I have always been interested by infidelity and how it influences relationships in the United States, compared to other countries. European ones, for instance, are much more relaxed about infidelity. If you’re interested in reading more about infidelity around the world, pick up the book “Lust in Translation” by Pamela Druckerman. It reaffirms that people do not hold themselves to one standard morality and that each person weighs their emotional decisions differently.
This new article from the NYT on Infidelity and Remorse was an interesting read. The article focuses on the idea that couples face a long road back to a sustainable relationship after infidelity and that it is necessary that they show remorse for their actions over and over again. I thought this was an interesting way to view healing from infidelity, as it seems to put a lot of focus on the actual acts of the infidelity and not the crack in the relationship or the two people that contributed to the infidelity.
I am unsure if this is a healthy way to target healing from infidelity. I do think it’s important to confront issues head on and be 100% honest about how you feel. That is not always possible. It is definitely easy to get worked up in the “this is what you did” or “this is what you didn’t do” rather than the “all of these things happened and this is what we have now” of the situation. In infidelity I believe that often times something cracks within the relationship. It could be related to one or both partners or outside factors weighing in heavily as well. I believe that feeling remorse for the actions that hurt your partner are important but I do not feel that the remorse is necessarily the most important thing in healing the relationship either.
I think that it is easy to let it become emotionally ensnared because it is an emotional situation. I think it could be too easy to let remorse act as a band-aid for the very serious acts against a relationship that some people choose to do in moments of poor judgement, fear, anger, resentment, or excitement.
The article focuses on remorse as a constant, something that will never leave the relationship, shown through “forgiving but not forgetting.” I think that, personally, I would encourage couples to use the infidelity to seek out where their relationship had begun to experience troubles (or where one partner had begun to experience troubles) and focus on rebuilding the foundation of their relationship together. I feel that often times in this remorse situation one partner is expected to give or show more than the partner who was scored, to “give back” what they had taken. Again, to the band-aid idea, I think that it’s important to remember to balance remorse with real hard work and dedication towards making sure this isn’t something that happens again.
I agree with the Dan Savage mentality. Monogamy is hard. If you cheat once, you’re still doing pretty good at monogamy. I don’t think this is excusing infidelity or saying that everyone is going to cheat or get cheated on. Realistically we would work with the concept of monogamous relationships and make them more functional from the base up. We would be able to express our fears and desires more openly and honestly without feeling like bad partners. People cheat for all kinds of reasons, though, so it would require much more than this. Remorse is important and I think it is necessary coming from the partner who cheated, particularly in respect to validating the emotions of the person who was cheated on. I think it is important that each partner recognizes how the other person was feeling even if it does not make sense to them at the time.
There is a lot of hard work that goes into healing a relationship that has been broken by infidelity and I am concerned that we put too much emphasis on the “say you’re sorry” bit. But I’m curious, what do you think? Is remorse an important factor? Is it the most important factor? Should any rekindling start with an outpouring of remorse? How do you feel about the idea of forgiving but not forgiving? Does infidelity give us a thicker skin, does it change how we act as a couple? Everyone will think of these things and answer these questions differently, and I want to hear what you think.