Affair healing Blog
In my interview with Debi Silber (Recovery Room podcast #401), founder of the Post Betrayal Institute, Debi talked about different ways women move beyond betrayal. She made a distinction between those who experience resilience and those who experience transformation.
To illustrate her point, she gave this example:
Let's say a house needs a new boiler, paint job, and roof. You buy a new boiler, repaint it, and get a new roof. That's resilience.
But transformation is like this...
We usually expect our marriage to last a lifetime. What starts with promises of faithfulness and endurance, we believe, will survive any challenge "for better or for worse." Most marriages do; some even thrive. But many die in ways never anticipated.
When the death of a marriage is a mutual choice between two partners, grieving its loss may be a short-term process. The decision to end their relationship often follows a period of prolonged suffering, making divorce feel like relief. Similar to a funeral, partners make the appropriate arrangements, pay their final respects, bury the marriage, and move on with their lives.
But a marriage killed by betrayal is not so easily mourned.
During July 2015, one of our Community forum members posted a message in response to an unfaithful spouse who was frustrated because his wife remained angry about his affair. It's worth reprinting again. This is an edited version of her response, but you can read the the full post here.
You can feel put out that your wife is so insanely angry abut your affair, but it's not going to get you anywhere. Stop thinking of it as judgement from your spouse and, instead, judge yourself. Can you sit and own the choices you made and all the consequences that followed as yours and yours alone? When you can do that, I think empathy will come easier, your wife will feel safer, and some of her anger will dissipate. There were very few times—I'm talking nanoseconds—when my spouse showed real remorse without any defensiveness. And you know what? In those nanoseconds (until his defenses went up again, of course) my anger melted away.
I think every wayward spouse seriously underestimates the fear and intense pain, both emotional and physical, caused by what they have done. It's in their interest to do so, since as seeing it too clearly would feel awful.
As pointed out in an earlier post, a self-focused apology (one in which "I'm sorry" is just a way to get out of an uncomfortable situation, not bring any true relief to the offended person) is seldom satisfying to the recipient. But forgiveness-seekers aren't the only ones who can sap the power out of forgiveness. Forgiveness-givers can be selfish, too.
I hesitate when it comes to pointing out the shortcomings of an offended person. After all, why should anything be required of a victim? Shouldn't the offender carry the full responsibility for making things right?
And in the case of an affair, shouldn't the cheater be expected to do all the work of fixing the marriage?
After an affair is exposed, much pain and confusion is often experienced. And when a couple, caught up in the turmoil, reaches out for answers to the "What's next?" question, they are likely to hear many different answers.
I'd like to give you mine.
My response is more than opinion. It is an honest conclusion that has been firmly established by many years of counseling individuals & couples following infidelity. It is learned from my own experience, too.
But let me adjust the questions just a bit before I answer them further.
Let's take a closer look at each question...