By: Davida Brown
Romantic Comedy is my favorite genre. Romance films make me feel warm and tingly, as they pull on all my heart strings: love, commitment, faith and unity.
I happened to watch “the Vow” a few days ago, and there was a scene in that movie that made my heart stop, a line that captured the essence of what I say day in and day out to my clients. If you’re not familiar with this movie, it’s about a young married couple, Leo and Paige, who are in a car accident, resulting in Paige losing a chunk of her memory. To Leo’s chagrin, she has no memory of him, their relationship or marriage. The movie chronicles their journey back to each other.
During the movie, we learn that Paige and her parents were estranged for a number of years. Paige can’t remember why and no one in her family will tell her what caused the fallout. Eventually, Paige discovers that her father had an affair with one of her friends. Paige is distraught and angry. She confronts her mother, spewing contempt. She doesn’t understand how she could stay after what he did. Her mother responds, "I couldn’t leave. I made a choice. I chose to stay with him for all the things he’s done right; not leave for the one thing he did wrong. I chose to forgive him."
Her words hit me like a mack truck. YEEEESSSSSS, I screamed inwardly. Marriage is a choice. Choosing to stay married when your spouse violates your trust is a choice. Choosing to acknowledge and appreciate all the things your spouse does right, despite the breach in trust, is a choice. Forgiveness is a choice.
When the movie ended, I reflected on this scene for quite some time. Years ago, I too made the choice to stay after the love of my life cheated on me. I chose not to end our relationship because of his mistake. I chose to forgive and trust again.
It wasn’t easy folks. NOT AT ALL. I was angry, hurt, disappointed, embarrassed and on and on. How dare he step out on me? We had a great relationship, or so I thought. Why would he do this to me, to us? I eventually had to come to grips with the fact that I would never understand why he cheated. We often think that if we know why he or she did it, it’ll help us get over it. It doesn’t and in my opinion is a waste of time and energy. Did I ask why he cheated? Of course. But at the end of the day none of the reasons made any difference in how I felt. Cheating is a choice and my husband made that choice. It was inexcusable and no explanation would change that. So instead of trying to "understand" why he made that choice, I directed my energy to figuring out what I wanted. Did I want my relationship? Yes or No? I grappled with this question for months. I thought about all the good things about him, about us. Was his mistake bigger than us?
Ultimately I decided that I wanted my relationship. Making that decision was the biggest hurdle. Once I did, my actions from that day forward were in alignment with that choice. That meant I had to forgive and had to figure out a way to trust him again. It didn’t happen overnight, but with a lot of effort, together, we found a way to rebuild the trust. While I certainly wish the infidelity never happened, I can honestly say that we are now in a great place, and I am so glad that I made the choice to give him another chance.
There are many of you reading this article that believe that infidelity is unforgivable, that once the trust is broken it simply can't be restored, that if you choose to save your marriage you are weak or insecure. If that's you, you certainly are entitled to feel that way. Only you know what's best for you and only you are equipped to make that decision. But, if you are committed to trying to save your marriage, if your spouse is committed to trying to save your marriage, I want you to know that moving past the infidelity can be done. We did it and so have many couples we coach. I want you to know that choosing to give your spouse and marriage another chance does not mean you are weak, insecure or lacking in self-respect. Only you know the value of your marriage. Only you know if your marriage is worth fighting for. Take the time to consider everything before making a choice. I did. Take the time to pray for discernment and to listen for that voice inside you. And if you decide that you want your marriage (spouse must want it too), take the necessary steps together to implement that choice.
If you want to save your marriage, but don't know where to start, we can help. Our self-help workbook, The Trust Is Gone. Help!, will give you the tools you need to begin rebuilding the trust. Click HERE for details.