Why Infidelity is Sometimes an End and a New Beginning

And they lived happily ever after. When you have found your prince or princess and are in love with the two of you standing in front of the altar, it is hard to imagine that anything could come between you. You promise to be loyal to each other, and yet one of you is unable to keep that promise. Or maybe not both. What does that mean? Is that the end?

In her book Trouw, journalist and director Sarah Domogala tell the story of her love. How one day something got between her and her husband because he had an affair, and what happened next. But not only that: she also looks back on the years before his infidelity, and she writes a letter to his mistress. An interview with Sarah.

How did you feel about faithfulness and infidelity in the past? Did you have a clear-cut idea? As some people say, ‘then the story is over’?

I indeed thought it would be over. But it was bizarre to find out that the relationship was indeed over, but the love was not. After the rules of loyalty were broken, there was so unexpectedly space to really love each other, without all assumptions and agreements. As if we could start over. A new relationship, because the old one was indeed over.

In addition, I had always projected loyalty and infidelity on the other. Like: you are not allowed to cheat. When I never thought about being unfaithful to myself for the sake of a relationship or the one you love. You see, there was a lot of food for thought.

You wrote your story because you would have liked to read something like this yourself, you write it on your website. What exactly were you missing in existing books? 

As it turned out, I couldn’t find that many stories about infidelity, at least that went beyond thrills or turned out to be a settlement or pleading guilt. There was nowhere a nuanced, healing story about the impact cheating or being cheated on can have on a love affair, let alone how to survive such a thing together, when there are so many people dealing with infidelity. To regain my self-esteem, I really longed for a healing story. The story of someone who had been there, in that crazy no-man’s-land of rejection, and who had come back wiser and more lovingly.

What is the most important lesson you have learned about love through this period in your relationship?

That things happen. When you want to get into a long, deep, love affair with someone, things happen along the way that you don’t want or like. If you can get through that together, no matter how difficult or painful, then you are building something with someone that you will never be able to find with someone else. That is precisely the deep, unconditional connection that we are all looking for.

You even write, “I wouldn’t have missed your crush.” Can you explain that? 

I write behind it: ‘I would not have missed the liberation of our love’. Because, ironically, it is the infatuation between my husband and his mistress that caused our love to be freed from all kinds of roles, assumptions, and expectations that held us both in trouble. So yes, if reluctantly, there came a point when I could admit that I was somewhere happy that it happened. That our first relationship ended and that we could start over together.

In stories of infidelity, you often have a schematic division between a perpetrator and a victim – quite black and white. Your story is much more nuanced. Did you consciously want to break through that dichotomy? And why?

As long as I remained the victim and my husband the perpetrator, I had to fight for my self-worth, and my husband had to feel guilty as the perpetrator all the time. That is awful, besides, neither of you benefits nor does it bring you closer together. By seeing that we had both done things that had made room for the affair and that we were both victims in the crisis of our relationship, we could talk about what had happened to us, with us together, with our love. It provided a new common ground, a place where we could be safe together and where we could both tell what we wanted from each other.

The first part of your story is very intense at times – you as a reader are tossed with you between anger, despair, sadness, and longing. But actually I was even more impressed by the second part. You write to your husband’s mistress, and you don’t do that at all with the anger or resentment you’d expect. It is very loving. Did that cost you effort? 

Funny, there are people who feel very sorry about the first letter, and others, like you, more about the second letter. That resentment has certainly been there, very much, as I also describe. But after that initial anger, there was also an inexplicable but deep desire to know who this person was who was so present in my life, but whom I did not know. The compassion I eventually developed for her as well as for myself is something that I would have thought crazy if you had told me beforehand, but it has shown me the true power of love.

Is there anything you hope to teach the reader with your book?

I hope it helps you find real love. In yourself, in the other, in the expectations, we have of each other, and the way in which we solve problems and insurmountable together. Infidelity is so widespread, as long as it remains an unpardonable sin shrouded in shame, there is nothing to be healed. You can put love in those dark pieces, really.

Felix Tammi

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