredulity, he challenged me.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“What am I going to do?” I asked back in dismay. Really? He expected a plan? I’ve only known 14 hours.
“Yeah, what are you going to do?”
At this point, my friend was angrier than I was, since I was still bewildered.
“I guess I will have to give this some thought,” I told him.
I mentioned in the introduction that when my fight or flight impulse kicks in, I freeze and how that helped me through the process. I wasn’t angry enough, yet, to do what some people claim they will and build a bonfire in the front yard out of his treasured belongings. Besides, my husband is an engineer and this could result in an explosion, what do I know?
The feeling I remember, standing in our kitchen, that night, is the certainty that we belonged together. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time, but I do remember thinking,
“I just want things to be the way they are supposed to be.” The way they were supposed to be is the way they were B.A., or “before the affair.” I wanted to re-wind, or long-jump or skip over this part and get back to our normal life. I wanted the Other Woman to be as inconsequential as she…actually was.
The billboard or a full-page ad in the Herald was of no interest to me. For a couple of days I wanted to tell his extremely conservative, religious family. That would fix him and it would serve him right, but I really didn’t have the nerve or the hopelessness (yet,) nor the desire to steer our lives into a concrete wall or wrap it around a tree.
The history of our marriage was good. We’d been so happy that it never occurred to either one of us that an affair was in our future. We enjoyed being together, had entertaining conversations and thought of one another as our best friend.
This is not the kind of marriage I was willing to pack up and drop kick out of sight. Yes, I was hurt. Yes, I screamed, once I could. I cried so hard that I made my husband cry. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to throw away what I valued most, so I avoided making a decision.
To be fair, I thought that I could always make a decision of that type, later. I could kick him out, later. I could humiliate him, publicly, later, if I chose. I could even pile his stuff on the lawn and burn it, later. For now, I just wanted to keep a lid on it, keep control over my behavior. Yes, he betrayed my trust and slept with another woman. Just how “divorce-worthy” is that?
Statistics show that most couples who cope with an affair stay together, I have read. How happy they are most likely depends on a number of factors: how sorry the husband is, how much he wants to repair the damage and win back his wife’s trust, how humble, honest and transparent he is willing to be. For the wife, how much has her husband has meant to her? How good have things been? perhaps most importantly, does she want to punish him more than she wants to resolve the conflict?
I’ve always said, it’s not conflict which ruins a marriage but unresolved conflict. If people are willing to humble themselves and sacrifice their egos for one another, conflict can be resolved. It’s a matter of making a decision.
And your husband ought to be willing to be the most humble of all.