To those dealing with repeat offenders, I told H this: If you can't control your behavior, we might be friends but we won't be married. Therapy, medication and meetings were game-changers for him. 16 months and counting.
Hang in there, warriors. Before this site, I thought it was kick him to the curb or be a doormat. You’ve taught me that I can stay if the conditions are right. Thank you for the wisdom, the roadmap, the hope.
When I read about healing on this site, there's often one common thread. Those who've managed to rebuild their marriages haven't done it through wishful thinking. They've drawn clear lines, they've made demands, they've insisted upon accountability. They've understood that giving someone a second chance is a gift. And that they get to decide whether their partners deserve that second chance. They've looked with critical eyes at what, exactly, their partner is doing to create the conditions for reconciliation.
It looks almost easy from the outside, doesn't it? It looks like some people simply know the rules better than the rest of us. That they have access to a post-betrayal roadmap that the rest of us don't have.
And maybe they do. Maybe that post-betrayal roadmap is something they've had all along. I suspect it is. Not something they can hold onto but something they just know: That they are worthy of respect and dignity and honesty. And it's from that place of knowingness, that place of valuing themselves that they are able to respond to their partner's betrayal.
They may have moments of doubt. They might wonder fleetingly what's wrong with them that their partner cheated. They may slip into self-blame. But they manage to pull themselves away from that and remember: They are worthy. They are and have always been enough and if their partners can't remember that too then there's the door.
Try and imagine yourself responding from that place. Pretend you're that person. How would you respond differently? Would you be able to calmly make demands? Would you be able to make it clear that you have rules for reconciliation that he can either follow or leave? Would you be able to better feel the pain and the fear without losing yourself in it?
What I'm suggesting is so incredibly difficult for so many of us. But that difficulty comes from who we believe ourselves to be in the world. It comes from valuing the love of someone else over the love of ourselves...and that will always create a power imbalance in a marriage. It comes from fear that, if we don't make it "easy" to love us, then we won't be loved.
Snowbird refers to "repeat" offenders but I think her advice holds for all offenders. If you are asking me for a second chance, then here's the deal... And then lay it out. It's not about punishment. The idea isn't to create all sorts of conditions to punish him. It's to create a safe space in which you can rebuild trust, rebuild a marriage based on honesty. It's about loving yourself at least as much as you love the other person.
It's about healing yourself through dignity and self-respect. No matter the outcome of your marriage, you will be loved if you're able to love yourself.