I sometimes hear from wives who feel as if every single thing regarding their marriage is now tainted because of their husband’s infidelity. In fact, some even begin to question their husband’s love for and feelings toward them. Eventually, it can begin to feel as if your shared history might be distorted or as if the happy memories were all in your mind.
I heard from a wife who said: “my husband’s infidelity has ruined absolutely everything. I don’t trust him. I can’t even bear to look at him. But you know what the worst part is? Not only did he destroy our present and our future, but I feel as if he has also destroyed our past. These days, when I remember back to early in our marriage or to when we were dating, I just feel cheated out of what should have been. I can’t even look back at the happy memories without getting a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I used to look back on our early relationship with longing and nostalgia. Now, I wonder if he was looking at other women even back then or if he was lying to me in the past but I just didn’t want to see it. I am so mad about this. Because if my husband and I had divorced for any other reason or if he was going to leave my life in another way, at least I could look back on it and think we had some happy memories. Now, I feel like we don’t even have that anymore. Will it ever get any better?”
I believe that it will get better. In fact, it is my own experience that it gets a lot better. And I know how this feels. I felt the same way. I would even look back on my honeymoon and wonder what I might have missed. I’d think back to our early marriage when we were struggling but blissfully happy and I would wonder if I was the only one who felt this happiness or if I saw only what I wanted to see.
However, as time has passed and I have healed, I am now able to look back on my memories with fondness again. Yes, my husband and I reconciled and this may have something to do with my improved memories. But, I hear from wives who eventually ended the marriage but who eventually come to view their memories as positive feelings rather than as negative ones. How is this possible? Are we all just crazy or do we just have a huge capacity for forgiveness or forgetfulness? I don’t think that either is the case. I’ll explain more below.
When The Pain Is The Most Fresh, Your Memories Will Be Most Distorted: Please believe me when I say that I don’t mean to be condescending or intensive. With my background, this is the last thing that I want. But I know from experience that your memories will be the most negatively affected when your pain is the most intense and the most fresh. In the early days following the affair, you just aren’t thinking clearly (and understandably so.) Your emotions are all over the place and you tend to see things at their very worst. This is absolutely normal. But it’s also about the worst it can and does get. From there, things progressively get better because they have the time and distance necessary to do so.
We Tend To Remember Things As More Romantic When We Are Happy And Remember Them As More Dire When We Are Not: You know how I told you that I used to look back fondly on the early years of my marriage when we were poor but blissfully in love? Well, if I’m being honest, at the time when we were struggling financially, I didn’t think borrowing money from my parents was so great or even romantic. But, as time passed, I tended to blur the lines on how I really felt. And, when I no longer felt the frustration of not having enough money, I actually looked back on that time with longing because other good things were happening with my life such as getting married and starting a family.
The thing is, we tend to forget both how bad things were (and also how good they were) with the passage of time. The lines get blurred and the feelings dull. And, when you are in pain, this can actually be a good thing. Now that it’s been a few years since the infidelity, I can go back to that time and not feel like I’m going to throw up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t look back at it as a time I enjoyed or even tolerated. But, the truth is that all marriages have their fair share of burdens. I don’t remember having to borrow that money from my parents as all that awful anymore either. Likewise, I look back on the time my son was ill and of course I cringe because that was a bad time for us. But now that I know that we have gotten through it, then it no longer stings quite as much as it used to. The same is true of infidelity. Once you get through it (and you get through it whether your marriage survives or not because eventually you do move on either way,) then it no longer has the same hold over you or over your memories.
Eventually, Your Authentic Memories Come Back Into Focus As Healing Takes Place: As I alluded to, once you begin to heal, this distortion no longer has so great a hold on you. I can’t and won’t tell you that I look back on the infidelity as a benign period of my marriage. It was awful. I would never want to repeat it. But today, I can look back on it and no longer feel the full weight of the emotions. And today, when I look back on our early years, my memories are genuine. The good times are still the good times. And the bad times are put in perspective, even the affair.