Friday, July 27, 2018

He is responsible TO you. Not FOR you.

The question most of us ask as we're working through whether to rebuild our marriage or walk away is "can I ever trust him again?"
It's an obvious question. He betrayed your trust. He lied. And if he's asking for a second (or third) chance, it's incumbent on him to show you that he's worthy of it. How? By seeking help in understanding why he made the choice to cheat. By learning how to make a different choice in the future.
But, even if he does everything he can to show that he will do everything he can to make a different choice, unless you've also learned how to trust yourself, it will be difficult to rebuild your marriage.
I know what you're probably thinking. It's what most of us think  – are indeed programmed to think by our "soul-mate", "love cures all" pop-culture world: That he was supposed to take care of us.
Those promises we make each other, in relationships and, publicly, on our wedding day are kinda gauzy, aren't they? We promise to "love, honour and cherish". We promise "in sickness and in health." If we wrote our own vows, they probably said something about our "soul-mate", our "best friend", and "forever". They likely said nothing about what we'd do when that soul-mate disappointed us so profoundly. Nothing about when our "best friend" betrayed us. Because our culture doesn't hold room those realities. Not out loud. Those things are whispered. They're said in darkness.
And so we enter this gauzy future that we think will come into focus. And it does.
On D-Day. When we discover that the person we thought was responsible for our happiness has broken our heart.
But that, my friends, is when the jig is up. It's when we discover, if we're paying attention, that he was never responsible FOR us. He was responsible TO us. 
Big difference.
The difference is this: Handing over responsibility FOR our happiness makes us passive. It leaves us at the mercy of everyone around us. Understanding that we are responsible TO those we love, and they to us, keeps us actively engaged in our own happiness. It keeps us in charge. We're no longer outsourcing what we need, we're creating it for ourselves.
Of course, that doesn't make betrayal any less painful.
But it can make healing from it marginally easier. Because from the get-go, we take responsibility for it. We don't expect him to make us happy again. The job of healing is ours.
It's often said that we can't control what happens to us but we can control how we respond to what happens. 
Focusing outward defines us as victims. It takes away our power. If we insist on others being responsible FOR us, we relinquish responsibility for how we respond to what happens to us. 
Here's what it looks like: 
If we take responsibility, if we insist on trusting only those in our lives who have shown us over time that they can be trusted, we're less likely to be blindsided again. We're less likely to forgive until we've seen hard evidence that the person seeking our forgiveness has done the tough work of figuring out why they hurt us in the first place. Each and every time someone indicates they aren't trustworthy, our radar should send a clear message to our brains...which should inform our hearts. As a friend of mine says, the distance between our brains and hearts can be the longest 18 inches there is. And we should not trust until we see, clearly and consistently, that he's taking responsibility for HIS actions and that his word means something.
In the meantime, we're responsible TO him and he to us. To treat each other with decency. With honesty. With respect and kindness. And we're responsible FOR ourselves. To be accountable for our actions. 
It's a far less romantic way to view a partnership. It flies in the face of the "two halves becoming one" and all the other love myths that don't prepare us at all for a marriage that we expect to last until death do us part. But it's a healthier way. What's more, two people coming together, not because they need each other for their happiness, but because they choose each other, strikes me as more romantic. 


  1. Elle, what a great post, great insight. I had an attitude adjustment with your kind compassionate words. I memorized the words in my mind. We recently had a wedding at our house. The wedding vows are usually a big trigger for me. Their vows didn't have the love honor cherish expectations. All they promised was to love each other. It was so sweet. When I think of the other vows, really who can live up to that? Not me.

  2. I have a problem with celebrating my wedding anniversary, which was just last week. 30yrs. It is just a painful reminder that he betrayed us. I choose to view/define our relationship in a different way. Also relationship is better than it ever was married, 5 yrs. post DD. Which is a common statement I have heard from couples who survive betrayal. Not sure if the trauma we suffer is worth that outcome, but it is possible.I found it hard to believe initially when I heard positive results. As far as trusting I really can't say it is a big worry or issue. His behavior has changed, I myself am so much more smarter to the signs of infidelity. Now know also that he is capable of it. I never dreamed he would actually betray me. Have very specific boundaries in our relationship now as well.

    1. Miserableinmd, I feel your pain and experience similar feelings around our anniversary. I really don't feel like celebrating it and we typically don't because I don't want to. We hit the 40 year mark early next year. He started cheating on me at the 3 year mark so what the heck do we celebrate? Oh, great, you got to fuck around and not get exposed for 35 years? Sorry. I just don't feel the same about him but we do enjoy each other's company and often spend quality time doing fun things. I'll never trust him with my heart again. Ever. He knows that and is doing his best to earn my trust but he acknowledges that the fact that I gave him a chance to change his life might be the best he gets. He took the opportunity to buy whores on our last two anniversary trips to Hawaii so forget ever celebrating our anniversary again.

  3. Hi Elle and everyone
    Lynn here. It's been a while since I even has the strength to think for myself. These days I live in a make believe world...knowing well that in my heart and mind, the relationship is pure convenience.
    My son is happy. His happiness is my life. My niece has told me it is extremely unhealthy of me to continue in this marriage when I can no longer trust H after the second cheating (though I am sure there were/are more).
    Today I caught him flirt-texting a colleague and on his carousell account, it showed clearly the daily picks for schoolgirls' uniform. Obviously his sick mind remains sick. It is no fault of mine I am aware and I no longer feel betrayed or saddened...more like I feel trapped. I know I am happier on my own. No more burden of handling in-laws who are like leeches and having to worry if ever my son will find out what a sick person the father is.
    But...he is the perfect dad to my son...all my son sees is a loving, selfless father. At 7 yrs old, how do I tell him how much his mum is suffering staying on for his happiness and stability?
    Today, I prayed to God to grant me fairness and justice. To set me free. To make me strong.

    1. Lynn, I am so sorry and the main reason I even considered a second chance for my husband was because of our kids. If I am understanding your current situation I would suggest seeking professional help. If you do not have a therapist or not the right one find one that can help you through this. This was a major topic we covered. What do I do if my kids ask a question, what if we separate etc. We talked through all of the scenarios. And my therapist was great at helping me figure out the age appropriate conversations. We did determine that we should have some sort of script and that my husband and I would tell them together with him "taking the blame" without details. We have not gotten to this point and my kids still know nothing at 3 1/2 years past dday. Only you can decide what is right for you in the end. I think taking into account our kids welfare is important but I think for any of us to be the best mom/parent we can be it is important for us to look out for ourselves. And that is great your husband is a great father but he is not a great husband/partner. When I am faced with these more major decisions I take a good amount of time alone to reflect. I seek professional help/support. You can do this. Thinking of you!

  4. Lynn the only person who can set you free is you. Please don’t stay for your son he will no doubt pick up on how unhappy you are without you telling him. If your h is a brilliant father there is no reason he can’t continue to be without being in the marriage.. please read back what you have written so much stands out to me like you really shouldn’t stay in this relationship. Lynn write down your hopes and fears and work through them
    Until you’ve faced your fears and are ready for your future without your h. Lynn
    I’ve finally managed to leave and divorce my h after 17 years and it took me alot of tears, sleepless nights and constant fears of what if’s, but I did it Lynn I’m now divorced And life for me and my children 5 and 14 yrs old is good. They still see their father and have a relationship of some kind.. we all want the best for our kids Lynn and sometimes looking after ourselves is exactly that.. Lynn get a good counsellor and work out your next step, how long does this situation carry on for? .. please keep coming here for support we want to help xxx

  5. When my children were younger, I saw a possible sign of infidelity. I chose to believe my husband and forgive but unfortunately never really dove deep enough to understad how complicated his mind was. I loved my family so much. I was happy. I also saw a good father. Unfortunately, as teens, my children discovered dday before me .hindsight is 20-20 but how I wish I could have done more when they were little to understand my husband and make sure my marriage was healthy to spare them the pain and trauma they experienced. They have been in counseling two years since and want no relationship with their dad. The counselors tell me it is the way they found out and their ages making it so difficult for them. This breaks my heart and makes it more difficult for me to come to a peaceful place with my relationship with my husband.

  6. Is there anyone on here that was a girlfriend and got lied to and cheated on after almost three years...

  7. I read this post AFTER the one posted today (8/6/18) and this, too, spoke exactly to what I am feeling. I think finally after 2 and a half years of wishing the affair didn't happen, of wishing he could make me happy, of wishing for a million things, of thinking if he just said this, did this, was this...that I would be is finally shifting for me. And this is one of those posts that had I read it 2 years ago, even a year ago, it was too painful for me to see this making sense. ANd I think because my husband still works with the former OW, I find myself being very quiet on here because I feel like it is a wrong choice that I have made, to stay in a marriage where he still works with her. ANd yet - if I am being honest and true to ME - I feel things are not black and white, there are many shades of gray in my life and IT'S OKAY. And....I am starting to see that I am responsible for myself, not the other way around.

    Thank you.



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