She listened to the story – his, mine, ours. And then she said something thought-provoking. Sure, she said, there's been a lot of pain and disappointment but she believes we'll be okay. Why? There's no "contempt" in our marriage.
She's right. Now.
But it wasn't always a contempt-free relationship.
And that awareness humbled me.
Because long before I knew of any infidelity, I can remember looking at my husband with contempt. In fact, I specifically recall one awful moment when we were out with a group of people and my husband said something I considered unfunny. Or dumb. And this is the thought that went through my head.
I can't believe I agreed to spend the rest of my life with this asshole.Yuck.
Not exactly a moment I'm proud of. But that's how contemptuous I felt. I thought he was lucky to be married to me.
Lucky to be married to someone who thought he was an asshole.
Thing is, at that point in our marriage, he was an asshole. He was deep into his affairs, encounters, lies, deceit. He had little time for me or our growing family (kinda hard to believe our family was growing, given the atmosphere of barely disguised contempt...but that's the power of hormones).
I offer up this unflattering portrait of my marriage to show you that, if we can somehow salvage our marriage, then anyone can. (Not everyone should, mind you. If there's abuse of any sort, save yourself and your children. Some marriages aren't meant to survive.)
And how surprising to realize that, four years after discovering my husband's infidelity, I like him more than I did before I knew.
I've always been cynical about reports I've read that proclaimed "my husband's affair was the best thing that happened to me", or accounts of how a marriage is far better than it ever was. Of course it is, I would scoff. He's not sleeping with other women anymore. Hard for it to get worse than it was.
But here I am. Poster girl for how my marriage – post-affair – is better than before.
That's not to say I recommend infidelity as the route to a better marriage. I would suggest the more conventional routes first – counselling, date nights, blah blah blah.
It is to say that an affair (or dozens!) isn't necessarily the death knell for your marriage. If you both want the marriage and are willing to do the hard work of slogging through the detritus of betrayal, it's possible to find yourself in a marriage that makes you forget you ever felt contempt for your spouse.
Contempt? you wonder, when a counsellor suggests it? Not at all. At least...not any more.