Once in a while, someone asks me how Mr. Utter Imperfection feels about me writing and sharing our marriage story, especially his infidelity, so publicly. And I love that. I adore it when someone thinks of him, too.
Because very few people wondered after my husband’s well-being like they did mine when our story first broke on the 5-o’clock news. Most folks didn’t offer him the consolation they offered me when he left his career, forfeiting our livelihood over the contrived scandal that ensued.
The man I vowed to love was dropped like a hot potato by a multitude of colleagues and people he considered to be friends. The general public—people only privy to a one-sided, poorly reported story—judged and crucified my husband for his mistake in his personal life.
I write about experiencing infidelity in my marriage and recovering from its horrors first because our story was so public. But foremost, to be a voice for others who’ve lived through similar trauma but aren’t able to talk about it. Yet.
Rather than risk being defined by my trauma, I want to repackage my pain into good purpose.
All I ask, read—expect, is for people to be kind in response.
There’s no room for unkindness or judgment from outsiders looking in when someone is candid about recovering from infidelity. No matter whether a person’s choice is to stay in their marriage or to end it.
There’s only room for love—the best choice in weaponry of mass compassion.
At the onset, the public nature of our marriage story felt unbearably burdensome, like heinous insult on top of grave injury. Until I realized I could stop the hemorrhaging by telling the rest of our story—the beautiful parts full of even though. That putting my voice to our story helped me heal and my healing helped my husband to heal. That—miraculously, and the reason I continue to share our story today—sharing our story from my point of view helps others to heal from their stories, too.
But I digress. In regards to how Erik feels about me putting voice to our story—then, now, and into the future—I’d answer the question, but I think he does it best.
We are not our mistakes, we’re more so what we do after.
Erik’s after is highlighted here in this sweet love note he wrote for me in “our book.” (We’ve taken turns writing words of affection to each other in our little book and then hiding it in fun places for each other to find for thirteen years now).
No matter the particular hurdle set in the path of your marriage (save abuse, cruelty, and a lack of personal safety) you and yours can work to overcome it. You can use what you learn from doing so to pave a better way forward together. You can take your love from mediocre at best to magnificent in stature and scope.
Even so, your worst mistake or biggest regret may still end your marriage. But maybe, just maybe that marriage needs to end—so that your new, bigger, bolder, braver way of loving each other can finally begin. I hate that it sometimes has to happen this way every bit as much as I love that it can happen this way, too.
Tuck this truth away in the bear-proof box inside your heart—the unthinkable need not break you.
If you’re both all in, willing to own your role and change your behavior, sincere in apology and committed to atoning—that unthinkable, horrible, no good, very bad thing can actually make you.
It can remake you into the couple you both always wanted to be but didn’t know how. At least that’s how it happened for Erik and me—just a couple of headstrong, imperfect, ornery people who aren’t willing to stop loving each other. Sound like someone else you know?
I was once a woman who never, ever thought infidelity would be part of her marriage story.
Thus I never decided ahead of time whether I would stay or go if it happened to me. I’m in the minority it seems. As each time I publish a piece on cheating, many feel called to adamantly assert a definitive, “I’d be OUT!” if they were ever betrayed. Often, without ever having been betrayed. Without having built a long, rich life with someone. Without having children to fold into consideration. Without having considered the long term financial fallout of separation from their spouse.
In reality, meaning when infidelity actually occurs in a marriage, staying with your spouse after they’ve hurt you in one of the worst ways possible, or leaving them in hopes of finding safer love is an intensely personal choice. A heart-mangling, intestine-tangling decision mitigated by an untold number of factors.
I fully support the person who chooses to leave their partner after the often unbearable circumstance of infidelity. And I fully support those who choose to face the fear and uncertainty involved in an attempt to forgive, heal and forge on in an effort to build more a bulletproof marriage with their spouse.
It’s not always possible to stay in your marriage after infidelity—but sometimes, you can stay with your spouse and start a brand new one.
Since the latter was my choice, that’s the perspective I write from. And I share what I write publicly because I remember what it was like to be in the bleak, lonely pit of despair over the blindside betrayal in my twenty-year marriage.
I remember having no idea how to stay with my husband, though I wanted to try. No idea if or how I’d ever be able to trust him again or offer genuine, full forgiveness.
I remember not sleeping or eating for weeks. I remember having trouble breathing regularly. I remember how triggers would ambush me—ripping open newly formed scars, setting my healing back.
I remember mourning our once sweet, happy marriage that lost its way inside the maze of pressures in this world. I remember thinking I’d never be able to stop thinking about my husband’s choice to cheat on me.
Had someone told me at it was possible to eventually move past it all and begin anew if my husband and I both chose to be completely vulnerable with each other and 100% committed in every way to creating a better marriage, it would have wonderfully buoyed my spirit and resolve. Unfortunately, though, people who’ve been betrayed are too-often silenced into secrecy by a perceived shame from being cheated on.
Infidelity is as old as marriage, but because it’s considered taboo, it’s not typically talked about.
Well, I’m not having that. I will talk it about our experience loudly and our recovery proudly to try to comfort as many distraught spouses inside as many broken marriages as I can.
I will take the pain I didn’t deserve, the actions my husband fiercely regrets, along with the ways we healed and use it all for the purpose of propping up other couples who’re battling to keep their marriages going. And I won’t demean, belittle, or assume for them anyone’s chosen response to infidelity in their relationship.
Each of the souls affected by betrayal has already experienced enough hurt, disappointment, and shame for one lifetime.
Instead, I work to champion redemption and forgiveness—for without them we’ll be lost and unable to fully heal—whether we stay in our marriages or not.
I will campaign for learning to love our partners for no reason—in hopes of helping us avoid treacherous pitfalls in our marriages or recover from them. For when we attach conditions to our love, that’s not really love.
Mr. Utter Imperfection and I are as imperfect a couple as they come.
Which is why your own imperfections don’t scare us. If you or your spouse have ever made a huge mistake replete with whole-hearted regret, you’re now and forever invited to come sit by us.
We’re a soft place for you and your story to land because the very same happened to us once, too. But the best reason by far to sit down by us is so we can tell you all the good stuff that happened next.
© Written by: Jodie Utter
You might also like:
Why I Chose to Stay After My Husband Was Unfaithful
My Graduate Degree In Love: Overcoming An Affair
So, Your Husband Cheated On You. But What Did He Do Next?
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