Dear Carolyn: Approximately 10 years ago, my wife had an affair with our daughter’s soccer coach.
Not only has she never really apologized for the affair, but I also had to beg her not to leave, primarily to keep our two kids close to their friends, as we could not afford our neighborhood in a divorce and would have had to move away.
We both sought counseling, but, oddly enough, the starting point was always having the blame leveled at me – after all, if I were the perfect husband, my wife would never have cheated!
I would like for someone in my shoes to tell me whether the hurt goes away, and what is the nature of forgiveness? It seems people who have never been in my shoes are quick to dispense the “forgive and forget, get on with your life” advice. – Still Hurting
Your shoes may be a pair I haven’t tried on, but I still believe “forgive and forget, get on with your life” is an insult to someone in footwear like yours. That’s because one of two things typically precedes forgiveness: the transgressor’s expression of remorse, or the victim’s embrace of life after damage.
The first is self-explanatory.
The second path is for when the apology doesn’t come and you’re left to your own forgiveness devices. For this, people usually need to feel they gained something – anything – from what happened.
Unfortunately, where your wife’s remorse should be, you have finger-pointing – and where your personal growth should be, you have your hollowed-out marriage. Which you preserved not out of love, but economics.
To keep another decade from circling the bowl, please recognize that you need to fill in one of these two blanks, remorse or renewal – and that you’re the one who gets to decide what you need to put this affair to rest.