Though I typically write to the context of MLC, this applies to infidelity in general. Your spouse has been having an affair and they now say it’s over. To prove it to you, they let you listen to the official break up when they call the alienator, or they copy you on the email or other cyber message. Maybe they bring you to witness the break up in person and they make sure that it’s a scene with a burning bridge.
This reassures you. He yelled at her and called her some seriously insulting names or she told him he wasn’t a real man and could never live up to you or anyone else; it has to stay over.
Um, no, not really. Sometimes affair partners even plan those little scenes so that the betrayed spouse will think an affair is over when neither party had any intention (yet) of it being over.
Why did you believe your spouse?
I know, I know. This is your husband or your wife. You have trusted them and you have children and history and your know them and when they say something, they mean it and BLAH BLAH BLAH. And this is the person who lied and cheated. If they could lie about cheating, don’t you think they could just as easily lie about stopping?
A break up scene—whether by phone, email or in person—means nothing because it is a few moments. Why would you reinstate trust because of something that only took a few moments of time?
Trust: An assured reliance that a person will act within certain parameters that are based on experience through time within the context of present conditions rather than intentions. It refers to relationships and how a person treats others and is about feelings and emotions rather than acquired skills.
Look at the part I emphasized. Chuck came home several times and on some and maybe even most, his intentions were genuine. But he went back. I did not witness a break up message, but we did have the police remove her from our property on one occasion when he left her. I thought that would do it. I mean really, she trespassed into our back yard which was where the police found her. But no, that was not enough.
Trust is not an Unconditional! Agape is unconditional. Grace is unconditional. Forgiveness is unconditional. But Trust must be earned and deserved. Do not NOT NOT NOT give your Trust without consistent evidence through time.
That does not mean you should automatically default to assuming that your spouse is lying either. Go neutral. I told Chuck that I did not believe or disbelieve him, but that I knew that he had made and broken his promises in the past even when he had intended to keep them. A moment of honesty is not significant enough to earn trust. A year of honesty is more meaningful.
Deception destroys trust. It’s gone, no more, annihilated. Be stingy with your Trust. An email or even witnessing a break-up with name-calling and tears is not prove. Sure, it’s evidence, but evidence is not synonymous with proof. An affair is not over until it has been over for an extended period of time. The first four weeks after a break-up are the withdrawal period and the most at risk for resuming an affair. But that doesn’t mean it’s over if it’s been six weeks or even six months.
Do not even give trust just because your spouse agrees to counseling (and goes) and they become fully transparent. Yes, these are wonderful signs of becoming trustworthy, but becoming is a journey, not the destination. Only give your trust when your spouse has been trustworthy for an extended period of time. How long? I don’t know, that is something you need to determine; discuss this with your counselor. But give it time. Trust is not and should not be given easily. It should be earned through toil and honest and love.
Your spouse may not like that. This may be especially true of those who are not MLCers who have been running wild for a few years—they know they’ve messed up because they’ve kept doing it. But the man or woman who had an affair for 3 or 6 months and got caught may think that you should regain trust within a few weeks because they are now being good. They may not understand the depth of their betrayal and the pain that has caused. They don’t get that they didn’t just stick the knife in, but it was a knife with butterfly-like blades and they twisted it. They will be frustrated and then angry because it is taking you so long. Do not let their desire for a speedy recovery override their need to earn your trust. Do not give in until you are ready.