Do You Feel Victimized by an Adulterous Spouse?
Before Moving into Forgiveness, Maybe It’s Time to Get Angry!
By: Brian M Murray, M.S.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
― Viktor E. Frankl
― Viktor E. Frankl
Is it possible to be overly forgiving of another person? For example, when another person does something in a marriage, such as adultery and then running off with the adulterer, at what point does the person who is left behind stop thinking of themselves as a victim of circumstances? Often times we hear stories about how a long time marriage ends with a spouse running off with a lover. The other spouse is left feeling abandoned, destroyed and reeling with all kinds of emotions and questions. Sometimes the person left behind will somehow hold themselves responsible for the decision the other person has made to run off.
There are a couple of dynamics going on with a scenario like this. If the the spouse who has been betrayed feels responsible then guilt is at play over what has happened. There must have been something they did that caused the other person to do this. The reality of the situation is the spouse who ran off did so as a result of a decision and choice they made on their own. It had nothing to do with the other spouse as they were not included in the decision making process. Sometimes a spouse will announce their leaving but this is about the type who suddenly and abruptly takes off. This type of story as it unfolds often and quickly becomes evident that a plan has been in the making for months.
The second dynamic has to do with integrity and character. Integrity is about honesty, values and ethical orientations that indicate a person's morals regarding their lifestyle. When a person's integrity is consistent with their actions and behaviors their character is portrayed actively demonstrating their integrity. When people are saying one thing within the context of a marriage and then abruptly run off with another lover then guess what? The character and integrity of that person is aligned with being an adulterer/adulteress and a liar. They are lying to their spouse while secretly scheming to create another life. It is an inconsistent story both internally and externally. Many cliches refer to this as "living a lie." So, what to do about it?
Problems begin when the person who wants to remain in the marriage tries to forgive the other person and reconcile and their spouse will not. When this happens one of two things can happen. The most common response is emotional pain followed by grieving the loss. Grieving takes time and it will need to run its course. Grieving time is different for everyone and there are multiple stages a person will go through. However, there are times when a person stays stuck in a pattern of wanting to forgive and reconcile to the point that it begins to destroy the person’s life. When this happens often changing the perception of the situation can help greatly.
Getting angry with the cheating spouse can go a long way toward recovery and overcoming self victimization. Anger is also commonly the missing stage in the grieving process that is not being allowed to happen (5 stages of grief: Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). There is nothing wrong with getting angry by recognizing the lack of integrity and the faulty character behavior of a cheating spouse who has run way with their lover.
One last thing to remember, forgiveness is not about accepting the transgressions of others, it about letting go of the power the transgression has over the self. When this occurs, self empowerment returns and life resumes in a new direction.
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