“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”
I had dinner this week with my Twitter friend Mighty, and her husband J. L and J live just north of my project in Aliquippa and are about 21 months out from the reveal of his betrayal.
I often wonder what keeps relationships going when, on the surface, it seems like there is so much going against them. I don’t mean the betrayal, secret-keeping and escalating series of lies. These are simply the fuel for rumors and judgment by interlopers.
I’m talking about the meaningful hurts beneath the betrayal: the humiliations, wounded points of pride, lost friendships and broken homes. The confusion, anger, self-doubt, incriminations, jealousies, bitterness, and suspicions. The judgments, condemnations, and unsolicited advice of well – and not so well – meaning people. The confusion over what is true and honest. The constant uneasiness and lost trust. The trickle truths, triggers, ruminations, and nightmares.
The fears. The anxiety. The trauma.
I watched L and J at dinner, listening to how they are moving through the Ugly and the shitheadery. It has made them fierce for one another, not with one another.
At least in that moment, at that table.
After listening to L tell her story, I called L a Dragon. I chose that image carefully. Not because she is scary, but because she is fierce, courageous, and proud. She also breathes fire, speaking her mind even if the truth of it burns.
She doesn’t let others carry her fire, she carries it herself. A choice that makes her powerfully beautiful.
L doesn’t present herself as a weak, broken, timid soul waiting for her man to own up. She has embraced the pain and lessons and leaned into it. She holds J accountable for his Ugly but, more importantly, she holds herself accountable for a solution to her own hurts.
J is tougher to gauge.
He is an introvert and in the three hours, we spent together he was extremely quiet. However, when he did speak he states clearly what he did. I think he also knows who he is…he’s just quiet about it.
He doesn’t seem afraid or intimidated by the Dragon. There must have been dozens of weeks where he has stood emotionally and mentally naked in the full fury of her fire. He stood and took the blazing heat when other men would have run, turned ashen, or struck back.
Maybe he did…but 21 months later he is still here willing to stand in the truth of L’s fire. Watching them I’m reminded of Seneca’s statement, “Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.”
Although, to be clear he carries a fire too. His betrayals burned those around him he loves. His fire just manifests differently than L’s fire. We all have a thing.
Their efforts post-discovery has been to turn the fire towards the relationship and burn up the impurities contaminating their life together. I hope they survive. Together or apart what will be left will be golden.
I’m sure they have bad days. Every couple does. Every couple has something.
After dessert, L pushes herself over into J’s side, and he casually drapes his arm around her. It was a beautifully tender moment to see.
As a couple and individuals, they are battling the betrayal and all the attached hurts, uglies, and shitheadery. They don’t talk as if they are battling each other. They strive to be Partners in the solution.
A Partnership making what was once fractured and broken Mighty.
You can read the love letters J and L wrote for each other as part of their post-reveal counseling by clicking here.