This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone.
-Genesis 8:11, NLT
Cheaters are already too central.
As faithful spouses, we make them central for several very good reasons:
1) They are central because some of us want something from them–i.e. for them to apologize, stop cheating, and come back to the marriage.
2) They are central because we are in the dark or have been in the dark and are still doing damage assessment–i.e. “What have the done?!” is an important question to have answered for a spouse worried about the cheater having blown the family finances on hookers or having brought back an STD or two.
3) They are central because the faithful spouse is in shock and grief. Focusing on trying to control and uncontrollable situation–i.e. the cheater–is a way some of us, faithful spouses, cope with an awful new reality. Does not work well. But we try it anyways.
At a point, the information has dropped. We know enough. They are cheaters and have no intention of apologizing and actually repenting. Maybe they even divorced us to chase after their adultery partner?
I want to talk about this juncture or fork in the road.
We can continue fueling our rage–justified in many cases–or we can start the hard work of de-centralizing the cheater from our hearts and lives.
Make no mistake: This is hard work!
It is hard to stop thinking about a person who made up part of you for years if not decades! And it is doubly hard to do it with the traumatic way they brought forth the marriage’s ending.
But life is short.
Do we want to waste any more energy on a situation we do not control or a person who is unworthy of our attention?
I entitled this post “On Warm Baths and Nice Kitties” because those were two things–bright spots–in the darkest of nights I experienced. Mr. Pickles, my cat, reminded me that living creatures exist who are more worthy of my attention than focusing on the treachery of my (now) ex-wife and her cohorts. Warm baths brought me relaxation and helped me to enjoy life a bit, again. They were a small gift from God telling me that life is worth living.
My point in talking about Mr. Pickles and warm baths is to encourage each one of you to see the gifts–however small–you experience even now in the darkest of nights. They exist. You may just have to look harder.
These gifts–good things–are a stepping stone away from the hell of forever replaying the treachery done to us in our minds. They are like the olive branch the dove returned to Noah–i.e. a harbinger of coming better times.
Some may call it “forgiveness” to hand over the cheating spouse to God. Whatever you label it, I do think a time comes when it is in our own best interest to stop making the betrayal and the betrayers central to our lives. This does not mean we say what they did was okay. It means we have chosen the path of giving them to God who is better equipped to deal with them (e.g. Romans 12:19).
We choosing to live in the present and look to a future not forever stunted by the treachery of the past.
This will be a process. It won’t happen over night. As I mentioned above, we made the cheater central for some very good reasons. It will take time to move to a place of true safety as well as to unlearn this now dysfunctional habit.
This is why I think it is so important to remember even the small graces in our lives. The warm baths. A loving furry buddy. The true friend who brought us a cup of tea or coffee.
May such olive branches remind you that the world can be a kinder place and a future free from cheater centrality awaits you.