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The conundrum that is remorse

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Credence posted 3/31/2014 04:49 AM

I have been struggling to get my head around what remorse actually looks like. We see loads of posts on SI asking about the difference between remorse and regret and common answers to this question are "remorse is actions" and "you'll know remorse when you see it". I have pondered these answers as I've tried to establish whether my WW is 'regretful' or 'remorseful' but until last night I was unable to see clearly what remorse actually is. I've read several descriptions of what remorse is but I wasn't able to apply them to my situation and see what I was looking for. Perhaps it's because I was looking for something that wasn't there and trying to see every little action as a sign of remorse that I persuaded myself that she 'might' be remorseful and just not showing it in the ways I wanted her to. This really got me thinking about remorse as a state of mind for a WS/WSO and what follows is my own thoughts on what remorse is.

I have come to realise that remorse is selflessness. It's someone putting their own needs on hold to help their BS/BSO to deal with and heal from the pain that they have inflicted on them. It's about prioritising the BS's needs above their own and doing everything that they possibly can to help the BS to cope. It does not require the BS to ask the WS to behave in a particular way or to do anything specific (though the BS's guidance can facilitate the healing process) but instead it requires a genuine desire from the WS to make things right and 'carry' the BS to a better place. It's not about saving the marriage/relationship, it's not about the WS trying to find peace or redemption it's not about minimising or apportioning blame or dodging responsibility - it's all about the BS. It's about the WS trying to understand the damage that they have done and doing everything they possibly can to repair that damage. They will own it and accept that it was 100% their doing and that it is 100% their responsibility to fix it. They will take the BS's anger, knowing that they deserve it, never feeling any self-sympathy or anger of their own but feeling a duty to the BS to be emotionally available, honest and genuinely caring. The WS will WANT to do this and whatever else is needed to help the BS to heal.

There is a conundrum in all of this. The WS is intrinsically selfish and that is what caused the betrayal. The WS was so focussed on their own needs/desires/failures/shortcomings that they became totally self-absorbed and self-serving. So how does a selfish person become completely selfless? I guess there are several motivating factors (love, family, shame, coming out of the fog, regret, pain etc.) that could drive the WS to change but the key is that the WS needs to want to change to be able to be remorseful. The WS needs to change their behaviour, attitude and thought processes to be remorseful and become selfless. This takes some doing and the WS needs to dig deep but doesn't mind putting in the effort because their focus is on the BS. It's not going to happen overnight but the signs will be there and the BS will be able to see them. The WS will be patient and attentive, thoughtful and kind. The WS will want to go NC and the AP will no longer feature in their life, thoughts or desires - for all intents and purposes, the AP will cease to exist. The only person that will feature is the BS and the only person who will matter is the BS.

This all brings me back to the two most common answers to the difference between remorse and regret - "remorse is actions" and "you'll know remorse when you see it". It is so true, you will know if your WS is remorseful without having to look for signs of remorse. You will see the change in your WS through their attitude and actions, you will see the pain in their eyes (for what they have done to you) but they will not complain about their pain because they'll be focussed entirely on helping you to overcome yours.

These are just my thoughts (maybe even just an ideology) - please don't take them as gospel. If you disagree with anything I've written, please voice your opinion.

heforgotme posted 3/31/2014 08:22 AM

I think this is an excellent description of something I have always had trouble putting into words. You nailed it.

SisterMilkshake posted 3/31/2014 09:38 AM

Yes, I feel your thoughts on what a remorseful WS looks like is pretty spot on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am sure it will be helpful to the newbies here that have questions on what remorse looks like.

Lovedyoumore posted 3/31/2014 09:44 AM

Yes, you got it. Regrets are about and for them, remorse is about and for you and your relationship.

cancuncrushed posted 3/31/2014 09:51 AM

Great description.... I have often wondered what it was suppose to be, and was I wrong?...I think those of us who wonder, and do not know the difference, are the ones not receiving it.....

meplusfour posted 3/31/2014 14:11 PM

Thank you. I needed this today.

RightTrack posted 3/31/2014 17:56 PM

I think the difference would have been easier to see had my WH come to me and confessed before he got caught. Now I can't help but wonder how much of his remorse is based on the regret that he didn't erase all those emails before I found them.

sadone29 posted 3/31/2014 18:44 PM

I just read this in Reconciliation today:

Regret says, "my decisions turned out badly, I need help getting out of these circumstances I got myself into."

Remorse says, "I made the wrong decisions, I need to change my entire life so those sorts of decisions aren't attractive to me anymore."

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Credence posted 4/1/2014 04:18 AM

Regret says, "my decisions turned out badly, I need help getting out of these circumstances I got myself into."

Remorse says, "I made the wrong decisions, I need to change my entire life so those sorts of decisions aren't attractive to me anymore."

sadone29 you're right, that does sum up the concept of remorse very nicely - thanks for sharing it. I think the difficulty for me was actually being able to see/identify remorse. I was so desperate for her to be remorseful that I couldn't distinguish regret from remorse. I now realise that she was never remorseful but she does feel awful for the pain she caused me. She hasn't been blatantly unremorseful but rather passively unremorseful. I think cancuncrushed got it absolutely right...
...I think those of us who wonder, and do not know the difference, are the ones not receiving it.....
... some of us newbies on here who have unremorseful WS's haven't seen what a remorseful WS should look like so I think we're trying to find our way in the dark to some degree.

Thank you all for your comments, I am in a much better place now I've realised that I was driving myself crazy looking for something that was never there to start with.

Sleepy312 posted 4/1/2014 08:36 AM

Thanks for posting this. My H keeps asking me what remorse is when I tell him he doesn't show it. I can't tell him, and I keep telling him he only regrets getting caught. He only regrets his choices. He doesn't care about anyone but himself. He still doesn't get it.

I was lying bed wondering about this just last night, so seeing this now was helpful.

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