Is it OK to choose me?
A reader from Canada wrote to me with a question she was struggling to find an answer to: “Is it ok to choose me?” After an affair with another man led to the realization that her marriage was not as fulfilling as she hoped, she wondered, does it make sense to leave a husband who is not providing the emotional support that she’s come to want? How does she draw the line between selfishness and self-preservation? Is it ok to choose the pursuit of her own happiness and leave the marriage or stay for the sake of everyone else concerned?
3100 words = 12minutes reading
It is impossible to summarize my situation, life and character in only a few short paragraphs but I will do my best and see what you think. I have spent many hours in the last several months reading, learning and growing. I have been married for 9 years and have two young children. For most of my marriage I have been happy. My husband treats me well, is respectful, hard working and generally a good man. Unfortunately he is completely emotionally detached and unavailable. In his defence, he actually believes he is biologically ‘without feelings’. His life choices are based on \\”should’s\\” and logic. A close friend describes our relationship as a business partnership. For most of our marriage I was mostly OK with this. I had accepted it as just \\”his personality\\” and made the most of it by having girlfriends and my mother to share with emotionally. But over time that was not enough. I am a very passionate and enthusiastic person. I’m also very self-aware. I ignored my inner voice for many years (because I am also a very logical/analytical person and due to my own insecurities) but in the last two years, I started to hear my inner voice. The problem was that I didn’t really realize what it was asking for, only that I wasn’t completely satisfied.
Last year I met another man. I’d known him socially for several months but one night I initiated a lengthy text conversation. This, of course, led to an emotional affair that lasted for a while before it then became physical. I read your post about affairs and what it means (self-sabotage, mistaken identity). Even now, looking back, I don’t see it as that but maybe I’m not looking deep enough. Yes I knew it was wrong and if my husband found out, he would be devastated. But nowhere along the way, even still, do I see this choice as an intention to sabotage my Self or my life. And now I can safely say that the benefits I have gained from having had it – at least the friendship portion – far outweigh the potential consequences. Because through the experience, I have found ‘me’.
It is now 8 months later. The relationship I have formed with this other man has grown into something I never imagined or expected. I’ve learned much about myself and about my relationship as a result of the affair. But more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about who I want to be and who I am, from knowing this man. I realize that it sounds like a cliché and I am the first to admit that new romance will outshine a long-term relationship any day. I get it. This man is a rare type who is very in touch with his feelings, is on his own journey of self-awareness and growth and who legitimately loves me and wants the best for me, regardless of his own wants. We have an openness and honesty in our relationship that I have never experienced before. He makes me feel like I can do anything and he encourages me to do so. In just 8 months, I’ve come to realize that I am a valuable person, that I am special and amazing and can be proud of who I am. It is a gift he has given me by opening my eyes to the possibilities and by loving me so openly and completely. He has become my best friend and someone I trust completely.
All that being said, I am now in a state of confusion. I love my husband but really can’t find a lot that I like about him. I can’t reconcile my heart’s desire for a more meaningful and supportive relationship with my feelings of obligation and my sense of right and wrong. It feels wrong to leave a ‘perfectly good’ marriage just because my husband isn’t emotionally connected and can’t have a meaningful conversation with me. But how do I \\”un-learn\\” what I’ve experienced with the other man? How do I go back to the way things were? Or is it OK to move on because I’m not satisfied and the relationship cannot and will not give me what I want (for the record I have had many lengthy discussions with my husband about my personal growth and where I want to go. He has no desire to grow or change and would prefer that I didn’t as well).
I don’t know if you’ll respond or if this even makes sense. I’m not asking you to tell me it’s OK to leave my husband for another man. What I’m asking, is does it make sense to leave a husband (for myself) who is not providing the emotional support that I’ve come to want? How do I draw the line between selfishness and self-preservation?
So, firstly let me say thank you so much for your email. I really appreciate your honesty and authenticity. How wonderful that you can be so honest with your Self about how you feel, without making your Self wrong for feeling what you feel. ‘It is what it is’, and now you have some difficult decisions to make about the best way forward. And as you clearly pointed out in the title of your email, ‘Is it ok to choose me?’ From what I can understand the dilemma you face is choosing between staying or leaving and how can you even begin to go about making such a torturous decision.
I hope to give you some food for thought. When we have very difficult decisions to make, I have found what helps me get to clarity quicker, is having a structure to work within which guides me to asking better questions. Because of course there is no right or wrong, only what works for us at any given time under the specific circumstances and within our capacity to act.
My response below will hopefully help provide you with a framework to help with the thinking, reflecting and processing that needs to be done in your dilemma to get you closer to clarity with a way forward:
I have noticed more and more that we are all being asked to make decisions that have our heads and our hearts at war with one another. Following our ‘head’ and what is right/best according to our view of the world OR following our ‘heart’ and what feels right/best for us. This is where we are at in our evolution. To date, we have been living predominantly brain based lives with little regard for what our hearts have to say. We have become a species of ‘mind over matter’ even when our hearts and bodies are screaming at us to choose something different, we override the biological feedback system that is supposed to guide us (a.k.a emotions) and do what our logical minds (or egos) believe to be correct based on wanting to be ‘first, best or right’. Right for whom I wonder. Seven billion people will perceive the very same thing in seven billion different ways so the ‘right way’ is merely a subjective opinion based on the experiences, values, belief systems and principles molded into us from a young age.
Right and wrong, good and bad are concepts that we all adhere to in order to feel a sense of morality and belonging within a certain culture/group/tribe/family. It is a part of duality, the system in which we live, which asks us to judge situations within a black and white framework. The problem with this framework, at this time, is that the world is NOT black and white. That framework is outdated it is becoming increasingly difficult to make decisions in this colourful world. Right and wrong ARE subjective. Good, bad and ‘truth’ is dependent on who you are asking, the year you are asking, the location of the asker and your current perspective. It is not ‘truthful’ to say the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The earth revolves around the sun and has the appearance of rising and setting, only if you are standing on earth. It is a matter of perspective. Suffering is not ‘bad’ if dying a little inside is the catalyst for us to be reborn and rise again as a stronger and wiser version of our Selves. It is still considered ‘wrong’ for two people of the same sex to fall in love and marry despite evidence communities and countries are made stronger by protecting all loving committed couples. Nothing is good or bad in and of itself. Everything is neutral until we assign it meaning and judgment.
We also need to take into account the world of nature which exists within a larger pattern of cycles, such as day and night and the passing of seasons. The seasons do not push one another; neither do clouds race the wind across the sky; all things happen in good time. Everything has a time to rise, and a time to fall. Whatever rises falls and whatever falls shall rise again, that is the principle of cycles.
“When we measure and compare everything against the yardstick of our own vision and ideals, everything falls short, because this isn’t an ideal world- it’s a real world with real people, growing, making mistakes, learning and evolving.” Dan Millman – Author of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.
The point I am trying to make here is that it is impossible for any of us to know the right/best thing to do. There are too many variables depending on perspective; who you are asking; the timing of specific circumstances and whose ego is answering. There is a different question we can ask ourselves that has more potential to guide us to an answer that relieves the suffering. “How can I be true to myself?”
Our hearts speak to us all the time, they want us to live our truth (for more on this see a previous post ‘Brain Freeze and broken hearts’ revealing facts about our hearts intelligence and wisdom). Its communication is not as bold and critical as our minds, it whispers to us in subtle ways like a small child tugging on our clothing. As long as we are listening, our suffering subsides. When we ignore it, the pain in our heartss deepen and endures. Our hearts speak to us all the time. Our spiritual life’s path and journey is communicated to us through our hearts gentle nudges. It is by listening and connecting to its messages that we can discern what will work best for us.
Your heart has spoken to you. Through the suffering you are experiencing, you have come to understand that you would prefer a relationship based on openness and honesty, emotional support and encouragement, which is more than what your husband is currently able to offer. You have tried previously to compensate for the yearning by filling it with other relationships which have worked, until now. There is need, which your heart is pointing out, for a deeper emotional connection.
Within the context of your current circumstances it is wise, sensible and kind to all those involved to do everything you can to find that emotional connection within your marriage. So, be open and honest with your husband about what you feel, what you need from him and what he would need to start doing to signify to you that he is able and willing to at least try to accommodate you.
It is not clear that your husband is completely aware of the deficit in the marriage and the weight this deficit carries with you. If he did, perhaps he would be more inspired/motivated to connect to his own emotions. I have seen leopards change their spots and become someone completely different when they feel the outcome is worthwhile and the benefits far outweigh the costs. It happened to me (see post ‘the leopard who changed its spots’) so I speak from experience. The reality of losing you and his family might be a much worse future to him than digging deep to do some personal development and transformation. So far, your husband has not shown himself to be those things yet, but, he might choose to become that person given the possibility of losing his wife and family. What he does deserve is the chance to at least try become that person. And, until you have absolute clarity about what you want, it is impossible to say he cannot offer it to you surely?
If he did choose that route, it would require you to be encouraging and emotionally supportive of him – the same things you expect in return. Of course we cannot say how your husband will respond to your honesty, I can only say that he will need to ask himself the same question in this dilemma i.e. how can he be true to himself?
Living our truth requires:
- Listening to our hearts and following the prompting of our inner being, the Infinite Self we all are at our core (the best place to look for our hearts communication is where we suffer most – that is where we are betraying our Selves most)
- Override the egos need to be first, best and right long enough to be completely honest with our Selves (to hear the voice of your conscience, the voice of your gut instinct, the voice of your consciousness, the voice your don’t want to hear that never turns off)
- Serenity to accept the things we cannot change (you cannot change your husband but he might choose to change himself if he has the whole truth), the courage to change the things we can (be accountable for doing everything possible within your remit, within your realm of influence) and the wisdom to know the difference.
- Compassion for our Selves and others given the fact that we all make mistakes and do the best we can with the information we have at the time (none of us are perfect, we all make mistakes and do stupid things but as long as we are learning and evolving from our experiences we all deserve compassion and empathy)
- Strength to stand up for our Selves based on what we are trying to achieve and who we want to be in the world (not what others want us to do and others think we should do, nor who we believe ourselves to be based on our history)
- Courage to follow this voice, to push and do all that we can do, as much as we are capable and able to do; then surrender and let it go to the power and energy that is greater than yourself (once you have given your all, given the marriage your best shot you can now be accepting of whatever outcome flows as a result).
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” Cynthia Occelli – Author of Resurrecting Venus.
This is not an easy journey to take. The choice to follow ones truth normally results in chaos. It is pretty much always inconvenient and uncomfortable. It is however the only way to transformation, which is where we need to go if we want to live our truth, be true to our Selves and create a life that inspires us. Alternatively we can live unconsciously, resigning ourselves to a life where we suffer a little or a lot and settle and make do, surviving but not thriving. There is no right or wrong in either choice, just our personal preference.
Entrepreneur and author Mark Manson asks us to reflect on another question in his recent Huffington Post blog “The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today’:
“What’s more interesting to me is what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives end up.
Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone is willing to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, with the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.
Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough communication, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “What for?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was it all for?” If not for their lowered standards and expectations for themselves 20 years prior, then what for?
Because happiness requires struggle. You can only avoid pain for so long before it comes roaring back to life.
At the core of all human behavior, the good feelings we all want are more or less the same. Therefore what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing to sustain”.
So, I have gone a long way around in my answer to you in the hope that I have posed enough food for thought, enough for you to reflect on to help you invite an answer into your life of whether or not it is ok to choose you. Noone can say, only you. What I know for sure is that if nothing changes, you are betraying your Self. If however, the marriage transforms and your affair is the catalyst for you both to redesign your marriage
into one that excites and inspires you both, then staying will be good for your heart. Something needs to change, it might not be your partner. Choosing him does not necessarily mean you do not choose your Self.