Affair healing Blog
I came across the recent photo of a full-chest tattoo on Jose, a man who seems desperate to prove how sorry he is for cheating on his wife. It's a kind of confession that can't be easily taken back. And why did he do it? "So that I can earn my wife's trust back for the pain and suffering I have caused in our marriage."
He confesses to being a liar, cheater, manipulator, deciever [sic], dishonest, disrespectful, and apparently one other descriptor deemed too inappropriate for public viewing.
At first thought, we might think: Wow! This guy is really serious about accepting responsibility and making things right. Maybe he is. But there are at least a couple problems with this dramatic declaration.
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.
When a partner has been betrayed and carries the wound of an affair, they long for the spouse to feel their pain and accept responsibility for it. To do this, the unfaithful partner must be willing to move toward that hurt rather than away from it. But let's be honest: most of us aren't wired that way.
In the presence of such overwhelming suffering, often expressed in anger, the guilty husband or wife usually reacts in self-protective ways by either avoiding or attacking their spouse. When that fight-or-flight response is mixed with a strong desire to sidestep the shame of an affair, it's easy to understand why so many cheating spouses simply want to voice a confession and then move on to other matters.
In preparation for attending a Marriage ICU Retreat (private couple's retreat) with me, I ask participants to explain some of the ways they have been changed by the affair. Here are responses to those questions from an unfaithful husband. They are published with his permission.
What have been the most significant things you have learned in regard to your personal and relationship recovery?
Here are some of the things I've learned:
1. I’ve learned what real pain looks like. My past work involved me with family/marital crises, funerals, and personal tragedies, but I’ve never witnessed the kind of pain and distress that I’ve seen in my wife since the day of discovery. It’s going on 4 months since discovery and the sobbing and tears still have not fully subsided. Just yesterday a deep sadness came over both of us and the sobbing (tears doesn’t describe it) began. my wife keeps saying she won’t cry anymore…but she does and the tears come from deep in her spirit. It’s heartbreaking to watch and know that I caused that. My heart is to help heal the pain I’ve caused in her and restore my marriage.