Sunday morning. I had survived two nights following my husband’s revelation of an affair and his decision to walk out.
I started googling inspirational quotes. There’s a lot of wishy-washy rubbish out there, but this one spoke to me…
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)
And that quote has continued to speak to me ever since. It is a perfect reminder that we always, always, always, always, always, ALWAYS have the ability to choose. No, we cannot choose our circumstances; but yes, we CAN choose how we respond. I was on my way to understanding this, albeit with ‘L’ plates on.
I received an email from Mr Ex that afternoon.
I stared at the new email in my inbox before clicking to open it. I braced myself for a surplus of reasons why I am a bad wife. Maybe he would be slinging mud or off-loading anger.
Instead, I got a bewilderingly kind email apologising!
It started with, “Hi Essie, So this is a really weird and screwed up situation. I know it doesn’t mean anything at this stage – but you should know that I regret causing you this heartache and pain, and I am ashamed and sorry.”
That threw me. Oh, the relief! The tin man has a heart!
Mr Ex continued, “I’m not a Christian – no real surprise right. I don’t know what to do with that reality, whether I want to pursue it further, or even whether I believe any of it anymore. It doesn’t feel real and hasn’t for a long time. I’m so sorry about everything. Please protect yourself and make sure you blame me and people understand this is my screw up. You have every right to be angry.”
This didn’t make me angry though. It actually further empowered me to stand by him even more. My husband just sounded lost, confused and sad.
I sent him a long email beautifully articulating my love for him and logically explaining why he should come back to me.
I also sent him articles that I found on the internet about divorce:
“Divorce: Trading One Set Of Problems For Another“
“After the Locusts: Why Divorce Is Never The Answer”
“The Unthinkable Consequences of Divorce And Why Divorce Is Never An Option”
I also sent him testimonies of couples who had been in this same crisis, ended up divorcing, but, with hindsight 30 years on, wish they’d stayed married and worked it out.
All the statistics say that couples who form a relationship based on one, or both of them, cheating on their spouse have a 25% chance of their relationship lasting. I would’ve liked this statistic to be lower, so I actually don’t think I specified the exact percentage. Or maybe I lowered it a little.
He wrote back, “Essie, I can’t control how you feel – and I know this has come as a surprise, and you are struggling to think of reasons or see whats happened. But I wish you would stop sending this stuff through. Let go.”
Did I let go? No.
Maybe I should have.
But I was sitting around at home with my thoughts. No husband. Marriage status: critical. I had nothing to lose. And I missed him. I really, really, really missed him.
So, I wrote, “You’re my husband. I choose to fight for our marriage. We are one. Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you’ve never seen before. You’ve been EVERYTHING to me for ALL of my adult life!!!!!!!!” (granted, I was only 24!)
And – you’re going to think I’m nuts – I sent him more articles:
“10 ways to a stronger marriage…”
“19 steps to reviving your marriage after an affair…”
“12 reasons why your marriage is worth fighting for…”
Then, things got rather final.
“Essie, you obviously think I’m making the wrong decision, I don’t agree. Neither of us is going to convince the other. I have strong feelings for someone else. I might have regrets to my dying day but I am sticking with my choice.”
I day-dreamed a lot. I day-dreamed of him knocking on the front door, me opening the door, and us lovingly falling into each others arms with him apologising profusely.
I recalled scenes from Reese Witherspoon’s movie Sweet Home Alabama: “You were the first boy I kissed and I want you to be the last,” she declares as she embraces her ex-husband.
Less than two weeks before this nightmare unfolded, Mr Ex and I had attended a friend’s church wedding. The minister’s sermon was heavily based on the Bible verse, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Oh, shit! Day dreaming one day, I remember being hit by a metaphorical bus. Mr Ex was fidgeting the WHOLE time through that sermon. He was trying to play games on his iPad ALL through the ceremony. And when I put my arm around him, he didn’t respond or ANYTHING! He didn’t even want to hold my hand!!!
Oh, double shit!! After the ceremony, he said he was feeling sick, he dropped me back home, and then he went to the walk-in doctor’s surgery. But he said the doctor had an unusually long waiting time, so he’d be “about three hours”. THREE HOURS IN A DOCTOR’S WAITING ROOM?!?!??!
…I continued to realise the full extent of the affair. There were calculated opportunities for an affair. I just didn’t think of it as suspicious because, well, I trusted him.
GAH! I had even spoken to Mr Ex on the phone as he was apparently in the doctor’s waiting room. I rang him with the loving intention of ‘keeping him company’ while he waited. But he couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.
There was no doctor’s visit. No waiting room queue.
This was the sailing trip all over again.
But, you guessed it! I messaged Mr Ex yet again! Saying what? Reiterating that he is my beloved husband and that I had vowed to love and cherish him in sickness and in health til death parts us. And that I intended to stick by that.
Was I the only one taking that whole ring exchange and vows thing seriously?!
I fully intended to fight for him and fight for our marriage.
Gee, love is strong. And forgiving. And persevering. And full of hope. And overlooks tonnes of crap. And really quite amazing.
Hmm… deja vu! Where have I heard something along those lines before? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in the Bible was ironically read at our wedding; a pleasant, non-threatening, and [what I thought was a] fairly generic summary of love, but suddenly its validity and accuracy was glaringly obvious to me:
Why didn’t I just ditch him? Turn my back on him? Say “good riddance to this scumbag”?!
Like a half-dead kangaroo lying on the side of the road after being hit by a truck, the kind thing to do at that point would’ve been for someone to shoot me. Just put the poor bugger out of her misery.
No such luck though.
When the person you love tells you that they don’t love you anymore and they don’t want to fight for your relationship, that should just kill you instantly. When the person you love has been actively, creatively and ruthlessly lying to you, you should just keel over and die. No one should have to live through the pain of rejection by the person they love. No one should have to live through rejection and betrayal by their most trusted, lifelong companion.
Or at the very least, there should be an emergency switch in our brains which allows us to immediately abort all feelings of love and compassion towards that person in situations like this. If someone rejects you, your brain should instantly self-destruct all memories of that person, all hope in that person, and all love for that person. Wouldn’t that just save a whole lot of heartache. And certainly that would save us from ending up like roadkill. But, alas, that is not how love works.
Love is the strongest of all emotions.
It is even stronger than grief.
Stronger than fear. Stronger than pain.
Our capacity to love and be loved transcends all pain and logic. That is truly astounding.
And the half-dead kangaroo which should be put out of its misery (aka me) epitomises the strength and power of love. Love hangs on. The fact that my love for Mr Ex could turn me into roadkill, yet I was still hanging onto that love for him, shows our innate aptitude to love and why true love – when returned – really is so special. A mighty force.
The irony is not lost on me.
I am learning more about love now that I am on my own, than through all those seven years of being in love with Mr Ex.
I am learning more about love through Mr Ex’s rejection, than I ever did through Mr Ex’s love.
And something else started to ‘click’ in my head. Another light bulb moment.
“For God so loved the world...” -John 3:16.