Is Pursuing Restoration Undermining Yourself?

I often hear a betrayed spouse talk about allowing their spouse to come back home, or being intimate with their unfaithful spouse, or having a good weekend, and suddenly things go south. Just the other day a woman was discussing with me that she feels like she is undermining herself when she is nice to her previously unfaithful husband.

It’s even more apparent when an unfaithful tries to describe his betrayed spouse’s behavior. “It’s like she turns on a dime,” they’ll say. “We’ll have a great week, then it’s like she hates me all over again.” Much more, they’ll discuss how things were great and romantic, and the next morning the anger returns, and it’s even worse than before.

It may not make sense to the unfaithful spouse, but the fear of undermining oneself is a legitimate and understandable fear for a betrayed spouse. They’ve been wounded so deeply, they are afraid to let their guard down. At the same time however, no one wants to live a life completely walled-off from intimacy and joy. How do you stay true to yourself? You’ve been hurt so badly but you don’t want to stay stuck in that pain - what can you do? The voices are endless that say “You can’t trust them again, they need to suffer. He or she is taking advantage of you.”

However, vengeance is not yours to take. You can’t make them pay enough to get it anyway, and you’ll most likely damage yourself while you’re handing out this vengeance. Keep in mind, pain that isn’t transformed is always transmitted to others we love, not just our unfaithful spouse. The truth is, many times it takes far more courage to give restoration a chance than to simply say the infidelity is a deal breaker and we’re done. Everyone has an opinion of what they will do when infidelity happens, until it actually happens. All bets are off when it does happen and now there is a life built together, with kids, romance, a sea of memories and often times decades of time spent together. You don’t just walk away.

It’s not easy to simply white knuckle it and forge ahead. In fact, I don’t recommend it. If you’re a betrayed, more than ever you’ll need help to wade through the changing emotions you experience every hour, let alone each day.

Undermining yourself is not the verbiage I would use to describe the situation at its core. I would rather ask you, what do you feel like you need to do? If you’re going to give restoration a chance, I would ask you to get help first to decide what steps you need to take. Perhaps being intimate with your spouse is OK, or maybe it shouldn’t be done at all until recovery is being pursued. Maybe you need to separate so you’re not taken advantage of, or perhaps having him sleep in the guest room is enough of a boundary. The simple, but painful truth is, it’s not as easy as a unilateral application of truths from a book, or another’s situation to just apply to your own. You need expert help to know what is truly genuine kindness and love and what is codependency and opening yourself up to be taken advantage of again. 

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