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Reconciliation – Why it isn’t the straightforward choice you may think it is

September 28, 2011
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Over the past six months, I have heard a lot of things from a lot of people. A lot of advice, solicited and un-, a lot of opinions, a lot of support, and a healthy dose of judgment. Okay, maybe not healthy, but a dose nonetheless.

Ultimately, reconciliation was not a choice that was ever offered to me. My soon-to-be-ex-husband wasn’t interested in reconciling. But if he had been, I’m still not sure whether I would take him back. If advising someone else in a similar situation, I probably wouldn’t advise them to do so.

This was posted in a community I’m part of, and I think there’s so much truth to it:

It’s tempting to think of reconciliation as the easy, natural choice. It’s tempting to think of it as the path to fixing things, making them the way they were, minus the infidelity. It’s tempting to think you have a lot in common that you can build on.

And while some of that is true to some extent, for the most part it’s self-rationalizing crap. In truth, your marriage is already dead, whether you know it or not. The real question in reconciliation is whether you’re ready, willing and able to build a new marriage with this same person, despite the demonstrated depth of her character flaws and her history of hurting you deeply and repeatedly.

I think it helps to look at it starkly, because it’s so easy to underestimate how hard true reconciliation will be. …

So I’d encourage you to think about this as if you were starting from scratch. Is she someone you’d embark on this journey with again, knowing what you know about her, the pain she’s caused you, her history of “relapse” and the incredibly difficult path that’s ahead of her? Or would it be better for you, at a young age and without kids, to make a clean break and find someone who’s really worthy of your love and trust?

Even without the option to reconcile, this is a very eye-opening perspective for me, the idea that your marriage dies when an affair is revealed, and anything moving forward from that point is starting over – either starting over alone or starting over with someone who you know is broken.

It’s encouraging to know that even though I wasn’t given a choice, this is still probably the best outcome I could have asked for.


While we’re on the topic, I also think it’s very easy to look at a situation from the outside, and say, “Oh, xyz is what I would do if that were me” and close the book and think it’s that simple. But when you’re in the thick of it, you surprise yourself. You may think you know how you would react, but you don’t, unless you’ve lived through this.

So don’t judge those who are living through something that you’ve never experienced, and aren’t reacting the way you think they should be, because you can’t begin to understand the motives or complications behind their choices unless you’ve been there before.

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