“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”
In a previous blog I wrote about the wastelands of adultery. I still have preference for this metaphor but recently found myself intrigued by a blog which suggested a “fantasyland” of affairs.
This so-called ‘fantasyland’ is aligned to the strange new land that Dorothy finds herself in whilst searching for the Wizard of Oz. Although offering a different perspective it is not incompatible with the notion of a wasteland. It just depends on your context. It is more from the betrayer’s perspective than the betrayed but it is an insightful piece that articulates the weaknesses of the betrayer and the pain that is inflicted by their actions. I was interested to note one of the post comments which said “Thank you for putting into words the actions and feelings of the unfaithful. It brings to light a new understanding of how wrong we were and how truly selfish we have been!” Although the article was written by Rick Reynolds the Founder and President of Affair Recovery, I am indebted to the blog ‘Renewing a Right Spirit’ for alerting me to this particular piece which I quote almost in its entirety.
In one succinct phrase, L. Frank Baum perfectly describes the feeling of suddenly finding yourself physically and emotionally lost. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy quipped to her dog Toto. When it comes to infidelity, regardless of the type, this statement couldn’t be more true. In Dorothy’s mind mediocrity defined her life. There was no color, no excitement to be found in the prosaic little town in Kansas. The drudgery of life on the farm left her feeling hopelessly chained to a life of misery and unfulfilled expectations. Didn’t she deserve to be happy?
Dorothy spent all her time longing for a better, more exciting life, and eventually found herself swept away by an ominous tornado that sent her helplessly spinning into a strange new land of fantasy. Unlike her old life, this new life was painted with vibrant colors and was full of song. She also found she was no longer alone; now a strange troop of friends entered her life: a scarecrow that lacked brains, a tin man missing his heart, and a lion with no courage to help in her search for the Wizard of Oz. Interestingly, flying monkeys, wicked witches, [No Pig-shit] and deception left Dorothy pining away for the very thing from which she had longed to escape. She just wanted to be home again where she felt safe and cared for.
Is it possible the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was writing about those trapped in affairs or addictions? How often do indiscretions begin with feelings of mediocrity, or a desire to feel alive and understood; seeking freedom from the constraints of a life we no longer want, pursuing the happiness we believe we deserve? And like Dorothy, the dissatisfaction prompting the search for better life sparks a tornado, devastating everything in its path. Catapulted into a strange new fantasyland, the individual is left to wrestle with what to do. Only now they have to operate with the handicaps of Dorothy’s team: they have no brain, no heart, and no courage.
How do you decide what to do when somebody has lost his or her brain? If you’ve ever observed someone in an affair, it certainly seems they’ve lost their mind. I have seen successful men and women in extremely influential positions transformed into inept and incompetent individuals who seem incapable of making a rational decision. They become willing to jeopardize career, family, and future for this momentary pleasure. If the behavior of being “in love” were not socially acceptable, they would be certifiably insane. Everyone else can see they have no brain, and that reasoning and common sense are gone, but often they are too polite to say anything.
The loss of heart is also apparent. There is an illusion that if one is in love, they are finally in touch with their heart, but with infidelity, they’ve actually just lost what little heart they had. The selfish pursuits of personal gratification and self-glorification have nothing to do with heart; rather they are based on self-centeredness. Like the tin man, the person involved in an affair lacks the ability to truly love. People with heart are actually able to feel what impact their actions have on those who are connected to them. They care about the pain they are inflicting upon those they love. Love compels them to act in the best interest of another person. The total lack of love for those injured by their betrayal is one of the most astounding aspects of an affair. The path out of this dark morass definitely requires that they acquire a heart, not only to grieve for those they’ve wounded, but also to learn how to truly love.
Finally, courage isn’t a term used to describe those indulging in affairs. In fact, the act of betrayal highlights the lack of courage. Instead of exercising the courage necessary to admit what they’ve done and take responsibility for their choices, they hide behind a veil of secrecy, playing the victim and blaming others for their choices. Rather than having the courage to confront the deficits in their marriage while honoring their commitment even in hard times, they avoid difficulties of change, are afraid to face the consequences of their actions and fear releasing control because things might not turn out the way they want them. Ironically, it is this lack of courage that keeps them hopelessly trapped in the life they believe they need to escape. The only way to end the chaos is to let go. Unfortunately, because they lack the courage to let go and see what might happen, they remain immobilized, unable to face life’s realities.
Why can’t they just embrace honesty and take responsibility for what they’ve done? The answer is simple – to do so creates immediate change, as well as a loss of control. It requires courage to actually take personal responsibility for their life and actions. Frequently, those lacking the courage to take responsibility will hide behind the rationalization that they don’t want to hurt their mate, claiming they are acting in their mate’s best interest by keeping quiet. In reality, they are controlling their mate by robbing them of the information necessary to make informed decisions and to address the issues in the marriage. It takes courage to be authentic in a marriage, but like the lion of Oz, courage is a trait that is sadly missing in those betraying their spouse.
Interestingly, this trip to the fantasyland of an affair often culminates in a longing for home. Like Dorothy, betrayers often realize that “there’s no place like home.” But how do they return? It would be nice if they could simply click their ruby-red heels together, but unfortunately infidelity creates a bigger mess than a physical tornado and requires a much more elaborate journey. The journey back is difficult and can seem to go in circles, but the destination is more exciting, and ultimately more rewarding than the fantasyland. It takes time and effort, but it is absolutely our best hope for growth and happiness. Come back to reality. Rediscover your brain, heart and courage, and you’ll find there truly is no place like home.
If you believe there’s no way back I can tell you from experience that you are believing a lie. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I know thousands of couples who’ve done just that. It does however require the courage to take the first step.