I apologize in advance for those readers who aren’t fans of salty language. Six years in the USMC helped me get good at it – just know that those darned swear words are more about my comfort zone as well as some emphasis as needed.
Anyway, I borrowed the word restoration from another thread here in the forum. And as someone who spent some years as a journalist, word choices are always important. The root of the word, of course, is restore and the element of the definition that jumped out at me was; to return something or someone to an earlier condition or position, or to bring something back into existence.
In this case, we’ve brought our marriage back into existence.
Of course, we’re forever changed, as with any traumatic turn, but we’ve come a long way over these last three very long years.
I think I usually start with an overview of the whole story, but I’ll leave the past where it belongs today. Besides, everyone here is well versed with the depths of Hell that comes with the tragedy of betrayal.
These yearly updates do allow me one more chance to thank this fantastic community of fellow wounded souls. SI has been a massive source of support and information for me along the way. I'm grateful for everyone here who has been brave enough to share their story. The combined life experience here generates a truck ton of kindness and empathy.
Speaking of SI wisdom, among those first lessons echoed throughout our community here is self-care. I absolutely agree it is crucial to rebuild individual esteem and to know our worth before considering any kind of relationship. This includes whether or not to stay married to the person who hurt us.
I guess knowing my value has always been the easiest step. I survived a step-father who beat me like a drum for several years, starting when I was 8-years old, so adversity has been in my life a long time. Bouncing back is kind of my jam.
That said, infidelity is one uniquely horrifying jam.
In the early days after my wife confessed, it felt like a grenade went off deep inside my chest.
Three million pieces of duct tape later, my heart is finally able to fill back up again.
After piles of focus on myself, I also believe at some point, the focus needs to shift to create the relationship we want to be in.
Offering grace to the person who hurt you far worse than you thought possible is not easy. Grace can be so much easier said than done. The primal instincts are to run and/or build an emotional wall so high no one can ever get in. However, if that same person who hurt me is truly grateful for the last chance to be together and make a life worth sharing, some amazing things are possible.
I’ll always hate what happened. I imagine there are far healthier, wiser methods to forge a stronger marriage. The reality is we can’t change what happened, but we can choose how we react to what happened. I don’t really see a silver lining to any kind of infidelity as it burns any relationship back down to ground. It really is a rebuild from the foundation up.
I also understand why people walk away from this horror show. I know why people divorce five seconds after learning the truth. I also get how people can be stuck in limbo, so numb that moving in any direction appears impossible. Staying married is a tough path too. Not every WS is capable of change or deserving of a last opportunity to make it work.
In my case, my wife has left me very little room to doubt her efforts. I don’t know what it means when people utilize the term ‘model wayward’ in the forum. I only know of my wife’s relentless effort every moment of every day since her confession.
I also don’t know what the odds are for marriage after infidelity. Based on the thousands of messages I’ve read, it seems like a healthy recovery is a rare occurrence. I have been reminded a number of times how the odds are against me.
Here’s the thing.
Fuck the odds.
And this isn't to be flip or coy -- it was the attitude I had to have, the literal leap of faith required to push through this horror show. I had to not care what the outcome of my marriage was to reach the other side.
It sounds weird in a way to say out loud, but the truth is, only I can live my life.
I’m not going to be a person who lives in fear of something that may or may not happen again. If it does, I’ll fly and be free, and I'll be satisfied that I gave this relationship every possible chance to make it.
Infidelity in and of itself is indefensible. So, I find no great defense for sticking around either. You either believe some people capable of change and a shot at redemption or you don’t.
It helped our chances that my wife owned it all. The very first person she betrayed was herself and her own values. She’s never used that line by the way, it’s just how I see it based on her actions throughout the rest of our lives. If we are the sum of all of our choices -- as bad as infidelity is -- she’s doing enough to overshadow those darkest days.
FWIW, there are no bonus points for owning shitty choices, it’s just a necessary starting point.
So here we are with the succeeding in life in spite of infidelity -- which sounds a bit like a platitude in the realm of surviving infidelity.
In our case it’s more of a truism.
Of course, real life can’t sustain off of bumper sticker phrases alone.
This is why I really like what we’ve rebuilt so far. I find that I’m not only more honest with my wife about what I want and need, I’m more honest with the rest of the planet too. My bullshit acceptance meter is permanently busted, so my tolerance for any amount bullshit from anyone is all done.
Our marriage prior to discovery had fallen into a routine of bad compromises as part of a hollow, transactional marriage that wasn’t good for either of us. The masks we had to wear just to get by are long gone. I also don’t fake niceties for society in general any more, I’m completely unfiltered.
I’m all me, all the fucking time.
It’s strangely liberating.
Not quite a silver lining out of all this, but close.
Our marriage now is so much more authentic than I thought possible. Communication is on a level we never had, and far better than during those original puppy love days of our youth. Physical intimacy experienced some highs and some terrible lows. On the upside, just last week we joked about graduating sex school. As in, after decades of practice, we’ve figured out how to really have fun with each other. We’re very much looking forward to our post-graduate work in that department in very near future.
The little things matter as much or more than the fun stuff. We are kind to each other. Holding hands is automatic everywhere we go. I suppose we’re now able to be the people we need to be for each other, instead of intending to be.
I could lament about the lost time. It doesn’t do me any good. I could have easily stayed stuck in the loop I was in the first two years of recovery. Sometimes misery is better than feeling nothing. That aside, life is way, way too fucking short to stay miserable one more second than necessary. Of course, ditching misery is another one of those easier said than done deals.
Loving someone who stomped your guts out is not something for everyone, that's for damn sure. But l do love her and she loves me back, and there may be more love now than ever before. It takes lots of love to rebuild from a tragedy that didn't need to happen.
We’ve brought our marriage back into existence. Quite simply, we’re two flawed and fearless souls who didn’t give up on the other. I assume our continued restoration is going to be a lifelong project, but at least happiness is back on the menu again.
ETA: If you made it this far, be sure to read all of the stories in this section if you're looking for marriages that are able to recover and rebuild. R is clearly an endeavor that takes BOTH partners to truly want it to work.