Question: Dear Luise: I know you get your share of questions from women about how to go on after their husbands stooped to having an affair, but my problem is the reverse. I have always been faithful to my wife even though I’ve had my share of opportunities not to be. My wife didn’t just lose her head and have a one-night stand, she’s confessed to a long-standing affair. And now she’s sorry. Now she’s committed. Now she’s locking the barn door after the horse is long-gone. I love her…that hasn’t changed but…how can a couple go on with “I love you but…”? Even if I do learn to trust her again…I will never feel the same. How can we salvage anything of value here? Ben
Answer: Dear Ben: The way to go on is to go on…you can’t go backwards and recapture your innocence or hers. We go on by incorporating lessons and becoming more not less.
Most of us enter marriage thinking we are the exception to the rule. I don’t mean that infidelity is the rule, no way, but I do think when we are young that we can often see ourselves, and our mates, as idealized and infallible.
How did you go on when you found out there was no Santa Claus? I’m serious. You weren’t the same and life wasn’t the same…but you did go on and you became “more”. I hear all too often from people who feel they can never trust again…who actually know that they can’t.
Can you look at it from another view and get that you never could trust, not really? You could hope and you could hold your breath and you could luck out, but there are a lot of variables. To trust, you must be naive enough to discount humanness and create an ideal. Maybe it will stick and maybe it won’t.
You weren’t less when you stopped believing in Santa Claus. You were sadder and wiser and you moved on to a broader concept of giving and receiving. It might even have become magical to you but in a different way. Please don’t discount the analogy because it’s ridiculous, that’s part of its purpose. It can help you see something ridiculous in your logic, if you are willing.
Mature people don’t have to get stuck in disillusionment, but they do need to expand to include the mundane as well as the magical. Affairs are mundane, aren’t they? Certainly for the guy left at home. The joke was on you, and yes, it isn’t funny, not at all. I would bet it now looks pretty mundane to your wife, too.
If you still love each other, why not put a concerted effort into helping each other heal. Help each other grow and help each other create room for failures. You haven’t been perfect. No, you didn’t do what she did, and you are to be commended for that, but you have your own list of errors and omissions, we all do. Turn the page. Blessings, Luise