This post is a response to a few of the comments received from Part 2 of my series The Midlife Journey: Understanding, Accepting & Embracing the Outcome.
The original series referenced the book Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. In it the author spoke briefly of her affair and the end of her marriage.
Rollercoasterider (in the comments)
…we need to face the tough stuff and forgiveness can be tough. Acceptance can be tough. Loving unconditionally can be tough. And perhaps refraining from judging is toughest of all. We typically think of those things regarding our MLCer, but the alienator sinned against us as well. The alienator may even be another MLCer with her or his own LBS and family.
Why should we refrain from judging – as long as we are equally strict with ourselves? What if through the MLC, the affair we ourselves grow spiritually and maybe our spouse doesn’t – still no judging? Judging does not rule out Forgiveness.
There are different forms of judgment. When I speak of it I am speaking of the duty that is God’s and not mine. I am also speaking of nouns, not verbs. Judge behaviors rather than people.
I have the right to have an opinion about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong and I can apply consequences for actions—much like a judicial court judge, but opinions are not the same as judgments. I do not have the right of condemnation. I do not have the right to choose God’s actions and His are Unconditional: He loves without condition, gives grace without condition and forgives without condition.
We are not an authority on someone else’s spiritual growth. We may certainly have opinions, but we are also biased by our own needs and agenda and situation, and in the case of our spouses, we are not objective.
Love the sinner (person); hate the sin (behavior). Love while disapproving of sinful actions. The challenge is that sometimes we overlap and judge both the sinner and the sin without realizing what we are doing.
If we believe in the Law of Sowing and Reaping, if we believe in the supremacy of Good, if we believe that regardless of our religion we shouldn’t do unto others as we would have them do unto us – how could I then, were I the MLCer instead of the LBS, move on with my newly-won Integrity intact WITHOUT giving my LBS that second chance all of us – including our MLCers – deserve??
We only have a small bit of information about what Elizabeth Lesser did to give her marriage a second chance. Separating from her husband was not an action that was indicative of a decision to divorce, no, that was her Grace Period where she reviewed what to do.
On websites with a wider niche (more than infidelity), I read comments from those who are divorced complaining about the assumptions people make about how they made their choices. They feel that people assume they up and left their marriages with no thought for their children, spouse, finances…with no thought for the consequences on anyone but themselves. Sometimes I roll my eyes when I see these because I do think that many people agonize over their decision—they just don’t publicize it. But I really roll my eyes because they are making an assumption as well, they are assuming that all those other people who chose to divorce went through the same agonization and that is not the case with everyone. MLCers may be in agony, but they are not rationally weighing their choices and comparing them, they are not often including their partner in the decision or giving an opportunity for repair.
My mom chose to divorce my dad and I was only 4. I wish she hadn’t. Or rather, I wish the situation had not been one for which divorce was (according to her and their counselor) the better outcome. I wish I had grown up in an intact family, but maybe it wasn’t what was best. Maybe it was, given that it’s my family, I’m biased. My mom went to counseling—with my dad. She did not just make a decision on a whim and her first thoughts and concerns were always for me.
What is a second chance—what actions make up a second chance? Is it fair that the leaving spouse is weighing those options without giving their partner a say or a chance to make changes directly in the marital relationship—in vivo? Often the MLCer observes the LBS while they are separate and the LBS is in pain and having challenges dealing with the loneliness and betrayal. Of course the LBS doesn’t come off as an attractive force, he or she is in panic and anxiety and their usual source of comfort is the one causing the pain. The MLCer determines the situation is hopeless basing it in the context of the trauma. They create a monster and then complain about it. ARGH
But it’s not ours to give. We have our own second chance to give them, but we do not get to give their second chance to us. We may not agree with their reasons for withholding it. But that doesn’t matter; the reality is that maybe some MLCers will not reconsider. Are they then doomed forever—to never grow spiritually and never become authentic and fully integrated within their Self?