Self-awareness is very important for infidelity recovery and healing.  It helps you to climb out of the hole.

infidelity recovery

By Linda

I can’t remember who it was or if it was in the forum or in a comment, but a reader mentioned the “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters,” and naturally I had to check it out. 

When you read this very brief poem, I think that you might be able to relate to the metaphor of falling into a hole in the sidewalk with infidelity recovery.

The poem is written by Portia Nelson and is from her book “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery.”   As you read the poem, think about the metaphor of the hole in the sidewalk and relate it to your own experiences.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter I

I walk down the street. There is a hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter V

See also  Discussion - Dealing With Jealousy After an Affair

I walk down another street. 

Relating This to Infidelity Recovery

When I read this it brings about an awareness of the patterns that I sometimes fall into both as I travel through everyday life, and also during my journey through infidelity recovery and healing.

In my opinion, chapter 1 pretty much sums up the process from affair discovery to a reasonable point of being able to function and to find some sort of direction towards freedom from the pain and the emotional roller coaster.

During this period we often find ourselves falling into the same old patterns and thought processes.  We wonder what is real and what is just a bad dream.  It’s realizing what helps us to move forward and what holds us back, keeping us stuck.

The author implies acceptance and responsibility in the following chapters.  Being responsible for our thoughts and actions – and accepting them.  This is important because once we accept responsibility for our own thoughts and actions, we can work to change them or create new ones.  We can be better prepared to approach previously harmful thoughts or situations.  We can then avoid falling into the same old hole in the sidewalk and instead navigate ourselves around the hole – on a new path.

The poem in its entirety speaks to me of the importance of self-awareness.

After an affair is discovered many of us fall into the trap of self-blame and self-doubt.  The betrayed spouse feels unworthy and not good enough.  Believe me, I speak from experience on this.  The affair takes us into the hole and it’s hell trying to fight our way out of it.  Being aware of our thoughts and who we really are can help us to climb out of that hole and discover a new path on our journey to infidelity recovery.

See also  Struggling to Heal? You Have to Reach!

I’d be curious to hear how you might interpret the hole in the sidewalk based on your own situation, so please leave a comment about your thoughts.

    16 replies to "Infidelity Recovery and the Autobiography in Five Short Chapters"

    • CA

      Linda, Blueskyabove actually recommended the 5 short chapters to me and suggested that my H and I might want to read it together. I sent it to him and he immediately responded saying “Good find honey….my plan is to absolutely skip to the last chapter, I should have taken a different road the first time”. So thanks blueskyabove. I just wish it didn’t take this kind of hurt for him to realize that something was so very wrong.

      • Linda

        I saw it on her post and thought it was very good. I am obsessed wih reading anything that will help us with our healing, so I usually look up and read anything that is mentioned on our blog.

    • Teresa

      I’m going to write this down and read it everyday..until I have it memorized so when I have those ” bad, trigger days” I can repeat over and over…I WILL walk down another street!

    • Paula

      My take on this is a little different, although I can see how helpful it is! It seems a little like fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, and that is one of my sticking points, how to trust again (anyone) without opening myself up to have this happen again, allowing that vulnerablitity, but still protecting myself…

      • Carol

        Hi, Paula — I understand where you’re coming from. In my case, as I’m still with my H, this is just the issue: how do I trust him again, knowing how easily and frequently he has lied to me, especially about the EA but also (as I found out in the aftermath) on and off for the last 6 years about other inappropriate correspondences with women? He’s proven himself untrustworthy. He claims he’s changing. But it will be very, very hard to know whether or when he’s become trustworthy. I will only know for sure if I find out he’s been lying again, if that makes sense!
        Still: I’m trying to hold my head up. I keep telling myself I was not wrong to trust him in the first place. One is supposed to trust one’s spouse. I believed him when he said he always deleted his calls and text messages. I trusted him even when I knew he had a private e-mail account that he never showed to me; I chose not to be suspicious because I chose to trust him. That choice is now not available to me any more. So perhaps that’s part of my different road. I’m also trying not to let as much of my self-esteem and identity depend on him. That’s sad to admit, because of course a big part of my identity has been my marriage to him, but I feel like I can’t afford that dependence any more. 🙁

        • Paula

          Well put, Carol. I stayed with my partner for almost three years after Dday, and we had a lot of good times, and we worked our butts off to try to heal from it all. I just found I really struggled with the “everydayness” of what he had created, and the constant mind loop. I still do it, several months after we separated, but at least I’m not involving him in my pain anymore. I am still doing a lot of work on myself, as is he, but my concern is that I will never feel safe in the world again, as there has been a seismic shift in the way I view other people, ALL other people, and I would love to have some of my carefree ways back! That is the problem when the sexual affair is with one of your oldest friends, and they didn’t even have the decency to use protection, and you got sick! You can’t imagine who you can trust, if not your friends and partner, and the wall stays up, despite my best efforts to knock it down. It is a lonely place, and I don’t want to live in my little walled off room forever, lol! That is why I continue to do the work, look for answers and try to implement them.

    • Irish Triplets

      Thank you for this. You have no idea how much I needed it today.

    • blueskyabove


      Your post really revealed to me just how our perspective affects what we see. When I first found this poem it was shortly after discovering my H’s affair. The emphasis was on “what he had done to me”. I wasn’t even able to say “us” at the time. That came later. You and Doug, however, were much further along in the healing and recovery process and so you were able to see it from a different perspective. It takes more than just the passing of time for this to happen. So what is going on?

      When I thought about how self-esteem and the ego affect each other it was easy to see how this happens. I have learned so much about the ego due to this experience. I used to think any one who had a large ego was of the “look at me” variety. My FIL and my H’s AP both easily fit into this category. I’ve never had much time for this type of person. They were too high maintenance. They just bleed you dry. I had little to no respect for them. That was my opinion. I always viewed myself as having very little ego. In contrast to them I just didn’t seem to need constant adoration and attention. That changed after DDay and I now know why.

      Like most, if not all, betrayed spouses, my self-esteem suddenly plummeted while my ego sky-rocketed! This automatically happens because self-esteem and the ego are inversely related. When one goes up, the other goes down. While my ego started soaring out of control my perspective started shrinking, and just like the “look at me” people, it became all about me. Where I had once had a healthy self-esteem I now felt as if I was at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and I was trying desperately to survive. It felt awful. Although I intuitively knew I wouldn’t stay there forever, I also knew it was up to me to get out of the hole. I had to find some way to start feeling good about myself again because I did not want to be like the “look at me” people. Like my H I, too, had to choose to walk down another street.

      Staying in that dark, bottomless pit isn’t worth it!

      • Linda

        Blue Sky Above, you are so correct, I also was never a “look at me” kind of person, I also try to shy away from this kind of person. I am one to somewhat slip into the crowd and observe, finding meaning in my surroundings. After I found out about the affair, and also found out that Tanya was somewhat that kind of person, I began to feel inadequate because I was not that type of person and believed something was wrong with me. How could Doug be attracted to me? Therefore my self concept also plummeted and I needed more and more admiration and reassurance than I ever needed before. I felt like a puppy at the pet store, begging anyone to love me and take me home. I was never that needy before and be that way made me feel even worse about myself. You are correct, we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of this hole, however it is scary to take the shovel and dig our way out.

        • blueskyabove


          I know it’s scary, but the alternative is worse. It’s like being buried alive. I’d much rather live life to the maximum, with appreciation for all of it and no regrets, with confidence that I can not only survive whatever comes my way, but I can thrive (really thrive!) in the face of it. That’s freedom! I want the freedom to be the absolute best I can be! I want to live life like the incredible poem Doug posted in the forum.

      • Tryingtorecover

        wow- blueskyabove, thank you so much for the discussion on ego and self esteem. My H said he had an EA for a decade due to his ego… I truly never understood this – after your explanation I do. Prior to this discussion I believe the ego and self-esteem were a team in and sense and found jointly. The inverse relationship makes great sense to me and how he felt as though he needed this “ego stroke” as he put it now comes together. Thank you!

    • Jackie

      I find this analogy interesting. One reason was when the EA was first revealed, I kept saying that I felt as if my H had thrown both of us into a deep hole, and I didn’t want to be there. I definitely felt the feeling that I wanted to climb out of the hole, but felt H needed and wanted to be in the hole. After a while, I felt myself climbing out of the hole, but it felt as if H just liked the safety of the hole. Eventually, I felt I was out of the hole and was trying to throw H a rope but he just didn’t want it. He had to find his way out of the hole himself.

      I guess this is my somewhat parallel analogy to this lovely poem.

    • justbecause

      Even if you take the other street, the hole still exists. It’s good to take the other street but every time you pass that other street you remeber the hole.

      In my case, I don’t know everything about the hole. How deep is it? What’s on the bottom? I do know the hole is not getting bigger but will it ever get smaller?

      I feel like I’m back in high school advanced lit class!

    • Joe

      The whole in the street can be reprentative of two thoughts…the process of processing how damaging affairs are to both involved; not only to the ones who accept the irresponsible act of actually having an affair without a person who is not truly and freely able to love you back, but of course you’re ok….. Let’s face the facts, those who get into these situations are both broken… Man I’m getting angry!…. It’s so true though… I’ve gone through all five stages and realized that it’s all the same…most who you have affairs with are nuts anyway and drive you back to that which is sacred and predictable…. Sometimes not matter how bad.. But my resolve is that I keep migrating back like a duck in the winter time, without the only solace of knowing I will feel safe and loved then it’s, SHOCKINGLY, something to do with me and not the person who has a real good understanding and has accepted the true commitment of love!…. I’m stop and weak but fortified by the true essence of love… I now realize how blessed I was to have someone who loves me, has given me life to two beautifil children and could give two shits about anything other than living for happiness and for the sake of two lives that depend on my presence eventhough I may not be there mentally… Stress and shit… Trust, I still have opportunity and the crazy dynamic is the more you resist and ignore those distractions, they find you in a very evil, bad intent; either by what you’re not willing to do or because evil drives the opportunity for discontent.. If we could just silo that shit… It gets way to exhausting…. Stay the course and Vegas does not count… For either!

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