Friday, September 2, 2011

It's Not Enough to Profess Love...It Must Be Practised

Brené Brown, a shame researcher, expert and author of The Gifts of Imperfection, has this to about infidelity:
I don't know if you can love someone and betray them or be cruel to them, but I do know that when you betray someone...you are not practicing love.
I once worked with a woman whose husband seemed like a dream mate. Her desk was constantly crowded with fresh flowers that he had delivered with notes professing his love. She told us stories of arriving home from work, tired and cranky, only to have him pour her a warm bath and massage her feet. I, unmarried at the time, thought her marriage sounded like heaven.
Turns out it was hell.
I found out years later, after she'd left this seeming wunderhusband, that he beat her. The flowers were apologies...and from the blooms on her desk, he clearly had a LOT of apologizing to do.
He told her constantly that he loved her.
But, reeling from his latest blow, what the hell difference did that make?
I'm still pondering Rabbi Gorman's recent post about betrayal as abuse.
It might not leave bruises on our cheek but who among us can say it didn't bruise our souls?
And yet, betrayal so often occurs in "loving" marriages.
My  husband often told me he loved me. He still insists that he did, even when he was lining up his next encounter.
And what I can't seem to get him to understand is that professing love isn't enough. Even feeling it makes absolutely no difference. Practicing it, however, now that's something that counts.
Brené Brown is right. You can't practice love for a partner while you're with someone else. It simply doesn't compute – emotionally or intellectually. If loving someone includes a promise to be sexually and emotionally monogamous – to share intimacy only with that partner – then becoming intimate with another is a denial, or at the very least a neglect, of that love.
So while it's possible to love another and engage in extramarital affairs, it isn't possible to act loving within that context.
And I've spent far too many years accepting professions of love instead of insisting on practice.
How about you?

5 comments:

  1. I agree, Elle. My husband has always told me he loved me: before, during and after the affair. It's the 'after' I'm struggling with now. If he said he loved me when he was in the middle of the affair then to say it to me now doesn't hold much weight. What does it even mean? You love me and you betray me at the same time? Huh? I agree that now I need to see the proof of the love. But, I struggle with how to tell him what exactly I want to see/feel/have. I'm not a diamonds and fancy car kinda gal. What proof are you getting from your husband that tells you he loves you and is sorry and is making changes? Does it help? Is it enough?

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  2. Our counsellor said something really profound a while back. My husband was insisting, as per usual, that he loved me. He offered up "proof" by listing all the things he does for me. But I had been requesting that he begin attending church with me and the kids. He still has "issues" relating to being forced into church as a kid -- but I'm a different religion and it's a much different environment. So...he tells the counsellor that he can't do that for me because he really, REALLY hates it...but that he does all these other things.
    And our counsellor says to him: "But that's what loyalty is. It's doing the things you DON'T want to do, the things that make you uncomfortable. Anyone can do something easy. But doing the hard stuff?? That's a true friend..."
    Ka-POW.
    And she put into words exactly how I'd been feeling. I couldn't argue with the fact that my husband did lots of things for me. But they were things HE wanted to do and they were done when it was convenient for him. And I was supposed to be all grateful.
    And I'd been saying for years that I couldn't count on him to do something simply because I needed him to. It wasn't enough for me to simply need or want him to...for it to be important to me. It had to be something HE also wanted to do.
    So keep my counsellor's thoughts in mind when you're figuring out what you need from your spouse.
    It's like my husband's mother who won't visit friends when they're in the hospital because it reminds her of when her husband was sick and dying in the hospital. True friends do the tough stuff...the stuff that they find hard...simply because that's what friends do.

    Hope that helps.
    And no...my husband still doesn't come to church. Another counselling session tomorrow. Sigh...

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  3. Thanks. My husband does the same. He does things like clean my car and expects me to be grateful. And, while I am, cleaning my car does NOT equal love to me. In fact, I hardly even notice the cleanliness because the kids get it dirty right after it's been cleaned. It just seems futile to me.

    He is going to counseling with me and he is reading 'Not Just Friends' but I asked him to do both. He dreads counseling and is glib in our sessions and is taking months to read a 385 page book. I think what I want is initiative. If our marriage is so important to him and he really wants me to stay -- which is what he is telling me daily -- then why hasn't he done one single thing on his OWN INITIATIVE to improve things between us? Telling me sweet nothings at this point is just that: nothing.

    I don't really expect an answer to that question as I know you don't know him (or me). Just going through a rough patch and am leaning over the fence on the divorce side this morning.

    I've just grown so weary of it all. It's just so consuming -- having this bomb go off in your life -- every direction you try to turn is just filled with dangerous, dangerous shrapnel.

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  4. I sometimes think these guys just won't get it until you DO actually walk out the door. And even if they get it then...and convince you to turn around, will it actually be any different in the long term?
    I honestly don't think they can understand how incredibly damaging an affair is. They think that it's over, they've learned their lesson...and can't we all just get back to "normal". But there's a new normal now. And it requires Herculean effort on their part to repair the damage, which, as you point out, is everywhere.
    I remain convinced it's something you never get "over" but you do get through. It's up to him, from the sounds of it, whether you get through it on your own or with him at your side.
    I'm exhausted, too.

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  5. Love this blog post of love as a verb: http://popchassid.com/didnt-love-wife/

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