I’m certain, if the choice had been mine, I would not have spoken candidly to a group of my dear and trusted friends about my husband’s affair and how our marriage was in limbo (that sounded fun and jaunty) in grave distress over it. I’m certain I would have felt silenced by the shame of the betrayal, by the taboo quality of infidelity, like countless other women, and some men, around the globe. But I wasn’t afforded that choice, our story was told for us and thus we had some damage control to do with the people we cared about.

I suffered a quinine taste in my mouth at the paralyzing thoughts of venturing out my protective cave and discussing my husband’s fateful behavior during an evening set aside for book club with my friends. We were to be a jovial, carefree bunch for getting out of the house, for having unfettered hours to talk books, drink wine and dine together while eschewing the pull of hearth and home. But because I knew my friends had heard the media’s version of our story, I wanted them to hear from me what had happened in our marriage and what was happening in response.

Before that night, it had been weeks since my husband had told me he’d been unfaithful, a few years prior. Holed up in those bleak, now blurred days after his admission, I didn’t accomplish much besides approaching dehydration for the limitless tears and failed attempts to regulate my suddenly erratic breathing. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat. I didn’t even attempt to numb, I was already too stunned. I didn’t speak in my normal tone or find a way to stop drifting off into dangerously depleting thought. Much of my reaction is now rendered hazy, but not the red-hot searing pain I endured at the blind side betrayal.

As the night of the gathering drew near, I was emboldened by the fact I knew these women were wholly for me, and also hurting on my behalf, and that if there was ever a time and a people to tip-toe up to in an attempt to voice my story, it was then and them. I could not keep hiding, I could not be silent. I needed to be able to breathe easy again.

Besting my own balks, I forced myself over to my friend’s cozy-safe bungalow of a home and I sat down in a fierce circle of trust and painstakingly let it all out. And in that canyon-esque vulnerability, a triumphant dawning occurred. I relayed to those generously-souled women my most weakling feeling of all those in the multitudinous realm; the feeble feeling espoused in knowing I still loved my husband and in deciding to stay with him. Before my very ears my perceived weakness was lovingly remolded and thoughtfully redesigned into a bold and daring strength.

I sobbed to them, “I feel so incredibly weak to have decided to stay, to try to move forward together, in spite of what he’s done, but I have, I know it’s the right choice for me, there is no other.” They weren’t having my woe and I heard immediate, simultaneous nos, nopes, and uh-uhs in reply. They flipped it on me. My intelligent, tough, stalwart friends collectively told me in no uncertain terms, I was wrong.

In staying, they said, I was showing immense, untold amounts of strength and courage. Because the staying was going to be so very, very hard. And maybe even impossible. The easier thing might actually be to leave, to wash my hands of my husband and his choice to hurt me and walk away. 

Long ago, I once heard the bewildering notion that it’s none of your business what other people think of you. This gave me curious pause as I pondered it and I ended up deciding this was good wisdom. And I both still do and don’t agree with it today.

If you’re a good person, you mean well toward other people and you do your darndest in life, and that doesn’t cut it with some—you’re either too much or not enough for them and they think poorly of you, I agree, that’s none of your business. Because that knowledge merely derides and degrades. But, when others think something positive and soul-affirming about you that you yourself are irredeemably blind to, that brand of thinking is absolutely your business. You need that kind of thinking like air and water, it’s vital to your existence. 

I listened to my friends tout the inherent strength in my choice to stay and understood for the first time how right they were. There’s no weakness in believing in redemption and second chances, in forgiveness, and the power of love. There is only super-human strength in attempting that punch list because none of those things are of us, they are all of God. To endeavor at them at all is to invoke every single Godly fiber of your being. And I just didn’t see it that way until my friends pointed it out.  

The bitter taste of the telling departed and I was blanketed with a blessing I would not have received if I had stayed home and in my fog. A blessed knowledge that’s continually comforted me and carried me forward for nearly two years now. Choosing to stay was never a sign of weakness, it was only ever one of the biggest shows of strength I’ve ever mustered.

And as my sincerely remorseful and still-loving husband and I began the hard work of repair, as we labored through it for months on end, I came to understand the exactness of the other-worldly, super-human strength it takes to work together toward mending a broken heart and rebuilding a marriage once all trust has been lost. That’s when I fully understood the strength I was wielding. Not until then.

My friends saw it so much sooner. And had I not shown up in my truth, all flayed and oozing and vulnerable, had I not told my story, I would never have known what they thought of me. And what the people who love me thought of me, the people who love me so much they were willing and able to offer support to my husband as well because I asked them to, is so very absolutely my business. Because that knowledge shines a light bright enough to pierce any darkness that has descended. That knowledge saves.

Today, I write publicly about our story because I wasn’t the first to do so and that doesn’t sit well with me. Enduring the vicious gaze of the public eye as we army crawled through the war zone of infidelity in our marriage was nearly enough to break me for the fact we’ve two teenagers who were side-swiped and made to enlist as well. So I took it from there, I write the rest of our story, as it’s ours to tell. And the whole of our story, it’s brutally beautiful. I hope you’ll continue to read along. 

Jodie Utter

Jodie Utter is a freelance writer & creator of the blog, Utter Imperfection. She calls the Pacific Northwest home and ambles about its captivating forests and breath-taking (quite literally, because brrrr) bodies of water with her husband and two children. Jodie is a voracious seeker of laughter and awkward dancer who’s tired of making dinner and can’t stay awake past nine. She works to connect pain to pain and struggle so we’ll feel less alone inside our stories and more at home in our hearts, minds, and relationships. You can connect with her on her blog, Utter Imperfection and on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.