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.