Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

How Could You? Part V - The Secrecy Factor

Series: How Could You?

Part 5:  The Secrecy Factor

Secrecy plays a huge factor in the absence of guilt when violating commitments or morals. No blood no foul, right? When people pursue a course of action that benefits them but harms others they try to avoid looking at the harm they’ve caused or they minimize the consequences. If minimization fails to work then they will distort the consequences or choose not to believe the evidence. “As long as the harmful results of one's conduct are ignored, minimized, distorted, or disbelieved, there is little reason for self-censure to be activated” (Bandua 1999)

It’s easier to harm others when their potential suffering isn’t visible or is out of mind. It takes a strong sense of commitment to stay the course of truly believing you will never get caught. On the other hand, when people have to witness the distress and pain they’ve caused and are made aware of the high cost of their actions, people will tend to act according to their beliefs and values.

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn't blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won't cheat, then you know he never will. Integrity is not a search for the rewards of integrity. Maybe all you ever get for it is the largest kick in the ass the world can provide. It is not supposed to be a productive asset.” ― John D. MacDonald

Living in today’s world requires more integrity than ever before. Mechanisms of social censure have vanished over night. Once upon a time porn was at the corner drug store and the odds of being seen viewing the magazines offerings came with the risk of exposure. The risk of disappointing and hurting loved ones served as an inhibitor to many who where tempted. In the past the town gossip served as an inhibitor to moral disengagement. It’s not so easy to violate what you profess to believe if you run the risk of becoming fodder for the rumor mill and destroying those you love.

Today minimizing the severity of betrayal is easier than ever. The advent of the internet, Facebook, websites promoting discrete affairs and texting all create an illusion that it’s all just a game. If it isn’t something that seems like a big deal to you because to you it meant nothing, why should it be a big deal to your mate? To the person using minimization the level of upset displayed by their mate can seem way over the top. Minimization strips the unfaithful spouse of empathy and erects concrete barriers to healing. Minimizing the injurious effects of betrayal allows the unfaithful spouse to see the betrayed spouse as the one with the problem. Why can’t they just get over it and move on? It meant nothing to me, why is it such a big deal to you? I asked you to forgive me, what’s your problem?

In reality it’s a huge deal when someone is betrayed, but telling yourself no one will ever know or minimizing the cost of betrayal will allow the suspension of your morals and create a path for you to do things you never dreamed you’d do. Commitments are a big deal. As the unfaithful spouse have the integrity to examine your beliefs about betrayal. If from your perspective it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal then you are already distorting the consequences and placing yourself at risk.

Commitments are a big deal and the impact of infidelity is extreme. Integrity stays true to commitments even when no one is watching. If you believe that statement to be true but you’re someone who violates their beliefs, then you need to explore what rationalizations you’re using to violate your beliefs. As a man once told Shirley Glass, “On a good day, when things are going well, I’m committed to my wife. On a day when things are just okay, I’m committed to my marriage. And on a day when things aren’t so great, I satisfy myself by being committed to my commitments.” I hope we’ll all remain true to our commitments.

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Both my mother, who was a

Both my mother, who was a betrayer, and my husband have minimized, justified, and rationalized. Neither has aptly displayed empathy. I congratulate you for being an exception.

Very good

Very good. You hit the nailing the head!

my husband is also

My husband is also minimizing, justifying and rationalizing. He has not displayed any empathy or remorse yet he says he has already apologized and I have to get over it. He does not seem very bothered and enjoyed with how much he has destroyed me and broke my heart, Especially when i cried. Instead of being understanding. he has gone as far as to tell me that the problem is not what he did but my attitude and reaction to it and how I deal with things. I have tried to explained to him the immense damage that he has caused to his family and i fail every time. We are separating but he blames me for destroying the family by not forgiving him. He does not blame himself for what he did. I would like for him to be more understanding of what he has done.

Apologize for what?

Great job Jana. You said so much in this response. Thank you. Keep sharing. It helps so many others.

 

Secrets

Dear Rick,  My husband exposed his affair back in 2006.  I gave him an ultimatum but I couldn't follow through and after 7 months he came home.  So as the years went by I didn't necessarily trust him but wanted to believe everything was O.K.  Now in 2013 my husband has had a sever stroke and as I was cleaning up his truck I  have found more evidence that he has still been unfaithful.  He has still been keeping secrets not only from me but his whole family and friends.  As I am becoming his caregiver I hope his time of recovery lets him reflect on his life and which direction he's going eternally.  At this point he has not turned his life around.

Seeing the pain

My husband, the betrayer, says that it was seeing my pain that gave him the resolve to stop his string of affairs. It took a great deal of pain to get to that point. He had seen the pain but would easily fall back into his destructive ways. It literally took the last straw to get him to come to his senses. Finally, on that last day he saw the true depth of the pain he had caused me.

Thank the Lord, he did see.

From the betrayed's standpoint, it took more that a commitment to my commitment to keep myself in check. The enemy of my soul tried to tempt me with responding in like manner to the way I had been treated. I really didn't have a marriage to be committed to anymore. Committed to my commitment to this marriage was not enough to overcome the thoughts. It was my commitment to God that kept me. I could not turn my back on Him!

Integrity is what makes commitment

Well said Rick. " Integrity stays true to commitments even when no one is watching" Exactly what I told my unfaithful husband when he said " I never expected you to find out. It shows how inexperienced I am since you eventually found out". He minimized the affair, "it was nothing, just sex." He minimized the porn, " can't you see it as just sex education?" He minimized the gravity of his betrayal, " whatever you say I know i do love you very much". That was supposed to make me feel I was overreacting to his infidelity because "even his lover knew he loved his wife". "it was just sex." I have read quite a bit on infidelity, and in my opinion, mostly it's just looking for the sense of a high from NEW partners and sex. Making it all fun seeking excercise. To these individuals, no one or any moral obligations is more important to getting their sensual needs met. Thanks once more Rick, as you continue to make my journey of healing smoother. God bless you and your team in extremes.

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