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.
Problem #1: It's to easy to focus on an act of confession rather than ongoing efforts to change. The tattoo statement, however sincere it may be, won't achieve its purpose. It will not earn back his wife's trust.
When she doubts him in the future, simply ripping open his shirt to remind her of his declaration will not be enough. She needs action more than words.
It's the same problem I frequently see in couples I counsel (minus the tattoo). The unfaithful partner, frustrated with the slow process of healing, forcefully states: "I've already told you I'm sorry. What more do you want from me?!"
The repair of broken trust only starts with words of remorse; it continues with acts of atonement and change. A better declaration would define the qualities of the man he commits to be in the future.
Problem #2: The identifying "mark" of the affair is shame rather than redemption. This man, regardless of whether his marriage survives or not, will need to guard against constantly identifying with his failure. Of course, the ink in his skin does not define him, but sometimes the symbols we create reinforce the message we believe about ourselves.
Unless he eventually gets a HUGE cover-up (quite a challenge for this design!), he will be reminded each day that "I am a liar, cheater..." That's unfortunate.
I'll never forget my affair. I'll never stop regretting it. But I don't wear a scarlet A or a black tattoo. Instead, I embrace sorrow, grace, redemption, and love. Wouldn't they make a better tattoo?
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written by Tim Tedder, a licensed counselor and creator of this site and its resources. Twitter: @TimTedder