Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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"Should I stay or should I go? If I go, there will be trouble. If I stay, it will be double . . ."
~The Clash

I am a child of schoolhouse rock, a product of the age in which skate parks were invented, parachute pants were high fashion, and most of the girls I wanted to date had big hair and blue eye shadow. Lucky for me I made one of those beauties my wife. Rebellion for her in our southern catholic high school (yes, I see the irony . . . especially considering we were both protestant) was wearing too many rings which violated dress code. Wow - how did things escalate so wildly into the destructive behaviors of late?

With a wife willing to try to save the marriage, the biggest question post d-day quickly became: should I stay, or should I go? I'm thankful that early in my journey I was told I was not healthy enough to make such a life altering decision. My mind was telling me to forgive and forget, find a way to put this behind me quickly, and just get out of the pain. However, the true healing journey wasn't going to be that simple. After enduring six months of trickle truths, continued lies and cover-ups, and ultimately a polygraph, I finally arrived at ground zero. At that point, I began to comprehend the enormity of what I was truly dealing with but still tried to balance the investment of 22 years of marriage. Fortunately, I decided not to decide for at least another year.

I have taken the last 18 months day by day and now believe there just might be a glimmer of light up ahead. My emotional life is stabilizing and my personal journey is showing significant signs of peace and growth.

I accept that my old marriage is dead. In fact, thanks to all the work I have done in recovery I now see it for what it was. Frankly there is not much left about it to desire. My prior understanding was simply an inflated illusion and I find much more comfort in my new walk of authenticity. My wife has transformed in ways I never thought possible. The empathy and love she shows me now is a consistent flow of compassion. Her own self-awareness and desire to find out who God made her to be is nothing short of inspiring. Her talents as a teacher have transpired into an effective and empathetic guide for wayward women through regular leadership in Hope for Healing course work. I still love her no doubt. In fact, my choice to love her now is made when there is every reasonable excuse not to. Yet, I still hesitate when I contemplate if I should stay married. Why is that?

My individual journey has been one of education and awareness on my own codependent dysfunction. I needed validation from my marriage that caused me to rely on it in unhealthy ways. As I begin to see this personal weakness clearly, it leaves me feeling like I'm sitting on the edge of a huge cliff looking down at the abyss I just climbed out of. While I feel accomplished at the mountain I have climbed, I also feel tired which causes me to wonder if I'm willing to risk having to climb it all over again.

I have learned that recovery can be fickle. And I reserve the right to dispute even my own blog in the future as my mind often changes as my perspective grows. But in this moment, I think my question is: can she really change that drastically on a permanent basis?

I have never been one to shy away from a challenge. At times this has resulted in remarkable achievement. I was the first in my family to complete college, and this translated into an academic scholarship to law school where I graduated with honors. In my 30s I needed to lose some weight; five years later I ran a full Ironman Triathlon after completing my 4th marathon. The list of large and small personal accomplishments was long, but I continued to find myself empty and feeling unworthy. Only now am I able to see that the flaw in all this was the constant search for something worldly to define me -- the greatest of which was my marriage. By giving my marriage this power, I gave my wife the power to destroy me.

So how do I accept that I can only control myself? That I only have the power to implement healthy boundaries when I lean back into a relationship that caused me so much pain and destruction? I am still looking for an answer that satisfies me. But maybe I have some unconquered fear clouding the fact that this question is more about self-reflection. Perhaps the question of whether she can change is hindered by my personal doubt of wondering if anyone can change so drastically. Without accepting the idea that someone is possible of change, how can I believe it is possible in me? It seems that in losing the trust I had in her, I let go of the trust I had in my own instincts and my own ability to risk . . . to love.

Regardless of what path I follow in my marriage, trouble is sure to come around again. No doubt, pain will rear its ugly head in some form; this I know is certain. But what has this recovery process transformed me into? When another loss or transgression comes around will I be in a higher place of comprehension and self-awareness? Will she? And will we be stronger facing it together? Stay tuned . . .

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should i stay or go?

Give yourself permission to love and be vulnerable and above all to trust. One day at a time. Seems like your wife is trying her best.

I appreciate the comment.

I appreciate the comment. One day at a time. It definitely feels like we are headed in the right direction.


Should I stay or go?

Thank you for writing that article. I feel like you wrote it specifically for me. I can totally relate to everything you spoke of, but was never able to put it into words so eloquently as you managed to do. I really appreciate seeing that I'm not the only one struggling with those feelings. Thanks again!

I appreciate you taking the

I appreciate you taking the time to read it and respond. This process can feel so isolating for everyone involved, but we are not alone.


My story is similar to yours,

My story is similar to yours, I am a very successful software architect as well as many personal achievements, and also had my marriage on a pedestal. When wife cheated on me I thought I could never live with that,. But she made great changes for the good and after 5 years I felt we had a new better marriage and the affair seemed a thing of the past, I had slowly gained back trust though never like before....and then the unthinkable happened, again, temptation arose and she cheated again.....
I can't even begin to say how miserable I feel, lost, fooled, wasted 5 years of life....I have no idea where go from here, I don't even have the energy to start a divorce and with 4 kids all under 18 I find it hard to break up the family and ironically I still love her and care for her
Nothing feels real anymore, I have severe trauma now to get past, my life changed forever, other than the kids I feel I have no use in this world . I have read just about every book I think exists about infidelity and gone to therapy, am on antidepressants but nothing is helping.....I wish this doesn't happen to you but please be thoughtful that you never know regardless of how much they change the últimate test is what their actions will be when temptation strikes, good luck to you

I am very sorry you are

I am very sorry you are dealing with this all over again. I am sure it will not be any easier if I face this again. My eyes are definitely open to the possibility this could happen again, whether I am with my wife or in a new relationship. I hope you are able to find a path for your individual healing amongst what I can only imagine is a new low.


to irwin

This is my worst nightmare, a repeat performance. I am so, so sorry. As low and depressed and gutted as I am, the thought that it could be worse is absolutely unthinkable. It makes me feel just a slight bit less sorry for myself, helps me wallow just a bit less.

Some women are at higher risk for infidelity than others. Rick wrote an article on that very topic, and my wife checks off many of the boxes. I never knew. Would I have married her anyway, had I known? Did SHE even understand that she was at risk (the answer is clearly no)? But now we know... and the question is what to do about it.

At any rate, let me not make this about me. Let me create some good from pain. No, it's not ironic that you still love her and care for her. You love properly, wholly, truly. It's her that's broken, not you. You love RIGHT. There is NOTHING wrong with that sort of love, it's as it should be. I know that's hard. Even if our spouses were high-risk, we chose a brave and loving path. They then made their choices.

I send you love, my brother. Let's figure out how to live, and maybe even thrive, one day.


"...define me -- the greatest

"...define me -- the greatest of which was my marriage. By giving my marriage this power, I gave my wife the power to destroy me."

This totally resonated with me. My marriage was what I valued the most and I made that define me. Others let their career define them. Years later I am who I am. I define myself by how I conduct myself. I can stand-alone and be okay; whether that be married or divorced

Just Curious

You wrote that 5 years ago. Are you still together and how does it look now? I am 35 months out and struggle periodically.

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