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The Wayward Spouse's consequences in Reconciliation
I've seen many questions regarding the WS consequences when the BS reconciles with them. Specifically, what are the consequences for WS? If there are none, then does the WS just ‘get away with it?' And if the WS "gets away with it, what will stop them from doing it again.
I'm a former WS, reconciling with my H and we are 2 years past Dday. I'm struggling to find the right words here, hopefully I can get my ideas across. My first thoughts are "What do you mean get away with it?" I've had many consequences and suffered and lost much due to my As, as it should be. Then I thought why the question is asked and I realized that just as a WS cannot fully understand the level of pain and suffering associated with betrayal, the it is difficult for the BS to understanding the very real pain of being the WS.
The natural consequences of our actions (even when we are rescued through reconciliation) are what prevent us from ever doing this again. It is nearly impossible for a BS to truly see the remorseful WS's pain for a long time. But it is there and it is real. I'm not whining or complaining and I certainly would never try to compare pain. It is a different pain since obviously we chose our actions - but that choice haunts us very much and I think it always will. We do have much guilt because we are the responsible ones that caused so much pain, and that is a horrible guilt to bear - as it should be. I was in a very dark place for a long time.
I struggled very much with the ideas of consequences and punishment. When I put aside my denial and defensiveness and really "got it," I truly didn't see anyway that we could reconcile after what I had done. I begged for another chance anyway. It would have been "easier" to walk away and accept the consequences of a divorce. Don't get me wrong, it would have been awful. I would have lost a truly wonderful H and damaged my children. What I mean by easier, is that I would have gotten what I deserved. What I had been asking for through my actions and the natural consequence of my sin. Punishment is defined in the dictionary as "A penalty imposed for wrongdoing: "The severity of the punishment must... be in keeping with the kind of obligation which has been violated"
I have to confess that I had a very hard time accepting our reconciliation in the beginning. As much as I hated it when he was mean to me, it was somehow worse when he was nice and loving. That made me feel even more guilty. And feeling bad about that brought even more guilt. I should have been happy and thankful - and I was - don't get me wrong...but the guilt was because I knew that I didn't deserve it...it was hard to take and I feel into a deep depression. The guilt and shame was very deep and paralyzing. Many days, I struggled to get out of bed, I wanted to die but knew that death would be too good for me. I punished myself in many ways - but none of those actions brought relief. I found myself tempted to "spare" him by leaving so he could heal without me there to remind him. But I didn't, because it was now HIS choice and I wasn't going to take that away from him again. As long as HE wanted (or thought he wanted) to reconcile, I would be there. It would be over only when he said it was over. This resolve was severely tested during the anger phase.
One thing that helped me and my H is the process of Catholic "reconciliation" otherwise known as confession. My son was receiving first communion at the time and I decided that I needed to seek reconciliation with God as well as my H. I found the concepts of reconciliation very helpful in our recovery.
I acknowledged my sin without justification or blame. The priest told me that in effect I had killed my family, when it was my "job" to protect and honor them. I agreed completely. An act of contrition is required, which is basically admitting the sin, expressing deep sorrow and regret for the sin. In addition, for a "true" act of contrition, the sinner should regret the sin NOT because of the just punishment but because it offends God (and my H). I made a promise to go forth and sin no more (repentance). I received a spiritual penance. It was interesting to me that penance according to the dictionary is "An act of self-mortification or devotion performed voluntarily to show sorrow for a sin or other wrongdoing." The key here is voluntary.
I did penance for my H voluntarily of my own free will (no resentment) in many ways. The one that I will mention here is that I am always open to discussion of the A, any lingering pain, triggers for the rest of my life. I have no expectation that it will be swept under any rug. My H brought it up a few months ago and then immediately apologized if he "ruined" the mood. I told him that he never needed to apologize and that even though the subject is painful, we can discuss it at anytime. If he's feeling something - that is part of our M and I am here to support him in any way that I can. Remorse has removed most of my defensiveness. I'm not perfect, but he already knows that. Remorse is defined in the dictionary as "moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds; bitter regret." And this is the consequence of the remorseful WS in reconciliation. My H thinks that it is sufficient to allow him to reconcile with me so that we can both reap the rewards of a new M, gained in spite of and not because of my A, and from the hard work we have both done in recovery. My feeling of gratitude for the gift that my H has given me through reconciliation does not erase the remorse that I have for my actions and the remorse that I choose to carry with me through the rest of my life.