Category Archives: Uncategorized

My final Blog Post

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

George Orwell 

It has been over four years since I was catapulted into this horrendous world of adultery. A world in which lies and distortions of the truth are the order of the day, requisites for the act itself.  Previous to this I had experienced a year of marital discord which had me feeling lost and alone and oscillating between doubt and hope for our future together.  The dirty secret of adultery was slowly and hideously poisoning us, seeping into an open wound in our relationship that I didn’t even know we had.  However, I have suffered more in the aftermath than during the crisis.  The intense trauma created by the revelation has been lived through on a daily basis and continues to haunt my history even now, but I am here to tell you that I HAVE SURVIVED, and I have survived and remained in my marriage.

Some would mock my confession. For example, Tracy Schorn better known as the blogger Chumplady is of the opinion that  “Reconciliation is fine if you unicorn-2just want to limp along and endure. But I’m not convinced that anyone ever really gets over it when they stay married to a cheater.  Seems like an endless buffet of shit sandwiches” Theoretically she says that she thinks it is possible, just not probable.  My reconciliation is likened to a unicorn – a mythical creature that I want to believe in, but is rarely sighted.

 

Whilst I agree with many of her opinions with regard to adultery and understand her positioning on the issue of leaving rather than staying, I don’t agree with her sentiment with regard to reconciliation. Whilst I would not propose that anyone remain with a spouse who is not prepared to change I do believe in the concept of human growth and personal transformation.  However, it requires more than hope; it requires a realistic perception of what change requires and  we cannot force someone to change.

 

“When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.”

Andy Warhol

 

When a marriage experiences the rupture of the revelation of adultery you don’t get to choose what remains. It’s possible that nothing will remain.  For me, the revelation was like an explosion that forced me into a process that I had no comprehension of.  I likened it to navigating a ship through a storm. The ship that became my marriage has been inrescue stormy waters for a long time, it has been in hurricanes and whirlwinds and has been lacerated on the rocks.  However, eventually it slowed to a halt and arrived somewhere else.  What I never suspected was that it might be somewhere better than where we started. Naturally, the furniture did not remain as it was.  Some was destroyed, some moved but importantly, the ship did not sink.  Surviving betrayal changed everything because it invalidated all my previous assumptions and it required hard work in order to reinvent ourselves as a couple again. For me, the greatest outcome of the survival has been the truths that I have learned about myself.

 

This blog has been an account of my independent exploration and the way I have navigated myself through the storm. I have come at the problem from up, down, sideways and inside out determined to either get around it or prove conclusively that I’m beaten. I have tried to write myself into clarity or acceptance or comprehension. I feel I have accomplished much of this and have therefore decided to stop writing any further posts. This is my last post, my closure on the narrative of my experience of adultery.  Not that the adultery has disappeared from my life and not that I have any unrealistic hopes for the future of our marriage but that I have exhausted all the avenues of enquiry on this topic that I wish to pursue.  Adultery has been an absolute eye opener for me; not just for my husband and I but in understanding the world of relationships, commitment and sexuality in general.

 

There has also been a very interesting but unintended consequence of writing this blog, and that is the wonderful support that has been offered by readers of my posts. Many of them are bloggers themselves going through their own turmoil but finding the time to comment and offer comfort.  Not feeling completely on my own in facing the tsunami of emotions has been a life affirming experience. Knowing I had friends, albeit complete strangers, going through similar agonies helped my sanity enormously.  I thank you all.

 

The only negative responses I have had have been delivered by readers who are angry at me for holding the Other Woman to account for her own choices. Whatever they have said has not changed my mind but no doubt they will continue to hurl abusive comments at me.  It’s funny but it’s the posts with titles like “Why I want the OW to Suffer” that generate the most traffic on my site.

 

What I am left with at this juncture in my narrative is a marriage that is unrecognisable to the one that existed before. The past four years have involved us creating a raft of new experiences and a redefined understanding of marriage based upon connection and respect.  We both have to take risks in this new relationship: I have to risk that he has changed and that he will not be unfaithful again; he has to risk that I might never get fully over it or reach any stage of forgiveness.  Nevertheless, he is truly repentant and continues to make Herculean efforts to demonstrate his change in attitude towards infidelity.  To be honest, it is his efforts that proved to be the glue to hold us together over the first three years.

 

What I am also left with is a sense of outrage at the social dishonesty that presents adultery as a victimless experience. The true picture of adultery is obscured by the ideology of self, consumerism and the hyper sexual culture that appears to have developed.  Citing Chumplady again, “Cheaters get all the glory.  When infidelity is portrayed in (popular culture) cheaters are the tortured protagonists, sexy taboo breakers compelled by forces greater than themselves to love the forbidden other. Tragic affairs are the stuff of pathos and romance. Oh, the crushing indecision, being torn between two lovers, thwarted by the cruel, cruel forces of monogamy.  Poor cheaters.  All they seek is happiness.  And can you fault happiness?”

What goes hidden is the betrayed spouse’s deep cutting hurts of abuse, loss of trust, and loss of personal safety. All adultery demands perfidy.  An incredible amount of deceit, thousands of lies, criss-crossing in an attempt to deny the truth to the one person entitled to know the truth.  It is a lie to say that adultery is romance, in fact the biggest lie that we live with today is the fantasy of romance.  As James Hollis, the Jungian analyst states “This fantasy is in all of us and is the most virulent ideology of the modern world.” The fantasy of ‘love’ as understood in its romantic context of the ‘magical other’ can be actually seen to promote infidelity by framing the act of adultery as simply seeking a new or better other, especially for the spouse who is lacking in resolve to look within and to take responsibility for meeting more of his or her own needs.  It also stops us from understanding the meaning of marriage and long term commitment where loving the other presents a quite different and much more demanding agenda.

 

I thought I might make my last post a kind of summing up of the issues that have evolved for me over the last few years and which have provided a wider lens with which to look at my own unique experience of marriage, adultery and survival.

 

Marriage

 Joseph Campbell, the depth psychologist said “I think one of the problems in marriage is that people don’t realise what it is. They think it’s a long love affair and it isn’t.” Perhaps if more was understood about marriage perhaps the Disneyesque romantic myths might be replaced with a more pragmatic framework for a long term relationship.

 

“Marriage is the most mysterious covenant in the universe. I’m convinced that no two are alike. More than that, I’m convinced that no marriage is like it was just the day before. Time is the significant dimension – even more significant than love.  You can’t ask a person what his marriage is like because it will be a different marriage tomorrow.”

Anita Shreve

 

What happens in a marriage can never be understood by anyone but the people inside it. This is why any advice given needs to be cautiously received. Every marriage, even so called ‘good marriages’ have their times of strain and stress and this needs to be recognised and acknowledged.  Occasionally I read about marriage and monogamy and it is presented as if when the two are combined it is a prison that reduces people’s joy in life. Monogamy equals monotony.  Nobody presents this view as polemically as Laura Kipnis in her book Against Love.  Problematically for me, she works from an assumption that we have an agreed idea about what love is.   She asks when did sex get so boring and when did it turn into this thing that we had to work on?  No sense of personal responsibility or delayed gratification fits into her account of love.  Adultery for Kipnis is “what the test tube is to science: a container for experiments”. This must include experimenting with lying and cheating and betraying trust?

 

She provides a list of what you can’t do in marriage, such as leave the house without saying where you are going or what time you’ll return. You can’t go to parties on your own and can’t make plans without consulting the other.  All of her points are put over in a negative fashion.  However it is possible to turn them around.  How many of us like to have someone who knows where we are and when we will be back.  It might just be care, concern or interest – not a gulag restriction.  How about solicitude? Equally, who really wants to go to parties on their own?  Do we mind consulting others with whom we live?  Quite frankly, what this sounds like is someone who wants to live on their own.  Kipnis suggests that “coupled life is a barren landscape or a tense battleground or a nightmarish repetition, characterised variously by tedium, fighting, silence, or unreasonable insatiable demands.” In this context adultery becomes “the municipal Dumpster for coupled life’s toxic waste of strife and unhappiness”.

 

But marriage does not need to be viewed in this negative way. Marriage and the opportunities for us to learn about ourselves in the context of relating to another in a committed and long term relationship can offer an equal challenge to grow and develop. Monogamy, the so-called enemy of individual freedom is not a law of nature, it is a desire, a principle, a cultural ideal.  We have these rules and ethical injunctions to curb impulses that many or all people have.  As humans we regularly rise above our biological imperatives.

 

There is no commitment that does not bring with it its own tensions, ambivalences and demand for sacrifice. Marriage is a measure of commitment to working things through, to not bolting at the first discord. Maybe long term relationships have a tendency to disappoint because too much is asked of them. David Blankenhorn founder and president of the Institute for American Values, suggests that “people today go into marriage expecting to a far greater degree to have their own needs met. Instead of giving to the marriage, they want much more from the marriage.  And often what they want is unrealistic.”  Each marriage has the right to ask fidelity, loyalty to the task of marriage and the willingness to work at resolutions.  We rarely see promotion of personal responsibility (making the right choice against all impulses, against all desire to make that higher choice and face the sacrifice that comes with it) yet this is what a long term successful commitment will need to demand.  Stop presenting the frilly meringue dress infested image of marriage where the couple walk off into the horizon to live happily ever after in a continuous loop of a love affair.  Life will get in the way!

 

However, let’s not ignore our human desire for a meaningful relationship. The psychologist Janet Reibstein notes, “there is such ignorance about the insatiable, ongoing, time honoured, and even animal need to be in a happy, secure, erotic and deepening union with one other person… The stories of great relationships are not being heard above the din of reports of the failed ones.”

 

Paul Vitz in his book Psychology as religion; the cult of self-worship, discusses the rise of a selfist psychology which has a tendency to give a green light to any self-determined goal. “There is an assumption of the goodness of the self and limited consideration, if any, to the problem that self-expression can lead to exploitation, narcissism or sadism”.  Infidelity is a very selfish expression and leads to a great deal of pain and misery, always for the betrayed spouse and usually for the betrayer themselves as well as the other, third person in the act.

 

Every marriage has a story that could end in divorce; but it does not have to be because of adultery. I do not think that one should leave a marriage lightly. There is the possibility, if both spouses desire it, that the relationship can undergo the changes necessary for the renewal of a long habit-ridden relationship.

 

Adultery

 

I believe that society should care if we lie or cheat or harm others but if we continue to believe that adultery is only a problem for the married couple the larger picture of needing to better understand long term commitment is lost. I have noticed, upon closer inspection that as a society we have become inured to the concept of adultery. It all seems so ordinary until it happens to you.  I have puzzled over the whole situation in the years since D-day but the pieces never fit.

 

Unfortunately, once we find out the true horror of the experience, everything presses us toward a decision even the wrong decision just to be free of the anxiety that precedes any big step in life. Forced decision making is when we have no choice but to accept what has happened and to work with what exists. I’m not sure I made a final decision to stay until a good two years had passed.  It took this long to acclimatise myself to the new reality of both my husband and of myself.  I had always assumed I would leave him if he was unfaithful.

 

I realised I had limited control; I could not undo anything that had been done and I could not make sense of why he hurt me in this manner. However, after about two years I began to see a chance of creating something new.  Taken out of myself, my disorientated reactions were not what they would normally have been, but I have learned that you can do something you didn’t realise you were capable of doing.

 

However, I realise, understandably, that people new to the knowledge of their spouse’s adultery do not necessarily wish to hear this message of hope and personal growth manifesting itself only through hard work, painful reflection and lots of time in which to allow the healing to occur.  There will be the wish to have the old world and former assumptions reinstituted as quickly as possible.  We are desperate to hear ‘yes your marriage can be restored to its pristine assumptions’.  But this is just wishful thinking.  Patience is required and there has to be time for water to go under the proverbial bridge.  There is no silver bullet.  There has to be genuine remorse and acceptance of responsibility from the betrayer and behaviour demonstrated over time which mirrors these feelings.  And of course, there can be absolutely no further contact with the third person. There has to be a realisation in some instances that the spouse might not wish to be faithful but to enjoy their cake and to eat it too.  If you suspect this, then unless you have evidence otherwise, you are destined for a continued life of deceit and betrayal.

 

From what I can establish, it would seem that adultery reconstructs an alternative world with its own laws and culture. This alternative world is maintained by directing attention away from fearsome facts like betrayal of trust, lying and cheating, hurt and family devastation and repackaging the activity in an acceptable form. This in part explains why ‘friends’ are so complicit with the act.  Esther Perel proposes “that an affair (already she’s using language to deflect the sordid reality; ‘affair’ sounds so romantic doesn’t it) is an erotic experience not just about sex. It’s about desire, attention, reconnecting with parts of yourself. About longing and loss”.  In my opinion these are destructive illusions. What any adulterer needs to be told is ‘if you’re needs weren’t being met, you ought to have communicated them’.

 

Perel goes on to proclaim that people in happy marriages cheat and rather than it being something about lack of personal responsibility she suggests that it is marriage which is the imperfect arrangement. I remember feeling outraged when she presented the American discourse of adultery as framed around betrayal and trauma whereas the European attitude suggests more of an erotic experience.  What she is doing is using admonitions against moral values to deflect the betrayed spouse’s experience of adultery.  This uncoupling of moral concern from the reality of human suffering has caused tremendous harm to many betrayed spouses. Betrayal and trauma can never be an erotic experience for the betrayed.  The erotic experience belongs to the adulterer and his or her forbidden other.  I don’t think it possible to argue for the rightness of this activity just because of individual preference. For Perel, her view is that we need new negotiations around monogamy. Just what these negotiations might be remain to be seen.  The open marriage has always been an option but as Chumplady notes “ It’s one thing to have an open marriage. It’s quite another to have it thrust open you after the discovery of an affair. This ‘offer’ is not sexual sophistication; it’s an implied threat – let me have my cake or we’re through.  The cheater lays the blame on monogamy – that impossible condition that, oh hey, we all agreed to.”  Perel’s views go hand in hand with Dan Savage, the guy who believes that infidelity ‘saves’ marriages and considers those who reject the idea as ‘smug moralisers’.  Like Perel, he wants monogamy to be tinkered with – ‘monogamish’ is his new term.  Add Glen Greenwald who argues that infidelity is a private matter between the adulterer and his or her spouse and you have a good cross section of the adulterer champions.

 

Sexualised Culture

 

It has seemed to me that when relationships are discussed today there is an absence around theories of love. Is there any proper explanation about love’s weather patterns, low pressure systems, cold fronts, storms? How we might survive its tides and seasons? The understanding that love does not protect you from lust. From my own experience I have discovered that love is a feat exclusively for the strong of heart.  However, in place of the complexities of love there is an emphasis on sexual compatibility, changing roles and changing relationships.  Relationships in this context have a built in obsolescence.  Someone is going to have to be disposable in the end.  The power is placed in the hand of the individual who seeks to enjoy ever increasing sexual liberty.  Society is silent.  In fact it is problematic to articulate dissent.

 

Natasha Walker in her book ‘Living Dolls; the return of sexism’ notes “Any voices that have challenged our highly sexualised culture in recent times have generally come from the religious right, which means that liberals have become uneasy about joining them”. Infidelity in the light of individual sexual liberty is argued to be a positive aspect of relationships. “Journey from bourgeois marriage into freer sexual relationships, even if it was a journey fraught with sadness, was seen as progress”

 

Pornography reinforces the hallucination. It is difficult to understand why pornography should be defended in a way that other discriminatory depictions of women are not. The abuse of women in pornography is seen as just sex.  Viewers have difficulty in seeing it as violence.  Pornography distorts their perceptions.  Porn’s message is becoming the cultural norm but it constructs sexuality in a certain way and if you oppose this idea you are categorised.  Anti porn = anti sex;  Anti adultery = anti sex.  Steven Pinker suggests that contrary to conventional wisdom, sex is not a binding force but a divisive one.  Our sex drive can be dysfunctional, the relativity of pleasure pushing people to more and more extreme situations just to keep pleasure constant.

 

A general assumption is that the human impulses provided by biological evolution are right and optimal both individually and socially and that repressive or inhibitory moral traditions are wrong. But, morality is the invention of human intelligence constructed to ensure social cooperation in the face of our more natural, selfish desires.  Adultery is without any honesty.  It does not suggest that an individual wants to leave their current relationship instead it tries to lie beneath the veneer of commitment whilst at the same time betraying its every principle.  What do the champions of adultery suggest?  Should it be considered an acceptable principle for everyone?  I mean, you can’t have it acceptable for some and not others can you?  Reason tells us that we should resist inclination when we cannot endorse the same type of behaviour on the part of others in similar circumstances.  Thus we should not take food off another person’s plate unless we are happy to accept it as a principle for everyone. So really, if everyone is in agreement, do we actually need adultery?  We can just have sex with whomever our fancy chooses, whenever we feel a bit bored with our married partner.  It’s an acceptable principle.

 

Our highly sexualised culture is also compatible with the ideology of consumerism which is hostile to the discipline of obedience or the delaying of gratification.  It is clear that the concepts and values of selfism are not conducive to the formation and maintenance of permanent personal relationships or to values like duty, patience and self- sacrifice which maintain commitment. Does it not make sense that a society in which everyone seeks personal fulfilment might have a hard time holding together?

 

Women

 

womanInitially, when I was confronted with women conspiring against me and my marriage I was naively stunned. My need to believe that women can be more supportive than competitive blinded me to the reality which is not talked about. We’ve been taught to be secret competitors and we have to be aware of this secret competition.  Competition between women for a man is both a social and an emotional process for most women: social, because finding and keeping a man has been, historically, the most secure form of financial support for most women; emotional, because women have translated what has been an economic necessity into a psychological desire.

 

The most vitriolic comments to my blog posts come from women who have been or are Other Women. They are tormented by reconciliation after adultery in a way that I cannot comprehend.  At the same time, my blog has introduced me to many lovely women who have affirmed my trust in the possibility of a type of sisterhood. I am proud to have been in communication with women working towards the same goal as myself.  Their struggles to come to terms with the horrific reality of their marriage offer a heroic testimony to the power of female understanding.

Personal Growth

 

out-of-eggFor me, betrayal has stung me into enlargement. It could have equally led to diminishment but growth is wisdom and results in a decrease in bitterness.  I would not have thought that I’d have the stomach for more struggles in my sixth decade but following the earthquake that I experienced inside I have recognised a major shift in my consciousness and I am now entering a new stage in my life.  It is my intention and hope to travel through this part of my life with my husband but it does not have to include him.  Time will tell.  It’s not as frequent as I’d like, but I have times when I experience the calm after the storm and can offer a generosity that can yield gracefully and without bitterness.

 

Jungian understanding suggests that meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything and that meaningless inhibits fullness of life. I’m in agreement.

 

I have made a choice to remain with my husband. This is my freedom.  It is an important and critical choice that I make at this moment in my life.  Is it the right choice?  Only time will tell;  Jung offers advice.  Of each critical juncture of choice, one may usefully ask: “Does this path enlarge or diminish me?”  If my husband was not as remorseful as he is, if he could not demonstrate full commitment to me at all times then my choice would diminish me.  I could not accept another round of the miserable charade of adultery.  I am worth so much more than this and my husband has to agree fully.  As it is, my choice appears to have enlarged me and continues to do so.

 

“The invitation to meet oneself is seldom if ever solicited, it is rather brought on by outer or inner events that force one to question who one is and what values one holds. You have to choose growth or security – you cannot have both”.  I will never forget the adultery and I know that the scar will remain for the rest of my life but I am going forward.  I will never lower my expectations of him or of our relationship.  It is really hard work to stay and I suspect really hard work to leave but what is the alternate choice? Slip back into harbour, unpack our precious cargo and die.

 

I don’t look at my staying negatively. Instead I consider myself  daring.  I dared to stay because my wish to do so outweighed my  fear of doing it.  I have survived adultery by staying and I have become a different person in the process.  As James  Hollis remarks “In the face of painful, limiting blows suffered –the meaning of my life from this point on will be the degree to which I can express myself more fully in the face of this situation”  The fantasy of romantic love/lust does not have me in its grip.  That fantasy is for people who lack the resolve to look within themselves and take responsibility for meeting more of his or her own needs.  The much greater risk of truly loving the other presents a quite different agenda, a more demanding summons.

 

It was clear from my husband’s behaviour at the end of the adultery that he was terrified of losing me. “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation” Khalil Gibran.  I regret that it had to come to this. But our love now has to be a conscious type of love, the type that has values embedded into it that are compatible with each.  Returning to Hollis “The ‘in love’ state, great narcotic as it is, numbs consciousness, retards growth and serves as a soporific to the soul.  Consciously loving another obliges risk, courage in the face of ambiguity and the strength of tolerance.  Whoever lacks these qualities will never truly have relationship.”

 

I see my husband very differently now and this has taken a while to become accustomed to. However, “When the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being, not our dream but a human being with flaws.” Anais Nin

 

So I leave this blog to continue on the next part of my life journey. Whilst there are several blogs that can be located which deal with the experience of staying in a marriage post adultery, many, like mine, start and stop.  Should anyone reading this post be wanting a recommendation of which blog to follow I would unreservedly recommend Elle’s Blog entitled the Betrayed Wives Club.  It offers a wonderful soft place to land.

end-of-line

Advertisements

Forgiveness #2

hopeAugust 3rd  2016 will mark four years since D-day and five years since my husband made the choice to commit adultery.

I have full details of what the adultery entailed (basically 12 shags in a one year period and a few weeks where he went to live with her after I asked him to leave – not because I knew about the adultery but because his behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic) but to be honest, the details, after all this time really  don’t traumatise me quite like they used to.  The sorry and sordid story will always remain but somehow, time has reduced its capacity to paralyse me emotionally.  It’s like I’ve got to ‘meh’ (apathetic, uninterested, and indifferent). It happened.  Not my circus, not my clowns.  I don’t doubt for one minute that much of my ‘meh’ is a direct result of my husband’s behaviour over the past four years; his remorse and his behaviour towards me in helping me to heal.  I have also been resolute in my expectations of him to help my healing. But somehow this ‘meh’ which I see as acceptance is not enough.

We are close: closer than we have ever been. As I observe his behaviour and feel his genuine remorse, it’s like I’ve been woken up by a new version of my husband. We have not had a night apart since D-day and we have spent an incredible amount of time together.  We have actively created fresh memories and over time, carved out a new identity for our marriage; one which is highly considerate of the other’s feelings and thoughts.  But, for me, I sense a kind of barrier; one that is created by me, and I suspect I know what it is. It is my inability to forgive him for what he did.

Forgiveness, for me, has been the single most challenging aspect of healing from betrayal and I have previously blogged about my struggle with the entire concept. I know all the platitudes that get thrown about: ‘forgiveness is a  gift you give yourself’;  ‘forgiveness is the tool that helps you move on with your life’; ‘if you hold on to your anger it will stop you  from healing’; ‘if you don’t forgive, you let  them live rent free in your head’, but, quite frankly, I have been unable to buy into these simplistic notions  because I have found forgiveness to be a very complex concept to get to grips with and it’s unlikely that one size could possibly fit all circumstances.    However, just recently, I chose to revisit the concept to see if it might be possible for me to move from acceptance to forgiveness.  Not simply as a ‘gift’ as in the Christian ethos but as a human process between people. In my case between the betrayed and the betrayer.

In my search for a greater understanding, I found a book by Charles L Griswold entitled Forgiveness; a philosophical exploration. As the title suggests, it is not a religious argument, but a philosophical one which offers an analysis of forgiveness as a secular virtue (a behaviour which shows high moral standards).  It has helped me enormously to understand what might be happening and what needs to happen in my marriage if I seek a full reconciliation and a sense of peace.  The backdrop to the book is what is considered to be the human aspiration for reconciliation in the face of an impossible to remedy, imperfect world.  Sort of sums up my marriage.  What proved insightful in this book was the focus on the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation.  So, although a very general and far reaching discussion of forgiveness which includes both personal and political forgiveness, I was able to draw many parallels with regard to forgiveness in marital recovery after betrayal.  Following adultery we are confronted with the stark reality of a past that cannot be changed; what Hannah Arendt termed “the predicament of irreversibility”.  As Griswold notes, there are only a small range of options open to us when this happens; “forgetfulness, avoidance, rationalisation or pragmatic acceptance” (He doesn’t mention murder!) I recognise that I have opted for pragmatic acceptance.  However, forgiveness is quite a different response and for Griswold it is a concept that comes with conditions attached.

Historically, forgiveness was not always seen as a virtue. Ancient Greek philosophers viewed the wrong doer as inferior and simply not worthy of any sentiment other than contempt.  But modern ideas routinely link resentment with forgiveness and this has shifted the discourse. Part of a theological framework, resentment became a moral hatred.  It is deliberate response aroused by perception of unwarranted injury and embodies a judgement about the fairness of the action.  It is aimed at the injurer and is reactive and fosters a retributive passion that seeks punishment.   I imagine most betrayed spouses can identify with this feeling.  However, as Griswold points out, what resentment also commonly suggests is a view “that it harbours something suspect, perhaps mean and belittling.  Not a complimentary description.”  So one can begin to see the contradictions we face in our response to adultery.  On the one hand, resentment can be seen as the most appropriate response to our moral injury, but on the other hand it is deemed an unwanted or ‘difficult’ emotion that reflects badly upon us.  I know that I have felt deep resentment towards my husband and it is this emotion that I am struggling with now.  Up until now I have felt fully justified in my resentment, almost nurturing it, as Griswold notes “resentment can provide a certain satisfaction to its owner; it may contain an element of pride” but if this is what is creating a barrier for me between my husband and I and if I do want to explore the possibility of forgiveness it is clear that I will need to consider my resentment towards him and it might just be that the timing now is right.  As resentment can be seen as my response to being lowered in value or diminished, it has impacted upon my self-esteem by lowering it.  However, over the past years I have recovered a much stronger belief in my own rank and value so this may help me to overcome my resentment.

Resentment also embodies the demand that the wrongdoer show the proper respect and be accountable for not having done so. As my husband has constantly and diligently met my demands for respect and accountability I have become more and more aware of my reluctance or inability to change my perspective on his betrayal.  For the first time I have now begun to look at our marriage from the perspective of what I might do to help our reconciliation as well as what he needs to do.  Rather than constantly looking back at what he did wrong maybe I could look forward to a future that we might carve out for ourselves which really does transcend the adultery. Forswearing resentment doesn’t mean I have to give up all my negative feelings associated with his betrayal.  I can still feel sorrow or disappointment towards him, however, I need to overcome my contempt and scorn for him, and I think I’d like to do this if I can.  Griswold suggests that for the process of forgiveness to occur I need to only commit to giving up my resentment and this sounds realistic to me and definitely possible.  Especially when I look at the six conditions that Griswold lists as must be met by the wrongdoer if they seek forgiveness.  They are:

  1. Acceptance that he was the responsible agent for what happened. A failure to recognise this is a denial and adds insult to injury and undermines the possibility of trusting it won’t happen again.
  2. A repudiation of his deeds by acknowledging their wrongness and a disavowal of the idea that the deeds would occur again. This repudiation (if sincere) is a step towards not being the same person.
  3. He must experience and express regret at having caused the injury to me. Not just feel regret but communicate it to me.
  4. He commits to becoming the sort of person who does not inflict injury and this must be shown through deeds and words. Then, the repudiation of past self becomes credible but the burden of proof is his.
  5. He must show he understands from my perspective, the damage done by the injury. This entails listening to my account and grasping it with compassion. He must exercise sympathy in the sense of putting himself in my position and understanding what being in that situation meant for me.
  6. His regret needs to offer some sort of narrative accounting for how he came to do wrong, how that wrongdoing does not express the totality of his person and how he is becoming worthy.

For Griswold, anyone who satisfies even some of these conditions cannot be characterised as a moral monster. My husband satisfies each condition. So now the focus turns to me, the forgiver.  What transformation needs to occur in order for me to forgive?  Well something that I need to recognise is that if I have a commitment to forgive him it would be conceptually incompatible for me to exhibit behaviour that signals a failure to forgive such as hanging on to lingering resentment and reminding him of his misdeeds.  In doing this I am using a form of manipulation, even humiliation.  Regrettably, I know that I have been doing this so I need to consider the four steps that I need to take which are:

  1. The forswearing of revenge
  2. The moderation of resentment and the understanding that resentment does not simply respond to a revision of beliefs. It will require significant intellectual and affective effort.
  3. The commitment to let resentment go altogether
  4. Change my belief that he is a ‘bad person’ by reframing my perspective. Seeing him in a new light, distinguishing that ‘part’ of himself that is responsible for the injury from the ‘whole’ person, on the basis of trust in the future.

This reframing of my perspective towards him insists that I look forward rather than the alternative which is to look backwards and simply  excuse his behaviour.  There is no excuse but instead a credible narrative in which the offender takes the required steps and I, the injured grasp events from his perspective and have reason for trusting that his promise for change is real.

What is absolutely essential (and what has probably taken me this amount of time even to be open to the possibility of forgiveness) is that the nature of the injury is deemed forgivable by me.  This is in contrast to the Christian notion of the one directional gifting of forgiveness.  I will never be able to comprehend  this view, derived from the New Testament, emphasising  the moral necessity of responding to wrongdoing by accepting it, turning the other cheek, and re-embracing the offender in an act of love or compassion.  I actually think it could create further problems where adultery is concerned.  Again, citing Griswold,  “To forgive someone undeserving of the honour, under the banner of a gift may condone the wrongdoer and even provide encouragement to more offences”. Equally, if I am to change my perspective towards my husband,  I have to see myself in a new light.  I need to drop my moral superiority and in its place recognise our shared humanity.  I need to stop defining myself as the person injured by adultery by this person.  In this light, “forgiveness is, so to speak, a vote for the victory of such values as respect, growth and renewal, harmony of self and reconciliation, affection and love”. There is also the alleviation of guilt that is likely to follow from my forgiveness which can have enormous consequences for my husband’s wellbeing.

It does seem a bit harsh to claim that because my husband has committed this terrible deed that he is reducible to those deeds and is thus absolutely unforgivable. This ignores what I believe is the human capacity for remorse, choice and moral transformation.  No doubt, there will be some adulterers who turn out to be incapable of any remorse or moral transformation but in four years I have no reason to suspect that my husband is anything other than remorseful.  He has convincingly depicted a change of ways that have unfolded over the past four years.  He has shown that he is not just an adulterer; that adultery is not ‘all’ of him and indeed he is becoming ‘his better self’.  This is the narrative of change.

Forgiveness in this style is fundamentally an interpersonal process whose success requires action from both the injured and the injurer. Running through Griswold’s philosophical account of forgiveness is the key theme of growth for both the forgiven and the forgiver. Working towards forgiveness is “not just a rupture with the past, let alone its obliteration, but its reinterpretation and integration into a larger narrative – that of a life as a whole”.  A decision not to be determined by the past alone.  There is both a reversal (a new perspective on injury) and a continuity (one remains the same subject of the various chapters).

“Forgiveness does not reiterate the past but promises renewal without forgetfulness, excuse or condemnation of past wrongs. It rejects the Platonic ‘narrative of nostalgia’ – a tale of yearning for another, better world accompanied by a determination to flee from this one”   So, for Griswold, forgiveness is a process rather than an end result.  It’s about adopting a different perspective and attaching a different meaning to it.

I have found Griswold’s discussion which suggests that forgiveness is a conditional process extremely helpful and it has helped to shift my thinking on how to respond going forward, four years post D-day. Of course, everyone’s experience of adultery and betrayal is different and every adulterer’s response will be different, but for me, identifying the conditions required for forgiveness has softened my approach to my husband because he has met all the conditions that Griswold suggests are required for me to make a commitment to forswearing resentment. And after four long years, it’s like I might be able to finally let go. At the least, I will commit to letting it go.

Trust After Adultery

Atrustfter experiencing adultery, one of the questions that cause deep anguish is “will I ever be able to trust again?” Unfortunately, this is a question that tugs deeply at our inner core of who we are and it is as tough to answer for those who decide to leave their cheater as it is for those who choose to attempt reconciliation. If you choose to leave you have to think about trusting someone new; if you choose to stay you have think about trusting someone who has betrayed you in the past.

Not trusting is an awful feeling, doubt just gnaws away at everything, but trusting after betrayal feels too vulnerable, too exposed. It’s a form of paralysis.  What can we do?  Is it a binary set of options or is there another way to reconceptualise the trust that previously we took for granted and never questioned so that we can move forward in our lives?

David DeSteno a professor of psychology at Northeastern University has a number of interesting insights. In his 2014 publication ‘The Truth About Trust: How it determines success in life, love, learning and more’ suggests that “trust isn’t just about the facts. It’s about trying to predict what someone will do based on competing interests and capabilities.”  And this is a complicated business.  Although this is not a book focused on infidelity, the truth is, issues of trust permeate our days in a multitude of ways not just with our spouses. It is a dilemma of everyday life.  We trust work colleagues, we trust that when we order something on line it will be delivered, we trust our money is safe in the bank, we trust technology etc. etc.  If no one were willing to trust and subsequently honour their commitments then human society would break down.  Viewed in this way, trust becomes a bet “and like all bets, it contains an element of risk. The potential for loss”.

I have never thought about trust in this manner. I trusted my husband blindly and see now that this was foolish.  Do I trust him now?  Yes, and no! “Challenges to trust in the romantic realm begin with a hmmm – a pause where we reflect on questionable behaviour” Following his previous deceit I would now be more aware of the suspect signs and early warning signals of infidelity so I reassure myself that I can trust him if his actions appear trustworthy. But, I also need to protect my vulnerability so reducing my trust in him guards against my being exploited.  As DeSteno notes “If you think you can’t trust a partner at all, transparency is the only way to go” and I have insisted that he be completely open with me and answer all of the questions that I need answered in order to trust him. He has achieved this and continues to do so almost four years since D-day.  However, verifying actions are not always possible and it can be an onerous task. At times I have to risk that he will not deceive me again.  I realise that agreeing to stay with him, knowing that he betrayed me previously might lead to exploitation but my experience to date is that it has allowed a loyal relationship to blossom in the shadow of a regrettable mistake.  He accepts and understands my reduction of trust as a consequence of his previous behaviour.

What makes us decide to trust someone? Reputation?  Well yes, but as DeSteno points out “the primary concern with reputation is that we assume it represents a set of stable traits. If someone is honest, she’ll always be honest.  If he cheated, he’ll cheat again.  But scientific data clearly shoes that human morality is quite variable.  It’s always been this way but we’re just coming to recognise it” Experiments have shown that an individual’s trustworthiness cannot be reliably predicted from their past actions.

“Consistency in moral behaviour results not from an essence or trait engraved in our minds, but rather from an undisturbed balance between competing sets of mental mechanisms. As long as the general benefits of situations we encounter in our daily lives don’t alter the relative payoffs our behaviour remains the same.  However, change the payoffs, either through altering the situation or the thinking and behaviour changes.”

So when it comes to trust, the question we should be asking, according to DeSteno is not is he trustworthy, but is he trustworthy right now? If human morality can be understood to involve trade offs between short-term and long-term gains then adultery, if no one finds out, does not diminish any long term prospects and it can be perceived as a way of having your cake and eating it too.  Instead of thinking about an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other as competing aspects to a moral dilemma, DeSteno asks us to imagine images from an Aesop fable; an ant, which signifies concerns for the future (collecting food for the winter) and a grasshopper who signifies the opposite (enjoying the here and now – enjoying the summer).  “Trustworthiness, viewed in this way points to the ability to self-regulate – to resist immediate desires in favour of those that possess long-term benefit” This ability to self-regulate is compatible with the concept of positive freedom.  Unlike negative freedom which is defined by the freedom we have without interference from others, positive freedom is the freedom to be in control of our life.  Positive freedom is increased not by less interference from others but by the personal ability to overcome less rational desires i.e. knowing that if we spend our time studying now rather than partying, our future prospects in life will be much better.  Positive freedom is about achieving our full potential and we are not free if we find ourselves a slave to passing emotions such as desire or lust.  For my husband to behave in a trustworthy manner will depend upon him valuing the long term benefits of the loving stable relationship that he can have with me if he chooses to be faithful.

An interesting aspect of DeSteno’s analysis is where he considers jealousy.  I recognise that jealousy plays a role in my feelings about my husband’s adultery but I have yet to fully examine this in any way.  For DeSteno it is a cost of trusting in a romantic relationship.  But it is a difficult emotion to describe easily.  Also, in contrast to DeSteno’s conclusion, I previously experienced jealousy towards my husband’s previous lovers, so this is not connected to my trusting him.  Nevertheless, jealousy in the context of adultery is a combination of “fear, anger and a sadness that gnaws at the soul.” The fear results from the anxieties about the social and economic costs that losing a partner entails.  The anger stems from knowing you were cheated on and that your partner violated the rules and sadness is due to the realisation that another person, someone whose judgements you value, viewed another person as desirable.  Just like adultery, jealousy is not all about sex.  The media may present it in this way but it is not the ultimate cause, this is an illusion.  Jealousy is also about trust. As DeSteno suggests, trust can be breached in marriage in a variety of ways, for example money being  siphoned off for gambling, but this will not spark a flicker of jealousy.  Anger yes, but jealousy no.  “Jealousy only occurs when there’s a triad.  While most instances of trust involve two people, jealousy requires three.” He has a point.

“It’s the triadic nature of the situation that stokes jealousy. Unlike situations where trust is broken because one person favours his own interests over another (e.g. skimming profits, engaging in fraud) breaches of trust that gives rise to jealousy occur when there is a relative asymmetry in value between two options. A partner isn’t choosing to cheat you out of something; he’s choosing to cheat on you with someone else.” As jealousy is sensitive to not only what is happening at the moment but also to what might happen in the future it has a symbiotic relationship with trust.  Whereas I can see that jealousy impacts upon trust and vice versa I only see it as an aspect of adultery.  Yes, my husband chose to cheat on me with someone else but he also cheated me out of my reality by keeping it a secret.

In thinking about the trust we have in others we also need to think about the trust we have in our selves. Adultery has not only altered how I feel about trusting another, it has altered the way in which I think about how trustworthy I can be to myself.  Before I discovered my husband was unfaithful I trusted that I would walk away from any relationship in which my partner chose to not be monogamous.  But hey, look where I am! As DeSteno so aptly notes “we can be surprised by our own actions and shocked when we let ourselves down.” Yet I have to trust myself as well as my husband.  However, deciding to trust myself is the same as deciding to trust someone else; I’m placing a bet on what the future me is likely to do.  How trustworthy I am likely to be to my earlier intentions will depend on not only where I am but when I am; what person will I be in any given circumstance. So, I move forward, trusting my husband each day but not in the way that I did prior to his adultery and even though his past behaviour need not predict his future behaviour I would be foolish to not let my experience make me wiser.

“Trusting is better than not doing so but blind trust is not the optimal solution. We need to want to trust but to know when to pull back. There are, and always will be those in whom trust would be misplaced.”

So no clear cut answers I’m afraid. I do believe that if my husband were confronted with the same opportunity as previously to commit adultery he would not because he is not the same man.  His regret and remorse has filled him to his boots and I am confident that he now listens to the ant and not the grasshopper.  Equally, his feelings of shame have caused him to condemn his own untrustworthiness and these emotions of guilt and shame can put a brake on motivations for immediate self-interest.  Plus, following DeSteno’s analysis I realise that the question will always be – not is he trustworthy but is he trustworthy today – because trust is not a stable attribute.

Today, I trust him and I trust myself. I will never trust blindly again but refuse to police his activities.  Instead I will demand transparency and should our situation change and he becomes a man once more in whom trust would be misplaced I will insist upon us separating. Trust me.

Image Credit: Catching Trust Word by Stuart Miles freedigitalphotos.net

Adultery and the Future of Commitment

commitmentIf I’m honest, I don’t think that I had any strong opinions about adultery until I found myself at the receiving end of being betrayed. Why would I?  I was happily married and therefore thought it just happened to other people who were unhappy in their marriages; an exit strategy of sorts.  I didn’t think about it as a bomb being planted in a trusting place.  It seemed simple from a distance.  Plus, if you’re not told, how do you know what couples are about to implode?  As Wendy Plump (a betrayer and betrayed) says in her memoir ‘Vow’; “what does a couple with such an enormous smash showing on the horizon look like in the beginning?  Indistinguishable from all other couples”.

I was vaguely aware of a couple of people in our circle engaging in extra marital sex but it was brushed under the carpet and viewed, I’m sorry to say, as a private matter between the married couple.  A view currently espoused by Glenn Greenwald that now makes me want to spit feathers the size of an ostrich’s.

But our views are not formed in a vacuum are they; the media plays a large role in the public perception of adultery. They constantly fail to promote accurate representations of the fallout from adultery; the reality of lying and deceiving someone who trusts you, the trauma faced by the betrayed spouse, the time it takes to heal from it and the long term consequences for the children of the betraying spouse.  Instead they appear to luxuriate in the more salacious scandalous aspects, paying lip service to so called family values and traditional morals.  Equally, it could be argued that some TV shows and movies are complicit in actually helping to erode the significance of loving, long-term committed relationships.  From this perspective it looks like we may have an insidiously manipulative culture.  Anthony Giddens, the British sociologist wrote in 1992 that “a social climate has been created which endorses irresponsibility, self-indulgence and an isolationist detachment from the claims of others”  He was prescient in so many ways.  “Men are likely to drift away from women in large numbers and to regard commitment as equivalent to entrapment.” Is this happening?  What do women want?

For a while, post D-day I was too engulfed in my own personal hell to consider any of this. My private reality colonised my thinking for a time; my marriage, my husband, my pain, my betrayal, my expanse of wasteland.  But since then, I have tried to understand adultery from a wider context than just my own, and I’m afraid that some of what I’ve discovered has alarmed me.  Whilst I think that adultery is wrong and there should be more attention paid to the consequences of committing it for everybody involved, there appears to be a growing number of pop culture purveyors aggressively suggesting that adultery is inevitable (monogamy is too much to ask for)and that because of this, marriage as we know it, has become an arcane institution that we, as a progressive society, should move beyond.  Not, why might the institution of marriage be worth fighting for or how it might need to be newly designed with equal rights and democratic principles, but instead, a metaphorical sticking plaster of accepted deceit to cover the cracks of adultery whilst playing a form of Russian roulette with your marriage. Like deceit and happiness can co-exist.  Like you can just have sex with others and if you’re clever, nothing needs to change. Like it doesn’t make you a duplicitous character, not trustworthy and capable of grand deceit.   Like the Other Woman does not need to believe that she is an interloper in the intimate space and machinery of some other woman’s marriage. Sex is what you think you want until you get it and then you want all the rest.  Adultery is its own hell. How have we got to this?

Why is monogamy getting such a bad press? Why can’t we confront our achingly human desire for a relationship with one significant other and look to how it can be achieved?  Marriage may yet prove to be the most mysterious covenant in the universe and something to treasure and be proud of and YES, work at. Professor Janet Reibstein, a psychologist/psychotherapist whose research and clinical work primarily focuses on couples and families states “there is such ignorance about the insatiable, ongoing, time honoured, and even animal need to be in a happy, secure, erotic and deepening union with one other person”.  Much of her research has looked into what makes successful marriages  and her findings suggest that instead of perfect contentment couples strive for pragmatic solutions.  But this is not sexy and certainly not newsworthy.  Stories of great marriages cannot be heard above the din of reports of the failed ones.  Reibstein succinctly points out; “you can choose to go down roads that wreck relationships or down ones that keep them going”.  I believe that adultery is the royal road to marital destruction.

We can’t get confused here with open marriages. I remember the term ‘swingers’ – this described married couples swapping sexual partners.  This option has been available for years.  This is not adultery. Equally, if you willingly consent to your partner having sex with someone else, this is not adultery.  Adultery requires lying, cheating and betrayal.  It has to be a secret .  But who in their right mind would want to be betrayed?  Seriously?  Where are we going with this?  It’s OK to betray? As Zygmunt Bauman depressingly suggests in his book Liquid Love “What is hoped… is how to square the circle: to eat the cake and have it, to cream off the sweet delights of relationship while omitting its bitter and tougher bits”.  For Bauman the denizen of our modern society is someone with no bonds that are unbreakable.  No bond is guaranteed to last.  They are loosely tied so they can be easily untied with little delay when the situation changes.  We become “semi-detached” couples and are praised as relationship revolutionaries who have burst the suffocating bubble of monogamy. Lasting commitments are seen as oppression.  How does that make us feel?  Easily disposable? What happens to our “yearning  for the security of togetherness and for a helping hand to count on in a moment of trouble?”

As far as I can see, the dominant discourse around adultery uses ideas about longing, sexual freedom and liberation and uses these to reconstruct an alternative world with its own laws and culture that considers sexual activity with others outside the marriage a benign response to the individual wants of some poor soul  trapped in a ‘prison’ of monogamy.  Even a marriage saver!  It also applauds the idea that wives are claiming territory once occupied by their husbands and going off to commit adultery in their hoards.  But beware, as cognitive scientist Steven Pinker points out  “sex is not a binding force but a divisive one… but, conventional wisdom denies this”.  And as Anthony Giddens noted “sexual permissiveness is not at all the same as liberation.” Words such as deceit, lying and betrayal are erased from the narratives.  Adultery in its current form is maintained by directing attention away from the fearsome facts and repackaging the concept  in an acceptable form.  We find destructive illusions of excitement and glamour,  caricatures of frigid wives and sexual mistresses only too eager to please, and a total neglect of  child care.  In this cowardly new world which disregards duty, obligation and sacrifice, we spouses need to have a built in obsolescence (an artificially limited useful life).

George Orwell said “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”. How does the truth that we know about adultery get out there?  We need to confront these social forces that are shaping our lives.  Society should care if we lie or cheat or harm others;  what we permit we promote.  I feel so strongly that we must not become inured toward adultery.  We all have to learn to make  the right choice against impulses, against desire and face the sacrifice that comes with it.  It is not possible to be happy all the time; life doesn’t allow it.  Why has monogamy been identified as the villain of the peace?  It may be true,  one person will never be enough,  but people are not something you use to fill a hole inside you.  They are not objects.

“Investing strong feelings in your partnership and taking an oath of allegiance means taking an important risk. It makes you dependent on your partner.  (Though let’s note that dependency, now fast becoming a derogatory term, is what the moral responsibility for the other is all about)” Zygmmunt Bauman

“I suspect the reason [that some people] don’t cheat is a subtle one. It has to do with not wanting to hurt their spouse, of course, but only partly.  It only partly has to do with their view of monogamy. In the case of those people most capable of fidelity, I think it has to do with their own honour.  A sense of self that will not let them score across their own pristine slate.  That’s a commitment to one’s self as opposed to one’s spouse… I used to think marriage was based on love and passion.  Now I see that it’s based mostly on loyalty.  Loyalty with warmth.” Wendy Plump

Image Credit: Bouquet Of Sunflowers by nattavut freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

Adultery and Its Collaborators

arrowsWe all know that it is our spouses , and ONLY our spouses who are to blame for the adultery.

I personally cannot remember blaming anyone else; ever.  We blame them, and quite rightly so, for individually betraying our trust and throwing us to the dogs of non-considered consequences.  We hold them responsible for their bad choices and our subsequent misery and heartache. The journey to marital recovery after adultery allows for intimate investigation and analysis of the betraying spouse and guilt and shame are the everyday passengers.  I know I have spent years living with what my husband did to me and his idiotic selfish behaviour that prevented him from keeping his ridiculous dick in his pants.  Adultery is not a pretty picture. Ever! But, the balm offered by his genuine remorse along with significant behavioural changes over time helps oil the cogs of the healing progress.  This doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven him or that I trust him.  It means I have chosen to advance our relationship rather than end it, enjoying the benefits of cooperation and support that only a long term relationship can offer.

collaborationHowever, I do not consider his actions in isolation from the situation and context in which the adultery occurred or the people that happily encouraged and facilitated the behaviour. I don’t know why, but whenever I start to take this track in my blog, I get a spluttering of responses which accuse me of not blaming my husband.  Somehow, holding others responsible equates with not blaming my husband.  I get given advice on what I should do.  I’m told to forgive the OW (for a range of reasons not well articulated) and to remorselessly punish my worthless, cheating husband.  It’s like there’s something awry if I hold others responsible for their actions which they knew impacted upon my life, but to be honest I think attempting to excuse others who were directly involved is a bizarre idea. Whilst I fully agree my husband should stand centre stage here, I do not accept that others, involved in one way or another with the adultery, were acting in any way benignly towards me or can be assuaged of the moral turpitude they were willing to engage in just because it’s over.

Alice Vachss who was a brilliantly successful sex crime prosecutor in New York, identified a very interesting aspect of the field that she was working in which went beyond just the acts of the individual being prosecuted:

My first lesson about sex-crimes prosecution was that perpetrators were not the only enemy. There is a large, more or less hidden population of what I later came to call collaborators within the criminal justice system.  Whether it comes from a police officer or a defence attorney, a judge, or a court clerk or a prosecutor, there seems to be a residuum of empathy for rapists that crosses all gender, class and professional barriers. It gets expressed in different ways, from victim bashing to jokes in poor taste and too often results in giving the rapist a break.”

Whilst not suggesting for one moment that adultery is a sex crime, her observations offer insight into the wider social context in which adultery takes place. Whilst my husband was, unknowingly to me, my enemy during the time he was committing adultery he was not my only enemy.  There was a larger population of collaborators.  Of course, the woman (Pig Shit) who knowingly chose to shag my husband and who hoped he would leave me for her is responsible for her choices and actions.  She was happy to collaborate.  She could have insisted that he leave me BEFORE embarking on her intermittent and infrequent shag-fests.  I suspect that she knew that she wouldn’t stand a chance if she asked for this.

The couple who actually introduced Pig Shit to my husband and went on to socialise with them together and who offered their spare bedroom for fornication purposes are responsible for their choices and actions. (My husband and I had been on holiday with this couple and spent many occasions together.)  This couple were content to mix with my husband and Pig Shit and my husband and me; keeping the secret safe.  The female of the couple was Pig Shit’s best friend.  Go figure – would you encourage your best friend to start any kind of relationship with a married man?  This female also gave Pig Shit my mobile telephone number so that that she could text me 48 hours after she realised that she’d been dumped by my husband.  Maybe this so called friend was more my enemy than Pig Shit!

Then the male friends who were happy to sit in the pub and share drinks with the adulterous couple; could they have found another pub to drink in and refused to collaborate?

Then the Dutch business associate who started to avoid me on the telephone and who met Pig Shit and husband on a business trip to Rotterdam. He could have insisted that my husband went on his own or went with me rather than be a collaborator to adultery.

All these collaborators decided that I didn’t need to know that my husband was shagging another woman. All seem to be of the opinion that adulterous behaviour is totally acceptable for my husband. Then I read so much junk about the so called inevitability of adultery.  The supposedly unrealistic expectations of people like me hoping for monogamy.  The academics who intellectualise the sexual antics but obscure any analysis of the pain of betrayal that adultery forces upon the betrayed spouse.  The social surveys that continuously churn out reasons why people are unfaithful without ever addressing moral concerns; as if morality sits outside the topic being investigated. Where is the research on the consequences of adultery?  Where is the research on so-called monogamish marriages that pay lip service to fidelity?  Does the extra marital sex remain a secret?  Is betrayal shrugged off as an unlikely cause for concern? What about honest spouses who decide to inform their spouses that they’re a bit bored and wanting something different? How does their spouse handle their jealousy?

There seems to be a residuum of empathy for adulterers that crosses all gender, class and professional barriers. It gets expressed in different ways, from frigid wife blaming to jokes in poor taste and too often results in giving the adulterer a break. Where can we find empathy for the betrayed spouses?

Why isn’t the truth out there? Adultery is a wasteland and it diminishes everyone it touches.  How on the one hand can we have people chanting ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ whilst at the same time have women knowingly shagging a married man in the hope that she will have a ‘proper’ relationship with him one day?  It doesn’t make sense?  Where are the men with their heads in their hands, filled with despair at what they’ve lost?  All for what?  The selfish motivation and belief that you can have your cake and eat it too.  Well, you can’t and that’s the truth!

There are some serious issues here for all of us. We have to make our distaste for adultery explicit.  If we socialise with a spouse and they bring along their bit on the side what should we do?  Refuse to be a collaborator.  But, would we, should we tell the spouse who is being betrayed?  Would we want to be told if it was our spouse betraying us? If we choose not to tell the betrayed spouse do we become a collaborator?

If people knew that there was a strong likelihood that someone would break the secret, would this change their behaviour?

Image Credits: Man And Arrows by renjith krishnanTeam;  Unity Concept by pakorn via freedigitalphotos.net

Why My Husband Committed Adultery

searchLike all of us, I thought that the answers would eventually come from my husband. The truth is, they may do but in three and a half years since D-day I’ve been unable to obtain satisfactory responses to the why he behaved as he did.  The three major responses have been: ‘I was a f**king idiot’ (accurate yes, helpful, no!); ‘I don’t remember’; and ‘It was just sex’.  It’s difficult to buy the memory answer. I suspect that he does remember, but I’m inclined to think that the motivation was so banal and basic that there aren’t the words for him to offer any meaningful comprehension.  I also don’t buy that it was just sex.  I do think that, probably, sex was all it was after a few initial shags over a few months but in the beginning I believe it was more than just sex but he’s not prepared to admit it.  Obviously I have discussed my disbeliefs with husband but it doesn’t get me very far.  He thinks I’m looking too deep and there aren’t any deep answers.  She was available for dirty sex, he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants and thought he could have his cake and eat it too.

 

Another big obstacle in moving through the whys is that I really cannot understand how he could do this to me.    However, I realise now that this is because I cannot imagine doing this to him.  My thinking cannot encapsulate the overwhelming idea of betraying him.  I can’t possibly understand the how because for me it would be impossible to cheat and then lie to him.  I know that I would be unable to, without immeasurable discomfort and heartache to look into his eyes, have sex with him, and tell him I loved him when behind his back I was sharing my intimacies with another man.  So, I’ve started to think along the lines that my husband might simply possess a character I had not understood fully prior to the adultery and that this character possesses a dysfunctional way of thinking not aligned to my values at all in regards to fidelity.

 

My own take on why husband committed adultery, without information to the contrary, has become very basic and incredibly unpleasant. Clearly, he did it because he LIKED it.  More than that, he thought Pig Shit was fan-fucking-tastic for a while.  What other reason would explain a man in a happy marriage driving over 100 miles for a first night in a hotel with a new woman, albeit a middle aged woman who I would consider to be a desperate dirt bag. There was no gun to his head.  Here was an available middle aged woman desperately seeking a man in her life.  She had gone to the same school as him and I can just imagine the “I used to really fancy you at school” dialogue.  Can’t you?  Her, looking into his eyes and smiling sweetly!  He says he doesn’t remember her at school because she was about three years below but I don’t know if I can believe this.  Pig Shit was introduced by husband’s other friends from school days – so it must have been quite a comfortable social setting.  Equally, she grew up in the same area. Husband has described her as ‘thick as two planks’!  But they got on didn’t they?  I remember him saying this in one of our very early trauma fests when I asked how he could spend a night with her.  But now, when I remind him of this, he shrugs, lifts his eyebrows and doesn’t agree with the sentiment.  He has settled into the ‘only for sex’ rationalisation.  I do think that he’s convinced himself of this but I reckon this was after a year of having her pushing into his life and her starting to want more time from him towards the latter months.

 

Her attraction? He says that she made it explicitly clear that she was up for sex.  I’d say it was her mediocrity.  It made him feel wonderful.  I believe that in the early days he would have even thought that she might be part of his future.  He ABSOLUTELY denies this.  I mean, it would have all been so much easier with Pig Shit wouldn’t it.  She told me that she considered him to be an ‘alpha-male’.  Go figure, that’s not how I have ever seen him. He felt entitled to this ‘adoration’ and I consider it to be an important aspect of the attraction. He says it was all about sex but he took a photograph of them both (set up his camera on timer) on a bench outside the first hotel that they shagged in.  This was a few hours BEFORE they shagged.  He kept this photo unbeknownst to me on his computer and actually got it printed off nine months later to put in a frame and give to her for her fiftieth birthday.  (Granted, it’s a shitty present but by this time he was very close to melt down).  Taking this photo means that his decision to commit adultery was more than just sex. He cannot explain why he wanted the photo but suggests that he considered her a catch!  Proof that he could still ‘do it’! Also, before arriving at this first hotel Pig Shit invited him to visit her house.  He agreed.  He thought it was for a bit of early sex.  Tell me, here is a married man en-route to a hotel he has arranged for sex, agreeing to visit her house; does this make any sense to you?

 

Once there, sex was not on the menu. Instead she sat him down with a cup of tea and introduced him to her two teenage kids.  My idiot husband sat there, drank his tea and obviously made himself out to be Mr Special.  I can just imagine Pig Shit telling her kids that this man was her childhood sweetheart blah, blah, blah.  Such a nice man.  Guess what, he can’t remember what they discussed.  Do you think she told her kids that he was married?  I asked husband he said he had no idea.  Then the two of them left (he says in separate cars) to go to the hotel.  But not to shag straight away.  They went for a swim and sauna.  They went for dinner (which she paid for – she paid for every meal they had because she wanted to pay her way – I guess she felt it made it a ‘proper’ relationship somehow).  My husband was doing all this on business expenses because apart from once, every time they shagged it was linked to a real work commitment.  Pig Shit is a single mother with two teenage children.  I asked why he let her pay and he just shrugs.  Then they fucked.  Husband would have had to text me during this time.  He was having a fucking ball wasn’t he?  That’s why he doesn’t want to remember.  He didn’t give a shit about any consequences.  He didn’t feel guilty or ashamed because it was all overwritten by his feeling marvellous and of his feeling of entitlement.  Nothing was going to stop husband having a shag-fest least of all any little voices of conscience.  He didn’t have any!

 

You think I don’t know what that newness feels like with a new person? The excitement? The physical tingling? You think husband and I didn’t have it ourselves?  We had it BIG time and that newness feeling lasted for many years. So, I know the feelings, I just wouldn’t trade my rectitude to experience it all again with someone else whilst married.  Not only do I view my marriage as something to protect and honour, the lies and deception would be too much to ask of me.  So immediately you can see I think differently.

 

Then, the next time, a couple of months later another hotel room but after this it was just cheap motel rooms or friends’ spare bedroom. It is clear that her expectations were low.  She must have been so easy to please.  My husband only had to text her the magic words ‘I love you’ and hey presto Pig Shit couldn’t keep her knickers on.  It was always at husband’s convenience and always linked to an overnight stay for a genuine work commitment.  This is why I never suspected what was going on.  It would be unreasonable to think that over 12 months, his staying overnight to be nearer his work on 12 occasions, signalled him being up to no good.  If he had work in Oxford, he would go up the night before, Pig Shit would drive to the location, they would eat in a pub, shag, spend the night and then both go to work.  Some relationship.  Really what do these other women say about women?  That we will accept anything as long as you say you love me and I want to believe it.  Would his actions actually demonstrate an undying love?  No, I don’t think so, but it was enough for Pig Shit!  How great for a married man?  Minimum effort – maximum gain.  Not like with me.

 

However, over time, he must have tired of her. Then he was trapped.  He knew how to start the adultery but he didn’t know how to stop it.  However, now Pig Shit wanted to cash in on her chips.  He had promised undying love and a future together, she had let him do all sorts of things to her genitals.  Now it was pay time for her.  But it became melt down time for husband.  Too pathetic to come clean to me and own up, too weak to break it off with Pig Shit.  You see, what do we have here?  I have to admit in the cold light of reality, this is not a nice man.  This man, who I married and thought had boyish charm was a liar, a manipulator and a coward.  He was playing me and he was playing Pig Shit which led him to become engulfed in a shitty mess of his own making.  Then things were to get even worse because of his emotional immaturity and inadequacy to deal with the problems that were a direct result of his pathetic choices.

 

It’s taken a while to really confront this awful truth but the truth has helped me to understand him, understand myself and understand the measures I need to take if our marriage is to recover.   At first, I was confused because his behaviour had led him to melt down.  When his melt down first started I’m not sure (he did crazy things like fill up his diesel car with petrol) but he fluctuated between on the one hand crying with desperate hugs, saying how much he loved me and on the other, making comments that he didn’t want to be here.  He would repeat his head in his hands “I don’t want to be here” “I don’t want to be here”.  Now I think the ‘here’ that he was referring to wasn’t our house or me it was his head.  He was in a living nightmare of his own making.  In the end I asked him to leave and the idiot respected my wish BUT WENT TO ACTUALLY LIVE WITH PIG SHIT!  By this time I do believe he wanted it over but he was too weak to tell her.  He has told me that his intention was to go and live with her to break it off gradually so that she didn’t get angry and tell me.  Don’t laugh, but I actually believe this.  His fucked up thinking has a lot to answer for.

 

His plan misfired. He didn’t expect me to move so quickly to seek a divorce immediately and explore selling our house.  He didn’t like living with Pig Shit – it wasn’t what he had intended or wanted.  Of that I am sure.  As I didn’t know he was with another woman, how he looked and behaved made me feel sorry for him.  After a few weeks I agreed to a trial reconciliation and he could not wait to return.  He just wanted it all swept away – to awaken from his nightmare, but his unceremonious dumping of Pig Shit was surprisingly ingenuous. It provoked the adulterous hornet and she set out to sting me in the worst way possible.  My husband, what a coward!  He couldn’t even protect me from Pig Shit’s revelation.  How could he think, for one minute, that it was all going to right itself?  I don’t know about you but this is even more fucked up thinking.

 

My husband behaved appallingly towards me. Both during the adultery and the lead up to the horrendous revelation.  We have not entertained therapy of any kind because I am quite cynical about the blooming counselling industry (that’s not to say I appreciate that for many it has proved invaluable) and have been determined to not involve anyone who may suggest that the ‘why’ of his adultery was somehow prompted by problems in our marriage.  That somehow it was our relationship and faults within that, that led to his adultery.  My husband, struggling to find answers to my questions would have been provided with the perfect rationale.  Then it would be a shared focus – not just on him and his choice to commit adultery but on me and what I might have done to make him vulnerable to having extra marital sex.  As far as I’m concerned, too much of the general understanding of adultery is based upon findings of what the adulterers themselves say. This is only one side and allows for pathetic rationalisations that get aired in public talks.  They were bored, felt empty, not alive, and/or had a longing.  Quite frankly who hasn’t felt like this at times in their lives.  But, why would betrayal of your spouse be considered a potential solution to these feelings?  It’s just too selfish and cruel for words!

 

SimonA book that has helped me considerably in this area is one written by George K Simon entitled ‘Character Disturbance; the Phenomenon of Our Age’. Interestingly, I came across it via Tracy Schorn’s blog Chump Lady so was late in coming across it because it took a while for me to become strong enough to accept the other side of the consequences of adultery – continued deception and manipulation until separation and divorce.  Chump Lady’s view that reconciliation is a unicorn  was troublesome whilst I had doubts about my own marital recovery but over the years I have become more confident in my choice to stay and have enjoyed reading about spouses who have got their life back on track by leaving their unfaithful partners.  Equally, I support any platform that gives voice to the trauma of infidelity and betrayal.

 

You see, for such a long time I was saying to husband ‘you’re thinking is fucked up’. I have already blogged about the behavioural psychology that suggests we are not rational thinkers, even though we are adamant that we are. This went some way to help me but Simon’s analysis has hit the spot in many more ways.  Although I am deeply reluctant to agree to a diagnostic label of DC to pin to my husband, (or anyone else for that matter) some of the symptoms that Simon discusses I have found in my husband and this has created another dimension in which to think about what he did to me and what needs to be considered to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  So, it’s a bit pick and mix, but not only does it describe some of my husband’s character or personality it goes someway to understanding why there is such widespread infidelity.  Fundamentally, for Simon, modern society is dominated by a ‘just do it’ culture which has produced increasing numbers of individuals who are not ‘hung-up’ enough about the things they allow themselves to do.  Adultery would fit this bill wouldn’t it? Stemming from an underdeveloped conscience these individuals end up with problems related to their dysfunctional attitudes and thinking patterns. These he calls disturbances of character.

 

Simon, whose experience is not in the field of relationship counselling or infidelity but in the study of manipulators and other disturbed characters, makes a distinct break from traditional Freudian understandings of behaviour. Considered out of date and based on understanding the neurosis of mainly upper middleclass women, he suggests that the modern demands of psychology now require a completely different perspective in order to understand this ‘just do it’ culture that divorces itself from consequences.  For Simon, neurosis is still with us but rather than being pathological as earlier thought, it now serves as an important psychological function.  We need to ensure that we possess it in a healthy measure.  It allows us to experience enough guilt or shame to restrain impulses.  “It’s what makes society work”.  With this analysis I think I would say that I am healthily neurotic! However, for some individuals, where there is a lack of healthy neurosis it can lead to an underdeveloped conscience.  And this has become widespread.

 

Character disturbance results in individuals “whose problems are related to their dysfunctional attitudes and thinking patterns, their shallow, self-centred relationships, their moral immaturity and social irresponsibility, and their habitual, dysfunctional behaviour patterns.” I believe that before we met, my husband was the epitome of this description but I never saw it.  Did he hide it or did his relationship with me foster better character traits? We spent nine years together in a good relationship but something seemed to have triggered off a return to his past behaviour patterns that he developed with all his ex-school friends.  Interestingly, when one of these friends (who had socialised with H and Pig Shit) rang me to find out why my H was not communicating with any of them he informed me that what I had experienced (infidelity) was what H always did.

 

As well as our personality, our distinctive way of relating to people and the choices that we make about how to cope best with life’s challenges also play a role. For Simon, character is an individual’s positive personality aspects – those that are socially desirable; self–control, ethics, loyalty and fortitude.   Characters that don’t develop such aspects often fail to experience the potential pangs of guilt or shame upon their decisions and are therefore able to act in socially irresponsible ways. “Anxiety is minimally present or plays a negligible role in the Disturbed Character’s problems”.  I would say this sums up my husband’s character in the early stages of his adultery.  It is clear from what he has told me that initially he felt no anxiety whatsoever about what he was doing!

 

“The DC’s conscience is remarkably under-developed and impaired. DCs don’t hear that little voice that urges most of us to do right, or admonishes us when we’re contemplating doing wrong.  Or, if they do hear it, they can easily ignore it, or put it in a lock box (i.e. compartmentalise it)”.

 

“Shame is the emotional state we experience when we feel badly about who we are. Guilt is when we feel badly about what we’ve done.”  For my husband, both of these emotions were absent until it all started to go terribly wrong for him and he could no longer continue with his behaviour.  However these two emotions are fundamental to him being able to change his character.  From his experience, Simon states “I’ve known many individuals who made significant changes in their characters.  But when they did so, it was not only because they regretted their irresponsible behaviours, but also because they became unsettled enough with the person they had allowed themselves to become (I.e. became too ashamed of themselves) that they decided to change course.  So it appears that one must have the capacity to experience both guilt and shame in order to forge a sound character.”  He goes on to point out that “being embarrassed at being uncovered or found out is not the same as genuine shame.”  So it is clear, from this perspective that any recovery from adultery will demand both guilt and shame to be experienced by the betrayer if change in them is what is required

 

I have blogged elsewhere about why and how people lie.  Lying it seems is one of the more common problem behaviours of DCs.  “Sometimes this lying is done so automatically that the DC finds himself lying without thinking much about it and even when the truth would have done just fine.”  I experienced this with husband and it’s something I am now conscious of all the time and regularly make checks about the most simplest of statements.  Just to ensure that there is no slippage.

 

DCs, in keeping with my husband’s responses, say ‘I don’t know’ a lot but for Simon this probably means one of the following.

I never really think about it that much.

I don’t like to think about it.

I don’t want to talk to you about it.

I know very well why I did it but I certainly don’t want you to know.

I hope you’ll buy the notion that I’m basically a good person whose intentions were benign.

 

Sounds about right!

 

In traditional counselling or therapy it is believed that there is a different reality undermining the façade that we see; a pitiable reality i.e. low self-esteem. The therapy acts to dig deep into someone’s emotions in order to access this reality.  However, whilst this might be true for someone with neurosis this is not the case for a DC.  Instead, what you see is what you get.  “No feelings of inferiority.  But a deeply rooted sense of entitlement”.  In fact DCs have an inflated sense of self-worth and often feel entitled to use and exploit others as they see fit.  They often ignore the reality of their circumstances and act indifferently to the truth about themselves and their behaviours.  This was my H’s behaviour during the time of the adultery.  He made my life very difficult. “For the most part DCs act first and think later and when a person lacks apprehension about what he’s about to do, he’s less likely to engage in any meaningful contemplation before he acts”.  Sums up H.  “This impulsive thinking promotes a devil may care, lackadaisical attitude and attitudes of indifference, uncaring or nonchalance”.  This was my experience of my husband whilst he was engaged in adultery.

 

The clarity for me, of the difference between my H’s thinking and mine can be summed up by this; “DCs are largely unaffected and undeterred by adverse consequences. Typically not unnerved by situations that would upset the neurotic.” So, my H, in the context of our marriage and his blatant disregard for my feelings, needs not help and insight to discover more about his feelings about himself but firm benign confrontation, limit setting and most especially correction.

 

“They need an encounter which directly confronts and challenges their dysfunctional beliefs, destructive attitudes and distorted ways of thinking which stymies their typical attempts at manipulation and impression management.” Whilst Simon is suggesting a particular type of therapy here (and this is in direct opposition to traditional psychology’s belief that personality and character disorders are untreatable) I feel that my H experienced an encounter of this kind when he left me without any acceptable reason and went to live secretly with Pig Shit.   He was absolutely lost, exhausted by the manipulation and impression management, with nobody to turn to.  Except, he wanted to return to me.  He DESPERATELY wanted to come home and have everything ‘back to normal’.

 

The way I responded to the knowledge of his adultery once I had agreed to a possible reconciliation matches (without my prior knowing) Simon’s suggestion of firm limits set on maladaptive behaviour, and a structuring of the terms of our engagement in a manner that prompts him to try out alternative, more pro-social ways of interrelating that I can reinforce.   Once we identified his problem behaviours and got them out into the open, our attention could be paid to the erroneous ways of thinking that had led to those behaviours.  For H to experience genuine empathy-based remorse for the injury he caused, rather than just regret, two things needed to occur.  1.  He needed to feel genuinely bad about what he’d done (guilt) – he does.  2. He must be internally unnerved about the kind of person he became (shame) through acting so irresponsibly – he is.  It is his shame and guilt which can propel him to make amends to the best of his ability and work very hard not to engage in the same misconduct again – he is working hard – to want to make himself a better person – he says this himself!

 

“When people have true contrition, their greatest pain is for the injury they caused someone else, and their actions reflect a sincere effort, not only to repair the damage, but also change their ways.”

 

“None of us is born civilised. We are not naturally predisposed to be socially conscientious or responsible beings.  No matter how one is biologically predisposed and regardless of one’s environment, certain crucial lessons must be learned at various stages if one is to develop a balanced personality and healthy character.”  We have to be “ever mindful of man’s incredible capacity to deceive himself as well as others and the temptation we all face to secure what we want and avoid what we don’t want through deception, cheating and conniving.”

 

Unfortunately, society doesn’t really recognise or reward those who display integrity of character. It has always been easier to cheat, lie and steal rather than take the honest path.  For most part, lying is simply easier than accepting and dealing with the truth.  And truth is a cornerstone here.  We know it as betrayed spouses and Simon knows about it through his work with DCs.  He has found “incredible power in the truth.  It’s the basis of the genuine human connection that can facilitate positive change.  “The truth is rarely pretty but it is almost always redemptive and transformative”  Don’t we just know it!

 

An additional understanding for me of H’s behaviour when it all got out of control has been provided by Simon and his suggestion of circumstantial thinking – the belief that one thing leads to another.  “They see their behaviour and its consequences as the inevitable result of a snowball rolling out of control and becoming too massive to stop.  Not as a result of their choices.  Circumstantial thinking means not thinking about one’s motives for engaging in behaviour, one’s internal decision-making process, and the consequences of one’s choices, but rather telling oneself that things simply happen.  That is the thinking error most responsible for the development of a socially irresponsible attitude”

 

Finally, returning to me and the difficulties that I have experienced in trying to understand H’s motives for what he did I’d like to return to Simon’s suggestion that I am healthily neurotic . “Neurotic individuals’ main vulnerability is that they simply can’t imagine that everyone isn’t at least to some degree like them.  They also can’t imagine that people aren’t motivated in their actions by the same kinds of issues that motivate them”.

 

The bottom line is our recovery from H’s adultery is all about H and how he values his own efforts to be a better person. Like it or not, for me, character matters.  You cannot legislate for morality.  H’s behaviour might not have been illegal but it was reprehensible.

 

Image Credit: Online Search by renjith Krishnan freedigitalphotos.net

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.