Yesterday I ended with a hook. I told you about reading Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser and explained her infidelity and insights. I left out the part that may be the biggest reason some betrayed spouses may stop reading and put her book down in disgust after page 16.

Lesser dedicated only three chapters to reviewing her affair, but she did refer to it briefly in the beginning of the book. A friend gave her the name of a psychic and told her to just go and so she did. Now maybe that is enough to turn some of you off; she saw a psychic. Well, so did I. I started seeing a counselor, but he just sort of nodded and listened and I started having Knowings—intuitive hits, psychic hits…call them what you will—and I felt the need to find a different kind of guidance. I did not go to receive a prediction of the outcome of the MLC situation; my knowing gave me that. I went to learn how to handle it and I used her as a counselor—I went twice a month for about a year and less frequently after that.

She went to the psychic. I went for specific guidance regarding how to Stand—how to reach my Big Goal of reconciliation; I knew what I wanted. Lesser went for guidance in helping her determine what she wanted. She had ended her affair and was newly separated from her husband; she had reasons to stay married and reasons to divorce, but she was in no state of mind to make the decision. I advise not making life changing decisions from a place of turmoil and instability. But let’s face it; sometimes not making a decision is avoidance or simply failing to be responsible. Should Lesser have returned to her marriage only because she was in turmoil and it was not a good time to choose to leave it? Even if she had eventually chosen to return rather than divorce, she would not have been ready yet. She was standing at the Decision Precipice and she needed help. There may come a time where ready or not you will need to make a decision.

What sort of help did she need? Can you think about that without imposing your—our—Stander’s agenda? Marriage Advocate advice might be to highlight the impact of divorce on children, countering the argument regarding children and resiliency, or highlight vows, forgiveness, the repair and positive change that can be achieved through work and with an experienced guide (a counselor). But she was going through this in those early days of No-Fault divorce when more counselors than now (and it’s still true of many now) took a neutral stance on whether a marriage survived. She didn’t need data and statistics or anecdotes about other people’s lives (because she had probably thought of those things already); she needed help determining what was best and most realistic for her life.

I was caught in waves of conflicting questions: Would I ruin my children’s lives by getting divorced? Or was it worse for them to live with unhappy parents? Was I a dreamer, looking for an elusive happiness that real life could never deliver? Or were we meant to know the rapture of being alive, even at the cost of breaking rules? The questions ebbed and flowed, back and forth, an endless exchange with no answers, no winners, just a worn-out swimmer. (page 9)

I think the problem Standers will have with her session with the psychic is what the psychic told her. She said that Lesser was still giving up her power to her husband and that she hid herself. Many of you may know that feeling from one position or the other.

“Well, it is time to break the cycle. But you must be the one to do it. You must take back your power. Do you understand?”
“It’s complex,” I complained. “It’s not his fault that I lack confidence and he doesn’t.”
She looked at me hard. “Write this down,” she said, tossing me a pen and a pad of paper with a border of blue flowers. “Those with power never willingly concede their control. Do you understand? Your husband will never, ever be able to let you grow into who you are supposed to be. It is not in your karmic contract. It’s not a matter of fault. The truth is that, in order to find yourself, you must leave him. This is your quest. And in order for your husband to find himself, he must lose you. Y’all have lessons to learn—lessons that are more important than the marriage itself. The soul comes to earth to learn lessons, not to get married, or stay married, or to take this job or that job. You have been asking the wrong question. It’s not whether or not to stay married. The question” she said leaning closer to me, “is what lesson does your soul want to learn? Do you know?” (pages 10-11)

Was the psychic telling or advising her to leave her marriage, or was she helping to confirm a deeper truth that Lesser already knew? Was it true that had she returned to her marriage, her husband would have never relinquished control and she would have continued to hide her Self and give away her power? Well, we cannot know since she did not return to her marriage. She divorced and continued her work at the Omega Institute and eventually remarried.

Some of you may complain that her actions were not Christian and dismiss the psychic for talking of karma and past life stuff. But is that argument relevant given that Elizabeth Lesser does not (that I know of) follow a single or specific religion? I have read that more people believe in past lives—reincarnation—than do not; is it fair to judge her actions and the psychic’s advice based on your beliefs? The Western World of Christianity may be in the minority regarding the view of reincarnation—and there are Christians who believe in it as well. I liken karma to reaping and sowing: you reap what you sow.

Elizabeth Lesser talks about her affair. She explains it. Is that wrong of her? By doing that is she trying to rationalize and justify it? Isn’t she doing what I do? I explain infidelity, but I doubt you interpret my explanations as justifications. Why is it acceptable for me as a betrayed spouse and yet not acceptable for the person who did the betraying? She can give a truer account than I because hers is direct experience, whereas mine is observed experience. She’s not explaining away her actions while continuing to commit them; her affair was more than 20 years past when she wrote the book.

Our guides in life are not always—and perhaps not often or even ever—those we choose or admire or like. It is not just the enlightened beings without sin who guide us to our own experiences of enlightenment and grace, but rather those who may be barely in front of us in their own trauma or even those who are still behind us. Direct experience is not a requirement for empathy, but it does facilitate it. I understand betrayed spouse and the trauma because I was one and that is where I apply my skills. I don’t understand chemical addictions in an experiential way and would be much less effective as a guide for recovering addicts who are themselves excellent guides for their peers.

If the path to grace is laden with roses, you’re going to tread on thorns.

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Who is Your Guide?7 Comments

  1. A person who abuses you puts you in a position where you have to act, if their abuse were physical what would you do? If it were toward a child, what would you do? If the unfaithful partner has children, the infidelity is towards the children. Infidelity makes marriage vows null and void, it's a two way agreement, you have a choice but not an obligation to stay and if the abuse is serial and ongoing? You have a hand to play in your own abuse. And yet, I don't take on board what the psychic has to say. You did not get abused or cheated on because you needed to learn a lesson; you did because the other party has a problem. Otherwise, they cheated for your benefit, so you could learn a lesson and if they had hit you? What if they hit the children, would that be for your benefit or that of the child? So that you can both learn from the experience? This perspective on suffering is very 'spiritual'. An alternative offered by existentialists is that life and events have no meaning other than the meaning we choose to give them – who is right? I'm not advocating one perspective over another, merely suggesting that we should not accept any on face value.
    This is not from me, this is from a website on the subject…
    “You vowed that no matter what happens you will not cheat when you get married.
    This is what the marriage vow means, and when you take marital vows, that’s what you are telling your spouse.
    Therefore whatever “reasons” a cheater may give for cheating, are really only justifications that the cheater has established. In fact, when analysing the pre-affair situation, it often can be demonstrated that the cheater created or exacerbated the problems he or she is complaining about.
    What I am trying to communicate here is that looking for “rational reasons” your spouse cheated isn’t getting to the heart of the issue. In fact, the “rational reasons” might add insult to injury by making it seem that the injured person was at fault.”

    • I agree, Tony – there might be "mitigating circumstances", as in a traumatic childhood, but it still takes a decision to cheat, even if the decision is not to actively make one but rather go with the momentum. Lots of explanations, no excuses. The explanations though if valid should help us to forgive the MLCer. In the end it is all about being responsible for our own life, our own decisions – we are what we think and we can decide what we think. Each and every waking moment in our life we have to make decisions and while we might not be able to choose the circumstances we have to make them in our response to these circumstances is entirely up to us. There are no excuses

  2. I loved this! Great blog! Overdue in fact.

    The one thing missing in the forum is the discussion of alternatives, in spite of the fact that we have wonderful role models such as Moving Forward, just one to mention. So many members are stuck, in spite of the fact that they have been in this situation for 24 months and longer. They are STUCK on only one ACCEPTABLE outcome, "A RESTORED MARRIAGE"!

    I don't know whether Lesser's conclusions were any more valid then anybody else. I would love to know, if she has any "regrets", as looking back one often see's things differently. Seeing as her affair was 20 years ago, she remarried, obviously moved on in a whole new direction.
    My questions would be:
    1. Did you succeed? Did you GROW into who you were meant to be?
    2. Did your h fulfill his destiny more effectively without her?
    3. Did her "soul" learn whatever the lesson was suppose to be?
    4. Was it worth, hurting so many others?

    Ahhhhhhh, now there would be a book I think many of us, would love to read. Honest answers!

    I must say, I am very pleased it was not ME who was faced with these questions and decisions. I only had to look and deal with this situation as the "rejected" party. In so many ways, I had the advantage. It did not seem it at the time, but I was the one left with the options. I was the one who could make choices and not be HELD responsible for the rest of the people in our family. Sort of a back door exit from a place that perhaps, was not always as wonderful as we want to believe.

    The Betrayer will be the one held responsible for the outcome of future unhappy people, not the BETRAYED.

    Excellent article RCR. Best one you have written yet. Thank you.

    hugs Stayed

  3. I think Lesser (or any human being) can look back on their life and see how one event influenced another, which turned into this or that path and had this or that result eventually leading to the here and now. You can look at it as “what had to happen” or you can look at it as one of a zillion different paths that could have been followed. Lesser chose to see her affair as a brilliant awakening… a Phoenix moment or whatever she calls it, and she has devoted her life to helping people have this kind of “awakening.”

    I don’t believe a “Phoenix moment” or crisis is a necessary part of living life as an authentic human being. I don’t believe in destiny. I believe in free will and making choices. I also believe each of us is not the center of the universe and that we have a responsibility toward others (Golden Rule). BTW I am not religious at all.

    You hear what you want to hear. I’m guessing Lesser had more folks telling her she was an ass than she had encouraging her to look to new horizons, but she chose to listen to the psychic telling her what she wanted to hear.

    To me, Lesser took an experience (her affair) and guides (her shaman lover and a psychic) and decided, while still wearing her MLC shit goggles and probably in the midst of lust-induced dementia (these are terms used by people on the midlife board), that life with H#1 was not worth returning to, because she had bigger and better things ahead… more, better sex, more excitement, more LIFE! Woohoo!

    Similar to many of our MLCers? Probably. Admirable? Not to me. The only inevitable path she could have taken to fulfillment in life? I don’t think so. But she did choose it, and she’s found herself content where she ended up, and so she’s interpreted the affair that triggered her to take this path as the golden phoenix moment in her life… a brilliant awakening. That, to me, is justification of the means (the affair).

    I looked back to my reading journal to remind myself about the book, which I read a while ago. I felt it was a weird mishmash/misreading of philosophies, psychology, and mysticism and that she tried to pull it all together into something she teaches to others. Odd ideas.

    I wrote this in my journal (and please note this was my personal reaction to the book… not meant as an unbiased review or for anyone else's eyes, but I thought I would share it with you here): “I do not believe people that have basic coping skills, morals, and feelings of self-worth need to have a crisis (breaking open) in order to grow as human beings. I believe the crisis is an error… not something to aspire to, but a possibility to be aware of and thoughtfully avoid. The smartest thing I ever read through all of this was Bill Roberts explaining the psychology of MLC and saying that it’s unfortunate when people mistake these things for external realities… the projections, the anima/animus, the shadow, the soulmate… the mistake is thinking these are external. They are not. They are internal. That is the meaning of “soul.” It’s not about external reality. It’s about internal reality. Searching for them externally is an error… acting on these things externally is simply misbehavior. Immoral, amoral, immature, narcissistic misbehavior. I reacted really strongly to this book. It’s total, utter bullshit.”

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