For a while I have been thinking about the change that comes from trauma and not just about the change that has done damage but also the change that is positive and healing.
According to the dictionary “collateral damage” is a general term for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended target. According to many writings on trauma after infidelity, the person who engages in extradyatic sex (EDS), often does not think about their partner and the long-term consequences of their behaviour. Although difficult to understand for the loyal partner, this behaviour of blocking out critical parts and justifying others is common among those who betray their spouse.
A blogger on WP recently wrote about “collateral beauty”, which is the title of a film from 2016 with Will Smith. I have not seen the movie, but the title “collateral beauty” did something to me and I questioned whether there can be collateral beauty as well as collateral damage as a result of EDS (with many thanks to this Blogger).
The couples who make it through, no doubt as all of you are aware, go through a rough stage that varies from 1-4 years to longer depending on what damage was done and on the depth of work the spouse who engaged in EDS has done to repair the relationship.
I have met couples of which the loyal spouse told me that they are hopeful and positive as their partner has made permanent changes. They tell me that their partner’s past behaviour and the damage it has done to them and the family has opened the eyes of their spouse and that their spouse is becoming the person they want to be. They tell me that for the first time in their marriage they feel that their partner places them and the children on top of their priority list. They tell me that they see for the first time that their spouse is seeing the damage they have done to the marriage and that they are committed to do all that is needed to “make it right”. They also tell me that their spouse is not expecting miracles and knows that it is a long road and that patience is required before their partner can trust them again.
One woman told me that she does not want “the old partner” back, as she likes him more the way he is now, as prior to his betraying behaviour, he was not engaged in the family and did not place value on her needs. She told me that “he was always looking for something and obviously we were not enough for him”.
I think that people who have experienced the pain of betrayal and have worked it through might be able to see the “beauty” that came out of all the suffering. Some people have decided to move away from the relationship and invested their energy in a new life and they tell me that although hard in the beginning, they feel good about themselves. It is not so, that there is no longer pain, but they also see what they have gained. One of my dear friends started a business and felt that she could have never done this as she lacked the confidence during her marriage. She realised that her husband criticised her to such an extent that she did not grasp the opportunities that were offered to her. If he had not left her while engaging in selfish behaviours, she might have stayed in a marriage that smothered her creativity.
Others who found that enough goodness remained to stay in the marriage, might see beauty coming from the change that occurred as a result of the pain. The genuine change in the partner who wants to “make it right” and who becomes a committed partner and parent can be seen as a beautiful development. I am describing a spouse who is well aware of the pain they have caused and who never forgets this. This spouse understands that their partner has “bad memories and negative reminders” and this spouse helps their partner through those moments by confirming their deep remorse, their commitment and love. They do this as long as it is needed and this might be a long time. Although the betrayed spouse might initially see the damage the infidelity has done to them, I hope that they also see that there is hope for a different and better life.