Life Is Like A Peanut Butter Cookie

affair-recovery_survivors-blog_christine-as we grive the losses as our formerly unfaithful repairs as we invest in listening empathy adn compassion we can once again grow as individuals and as a couple

I recently made this family favorite. The first two batches came out perfectly. On the third and final batch, the kitchen timer did not go off. I use this timer for all sorts of cooking and baking projects. It is the type where you rotate the dial past the time you want and turn back to the exact number of minutes desired. It ticks like a time bomb and rings as a school bell at day's end.

My internal timer went off before I smelled burning, but the cookies were definitely a few moments past the point of no return.

What's this metaphor got to do with life and infidelity recovery?

Just this: even when we, the betrayed, have used our best ingredients from the supermarket, when we have followed—carefully and with lots of love—the recipe for cookies (or life), sometimes the timer doesn't work, and the cookies don't turn out.

There is joy in the doing because we know we will enjoy the cookies, and so will our family. We set the trusty timer, put the cookies in preheated oven and continue to go about our life at earshot of the timer's brrrriiiiiinnnnngggg. But it never comes. And we're left with burnt cookies.

Was it a mistake to count on the timer's reliability when it had not been unreliable in the past?

Perhaps the most doubtful baker would keep an eye on her wristwatch to be sure that the timer goes off. Or maybe those of us who have had timers fail us in the past would be more likely to use the backup plan.

Regardless, our cookies have been burnt.

Our marriage as we knew it is over. It will never be the same. Even if we are fortunate enough to have a spouse who eventually takes full responsibility, makes amends on an ongoing basis, and becomes the person we thought we married (or better!), we might never trust completely, tenderly, innocently again. We will never have a marriage untainted by betrayal. We have been changed down to a cellular level.1

It's an end, a loss, and it's sad—like saying goodbye to our kindergartner on his first day is difficult and heartrending, like tossing the final rose on the coffin of a parent or beloved friend is unimaginably painful. Endings can be anything from bittersweet to just plain awful. Grief. Sucks.

Sure, there are those first two batches of sweet, delightful memories. But this dark, bitter batch leaves an aftertaste in our mouth, even if it is still edible. We never want to go there again.

We have been burned—badly. About as deeply and painfully as any experience in life. Infidelity changes you.

The next time I make peanut butter cookies, even if my timer has resumed its apparent reliability, I will be more careful, more watchful, use a backup plan. Even if I was to throw out the old timer and get a new one, I would be reminded to be careful. I would not trust completely, perhaps for a long time—maybe forever—that the timer wouldn't fail me. I am more clear-eyed, more realistic, more mature.

We will surely and truly never be the same.

We will be wiser, more careful, less trusting. We will also be more appreciative of all the batches of cookies that are to come. We are grateful for the timer and even more grateful for the sweet results. We have been forewarned. No timer, no man, no woman is failsafe. We can do everything right but still have those we rely on fail us.

It is part of life: Disappointment. Death. Birth. Growth after betrayal. Growth after the longest winter of discontent.

There is hope. As we grieve the losses, as our formerly unfaithful repairs, as we invest in listening, empathy and compassion, we can once again grow as individuals and as a couple. We can also choose to use this as an opportunity to grow, regardless of the outcome of our marriage, to be even better, stronger, wiser.

Would I ever consider quitting my love of baking because I had a bad batch or even a season of oven failures? No. Love and cookies are too important, too vitally special to me and my life. Even if our post-pandemic world looks different, even if we are fundamentally changed by disappointments and losses, we can grow into more loving and compassionate human beings. We can choose gratitude for all the blessing of this life.

We can savor the fruits, the cookies, of our labors again if we let ourselves risk failure. We all risk when we love. We all risk every day when we get out of bed in the morning. Life is inherently risky, especially if we have the courage to reach for our dreams, if we choose to love. We all risk for what is good. We all hurt when what was good disappoints us. Especially when we did everything we could to make it right.

But peanut butter cookies—and love—are worth it.

  1. See The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk for more information
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Great Analogy

I love the analogy, it certainly expresses how I’m feeling. I keep wishing to undo the recent past, but the cookies remain unpalatable. I missed the ringing of the timer somehow, too distracted to notice it was loudly clanging for my attention.
My unfaithful husband would tell you he wishes that he could go back and remake the cookies, exchange the error of salt for the sweetness of sugar. I may be mourning the burnt cookies, but he’s grieving over the bitterness of not following the true recipe. “Why didn’t I use the sugar?” is his lament. “Why oh why can’t I go back and remake the cookies?”
He knows he can’t, so he sits in sadness holding cookies that can’t be swallowed.
D Day was three months ago and I’m finally able to put aside the burnt cookies and have empathy for his deep and bitter pain.

Wow...bless you. I sounds

Wow...bless you. I sounds like you have come a long way in this difficult journey. I am also encouraged that your husband recognizes his absence of correct ingredients. It takes a long time to grieve the losses of the past--the mistakes. May your road continue toward the light.

Love is bittersweet

It’s been a long winding road. My husband has remained faithful for almost a year. I am standing in front of the oven door, watching the cookies. I open the door, look closer, smell them, close the door. I check the timer on the oven, on the microwave, I ask Alexa - How much time is left? Soon I will let go of the vigilance. I will give God my pain, but for now I walk around the kitchen - checking.

Totally understandable..and

Totally understandable..and normal. Bless you. Too healing...

Still together?

Thank you for sharing this. I am 3 months past D Day, my husband just returned home on Friday after separating for 3 months but he is ambivalent about the marriage and shows little affection or empathy. He is struggling with shame and I am struggling with feeling abandoned. Are you still with your husband? What was the turning point for you?

We are in house separated.

We are in house separated. There was no 'light switch' turning point. My path has been more like a dimmer switch --the light brightening as I lean into my choice to move forward. My attendance at Alanon has supported the need to 'detach in love' as I have worked at rebuilding my life. At some point, as in any grief (especially the loss of a loved one to death. This is a kind of death), you have to decide to live again---to find the reasons that surround all of us, to go on.

We can not afford two households. I am not willing to sacrifice any more than I already have. I want to continue to be able to afford not only basic living expenses, but to be able to see my daughter and granddaughter living on the other side of the country. I choose every day to look for (and find) all the good, all the beauty. Life goes on all around me and I choose to jump back into the stream. Life is not what I planned, nor imagined, but it is still good.

Thank you

Thank you for sharing. I'm so sorry for your difficult situation but it sounds like you have the right attitude. If you are a person of faith, I pray that God can love and care for you right now in the ways that your husband can't.

Thank you so very much for

Thank you so very much for your compassion and prayers.

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