I think it’s clear that TL and I believe reconciliation is a marriage long process. It’s never done. In fact it’s more like a lifestyle. For more on this, read Rick Reynolds’ “How long will it take to get over the affair. You know — to get back to normal.” As Rick said, I don’t want to get back to normal. That old normal, for me, was alternately pathological and superficial. Reconciling will be part of our marriage forever. That’s OK. We need to accept that, adjust to it, and do it well.
There are plenty of examples of things you can do to continuously work on reconciling. These include counseling, writing, new activities as a couple, and perhaps others we have not yet discovered. The new normal also means that new practices such as transparency about phones, computers, after work activities, and more never end. Those healthy practices are not temporary. They are part of your new lifestyle in reconciling.
TL and I had a conversation about this last night that put it into perspective for me. The bottom line is, after surviving the initial shock of discoveries together, the urgency of reconciling can subside but the importance of it does not. We work on reconciling every day. But, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If we were expecting the job of reconciliation to be finished — to be finite — we might be tempted to crash on it, the way a student might crash studying for an exam or writing a term paper. Running a 100-meter dash, I’d throw every ounce of strength and energy into it. Running a marathon, I’d pace myself.
Reconciliation is not a final exam we can pass or fail. It’s more like a new habit such as exercising, eating right, observing our religion, brushing our teeth, abstaining from addictive vices, or caring for someone or something. You do it forever. For the sake of truth in advertising, expect little moments of imperfection. For example, if you miss a day of exercising, you get right back to it the next day. If you allow yourself one dessert, you don’t give up on your whole diet. Either way, you strive to do the right thing, forever. Similarly, even though you may have little moments where you forget to be compassionate, empathetic, or thoughtful, you should not give up on these things. I am saying that if you have these small failures, it does not mean that you are a failure and therefore still a cheater and a liar. Instead, these little failures are reminders of the importance of the work you are doing on reconciliation. These are signs that a course correction is needed.
I told TL that when some people ask when reconciliation will be achieved and when others say they have reconciled, it makes me think of reconciliation as a door closing, ceiling to floor, like in Star Wars or Indiana Jones, with the hero running to slide under the door before they are trapped in The Temple of Doom. If that is reconciliation, you can have the illusion that once you’re safely under that door all your troubles are behind you, forever. They are not. You must keep dealing with them, daily, gradually, and appropriately. If you see reconciliation as that door coming down, you rush and hurry. You panic and crash. You act as though you can put everything into it, non-stop, for one last leap to freedom. That’s an illusion that causes you to focus on speed over quality. It causes you to act in desperation. You cannot reconcile through desperation.
Instead of escaping The Temple of Doom, recognize it as something else. Take your time. Do it right. If you’re a betrayer, you can’t escape what you’ve done. If you’re a betrayed, you can’t escape what your spouse has done to you. Instead of escaping it, walk through it together. Examine it together. Dismantle it and rebuild it, from the inside out, together.
TL and I will never be reconciled. I believe we are reconciling. Each day it is a conscious decision to choose reconciliation.
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