Well here we are folks! It's day 4 of the Trading Places blog tour. Renowned authors, professors, counselors and married people, Les and Leslie Parrott have stopped by the virtual abode of Marriages Restored. Here we sit sipping imaginary extra strong lattes in our oversized worn leather chairs. I've provided a waterfall of rain and mist (really God did) so the Parrotts won't miss the Pacific Northwest too much as they beam to Missouri, the home of Give 'em Hell Harry Truman whose birthday is also today. If Harry hadn't died prematurely he'd be 124.
Ben: Les and Leslie it is an honor to have you here today. How was the trip?
Les: Those Star Trek guys were on to something with this beaming thing. Shorted out a little over Garden City, KS with all the hail but other than that it was great.
Ben: Yes, well you know some of our more polite Christians call him Give 'em Hail Harry. Don't know if that had anything to do with it.
Leslie: Uh Ben, what was your question for us?
Ben: Right, right. Thanks for the opportunity to read Trading Places. I see many helpful ideas for every couple. With regards to infidelity or other significant betrayal how have you seen empathy help in the healing process?
Parrotts: We are so glad you asked this
question. Because of the work we do with so many couples we get to hear
lots of remarkable stories from husbands and wives who have triumphed over
obstacles all of us would dread having to encounter – stories that
most never hear because they are so private.
Believe it or not, we have seen couples who have suffered the knock-out punch of infidelity turn their relationship around, in great part, because of their mutual capacity to trade places. Obviously this is not a quick, one-time act. It’s a process of slowly trying to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.
First of all, for the person who has been unfaithful, you might think he or she would naturally see the situation from the other partner’s point of view. But that’s not necessarily true. Why? Because this spouse is typically wracked with remorse, guilt and shame. And these emotions don’t make for a clear vision. They can actually cloud that person’s ability to empathize accurately. You see, guilt is a selfish emotion. When I (Les) did research for my book Shoulda Coulda Woulda (see RealRelationships.com) one of the things I learned is that guilt and shame put our focus on us. When we carry these emotions, we want to feel better. We want to rid ourselves of them. So we confess or whatever in an effort to do just that – not necessarily to make things right. Not necessarily to bring healing for the offended spouse. Make sense? That’s why it is critically important that the unfaithful spouse, using both head and heart, accurately empathize. The emphasis, typically, for this person needs to be put on being objective. Their guilt is driving their sympathy (heart) into high gear. They need to balance it out with more objective abilities. More analyzing to accompany the sympathizing. As you know, from the book, empathy requires both in relatively equal measure.
Regarding the spouse who is left to pick up the pieces after discovering unfaithfulness in their partner, empathy – though often slow coming – will serve as a means for eventual forgiveness and grace. Of course, this is not to be rushed or coerced. It is to be cultivated as time evolves. And when the time is right, this spouse will often need to ask questions – not about the affair – but about what the unfaithful spouse was feeling and thinking; what the unfaithful spouse was missing. Empathy fosters a deeper understanding and eventual compassion even in the face of such a devastating act.
Bottom line? We’ve never seen a couple recover from infidelity without the healing balm of empathy.
Ben: Thanks you guys. Good words. It sounds like if we can be part Spock and part Paula Abdul our marriages will greatly improve.
Les: I haven't heard it put that way but I can mostly go along with that.
Leslie: Let's go home, Les.
Les: We have six more dates on the blog tour, hon. Tomorrow we're at the Marriage Blog at Families.com
Leslie: That's right. I really like their quizopolis. Thanks for the coffee, Ben. It was good even by Seattle standards.
Ben: Those are some groovy beans. It was St. George The Dragonslayer blend from Saints Coffee. Tom Davis gives a 1/3 of his profits to help orphans in Africa. Really cool.
Parrotts: We'll see you at Families.com.