I have been so caught up in the codependent characteristics list the last few days that everything else has been pushed to the side. Today I read some questions posed by Samantha Baker of Repairing Shattered Pieces on the forum After the Betrayal that got me thinking in a different direction, though. Here is what she asked:
What made you choose to reconcile with your spouse?
Are you glad?
Are you fearful of another affair in the future?
Do you think that choosing to reconcile was the right decision?
Do you wish you had done anything different?
Do you ever think your spouse got an “easy out”?
Do you ever wonder if you appeared “weak” by choosing reconciliation in your spouses eyes?
So, that is a lot to try to answer, but I decided to take a shot at it. Rather than use a question/ answer format I’m just going to write down some of my thoughts on the topic and do my best to hit on each of these questions.
Why I chose to reconcile is a complicated thing. At the beginning of this I would have told you I stayed because I really love him. He has a kind heart, a positive attitude, and a lot of energy. We are total opposites in many way, which means that he added things to my life. He taught me the joys of being spontaneous, introduced me to new foods, and made me cut loose and not take myself so seriously. I got to know him, as you should with your spouse. I knew he had faults, and I loved him despite those. I was able to see past what he did to all of those other things that I didn’t want to cut out of my life.
We were also recently married (the last discovery was only 6 months after our wedding), and I believe in following through with commitments. I didn’t want to just throw him away, and our marriage along with him, without knowing that I had done everything I could. I made a promise in front of my entire family, his family, our friends, and everyone who is important to me. I made that promise to him, but I also made it to myself. I promised that I would love through thick and thin, better and worse, richer and poorer, and all of that other stuff. He had betrayed me, but did that mean I should betray him, that promise, and myself in return? I wasn’t there.
All of those things are still true, but now I have some additional insights. I’m not a quitter, I hate admitting defeat, and I didn’t want to be a failure. I didn’t want to be divorced at 26. I didn’t know what I would do without him, I couldn’t let go of the “ideal marriage” in my head yet, and I couldn’t picture life without him in it. I was in so much pain, but I felt like making myself the main priority was selfish. How could I just walk away from everything I had put into this relationship? From him? What would he do? Plus, I told myself that I had done things wrong the last few times I found out about his infidelity and lying. I should have set firmer guidelines, I should have checked up on him more… I should have, should have, should have. I felt like this problem was my fault. I couldn’t walk away and leave him with nothing. When I saw him so broken and defeated I wanted to help him. I wanted to fix him. I wanted to fix us. In short, I am codependent.
This journey that we are on has taught me that. It has also taught me more about myself and my husband than I knew at the beginning of the process. Am I glad I stayed with this instead of walking away? I feel like a stronger person. I don’t feel “weak” at all. This is a much harder road by far than leaving it all behind. If I kicked him out immediately, there would still be unanswered questions. There would still be hurt. His actions probably would have pushed me farther away from my own issues because I would have been able to lump them all together and put them in the back of some dusty closet that I never opened again. My next relationship most likely would have been impacted, and it would always be there making me feel uncertain, self-conscious, leery, and closed off. I wouldn’t have worked on myself nearly as much. In that way, I am benefiting personally from taking a hard look at the ways I contributed.
As for whether he got off “easy” or not, I don’t think so. If he wants to keep this marriage, he will need to overcome his bad habits, some of which are decades in the making. He is learning new tools to communicate. He is figuring out how to deal with tough emotions. He is working a program. He is dealing with family of origin issues, boundaries, triggers, and more. He will have to be vulnerable. He will have to be honest – not only with me, but with himself – maybe for the first time.
I still have fear, but I am leaving it farther and farther behind everyday. As I heal myself, I find those paranoid thoughts are fading. I don’t think about what happened nearly as much as I think about where I’m headed now. I am realizing what things I can control and what I can’t. Even if he does have another affair, worrying about it now won’t change that. It won’t do me any good. It won’t make him decide not to stray. All I can do is focus on myself, set boundaries about what I will accept, and be prepared to move on if he doesn’t hold up his end of things.
I do wish sometimes that we had found our current MC earlier. I wish I had picked up Codependent No More way sooner than 2 weeks ago. But I’m also letting go of my wish list and “should have” or “what if” thoughts. I am dealing with each thing that comes up as it comes up. I am trying not to regret the past because it has brought us here. That last one is a tough one. I’m taking it all day by day, though.