Posts Tagged ‘betrayal’

Telling the Truth About an Affair

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007
 
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Years ago, I had an affair with my friend’s husband. The sexual relationship was short-lived because we both felt terrible. He’s remained faithful to her since and she and I are still close. You seem to recommend telling the truth no matter what. But wouldn’t confessing to her just be hurtful in this case? When should a secret stay a secret? I wrestle with this every day.

If you’re wrestling with this, it’s probably because you feel “two-faced” and have been unable to find relief. There’s good reason that secrets gnaw on people of conscience. It’s because lying “for someone else’s sake” is suspect. It’s more likely that you and her husband made a pact of secrecy out of your own fears and wants, not from caring for her well being. If you had really been considering her, you wouldn’t have acted on your attraction to begin with, right?

The question is: Do you have the right to decide what’s good for another person when you’ve betrayed them? Defining “good” is tricky because you and her husband are attached to what “good” looks like, which is how it affects you and her husband. “Good” to you means maintaining the status quo. If you told, you would decide that it was a “good” decision only if she were understanding, forgiving, or at least willing to continue both her marriage and her friendship with you. You see, the lens through which you judge whether the truth is “good” to tell is going to have filters on it that bias you.

What if she’s angry and hurt? What if she wants nothing more to do with you? What if she files for divorce? Because you and her husband are attached to maintaining everything as is, if these were the outcomes, you would probably judge telling her as a big mistake.

Yet, who are we to know what truths someone needs to find out or how they should deal with them? Maybe the truth about your affair would validate a nagging sense of betrayal she has already felt. Maybe she would be happier “moving on.” Maybe this information would allow her to explore and heal other wounds around betrayal and secrets. Maybe she has secrets of her own that she has been afraid to tell and this would help release her from her prison of fear.

So should you tell? My answer is that I don’t think you have the right to withhold the truth. Your secrecy is further betrayal and it is based on your wants and fears, not on her needs. You are covering up one deceit with another and attaching lofty principles to convince yourself that your continued deceit is noble and that you and her husband are the only ones carrying the burden of the secret.

But our secrets don’t just run and ruin us; they run and ruin others’ lives as well as I discuss in my book, Enough is Enough!. In over 25 years of private practice as a life coach, I’ve never heard one client who’s heard the truth about a partner’s affair say that they wish that they hadn’t been told. Everyone’s spirit suffers from secrets and betrayal because guilt creates separation. In perhaps dozens of ways, her husband has not been able to share himself with her since having an affair with you. And how has it impacted your friendship? How have you pulled away or hidden from her because of your guilt? How have you been emotionally unavailable to her?

The truth requires courage. When you tell her the truth, you need to find the courage to let go of trying to control her reactions or the outcome. You need to find the courage to grieve the potential loss of this friendship as well as the loss of your friendship with her husband. You need to have great courage to allow for what she needs rather than for your need to preserve her image of you.

The next part of your healing journey will then be about feeling the deep remorse that underlies your guilt and forgiving yourself for causing this kind of suffering to your own and someone else’s spirit. As you forgive yourself, make a commitment to your own spirit to always choose truth over fear.

Visit StopEnduring.com to read articles and excerpts from Jane Straus’s popular book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life; watch Jane on TV; listen to her radio interviews; and share your most personal secrets anonymously.

Protecting a Child from Family Members

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
 
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Dear Jane,
My mother and I have not spoken for several years. I have no desire to reestablish a relationship with her, but I recently had a daughter of my own (she’s 3 months old) and I don’t think it’s fair to her to not know one of her grandparents. (She does spend time with my father.) I have legitimate concerns for the well being of my daughter spending time alone with my mom and stepfather, but feel I should give her the opportunity to establish a good relationship with them if it is possible. Should I wait until she’s older? How long is that?

It is time to transition from being your mother’s daughter to being your daughter’s mother. If you choose your mother over your daughter, would you perhaps be reenacting whatever betrayal you suffered? If you have legitimate concerns, why would you consider putting your daughter at risk in exchange for the hope that something won’t happen?

It sounds as though you haven’t really fully acknowledged the severity of whatever occurred that caused you to sever your relationship with your mother. In my experience, children don’t break off a relationship with a parent unless they have strong reason to do so. In Enough Is Enough, I address the importance of acknowledging the wrongs that were done to us so that we don’t re-create the same situation for our children and so that we can forgive at a deeper level.

You say you have no desire to reestablish a relationship with your mother. If that is the case, then let it go for now. Or see if you and your mother can work on your relationship with professional help. But do not use your daughter as a “peace offering.” If you want your daughter to have contact with her grandparents, be there with her. Don’t put a time limit on this arrangement. You are responsible for your daughter’s safety and your loyalty belongs with her, not with your mother.

About Jane
Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.