Nobody Ever Thinks Of These Four Words In An Affair
I went through an intense (and, mercifully, short) emotional affair situation several years ago.
The fallout from the affair was not so short, and not so merciful.
I found myself in extraordinary pain, and I undertook extraordinary measures to understand it. Basically, every source of affair-related information I could find, I read.
And I found out:
Those of us affected by an affair, whether we’re the betrayer, the betrayed, or the accessory to the crime, tend to be some pretty self-focused folks.
We never even think of the following four-word phrase:
For Everyone’s Highest Good.
We all need to introduce ourselves to this concept, no matter which corner of the triangle we’re on.
In the immediate moment, this seems laughable. Some of us are thinking of the twenty-year-old bimbo our husband is cavorting with, and going, Why the fuck should I care about her? I’m going to be alone with two kids!
That very same husband may be looking at that very same wife and thinking, Fuck that. I gave this person twenty years of my life, and she froze me out!
And the girlfriend is going, You know, I’m sorry, but she had her chance, and I can make him so much happier …
(Yeah … been there, done that.)
When we’re thinking like that, chances are we’re seeing a very narrow view, and from the youngest and most childish viewpoint.
Because a lot of us, let’s face it, go shopping for relationships looking to be taken care of.
I don’t mean only taken care of as in: Having a helpmate to do the lawn while we vacuum and dust and thaw out the chicken for dinner, or somebody to help turn the wheel so that together we can afford that nice house we want our kids to grow up in.
I mean taken care of as in: We never felt this loved before, and we want somebody to take the place of our parents and help us feel loved, valuable, and secure in ourselves in all the ways they didn’t.
And when somebody violates a contract like that one — wow.
That really is when Hell hath no fury.
When we rise up out of our myopic little, But she hasn’t given me any sex in eight months! or, He owes me fidelity and he went and touched another woman and broke my heart! or, But he told me he was leaving her … the shocking news is that those things aren’t always in our highest good.
And sometimes, what’s in everyone’s highest good turns out to be the same thing.
You see, we all have this nearsighted, wounded-self view of what our highest good is … and then there’s what our highest good really is.
A lot of times we have to rise way up out of that wounded-child, little perspective we have in order to see this thing called, Our Highest Good.
Remember that old song, Fly like an eagle/To the sea/Fly like an eagle/Let the spirit carry me ?
That’s what we need to do, here.
Stuck In The Valleys, or, What We Thought The Truth Was:
Out of respect for other affair situations I know of, I will confine myself to just mine, here.
When our affair broke up, the wife was never told the … entire reason he moved out.
Yeah, he was truthful about most of it. He just withheld the whole And, oh yeah, I’ve met someone else part.
None of this was a fun experience for anyone. I’m informed from the vantage point of nearly three years later that this wife’s response was, He’s crazy. He’s depressed.
And she ran around lobbying others in the family to pound him right back into “how he used to be” as quickly and as firmly as possible, because I’m sure she thought of “how things used to be” as “my highest good.”
(I mean, when you’ve built a home and family and spent some thirty years in the same marriage, it seems like that makes sense. I get that.)
For the guy’s part, as soon as the family clamor started, he abandoned his highest good altogether. Immediately, his focus became, The family’s highest good, and, What can I do so everyone isn’t angry with me?
But, that could be dangerous, because the reason he left sounded like, I’m miserable.
And ignoring that isn’t going to fix the reasons you’re miserable, and if you don’t fix the reasons you’re miserable … what’s going to happen?
For me, my reaction was, I’m losing the dream of this relationship, and, I’m going to be all alone! and, I’m never going to be happy, ever, ever again.
And in that state of mind, of course it looks as if your highest good is: Getting the relationship back again.
But, I think anyone can see what the errors in thinking were there, and those errors were never going to be fixed by getting the relationship back again.
Flying Like An Eagle, or, What Our Highest Goods Really Were:
But the truth is, the guy was unhappy, and the guy was unhappy for a reason. Their relationship was like an ouroboros, feeding itself the same problems over and over again.
He was an adult child of an alcoholic, and had never felt lovable, so he tried to earn love through self-effacement and pretzel-ing himself into whatever it was that earned appreciation and approval in the moment.
However, 10,512,000 of those “moments” later (that’s twenty years, to y’all), and that’s when I started to hear things like, “Everyone else is happy and I’m unhappy. What’s wrong with me?”
She was used to getting her own way, and often did so through shouting and sarcastic remarks. Every time she got her way that way, she did it more and more, and he never stood up for himself because he didn’t have any self-worth anyway, so he thought he deserved to be treated like that and groveled harder and harder to please.
The more he groveled to please, the more demanding she got, and the more demanding she got, the more he groveled to please. Where was he in that relationship?
Thinking he was unlovable and dumping on himself, that’s where.
Okay, yeah, he could leave. But he’d still be thinking he was unlovable and dumping on himself … and that dynamic would start over again no matter who he was with.
Because you can’t run away from yourself.
Seems to me as if, from the eagle’s point of view, his highest good would be standing apart for a while to think about where he got all that low self-worth from, and asking for some of his own needs to be met for a change.
Hers might be, instead of trying to pound him back into the way he used to be with every (human) sledgehammer she could find, stepping out of that and taking this performance of moving out, together with the message, “This is how unhappy I am,” seriously.
What am I doing that’s making this person so unhappy he needs to take his things and move out after over thirty years?
And me? I had a lot of work to do finding feelings of self-sufficiency, taking care of myself, and entertaining myself and enjoying my time alone, without needing someone there to “get” me and “make” me feel valuable and loved all the time.
You can really only do that work alone.
No, getting that relationship back again at that time was most certainly not in my highest good.
Kind of seems as if, rather than trying to solve deep feelings of unhappiness using a relationship with another person, each person needed to go off by themselves and work on those feelings on their own for a while. Therapy might be good here. Actually picking up a book, journaling, doing some deep processing. If you just cry, nothing will get better whether you stay in an old relationship, take a new one, or remain alone.
To me, that looks like Highest Good for everybody in this situation.
Then, whatever relationships the people chose, they would have their best chance of working out harmoniously and meeting the needs of the people in them.
This is what we don’t see when the news of an affair hits us.
All we see, in those low, low valleys, crying in our bedrooms in our wounded-child selves, is that MY world’s been shattered! and It’s YOUR FAULT!!
When the main ingredients for that shattering have actually been there a long time, and the affair is the symptom and not the problem.
What’s in everybody’s highest good?
Moving out of woundedness to consider that vital question can be the hardest thing you ever do.
But it’s also the one thing that’s going to help you the most.