He looked down at his hands folded in his lap as his eyes
filled with tears that he didn’t want me to see. One escaped and started its slow descent down
his cheek. He brushed it away and told
me that she had burned all of his childhood photos. Photos that were not from a digital decade,
but from the early 70’s. Photos that
could never be replicated. Photos that
reflected his incremental progression in life.
She thought there had been an affair. In a moment of squarely facing the deepest
betrayal, her anger consumed her and fueled the fire as she tossed the images
of him into the pile while he smiled back at her through the flames. She was sick to her stomach and shaking as
the realization of the lies weighted her down and pressed on her shoulders.
Couples commit to each other every day. They commit to cheering each other on through
life’s victories and disappointments, to keeping each other safe, and to
protecting the other’s heart from damage.
Either spoken or not, people hand over their vulnerabilities to their
partner and expect them to be a protective guardian. When it comes to light that this commitment
has been broken in favor of a new interest, the impact is jarring. It can stir up hatred, rage, embarrassment,
humiliation, and the deepest of sorrows.
It can leave a person seeing in their partner a stranger they never
Some never fully recover from a heart broken by
betrayal. Others are able to move beyond
and shed that old skin without it impairing new loves. In my experience of working with hundreds of
people who have suffered the most intimate of betrayals, I have observed that
those who fair better in the face of that agonizing sting are those who chose
their focus elsewhere.
They chose to acknowledge their own imperfections during the
relationship. They chose to acknowledge
that their partner’s actions of infidelity had nothing to do with them, but
were the other’s character flaw. They
chose to truly forgive and try their best to forget. I am not attempting to write a country song
and reduce this taxing issue to a simple solution – or say something clever
like “be better, not bitter.” But I do
wish to remind those of you bearing the weight of a crushed and trampled upon
heart that, in time, you will be able to chose your focus.
You can choose betrayal as the storyline of your life. Or you can attempt to write anew and ensure
that you remain the central character in your story instead of the antagonist who
hurt you. That despite betrayal, you
will move forward. The degree and frequency that you let the betrayal follow
along is up to you.