135/444 Healing from Infidelity: Martyrdom
There are as many different responses to an affair being revealed, as there are people.
Sometimes there is yelling and cussing. Other times denial is the course. This is more common where anger of any kind is seen as wrong. This type of couple usually has a long pattern of avoiding conflict. This is one more step on that path of not dealing with hurt and/or tension by avoiding any gritty reality.
Recently a female friend in North Carolina sent me these thoughts on this topic.
‘Where I am from it is out of the commonly accepted rolls for a woman to show her anger at her husband even when he cheats on her. Often times she’ll even have sex right after she finds out. The idea is she feels it is her fault that the man wanders because she isn’t pretty enough, sexy enough, exciting enough etc. It also gives the woman hope, in a perverted sense, because if it is her fault, she can make herself more of what she thinks her husband wanted. By relieving him of responsibility and placing it on herself, she has achieved what she seeks: CONTROL over the situation. As long as she is to blame, she has the ability to do something about the situation.
In this area it also isn’t uncommon for a woman to wear and proudly display her husband’s infidelity, like a badge of courage. She frequently makes reference to it, and her martyrdom in staying with her man. It is a way to get attention for her pain and suffering, AND to appear noble for her decision to stay with the unfaithful man. The motive behind this is again control. If she constantly reminds him and everyone else (including her church) how lucky he is that she stayed with him, then she gains power over him and the situation. Because she secretly believes it was her fault, but doesn’t want anyone to know she believes this, she has an internal dilemma because a part of her is angry and does want to blame him. The martyr role is a ‘great’ way to channel that anger in a way that doesn’t look like anger and still helps her to come out smelling like a rose. It also keeps the real issues in the marriage buried, and prevents any attempts to process the affair and the emotions around it, including truly forgiving and moving forward.’
These are really good words from my friend. Following an affair the only way through the crap is through the crap. That’s a technical term. :) A couple can stay married but the affair just becomes another layer of protection against real intimacy if it is never processed and the betrayed partner takes on a martyr role. On the flip side an affair and the crisis around it can be a springboard, albeit a very painful one, to real intimacy and honesty in the marriage relationship. It really does provide a platform to release the desire for intimacy in marriage that resides in the core of all our souls.
Tomorrow, we'll begin to focus on dealing with anger in an affair.