The original series referenced the book Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. In it the author spoke briefly of her affair and the end of her marriage.
My sense was that, while she felt very bad about the deception to her children and then-husband due to the shaman affair, she believed it to have been a necessary part of her growth.
Yes, I believe this is how she feels, and yet I don’t think necessary is the best choice of words. I think that Sweetheart’s midlife crisis was a part of his growth. But was it necessary for him to get to where he is now by way of midlife crisis (infidelity being a part of the MLC)? No, there are many paths we can take. But so what. It’s after the fact; so necessary or not, he took the path of MLC and he cheated. What I think Elizabeth Lesser is doing is Accepting—as am I. She accepts that her reality is that she had an extramarital affair, just as I accept that Sweetheart—my presently wonderful, awesome and amazing husband—had an affair.
My memory is that the affair awakened her spiritually and sexually in a way she’d never experienced and that, once that had happened, there was no going back to her husband. It was as though her body had been asleep and now had become awake. She didn’t go into much, that I remember, about what was “wrong” with her husband. It just seemed that she had married young, had several children in a row, and had never “grown up” sexually.
You are right, she didn’t go into it much, but I don’t think that was because she was avoiding the issue; it’s just that this particular book was not about the affair and so she only used it to illustrate an example that lead to her breaking open experience—which was the pain of going through her divorce. I did not get the idea that she did not return to her marriage because after having an awakening through her affair she couldn’t go back. Her affair was a clandestine affair and when she ended it both she and her husband—from what I could tell—each weighed their options of staying and leaving. In the beginning of the book when she describes her meeting with the psychic, she makes a reference to her husband having changed his mind about ending the marriage and he was interested in reconciliation.
While she made a convincing case that the shaman affair was a positive in her life (that’s the clear impression I got from what she wrote) it was a disturbing read for a stander.
Oh, most definitely a challenge. That’s why I chose to read it. Though having read it I did not find it nearly as challenging as Grace is for Sinners. I think she acknowledges the affair as something that pushed her into necessary changes and for that she is grateful. So am I. Sweetheart cheated and I wish he hadn’t, but I am still grateful for
what it brought before us and what we have done with it since. I think that for Lesser, the positive experience was in what she learned as a result of her affair and what she did with that learning.
But the thing is, the book is not about her experience at all. She could have refrained from mentioning it without reducing the page count significantly. But readers may then wonder about her credibility if she left out any breaking open experience of her own.
I think Lesser knows what infidelity is. Conversely, Serena Woods, who feels extreme remorse and has repented, does not seem to understand what it is yet. She sees it as the act of sex, but she fails to see how after the sexual infidelity ended, she continued to contribute to the failure of her affair partner’s marriage by communicating with him and even hiding him. She fails to understand that when he needed help, she was the opposite of help. She does not yet understand Emotional Infidelity. And yeah, I said that she helped hide him…to most of us I imagine that would be pretty obvious that it is part of infidelity.
Disturbing book. Raises extremely difficult issues for anyone trying to stand.
Yes, this is why I feel it is important. I don’t think the book was great, though I do think it was good. But I wasn’t highlighting the pages with new insights—a marker for me of excellence. I think it is important to face the uncomfortable, because that is where we are challenged to grow and challenges enable growth.
Broken Open is not a book I recommend for Standing. I chose to discuss it because I feel it is an example of someone who had an affair, chose to leave her marriage and yet she herself matured and chose joy. She did not get stuck in a Replay existence or become a Cranky Codger. She’s an inspiration to many people and I think that at some point, we as betrayed spouses need to extend forgiveness beyond the MLCers.
There were a few great comments on this topic, so tomorrow’s post will complete my responses.