Forgiving Adultery

After cheating, a yogi learns that you have to forgive to heal.

My intention is to write this piece from a place of forgiveness, so that I can break free of my prison of fear and any meals of shame.

According to The Power Path (a shamanism wisdom website) the theme for December is forgiveness and if we are to believe the theories on this site, which have often served me in the last year, we want to move into 2013 having forgiven our karmic debts—let go, surrender and have a sigh of relief. I am writing this piece to purge, to cleanse, to clean out my karmic debt junk drawer and wash my hands of this story once and for all.

In 2001, I cheated. Not only did I cheat, I slept with my husband’s (and my own) best friend. Not only did I sleep with him before our divorce was final—before the ink had dried on the papers—I discovered I was pregnant soon after. Not only did I get pregnant, I brought my son, this adorable creature into the world—against all odds, without a support structure, operating entirely on my own courage.

I consider myself a good person. I did not intend to wreak havoc on everyone’s lives. I was simply looking for love.

And yes, the Waylon Jennings’ song, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” comes to mind. At least, it should. Our best friend, let’s call him “Bill,” was not the place for me to be looking for solace. My husband and I had been in the midst of rocky times, but they weren’t that bad. We had fallen into a routine of partying a lot. Like five nights a week in the Austin, Texas live music scene.

None of this is ground breaking or all that unusual, but we had drifted apart in our mission to have fun, a mission created to avoid the pain lurking beneath the surface of our broken marriage. From the outside, we had it all together. We had a cute house, great jobs, both of us were attractive, kind and fun. But behind closed doors, we were anything but in love.

Our solution? Escapism via partying. We’d hit the scene: someone’s house, a club, a restaurant, a music gig. We’d get to the place and we’d go separate directions. We’d intersect here and there, but we just simply had our own lives going. I knew I was in trouble when one of my dear friends looked at me one night as my husband and I stood side by side but worlds apart, and said, “I’m going to sentence you two to a night at home alone together.”

I remember the breath being knocked right out of my gut and everything in my biology screaming, shrieking, “No!” Instead of saying something and speaking up for my soul that was in such agony, I just looked at him (and he at me) through glazed, uninterested eyes. We were already gone by then, our vows washed somewhere under the bar with the fifth or sixth beer glass, dirtied and stained with a rim of cocaine and a smidgen of ecstasy. We just didn’t have anything left to stand on.

So why did it happen? How could I participate in something so callous, self-righteous and ugly? I was then already a yogi, although I was not yet a teacher. How could any self-respecting yogi be such a shit? I’ve often wondered this and only recently have I come into some understanding of my behavior.

In Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatlyshe talks about the betrayal of disengagement.

When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears—the fear of being abandoned, unworthy and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain—there’s no event, no obvious evidence of broken-ness. It can feel crazy-making.

I believe that is what happened to my first marriage. With all of my heart, I believe he disengaged and I chased after him in “crazy-making” mode. I couldn’t reach him, so I began to do more and more outlandish things—more drugs, risqué clothing, unnecessary spending, wild decisions about my career and more. And on and on it went, until finally, I engaged in the ultimate act of treason, the greatest (read worst) depth I could sink to get his attention: adultery. My act of treason set off a chain of events that ultimately led to divorce.

We are both remarried now, and I will say this: I am so keenly aware of how wonderful my new husband is. We work hard, oh-so hard, to stay connected. I do not take him for granted, not even for a second. We are raising my 10-year-old son together. Yes, if you are wondering, Bill is still involved in my son’s life. He’s an excellent father and still a friend. And my new husband and I have a one-year-old baby girl, whom we lavish love upon.

This quote spoken by the character Po, in the film Kung Fu Panda 2 sums up why I had to finally forgive myself .

“ … You stay in your prison of fear

With the bars made of hopelessness

And all you get are three square meals a day of shame

Yes, good people do commit adultery. Forgiveness of self is key.

 

This was previously published in content partner elephant journal.

Read more on Why Good People Cheat on The Good Life.

Why Do Good People Cheat? is the result of a joint call with elephant journal love and relationships. Begin reading their series with  the hit first piece, How to Be a Cheater.)

Image credit: abhikrama/Flickr

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About Rebecca Butler

Rebecca Butler lives in Fort Worth, TX. Here, she fancies herself in a community that is at the genesis of change. By day, she is a self-proclaimed-intensity-junkie yoga teacher, serving as the lead teacher at a local donation based studio known as Karmany Yoga, a mother, and a wife… By night {when the house sleeps}, she is a writer, a dreamer and a poet. Her most meaningful moments are sometimes spent pushing a stroller, listening to her latest muse {from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer to Caroline Myss} and picking up after her 90 lb silver lab puppy named Gunner. Her mother passed from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in early 2012. Through this journey, Rebecca learned more about life, love and laughter than any book could have possibly taught her. It is in her memory that Rebecca chooses to live each day in Joy… Joy for life – the ups and downs, breaks and bruises and the glory. Oh, the glory. She has been published on MindBodyGreen, RecoveringYogi, Yoganonymous, and Intent.com. You can find out more about her teaching & writing at www.rebeccabutleryoga.com, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter at @Rbutleryoga.

Comments

  1. So how did you forgive yourself? How did you heal? How did everyone else heal?

    • It was a long road and it was not easy — basically, yoga, yoga and more yoga, spiritual growth, digging to the depths of myself, and years in therapy. And then, this is going to sound weird, but losing my mom to ALS played a role. I realized, as I was losing her, that it was so monumental that I had the courage to have my son… I might not have ever been able to enjoy her beauty as a grandmother if I had not, for by the time I had my daughter, my mom’s disease had incapacitated her. So in a sense, I embraced the “Everything happens for a reason” philosophy more deeply at that point. And of course, it’s still on-going. There are always layers to peel back and forgive. At least, in my path, there have been… And everyone else had their own path. My ex-husband remarried and is doing quite well for himself and his family in an entirely different career. The baby-daddy is about to get married for the first time. He is happy and well. We’re all older and more mature now. I think that helps.
      Best.

  2. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    My experience is that the engagement-disengagement cycle pulses through any long-term relationship. For me, the key is to know and expect this. If one expects a gingerbread cottage experience, he or she is setting themself up.

  3. Rebecca,
    It took courage to do what you just did. I also committed adultery while married to my first wife for other reasons, so I know full well how having unmet needs can cause someone to commit adultery.

    I could not help but think of what Jesus said – “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
    I don’t judge you, I admire your courage and vulnerability.

    May this act on your part bring you the peace that you deserve.

    take care,
    Frank

    • Thank you very much. Much love. I share to connect. I feel like connection is the main reason we’re here. Thanks for your comment. Cheers.

    • The point of unmet needs seems like a red herring to me. It implies that the other partner was in some way unfulfilling, but a person cannot really be completely fulfilled and most definitely not by another person. Individuals need to take responsibility for their own lives and relationships. Granted, people do destructive things when they are reacting to some sort of disconnect in their lives, but the partner cannot be responsible for filling every little void in their lives. People are responsible for their own choices, morals, and ethics. I’m not trying rip into you for language, but I was on the other end of infidelity-my ex cheated on me and created a death spiral which killed a 9 year relationship and marriage. I couldn’t help whatever problems she was having and I shouldn’t have been expected to. There is some saying that I heard in Al anon about no one deserving what they get but they are responsible for it. Maybe someone had a crap hand dealt to them, but that doesn’t absolve them of moral responsibility.

      Echoing what Rob F says below, I was hurt in such a deep and intimate way. It has been over 3 years and it still torments my soul.

      • I understand your point, for sure, and I am sorry for your pain. One thing I have learned in my years since, via yoga and via working on myself, is that you cannot ever fully love another unless you first fully love yourself. I certainly did not love myself in my early 20s, which is when my first husband and I married. So how could I give something I didn’t already have? And he wasn’t interested in working on maturing our bond together. I’m not blaming him, but I’ve learned now that relationships — real relationships — take work on both party’s part. Also required is a willingness to see things about ourselves that we might not want to see, and then a desire to grow, expand and mature together — and yes, loads of accountability. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I’m simply hoping to hold good space around this major life altering event (that I created) so that others might embark upon the path of forgiving themselves, with accountability, with hope and with self love.

        Another thing about forgiveness, it is the one thing our heart needs but our mind doesn’t like. It goes against the human justice code. But it has to be ladled upon not only ourselves when we create a wrong doing, but also others who create wrong doing’s against us. It’s necessary food for the soul. Caroline Myss was my spiritual teacher on this one. And she is so right.

        I hope that you find the peace you seek. Thank you for sharing.

  4. It is good that you can forgive yourself. I have forgiven my ex-wife for her affair but I don’t know if she has forgiven herself. My problem is trying to get over the pain I feel. Forgiveness is great but the sense of betrayal and pain that I feel over this is almost unbearable, even a year later. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be the same again.

    • I’m sorry for your experience and for your pain. One of my teachers, Ana Forrest, offers an interesting way to work with chronic pain. She suggests feeling into it, befriending it even, and using it to help you create whatever change you feel is necessary so that you can begin to be pain-free. I don’t know if you are a yogi, but this is something we work on the mat in great detail in my classes and most Forrest Yoga teachers will champion and teach the same process. Instead of denying pain, pretending it’s not there, or allowing it to imprison us, begin to use it as an ally. What do you need to do to release it? When you get to the bottom of that question, you might be amazed at what you discover.

      I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced.

      One last thing: Caroline Myss in her audio book, Energy Anatomy, has this really fantastic piece on betrayal. She says we are all meant to experience no less than one dozen significant betrayals in our life, some of which we create, some of which we endure. She even goes so far as to say that we sit with An Angel of Compassion before we incarnate and we design our own betrayals so that we learn a specific lesson…. She suggests looking for the gifts in our betrayals. This may be tough to stomach at first, but I can say that it helped me tremendously.

      Again, Best of luck. I wish you much healing.

    • Rob, I’ve been there. It gets better, gets bearable. It will never completely go away, but in two years, you will likely not hurt from it–aside from an occasional twinge. You will not be the same again, but you can be better. The choice is up to you.

      I didn’t think I would ever heal a year out either. My wife and I made it through, we are still together and happier than ever. It took a lot of pain, a lot of self-examination on both our parts, a lot of rocky times. But I made it through, and you will too. Even though it doesn’t seem like you will ever stop hurting right now.

      Wishing you strength and peace.

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