After 15 years of marriage, I did what a lot of people do.
With a gut full of resentment for issues we never addressed in any kind of real way, I had an affair.
I thought it made perfect sense to leave my husband because I was in love with someone else. In my mind, my new relationship was an act of divine intervention. But no matter how happy I thought I might be, I couldn’t mindfully engage in the new life I was engineering while my young family was still in progress. We had recently rebuilt our home after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy and moved back in when I announced I was leaving. My husband and two children were crushed.
After a year and a half of separation that ended in divorce, my new love and I had the kind of trouble people have when denial takes over. We broke up when we accepted our delusions of grandeur and stopped trying to muscle through our pain.
As my ex-husband became engrossed in healing from the shockwave I’d sent through our family, he started looking more attractive. He had taken a hiatus from his soul-crushing job at a chemical plant to completely regroup and spend meaningful time with our pre-teenage children. Although I was in a tailspin of sorts, I wasn’t too crazed to notice him getting healthier in every way. He was going to counseling, exercising like a fitness guru, and detoxing from three failed marriages. He even discovered a new Zen hobby—searching for sea glass and making jewelry out of it.
It didn’t make sense that he was getting happier as I was sinking in a black hole of misery. What else could I do but agree to approach our issues as fixable rather than hopeless?
Even though we were divorced, he became my rock and forgave me for breaking his heart. In fact, we forgave each other for all past hurt and re-committed to making a fresh start. Thinking I was the only writer in the house, he asked if I would edit his manuscript about sea glassing and his painful yet expansive healing process during our time apart.
Several months later, he caught me by surprise after a long walk on the beach. He said he had written a new section of the book that needed attention. It was a written marriage proposal that rendered me speechless. Then he handed me an engagement ring he had made out of beautiful green sea glass. I was thrilled.
Our new wedding date of October 25th, which is fast approaching, replaces our old one—September 11th, a date that suited us fine until our fourth anniversary when history took a tragic turn. Shedding that date was as cathartic as our divorce, which ironically landed us in court on November 12th, 2013. What matters most now is that part of our legacy is also the launch of his new career, since he retired last year after 34 years.
For the Love of Sea Glass is an adult storybook with his own color photographs that illustrate the story of how we rose, fell, and rose again. It’s a reminder that sometimes we have to take a few steps back before moving forward in a meaningful way.
I do believe that getting divorced was a necessary step in our lives that precipitated consciousness, change, authenticity and, ultimately, happiness.
It was necessary to feel the impact of the loss of a good man—the father of my children, a man who still loved me even after I’d moved out to live with a virtual stranger. If I hadn’t been honest about my affair and moved out, he may never have woken up to the deficits not only in our marriage but in his own life.
I finally woke up to the fact that we both needed to be our best selves to work together as a team in equal parts to raise our children and love each other with full consciousness and authenticity.
Author: Yolanda Navarra Fleming
Image: Skinned Mink / Flickr
Editors: Sara Kärpänen; Toby Israel