Moving on from Adultery

Are you feeling broken hearted? Has your partner broken the trust between you? Can you get over this mistake?  Can you believe/ accept the apology? Is the apology sincere?

Of all the mistakes I have experienced in life, my own have been the worst. I have lied, cheated and betrayed another. Those were the days before integrity became an important value of mine to live by. And forgiving myself was far more difficult than receiving forgiveness from those I hurt. It took a while for me to accept my bad behaviour but I can say now, years on, I am glad I have made those mistakes. It makes me more humble when it’s time for me to forgive another knowing that part of the human condition is to mess up.

The hair on my neck rises when someone uses the word ‘mistake’ to describe having an affair or committing adultery. A mistake implies something was done by accident. Deceit, conniving, lying and strategizing how to keep an affair a secret hardly happens by accident. The opposite is true. It requires diligent thought and serious consideration. Both of which are not synonymous with ‘mistake’.

The mistake that that happens when we lie, cheat or deceive another is that we have mistaken ourselves as self-destructive. Only someone on a path of self-destruction would go about hurting someone they care for, knowing they will have to live with the shame, guilt and humiliation when they are found out. Only someone wanting to sabotage themselves would be careless with the trust bestowed on them to honour another’s vulnerability, knowing full well the shame they will endure when their secret is exposed. Only someone with very little regard for themselves would behave in a way that will ultimately cause grief and anxiety for all those concerned. I know this because that was me. And that is the mistake that happens when someone betrays another person and dishonors them by stealing their dignity or breaking a commitment. Mistaking ourselves as worthless.

People who feel worthless behave in ways that produce outcomes that confirm their worthlessness. People who value themselves behave in ways that produce results that mirror their power.

Excellence, integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency, courage, tolerance, peace, joy…these are results that reflect someone who values them self.

Shame, humiliation, guilt, hate, intolerance, cowardice, deceit, manipulation, dishonesty, fear, anger, pride…these are words that describe the outcomes of someone who does not recognize their value.

Which would you rather be associated with?

I remember watching the movie ‘The Last Samurai’ about a man who learns what it means to live with honour and feeling embarrassed that I too had lived for so long without it. It was my pivotal moment. I recognized that I wanted to be someone who valued myself, who did not want to be on the path of self destruction anymore and who wanted to look in the mirror and feel really proud of who I saw.

My mistaken identity was over.

I learnt that ‘Sorry’ is empty unless it is followed by behaviour that shows a real intention and desire to heal what is broken.

I learnt that bad behaviour is like a bad habit or addiction that needs to be healed. First, I needed to recognize the environments/circumstances/triggers/temptations that would normally feed my worthlessness so that I could avoid those.

Second, I had to be patient with the people whose trust I had broken. I had to allow them the time they needed to be angry and accept whatever consequences came my way as a result of my self- destructive behaviour.

Third, I needed to begin my life with a commitment to being transparent and open about what I was doing when, and with whom. In order to facilitate the healing process I had to become accountable for my behaviour so that my partner could slowly feel like I was trustworthy.

Fourth, I needed to ask for assistance in becoming a better person. I looked to my partner –who had fortunately not left me- to be there for me when I was feeling down on myself. I looked to him to remind me that I was someone special even if I didn’t feel that way.

Lastly, I didn’t give up. I knew that I could be someone who was trustworthy. Worthy of trust. Worthy of holding another person’s emotional and spiritual vulnerability despite its fragility. Worthy of receiving love. I was over the mistake – mistake in identity.

So, can you get over this mistake?  Can you believe/ accept the apology? Is the apology sincere?

Or is it weak and pointing blame at everyone else:

  • I am lonely (it is not the responsibility of another person or a relationship to make us fulfilled, that comes from within)
  • I don’t get enough sex from you (see a counsellor/coach – it’s usually related to a lack of emotional intimacy)
  • I am bored (then have the courage move on and out of this relationship respectfully)
  • You aren’t there for me (then have the courage move on and out of this relationship respectfully)
  • I don’t feel loved by you (have the courage move on and out of this relationship respectfully)
  • He/she makes me feel special (have the courage move on and out of this relationship respectfully)
  • I have been unhappy for a while (have the courage move on and out of this relationship respectfully)
  • Etc, etc. There is NO EXCUSE that condones adultery

I can say from personal and professional experience that unless your partner recognizes his/her behaviour is because of low self worth, it will happen again. That is why it is called a path of self-destruction. Because they will not stop until they have destroyed everything precious to them.

Until they recognize the mistake, in identity.