Article courtesy of Suzy Brown
In he book, Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, Elizabeth Edwards writes about her reaction to husband John Edward’s affair.
According to Edwards she “cried, screamed and went to the bathroom, and threw up”.
“I spent months learning to live with a single incidence of infidelity. And I would like to say that a single incidence is easy to overcome, but it is not,” Edwards wrote. “I am who I am. I am imperfect in a million ways, but I always thought I was the kind of woman, the kind of wife to whom a husband would be faithful.”
If you’ve experienced the betrayal of infidelity I’m sure you can relate to her story. Some may even be able to relate to her desire to save her marriage. And, know in great detail…
What has to happen for any marriage to survive infidelity:
I. What any victim of infidelity is really feeling:
You act out of character and out of control
Doing all those things Elizabeth Edwards said she did: sobbing, screaming and then throwing up. Most normal people find themselves not just feeling, but also acting, out of character.
You have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Flashbacks, replaying the discovery scene repeatedly. Obsessing about what you did wrong. Obsessing about what your spouse and his lover did together. Uncertainty about the future. Feelings of anxiety, panic and depression. These are all due to the discovery that your spouse has been unfaithful.
II. What has to happen for the marriage to survive?
The one who has strayed has to acknowledge and take full responsibility for the affair.
The choice to be unfaithful was your husband’s alone. Infidelity is a choice. Period. You could have been the worst spouse in the world. If that was the case, your husband could have gone to counseling and figured out if his marriage was viable or not. But, one person in the marriage made the choice to lie, deceive and break the marriage vows. It is that person who bares the responsibility and has the most work to do.
The one who strays has to recognize the seriousness of the betrayal. He has to really “get it.”
The husband who says, “this meant nothing to me,” or “It was no big deal.” doesn’t get it. The husband who strays has to see that this breach of trust can be a deal-breaker for a marriage and that he is responsible for repairing the damage.
The one who strays has to rebuild trust in the way the partner needs it.
Husband who stray and want to come back home long to be able to say, “I’m sorry.” and move on. That’s not how it works. The unfaithful husband has to be willing to do whatever his wife needs to move forward. The unfaithful husband usually has a lover on the side giving warm-fuzzies, while the wife at home is furious and can hardly speak in a civil tone of voice. It’s hard to choose to do the hard work of repair. Most cheaters are not willing to do what it takes. They would rather avoid the discomfort of dealing with an angry, betrayed wife. If this is your husband, don’t ever take his avoidance as a sign of strength.
III. What can you do to prevent affairs from happening in your marriage?
Agree not to drink alcohol alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.
Alcohol is involved in a big percentage of initial cases of infidelity. Alcohol decreases our resistance, makes us lose our inhibitions and make bad choices. And promotes situations that encourage straying.
Maintain a partnership with each spouse helping the other achieve his or her goals.
Trouble brews when one person is the main breadwinner and begins to see his partner as dispensable. Alternatively, when one partner does all of the emotional work in the relationship there is the same danger. Marriage is a partnership and both spouses should put forth equal effort in reaching those goals.
Create an accountability group.
Stay in regular contact with a small group of girlfriends who share your moral and spiritual standards. Find a group that values marriage and have strong marriages themselves. Support each other in living up to the standards you’ve set for yourself and your marriage.
Don’t push issues under the rug that should be addressed.
Keeping the peace is not worth it if serious issues are unresolved for either partner. If one person in the relationship always gives in, the other partner doesn’t have to do their share of the work in making the marriage good for both of them. Get counseling before problems become irreparable.
Often in midlife divorces of prominent people, the wife is simply not willing to give up all the rewards of being married to a successful person. Giving up the big house, the parties for a life of insecurity are more than they are willing to do. I’m sure Elizabeth Edward’s cancer has also influenced her decision to try to work this out. The Edwards’ marriage outcome has everything to do with how willing John is to do the work of repair that Elizabeth needs. Stay tuned…especially now that John Edwards has acknowledged the child born of his affair.
- Did your marriage survive infidelity?
- What advice would you give Elizabeth Edwards?
- Could you accept and stand by your husband if he fathered another woman’s child?
Suzy Brown is a midlife divorce recovery expert in Kansas City, MO.
Author: Radical Recovery: Transforming the Despair of Your Divorce Into an Unexpected Good
Host of www.MidlifeDivorceRecovery.com
Speaker, Director of Midlife Divorce Recovery Boot Camps
Founder of R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Women: Women who are (R)ising (A)bove (D)ivorce (I)n (C)onfidence (A)nd (L)ove