Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Affair—Awakening from the Dream of Guilt

Some fifteen years or so into my marriage that lasted fifty-five, I chose to have an affair.

My “special love relationship”* with Martha had shifted into the inevitable “special hate relationship,” with the accompanying anguished cry of my Ego demanding “more, more, more!”

I had, of course, chosen Martha with the idea that she possessed the love that I sought from the world. For I thought I needed it. I believed I, myself, was lacking that love and someone ‘out there’ must have it to give to me. Pure, unadulterated selfishness. I was unaware of all this at the time, of course, for its origin lay in the unconscious. From my present vantage point I can now see that all I did then was to project my sense of unlove to Martha, and see it coming back to me from her. A paranoid ideation, to be sure. But nevertheless very convincing at the time.

So off I went on my quest, for “some other can always be found.”* Now I can say that the woman I chose was by personality a most desirable
person. She was not beautiful, for I had learned by that time that beauty is not a value worth the quest. But being divorced, she was available. In addition, she was kind, gentle, patient, and was capable of not taking herself too seriously. In effect, an apparently good woman seemingly with the capacity of cherishing both her children and myself.

However, I had a number of ‘problems.’ I had made a commitment to Martha, and I took that very seriously. In addition, I was extremely guilty for I knew I had betrayed her trust and loyalty to me. But the major factor that caused me extreme pain was Martha’s character. She had the very same characteristics as the ‘other woman’ I’ve just described. Both women were of quality—it was my selfish Ego demanding “more!”

Although I deceived Martha of all this (or thought I did, for after her death I came upon a brief line she’d written under the title “Affair.” It was: “I knew before he did that he was having an affair.”), I soon told her all that I have described above (though I denied I was selfish).

After months of anguish, one memorable night in bed with Martha, I poured out to her the anguish of my heart. I held nothing back. After a moment of quietness, she calmly said the following: “Frank, I love you and if you choose to leave me, I will grieve. But if it would truly make you happy to go to her, then do so, for above all I want you to be happy.”

I was stunned—For her tone of voice was clearly sad, but not bitter. I heard no hate, no self-pity nor any accusation from her. What I did hear was something I had never heard from another human being—and that was a singular cherishing for my happiness that included no conditions. As a consequence, I experienced a freedom I had never known, and with it a clear, guiltless determination never to leave that bed. I would be a fool to do so. That moment was what A Course in Miracles describes as a ‘Holy Instant.’ For in that moment Martha had reflected the divine Love to the extent that she was aware of it. And I as well, to the extent that I was able to hear its call, was able to acknowledge it, accept it, and decide to act from its motivation. Thus it was from this moment that our marriage took a decidedly different direction. We began, both of us, to seriously consider what it really meant to be ‘joined.’

The journey we embarked upon was by no means an easy one. It was marked by periods of chaos, conflict, pain and confusion. But in the process there emerged a deeper awareness of Love’s presence.

Over the ensuing years, I experienced a deepening sense of gratitude for that Love, a gratitude that continues to this day. And with it there is a growing freedom from guilt, accompanied by an increasing desire to experience the complete and total end of the idea that guilt has any reality or power of its own; that it has only the power that we attribute to it. Above all I wish to free my mind from guilt’s poisoning effects, and experience the joy and peace that result from its absence.

Copyright 2007 Frank West

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