By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
Late in my life, I finally married. My regular readers may realize that I am very much a romantic, and I truly believed that the marriage would last forever. In less than two years, we were separated.
Our marriage suffered from issues that many marriages had. There was alcoholism, anger issues, and infidelity. The twist in my story is that the bottles had her lipstick on them, and the holes in the walls were the size of her fists. Even after she cheated on me, I was still the one that urged her to couples therapy to try to save the marriage, but to no avail.
She threw me out of the house.
I wish I had some advice, but I really don’t. That’s not the point of this blog. In fact, in some ways, I’m hypocritical. Frankly, I have no tolerance for infidelity. I’ve never understood how the person who’s significant other has had an affair could even continue that relationship, since forgiving the act is more or less justifying it. If the person who cheated knows they will be forgiven, what is to stop them from cheating again? My hypocritical action, however, was to try to save my marriage after she cheated on me.
What I would like to discuss, however, is what hurt me the most. Perhaps it’s arrogant of me to assume so, but I’m guessing that many people who have experienced an unfaithful partner will relate to the problem that I have.
See, there are many issues with infidelity. The possibilities of sexually transmitted diseases is one, or a surprise pregnancy, not to mention that the other’s lover may well be thinking long term and try to break up the relationship as well. But for me…it’s trust.
Alcohol changed her. I am ashamed to admit that it was my fault. When we met, I didn’t realize that she was coming up on her five-year anniversary of sobriety, so on our first date, I asked her if I should bring a bottle of wine. I wish she had told me then, but the reality is that I provided the wine that knocked her off of the wagon, something that will haunt me forever. Because of the alcohol, the angry, bitter, unreliable woman that I divorced was not the sweet, intelligent and stable wife that I married.
It’s been said, many times by many people, that if you don’t have trust in your relationship, then you have nothing. I always believed it, but today I know it. Having an affair is not just enjoying sex. It’s knowing that there is somebody who trusts you, knowing the history you have with your partner, and deciding that it is acceptable to trade all of that in for one encounter. One. Encounter.
Mine wasn’t so bad, I guess. Like I said, we were married for less than two years, but the betrayal cut me so deeply that even today I have been unable to open up fully for another person like I did for her. And that has kept me alone, eight years later.
Trust is fragile. It is so easily broken, and in a relationship, it constantly takes a beating. Fortunately, it can heal if the wound is not too deep. If you forgot to pick something up at the grocery store, or were late for a date, these scratches can heal over. But cut too deep, and the trust can be destroyed forever. There are, of course, other ways to cause critical damage to trust, but infidelity is the cause of the destruction of my trust.
In my humble opinion, the best way to repair damage from infidelity is to avoid it altogether. Given temptation, as I have been tempted to violate principles of proper conduct many times throughout my life, it is possible to let your intelligence overcome your hormones.
It’s also important to remember that trust goes both ways. My wife was gorgeous. It never surprised me that men found her “interesting”, and frankly, I never trusted them. The truth, though, is that my distrust of other men never concerned me, because the only person that I did trust, the only person that mattered, was her. Because I trusted her (foolishly, in this case), I didn’t have to worry about other men.
Maybe I live in an ideal world, but it’s the world that I want to live in, and the world that I believe to which we should aspire. I’ll never be the same again, but I’ll never stop fighting for that ideal.