The further we move away from D-day and the painful memories around it, the more I ask myself: is there any point in telling others about the affair?
Obviously we don’t want everyone to know but there are people who are a big part of our life and sometimes it’s tempting to reveal the whole truth about our seemingly perfect marriage. Or it might be that it feels fair to tell because we don’t want the secret hanging over us for someone else to reveal. There are also those who go through similar problems and we want to encourage them, tell them that victory over an affair is possible, that when you invite God to be a part of your story it takes a completely new turn and the impossible becomes possible.
It is difficult to predict how others react if you share your story of unfaithfulness and forgiveness. On the one hand they may be curious to hear it but on the other they don’t want to pry. Some will say they are sorry, others might secretly feel happy it never happened to them (or foolishly think it never could). Some people are very discreet and won’t tell a soul, especially if you ask them to, others will promise to keep it to themselves but will “secretly” share it with somebody else at the first possible opportunity. Sharing an infidelity story may bring you closer to those who had experienced something similar and can relate to it but may also create a division between you and those who will judge and define you by it.
I also find it difficult to predict each time how I react telling someone new about what happened. Most of the time I cry as it all comes back but when I talk with someone who already knows, I’m fine.
Not many people around us know about Charlie’s affair. At the time we had to look for help to survive the first days and weeks so we reached out to older couples we knew we could trust, like our pastors, parents or our friends. I don’t think they will ever know how much their presence, prayer and words of encouragement meant to us.
We shared it later on with a few close friends with whom we felt we had to be honest but we decided to keep the children out of it as much as possible. All they needed to know was that we were going through a difficult time but we were doing everything we could to resolve it. We made sure they felt loved and secure. Maybe if Charlie had decided to move out (or I had decided to kick him out) we would have had to tell them more. I think I didn’t want them to lose the love and respect they had for their dad and to have to digest stuff that was far too advanced and grown up for them.
Most people we told were very helpful and understanding. No judgement or condemnation, just support and encouragement to keep going, to try to resolve our problems and save our marriage. Some remarked affairs are far more common then most people think. But I was still afraid of gossip and misunderstanding in case it got out.
Just last week I was reminded of how right I was when it comes to judgmental attitudes and it came from someone I would never suspected of it. We were discussing the upcoming American elections and the terrible choice of the candidates at a tea break at work when our colleague said about Hillary Clinton: “The fact that she took her husband back after all he had done shows her lack of morals.” We went quiet for a moment not knowing how to react. The fact that she judged Hillary on this more than anything else showed that people can be more tough on the forgiving party then the guilty one.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it for at least a few days. Is that how people see me because I took Charlie back? Do I lack morals because I forgave? Is it better to kick the ass of the cheater and turn away from him, even if there are children involved and you know your relationship is basically good? Is it a sign of a weakness in their eyes to reconcile with someone who had wronged me so much?
There are women (and men) who accept their spouses back after an affair before they had a chance to fully repent, or the remorse shown is not genuine, rather an attempt to cover up a sin. I don’t believe anyone should rush into reconciliation unless the guilty party is fully aware of the gravity of the harm done but refusing forgiveness and cutting off the way back into relationship simply because cheating is seen as a deal breaker isn’t right either.
I think that instead of judging we should open ourselves to honest talk about the reasons for cheating and there are many – not all of them stemming from unhappy marriage or character flaws.
Our permissive society seems to be fine with an all present lust and nudity, personal happiness and satisfaction above all, we portray perfect life as a trail of successes and then we are rejecting those who fall victim of that way of thinking.
So often I’ve heard the line ” it’s none of my business” when it comes to people’s marriage problems but IT IS our business to ensure that the most important of relationships in our society is healthy and supported, and healed if it needs to.
I found this article very useful on the topic of telling others our secrets and being vulnerable.