For those of you outraged by my audacity, I warn you this story gets worse before it gets better.
To give you a little background, you should know this was not some seedy, cheap motel kind of affair.
We were all friends and spent a considerable amount of time together as families, going on adventures with all the kids, dinners, beach days, apple picking, just all around fun. His sister was one of my best friends. It seemed so perfect as far as appearances go, but underneath it wasn’t that good at all.
My marriage was under tremendous strain. So was his.
It was the perfect storm.
I knew this man since I was a teenager and over the course of 20 years, we’d held subtle yet passionate feelings for each other. I would turn to him for comfort after a breakup only to shrug him off once I bounced back. He was truly in love with me. The pockets of time we found to be together was like an elixir to the mind, body, and soul. We planned to spend the rest of our lives stealing intimate rendezvous with each other.
Until we got caught.
The details of the moment when I checked out of my marriage are still so vivid. I had been seeing a therapist for myself for six months, sorting out my feelings. On this particular night, I chose to try and talk with my husband one more time about our marriage.
I was emphatic about the fact that we were in trouble as a couple, and that we needed help—stat. My husband did not want any part of it, which in retrospect, was his way of checking out too. He was sitting on the couch. I was on my knees pleading with him for couples therapy. When he gave me the hand signal to back the f*ck off, I conceded. I raised my white flag.
And when I’m done, I’m done.
I shut down and decided to seek emotional fulfillment elsewhere. I began exercising like a maniac. I started spending more time with girlfriends—the ones that fed my unhappiness with their own marital dismay. I abused alcohol. I harbored resentment and contempt. I was becoming the anti-me. I was in a dark place.
I can remember the night it happened. Subconsciously, I had manifested it. Twenty years of emotional and sexual buildup with this man, unleashed. It was an escape, a distraction. It was incredible rapture. After we slept together, we agreed we could never do it again. But we couldn’t stop. We didn’t stop.
Until my husband found his texts. Ugh, just thinking about that exact moment gives me a pit in my stomach. It all unfolded from there.
It didn’t take long for the salacious news to spread in our small town. I walked around wearing the “scarlet letter.” Our families were devastated. Our community was in disbelief. It was so bad. It was so dark. I would wake up in the morning hoping it was just a really bad dream only to have my heart physically ache when reality set in.
I wanted to go hide under a rock until it was all over, but the only way out was through. My husband and I tried to make it work for a while. We tried to start from a clean slate, but it was impossible with so much water under the bridge.
Besides, I really didn’t want to try.
I really didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore. I was at a fork in the road. Part of me wanted to stay because it seemed like the right thing to do. And as dead as the relationship was, it was still familiar and safe. The unknown was scary. The other part of me was the whisper inside telling me it was time to go. So as much as I resisted ending the marriage, I trusted that it was a necessary part of my journey. I filed for divorce 10 months after the affair went public.
I began to deepen my yoga practice. I started journaling. I allowed myself to feel all the threads of emotion woven into this blanket. I stayed in the present moment as much as I could and rode through the waves of the emotional roller coaster. I landed on my feet, and I’m a better person today.
Here are the life lessons I learned from the experience:
- Self-betrayal is the worst betrayal of all. I understand now that if I am suffering in a situation by choosing distractions rather than face its truth head on, I am the one who is liable. It is my integrity being compromised. I am the one being hurt by not honoring my highest self. There is no doubt that our true self can be trusted.
- I hold myself accountable for my actions. There is no blame on others anymore. I am responsible for my actions and my words. If we are aware of what’s happening, we are no longer the victim but an active participant in the experience.
- Self-compassion and self-forgiveness trumps seeking it from “out there.” I am so very sorry for betraying my husband. Not just because of the hurt it caused him, but, also, I didn’t realize the ripple effect my actions would have. Everybody in my world was affected. I carried a heavy bag of guilt and shame for a long time, but I learned to realize that that was not serving anybody, most importantly, me. Little by little, I let go of the old story by practicing self-love. Each time a negative emotion would bubble up, I would feel it through, but then allow myself to receive an emotion based on love. This became my new way of being, which too, had a ripple effect. Once we change the story, it gives everyone else permission to heal as well.
- I am flawed. We all are. It’s part of the human condition. I acknowledge and appreciate mine now. I had to come undone so that I could create something new. I had to go inward. It’s the learning and healing in life that makes it so bittersweet. Once I turned the tragedy into an act of self-love, it allowed me to be vulnerable. People would share their own personal stories with me. They wanted to connect. My ex-husband and I have a better relationship now than we did when we were married.We are all perfectly imperfect and we are all are truly interconnected.
I was supposed to learn the hard way. I had to feel every nook and cranny so that I could share with others. And while I sometimes wish it was more unicorns and rainbows, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am a stronger person for it. I accept the gift with humility and grace.
Author: Tiffany Cook
Apprentice Editor: Sierra Doan/Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina