Brock and I have been talking a lot about marriage lately – our own, others and just marriages in general. Last night, on the drive home from the last holiday party of the season, he asked, “If your ex had come to you and admitted he screwed up, would you have wanted to stay and work on the marriage?”
“It depends,” was my initial response. “If he came to me towards the end, after years of lies and betrayal, it would have been too late.”
“Yeah,” Brock uttered in agreement.
“But if he had come to me early on, before it went on too long, then I would have tried to make it work.”
“Makes sense. I know I would do anything I could to save our marriage if there was a problem.”
And I believe he would; he’s not the type to try to hide from a problem.
But then the conversation took a different turn, discussing what happens when a spouse screws up once. We both agreed that in that case, we would not want to know as long as the offending party accepted responsibility, addressed the underlying issues that led to the infidelity and ensured it never happened again.
In other words, if the spouse made a mistake in judgment rather than possessed an error in character, we wouldn’t want to know about the situation as long as it could be remedied and a repeat avoided.
I feel weird even writing those words. After all, the secrecy and lies are what ultimately tore apart my first marriage. And the thought of my spouse withholding such sensitive information causes me some distress.
But knowing it wouldn’t be any better.
These mind exercises are challenging for me. I’m one of those people absolutely built for monogamy. Hell, I even turned my cheek the first time Brock tried to kiss me because there was another man in the picture. When I am in a relationship, I develop a sort of tunnel vision where I don’t even recognize other men as potential partners and, if I ever feel an attraction to somebody, I make sure that I am never in a situation that could lead to making a bad decision.
So I struggle to even imagine how someone who has overall good character can make a mistake that leads to infidelity. But I know it happens. Even good people can make bad decisions.
It’s what you do after that defines you.
It was a strange conversation to have with my husband, essentially laying out a roadmap of what to do in case of infidelity:
1) Set yourself up to be successful; avoid potentially dangerous situations.
2) If you screw up, take responsibility and fix it (STD testing, counseling, etc.).
3) Don’t reveal to simply alleviate guilt. And never, ever shift the blame to your partner.
4) If you need help, get it.
It felt odd to talk openly about these worst-case situations, especially because in my first marriage, any talk of infidelity was simply, “Don’t do it.” (And we see how well that turned out!) But we’re all human and humans can make mistakes.
It’s what you do after that matters.
That doesn’t change the fact that I desperately hope this remains nothing but a thought exercise!
How about you? Are there situations where you would rather not know?
The Good Men Project has a new Facebook page that is all about relationships. Check it out!