triplehooks
Has anyone arrived at a good answer to the question: "what can I do?", or "what would it take?", as it relates to making amends for committing adultery in a traditional marriage where monogamy is held sacred?

I am wrestling with this because I have been asked this question, and the things my inner voice demands are well beyond apologies...

The place I go to when considering the issue is one of restorative justice and I think about what people do/expect where someone has been murdered, robbed, wrongly convicted and spent years in prison, wrongly executed, etc.  I firmly believe adultery is in an extreme class of harm -- it's not the minor infraction many in the secular world view it to be and the harm is certainly not limited to confines of a bi-lateral relationship between spouses/partners.  In my particular case I can see damage cascading out in concentric circles around me, our kids, grandparents, aunts/uncles, close family friends, neighborhood friends, religious community.  The complexity of managing life trying not to run into the OM/his x-wife since we have same age kids in same schools.

I see my cheating spouse doing therapy etc, but on a big picture "whats the outcome?" level, the benefits -- if any -- largely accrue to her ("working on herself") but I see zero effort to take any action to make amends to -- for example --  the children who's home she wrecked (neither has her idiot AP tried to make ANY amends here, etc.).  Of course trying to make amends to people who hate you is difficult and its all in the execution (establishing a college fund for these children, working a job and putting money into an account for them, considering their parent's divorce has caused them financial hardship, as an example, would be a GREAT move.  Throwing a birthday party for them would be a bad move, etc), but I'm interested in hearing from people what things they have seen people do in trying to make amends for committing adultery that are beyond simply apologizing and maybe promising to not do it again. 

So MANY things are stolen in the act of adultery... one big ones for me is the respect I used to hold for my spouse.  I no longer respect her as a person because of a) the harm she caused, b) the way she went about it, c) the idiot she chose to do it with, and then d) her absolute ineptitude and incompetence in cleaning up her mess.  Even if her clean up efforts won a nobel prize I might still not feel adultery was an acceptable occurrence and divorce her, but I would nonetheless really respect a person who screwed up at this level and was prepared to truly labor to try to DO SOMETHING to make whole (they simply CANNOT make people whole for what they've done, but they can at least try to DO SOMETHING) the people they harmed with their selfishness: the spouse of their OM/OW, the children of their OM/OW, their own children, OF COURSE their betrayed spouse, the parents and siblings of their betrayed spouse, their own parents they let down, and on and on.

So, has anyone been "blown away" by the example set by a truly remorseful cheater in this regard?

If someone murdered my kid and thought all they had to do was apologize and promise not to do it again, and then they'd just get to move on, I'd probably be murderous with rage myself...  there's literally NOTHING they can do to fully compensate me for such a loss.  And yet, doing nothing is not ok, so clearly there's a HUGE range between the doing nothing that is so common and some other genuine/sincere/humble efforts to recompense a great misdeed.

What have YOU seen that left an impression? 
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hurting
IMHO, whatever they do will never be enough. There is no effort equivalent to the harm they have caused, and no effort on their behalf will ever be considered ‘too much’. 

There are of course the things they NEED to do, but in the end, no amount of actions that they take will ever be able to even come close to the severity of damage and harm they have caused everyone around them. 

Those things they NEED to do will vary depending on each BS. But the general gist of it is doing ‘whatever it takes for the BS to feel less unsafe’. Whether that’s changing numbers, deleting emails and social media, not interacting with certain other groups of people, being accountable to their whereabouts, having their phones open for checking whenever the BS should feel so inclined etc is all going to be up to the BS. Although there are many things I feel my WS should OBVIOUSLY DO if he were really trying, part of why he doesn’t do these things is because his brain simply doesn’t function that way. That’s not to make it an excuse, but he just does not think or feel the way that I do. Hence he does not come to the same list of obvious things that he COULD do to show remorse. 

That isn’t to say that it’s a lost cause though. I have told my WS what I need. I cannot force him to do these things. When he pays attention to what I have said I need, and persistently puts it into effect is when I see remorse. Not just as a once off (when I tell him). Not for a few weeks or days. But persistent change in action. That’s the only thing I really see as ‘remorse’. I guess you could call it commitment to change?

Apologising and saying they won’t do it again are both meaningless to me. I don’t count on the words of a liar. For me to do that, you must first show me you’re not a liar. And there’s little chance I’m ever believing just the words of ANYONE again after what my WS has put me through.

Your examples of working extra jobs and putting aside money for a college fund for the kids damaged is interesting. For me (no kids involved), I’m not sure that would’ve been something that I would’ve chosen as an action to ‘show true remorse’. Of course, I can see how that may fall into said category for you. I guess it just goes to show that each of us will still see the situation differently and have varying expectations for what remorse looks like.
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Keepabuzz
I agree there is no restitution that will even the scales. Words mean nothing, it’s all about actions Not just actions, but sustained actions. Not just sustained actions, but sustained actions with the right motivation. Not motivation because the BS told them to do something, or not do something. But doing or not doing something with the sole motivation of helping the BS heal or feel safer, or not be triggered. Doing these things on their own without prompting or directions from their BS. For me, this shows remorse. 

After d-day I laid out a list of demands that were non-negotiable. Things she wouldn’t do, things she would do. If she didn’t agree, she could leave right then. Even if she followed them I told her I was still very likely going to divorce her.  She agreed to my terms. Well that isn’t remorse.  I started to see remorse in the weeks and months later, and continuing on to today over 4 years later when she did things or didn’t do things solely because she thought it would make things easier on me, or that it what trigger me, etc. For example, about 2.5 year after d-day I was out of the crisis mode, but far from healed or “ok”. She was asked to go to a girls night out, but not really out, it was at a neighbors house. Just the wives from our street. She quickly made up an excuse about why she couldn’t go. Later I asked her about it. She said “I wanted to go, but I knew you would be triggered by me being going, and I don’t want to anything that will trigger you. I would much rather not go.”  That is remorse. She didn’t say yes and make me say I don’t want you to do that. She made the decision with me and my feelings in mind FIRST.  Then i told her to go. It didn’t bother me. I knew who she was with, and where she was, just 3 doors down.  Not like she was going to bar, that I would NOT be ok with. 
Male BS, D-day July 2015, trying to stay out of the dark.....
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ThrivenotSurvive
Keep, 

I couldn't agree more.  As time has gone on I've seen a desire from my husband just to make my life happier, easier, better.  This is on TOP of doing the things I required to make me feel safe, which in my opinion, aren't restitution or anything like it.  It is the minimum they can do to stay in our lives.  That still meets a goal of THEIRS (reward-motivated.)  

But as my husband has grown he has begun to do more and more things for me, our daughter and his family because it is the kind of person he wants to be - a person who makes the lives of the people around them BETTER and ENJOYS helping others with no thought to how it benefits him.   His motivation is no longer about reward and doesn't come with an expectations of what he's supposed to get back (validation, attention, sex, etc)  This is a huge change because he did LOTS of nice things in the past - but they ALWAYS had strings attached - even when he didn't consciously realize it.  Then he'd get mad/hurt/resentful if those expectations weren't met.  

I don't know if this (among other significant changes) is so much restitution to me.  But it is proof to me of profound internal changes.  Those changes were necessary for me to find any level of respect and love with him going forward.  

Now that I think about it, maybe in a way they are restitution because I know how HARD this work has been for him.  I mean REALLY, REALLY hard.  I would have laid bets that he would have left rather than do counseling, self-reflection, deal with his complicated childhood, etc. 

He'd spent his entire life adamantly refusing to even consider therapy - or even reading/learning/discussing any of these "emotional" things.  That was self-indulgent "girl" stuff.  And every time I tried to explain how it would benefit him, us, and his parenting, etc. he would get angry and act as if I was trying to control him and make him feel like there was something wrong with him.  

Realizing that he had been 100% wrong and that if he'd had the courage to make changes back THEN he wouldn't have failed himself, me, our daughter, his family and mine - was a very humbling experience.  

It was shaming for him to admit that he didn't have what should be fundamental emotional skills.  It was even a bit humiliating to face, and then fix, the fact that he was selfish - and that while this affair was the biggest example of it - he'd been selfish to a large degree for all of his life.  Having to learn empathy and improved communication skills as a grown man was downright embarrassing.  He'd actually been so deluded that he THOUGHT he had these skills.  He THOUGHT he was someone different, someone better.  It wasn't until after DD that he took a long, hard look at himself and realized how little he liked the person he'd become.  

For someone like him that HATED the idea of "navel-gazing" (his term for self-reflection in the old days), I know this was scary, humiliating and hard.  So, in those terms, being willing to do it to become a better person, a better husband and a better father - I guess that does feel like a least a LITTLE bit of restitution for me.  Not enough - I agree there is no way to make it "right" and the debt will never be "paid".  But his effort to be the man I always knew he could be.  His focus, attention and desire to love me REALLY, REALLY well every day since, has allowed me to provide him with grace.  

The thing I like about the concept of grace is that I am in control.  It is mine to give - I don't owe it to anyone.  It doesn't say the scales are even.  It is a gift of the heart.  In my case, I would have likely worked hard to forgive my husband one way or the other - for primarily selfish reasons.  I wouldn't want to hold the anger because it would weigh me down and I am stuck being a co-parent for life. 

But grace?  Grace was too precious of a gift to give quickly and easily.  Grace only came after I saw him work HARD and push himself WAY out of his comfort zone over and over for YEARS to become a loving, kind, generous, trustworthy man.  Grace doesn't say that he's "made it up to me" or that I've forgotten or that we will never have to discuss it again.  It says (to me) that I can love him for the man he is today without constantly making him aware of, and continue to pay the price of, the man he was.  It is a HUGE gift and one that should not be given lightly in my mind. It may not be able to be earned, but it should be warranted.  

I was lucky - the AP was not married, nor did she have kids.  My husband and I stayed together so our daughter is not facing any financial repercussions.  But the idea of her paying for my kid's college - or doing anything other than disappearing from my life - would bother the heck out of me.  I understand your reasoning but in my mind I want to forget she exists.  So ANY restitution that causes me to have to think about her feels like I am being punished for her (and my husband's) mistakes STILL.  

I'd prefer that all APs and WSs were forced BY LAW to undergo intensive therapy (with lie detector testing to make sure they weren't still lying to themselves and their therapists.)  I'd like to see broken people step up and heal themselves so they stop spreading the pain and hurt to others and the next generation.  THAT is how they can make amends that could have long-lasting impact to this generation and the next. 
BS - Female
Married 27 years, one adult child
DD May 2016

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” - V Frankl
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triplehooks
Very well put, Thrive
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BorealJ
I like that you use the term "Restorative Justice".  Where I am from, this is quite different than the one party VS. another scales of justice system.  You are not looking for equity, you are looking for the best possible outcome for everyone.  It takes uncovering an understanding of the past and personal experiences and values of each party involved.  What was the path to here?  And then deciding if it fits with what each person wants or values.  If it is not, then working towards those values.  Tim's guides are really good at putting this into a model.
Legitimate change is generally the thing that is going to be restorative. 
triplehooks wrote:

I see my cheating spouse doing therapy etc, but on a big picture "whats the outcome?" level, the benefits -- if any -- largely accrue to her ("working on herself")

 
If your WS is working here, she is doing the right thing as Thrive's husband did and as my wife did that allowed me to see a real commitment.  As long as she is honest about her past and truly challenging herself to change, this is a really good start.  Change takes a long time when you are changing lifelong patterns though. 



I'd like to see broken people step up and heal themselves so they stop spreading the pain and hurt to others and the next generation.  THAT is how they can make amends that could have long-lasting impact to this generation and the next. 

Fair or not, you're now one of the broken ones.  Welcome to the club.  It's easy to play victim and nobody would blame you for it.  But especially as a parent, you are challenged to seek being the healthiest version of yourself as possible.  That requires the stability that is not possible when you let your own emotions be tethered to the momentary expression of someone else's.  Whether you look at her with anger or with longing, it's all a distraction to yourself.   Your wife will work on her own amends to you, your kids, others she has hurt through her actions.  That's up to her.  You may stand in the way of it in terms of allowing her to make amends with you, but if you are well enough and able, I would try to be supportive or at least not stand in the way of her efforts toward others, especially your kids.
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triplehooks
A profound insight BorealJ.  Thank you for offering it.
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TheFarmGirl
triplehooks wrote:
Has anyone arrived at a good answer to the question: "what can I do?", or "what would it take?", as it relates to making amends for committing adultery in a traditional marriage where monogamy is held sacred?

I am wrestling with this because I have been asked this question, and the things my inner voice demands are well beyond apologies...

The place I go to when considering the issue is one of restorative justice and I think about what people do/expect where someone has been murdered, robbed, wrongly convicted and spent years in prison, wrongly executed, etc.  I firmly believe adultery is in an extreme class of harm -- it's not the minor infraction many in the secular world view it to be and the harm is certainly not limited to confines of a bi-lateral relationship between spouses/partners.  In my particular case I can see damage cascading out in concentric circles around me, our kids, grandparents, aunts/uncles, close family friends, neighborhood friends, religious community.  The complexity of managing life trying not to run into the OM/his x-wife since we have same age kids in same schools.

I see my cheating spouse doing therapy etc, but on a big picture "whats the outcome?" level, the benefits -- if any -- largely accrue to her ("working on herself") but I see zero effort to take any action to make amends to -- for example --  the children who's home she wrecked (neither has her idiot AP tried to make ANY amends here, etc.).  Of course trying to make amends to people who hate you is difficult and its all in the execution (establishing a college fund for these children, working a job and putting money into an account for them, considering their parent's divorce has caused them financial hardship, as an example, would be a GREAT move.  Throwing a birthday party for them would be a bad move, etc), but I'm interested in hearing from people what things they have seen people do in trying to make amends for committing adultery that are beyond simply apologizing and maybe promising to not do it again. 

So MANY things are stolen in the act of adultery... one big ones for me is the respect I used to hold for my spouse.  I no longer respect her as a person because of a) the harm she caused, b) the way she went about it, c) the idiot she chose to do it with, and then d) her absolute ineptitude and incompetence in cleaning up her mess.  Even if her clean up efforts won a nobel prize I might still not feel adultery was an acceptable occurrence and divorce her, but I would nonetheless really respect a person who screwed up at this level and was prepared to truly labor to try to DO SOMETHING to make whole (they simply CANNOT make people whole for what they've done, but they can at least try to DO SOMETHING) the people they harmed with their selfishness: the spouse of their OM/OW, the children of their OM/OW, their own children, OF COURSE their betrayed spouse, the parents and siblings of their betrayed spouse, their own parents they let down, and on and on.

So, has anyone been "blown away" by the example set by a truly remorseful cheater in this regard?

If someone murdered my kid and thought all they had to do was apologize and promise not to do it again, and then they'd just get to move on, I'd probably be murderous with rage myself...  there's literally NOTHING they can do to fully compensate me for such a loss.  And yet, doing nothing is not ok, so clearly there's a HUGE range between the doing nothing that is so common and some other genuine/sincere/humble efforts to recompense a great misdeed.

What have YOU seen that left an impression? 


(sorry for the long quote). 

In my experience with two cheating husbands, the answer is no. There is nothing to be done to repair the damage. The first one, we didn’t have kids and immediately divorced. This one, we have a child. So we are a year out from dday. I wish I could sever all ties from him, I hate him. The only reason I don’t is because of how happy our child is to see us as a family. And a far second from that is the finances... we are in a good place right to raise our kid, but funds would be very tight if we had to separately finance two households. And beyond that, I terribly fear all the lewd relationships my child would see with his father... that sickens me and is definitely another reason I stay in my purgatory, to protect our kid. 
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