Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Not that She Won't Forgive You

"I feel bad that I can't let it go," Anna said through tears. Then she pressed her palm to her chest. "But there's still this heartache. There's this catch inside me that says, He still doesn't fully understand. He still doesn't get what his porn or his affair have done to me. It feels like, If I forgive him now, before it's 100% clear, I'll be putting myself at risk. I could think we've moved on, moved past it, and then somewhere down the road when he's tempted again, he'll give in. And yet still have no idea how it kills me. I can't afford that. So there's this part of me that won't let it go.

To Jonathan's credit, he just sat there, listening, trying to understand. I've seen husbands apologize and promise and plead. I recall one who'd preach wonderful sermons to his wife about forgiveness, quoting the Bible and Gandhi and Voltaire. Should have saved his breath.

I complimented Anna for opening up and Jonathan on the receptive stance he was taking. I encouraged them to let it continue throughout the week. I gave him a copy of two bullet point lists (You can find one of them in this earlier blog post. The other one is in Chapter 4 of our book). "Use these questions as a guide. They are the kinds of questions that help many women open up and let their feelings known about their partner's sexual acting out."

That week was an eye-opener and heart-softener for Jonathan. And a huge relief for Anna. The discussions they shared were revealing and intimate. In some ways, they felt closer to each than ever before.

Looking back, Jonathan wished they'd gotten to that depth of connection earlier. "Before, I was all about trying to avoid her having hurt feelings. I was constantly vigilant of the triggers that brought up old feelings for Anna. I stopped wearing cologne to work because she asked me about it once and I didn't want her to worry. And yet I discovered that there was nothing I could do to prevent her from having concerns, from having those old wounds reopened. We'd drive through some part of town and she'd be in tears. Can't go there anymore! We'd see a movie and she'd pull away from me. Stupid Hollywood! I was so misguided! Now I've learned that the key is not to walk on eggshells all the time to avoid making her feel bad. I need to be sensitive, sure. But when she does get scared or the wound is reopened again, those times are opportunities! I relish the chance to talk out whatever it is that suddenly made her feel bad. I can let her know I really want to get it. It's a chance for me to let her know my heart goes out to her when she hurts again because of what I've done."

"It's made a huge difference to know that he doesn't view our deep conversations as a chore anymore," Anna nodded. "It's how I heal. And he's the one I want to heal with. It doesn't matter who else cares and is willing to listen. When I hurt the most, I need Jonathan to hear me out."

Jonathan reached out and squeezed Anna's hand. His gesture spoke volumes: "I'm here for you. From now on, I'll always be willing to listen."

As I think back now about Jonathan and Anna, I don't recall her ever again mentioning that it was difficult to forgive him.

Image: graur codrin /

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