Would you take your partner back if he or she cheated on you?
Would you be able to go past the betrayal?
Is moving past the betrayal the only sign of maturity, of enlightenment, of true love?
Is resisting the impulse never to do anything wrong despite one’s lifeless life a rejection of one’s humanity?
I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair about a woman named Jessie in her 40s who takes the journey back to her island hometown to the aid of her mother who seems to be losing her mind, which she has been slowly since after her husband’s death 30 years ago. In her return, Jessie finds that she herself is on a similar journey and perhaps in retaliation, has an affair with a monk despite being married to an attentive, loving husband.
I found myself a little skeptical about the whole thing, because in my world, not many husbands or wives, no matter how open-minded or enlightened they claim to be, can accept an affair. It just takes a really long time to reconcile the betrayal, to reconcile the cognitive dissonance in our heads late at night when we are alone with our thoughts because:
We fight with the knowledge that your spouse has had sex with another person.
We fight with the claim that this person can say he or she loves you, and yet loves someone else.
We fight with the realisation that this person may not love you anymore but has chosen to stick with you all this time because of your kids.
We fight with the realisation that this person has grown bored of you just because you’ve been together so long.
We fight with our own feelings of love and loyalty for this person.
How do we be mature and reconcile the act with the person? That this person you love and respect and think is so smart, can be capable of doing something so hurtful and stupid and…weak? That you could have been so blind as not to see this coming?
How do you then move on despite all these battles, to emerge through the surface, hurt but still alive, stronger, more forgiving and still loving? And know that you’re not doing this because you’re afraid of change, that you’re not still clinging on to something so futile that only YOU can see the worth in it?
Isn’t it odd how Western (and exceedingly Westernised) civilisation(s) cling(s) on to and guard(s) monogamy so religiously (pardon the pun) when polygamy has been around so much longer? And yet, more and more people have affairs (it seems to be so) today, and are unable to stay with one partner in his/her lifetime.
Is this evolution? Are animals that mate for life becoming extinct?
And will we be considered more highly evolved if we learn to forgive and accept that emotional, sexual betrayal is just part of life? To be able to move past the hurt and anger, to say to this person who has hurt us, "I forgive you because what you’re doing is normal. It’s just part of growing old"?
If this is so, I have a long way to go.