I have always considered myself a forgiving person. Growing up in a family of five kids you learned that early on. We fought and forgave. It was a way of life in our family. We didn’t hold on to things too long because the kid who I played with the most was a sibling. You had to forgive, or you wouldn’t have anyone to play with. It didn’t mean we rolled over either. It meant that one or both of us apologized at some point and we moved on.
I wasn’t someone who held grudges.
I knew this about myself as long as I have been old enough to have a sense of who I was as a person. So why did it take me so long to find forgiveness for my ex-husband after he cheated on me and left me for another woman?
I mean it has taken me a really long time. I know for a fact that if someone came to me and said they were still harboring a hardness in their hearts for their Ex 20 years after the crime of infidelity was committed, I would surely be worried for them. Twenty years?! Come on! Get over it already!
Apologies aren’t meant to change the past, they are meant to change the future. Kevin Hancock
My favorite time to write and to read is on Sundays. The feverish pace of cramming chores and so much into a weekend for me is usually done on Saturdays. Sunday is my day that I always find a space to listen to relaxing piano music and melt into a good book or write. It’s my delicious time. In a way, it’s my spiritual day to reconnect to me.
Today is Sunday and this was no exception. As I sat reading quietly, I came upon a story about a married couple who had experienced infidelity as I had. It seemed the wife in this marriage had an affair and the husband had been devastated by it. When the counselor asked them how long ago it happened, she was astonished that the answer was. “years ago”.
They had done everything they could to repair the wreckage of the husband’s heart and the guilt that the wife carried. She said she had apologized over and over and done everything she could to gain his forgiveness. His real forgiveness. The counselor felt some doubt that they could ever really move on since it appeared that the guilt was slowly killing her because he always had the shame of her actions in his arsenal whenever she stepped out of line.
When I read this I had what felt like an epiphany. It brought me to a possible answer as to why it has taken so long for me to forgive my Ex after his leaving his family…leaving me.
They say a good apology has three parts: 1: I’m sorry. 2:It’s my fault. 3: What can I do to make it right, or better? That was how I was brought up. We always had to apologize when we did something wrong. A simple concept. Not always easy, but a simple concept, nonetheless. My epiphany came when I suddenly realized as I was reading their story, that I never received any kind of apology!
He never apologized for cheating on me when I was pregnant.
He never apologized for leaving me four weeks after our baby was born. He never apologized for leaving me in the middle of our home remodel. He never apologized! I know for certain, that even though it all just hurt like crazy, it would have hurt less and less if I could have also held in my memory bank not just his crime, but his apology, his admission of guilt, his act of contrition, his regret, his confession, his humanity.
But I never got that. And so the closure was always just either floating in the air, or on me to just abandon the truths I know for myself. And that is to receive an apology when wrongdoing was committed against me. If I had received one, I think I would have been able to address the three parts.
1: I’m sorry. I’m sorry too, that I wasn’t who you wanted to spend the rest of your life with and raise this family together with.
2: It’s my fault. It takes two to tango and though cheating on him was never going to happen by me, there had to be a reason he felt the need to cheat. It may not have anything to do with me either. It may just be how he was wired. He did have a best friend who cheated on his wife almost constantly, so maybe he saw that this was a great way of life. Who knows.
3: What can I do to make it right, or better? He never said anything that remotely held that sentiment. And even though I was angry and hurt, there were a million things he could have done to make it better. I was so frightened for so many years. But I was mainly frightened of him. He was cruel. And I never knew him to be a cruel person.
I am a reasonable person.
I know that life just keeps moving on. I know that people make mistakes, and hurt others by their actions. We hold politicians to account when they do something wrong (sometimes). But we, as a society feel ever so slightly better when we hear remorse or confessions.
It brings us back closer to our safety center. My center has been off for twenty years as I navigated through the uncharted waters of being a single parent. I just never entered parenthood with the notion that I would be doing it solo. And doing it solo with someone who couldn’t take accountability for his actions and just say, “I’m sorry” to me. Man, that would have gone a long way.
Typing that sentence feels like a weak cup of tea too. An apology and acknowledgment would have changed my life. It would have softened my anger. It would have supported me to the righter side of things. It would have lessened the cruelty of his actions. It would have helped me forgive.
Forgiveness has to happen.
And so it will. I have no desire to know he is living in a state of guilt for the rest of his life. There is no need. I don’t want that for myself either. But, for me to actually have this very simple realization has helped me a lot. I was meant to read that story today and I was meant to have that “aha” moment”.
Yes, I deserved an apology. I still do. But I don’t expect one…ever. I honestly think that was the unconscious thingy hanging in my head and in my heart. It was an action I didn’t receive which was something that was a tenet of my upbringing.
So I didn’t get an “I’m sorry”. I think as they say… it says more about him than me. And as I think more into that, I do believe he is sorry. He just isn’t strong enough to say it. And why should he feel the need now anyway? His life has indeed moved on. He has learned to live with his actions of the past quite well. He lives a very comfortable life with the woman he left us for and in the family, he left us for. He has not looked back. So it is time for me to not look back either.
I will say this. If you are divorced because of infidelity, my advice is to apologize if you cheated. It will be the kindest thing you could ever do. It will get you to a place of overall forgiveness and a healthier relationship post-divorce, which will make you better co-parents.
And apologize to your kids too. They didn’t ask for divorced parents. Because, as I said… it takes a strong person to say sorry and an even stronger person to forgive.