It is now just over two and a half years since I joined ranks with all the betrayed wives in the world. Actually, that’s not quite true. I had joined it a year earlier but wasn’t fully aware. D-day changed all that. Awareness came to me in the form of truth which cut me like a sword into a tiny million pieces. After the initial tsunami of emotions and behaviours I made a decision to allow my husband to attempt to restore my faith in him and to commit to jointly rebuilding our tattered and torn marriage. Without doubt, it is his determination that has provided the glue in all this. It’s ironic. The man that caused me all this pain is the man who is helping me to heal. However, for me to be receptive to his actions and to accept his remorse for his behaviour I have had to increase my understanding of adultery. I have devoured knowledge around the topic like it has been honey and from understanding the bigger picture I have been able to come to terms with the previously unthinkable.
However, I think I may now have come to an impasse. I purchased yet another book this week about healing from betrayal and although an excellent book and full of what I would consider to be accurate and helpful advice, there was absolutely nothing new for me to discover. Everything now just repeats itself. So what exactly is my understanding of adultery now and why am I still searching for answers?
I believe that trying to understand adultery is a bit like trying to understand a plate of spaghetti bolognaise! Let me explain. Firstly, let’s think about the spaghetti dish. It is an absolute jumble of ingredients and the recipe for the dish can vary from region to region and house to house. What possible sense could one make of a plate of spaghetti bolognaise? Well, I think we first try to make it simpler so that we can get some measure of it. Maybe we pull out each string of spaghetti and we wipe the bolognaise sauce off. We are then left with a whole load of spaghetti all different lengths. But, we could measure them and then we’d have some data that we could rely on and we could compare this with other dishes of spaghetti bolognaise. Then we might start on the sauce and see if we can separate the meat from the sauce. Perhaps we could weigh it. Perhaps we could name all the spices and seasonings that were used and then again, we could compare to other dishes. However, no matter how much we examine the different ingredients or how strong the microscope to identify what’s included we will never fully understand that individual plate of spaghetti in any way other than how it tastes when it is all together. The mess is an intrinsic part of the dish.
I think mess is an intrinsic part of adultery. I have gained glimpses into the phenomena that is adultery but it would appear that adultery is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Perhaps I have just reached the end of what I can know about it? Perhaps I have to now let go of the search for more understanding and just accept the gaps in knowledge. The knowledge that infidelity is more common than we think, that people in happy marriages are unfaithful, that the reasons for adultery are varied, that my husband’s behaviour had nothing to do with me, that there are individuals out there who don’t object to shagging someone married to someone else, that honest communication is the only way to affair proof your marriage and that healing has to occur whether you stay or leave your marriage has all helped me enormously. But this understanding is only partial. But perhaps partial is the best it gets?
However, there is some knowledge that is complete and I could only achieve this by reading about the topic and reaching out to others. This is the knowledge that the pain of marital betrayal is incomprehensible if you have not experienced it first hand for yourself and that we all experience the same devastation. All my feelings, thoughts and responses are perfectly normal and appropriate in the circumstances. Betrayed spouses draw the short straw that’s for sure and we live in a world that simply disregards the misery that adultery perpetuates. This cultural amnesia around the devastation and pain of adultery may well prove to be the gap in knowledge that prevents a full understanding of adultery. How might this change? Maybe we could apply Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concept of requiring adulterers to wear a scarlet “A” (“A” is the symbol of adultery ) on their attire to shame them?
Image credits: Infidelity by Simon Howden; Spaghetti With Tomato Sauce by piyato; Student And Books Shows Learning & Dilemmas Problems by Stuart Miles; all via freedigitalphotos.net