WY1_3382One of my favorite quotes is from Anne Lamott (of course) and it goes something like, “I learned early on that life would be much simpler if I were quite stupid or devoutly religious.  But, unfortunately, I wasn’t.”  If I’ve gotten it wrong, then please forgive me because I am relying on my memory from the first time I read it back in 1989 or so when I was in high school.At the time, I loved the quote because I thought that it proved that being devoutly religious equated to be quite stupid and this fit in just fine with my anti-church, rebellious teenage years (which ended up lasting until I got sober the first time in my mid-twenties.)  But now I believe that what Anne was really trying to say is that life is full of hard choices and that, unless we are either gifted with an ability to only see things in black and white for whatever reason, it’s HARD.For me, life has never been black and white.  I often struggle to answer what someone intends to be a simple yes or no question because, for me, things are rarely that simple.  So, imagine what I went through trying to decide whether to stay with my husband after his latest betrayal or leave my marriage.You have to remember that this is my third marriage and I have a long history of cutting and running.  That’s right. The woman who spent most of her life being terrified of being abandoned was, more often than not, the abandoner rather than the abandoned.The first few weeks after “D-Day” a.k.a. Discovery Day, are a blur.  One day I’d be fine and the next day I would be a wreck.  One minute I’d be eating overpriced sushi with my husband on date night and the next I’d be fantasizing about hitting him in the head with a baseball bat.  My husband was less than appreciative of my mood swings and I could really give a fuck.  Had we gone on like this for much longer, I have no doubt we would have gotten a divorce.It was literally the most emotionally agonizing time in my life.  I felt like I was blind-folded, stumbling around in the dark and throwing punches at monsters I wasn’t sure were even there.  Just because my husband had broken my heart (again), didn’t mean that I didn’t love him anymore.  It didn’t automatically make him not the father of our son or the stepfather to our older boys (who were already the survivors of one divorce.)  It didn’t mean that I wouldn’t still be an empath and feel every agonizing ounce of his pain if I were to ask him to leave.The hardest thing, however, was trying to wrap my brain around the one thing that it did mean.  It meant that I would be choosing to stay in a marriage with a man who had lied to me repeatedly.  It meant that I would continue to share my life with a man who had hidden a secret life from me, who could have cost me custody of my older boys and who sometimes expressed his own shame through rage at me and sometimes my children.HOW COULD I BE THAT WOMAN?  Every time I tried to navigate my way through those thoughts, it was like I would fall off in to a chasm.  On one side of that chasm was the woman I once was and on the other side is the woman I thought I would be if I stayed.A good friend/client of mine and I were talking once.  She and her husband were trying to work it out after he’d had an affair.  We came to the conclusion that it used to be considered to be a shameful thing if you left your marriage.  These days it seems to be a shameful thing if you stay.  It’s like it automatically makes you weak or a doormat.  I couldn’t be that woman.  And yet…In my heart I knew we weren’t done yet.  I knew in my heart that my husband was a good man.  I felt that we still had work to do together.  I stopped shopping for apartments on the internet and, instead, took some of the best advice that I have ever been given (by one of my yoga teachers, of course) and began asking myself – over and over again – “what do I need to feel safe?”This became my new mantra.  At first, I had honestly no idea.  I wasn’t sure if I could ever feel safe again.  But slowly, one by one, I came up with a list of my non-negotiables.  And because my husband is a good man, he eventually agreed to and honored them.  Was he happy about all of them?  Hardly.  One or two of them were some pretty big asks (that I had every right to) and he did them.  And the real miracle is how much better he felt about himself after he did.So, I stayed.  For now.  For today.  The old me would have packed up and be living in a two bedroom apartment overlooking the greenbelt by now.  She might have kept her pride and a false sense of safety but she would have lost the opportunity to become that woman I am today because I chose to stay.And reminding myself that I CHOSE to stay in this marriage (and that I can always make a different choice if I need to) is how I pull myself out of martyrdom when things start to get messy…when my husband is less than perfect…when – heaven forbid – I make my own mistakes.OH – and the other thing that helped save my marriage was a blog post from a woman who had gone through something very similar to me and had the courage to write about it.  Reading her words and hearing her story normalized my experience and stopped the walls of isolation from closing in on me.  Moreover, I shared the blog post with my husband and it helped him begin to feel empathy for what I was going through.  That blog post saved our marriage.  It changed our lives.I don’t have such grand aspirations for this post but do hope to pay it forward. If you are reading this and living in a dark place, know that I hold enough hope in my heart for each of us.  I offer this post as a prayer and a promise.  You are not alone.