Healing after infidelity: The Tutu method

In the Book of Forgiving, Desmond and Mpho Tutu make the point that in order to heal and move forward, that is, in order to forgive, we need to tell the stories of how we were wronged and we have to name the pains that those experiences have caused us. I have found this to be helpful, in the cathartic sense, but also difficult because my feelings and hurts evolve from day to day.  For instance, I spent about a week reflecting and trying to name the hurts caused in the following part of my story:

My story: My husband’s actions with the other woman were hurtful in themselves, but what makes the healing process feel impossible at times is his lack of honesty. I spent many months processing and healing, getting myself to a place where I could feel joy and peace again. DH too seemed to spend much of this time working on becoming a better husband and father. He was open about where he was going, who he was with, who he talked to, and he interacted more with our child. He also began to do the hard work of unpacking his childhood traumas and dealing with those. However, even while he was doing this work, he was not completely honest about his betrayal. He was completely hiding, in fact outright lying about, being physically intimate with someone else and he was also hiding many important details about the betrayals I already knew about. In my mind, this equates as such: I was working to trust him again; he continued to lie, and in so doing, he continued his infidelity even though he wasn’t in contact with anyone (at least that’s what he says, but how can I really know if he is telling the truth this time after so many and so long a period of lying?).

Naming the Hurt:

Reflection Day 1. Today I am in an angry place. In this place, I feel fearless. For that reason, I recognize it as a dangerous place as well, one where I could say something without considering the repercussions, but also one where I do not fear being single.  I may not be so angry tomorrow or the next day. This is one of the reasons I write. Today, I want to see how writing this feels: My husband is many things. He is loving, affectionate, generally kind, and sensitive. He is a good father. But he is also a liar and a cheater. He does not want these appellations, but he has earned them. He lied and cheated for years, and these actions can not be undone.  They do not define him in total, but they are a part of who he is. I don’t think that I will ever be able to say that they are a part of who he was. There will always be a kernel of those traits in him. Ok, so maybe I am feeling bitter, too.

At this point in our relationship, I am wondering if it is worth it.  When times are good, they are magical. Most of those times happened in the first few years before our son was born. But the majority of our relationship at this point has not been magic. For more than half of our relationship, there has been a lot of misery—depression, lying, cheating. I am not sure if I can take much more. I am not sure if it is worth it to any of us.

Reflection Day 4. I am still feeling incredibly detached from my husband today. I can’t say that I necessarily like it  or dislike it, but I do feel like I am in a holding pattern and I know that these feelings are a mask for something. After thinking about it for a while, I came to the conclusion that the problem is thus for me:

Problem:

  • Feelings of pain, anger, rejection.
  • Feelings the result of repeated betrayals
  • My usual way to move through such feelings are to directly address them. In other words, I explore, cry, write, talk with the goal that such exploration will lead to understanding and healing and conclusion to whatever was causing pain.
  • However, such exploration requires an end to the betrayal. And such an end can happen in a couple ways 1) actually externally ending, meaning the lying and cheating is over or 2) internally ending my own attachment to betrayer, so that what he says or does is just a big whatever.

Current standing:

  • Without trust, there is no external ending, no belief in the assurance that the lying and cheating has ended. This means that, emotionally, I am defaulting to option two.

 

Reflection Day 5. I will say that today I am feeling a bit less disconnected. I do not especially yearn to be single. However, I am also more in touch with the hurt and sadness today. Yesterday, I shared an article by Robin Weiss with my husband on radical honesty as a means for restoring trust. He recognized that he committed a few types of the not quite honesty that Weiss talks about. DH recognized that he was and is still guilty of a few of the pitfalls Weiss lists, namely the minimizing, the partial disclosure, the passive truth telling, and the playing the child’s role.  He says that he is working on these types of things and that he knows he has a lot of work to do still. We will see….

Reflection Day 7. Had another conversation with my husband. I am still trying to name the hurt and what I still come up with is anger and detachment, but there is also resignation. I know that the anger and detachment are the result of suspended trust. I know there is nothing really to be done until more time has passed and my husband had acted in a way so as to earn back my trust (or not). Now, I just wonder how long I can live in the nowhere-ville that is this holding pattern.

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