Something I struggle with daily when it comes to my marriage and even just my relationship with my husband is the concept of forgiveness. I'm aware it's something I should do so that the discontent doesn't fester inside of me; I'm aware that supposedly it's the best gift I can give myself; I'm aware that in order to salvage any sort of connection with him that it's necessary.
But I just have one small problem.
I don't know what forgiveness means.
Sure, I can look it up in a dictionary, use it properly in a sentence -- but I have no clue what it truly means to forgive someone. I was raised with grudges and unrelenting memories of former trespasses cataloged mentally by severity of wrong felt, societal perception of wrongdoing, and the retribution due for equality to be restored. Except nothing was every really forgotten or moved on from, it was more just tucked away, hidden yet saved as shrapnel to explode whenever the next altercation would occur.
Because another altercation would always occur.
I had a moment with him, about a year after our reconciliation and mere months after our daughter created through that reconciliation had been born, on our second wedding anniversary. We never celebrated our first one, you see, because everything was still at fever pitch then, however on the descent into sanity. We went to the place we were married (an art museum) and sat on a bench outside, where our engagement photos had been taken three years prior. I remember overlooking our small city at one of it's most (and only) photogenic points, and telling him I forgave him. My logic was that if he were just a friend and had done something to betray me as badly, I would get over it. And if my former best friend were to suddenly apologize for the argument that ended with her shutting me out of her life, I would be her friend again because our shared past was more important than a singular event.
(Sidebar -- That situation actually happened this past spring -- we're nowhere near as close as we once were, but we speak occasionally and are connected through social media. So I guess I'm capable of forgiveness, because it truly doesn't matter to me. Mistakes were made, damage was done, but I'm just happy to have her in my life at all.)
I don't remember his reaction, but at the time I truly believed the words I spoke. I'm not sure, however, if I meant I forgave him for the wretchedness of our almost-divorce, or for the what I then understood to be just an emotional affair with no physical contact involved.
Over the next year, however, more details emerged slowly, each one a sucker punch to the gut, sending me reeling into a ferocious stupor. And each time my heart remembered that initial heartbreak when I discovered his infidelity. And each and every time, my ability to believe in forgiveness, whatever it meant, was diminished greatly.
With his latest trespass, I find myself searching for the definition of this word, and understanding of it so that I can figure out how to proceed from here. I know the phrase is to forgive and forget, but I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to forget. And there is a nagging voice hiding behind my heart telling me that to forgive, to forget, will be to excuse his behavior, permit it without consequences, allowing him to walk all over me whenever he so pleases.
While searching through my Reader I came across a post about forgiveness (ah, serendipity!) and was struck by this singular quote by the amazing Lily Tomlin: “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”
Therein lies my problem. The thing I mourn is what we should have, could have been. I regret the hours I spent alone, suffering from postpartum depression, caring for our child while he cavorted about. It crushes me that our marriage had four whole months of happiness before it began to unravel, and he's the one who worried away at the spot, causing the break. I had so much hope and faith bound up in him that when it began to falter and then combust all I could hold on to was that hope, that faith that we were meant to be more, our love was more, there was just so much more to it all and he was jacking it all up, ruining my fairytale.
I don't know how to lose that hope, even though I am fully aware that I cannot do a thing to change the past.
My sister, herself who divorced due to infidelity, tells me often that "It is what it is." I suppose, if I truly want to forgive him, I have to learn to accept that these past three years are what they are, but that our future however many years can be anything and everything we want them to be.
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