04: Regrets

What are your biggest regrets?

“Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way.”

Søren Kierkegaard

Recently on the Affair Recovery wall, the question “what are your biggest regrets” scrolled to the top on the general thread. Frankly, the question applies to anyone and not simply around issues of infidelity.

Reading through the comments, most of the comments were the usual mix of “I should have left sooner” or “I should have known.” A lot of the comments read to me as mainly angry bitterness, hindsight, and recriminations.

I skimmed them of course, sighing and eyerolling my way through most of them. As I read through the comments I thought of something I heard a long time ago, “eventually we all play the villain in someone else’s story.”

Mistakes and Sorrow

“Affairs are always harmful and can never help a marriage or be accommodated. The only way to restore trust and intimacy is through truth-telling, repentance, and absolution. Last but not least, divorce affords more self-respect than forgiveness.”

Esther Perel, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

The follow-up question was, “How much time do you allow yourself to feel bad about mistakes that you’ve made? In other words, how long do you stay, in that deep place of sorrow, regretting what you’ve done.”

Frankly, considering the depth of my shitheadery and the amount of fucketty tied to my situation I’ve kind of given up any hope of not “feeling bad about the mistakes.” Regrets are one of many things I carry. I’ve come to realize that this deep and heartfelt grief and loss will remain until I am finished absorbing the lessons and my perspective shifts.

If you betrayed your Love(s), life, and self you know there are regrets. Although I may not be able to articulate all my regrets they exist even if it simply a bit of sadness when I am alone.

Regretting Divorce

“Infidelity hurts. But when we grant it a special status in the hierarchy of marital misdemeanors, we risk allowing it to overshadow the egregious behaviors that may have preceded it or even led to it.”

― Esther Perel, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

However, of the many comments made on the post, this one jumped out at me because it was revealing, truthful, and powerful.

The commenter posted: “One of my biggest regrets was to mention Divorce early on in our marriage. I was hurt and so it’s no surprise that I said hurtful things. This caused my wife a lot of sadness.

His comment touched me and brought my eyes into focus on his comment. His vulnerability moved me to share mine.

I wrote:

I’m sorry. I can only guess how that feels.

My ex-wife said to me about 2 years into our marriage, “I want a divorce!” This was after months of raging verbal abuse and emotional defensiveness and stonewalling.

I calmly said, “Okay.”

I then packed a small bag and went to the car. As I started to get into the car she came out the front door crying, begging me to stay. I did, but that statement broke me and our relationship in fundamentally meaningful ways.

At the time I lacked understanding about what she was doing and why. I didn’t know about attachment styles or the polyvagal theory. I didn’t know how her FOO abuse and neglect impacted the way she loved – or recognized how my experience impacted the way I love. I just knew my job was to fix her feelings and keep her happy. My role was to stay on the white horse and never appear weak, even if it killed me.

In the end her pain seem inconsolable and I did what I knew how to do and threw myself onto the sword.

Today, I know so much more and know I would handle that situation so much more lovingly, compassionately, and patiently now.

I have a great many regrets about how my marriage lived and died. Knowing these things now, I’m not sure the sadness ever will go away. I loved her even as I betrayed her.

It’s been 9 years and still, I carry a deep sorrow over the loss of that relationship and wounds I inflicted as I left.

I wish my ex-Wife were speaking to me because I would like to talk to her about this event.

Of course, I wish for a lot of things including a time machine and better judgment but that isn’t how life works. “Life gives the tests first,” said someone, “and the lessons later.”

Right now my life is about learning the lesson and applying the experience. Owning my truth is embracing the lesson that there is no easy way forward, there is only forward.

No matter how beautiful, the cut flower eventually wilts.