This blog post is inspired by the acclaimed 4:43 blog post by Candice Benbow. A good friend of mine shared the link to this post with me and I decided that before I read the post I wanted to listen to Jay-Z’s album 4:44 so I’d have a frame of reference, especially since the blog post was written in response to the title track. As I listened to the album, I was intrigued by the lyricism of Jay-Z’s work and the depth of emotion presented. As I listened, I thought about the countless couple and individual sessions where adultery, affairs, cheating, and infidelity show up… sometimes as the presenting issue and other times as a backdrop issue that impacts the quality of the present relationship. Because I’m honest and transparent, I will share that my heart ached as I recalled the sentiments expressed in the album and in Ms. Benbow’s blog post- those expressed by men and women who find themselves on the cusp of throwing in the towel or seeing if there’s still something worth holding on to. Here is where I often meet couples- TORN… “I love him/her BUT… this has happened… sometimes AGAIN and not just the second time…” As the dialogue continues the partners discuss how they got to this place- the reasons vary but often include unspoken expectations; gradual lack of intimacy, not only sex but a feeling of closeness and connection; competing interests; and inappropriate interactions (social media, conversations, etc.) to name a few.
A lingering, even resounding question for many who have been betrayed is “WHY???” and this question deserves attention and exploration, as the answers often yield insight about the state or perceived quality of the relationship at the time of the betrayal. These answers can provide useful information about patterns within oneself, the partner, and/or the relationship that are potentially problematic. It’s also important to underscore that the betrayal usually causes the betrayed partner to reimagine and second-guess their relationship to date. “Was what he/said real?” “Was what we had real?” “Are my feelings to be trusted?” “How did I not see this coming/happening?” After these questions are explored, usually internally, the betrayed partner often wonders IF it’s possible to ever trust this person or love them again… And here is where the real work of life and love begins… making the informed decision to believe again, hope again, trust again OR walk away from the love you wanted to last a lifetime.
As a Christian, who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, I am an advocate and receiver of forgiveness AND I also realize the need for changes in behavior, not just words, that validate the authenticity/sincerity of one’s apology. Forgiveness, when granted, does not remove consequences and this has to be expressed and explored within the process of personal and relational healing/wellness. Although some think an apology alone wipes the slate clean, within the context of relationship recovery and restoration, there are indeed residual effects of the affair that will need to be processed and addressed in order to make the work of reconciliation worthwhile. Notice I said work; by nature relationship requires work. They require effort, energy, time and attention, but the work of reconciling a relationship requires a great deal of work and both partners must be invested. In some cases, partners decide that they will part ways and end the relationship. To those outside the relationship, this seems to be the appropriate response to infidelity. However, each partner must individually wrestle with their internal thoughts and feelings, longings and needs as each of these factors significantly impact one’s decision to preserve or end the relationship/marriage. If you or someone you know is facing this challenging issue or decision, please contact me to learn how I can support your efforts to love… again.