I'd have been justified if I left but I, instead, I leaned into the pain.
Three and a half years ago, after a romantic anniversary dinner celebrating 14 years of marriage, I was wasting time at my computer while my husband was in the bathroom (the not so romantic reality of 14 years).
Because I was waiting for a deposit to hit my bank account, I was checking it out online and noticed a balance on a credit card we never used.
I had time, so I looked at the details. $267.96 for flowers?
Being a trusting person, I didn't think too much of it but wondered what they were for.
It wasn't my birthday, not his mother's birthday, and as much as I could remember, no one had died—yet.
So, when he was free I asked, "Who were the flowers for?" His reply was, "My bowling partner, she turned 40 and was having a tough time."
Now, I'm occasionally slow, but I'm not stupid.
"I understand flowers for a friend, but $267 worth?"
He responded, "It was 40 roses for 40 years," proving once again, men don't often use their right head.
What followed was a night of tears and screaming and slamming doors, followed by more tears, and screaming and slamming doors.
Finally, I fell asleep and woke up to a world that had shifted.
I was in a place I never imagined I'd ever be and I didn't know how to live there. Oh sure, there was tons of relationship advice to follow, like once a cheater, always a cheater, or, get out fast while he's feeling guilty. And, I certainly had helped many clients as they wove their way through divorce court. But, this was me and it was real.
I leaned into my pain and felt all the despair. One clear thought came my way.
As crazy as it seemed, the comfort I wanted was in my husband's arms.
That night we talked and talked, and talked some more. We didn't back away; we went right to the heart of both our pain and discomfort. At the end of the night, I was brave and asked for what I needed — for him to come back to bed and hold me.
Luckily, we had a counseling session already booked the next day and at Sharon's office we leaned in more. But, first we watched her lean into her anger from being lied to. Watching expressed, constructive anger in the moment encouraged me to do the same instead of choking it down to deal with later.
She encouraged both of us to bring everything up and out. I could ask any question (even the bizarre ones) and he had to answer them.
There would be no sweeping things under the carpet to fester and grow.
Anything and everything was open for discussion. It was great advice. We dealt with the betrayal and pain in the moment instead of letting it fester and grow. It was the summer of honesty.
The feelings and thoughts we want to run away from can only dissolve over time if we bring them to the surface, give them air, and deal with them.
When you're a couple, you do that by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. It takes two to have a relationship and behaviors don't happen in a vacuum.
That doesn't mean taking away the responsibility and accountability of my husband crossing the fidelity line, but the truth is, in most cases both parties contribute to getting to that line in the first place. That's why both are essential for dealing and healing the aftermath.
Walking away makes healing a long, slow journey full of anger, blame and shame.
Feeling that anger, blame and shame—and sharing it with my partner (not only in those first rage-filled hours but also through the tearful, gut-wrenching aftermath)—meant I wasn't held hostage by stuck emotions. I could move forward and start picking up the pieces.
Because sooner or later, that's what we'll end up doing; so, we can do it now or do it later.
Embracing the pain underneath the anger gets it over much, much faster.