Last night I wrote this post, which was inspired by a piece about Bill Clinton’s sixty-sixth birthday.
That article questioned if the former president could have known, the day he met then-President JFK, that he would someday succeed the great man.
That question spawned another musing for me: Did it ever dawn on Bill that he might someday have a scandalous affair while married to the love of his life?
And, furthermore, how did the former First Couple go on to have such a solid relationship after such public ordeals as his affair with an intern and subsequent impeachment trial.
There are so many factors to overcoming adultery, so many components that the hurt partner must process, and so many that the cheating partner must process. I examined several of these areas as I mulled over those questions.
As I reread that post, today, I am compelled to clarify something because I feel it may seem flip or trite or to treat multiple infidelities as insignificant.
And as I say that, the question arises: What happens when there is a second offense?
I’m guessing that Bill and Hillary and all those before me will say much the same: Rinse. Repeat.
The Rinse/Repeat comment in no way suggests that the second offense is trivial.
It is however, designed to prompt the parties to reevaluate some of the questions they should ask themselves if they are pondering trying to move forward in the marriage. To reconsider if the steps to healing and reconciling individual and collective conflict bear merit.
It has been my experience that we humans tend to bury unresolved conflict when good fortune befalls us, or when the discord is no longer a priority in our daily routine.
For instance, after my oldest living son was born, I quit looking for the answers to the tough questions I’d been asking regarding the unexpected death of my firstborn.
Am I a failure?
Did I do something to cause my son’s death?
Is God punishing me?
Did my son really die because of my sins (as one document mailed to me suggested.)
With a growing infant to tend to, those questions were buried deep in the recesses of my mind; only to resurface with a vengeance when my best friend and Warren had an affair.
Which leads me to another common action: sometimes we rush to rationalize events; we look for anything to blame, for if we have a cause, then we have an answer.
And we believe that answer will serve to heal all of our open wounds.
Unfortunately, this scapegoat is often a smokescreen, one that merely delays the inevitable.
In the case of my husband’s year-long affair with my best friend, I blamed our marital problems, the countless hours we were spending developing our young business, the stresses from Gavin’s death, the stresses from the miscarriages, the stresses of raising two toddlers under the age of six, the stresses of his parents’ refusal to let us live our own lives, the depression I was combating…
I also blamed myself for practically handing my hubby over to my gal pal, as she and I shared those delicious and demanding details of marriage that only best buds share.
Not to say that I didn’t grieve and I wasn’t angry, because I sure did, and I sure was mad, and depressed, and I felt victimized.
But we seemed to recover fairly quickly, all things being relative. He and I had a few couple’s counseling sessions and I dealt with my insecurities over the matter, which I believed to be a continuation of the work I’d already been doing.
Before I knew it, our life was back on track and better than it had ever been. I’d sit with my new girlfriends who usually had some gripe or another about their spouses, and I’d sit with my mouth shut. Honestly. I felt that anything I said would be gloating. There wasn’t one thing I’d have changed about my marriage.
I couldn’t have been more shocked than when I accidentally stumbled across the unknown, repeating number on Warren’s phone bill.
I knew right then and there, the moment I presented him with a name and an address and he admitted to another sexual dalliance, that his infidelity had nothing to do with me or our marriage. It was all about Warren and his baggage.
And I knew right then and there what I expected from him if we were going to stay married.
I had no doubt that he loved me, so that wasn’t an issue. His remorse was evident and genuine.
What he did need to do was accept responsibility for his behavior and not blame the external.
He needed to do everything within his power to heal himself.
He needed to decide that therapy would be beneficial for him, to seek out his own counselor, to make his own appointments, and initiate a great deal of conversation with me.
He needed to act in a manner which showed he recognized the dilemmas he’d created for me, and to make valiant attempts at being mindful of my fears, doubts, and concerns.
I knew that I didn’t want to make a hasty decision about separation or divorce.
Panic would have only compounded our problems by affecting our financial situation, not to mention the emotional states of our budding adolescents.
The only immediate request I did make was that he be tested for STDs and he show me a copy of the bill and grant me permission to access the results if I so chose.
And then, while I reeled from the shock and evaluated my life, I waited to see how he handled himself and the situation.
I said many times to my closest friends, “Someday something is going to happen and I’m going to know, one way or another, if this marriage going to work or not.”
That day came when Warren answered his cell phone one day, while standing on the top rung of a ladder, a drill in one hand and a panel of sheetrock in the other…
In that moment I became fairly certain I’d be staying married after a second infidelity…
Have you been involved in adultery? When was the moment you decided that the marriage was, or wasn’t, going to work out?