Tag Archives: Apology

Apologies and Milestones

It’s been a while since my last post, and that has more to do with my being busy than anything else. After a slow phase at work for the month of September, things have picked up significantly and now I find myself swamped. The other side of this is that, even though I’ve got plenty of cash coming in next month, I find myself scrambling to make ends meet for the time being. This aspect of the whole marital situation has been very frustrating. (Please feel free to donate to this blog if you appreciate the content and feel so inclined.) On top of that, my sister came into town to pay a surprise visit, and she stayed with me for a couple of days. This was a good situation that may actually help, short- to medium-term, with my reconciliation efforts.

In the nine days since my last post, a milestone of sorts was crossed. My wife’s affair hit the one-year mark, depending on how you look at it. It was on October 10 of last year that the adulterer made initial contact with her via Facebook and an emotional affair was launched. It was clear from the very beginning that the two of them were going to take it physical, and they did so about three weeks later. That one-year mark arrives on November 1st. Believe me, dear reader, I never thought that I would be dealing with this situation for an entire year.

In a way, the duration of this affair is one of its most startling aspects. There have certainly been many opportunities for it to end. There have certainly been disagreements and likely an altercation or two by this point. The “in-love” feelings that are nothing more than infatuation have almost certainly burned off by now. It’s as if the world is an alarm clock issuing wake-up calls over and over, yet they just really want to stay asleep. The earplugs and eye masks have now come out in order to keep them sleeping. So what on earth could possibly keep this grossly immoral relationship going?

Fear. That’s what I think, and here’s why.

I saw my wife last Wednesday for our appointed dog-custody swap. This followed another withdrawal phase from her during which I did not see her for three weeks. I had dropped the dog off at her colleague’s house the week before, and nobody was there. She had refused to see me, because she said she was busy, which I later learned was not the case.

There was a subtle difference about events last week. First, she called me. Normally, she just sends me a text. Not this time. I had just woken up, a bit later than usual; I had left the house before 6:00 a.m. to get my sister to the airport for her flight home, and decided to try to sleep a bit more when I got back home. I did manage a couple of extra hours of shut-eye, and then my wife called. This was really a surprise. She just wanted to know if I were coming to pick up the dog. I angled to have some chitchat with her, but she was a bit uncommunicative.

I dropped by her colleague’s place, where again she would be spending the night, and managed to get her to go out for coffee. On our way out, she said that she was hungry, so we opted for dim sum instead. This provide a nice opportunity for us to hang out and connect a bit. We reminisced a lot about things we’d done in the past, and she also told me that she had not dealt with some of the logistical things she had needed to take care of at the university. This got me a bit curious, since she had told me the previous week that she would be doing this, and that was ostensibly why she would not see me that week.

After dim sum, we headed to an Asian grocer and picked up a few staples for her. I asked her if she’d have coffee with me the following morning — I had an agenda — and she said she’d be busy. She suggested that we have coffee just after our grocery shopping, so we did.

I took her to a coffee shop not too far from her colleague’s place, and again we had a nice time hanging out. We browsed an art gallery’s catalogue while sitting there, and it just struck me that this is one thing she and I share — an appreciation for art — that the adulterer almost certainly lacks. (I’ve seen some of the cards he bought her, and believe me, they not only belied no aesthetic sensibility, but also were totally not her taste.) Thus, some more genuine connections were made. Time was getting short, and I had to get to work, so we finished up and left. She asked me to drop her off at a nearby shopping center, and I said I’d oblige.

But I had an agenda, and there was still one part of that agenda that had not yet been fulfilled. I needed to apologize to her for something I had done — something I felt was so egregious that it absolutely warranted an apology. Nearly a year ago, on the evening of November 2nd, I discovered my wife’s affair, which had just gone physical the night before. In a fit of blind rage, I threw her out of the house. It was a cold November evening, a bit before 10:00 p.m., if I remember correctly, and I sent her out of the house on a moment’s notice with only the clothes on her back. It was the single most cruel and heartless thing I had ever done to anyone. She stood on the front lawn, all alone in the crisp autumn night, talking on her cell to the adulterer. He proved to be no Prince Charming, and did not come to her rescue. After a half an hour or so, I relented and invited her back in. This is what I had to apologize for.

Apologies are hard, and most people don’t know how really to apologize. While that topic is beyond the scope of this post, most people just simply say, “I’m sorry,” and think that that will somehow cut it. In reality, a good apology thinks through all the emotions the offended party experienced as a result of the offender’s behavior, and expresses those feelings in the apology. If you do it right, it can be truly cathartic, and it actually feels in a way as though you have lived through the feelings you have caused as though they had been inflicted on you. I thank Marriage Fitness for having given me this truly invaluable skill.

We were nearly at the shopping center when I asked her if we could sit at a nearby park for a few minutes. She did not object. I pulled into the park and we sat in the car. I apologized, and it was very emotional for both of us. But something truly unexpected happened: it turned out that this event was far more traumatic for me than it was for her. She said she did not feel as though she had been thrown out, as I let her back in. She felt that she simply was shown the consequence of her actions and that it more or less had been deserved.

At this point I began to bring up tabled issues. Since becoming a Marriage Fitness “practitioner” nearly a year ago, I had learned that the only way to truly get to reconciliation is to begin by tabling issues — for a time. There were a host of issues that led to our marriage breaking down, but the affair was of course the most serious, even though it has occurred largely as a response to many such issues. I basically told her that I missed her every day, and that I wanted her to understand that our home was still her home and that she was always welcome to come home. She apologized for the fact that we had never had kids, as we were both too busy just trying to make a life for ourselves, and it seems that this was a pretty major issue for her. She also acknowledged that she had truly hurt me and my family with her infidelity. None of this was new, as we’d talked about it before. What was new was that I told her that I had spoken with my family and that they were willing to welcome her back. She told me this was “scary,” and I said in response that I’d already “put cushions there” to soften the blow of that undoubtably hard landing she’ll have once the affair finally implodes.

So this was the big revelation: she is afraid of reconciling with my family. I somehow knew I’d be facing this. I quite stupidly — and, I might add, at her behest — did tell my family about our marital problems a couple of weeks prior to learning of the affair. And, I even more stupidly told them of the affair on the day I discovered it. If there is any bright side to this, it is that there are only three people in family and indeed in my entire world that know of this. In my wife’s world, however, pretty much everyone seems to know. Couple this fact with the fact that she’ll also have to reconcile with three of my family members and you can see that this will be a pretty huge blow to her ego. But that will be one of the inevitable consequences of her actions. Right now, she seems to think that she can avoid it by keeping herself in the fog. Indeed, she probably is trying to convince herself that the affair can last forever. This clearly is not the case: the adulterer is a master at betrayal and failed relationships, and this fact will sink any relationships he tries to have now or in the future.

My thoughts are now that I may have to involve family in my reconciliation efforts. This is tricky, and will likely take professional coaching. (I may have to open a “Rodion’s Counseling Fund” for this…) It does seem, however that, while I undoubtedly took quite a bit of pressure off my wife with my apology, there still is a lot of pressure keeping her in that affair, and that if I can get one or more of my family members to give her the message that she is still welcome in the family and will not be judged, that could remove many of the remaining roadblocks. Basically, I’m trying to open that pathway as far in advance as possible, because she is going to need it very soon. Something will happen in the near future that will cause the affair to blow up, and when that happens she will have to face my family one way or another. Anything I can do now to facilitate this encounter would certainly be appropriate.

Reconciliation is hard, and the hardest part of reconciling with an obstinate spouse is just getting to the point where you can reconcile. Indeed, it’s been said that 95% of the effort expended in the process is needed just to get you there; the other 5% is all that’s needed to actually reconcile once you’re there. I’m thinking I’m somewhere around the 92% mark now, I guess. I’ve made plenty of room for the door to open for us to reconcile, and I’ve taken away the pressure for her to have have to push on that door. At some point that door is just going to swing open. And I think that time is at hand, and will be coming very soon.

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Faux apologies

Most people don’t know how to apologize. I admit that I never did until about 3 months ago. I learned how to do it as a part of trying to learn how to reconcile my marriage. See if this sounds familiar: you do something that hurts someone’s feelings, then you apologize by saying “I’m sorry.” They’re still mad at you, and you don’t get it. After all, you said you were sorry, right?

Well, that just doesn’t cut it. A good apology thinks through the feelings the offended person has experienced, and then articulates them from a first-person point of view. A well thought out apology will seem as though you have actually lived through the pain the other person experienced as a result of your actions because, well, you will have done that if you really had thought it through. I did give my wife one such apology back in December, and it was a very emotional experience for the both of us.

This is all a long-winded introduction to the events visited upon me today.

My wife came home mid-morning. I was out running some errands, and, when I arrived back home, I could hear the dog barking, so I knew she had come back. I didn’t quite expect to find her in the house, but there she was. Her jacket was on the couch, and she was in her office. She greeted me cordially enough. She looked haggard and puffy-eyed, and it seemed to me as though she had been crying. I asked her if she was okay, and she assured me she was fine.

I had taken care to stock the kitchen with stuff she likes while she was gone: green bananas (she hates them when they’re ripe), Japanese bread, some stinky double-cream French cheese, prosciutto, potato chips, and so on. She had already eaten one of the bananas, and was toasting a piece of the bread, which she then topped with some fig spread, that stinky cheese, and prosciutto. I made us some coffee, and we chatted a bit. I told her I had a proposition for her finishing her dissertation: I’d help her to form a “container” for that activity, by helping her to create the right habits to bring it to fruition. This would include me mentoring her through the process, and part of that would include her going to the university library every day to work for a period of time. I’d give her daily assignments, would edit her work, we could plan beforehand and discuss afterwards. She thought this was a good idea, but she’d need to think about it. She said she couldn’t commit to seeing me every day. I told her this wasn’t about her seeing me, but rather about her finishing her dissertation, and that basically was true. (Okay, I confess: a side product of this would be that we would spend time together.) The point I was trying to make to her was the she needed to form the proper habits, and that this takes consistency and dedication. No days off. She just has to do something every day for at least 21 days. If we were to start on Monday, that would take us to the end of the month, and I assured her that she would not only see progress, but she’d see positive changes in her life as well. Still, she needed to think about it.

Still, she was behaving a bit weirdly. She told me she needed to take a nap, so I let her do that while I was cooking lunch. She eventually emerged, and seemed rather teary-eyed. Somehow I felt that something was up, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She needed to take the bus to a gig, and I offered to give her a ride, at least to the bus transit center. She agreed. I noticed before we left that there was a card on her desk, and I kind of wondered what that was all about. We left, and stopped off at a cafe near the transit center where she would wait for the bus to arrive. I bought her a coffee. Things seemed okay.

Fast forward to my drive home from work. My mind started racing, running wild. I began to think about that envelope on her desk, what it might contain. Was it a letter from the adulterer? Was it an admission from her about their affair still going on? Could it be something else? I just felt the worst was on its way. I have a wrist mala that I wear because I find my drive time occasionally useful for reciting mantras and such. So I put that mala in my hand and started reciting mantras. I probably did a couple of hundred by the time I got home.

There was nothing on the dining room table. This is normally where she’d leave notes. The dog was home, so that was a good sign. I went into her office — the answering machine is there, so I pretty much have to go in to check it — and saw the envelope on her desk was addressed to me. Inside there was a card with a four-page letter. It wasn’t really much more than a litany of ineffectual apologies (see the opening paragraphs) and rationalizations. I got the sense from the letter, which she had clearly put a lot of effort into, that she is really digging her heels right now. One of the things she expressed was that she felt like she had given me a false sense of hope that we might reconcile, and that I might be successful if I just waited things out.

This is par for the course, to my understanding. The obstinate spouse is going to do whatever they can to trip you up, to get you to give up, to get you to just go away and leave them alone. Clearly nothing she had done to this point had been successful in getting me to be a jerk, which is also a golden behavior for the obstinate spouse to see. So basically she needed to express to me her belief that there is absolutely no hope for reconciliation. But she did it in a thoroughly bizarre and incoherent way: she spent entire paragraphs expressing gratitude to me and my family. She also wrote statements asserting that, as a result of her following this new path — a path that she realized I would find hard to understand — our relationship would somehow be transformed into something much better and more peaceful. She even went so far as to say that I am her truest friend.

I honestly took this a bit hard at first, and was kind of freaked out. My first thoughts were that this was a prelude to finding out that maybe she had filed against me or something. That might be possible, but I haven’t seen any evidence of such from our bank accounts, unless she has used some of her purloined emergency cash for this purpose. (Somehow I doubt it, though.) But then the feelings passed, and I realized that all I need to do is just to stay the course. She is doing her utmost to try to just get me to give up. She did not have the guts to talk to me, probably because I’d just stand my ground and stick up for our marriage. I do believe that other people put her up to this. Those people likely include the “energy worker,” the adulterer, and the friends she is currently staying with.

You know, it’s weird: we call them obstinate spouses because they won’t budge from their positions that would have them destroying the marriage. But those of us who are sticking up for the marriage are equally obstinate in a way. We are convinced that staying married is the right thing to do, especially when there hasn’t been an sincere and thorough effort to work through problems and to arrive at some sort of beginnings of reconciliation.

Call it sticking up for love. That can’t be all wrong. Love is nobody’s fool.

December 2011: A Summary (Part 1)

This post looks back on the month that has just passed. I have experienced much momentum toward reconciling my marriage, and have also had a few setbacks.

The start of the month was relatively uneventful. I continued to implement the strategies and techniques of my marriage reconciliation program (Marriage Fitness), and was beginning to see signs of change. The affair continued, but she went about 10 days without seeing her lover. Then, in the second week of December, she told me she was going to be with her “friends” overnight — this term changed to “friend” by the next morning. I knew what was going on, however. She had been lying to me about the continued existence of the affair for about 6 weeks by this point, and I was determined not to let her come clean to me about it.

On the morning that she left to be with him, I had a very brief exchange with her, in which I told her I felt betrayed and abandoned. This unleashed a torrent of vitriol from her, in which she accused me of betraying her, of having been a bad husband, and on and on. I bit my tongue and said nothing. I just stood there and let her let me have it. Then I left. I came home that evening, and found a two-page letter in which she justified her behavior with various rationalizations. She didn’t tell me where she was going, but she claimed to need “space” to figure out how to live her life separately from me. As a result of this letter, as well as some of the things she had said to me that morning, I decided the time was ripe for me to apologize to her — not for what I’d said, but for things that had happened earlier in the marriage that had paved the way for the affair to take place.

That night, I crafted an apology letter that addressed the emotions I thought I must have provoked in her heart through various actions (or inactions) I had taken over the previous several years. I gave voice to all of these by trying to put myself in her shoes, imagining how it must have felt to be her, watching me go through what essentially was a mid-life crisis. The next morning, after she had returned, I sat down to talk with her, and began delivering the apology verbally. After about a minute, she began crying. I must have spoken for about 15 minutes, and it was a tremendously emotional situation for both of us — a breakthrough in a way, even. I then gave her the letter and asked her to read it later, and left for work. This letter went a long way toward building further goodwill and momentum toward reconciliation, although even afterwards there was still a long way to go.

It was also during the second week of this month that her affair hit a major roadblock: her lover, as previously mentioned, is a long-standing, high-level member of this shrine that is connected to her home country, and a very senior person within the shrine expressed public condemnation of their affair. This likely came as a major shock and wake-up call to them both. The message had been publicly posted over a social networking site. I could tell that this gotten to my wife, as she became very despondent, and even asked me if my emotional/mental situation was okay. This, of course, meant that hers was incredibly fragile and unstable, which was easy to see on her face.

I knew that the upcoming weeks would be difficult, as I faced three momentous days: her birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary, which happens to be New Year’s Eve. That will be the topic for the next post.