Dr. Wall draws another lesson from the recent Tiger saga. Click here to read Dr. Wall’s blog on the first two lessons from Tiger Wood’s recent problems with infidelity.
Be still, and know that I am God
Psalm 46: 10
Tiger Wood’s recent posting to his web site that he is taking an indefinite leave of absence from golf to concentrate on becoming a better “husband, father and person” has finally entered this crazy saga into the realm of the sane. Whew! Thank you, Tiger, for giving us something positive out of this whole mess. I’m all about people reconciling. I’m all about people changing and repenting and confessing and stopping hurtful behavior and regrouping and putting themselves together and humbling themselves before God and their loved ones and turning over a new leaf. Obviously, not everyone who says they are going to change, changes. But, hey. Some do. Maybe that person’s your spouse.
That’s the problem. You don’t know. He said he was sorry. But just a week ago he told you he wasn’t having an affair either. How in the world do you know, after a person’s lied to you to your face, boldly and with vigor, on one day and then the next he tells you with the same look of sincerity in his eyes, that he’ll never go back. If the marriage had any joy at all, you want to believe him. But can you?
One Thursday morning we got a call here at Heart to Heart Communication from a young man who had just found out his wife had had an affair. Could he and his wife come to see me immediately? We had an opening at 2 o’clock that day, so Carol, who answers our business phone, arranged for them to come right away that day. When I saw them, they’d both obviously been crying. She was very repentant. He was beyond grief. She desperately wanted to reconcile. He wanted so badly to believe her, but it was so new, so fresh. How, how, how could he ever believe her again?
These are rough waters. They are difficult to navigate without a little guidance along the way. That’s my job. I’m sort of like the lighthouse that shines on the rocks along the shore. Watch out over there. Don’t do that. No. That doesn’t work. Yeah. You’re on to something there. If you continue that way, it’ll work. Stop that already! Okay, now you are getting it. When people are under duress they often panic and sometimes in their panic they make the right decisions and sometimes in their panic they absolutely implode. Having a non-partial voice is critical during these testy days.
At the end of the first marital therapy session when the issue is the discovery of an affair and both parties are wanting to try to work things out, I give them an assignment. Let’s say that the person who had the affair is Person A, the spouse who discovered the affair is Person B and the Affairee is Person C. Since A has lied in order to have the affair with C, A has done and thought things that B has no idea about. A needs to get this stuff off his or her chest. B needs to know these things (Except sexual techniques. There’s only so many ways to be sexual and sexuality needs to be part of A and B’s healing. Don’t answer those questions. Don’t ask those questions. B has a right to know how far A and C went sexually [If they were sexual. Some affairs are strictly emotional.], but not what and how.) in order for B to make peace for what A did. B cannot be expected to forgive or heal or move on unless B knows enough of A’s behavior to process it in B’s brain. This isn’t a one-time discussion and then they are done. No, this discussion will occur over and over for several weeks, sometimes months. Eventually, the wound will be cleaned out and the couple can heal, provided that A’s affair is REALLY over and A doesn’t have any contact with C (electronic or otherwise) and A is doing whatever A can to NOT do this sort of behavior again.
This is my standard assignment at the end of the first session when they are both wanting to reconcile.
I gave this assignment to this young couple on that Thursday afternoon and set a time to see them the following Tuesday.
When Tuesday came, I discovered an amazing thing. They told me that after they left my office, they made arrangements for someone to watch their kids and then they drove to the airport and got a plane ticket to Florida to go to the resort and beach where the two of them had gone for their honeymoon. This particular idea was the husband’s. She agreed and off they went. They spent those several days on long walks and sitting on the same beaches where they’d so romantically sat not so many years ago and cried their eyes out. And talked and listened and asked and answered and reminisced and reconnected and remembered and laid a foundation for healing. Good for them.
What a great idea. Taking time to heal. This couple came to therapy on Tuesday ready to reconcile and face the tough road ahead. Their dedicated time alone to reconnect served them well.
I heard once that a father’s 20-something son committed suicide and that the father went to the funeral and then the next day went back to work. NO! This is NOT how you heal! You need to take time to regroup and mourn and be sad and cry and be mad and question God and pray and seek His face on your knees and be a complete mess. Emotions take time to heal. You need time to heal. Relationships need time to heal. Put the other crap aside and heal already. Don’t pretend it isn’t throwing you for a loop. Ponder, fret, worry, think, mourn, weep, cry, shake your fists. God can handle it. So can you. So can your spouse. You are meant to heal. But you can’t heal if you just go back to everything as normal and pretend it’s all better now. It’s not all better. Not yet. Give it time.
Mourning after an affair for both parties is normal and healthy and should NEVER be done alone. If B mourns alone, A and B won’t last. A and B mourn together. Innocence was lost. Our integrity was lost. Our uniqueness was lost. Someone has defiled the holy bed of matrimony. This will NOT easily go away. A will heal quicker from the sadness part because A is not on the receiving end of this type of emotional devastation. A has other things to work on, like taking care of A so that A doesn’t need C or anybody else other than B to meet those types of needs. But, for a time, both A and B will mourn together.
So, yeah, Tiger’s example here to leave with his wife and kids and be alone and regroup and drop out of golf for a while is the right thing. Hopefully they won’t have TV and they can leave the cruel pundits and media lusting accusers behind them and they can concentrate on themselves.
But the lesson from Tiger breaks down after the “regrouping” part. Most of us don’t have 20 million dollar yachts to withdraw to. Most of us can’t quit our jobs for months and months. But for heaven sakes, if you find yourself in this kind of situation, call your mom and dad and get them over to watch your kids, go to the airport and take off for a few days and put yourselves back together. Remember the days of old. Remember your first love. Remember why you fell in love. Confess. Repent. Cry. Hold each other. Sit on the beach and watch the waves role in and ponder your insignificance and how fleeting life is and how you’d better redeem the time and you both are responsible for picking up the pieces.
But be sure you’re back in time for your appointment with me on Tuesday.
Dr. Wall explores two lessons we can all learn from the recent news that golf legend Tiger Woods had an affair.
Dr Wall laments the cheapening of sexuality in our society and proposes a better way.
See these other blog entries by Dr. Wall on affairs:
Dr. Wall gives advice to someone thinking of coming clean after an affair.
The first question that comes up after a trust violation in marriage is: Do both partners need to come to therapy or just the person who violated the trust? Dr. Wall clears the air on this issue and describes the therapeutic process around trust issues.
Dr. Wall discusses how most affairs start: With opening up to someone of the opposite sex about your problems.
Dr. Wall explores what happens when we don’t let integrity rule our hearts: Affairs are right behind.
Dr. Wall contrasts a life of faithfulness with a life of doing your own thing (having an affair).
In this blog Dr. Wall tells the story of a couple he saw where both had had affairs and they were able to work together to heal their wounds and reconnect and have a happy marriage.
To see other blogs from Dr. Wall on affairs click here.