Tag Archives: forgiveness

Results from the Affair Analyzer

24 Oct

Today I decided to take the Affair Analyzer on the website where Rick Reynolds has his blog.  I have read quite a few of his articles, and I really thing he is insightful and spot-on.  The website has a little tool where they can give their take on the infidelity you have experienced if you answer a few questions.  I spent less than 5 minutes on it today and got the below result, which I think is scary-accurate.  I have highlighted the portions that really spoke to me the most.

Affair Analyzer

We’re truly sorry you’re going through this, but as difficult as this is, you’re the type of woman who will find a way to survive. As you’ve discovered, infidelity is totally disorienting, and one of the most difficult aspects of recovery is finding where to start in order to avoid prolonging the recovery process.

Although you are extremely hurt and shocked by your husband’s betrayal, you’re probably already exploring what needs to be done to address the situation. Your drive and resolve will likely carry you through the first portion of your recovery, but coping may become more difficult later on.

Your husband’s infidelity may have caught you off guard, especially if you assumed he was as committed as you. Conversely, you may have realized some time ago that you do the majority of the giving in your relationship. But you were hoping that he would, at some point, also realize what a catch you are and begin to put more into your relationship. You probably believed that love conquers all and because of that, your love should prevail.

Many people in your position are willing to give their mates another chance, particularly if the mate is truly remorseful and willing to address the problem. You may be questioning how you could have married someone like this since you are a woman of integrity and thought you had married someone who was also. In the long run, your ability to live well despite your mate’s behavior may be one of the characteristics that will prove crucial to your family’s recovery.

About what happened

Continuing a marriage while one mate has a sexual addiction requires commitment from both parties. Regardless of good intentions and strong desire, addicts do not overcome their behavior on their own. However, this presents a problem because these individuals usually experience such deep shame as a result of their behavior that it may terrify them to admit the problem and seek help. Instead, they will resolve to never do it again, believing they can overcome the problem on their own. In fact, depending on how the addiction came to light, this may be the first time your mate has ever really addressed their addiction. If that’s the case, then your mate may still need to discover their powerlessness over the addiction.

The Path Ahead

MarriageAs the hurt spouse, you will  likely find yourself in need of guidance on how to respond and cope with this  disruption of your life. Since you still may want the marriage you  should try to respond in a way that will cause your mate to pause and  consider well their own options. At the same time you don’t need to  compromise your own integrity. You are probably not only hurting from  the betrayal but also shocked by what happened.  You may also be  wondering how you can ever trust this individual or any person ever  again. This betrayal may have left you feeling inadequate and foolish  for even considering staying with your unfaithful spouse.

In fact, you may well receive contradictory counsel from different people.  Some will tell you to leave the marriage and others will advise you to  stay and work on the marriage. However, few of these people, if any,  have actually been in your situation and they have no idea how they  would really react if in similar circumstances.

Immediately  following the revelation of a betrayal, too many emotions, impressions, fears, and too much pain exist to make reliably good decisions.  It would likely be best to not leave your marriage until you can observe  changes in your mate that will indicate whether it is a safe and viable  option to stay in the marriage.

Exploring the motivations for both leaving and staying in the relationship may prove very helpful to you  both now and in the future so as not to repeat history somewhere down  the road. Your decision to stay or go may actually alter with time.  Frequently, the pain created by the betrayal will be the primary  motivation for leaving in the initial period after you find out.  Eventually this pain may subside and you may feel differently. Of  course, you may also notice a shift in your desire to stay if your mate  fails to make a serious effort at reconnecting in the relationship. If  you base your decision to stay on your mate’s promises to change, you  may be disappointed if their efforts to change do not meet your  expectations.

Since a part of you wants to save the relationship, you may find yourself trying to control your mate’s decisions and  manipulate them into staying regardless of whether this will result in a healthy marriage. You may start denying your own needs for healing and  safety in an attempt to save the marriage.  Saving the marriage at all costs would be unwise if the marriage in the end were not a healthy one.  Be careful not to compromise your physical or emotional health.  The  emotional pain of infidelity does not just go away; denying it will only compound the problems it has created.

Part of your uncertainty may be due to the fact that part of you genuinely cares about your mate, but another part of you wants to get as far from them as possible.  You will likely find yourself wanting the opposite of what you feel pressured to do.  If your mate and those around you encourage you too much to stay, then you will want to leave and vice versa.

Before you make a final decision to leave the marriage, consider your  motivation for leaving honestly and carefully.  If you actually want to  leave because of marital dissatisfaction, it would be best for you to admit that is the reason taking responsibility for your departure rather than putting the blame wholly on your mate.  If you are having trouble  with this decision because of your fears, it will help you to recognize  those fears and deal with them directly so that you can make your  decision based on reality.

It is important to understand each other’s recovery in order to learn to support each other.  Men typically want to compartmentalize and avoid thinking about things that are painful.  They need space to think about it on their own and in their own time.  Women, on the other hand, tend to process trauma verbally often wanting to talk about what has hurt them until they can touch the wound and not get an emotional charge.  She may actually ask the same questions over and over again in an attempt to desensitize herself from the pain.  Both spouses need to recognize that avoidance (from the men) and repetition (from the women) are just the ways that we typically deal with pain and give each other the patience and grace to handle this life-altering trauma in their own way.

Regardless of the outcome of your marriage, in order to heal, you will need to confront, grieve and release what has happened and then learn from the experience.  If  you are unable to sufficiently heal, then you may end up repeating the same pattern of hurt again. Infidelity is an emotional blow that cannot be ignored; however it is not an insurmountable hindrance to your future happiness.  You should give yourself ample time and grace to complete your essential healing journey.

About your mate

Since your husband’s position is unclear, your best course of action is to focus on your own healing. Make sure to allow him to take responsibility for his own recovery. You must be willing to let him succeed or fail in his recovery so that it will truly be his own. If your husband stays because of manipulation, you may feel successful initially, but it could lead to bitterness because he feels controlled instead of confident in his decision. Also keep in mind that if your husband is ambivalent about staying in your marriage, then he will not be wholly committed to the relationship.  Note that pressure will frequently influence people who are ambiguous to take the opposite position.

Unless your mate is willing to take responsibility for his actions and what his behavior has cost you, he most likely will not be able to participate in a healthy marriage.  You may need to be stronger than is comfortable or usual for you and create a list for yourself of your, at the very least, minimum requirements to stay in the marriage.  It may prove virtually impossible to know whether the relationship can be healthy and viable until you can witness your husband’s response to your needs.  You will need to be careful in determining if he is truly willing to do what is necessary to restore your relationship.  If your husband is not willing to help at all then you must understand that you cannot trust him with your heart.

Next Steps for Recovery

Recovery requires a safe and supportive community. AffairRecovery.com provides this community and is comprised of others who understand. Processing what happened is one of the most effective ways of dealing with healing and understanding what’s happened. Having others who can empathize and validate your experience helps the disorientation created by the attachment wound.  If at all possible try to find a therapist or program specializing in the treatment of infidelity.  Not all helping professionals are trained to address the issues of infidelity.

If discovery of the affair was in your recent past, you may have difficulty identifying any positive reason for working on the marriage. Frequently the pain of the betrayal clouds our ability to find the benefits.  Our culture is far more tolerant of divorce, where children are wounded and families separated, than we are of exploring the potential advantages and possibilities associated with recovering from an infidelity.  This leaves many believing that exploring the possibility of salvaging their marriage is a sign of weakness.  Those of us at the Affair Recovery believe it’s a sign of phenomenal strength.  If he is willing, then we’d encourage you to consider this possibility.  There is hope, and you can heal.  Your probabilities for having the relationship you’ve always wanted is far greater with this relationship than with the one that’s unknown.

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Forgiveness in the Face of Turmoil

13 Oct

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Today has been a very difficult day for me.  Rather than blog about that, I’m going to add my commentary to another Rick Reynolds article – Forgiving Infidelity: Practical Suggestions to Move Toward Forgiveness.  He and his wife worked together to provide their own suggestions about how to forgive.  They both have very insightful advice.  It is definitely an article worth reading in full.

However, I am not going to address the entire thing here.  The only thing I will respond to right now are the tips for the hurt spouse.  Below is an excerpt from the article.  I’m also including the portion before the tips that distinguishes between forgiveness and reconciliation because I think it is crucial.  In pink are my comments and feelings as they stand tonight.

At Affair Recovery we believe there are two components to forgiveness as it pertains to forgiving infidelity. First is the internal aspect of forgiveness, which has little or nothing to do with the other person. It is a personal choice to release the other person from retribution or harm as a result of their offence; it’s coming to the point where you can wish them well. It’s not based on their repentance or merit, since it’s an internal matter. It is a gift you give yourself, which sets you free and allows you to live at peace with your memories. The internal aspect of forgiveness in marriage where infidelity is involved is important in that failing to achieve this type of forgiveness leaves you forever the victim.

The second aspect of forgiving infidelity is about reconciliation. This component of forgiveness is primarily based on safety. Does the unfaithful spouse see what they’ve done, do they take responsibility for their actions and are they grieved over what their actions have cost others? Anything short of that response potentially makes them unsafe for reconciliation. This aspect of forgiveness determines whether the relationship will continue. If they are willing to make amends for their failure, then reconciliation might be a good choice.

Practical Suggestions For Forgiving Infidelity For The Hurt Spouse:  (These are from his spouse)

1.  Separate forgiveness from the process of reconciliation. Make reconciliation optional and forgiveness not optional. People often do this backwards, choosing to reconcile rather than forgive. This leaves them trapped in the pain of the betrayal, never able to move forward to a new life. If your mate isn’t safe don’t reconcile. In the first year of recovery don’t pressure yourself to decide about reconciliation. It may take over a year before you know whether it’s safe to reconcile. Reconciliation depends on your mate’s ongoing recovery and your ability to heal from the trauma of the betrayal.

This is something I am just realizing: forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things.  I like this concept, and it rings very true to me.  I know that I did this part backwards because I decided to reconcile before I was able to forgive.  I chose to stay with my husband and work on the marriage before he was a safe person to recover with.  I can now see the wisdom in this method.  You truly have to be able to forgive before you can know whether reconciliation is an option.

2.  Make a conscious choice to forgive. For freedom’s sake don’t hang on to bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness is always in your best interest and in the interest of those you love. Only time will tell whether reconciliation has a place in your relationship.

“For freedom’s sake don’t hang on to bitterness and resentment.”  I had to type that again.  Forgiveness, or at least acceptance, is the only way to move forward – with or without the relationship intact.  Hanging onto bitterness and resentment can eat a hole in your soul.  I don’t want to be that person.  I have to let those things go.  I don’t feel bitter or resentful towards my husband.  I sometimes feel sad.  I feel hurt, especially when he lies to me.

I am actively trying to not let those feelings run my life, though.  I don’t want to resent him for his actions.  I have been an active participant in this relationship – I stayed after I found the porn, I stayed after he lied to me about strip clubs, I stayed after I discovered his cyber affair, I stayed through more and more lies and revelations, I stayed when he was diagnosed as a sex addict, and I stayed as much for myself and due to my own issues (codependent much?) as because of his lies.

I am partially responsible for where we are.  I can’t resent him for his part unless I am also willing to resent myself – and I can’t do that.  I have to keep moving forward.  I can’t become bitter and jaded, as easy as that would be.  I can’t wallow in self-pity.  I have to heal for me.  I am worthy of healing.  It is in my best interest to let go and forgive.

3.  Choose to focus on what’s helpful. Once you know what’s happened there may be diminishing benefit in continuing to focus on the past. Have the sense to ask yourself if how you’re spending your time (conversation, thought life) is helping to move you forward in your recovery. If it’s something that’s keeping you stuck, let it go. You want to choose life, not death.

Okay, what has been helpful?  Loving myself has been helpful.  Going to S-Anon has been helpful.  Being aware of my codependent tendencies has been helpful.  Going to therapy has been helpful.  Blogging and journaling has been helpful (writing my thoughts down, commenting, stretching my view of myself and others, working to really understand what makes me tick, getting thoughts out of my head and onto a computer screen where I can examine them, etc.).   Those things have all been focused on bettering myself, increasing my self-awareness, and changing – as painful as it can be.

The things that have not been helpful – shopping, eating, obsessing about things I can’t change, fighting, yelling, arguing, threatening, trying to control.  Going around and around in circles saying the same things is also not helpful.  Holding onto anger has not been helpful.  Contacting the OW at the beginning of all this was definitely not helpful.  Thinking of myself as perfect – or at least trying to be that way – didn’t help, and actually made things worse.  I do want to choose life, not death and certainly not an excruciating limbo.

4.  Maintain an attitude of compassion. If you can look at your mate through a lens of compassion and concern you may find it easier to let go of the offence. Forgiving infidelity is not a sign of weakness and it doesn’t minimize the magnitude of the betrayal, rather it allows you to move forward, free from the hurtful actions of another. Forgiveness in marriage, even without infidelity, requires compassion.

This is something that my Mom really helps me with.  I also think that when I started feeling compassion and concern for him and his addiction I also started down the path of forgiveness.  If forgiveness truly is about wishing the other person well, then I’m definitely there.  I want him to get better.  I can imagine how horrible it must be to be trapped in lies and compulsive behavior.  My heart aches for him.

I already know that forgiving someone is not weak and doesn’t take away from what was done.  Forgiveness doesn’t negate hurt.  It doesn’t discount fear.  It doesn’t exist separately from sadness.  Instead, it coexists with them.  It dulls the pain.  It acknowledges that there is another dimension to everything.  It complicates things while also making them simpler – adding different viewpoints and angles to the situation to add clarity – much the way multiple camera views of a play can make the proper call easier to determine.  Compassion and empathy are the aspects of forgiveness that make that possible.

5.  Don’t hang on to entitlements. As Charles Dickens says, “In every life, no matter how full or empty one’s purse, there is tragedy. It is the one promise life always fulfils. Thus, happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes and to add to other people’s store of it.” Your mate may have destroyed your happiness, but life is hard and often unjust. Try to keep realistic expectations.

Here is an area where I can definitely use work.  I am very guilty of hanging on to the idea that life should be fair, that I should get what I want, and that I deserve happiness…  That quote is completely true, though.  It is profound in its honesty.  It shatters my preconceived notions about myself and about life in general.  I consider myself a realist, yet I somehow allow myself to forget the simple fact that life is hard and full of tragedy.

6.  Take care of yourself. A lack of sleep, isolation, or severe depression only makes forgiving infidelity more difficult. It’s not fair since you aren’t the one who cheated, but you’re the only one who can take the necessary steps to heal from the wounds created by others. Be willing to get help.

This is really fantastic advice for anyone going through a difficult time – betrayal, loss, sickness, or anything else you can think of.  Sleep.  Eat.  Talk to someone.  Do everything in moderation, nothing to excess.  If you are on medication, take it.  Focus on yourself.

Today I had a really rough time.  I am sick on top of a number of other things.  Still, I took my antidepressants and vitamins, remembered my cold medicine every 4 hours, put 2 different types of drops in my ear for an infection, and got a moderate amount of rest.  I ate, and although it wasn’t particularly healthy (pizza) I did limit myself to only 2 pieces.  I also made sure to have carrots and other healthy snacks throughout the day.  I didn’t isolate myself – I called a friend, talked to my Mom and Dad (separately), cuddled with my dogs, and made it outside at least 3 or 4 times.  I also cleaned the house some and took time for myself to write this.  I will be going to bed at a decent hour.

As for getting help, that is definitely a must.  I look forward to my weekly sessions with the therapist.  I enjoy my S-Anon meetings.  I am going to make time to go to the doctor very, very soon.  I am finally realizing that I can’t do it all on my own, and that is okay.  It is actually quite a relief.

7.  Be aware of your own humanity. As CS Lewis says, “All saints must keep one nostril keenly attuned to their own inner cesspool.” Be willing to consider what you’ve been forgiven. Maintaining an awareness of what others have had to forgo for your sake will help you find patience for others. A self-righteous attitude will cut you off from the very thing you seek.

I have a lot of faults.  I make a lot of mistakes.  I require a lot of forgiveness.  This list isn’t even close to complete, but I can name so many things off the top of my head that need to be improved in me.  I am stubborn to a fault.  I am competitive – I always want to win, even when it has gone past the point of being enjoyable or productive.  I am disorganized most of the time – my clothes are thrown around in piles, my shoes clutter up the house, I am horrible about leaving things sitting on any flat surface available, and when I do organize it is by my own system, which is nearly indecipherable to others.  I tend to put things off (I have several t-shirts about procrastination to proudly declare that to the world, too). 

I can be petty.  I curse way too much.  I eat unhealthy things and sabotage my own weight-loss.  I say mean things to people, sometimes aimed purposefully at what I know are their weakest spots.  I yell.  I over-think.  I am a horrible pet owner.  When I am happy I get complacent and lazy, disregarding all my other responsibilities to revel in the happiness.  I lose myself in other people, especially when I am in a romantic relationship. 

I am controlling.  I am a perfectionist.  I have a really bad image of myself.  I smile at the most inappropriate times – like when I’m uncomfortable, when I’m feeling insecure, at funerals, etc.  I cry when I get really angry, which makes me angrier, which in turn makes me cry more.

I often take a holier-than-thou attitude.  When I do that it usually indicates an area that I need to examine further in myself.  I have a lot of things to figure out.  I have started working on my issues, and I will continue to do so – maybe for the rest of my life.

So there it is…  another glimpse into my mess.  It really isn’t beautiful at all.

if ever there was a time, let it be here, let ...

The High Price of Forgiveness

27 Sep

By hang_in_there, Some Rights Reserved

This article has been making the rounds through several blogs that I follow.  I decided to share it here not because I have an aversion to Reblogging or because I somehow think my perspective on this is better than anyone else’s, but because I wanted to have these powerful words close by and easily accessible.  I wanted to have a reminder of this on my page because these words are incredibly powerful.

There is a price to forgive, and it is a high one for the spouse who has been cheated on.  It is just as high for the spouse of a sex addict.  We give up so many parts of ourselves – our expectations, our hopes, our ideals, our strong belief in fidelity above all else, our naive certainty that our life partner wouldn’t intentionally harm us, our sense of safety, our unconditional trust, our pride, our self-respect, our ability to live a normal, trigger-free life, our sanity (sometimes), and so, so much more.

Betrayed spouses and spouses of sex addicts are often advised to name their losses and grieve over them.  I have done that in small baby steps, here and there.  This article listed a lot of those sacrifices and losses in one place.  Reading the story, seeing my own losses mirrored so eloquently and poignantly, and taking a moment to grieve again was very therapeutic yesterday.

I also realized that I am at a point where I forgive my husband.  I’m not sure when it happened – I couldn’t tell you the exact moment – but it did.  I have a deep peace about what happened and what we are doing to continue making our marriage stronger.  I feel safer in my marriage right now than I have in a long time.  I am gaining back some of the pieces of myself that I had to sacrifice to stay.

I think there is another phase of forgiveness: when those things you lost begin to be restored, little by little.  I will never have the naive, unconditional trust, but I do have trust in him.  I don’t check the computer or his phone.  I don’t worry about whether he will cross our boundaries – if he does I have a plan and there are consequences – but the anxiety is far, far lower than it has ever been.  I use the “trust but verify” method, although the “verify” part is getting less and less necessary.  Now “verify” might just mean paying attention to the tone of his voice and the real sincerity behind his words.  It means listening to my gut about whether something makes sense or not, and accepting how I feel.

I have reached the point where my pride and self-respect isn’t influenced by what he does or doesn’t do.  I am realizing that my forgiveness and desire to repair our marriage is a testament to my character and makes me stronger, not weaker.  I no longer care what anyone else might think of me because of it, what society may judge me as, or even what the OW might ever have thought of me.  None of that matters because I am secure in knowing that my decision is turning out for the better.

Letting go of my ideals and expectations was so, so scary at first.  It was painful and humiliating to think that my picture of my relationship was false.  Accepting that our story wasn’t going to be neat, pretty, and the way I had envisioned in my head was a loss I had to grieve.  I can now see the value in losing my picture-perfect ideal, though.  Keeping an idealized view of a relationship is damaging.  It perpetuates delusions, it causes distance, it makes us dismiss things that don’t fit into our neat boxes, including aspects of our partner that could make us closer if we explored them.  My life isn’t perfect, my marriage isn’t perfect, and as much as we work on it I will always be married to a sex addict.  There will always be struggles.  But life always has struggles anyway.  Now we know that we are equipped to handle them.  Now we share our intimate thoughts and feelings more readily.  Now each new challenge should hopefully result in my husband and I rallying together, not drifting apart as we each try to hold onto our separate views of “how things should be.”

So, yes, there is a high price of forgiveness.  I also think that there is an equally high payout.  It just takes longer to get there, and there is a lot of pain along the way.  Some things may never come back.  Forgiveness doesn’t heal all wounds, it just makes it so the healing process can start.  I may have triggers for the rest of my life.  Forgiveness won’t take them away, but it will allow me to move farther and farther from that point of raw emotion.  Letting go of my need for “justice” is hard, but carrying it around with me keeps me on edge.  It keeps me focused on life’s unfairness.  That unfairness will always be there, though.  Just like my post yesterday, it’s about seeing the other things – the beauty and gifts that are also part of life.


Ever associated forgiveness with a big price tag?

by Rick Reynolds

What is the cost of forgiveness? What does this have to do with forgiving infidelity? We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first let me tell a story. Seventeen years ago, within the first two years of marriage, Sandra had multiple affairs. Doubts of whether she’d married the right man plagued her even before the wedding. A better man than Campbell she’d never find, but the spark was missing. She feared he’d be a Steady Freddie who was dull and commonplace. His impeccable character and undying love had captured her attention, but where was that romance of man and maid she’d so longed for? Those feelings never came.

About a year into the marriage Sandra’s boss invited her to lunch. From an innocent beginning blossomed a growing conflagration of passion. He understood her womanly need of small attentions and seemed to get her in ways Campbell never imagined. Justifying her affair was all too easy. She’d never felt like this before, confirming in her mind that she’d married the wrong person, and now she’d found the love of her life. Besides this wasn’t some spur of the moment impulsive whim, they’d spent their days at work talking about music, philosophy, religion and life. Milton knew her better in a month than Campbell had in 2 years.

For the first time in her life she felt compelled to recklessly abandon herself to another. It was like nothing she’d ever experienced, until Milton’s wife discovered their affair and filed for divorce. Milton immediately resigned his job and moved his family to another state. She was shocked; they had planned their future together and now, just like that, he was gone? He even told her he wanted nothing to do with her and to quit bugging him. The pain was unbearable, and even she was surprised at her response. Rather than grieving the loss and moving on, she numbed the pain with three more short-term affairs. What was the difference; she didn’t envision Campbell as any part of her future.

However, about a month after affair number three ended, she and Campbell conceived and life suddenly changed. She loved life as a mom and admired the way Campbell stepped up and supported the family. Over time she even grew to love her life and recognized she had indeed married well.

Skip forward 17 years when Campbell received a call from Milton’s wife. “I told him if it happened again I would no longer keep his secrets, and I just discovered he’s doing it again,” she said. “I thought that you might want to know your wife isn’t who you think she is. Why don’t you ask her about Milton?” Milton’s wife was coping with infidelity in a flurry of anger.

Initially, Sandra lied. She had decided to take the secret of her infidelity to her grave, but eventually she came clean about all four affairs before their first child’s birth. She pleaded for forgiveness; after all, it was 17 years past. But for Campbell it wasn’t seventeen years ago, ground zero was just last month. Forgiving infidelity for him didn’t seem possible. Seventeen years of faithfulness did nothing to ease the pain of her betrayal. In fact, it made it worse. She had caused him to live a lie for 17 years. He no longer trusted his current reality, his past, his future, his wife or himself. How could he have been so blind? How could he just forgive and move on?

For the sake of our discussion let me point out that there are two elements to what we refer to as forgiveness. The first is an internal matter where we choose to forgive the wrong committed against us and no longer expect justice as a result of their offense. Even more, we wish them well. The second element of forgiveness is about reconciliation. It’s where we choose to continue in relationship with that person in spite of their offense. For the sake of this discussion I’m focused on the second element, reconciliation.

All too often we talk about the high price of NOT forgiving. That forgiveness is a gift you give yourself and how failing to forgive leaves you forever a victim. We extol forgiveness as a virtue and share examples of those saints who forgave much to show forgiveness as a possibility. (Even though the fact we even share such stories indicate those people may be the exception, not the rule.) But forgiveness isn’t natural, especially when it comes to forgiving infidelity. It flows against our basic human nature. For most, our initial response to coping with infidelity is justice, not forgiveness. We want restitution, not mercy. We want the scales of justice to be balanced.

An understanding of the high cost of forgiveness seems to go missing when an offense is committed. Far too often I see an entitlement mentality when it comes to receiving forgiveness from our mate or forgiveness from God. As humans we’re supposed to forgive, right? In Christendom we teach “as God forgave us so we’re to forgive.” Isn’t that the lesson we teach our children? But we forget that forgiveness comes at a price. Even the Christian tradition teaches that the price God has paid to forgive mankind’s offenses was the life of His own Son. In the same way, the price paid by the betrayed spouse, if there is to be reconciliation, is high indeed.

What was the price of forgiveness in Campbell and Sandra’s case? Campbell had been an exceptional husband and father, not perfect by any means, but he’d lived and loved well. For him, forgiveness meant violating his personal beliefs and values. He would never have chosen to be with someone who betrayed, lied, and deceived him. He believed in the sanctity of marriage, and to choose to stay with Sandra came at the price of settling for something he never wanted.

Forgiving infidelity would mean sacrificing his dreams of the type of marriage he’d wanted. He’d never have the opportunity to brag to his children about the fidelity of their marriage. To stay meant sacrificing a marriage that was free from doubts. How could he ever again believe a word that she said if she’d been able to deceive him for 17 years? Staying meant the sacrificing of his dignity. He personally knew two of these men, and he now imagined how they’d seen him as the fool. To stay he’d have to sacrifice his rights. Didn’t he have the right to leave and find another who would be faithful to him? Staying and coping with infidelity meant sacrificing the ability to be honest with family. He couldn’t share his struggles, for fear of more complications. To stay would cost him pride. He’d always believed people who stayed were too weak to leave. To stay would cost his self-respect. He couldn’t believe things he’d said and done in his fits of rage. It would be so much easier to be away from her and not be triggered by her presence. To forgive seemed to make a mockery of all he’d sacrificed for the sake of their marriage. Instead of being proud of what he and Sandra had built, he now felt he’d been played the fool and taken advantage of.

All Campbell ever wanted was to love unconditionally and to be loved by someone special, but now his heart was so full of pain and distrust he wasn’t sure whether he could give himself to Sandra or anyone else again. Could he walk through the pain of her betrayal and face the demons he’d encounter if he ever gave himself to her again? For him, choosing to stay would cost him dearly.

Grace isn’t cheap; it comes at a high price. Failure to appreciate the high price paid by those choosing to forgive minimizes the magnitude of their sacrifice. The currencies used by the betrayed spouse to pay off the debt incurred by their mate’s betrayal are pride, ego, and suffering. Forgiving infidelity costs their dignity when they choose to stay rather than leave. It costs them their just due when they choose to forgo justice for the sake of the relationship. It costs them their sanity because they don’t control the painful thoughts invading their mind. Their present-day reality is constantly interrupted with painful memories of the past. It costs them their dreams because this road isn’t one they’d ever planned on traveling. It costs them health because the pain of the offense consumes their life. And I’m only beginning to scratch the surface.

As one who believes in the value of forgiving, I never want to be guilty of cheap grace, where I think it’s something to which I’m entitled. If justice is the standard, then the consequence of betrayal is the loss of relationship. Anything short of that is mercy, indeed. Failing to consider the price paid by others for my sake causes me to be careless with my behavior. Forgiveness and reconciliation are expensive gifts purchased through great suffering and sacrifice on the part of the offended. Failure to understand that reality makes me blind to the love displayed by those who choose to continue on in relationship…

How would you describe the cost of forgiveness from your own experience?

Trying to Trust Through the Fear

31 Jul

Trust is such a difficult thing for me for a number of reasons.  One is because of my personality.  I’m a very type-A, get things done kinda girl.  I’m usually firmly in the camp of “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”  My husband’s sex addiction and affair don’t do anything to help my trust.  His lying habit virtually demolished any vestiges that remained.

Despite all of that, I have come to realize that I can’t go through life without trust.  I can’t be in this marriage without being vulnerable, without giving up some control.  I have to trust him with some things, whether I really want to or not.  Whether I feel 100% confident that he will follow through and do it in a way that I would have or not…  Cue stomach knots.

I am now working on my codependence issues and learning to let go of things that aren’t in my control.  It is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  How do you all do it?  What keeps you trusting?  What helps you reassure yourself that it won’t be the end of the world no matter what happens?  How do you keep your hope?  I really want to know.

Being in this community is so rewarding because I get to connect with so many people, hear their stories, get support, and gain understanding of myself and what we are all going through in one form or another.  Reading blogs gives me a fresh perspective, challenges me, and makes me really ponder things.  At the same time, I see and hear so much disappointment, pain, fear, and oh so many lies.  It is disheartening.  Sure, there are lots and lots of stories of hope and healing.  Still, those painful ones really stick around in my gut.

Those thoughts ping around in my head and make this struggle to trust so much more difficult.  Especially after nights like last night.  Mr. Mess and I are fine – great even – so don’t worry about that.  It’s just that disappointment crept in, slowly but surely.  I was able to support a friend, but not in the way I had hoped.  Our carefully laid plans (so we thought) were blown out of the water.  I could feel how despondent she was, and there was really very little I could do about it.  I didn’t have any control over the situation, the outcome, or her feelings.

I wanted to, because boy do I hate seeing someone I care about in pain.  But I had to let go of that desire.  I had to just be there.  Just listen.  Just be supportive by caring – not by controlling the situation in any way.  I had to remind myself that I didn’t fail.  That I wasn’t the cause of the disappointment, I couldn’t have changed anything, and just being there was enough.  Even though I couldn’t have done anything to fix her situation, that was my utmost desire.

I wish I had a magic wand that could solve all of the problems in the world.  That is such fantasy-land thinking, though.  I have to let go of it.  I have to just do what I can do and be content in the knowledge that even a glimmer of normalcy, fun, comfort, validation or care does make a difference.  Small things can matter a lot.  I know that has been true for me.  Seeing that “Like” on my post, getting a response – positive or negative, just knowing that there are people out there that care enough to take time out of their day to read what I have to say, and then offer their thoughts…  Those things are huge in a way that is hard to describe.

But trusting that things will work out?  That is tough.  Trusting that I really am enough – no matter what happens – seems nearly impossible.  I have this internal battle going on inside.  It is between what I know in my head and what I fear.  Those fears, some irrational and some completely possible (maybe even probable), well up inside of me.  The urge I have is to freeze, to let them paralyze me.  I am fighting it with all that I have.  Because the reality is that I will be fine.  I am strong.  I am capable.  I am worthwhile.  I have to trust my own decision to trust (twisty I know), because that is the only way to defeat my fears.

Powerful Quote

12 Jul

“The essence of True Forgiveness is the giving up of all hope of having a better past.”

 — Gerald Jampolsky

This really speaks to me.  We can’t have a better past.  At the same time, how do we ensure history doesn’t repeat itself?  I never thought of myself as having hope that the past could be changed for the better, but when I really examine myself it’s possibly my deepest wish.  I know there are no time machines, but boy would it be great to have one.  If I can’t change the past or make it any better, though, that means I have to accept it – warts and all.  It’s funny – that was one of my first blog posts.  I wrote about getting rid of the fairy tale ideas of your relationship and seeing the past for what it really is.  I am still working on that.

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