Kelaine53
I have struggled with my decision to stay in my marriage. My values seem assaulted by this choice. After all why would I would to stay with a man that could and did cheat on me for over 6 years? 

I found the following article on another site and it helps me to understand why I get up every morning and choose to stay.

"How to Recognize True (and false) Contrition" — by Dr. George Simon, Jr.

A person’s character deficiencies inevitably spawn a host of irresponsible behavior patterns – bad habits that can become easily ingrained and, once rooted, extremely hard to break. Often, these dysfunctional patterns involve forms of mental, emotional, and even physical abuse within relationships. And while many of the character-impaired individuals I’ve worked with experienced periods of profound unhappiness and even a degree of regret over their actions, only a handful made truly significant changes in their once destructive behaviors. But those who truly did address their behaviors and succeeded in changing their lives for the better displayed a rare quality that seemed to make all the difference: genuine contrition.

By definition, personality patterns are deeply ingrained and hard to modify. But that doesn’t mean a person can’t change. People can and do change every day. That is, genuinely contrite people do. This begs the question about what contrition really is and how to know when someone is really experiencing it.

The word contrition comes from the Latin contritus (the same root for the word contrite), and literally means “crushed to pieces.” The contrite person has had their once haughty and prideful ego completely crushed under the tremendous weight of guilt and shame. Such a person has “hit bottom”, not only because they can no longer bear the thought of how badly their actions hurt others but also because of their deep realization of how their usual way of doing things has resulted in abject personal failure. That’s why the contrite person is first and foremost a broken person. And, by definition, only by acknowledging personal defeat can a person become potentially open to reconstructing their life on very different terms. It’s been said many times, but it’s profoundly psychologically true. One cannot begin a new life without laying to rest one’s old self.

A regretful person is not necessarily a contrite one. Regret often precedes contrition but is definitely not synonymous with it. And when it comes to making meaningful changes in one’s character and turning around an irresponsible life, regret is simply not sufficient. The word regret comes from the Old French, meaning “to bewail.” It’s a person’s intellectual and emotional response to an unpleasant or unfortunate circumstance (originally used to characterize a person’s loss of a loved one through death). Anyone can regret something they have done and for a variety of reasons, some of which can be quite ignoble. Even some of the most hardened criminals had certain regrets. They regretted the loss of their freedom. They lamented the fact that a judge was able to exercise power over them and subject them to various unpleasant consequences. Many “bewailed” that the sentence they received was greater than they anticipated or longer than someone else’s who committed a similar crime. A few even regretted their actual actions, but most of the time even that kind of regret had to do with practical considerations (e.g., they didn’t plan their crime carefully enough to avoid detection, or they misjudged the character of their partner in crime who later “ratted [them] out” to authorities). And when expressing their regrets, some were even moved to tears. But tears do not a contrite person make. And mere regret has never been sufficient to prompt a person to change their ways.

Remorse is a prerequisite for contrition, but it’s also not sufficient for it. Remorse is a genuine empathy-based expression of one’s regret over hurting someone else. By definition, psychopaths (alt: sociopaths) cannot really experience any meaningful degree of it, although they are quite capable of feigning it. Fortunately, most people are capable of it to some degree, and having remorse for the injury caused to another is a necessary first step toward real contrition. But true contrition goes even beyond remorse. Genuinely contrite people – their prideful egos crushed and torn asunder by the weight of their guilt and shame – not only hate their “sins” and the pain they inflicted on others as a result of their sins, but also are deeply unnerved about the person they allowed themselves to become that permitted their travesties in the first place. And they necessarily resolve not only to make amends but also to make of better persons of themselves and their lives in a better fashion in the future.

Contrition is that very rare but absolutely essential feature of changing one’s life for the better. It requires a true metanoia or “change of heart.” And even more importantly, it requires work – a lot of very hard, humble, committed work. Reforming one’s character is the most challenging of human enterprises. You have to put a lot of energy into doing it, and you have to feel a deep sense of obligation about doing it in order to maintain the energy to get the job done. And contrition wears a very distinctive face. Truly contrite people behave very differently, even from regretful and remorseful people. And when you know what to look for, you can readily tell the difference.

One of the more reliable outward signs that someone has really experienced a change of heart is their willingness and commitment to make amends. The contrite person is not only “sorry” for what he/she has done but is willing to repair the damage inflicted on the lives of others. Many irresponsible characters will challenge their understandably hesitant to trust again victims with retorts like: “I’ve said I’m sorry a million times now – what else do you want from me?!,” attempting all the while to throw the other party on the defensive for doubting their sincerity. Or they will cite some small efforts they have made over a relatively short period of time and then chide their victims for not immediately accepting those small gestures as concrete evidence of meaningful, sincere, permanent change. Contrite individuals understand that the burden of proof rests with them and that they owe those they have hurt a justifiable basis upon which to resume some degree of trust. A contrite person is willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to regain good standing within a relationship.

It’s one thing to say you’re sorry. But it’s quite another to prove it by how hard you work to change. Behavior is the best indicator that a person is truly contrite and working to really change. Living and dealing with persons of deficient character is always difficult, but many people increase the level of pain they experience in their relationships with problem characters by buying into the notion that if a person says they’re sorry, sheds a tear, or looks unhappy, and appears to mean well, things will necessarily be different. They give too much regard to a person’s regret and sorrow and don’t look hard enough for evidence of true contrition.

A person’s genuine willingness and commitment to make amends is always accompanied by plan of action to accomplish precisely those ends. In short, a person’s actions always speak louder than their words or even their emotional expressions. And I’m not talking about demonstrative gestures that make good impressions on others like going back to church or getting religion once again. The contrite person conducts themselves in a fundamentally different manner than they historically have. They might not do so perfectly or every time. But they evidence a constant effort toward reforming their conduct, and when they fall short they readily admit it and do their best to get back on course.

All too many times therapists as well as the victims of irresponsible characters make the assumption that things are moving in the right direction because the bad actor shed a tear or two about something horrible they did or said they were sorry. But even when sorrow is genuine, it’s certainly not enough to make a difference. Sorrow is an emotional response usually connected to the loss of something. And while it is always painful to lose – especially when losing something of great value – that kind of pain is not in and of itself a reliable predictor of change. Individuals who have been in abusive relationships and who give a lot of weight or credence to expressions of regret and sorrow are most often doomed to an escalating level of personal pain and hardship. And in proper cognitive-behavioral therapy for abusers, where the principal focus is on behavior and fostering fundamental attitudinal and behavioral change, the therapist has to be much less interested in what a person has to say and much more concerned about what he/she is doing to truly correct problematic thinking and behavior patterns and repairing damage they have done. Talk, as they say, is infinitely cheap. And therapy that just focuses on getting someone to express their feelings or communicate their regrets is likely doomed to be ineffective in fostering meaningful change.

Having some regret simply isn’t enough to make a person mend their ways. It takes a lot of concerted effort to overcome our shortcomings. The truly contrite individual works to make amends, to do better, and above all, to be better. That always involves demonstrable, consistent behavior – behavior that can be observed, monitored, encouraged, rewarded, and measured by both the therapist and other parties to a relationship with the troubled character.

I see so much more than regret and remorse in my H when I compare his behavior to this article. The changes have made me willing to wait and see.
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Lookingahead
Wow, that was an amazing read. I just sent it to my H. I feel the same as you in that I also see so much more than regret and remorse. My H is making significant changes in his behavior and overall character as a person. Thank you for sharing this.
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Keepabuzz
Thank you for posting this. I also see much of this in my wife. But this is much better wording than I could ever muster. 
Male BS, D-day July 2015, trying to stay out of the dark.....
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DorothyJane7
That's comforting. It explains, very well, what I see in my husband and how I am able to hope for ultimately healing. I too understand your lack of peace within yourself at deciding to stay. It requires answering the "Why are you going forward with HIM after all he's done?" question that keeps popping up in my head at regular intervals (probably once every six weeks or so).

The truth is, I am currently in a very satisfying relationship with him because he is very intentionally putting this effort toward my needs and in being the wonderful man I knew all those years before. There's just, unfortunately, a heavy millstone of pain anchored to my neck. It's all mine. My insecurities. My dashed fantasy and trust. My fears. A change in how I see myself and my marriage.

My hope is to eventually put it aside. I hope it feels like happiness and peace are waiting. Like that's what I gain when I do put it aside. I think I'm afraid I'll be less somehow, to let it go. Like I'm settling or saying "I accept this behavior."  I know that sounds ridiculous. It's as if it's a part of me beyond logic or out of my reach. It's just there and full of strong feelings. 

I know this sounds weird. Deep. Just unreasonable. I mean, let it go already and choose to be happy with this new, great marriage. The renewed effort and love. Why isn't that a choice I can make? It seems like part of me won't allow it. 
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Kelaine53
DorothyJane7,

I think (and pray) that we are still very much in the process of dealing with the grief. Think about it this way; if they had died with would be dealing with overwhelming grief. We would think about them all of the time and see the past with them through tears and longing. If they had been taken from us suddenly, with no warning we would be angry. Nothing would seem just or fair. We would long for the past with them. For a very long time we would not have the strength or desire to learn how to live this new life that had been thrust upon us. Eventually we would come to terms with the fact that life would go forward with or without us participating and we would start to lift our head. During this time (and it would be a different length for everyone) if anyone were to suggest to you to consider exploring a relationship with a new person you would probably explode at them. How could they suggest such a thing. You would still feel invested and totally tied to the marriage and relationship that was over. Couldn't they understand that in your heart you were still part of that marriage. It would take you a very long time to even consider opening your heart and life to someone new.

Our marriages died and took all of our feelings and illusions with them. It happened suddenly and with no warning. We are in mourning. There is a new man in our life that would love the opportunity to make us happy and love us, but a part of our heart seems to shout "you can't be with this new person." That would mean you were being unfaithful to the old person and marriage you had given your life to. We have to finish grieving first.

I hope that makes sense.
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anthropoidape
It involves a change in ourselves. It is not "getting over" but accepting. Not accepting the behaviour as okay but accepting it as a simple reality, a thing that happened, and accepting the WS as a whole person including that history. 

All people have flaws, this is a bad one but far from the worst. If your WS had cheated on a previous partner before you even met, you would be able to accept it as part of their history and a youthful mistake that was part of how they became themselves.  Instead it is more recent and you are the one who was betrayed, but the logic is the same. 
Maybe it is okay, maybe it will be okay.

BS, d-day Feb 2017, 16 mth affair.
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crushedinspirit
Superb. Offers clarity and insight. Thank you for posting. 
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Jennifer
I really enjoyed this article, especially the paragraph on contrition. The author described it very well and is something I will reference again. Kelaine, I am happy to hear that you see what you need from your husband and he has been able to show you his genuineness in moving forward in healing. Even so, it is still normal for you to wonder and question whether the decision you made is the right one. There is not one path toward healing and there will be better days than others. I just read this quote that I think is relevant to your situation.:

"If you think healing means you're led to a final state where the pain is gone and you are as you were before, that's a bill of goods unfairly sold to the most desperate. To heal from trauma means to face your pain and loss while simultaneously seeking solace and, at moments, finding joy. Doing this on a day-to-day basis is how you survive. Healing is an active state, not a destination. In that light, and no other, it's a beautiful thing." -Alice Sebold
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Kelaine53
Thank you Jennifer. I do appreciate the quote about healing. I do evaluate almost everyday if the marriage I am being offered from my husband now measures up to the price extracted for reaching this point.
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anthropoidape
That quote about healing is saddening but sounds about right.
Maybe it is okay, maybe it will be okay.

BS, d-day Feb 2017, 16 mth affair.
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DorothyJane7
I suppose that quote is right, too. I have these moments, mixed with the other extreme. I wish healing were getting to a place where the pain is truly gone, though. Like you Kelaine, I also reevaluate all the time. I hate that. But my answer is always, "Yes. This is where I want to be." I'm thankful for that conclusion every time, anyway.
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unionguy
Thank you for posting this, Kelaine53.

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Quote:
Genuinely contrite people – their prideful egos crushed and torn asunder by the weight of their guilt and shame – not only hate their “sins” and the pain they inflicted on others as a result of their sins, but also are deeply unnerved about the person they allowed themselves to become that permitted their travesties in the first place. And they necessarily resolve not only to make amends but also to make of better persons of themselves and their lives in a better fashion in the future.


I am the wayward spouse in my relationship, and my affair period was 8 years out of the 21 we've been together. We're eleven months from D-day, and this has been the most difficult thing either of us have ever gone through in life. We're still living together, and have done a lot of work to try to heal from our affair, but are seriously planning a separation now. One of the reasons is how deep the wounds feel to my spouse ("how could you have kept that secret for so long, and pretended to love me?!), but another is the perception that I have not made amends or come to a place of true contrition.

This article is a very helpful clarification of much of what my souse has been telling me for months. I certainly am feeling and expressing regret and remorse, and have displayed more emotion in the past eleven months than ever before in our relationship (I can't remember ever crying before now), but I think I'm falling short of contrition.

I've told my spouse I want reconciliation, but she feels she can't trust me, and can't bear opening herself up to being hurt again by being vulnerable with me. She sees and appreciates some changes in me, and accepts my remorse, but there are still elements of my character that she recognizes as part of the person that was able to cheat on her happily for too long.

I'm glad many of you are seeing true contrition in your wayward spouses. I hope I can get to that point myself.

I have a question for betrayed spouses: what kinds of amends have your wayward spouses made that felt satisfactory to you? I can't even imagine what could possibly make up for the hurt I've imposed on my spouse.
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Keepabuzz
unionguy wrote:
Thank you for posting this, Kelaine53.

\

I am the wayward spouse in my relationship, and my affair period was 8 years out of the 21 we've been together. We're eleven months from D-day, and this has been the most difficult thing either of us have ever gone through in life. We're still living together, and have done a lot of work to try to heal from our affair, but are seriously planning a separation now. One of the reasons is how deep the wounds feel to my spouse ("how could you have kept that secret for so long, and pretended to love me?!), but another is the perception that I have not made amends or come to a place of true contrition.

This article is a very helpful clarification of much of what my souse has been telling me for months. I certainly am feeling and expressing regret and remorse, and have displayed more emotion in the past eleven months than ever before in our relationship (I can't remember ever crying before now), but I think I'm falling short of contrition.

I've told my spouse I want reconciliation, but she feels she can't trust me, and can't bear opening herself up to being hurt again by being vulnerable with me. She sees and appreciates some changes in me, and accepts my remorse, but there are still elements of my character that she recognizes as part of the person that was able to cheat on her happily for too long.

I'm glad many of you are seeing true contrition in your wayward spouses. I hope I can get to that point myself.

I have a question for betrayed spouses: what kinds of amends have your wayward spouses made that felt satisfactory to you? I can't even imagine what could possibly make up for the hurt I've imposed on my spouse.


Nothing, nothing can be done to make up for the hurt you have caused. There is no making up for what you have done to your wife. There is no way to "make it right". You can not change what you have done, it can't be undone. You can only show her and prove to her you are now safe and will continue to be safe for her to move forward with. 

I know for me wording is very important. You mentioned above your affair as "our" affair.  It wasn't "our" as in you and your wife's affair. It was "your" affair. As in yours and your AP's affair.  When you refer to it as "our" affair, it makes it seem like your wife has some ownership in it, and she has none, absolutely zero. If my wife ever called "her" affair, "our" affair, even now, just over 2 years from d-day, i would hop right back on the rage train.

I would also suggest not saying anything about "making up" for what you did. It's just not possible. Recognize that it isn't possible, tell her you know it's not possible, although you wish it were. By saying you will make it up to her, you are minimizing the damage you have caused.

If you ran over someone with your car, and this person lost their leg. Could you "make it up to them"?  Of course not, they will likely be in a wheel chair for the rest of their life.  You can make amends, but you can't make it right, or even.  Imagine your wife is the person that you ran over, she lost a leg.  Over time she gets a prosthetic leg, she can walk again. But she always has a bit of a limp. Very few know what happened to her. To most she seems fine. But she has pain everyday, it will get less and less over time, but it will never leave her.  Wounds heal, but scars are forever. 

Be 100% transparent. 

Keep your word, NO MATTER WHAT.  Little things matter. You have shattered her trust in you, and likely everyone else in the world. She is watching to see what you do. She is looking for actions. If you say I'm going to cut the grass tomorrow, do it. If you fail at the little things, how can she see that you won't fail at keeping your word with the big things?  

Work on yourself. You can stop betraying her. You can treat her well from this point forward. But you need to figure out what is broken inside you that allowed you to do this and FIX IT.  This shows that you recognize that you have some issues, and you are willing to do the work to fix them, to ensure you don't ever betray her again.  If a man smacks his wife, and then says I'm really sorry and cries about how sorry he is, is that good enough?  No, no he needs to get help to figure out what is wrong within him that made him think hitting his wife was even an option. If he doesn't figure that out, then how can his wife ever feel safe with him?  

Start over with dating, if she is willing.  My marriage was dead to me the instant my wife confessed to her affair. Maybe your wife feels the same way.  If so, let it die. Ask her for the chance to start a new relationship. Viewing reconciliation as a new relationship helped me get my head wrapped around staying and not dropping her like a bad habit. You don't deserve for her to stay with you, so tell her that.  Tell her you know you don't deserve a second chance, but you asking for it anyway. Tell her why you want this second chance so desperately.  

Ask her about her pain, don't wait for her to bring it up.  Ask her how you can help her with her pain. Even if she says you can do nothing to help her, she will appreciate you trying. So don't stop asking to help, sometimes she will tell you something you can do.

Stop saying "I'm sorry". Don't ever say that again, that is what you say when someone has the flu, or you accidentally bump into some stranger on the street.  Say "I'm so sorry for ______. I'm so ashamed of _______. I hate so much that I ______." Statements like those show ownership, sincerity, remorse, understanding. 

Ask for forgiveness. My wife didn't for a long time. It really bothered me. I eventually brought it up to her. I said "why have you not asked, or begged for my forgiveness?? After all that you have done ?"  Her reponse was "Because what I did is unforgivable."  I said "No, what you have done doesn't deserve forgiveness, but that doesn't mean that I can't choose to grant it anyway."  I'm not 100% there yet, but I'm working on it everyday. 

Talk about your shame, remorse, and suffering. My wife rarely talked about these things, she felt like she didn't deserve to "whine" to me after what she did to me. But I didn't see it that way. I wanted to hear about how hard her day was dealing with her shame. I wanted to hear about things that triggered her shame. It would let me know that she was suffering too, it wasn't just me carrying the load of pain and suffering. 

Im sure others will chime in with better advise, this was just my 2 cents...
Male BS, D-day July 2015, trying to stay out of the dark.....
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DorothyJane7
unionguy wrote:
 I have a question for betrayed spouses: what kinds of amends have your wayward spouses made that felt satisfactory to you? I can't even imagine what could possibly make up for the hurt I've imposed on my spouse.


It's a useful question, for sure. I think it's a good start that you care about this and have the self-awareness to see what is lacking.

Things my husband does that give me a sense of security and help me believe he truly understands what he's done and how it's hurt me are ...

  • He asks me how I am, both of us knowing he means, "Are you struggling with the affair in a particularly difficult way today?" He's open to my answer and doesn't expect me to "go easy on him" or pretend.
  • He brings it up himself when something triggers, like I'm a big grouch or go on a rant with one of the kids. He shares his own reflection that "Before, I would have let this little thing bother me so much and now it's so easy to respond instead with wanting to protect you and empathize with why you might act this way."
  • He protects me and us. He points out the positives and good anytime he can. He often describes how he was "before," and how he had become comfortable with negative self talk and complaining about me at work (just like everyone else). He is sure to guard against that slippery slope now. 
  • He does nice things for me. Not big things. Washes my car. Stops by work with a sweet tea for me. Plans a little time together (going for a walk, having a nap, surprises me with a small gift he thought I'd like.
  • He is 100% open. He doesn't act like I should trust him without question. He acts like he's "got something to prove." He shows his emotions, even when it's bad (this is a tough one for him). He explains what he's thinking. He is clear about where he's been and who he's talked to.
  • He talks about the time that led up to and during the affair, sharing how unbelievable it seems to him now, looking back. He explains his thinking patterns and how off-the-mark he was. He talks about what he should have done differently in those very early stages. He expresses his sorrow at what we've lost (not just what I've lost). He talks about his hopes for rebuilding and belief that we can be even better than we were before (which was pretty great). 
There's probably more. I SEE the effort without having to look for it, really. I don't doubt the change in him. Like someone else here said recently, I know he is much less likely to ever stray or betray me again. He truly gets it. Ironic that before all of this, I believed he couldn't possibly do this. Since he did, I will never believe it's impossible again.
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Ginger
Stop calling it "our affair".  It was your affair.  She gets the lovely aftermath of betrayal.  The wounds don't 'feel' deep; they are deep.  
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