Trust is a Big Ticket Item

big-ticket-item-ss-1920-800x517Understanding trust as a big ticket item.  A bit far fetched I know even by my standards but I do love a metaphor or analogy and sometimes the more bizarre the clearer the insight.  Maybe? This particular idea came to me as I was drifting off to sleep last night.  I was wondering how I could emphasise the gigantic proportions of trust needed for a marriage to survive in any meaningful way; most especially if the trust has actually gone; destroyed at the root by the act of adultery. So I explored the above metaphor to see where it took me and found some interesting analogies for marriage recovery within the techniques that are considered to be essential when buying and selling any big ticket item.

A colloquial expression, ‘big ticket’ describes items that are of high monetary value such as houses or cars. For most people these are the most expensive purchases that they make during their lifetime.  Whilst I appreciate that trust has no monetary value (although this could be argued), over the last few years I have come to realise that its value is beyond compare to anything else I know.  The cornerstone of every and any relationship, but especially so in a marriage.  So what happens when it is lost?  Can it be rediscovered?  Can trust be ‘purchased’ in any way?  Well, not really because the important aspect of trust is that it is given freely if the basic building block of honesty is in place.  Therefore, if my husband seeks the big ticket purchase of trust he first has to ‘sell’ me the promise of renewed honesty.  To have my trust return (his trust in me remains constant) I have to believe that he will not lie to me or deceive me in any way.

He has to consider what he would have to ‘put on the table’ to make me prepared to buy his promise that he can be trusted, that he will be honest with me. The stakes are high for both sellers and potential customers when it comes to big ticket purchases. It will need a lot of patience and understanding on behalf of my husband without any guarantees of success and the price that I have to pay for this transaction of granting my trust is my vulnerability, something that I am keen to protect and conserve. So, husband needs to understand that buying his promise of honesty is a big ticket item for me and apparently, when considering a big ticket item, people follow a more in-depth information gathering cycle.  They don’t just look for information about the desired product, (honesty) but also for a 360-degree view  and validation that this purchase won’t end in buyer’s remorse. You could say that the past three years or so I have been doing just this and my blog is testimony to this.

What’s interesting is that customers unconsciously adopt a “fight or flight” stance when thinking about making a large investment. Our brains are much faster at identifying a threat than anticipating a reward, so the possibility of making a bad investment can literally put us into a panic mode. Therefore husband needs to understand that I will need a lot of reassuring in order to move toward trust again. The very real fear of trusting my husband only to end up with regret is paralyzing, and therefore he requires a deep understanding of these specific anxieties so that he can address them. This means that on top of the basic trust-building required for any relationship he also needs to constantly reassure me that I won’t be making a costly mistake when I decide to trust him again.  To effectively sell his promise of honesty to me he must anticipate all possible sources of resistance and develop tools that chip away at these psychological barriers.  If I retain any doubts about his whereabouts or his activities the barriers to trust will not go away.

Big ticket consumer purchases have a relatively long sales cycle. This is because the purchaser has an eye for the long term so is not prepared to make a quick decision. My eye is towards us making old bones together and sharing our later years.  I’m sixty years of age and this later stage in my life is just as important as any other.  Perhaps more so.  This means that husband has to be ready to put up with some period of decision-making, I will not be rushed. However, this doesn’t mean that he can’t and shouldn’t do anything to nudge me closer to a speedier conversion. If he can provide opportunities for micro-conversions as we progress it might be possible for me to make a series of smaller commitments to him which will lay the groundwork for the bigger conversion later.

It is crucial, however, that I feel in control of the entire process. No one likes to be rushed into making a decision, and this is especially true when it comes to big-ticket purchases. I have made a series of small commitments over the past three years that are comfortable to me. I need to make more of these before I’ll be prepared to commit fully.

If I am viewed as a big ticket purchaser it must be realised that I will expect higher levels of attention and service in exchange for my premium spending. This is why the focus needs to be on experience. For me to consider believing his honesty I must feel special and valued.

When I married husband I assumed that trust and honesty would be respected for the value that they hold in a meaningful relationship. I hadn’t realised that for my husband it could be a negotiable transaction.  However, he didn’t realise what he was throwing away in order to be dishonest with me.  Hopefully he has learned that, as understood in economic terms, big ticket items are durable goods, this means that they last a relatively long time and provide utility to the user.

For me, trust really is the big ticket item of a successful marriage. I hope my husband learns how to pay the high price for its return whilst valuing its essential, non-negotiable role in our future together.

 

Infidelity: Two Blog Posts – Two Perspectives

chalk and cheeseCHALK AND CHEESE

 I have recently read two blog posts and want to note my responses to both. They are not related to each other, or to my blog, but in content they have, at the core, the OW and as I have just posted on this very topic, subsequent to being harangued by an OW trying to tell me what an idiot I was to attempt to reconcile with my husband, my feelings are close to the surface. Both blog perspectives are from Betrayed Spouses but they have starkly contrasting approaches to the OW.  One verges on the sympathetic and the other on the damned outrage.  Chalk and cheese.

 

Firstly, I came across Elle’s latest blog posting on the Betrayed Wives Club Blog. A brilliant blog I follow which is a wonderfully soft landing place for people new to theElle devastation of betrayal and deceit and of their world turning inside out and upside down.  The post was entitled “Warrior Post: What You Really Need to Know About the Other Woman” and was a reposting of an anonymous  story posted on another part of the site in response to what a reader had noticed was a lot of talk and concern and obsession with the Other Woman.  (Note the word obsession – sounds judgemental, something abnormal. Wrong?) Whilst Elle points out that nobody is to blame for their husband’s cheating (something I’ve always been encouraged by) and that happy marriages can experience infidelity – unless I’ve got it wrong – she seems to want to admit here that some marriages are bad and if so, changes how the BS might respond to the adultery and the OW. Elle believes that Anonymous has “taken a clear-eyed look at her marriage and the role she played in the breakdown of it”.  I was surprised by this. Maybe I’m not ready to hear such an understanding and maybe it is helpful for some women but I find that it sticks in my throat.  Does admitting to having difficulties in your marriage really help to understand or to cope with infidelity?

 

BSs are not dealing with a broken heart they are dealing with a stress disorder caused by infidelity. What we experience has been likened to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with the symptoms of anxiety, irritability, rage, emotional numbing and flashbacks. This can last for years.  Who’s to say that hating and vilifying the OW is not just part of this response?  In my opinion it is the betraying spouse who wants to remain in the marriage that should be doing all they can to help their partner to heal.  Focusing on what they can do to support their deceived spouse through the trauma of adultery. It is not for the BS to discover what they might do to make their spouse more content in their marriage. Too late I say.  The adultery has somewhat blotted the copy book of their spouse.   Discussing what may or may not have been right or wrong in their marriage is irrelevant.  And if they are back, wanting to return, the marriage couldn’t have been that bad anyway! For a marriage to recover after betrayal, the betraying spouse has to work to CHANGE their responses to life’s challenges.  They have to accept their role in a committed relationship.  I don’t expect anyone to stay in a marriage that makes them unhappy but rather than abuse their spouse with the act of adultery, (to gain what – attention?) they should discuss the problems they find in remaining in a monogamous relationship. However, many BSs (me included) are with spouses who never intended to leave.  Knew they had a good marriage.  They just wanted to have their cake and eat it at the same time. So, what’s to discuss exactly?  One OW informed me that if I’d been the whore I accused the OW of being my husband would not have strayed!!!!!!  Well sister, he may not have strayed but I wouldn’t want to remain in the marriage if that was what it took.

 

For Anonymous, one of the reasons behind her husband’s adultery she believes was their crumpling marriage.  However, her understanding of her husband’s adultery, also included a belief that her husband was not to blame for his committing adultery.  Post D-day, one day in therapy, she was raging about how the OW seduced him and an epiphany occurred when he replied “I did this to you! I DID! You think I’m so weak and feeble minded that I’m just nothing, that I could be so blindly tricked into doing this awful thing, that I wasn’t even capable of making this f&@king decision either?” 

 

Well, as I never for one moment thought Pig Shit seduced my husband, it was a revelation to me to hear a wife directly blaming the OW for her husband’s adulterous behaviour. This is something OWs are saying we are doing!  This saddens me.  However, even though I blame my husband completely, this does not detract me from my disgust at Pig Shit’s behaviour and her poor choices.  Anonymous however, has taken a much softer line. “I can’t vilify this OW any more than I vilify him because he was the one who was supposed to cherish me and forsake others”.  Here, I am at complete odds.  I feel entitled to vilify both my husband and the OW for the adulterous scrap heap they created between them and dumped on my doorstep!

 

I don’t know the time scale here but Anonymous has forgiven her husband, (I struggle deeply with the concept of forgiveness and have blogged elsewhere about this) understands his flaws and has thought about how the OW probably has her own demons that she’s struggling with. Although she still has mean and nasty thoughts towards her they are fading every day and sometimes Anonymous hopes she gets the help she needs so that she can have a second chance at life, too, just like she has given her husband. Wow! This is such a different landscape to the one I inhabit.  Anonymous says that at times she still “wishes that the OW would lose all her hair overnight, gain 100 pounds and get horrible adult acne”. I’m with you here sister! There’s nothing wrong with that sentiment!

 

It’s clear that Anonymous has actually acted out some of her venom and it maybe this that has made her more cautious and prone to offering kind responses. I have withheld from giving Pig Shit any attention, so I don’t have any of those memories to contend with, but my hatred for her remains a constant.  What I find most difficult in this post is the end where Anonymous gives advice.  Albeit well-meaning it makes me cringe because of the focus on the betraying spouse rather than on herself. I’m surprised that with this message Elle selected it as a blog post.  It would suggest an endorsement.

 

“For all these reasons, I say let it go with obsession with the OW. I’ve read some stories on here of BS who admitted they were an OW long ago and we still support them because of their pain! And we do that because we are good and compassionate people on here. Take your energy and focus on him. Focus on learning why he did what he did. You have to understand why HE did this in order to move forward. It doesn’t matter why she did, it only matters why he participated. Focus on what you have done to hurt him. And then solely focus on you getting stronger as a couple. Don’t let thoughts of her continue to ruin any progress you are making as a couple. It’s easier said than done but don’t let her continue to be a part of your marriage, she didn’t belong in it before and she doesn’t belong in it now either”.

 I’m clearly neither good nor compassionate. I refuse to focus on my H.  He fucked up a really good relationship and he has to help me heal AND rebuild my trust in him.  There is no excuse for adultery.  I doubt that I will ever understand why my husband willingly chose to lie and deceive me and make a mockery of our marriage but I don’t believe that this is stopping us from moving forward in any way.  The act of reconciliation in itself is part of the healing and being together, rebuilding our relationship is something we are proud of.  But we still have a way to go.  Many BSs do not feel they have hurt their husband in any way.  Why would they?  I can’t imagine any hurt qualifying for a dose of adultery in retaliation. Marriages have their ups and downs and some of those downs can be crippling BUT adultery is not a solution.  It should not even be considered an option! Not everyone wants to behave the way a moral coward would.  The focus needs to be on the BS getting stronger.  Marital recovery after adultery is very hard work and it’s not for sissies.  There are no guarantees and trust has to be rebuilt if possible.  But we all fear it might happen again.  We fear this because we know that for many women it does happen again.  Whether we work on staying in our marriages or leaving, the betrayed partner is the one who has to heal.  If ranting and vilifying the OWs makes you feel better – go for it.  If you take any time to read what OWs say about themselves it will make you want to vilify them even more.  They seek neither our pity or our forgiveness.  They just seek other women’s husbands!

 

For individuals who have been unable to reconcile with their unfaithful spouses because chump ladythe betraying spouse wasn’t prepared to stop their adulterous ways – there is another web site. Chump Lady,  with the strap line; leave a cheater gain a life.   Here, where marital reconciliation is viewed to be a unicorn (although in all fairness it is not considered impossible) the posts are scathing towards spouses who do not do the necessary work of recovery.  It is a hugely popular site and is populated with a remarkable array of BSs looking to support each other as they build independent lives without their husbands.  You will not find a good word here about unfaithful spouses.  They are vilified for all their different ploys to deceive their spouses in order to get their ‘kibbles’ and all attempts at recovery are viewed with suspicion, cynicism and doubt.  So, very much at odds with my site which claims to have found its unicorn.  Ha! The site also vilifies OWs.  This warms the cockles of my heart!

 

It was on this site that I read Tracy’s latest blog post entitled “UBT: In Defence of Dating a Married Man”. UBT is her Universal Bullshit Translator  and here it is used to examine an article which is referred to as “a fluffy little piece of sociopathy by Shannon Boodram, sexologist, entitled In Defence of Dating a Married Man.”  It’s a piece which explores whether dating someone who is married to someone else is wrong.  Their answer is, basically, NO! It says “my answer to this popular query is always the same: If it occurs in nature, then yes, it is natural. And since extra-marital affairs have been in existence for just as long as the institution of marriage, I think it is time we stopped looking at affairs as heinous crimes and instead as a natural occurrences”.

 

Are you spitting feathers yet? Mine were the size of an ostrich’s.  Is our trauma not directly due to our husbands’ heinous moral crime? It goes on… “The beauty in seeing things as natural vs. deviant is it allows you to exercise understanding. The more we understand and can identify patterns, the better we can cope and even evade the trauma associated with them”.

 

Tracy’s response to this, after running it through the UBT was “It’s not your partner fucking other people that’s traumatic, it’s your inability to identify patterns. Avoid polka dots. And plaid.” Don’t you just love it?  Already I am calming down because someone is addressing this piece of garbage from the silenced perspective of us BSs. And she is cutting through the crap with a razor sharp acerbic wit.

 

And if there is a further way of seeing an OW as a legitimate third wheel whilst stroking the selfish ego of the married man the article goes on to announce “a married man is a living example of the qualities women naturally seek out: Some women simply appreciate their attraction while respecting the family unit, others compete to have those qualities for themselves. On the flipside, not all women who date married men are in competition with the wife. Some prefer the mistress-relationship-model, since it provides them with the fun side of companionship minus any of the traditional obligations of partnership.”

 

What I find most disturbing about this piece (prior to its UBT translation) are the statements that would suggest that we have to accept and accommodate our husband’s desires. There is nothing to suggest that the individual needs to learn how to exercise personal self-control or develop qualities such as ethics, loyalty, kindness and fortitude.

 

“I strongly believe that keeping an open dialogue with your partner about their temptations, desires and natural drives is very important. Not only can you help your partner effectively manage these natural urges through counsel, but you can also create healthy alternatives in the event that the desire is too strong to curb. Betrayal, not compromise, is the biggest offense in any relationship, but if you don’t create an environment of open communication, you leave your partner to their own devices and vices.”

 

Here we have it. Compromise your desire for monogamy. Poor husband needs more than wife is giving him.  She now needs to take a trip to Ann Summers, watch a few porn videos, cook him his favourite dishes, do his laundry and ironing, listen to him airing his ‘feelings’, get a Brazilian, and shut up nagging.  Oh, and see to the kids of course!  Feel like you can’t keep him happy?  Then just go a bit monogamish.  But, let’s be realistic here – the biggest thrill of adultery for the cheater is the lies and secrecy – an open marriage just doesn’t offer this frisson.

 

We must stop the onslaught of opinion that is peddled out by the Esther Perels and Elizabeth Gilberts of this world. This article is a perfect example of such opinion.  Together, no matter how quiet our voices, we BSs must move the attention of adultery from the act in itself and the marriage in which it occurred to the effects that such behaviour has on the cuckolded partner.  Stop basing all theory on the evidence supplied by adulterers themselves – the information is biased, not to say just a rationalisation for the act.

 

I keep saying this, it’s becoming a mantra… Adultery is WRONG.  The OW is not a bit-player in all this.  She is as much a part of the adultery as the deceiving spouse.  An adult.  The consequences of having the wife hate her doesn’t seem to have any effect on her whatsoever.  I say, carry on hating the other person who was in your marital triangle.  It’s normal.  If you don’t or if you feel the need to fight the urge, fine,  but just appreciate that we all get to our destinations following different paths, and if we’re not careful the OW walks away with a truck load of sympathy and we get Jack Shit!

The Other Woman: More deluded than I thought!

scorpionI have gained an interesting insight over the last couple of days from OWs who have chosen to respond to some of my blog posts. I realise that I have underestimated their capacity to be delusional.

I had previously thought that their delusions occurred whilst they were shagging their married man. You know the stuff: I love him so much; I tried to end it but he wouldn’t let me go; I didn’t intend any harm to the wife and family; he loves me; his wife doesn’t understand him; he lies to his wife but not to me; I tried to help fix things with his wife; really he wants to be with me; and so on ad-boring-infinitum.  However, what I had yet to comprehend was how they deluded themselves after they’d been dumped!

Oh boy, then all hell breaks loose. Their married lover is a liar, a cheat, a coward.  Then it is just a short step to tarring all adulterous men with the same brush.  They believe that wives who stay in their marriage think that they have an improved man but as far as the OW is now concerned they just have a better liar.  Of course, if the married man had left his wife and gone to be with the OW then of course he would have retained his halo.  He would be ‘Her Man’ and everything else would just evaporate in the midst of the heat of their love.  Pass the sick bag.

So has their delusion gone or has it just changed track? Trust me, it hasn’t gone! They’re still on the cognitive train of justification for revolting behaviour but now their married lover is at fault.  Not themselves of course.  Of course not, stupid! They did nothing wrong.  Poor sisters! Then, the irony is, they want to visit the blogs of wives who have chosen marital reconciliation after adultery and here the vomit they write in response to the pain of betrayal is telling of the continued delusion.

There seems to be a firmly held belief amongst OWs, akin to a religious fervour, which holds that we as betrayed wives simply BLAME the OW for our husband’s adultery and don’t think our husband’s are at fault in any way. Because of this, they feel that they need to educate us and advise us that the OW is not to blame.  P-L-E-A-S-E!  Hello!!!!!  I blame my husband 100% for his choice to commit adultery and have said so innumerable times within my blog.  So let’s make it clear so that there is no further misunderstanding by any dumped OWs trawling around my blog.

I BLAME MY HUSBAND FOR HIS ADULTERY

I DO NOT BLAME PIG SHIT AT ALL FOR MY HUSBAND’S ADULTERY

IT COULD HAVE BEEN ANY WOMAN

BUT ONLY PIG SHIT WAS AVAILABLE – SO VOILA!

Can I make it any clearer?

What I would also like to add, just in case anyone thinks I’m going soft around here…

I HATE PIG SHIT, SHE WANTED TO STEAL MY HUSBAND

I HOLD PIG SHIT RESPONSIBLE FOR HER POOR CHOICES

Whether my marriage stands the test of time or doesn’t (personally I’m confident it will) this will never change. Adultery is wrong.  It devastates lives.  It is a wasteland of despair.  It exists in a moral vacuum without any reference to personal responsibility or duty.  On a positive note, what I am encouraged by, three years post D-day,  is the realisation that being the betrayed wife is, although devastatingly painful, a far more respectable and honourable position to hold when compared to that of the OW.

Is my thinking about adultery an obsession?

obsessedWell, it’s an interesting proposition. Am I obsessed by thoughts of my husband’s betrayal?  You might think so, especially if you have never been at the receiving end of infidelity, but I’m not so sure.  Of course, I have moments when I ponder on ‘why’ I continue to have unwanted thoughts, three and half years post D-day, but I have never considered myself to be obsessional.  Nevertheless, in my usual style, I decided to focus on the topic to see if I could enlighten myself on the possibility that I might be wrong and in so doing found a book written by the late Daniel M Wegner, an American social psychologist, entitled: ‘White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts; Suppression, obsession, and the psychology of mental control‘.  His insight is based on a wide range of psychological research and I found his conclusions to be congruous with my experiences and helpful in understanding what might be obsessional.  It would appear that I simply have what would be considered to be ‘normal’ obsessions.

The first thing to put on the proverbial table is my wish not to have these thoughts.table Thoughts about the unbelievable attitude of my husband; thoughts about my naivety; thoughts about the deceit that shattered my reality; thoughts about never being able to trust again; thoughts about the sordid sexual antics that my husband got up to with Pig Shit; thoughts about the risks he took with my health; thoughts about Pig Shit and my desired unhappiness for her; thoughts about the ‘friends’ that encouraged and facilitated the adultery; thoughts about how I found out; and all the other myriad thoughts about his betrayal that arrive uninvited to attract my attention. This is not to mention the unfortunate moments when somehow, my brain becomes aware that I’m not thinking about the adultery, and hey presto there I go again…

 

Secondly, I need to explain that although I continue to get these unwanted thoughts, they have become somewhat easier to cope with over time. After reading Wegner’s book I am beginning to fully understand why this might be.  And, thirdly, I believe that anyone who practices mindful awareness will find resonance with some of the main concepts that he presents.

 

It appears to be unequivocal in psychological circles – we cannot succeed in avoiding an unwanted thought. Actually, the research suggests that the actual desire to suppress thought is the cause of obsession! Any advice to ‘just not think about it’ is both futile and misleading. “The irony, then, is not only that people find it hard to suppress a thought in the first place, but that the attempt to do this made them especially inclined to become absorbed with the thought later on.” And as he so rightly states, if we cannot get over something that happened a while ago, we will probably have unwanted thoughts lurking about.  Hello!  How many betrayed spouses fit THIS bill?

 

“Suppression in a short while can settle us down. It puts the unwanted thoughts out of conscious awareness and so stops the normal tendency of such thoughts to charge us with anxiousness.  But when the suppression is complete, we have then made ourselves into sitting ducks, oblivious to the very thoughts that will surely disturb us if we are reminded of them by any random idea or cues.”

 

worryInterestingly, what I might have, (should it turn out that I do obsess in some way), is ‘normal’ obsessions which parallel ‘abnormal’ obsessions in several ways.  So not unreasonable to think about obsessions as such. Unwanted thoughts are a general symptom of mental distress and a painful intrusion for anyone but it’s not the thought that’s actually the problem.  It is the emotional reaction attached to the unwanted thought that causes the mental turmoil.

 

However, an unwanted thought stops us in our tracks and it is natural to want to get on with our thinking – hence the desire to suppress the thought. But the very nature of consciousness works against suppression.  Consciousness can grasp at once both the unwanted thought and the meta-thought (metacognition – the ability to think about our thinking) that wishes it away.  We get caught in this cognitive paradox.  So what we often do, after finding it impossible to suppress the thought, is to distract ourselves.  Think about something else.  As we cannot wish a thought away we look towards other things to capture our attention and draw ourselves away from the unwanted thought. This strategy would appear better than suppression but unfortunately it also does not offer any long term solution. “Although self-distraction can be used to escape unwanted thoughts in the short run, it is probably not the strategy of choice for reaching a satisfying and effective solution to the problem that created the unwanted thoughts in the first place.  Reaching that solution will require, at least as a first step, a return to thinking about the unwanted thought.  Such confrontation is rarely all that is needed, however, since just thinking the thought over and over is likely to produce nothing but distress.” Intuitively, I think I have known this.  I had a sense that putting the thought of the adultery out of my mind was not the same as putting the adultery out of existence. Equally, I knew that just chewing on the thoughts themselves in isolation of doing anything else was a toxic exercise. 

Equally, we mustn’t forget about the triggers we experience, the cues that prompt our unwanted thoughts. Wegner suggests that we try to organise these outside influences wherever and whenever we can. He calls this a form of remote control thinking.  If possible, being in a position to make them closer when we want to be reminded of them and further away when we want to suppress them.  Husband and I have thrown away a lottrash of items that were triggers, including replacing both our cars.  We avoid certain places still.  But, I have placed all my stuff/records of the time in one certain place in a type of quarantine.  It means that I can go to them if I want to but they aren’t easily accessible or visible on a day to day basis.  Of course, for us handling adultery we mustn’t forget the major cue that we live with – our betraying husbands!  This is where I believe that leaving betraying partners might assist in the process of moving on.  However, changing the external world is extreme and is so final and we risk losing so much.  There are some triggers that I have chosen to keep because they are too beautiful and I treasure them too much to let the adultery allow me to trash them.

 

What I would prefer to think about is where are we now, how far we have come, what we have achieved and our future together. In essence I want to convert my unwanted thoughts into wanted thoughts and this can be done with a form of remote control. Converting my unwanted thinking about adultery into thoughts about our current situation and our future together has been helped by the accompaniment of significant changes in our marital situation that have promoted continued thinking in this direction. “The reformed smoker cannot continue to carry tobacco, keep ashtrays around, sit in the smoking section, or even spend time with people who smoke without risking a return to the old ways” In desiring us to be different we have arranged our social and physical circumstances to aid our efforts. “The provision of an environment for change is the cornerstone of any new life we are attempting to construct”.  So, exercising a little remote control (changing the world that our minds think about) can aid us in getting rid of unwanted thoughts.

 

Another key aspect to dealing with unwanted thoughts is the recognition that we believe them. In fact, the desire to believe something could create the belief.  Initially I had unwanted thoughts about myself in all this.  There was something wrong with me that made him stray.  There must have been problems in our marriage.  Pig Shit was better than me.  Once a cheater, always a cheater. I should not stay in the marriage.  Divorce is the sensible option. But that was because initially I had an impoverished store of information on the topic of adultery.  I wanted to disbelieve my thoughts but that will was booksnot sufficient to clear my mind of my thoughts or their implications.  However, finding out more knowledge of what is true seems to be doing the trick.  “We cannot ignore information that is available to us, no matter how strong our wills. The key to disbelieving is having something to believe.  If we wish to deny one idea, we must have another that we can put in its place.”

 

All of this work, all of this thinking about our experiences of adultery and attempting to make sense for ourselves of our marriages, of our decision to stay, of what adultery is, seems to work in our favour in the long term. It seems to be a universal psychological rule that we can get used to negative emotions by a process of habituation. We get used to emotion-producing ideas and eventually find that less and less emotion is produced by them.  W experience something and although we think it’s over, we discover that we must live with mental replays of the experience.  This is because trauma etches a deep psychological scar in us.  However, it is possible for the trauma itself to start in motion a natural process of self-healing or self-correction “in which the individual repeatedly reviews the trauma as a way of coming to terms with it and getting used to it.” 

“Rethinking the trauma might help us by allowing the time to see that the trauma is NOT related to everything else in our lives”

 

So why does reversing suppression work?

 

Let Wegner speak for himself here…

 

“Some theorists say that when we look at our unwanted thoughts closely and turn them all around, we will finally be able to fit meaning into our lives. This was Frankl’s view and is shared by many.  The idea is that understanding our problems, thinking them through and finding out how they are linked to all our other thoughts is our common and natural approach to most of life’s challenges.  The tendency to suppress a thought gets in the way of this and so blocks us from achieving a meaningful life.  There is some part of us that we don’t understand, or refuse to understand, and until this is fully resolved, we will have no peace.” 

wish“Unwanted thoughts, in many cases, arise from unwanted realities. When we cannot change our realities, we turn to our minds and hope that we can control what goes on there from the inside. But this control process is a swindler, a charlatan that runs off with our minds and gives us nothing in return.  The suppression we crave does not save us, and instead can energise the obsessions we wish to avoid.  All too soon, we realise that the unwanted thoughts won’t go away so easily.  We try again.  And it comes back again.  If only we could realise that it will go away only when we welcome it back.  It is only then, that like any child with a toy, we will soon tire of dragging it around with us and lose track of it quite naturally”. 

Interestingly, I have blogged  earlier from a philosophical perspective about the concept of keeping my mind in hell but not despairing.  For Gillian Rose, denial and unexamined suffering are the two main reasons for unhappiness.  “It is the unhappiness of one who refuses to dwell in hell and who lives, therefore, in the most static despair”.

Me obsessed? No.  Just working my way through the mess.

Image Credits:  Lady With Disconnecting Computer;  Balance; by debspoons:  Ashamed And Frustrated Man by Master isolated images: Street Sweeper Machine/car by franky242: Internet Library by jscreationzs: Closeup Of Many Wooden Wishing Cards by Tuomas_Lehtinen all via freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

Adultery is Abuse

  • abuseI have been grappling with the idea of adultery as a form of abuse for a while now. The reason for this has been that I have been unable to find any definition or accurate articulation that comes close to describing the severity of what I have experienced whilst living with an unfaithful husband, either at the time whilst it was going on or after it had ended when I had to confront the consequences of what his behaviour had created.  For me, on the receiving end of his behaviour, it felt like abuse.

When my husband decided to shag Pig Shit without sharing this information with me, it wasn’t the sex, the betrayal of intimacy, which had any immediate impact upon me. Not at the time it was occurring.  Whilst this sordid little arrangement was taking place I was in complete and utter ignorance of the act, but over time I did become bereft, isolated, totally confused and lost within our relationship.  I also developed physical symptoms such as headaches, nose bleeds, pains in my legs and anxiety attacks.  What was an easy going, happy marriage became the location for arguments and tears as I desperately tried to understand what was going wrong with us.  With me!  However, my hurt and anger were dismissed as ‘unbearable’ to him.  The man who I thought I knew had become cold and distant.  He looked at me without compassion and just shrugged, saying his feelings had changed.  He was deceitful and manipulative and consciously took away my basic human right to be angry with him.  I wonder now, was he trying to defuse my anger in order to weaken my capacity to resist what was happening?  I know now that I was manipulated and deceived by my husband’s acts of disrespect for me and his coercion in the form of denial of my reality in order to get me to comply with his new and disturbing change of feelings within our marriage.   This was a terrible time for me, a lonely isolating experience which was orchestrated by my husband.  This experience, which I suspect is faced by most betrayed spouses is the underplayed, underwritten, almost ignored aspect of adultery in most current discussions and observations.  However, I believe this is denying a huge reality; the reality that committing adultery is a form of abuse towards the betrayed spouse.  I suspect that until it is recognised as such it will continue to be misrepresented and misconceived.

Having just read a book by therapist Lundy Bancroft ‘Why Does He Do That? Inside the minds of bookangry and controlling men’ (recommended by Valkyrie), I have found a bridge to understand my experience as abuse. It also provides the lens with which to understand the why of my husband’s adultery differently.  Although this book is primarily concerned with domestic violence, the parallels that can be drawn are remarkable.  To me at least. And, as Lundy points out early in his book “even if your partner’s behaviour doesn’t fit the definition of abuse, it may still have a serious effect on you”.    For Lundy, the term abuse “is about power; it means that a person is taking advantage of a power imbalance to exploit or control someone else.”  My husband took advantage of my trust in him and stopped his honesty with me in order to be unfaithful with another woman.  Without my knowledge or consent he changed the rules of our relationship.   There was a definite shift in power towards him during this time. Whilst the normal gamut of therapeutic solutions to adultery leaves me spitting feathers due to the outrageous blame shifting that seems to occur, Lundy’s approach is a breath of fresh air.  For me, by replacing the word abuse with adultery, his perspective provides a wonderful antidote to any victim blaming approach in adultery and provides a useful blueprint for the requirements of a marital recovery.  One that mirrors what has occurred with my husband and me since D-day, three and a half years ago.  Let me share some of his ideas with you.

Firstly, in his therapeutic program the mistreated woman is the person primarily served, listenNOT the abuser. It is believed that it is not possible to get an accurate picture of what is going on in an abusive relationship without listening carefully to the abused woman.  “The women’s accounts have taught us that abusive men present their own stories with tremendous denial, minimisation and distortion.”  How many adulterers  I wonder are guilty of this when in counselling?

 

Nothing prepares you for adultery and there is nothing that can alleviate the pain and grief that follows. Only betrayed spouses fully understand what the experience is.  Blogs are a wonderful way to obtain first-hand accounts of the experience of adultery but there is, in stark contrast, a developing modern mythology about committing adultery which is being created and in the main it seems to be by the betrayers themselves.  Adulterers concoct explanations for their actions which they give to their partners, therapists, relatives, clergy and social researchers and these explanations are turned into ready answers and solutions for the ‘problems’ of monogamy.   But as Lundy makes clear “it is a serious error to allow abusers to analyse and account for their own problems”.  These responses are nothing but excuses for committing adultery and are not a reliable form of insight.  A person happy to commit adultery is hardly an authority on the subject. But the myth persists bad feelings– the betrayer’s behaviour is caused by how he feels within his marriage.  For Lundy, this is absurd.  “Although our feelings can influence how we wish to act, our choices of how to behave are ultimately determined more by our attitudes and our habits.  For decades, many therapists have been attempting to help abusive men change by guiding them in identifying and expressing feelings.  Alas, this well-meaning but misguided approach actually feeds the abuser’s selfish focus on himself.”  Understanding an adulterer needs us to understand their way of thinking at that time, not what their feelings may have been at the time.

 

“An abuser almost never does anything that he himself considers morally unacceptable. He may hide what he does because he thinks other people would disagree with it, but he feels justified inside”.  In short, the core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong.right wrong  The problem lies above all in his belief that controlling or abusing his partner is justifiable.  Whether I like it or not, this reverberates around my husband’s behaviour towards me at that time.  He gave himself the green light to behave as he did.  I believe that he did not have any ‘psychological’ problems, but that it was his value system that was unhealthy.  The self-esteem myth is a red herring and mistakenly moves the focus from the thinking  of an adulterer to their  feelings.  Equally, it ignores the huge role that the sense of entitlement plays.  “Entitlement is the abuser’s belief that he has special status and that it provides him with exclusive rights and privileges that do not apply to his partner”.  My husband considered himself entitled to have his cake and eat it too, without a thought for my feelings or the consequences this might hold for me and our relationship.

 

Constantly, throughout the year of adultery he denied it. This is common in abuse. “Of course he’s going to deny it, partly to protect himself and partly because his perceptions are distorted”.  If my husband had been ready to accept responsibility for his actions in the relationship, he wouldn’t have been committing adultery.  His adultery occurred due to his attitudes and values, not his feelings.  Committing abuse is not a product of emotional injuries or deficits in skills.  It springs from early cultural training, key role models and peer influences.  It is a problem of values.  The role of culture and its impact on our experience cannot be underestimated.  Personally I hope that cultural values around adultery can change over time if people find that individuals who cheat on their spouses are made to feel answerable rather than excused.

 

Interestingly, Lundy insists that “no one should ever tell an abused woman, ‘I know just what you’re going through’, because the experience of everywoman is different. Viewed from another angle, however, abuse doesn’t vary that much.  One man uses a little more of one ingredient and a little less of the other, but the overall flavour of the mistreatment has core similarities: assaults on the woman’s self-esteem, controlling behaviour, undermining her independence, disrespect.  Each abused woman has times of feeling that a riptide is dragging her under the sea, and she struggles for air.  Confusion has been part of the experience of almost every one of the hundreds of abused women I have spoken with.  Whether because of the abuser’s manipulations , his popularity, or simply the mind-bending contrast between his professions of love and his vicious psychological or physical assaults, every abused woman finds herself fighting to make sense out of what is happening”.

 

However, Lundy is keen to point out that the abuser is neither a monster or a victim but needs to be viewed as a human being with a complex problem that should not be underestimated or viewed as something that can be corrected in a short period of time. “An abusive man has to bury his compassion in a deep hole in order to escape the profound inherent aversion that human beings have to seeing others suffer. He has to adhere tightly to his excuses and rationalisations, develop a disturbing ability to insulate himself from the pain he is causing, and learn to enjoy power and control over his female partner.  It is unrealistic to expect such a complex structure, one that takes fifteen or twenty years to form, vanish like steam.  Yet women are often pressured by friends , family, or professionals to ‘give him a chance to change”.  It is now three and a half years since D-day and my husband has stepped up to the plate with regard to developing behaviour that  would signify the necessary change.  However, for me it remains a work in progress.  Naturally, my biggest concern is that he may commit adultery again.  I seriously doubt that he would but my confidence in him has been blown away.  What both he and I know is that should it happen again, it will mean the end of our relationship.  No matter what remorse he may show or what grief it will cause me, our marriage will end.  This is something in my control.

 

benefitsFor Lundy, in his analysis, we have to recognise one of the most important dynamics of abuse; “the benefits that the abuser gets that makes his behaviour desirable to him.” For me, I have to think in what ways were my husband’s adultery and treatment of me rewarding to him?  Apparently, “the feeling that he rules is where the pleasure lies.”  The benefits of adultery are a major social secret, rarely mentioned anywhere.  “If we want [adulterers] to change, we will have to require them to give up the luxury of exploitation.”

 

What was particularly valuable in Lundy’s book was his discussion around neutrality. Something I feel very strongly about and have blogged about previously.   I have always considered it impossible to sit on the fence when considering adultery and the betrayed spouse.  The ‘it’s none of my business’ approach to abuse of a domestic kind. The parallel with abuse victims is telling.  “It is not possible to be truly balanced in one’s view of an abuser and an abused woman.  Neutrality actually serves the interests of the perpetrator much more than those of the victim and so is not neutral.”

 

“In reality, to remain neutral is to collude with the abusive man, whether or not that is your goal. If you are aware of chronic or severe mistreatment and do not speak out against it, your silence communicates implicitly that you see nothing unacceptable taking place.  Abusers interpret silence as approval, or at least as forgiveness… Anyone who chooses to quietly look the other way therefore unwittingly becomes the abuser’s ally.”

 

“Protecting or enabling an abuser is as morally repugnant as the abuse itself”. This is an issue I feel very strongly about.  For adultery I include the participating individual who agrees to a relationship knowing there is a wife and possibly children in the life of their ‘lover’.  It is not something to be proud of, something to flaunt aka Elizabeth Gilbert but an act which centrally and specifically targets abuse at the unsuspecting spouse.  Equally, so called friends who collude need to rethink their actions in the light of abuse.   This critical concept needs to become firmly embedded in our culture.  “Colluding with abuse abandons the abused woman and her children, and ultimately abandons the abuser as well, since it keeps him from ever dealing with his problem.”

 

Since D-day I have not had to deal with any further adultery issues in my marriage. Pig Shit was unceremoniously dumped and from that day to this my husband has worked very hard to be the man he needs to be in order to regain and restore the marriage that we had built between us.  As Lundy rightly says “There are no shortcuts to change, no magical overnight transformations, no easy ways out.  Change is difficult, uncomfortable work.” However, it is something that I have insisted upon.  But then the challenge has been learning how to tell if my husband is serious about overcoming his problems.  For Lundy, the men who make significant progress in his programme are the ones who know that their partners will definitely leave them unless they change.  My husband has had no doubt that I will leave him if required.

I had asked him to leave when his behaviour became so unreasonable I feared for any future with him.  Unbeknownst to me he went to live with Pig Shit.  I had no idea at this stage that there was someone else involved.  During the following week, I had locks changed, visited a solicitor and put the house on the market.  I really thought that it was me that he was running away from so I would not want a man who didn’t want me.  It took ten days for him to be begging to come home, but it would take a further twenty odd days for me to accept any reconciliation.  He had to convince me of his desire to be married to me.  Also, I thought that he was having a nervous breakdown as he was acting so very strange.  The rest is history.  Pig Shit was outraged that her 12 shags had not secured my husband in the bosom of her own home and family so she texted me to let me know the truth about her and my husband and their sexual antics.  By this time he was back and desperate , DESPERATE to remain married.  He had suffered the consequences of his selfish behaviour and I think that this has made all the difference in our subsequent recovery.

 

I hadn’t realised it before reading this book, but we have taken steps, at my behest, that have got my husband to accept responsibility for what he did. These steps that have supported our marital recovery are reminiscent of the steps proposed by Lundy.  They are:

  • He had to admit fully to his adultery, providing me with answers to my questions.
  • He had to acknowledge that the adultery was wrong, unconditionally.
  • He had to recognise the effects his behaviour has had on me and show empathy for those.
  • He identified his pattern of controlling behaviours and entitled attitudes.
  • He has developed respectful behaviours and attitudes to replace the abusive ones he has stopped.
  • He has re-evaluated his distorted image of me and replaced it with a more positive and empathic view.
  • He has made amends for the damage he has done.
  • He has accepted the consequences of his actions.
  • He has committed to not repeating the adultery and honours that commitment.
  • He has accepted that overcoming adultery is likely to be a lifelong process.
  • He is willing to be accountable for his actions, both past and future.

 

Do these expectations seem too demanding? I don’t believe they are, as Lundy so rightly states “when you are attempting to preserve a relationship with a man who has abused you, you need to some extent to hold him to an even higher standard than you would a non-abusive partner”.

 

I personally, am so glad that we didn’t attend any couples therapy. Fortunately, my arrogance towards therapy has held me in good stead.  Whilst it may benefit others, for us it has not played any part in our recovery.  Naturally, the bottom line is our circumstances and our personalities but I am highly sceptical of some claims made about the efficacy of it all.  I don’t approve of considering adultery a ‘mutual’ problem.  It’s the betrayer’s problem.  Shifting the blame, in any way,  on to the betrayed partner just adds to the abuse in my opinion.

 

“Attempting to address abuse through couple’s therapy is like wrenching a nut the wrong way; it just gets even harder to undo than it was before. Couples therapy is designed to tackle issues that are mutual.  It can be effective for overcoming barriers to communication, for untangling the childhood issues that each partner brings to a relationship, or for building intimacy.  But you can’t accomplish any of these goals in the context of abuse.  “Couples counselling sends both the abuser and the abused woman the wrong message.  The abuser learns that his partner is pushing his buttons and that she needs to adjust her behaviour to avoid him getting upset.  Change in abusers comes only from the reverse process, from completely stepping out of the notion that his partner plays ANY role in causing his abuse of her.”

 

I realise that I cannot make or even help my husband to change. All I can do is create the context for change, and the rest is up to him.  Adultery is wrong.  He is responsible for his own actions; no excuse is acceptable; the damage he has done is incalculable; his problem is his and his alone to solve.chess

 

“Abuse doesn’t come from people’s inability to resolve conflicts but from one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another.”

 

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to shift away from the modern myths around adultery but for the future, maybe “once we tear the cover of excuses, distortions, and manipulations off of the [adulterers], they might suddenly find adultery much harder to get away with”

 

My husband has not ‘got away’ with his adultery but then neither have I. The carnage has been difficult to bear, and even after three years it still feels like a rotten smell that clings to my clothes.  Maybe it always will.  As a society we may never be able to stop adultery but we should be able to confidently condemn it rather than condone it in any way.  Exploiting your spouse, deceiving her, abusing her trust and betraying her intimacy is abuse in a relationship that is supposed to be monogamous and if someone chooses to act in this manner they need to recognise themselves as an abuser.

Image Credits: Stop Abuse Shows Warning Sign And Abusing; Listen To Me Sign Shows Notice Or Message; and Right And Wrong Switch by Stuart Miles: Coins Falling Down To The Business’s Hand by pixtawan all via Freedigitalphotos.net

Dear Single Women Who ‘Love’ Married Men So Much They Let Them Use Them As Booty

letterAs a betrayed spouse, I find it incredulous the amount of abuse you put up with in order to have the attention of a married man.

Firstly, the lies.  I had not realised my husband was a liar and a cheater, but you had this information from the very start.  Why would that appear attractive to you?  If you’re looking for sex, it’s everywhere.  There are so many men (not married or in committed relationships) eager to service hungry sexy women.  There are apps specially designed for the activity! However, if you’re looking for love, that’s a whole different ball game (excuse the pun).  There are far fewer men who are looking for commitment.

So, what  I am beginning to understand is that you can’t find an available man.  Perhaps shagging many men without any emotional content makes you feel abused?  Maybe you think you’re worth so much more.  So you’re in a dilemma, but  then, hey presto, a married man with weak boundaries flirts with you.  He is married to another woman though; shouldn’t that make you STOP?  No, you can’t stop because you have found the perfect man.  Someone who will say “I love you”, someone who will say “you are the perfect woman” someone who will say “my wife and I aren’t sleeping together anymore” someone who will say, that given time “I’ll leave my wife for you”.   You are now being primed for abuse.  You are walking, with your eyes wide open into the wasteland of adultery.  You are allowing yourself to be a married man’s booty.  This is allowing yourself to be abused!

Do you understand what I’m saying?  Do you really?

You may think I’m joking.  You may want to believe I’m joking,  because haha, a married man shagging you and then going home to his wife and family is so funny in the reality from where you find yourself.  Clearly, we have different definitions of funny, but perhaps you truly do find it amusing to think about the man’s wife and the betrayal of her trust.

However, I am not joking. I’m afraid I’m quite serious.

From my reality your actions are saying you are willing to be used sexually by a man who you know for absolute certainty is a liar and a cheater; you are willing to sacrifice your dignity.

For what?

You are impressed by some combination of the married man’s  charisma, and/or good looks. That is understandable. Everybody’s got their something.  However, you are also saying that accepting a share of this man (when he can excuse himself from his primary relationship) would be a fair exchange for his attention, however fleeting you must know that attention would be. When you look past the image, a married man is just a person you know nothing about. Ultimately, you are saying you are willing to be used sexually for the mirage of love and attention in the desert of your life.

However, you must know that you can end this pitiful relationship.  You do not have to endure the lies and deceit that he is dishing out to you.  You, unlike his wife can withdraw your consent to the charade.  There is nothing better than knowing you have some control in a situation that feels so far beyond your control. Why don’t you make use of it?  The wife is the victim, she’s in a situation where she has no choice. You are saying that you want no choice.  It’s difficult to blame the married man for their reasoning that you are ‘available’.

When you tell a married man, at least the man he has shown himself to be, that you would like to stop, it’s likely that he won’t want it to stop.  With adultery it is difficult to stop.  He has gotten used to having his cake and eating it too.  He is afraid that if he dumps you that you will tell his wife.  For you, there is only suffering that will begin and end as he sees fit. You will never have any control. You will never know how good it feels to have this man because he has not chosen you as his primary relationship.  That choice does not include you and never will. Do you understand? Do you see that distinction?

I understand that someone else’s husband means something to you, he arouses you physically and/or emotionally. He arouses you to such an extent you are willing to do whatever it takes to be within his transitory incandescent sphere for even a little while.

I am sorry our culture has treated women so poorly for so long that conducting a sexual relationship with a man who is married to another woman seems like a fair and reasonable trade to you. We have failed you, utterly.  How can it be that we live in a culture where we think it’s okay to be treated like shit just so we can be loved?

I can advise you, your married man is selfish, possibly narcissistic, and maybe a sex addict.  I doubt that he has shown any real remorse for the pain and discomfort you and he are causing his wife.  Why has he not left his marriage?   Trust me, whatever he may say to you he will not be able to demonstrate one ounce of commitment to you.  Instead, he will flagrantly continue to lie to you.  Yes, of course, he has to lie to his wife.  She might leave him if he told her the truth, something that would devastate him totally. But, have you thought about why he might want to lie to you? He may well be emotionally troubled but that’s an explanation for his behaviour, not an excuse.

Over and over again we tell you it is acceptable for men to abuse women. We look the other way. We make excuses. We reward these men for their bad behaviour. We tell you that as a woman, you have little value or place in this society. Clearly we have sent these messages with such alarming regularity and consistency we have encouraged you to willingly run toward something that has no future for you with your eyes and arms wide open

I am sorry.

This blog post is indebted to an essay written by Roxanne Gay “Dear young ladies who love Chris Brown So Much They Would Let Him Beat Them.” I was steered towards this by the lovely Valkyrie and immediately saw the connections between Roxanne’s letter to a young woman who views abuse acceptable and  how single women accept abuse from married men thinking that it is true love that they have found!  I have plagiarised her work, tweaking it to fit this context.

Image Credit: Communication System by Pong via freedigitalphotos.net

Forgiveness

deceit-blake-mediumI received a short reply to my recent blog post entitled “Over it, an interesting concept”.  No sharing of any personal information and from someone I have not been aware of previously so I have no idea of the status of the individual.  From the e-mail address I would suggest a female.  The comment just said:

I would love to hear your thoughts on “forgiveness”.

I do wonder why the forgiveness happens to be in inverted commas.  When used in this way it is normally to indicate irony or scorn.  I have never hidden my struggle with the concept of forgiveness or its unlikely place in my marital recovery.  I think we need to be cautious about simplistic definitions and the easy platitudes that suggest we can only fully recover from adultery if we learn to forgive the wrong doer.

It’s not as if I haven’t considered it.  I have made observations about forgiveness in past posts; for example, in March 2015 in the post: Not My Circus, I wrote; “If letting go is forgiving and forgetting then I resign myself to a life of holding on.  The best I have achieved is acceptance and in order to affect this I have needed to firstly bring it all in”. In a May post, Anger and Letting Go: I wrote; “Forgiveness is something I DID let go of quite some time ago so I’m not bothered by whether this is a possibility or not.  I just want to be able to accept my life as it is now and the choice that I made to stay in my marriage”.  I think these comments kind of show how I view forgiveness in my emotional toolbox for overcoming adultery, however, I thought I’d take this opportunity to expand upon my thoughts more fully.

Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, I have observed that “forgiveness” can be used as a weapon against the betrayed spouse.   Forgiveness is held up as an essential action in overcoming the betrayal, a magic ingredient that can assuage all the hurt and anger whilst at the same time allow everybody involved to “move on”.  If the betrayed spouse doesn’t work on forgiveness, remains angry and outraged at the audacity of their spouse then their behaviour is somehow pathologised.   The betrayed spouse is transformed from an individual who has been significantly wronged to an emotional miser who denies kindness and mercy.  We have to be careful that pushing forgiveness on to betrayed spouses is not just an example of victim shaming wrapped up in pretty packaging.   Forgiveness a virtue, unwillingness to forgive, a vice. I do not consider that I owe my husband forgiveness and will not buy in to the idea that without forgiveness I am doomed to live a hellish life.

It’s easy to see that forgiveness as a concept has strong religious undertones.  In Christianity it is viewed as a virtue and a proactive choice that someone can make to create a process that liberates oneself from anger and resentment.  Christianity, like Islam does not require a repenting transgressor, so even if husband is not sorry we can learn to forgive.  In Judaism, forgiveness and repentance go arm in arm, so the betraying spouse needs to have genuine remorse for their transgressions.   However, in Buddhism the concept of forgiveness is not the same, instead it is understood more as a letting go of anger.  Compassion is maybe their closest concept to forgiveness.

Moving away from religion to a more secular understanding   forgiveness is generally regarded as a positive response to human wrongdoing, but it is a conceptually, psychologically, and morally complex phenomenon.  There is much philosophical disagreement over the meaning of forgiveness, and when and under what conditions forgiveness is morally permissible, required, or even wrong.

The standard definition of forgiveness makes clear that its main purpose is the re-establishment or resumption of a relationship ruptured by wrongdoing, in granting forgiveness, a victim of wrong re-orients a relationship that has been disrupted or compromised by wrongdoing. This is interesting isn’t it?  My last blog post was all about how my marriage is becoming re-established.  So, that act in itself could be said to be an act of forgiveness even if I don’t recognise it as such.

It is believed that forgiveness helps us to move beyond strong negative emotions which, if allowed to fester, could harm us psychologically and physically. (Although I’m not sure if there is scientific evidence to back this up) Equally, forgiveness benefits wrongdoers, by releasing them from the blame and hard feelings often directed toward them by those they wrong. However, forgiveness may also go awry.  For example if a victim of domestic violence forgives her abuser, they are inadvertently fuelling continuous cycles of abuse.  Therefore, it needs to be understood that forgiveness might not always be justified and may even be inappropriate if given to the undeserving.

Being too ready to forgive a betraying spouse may be symptomatic of a lack of self-respect. Aristotle believed that an individual deficient in appropriate anger is likely to “endure being insulted” and is for this reason a “fool”.   Kant suggests that a person who fails to become angry at injustices done to him or her lacks dignity and self-respect.   I think we need to recognise that interpersonal forgiveness is not the panacea for all wrong doings and does not always necessarily serve morally laudable aims.

It is also difficult to distinguish between forgiveness and the various behaviours often associated with it, such as pardoning, excusing, and tolerating or otherwise endorsing wrongs.  I would argue that forgiveness and reconciliation are equivalent notions, as each notion has the common goal of moving people’s lives forward by restoring a past relationship compromised by wrongdoing.

So, on the one hand there is the thought that forgiveness requires a complete overcoming of all negative emotions and judgments about a wrongdoer, whilst on the other hand is the idea that maybe retaining negative moral judgments and feelings about a wrongdoer are compatible with forgiveness. Equally, with a betraying spouse we all too often do not know enough about their intentions, motives, desires, and thoughts to confidently pass judgment on whether we can reasonably forgive them, and so the connection between understanding our spouses and forgiving them in the light of that understanding remains contentious.  How can we be sure that a change of heart has really occurred and that he is not simply faking it?

So, have I “forgiven” my husband?  The jury’s out I think.   For me, it really doesn’t matter if forgiveness happens or not.   So far, I am happy to say that his remorse and repair mechanisms have been excellent practices in drawing us closer and closer together as husband and wife.  We are in a very good place and that is good enough for me.  Maybe time does the rest.

Image Credit:

Blake, William, 1757-1827. To annihilate the Self-hood of Deceit and False Forgiveness, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55221 [retrieved November 27, 2015].