A fellow blogger “MOB” has asked me to write about whether or not I believe in the concept of “Forgive and Forget”. I used to think that forgiveness was a lovely idea until I had something to forgive, then it became a lot more difficult. It puzzles me slightly – the whole idea of forgiveness. Once you have forgiven somebody for whatever wrongdoing they have done, are you supposed to feel better? Or are they the ones who are supposed to benefit? Or is it a symbiotic relationship? It has that element, for me anyway, of the “forgiver” being allowed to feel slightly more superior than the “forgivee” – to forgive somebody you are almost rising above and looking down….perhaps that’s why, for me, it works best as a religious concept.
To forget? Not sure. I forget lots of things these days because I’m getting old and alcohol is slowly blurring my memory cells. But important things? Even things that really really hurt…why would you forget them? Deal with them, yes. Box them, yes. Move on from them, yes. But being aware of them and even remembering them from time to time seems to me like progress. You learn from experience. To block out those experiences seems pointless to me. You need to confront them and learn from them, live with them and grow from them.
ANYWAY….the point was that MOB wants to know why the concept of “forgive and forget” was so huge and difficult for me….I won’t bore you with ALL the details (check out my post called “Marriage and Motherhood” if you want to know more) , but I will have to briefly explain the situation so that you can see why our mutual lack of forgiveness was so damaging.
“It is easier to forgive an Enemy than to forgive a Friend”.
He was my best friend. When best friends do something really bad it is very hard to forgive them because you feel so unbelievably let down and betrayed. I had thought we had the perfect life. Three beautiful, healthy children and a lovely home. My husband had a good job and I therefore had the luxury of being able to give up my job to stay at home to bring up the children. That isn’t to say that I was deliriously happy all the time…I had my low grade resentments – sometimes I found being at home all day immensely dull, sometimes I wished I could just walk out of the door in the morning without a backward glance. Sometimes I just felt bored and cross. Sometimes I was angry with him because his life with children was remarkably similar to his life without children -his life changed very little. Whereas mine changed dramatically.
Apparently, around the 14 years of marriage mark, I failed to pay due attention to the fact that he felt trapped and unhappy. He didn’t love his job and he felt pressured by having a large mortgage. I didn’t know (until it came out in counselling) that “what time will you be home?” had become a question he had grown to hate. There was a problem with a client at work and then his father died, both these things deeply affected him, understandably. I tried to be supportive but he grew distant and disinterested. I couldn’t reach him and we began to argue.
When I found out that he was having an affair, his distance and his urge to create arguments all made sense. That’s what I believe happens if you’re in an affair – you convince yourself that what you are doing is acceptable because your partner “doesn’t understand you”.
I plummeted from a great height into a very big black hole. I didn’t recognise myself anymore, let alone him. I lost the plot far more than he will ever understand. My entire life unravelled before my eyes. At first I was numb and then I was angry and then I was deeply deeply hurt (and if I’m honest, humiliated too). It is easy to drift apart in a marriage. To lose sight of each other and yourself. Especially when you have three young children to look after. The hard bit is keeping it together when the going gets tough. I felt he had given up too early and taken the easy option out. When it all fell apart I panicked. Being on my own was not an option. I wouldn’t be able to cope. My children wouldn’t be able to cope. He stayed in the house and in our bed. I tried everything. Counselling. Endless drinks and dinner together to talk on neutral territory, away from the children. Weekends away. I tried desperately to make sense of it all, to understand, to forgive him. But he had become a stranger to me and I began not only to hate him, but to hate myself. I was alarmed by the constant ugly roar of noise in my head – the sound of my pure unadulterated rage.
There was no way, in the early stages, I could forgive him for what he had done. He wasn’t sorry enough. He didn’t lie down and say “run me over” (“twice or three times if you want”). He didn’t insist we flew off to a desert island to sort things out. He didn’t put his wedding ring back on when I asked him to. He didn’t buy me the biggest diamond in the world (yes, shallow I know, but I’m a girl…it might have helped a bit). He didn’t go and talk to my parents (yes, a bit weird, but for some reason I wanted him to do that). He didn’t even stay at home with me the day I found out and couldn’t stop crying. He went to work.
I wish I had been able to forgive him. Things would have been so much easier in many ways, expecially for the children. But. I couldn’t. In order to forgive you need to be able to understand their side of the story and I didn’t. After two years of trying to work it out I filed for divorce. Much against his will. He was furious. In fact, he still hasn’t forgiven me.
Mark Twain said something beautiful about forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it”.
How lovely is that? But unfortunately, if you want an analogy here, I felt like dog shit on the heel of his shoe and dog shit, when crushed still smells like dog shit (only worse). Is it any wonder that I’m not a poet?
So. We’ve now been divorced a year almost to the day. There’s nothing much more to say. It is an enormous shame. Life is very different now. For all of us. I have forgiven him because I’m calm and peaceful again and I really believe that life is too short to hold grudges forever. But what is the point of forgiveness now? It’s too late and not really the relevant emotion anymore. He isn’t remotely interested in the fact that I can now deal with his betrayal. He now can’t forgive me.
He is still very angry and hurt by the way I reacted. He felt he did “a bad thing” but that my reaction was extreme. He is still furious that when I asked him to leave the house I didn’t ever, in the two years that he was renting a flat about 5 miles away go and see him there. Why would I? I wanted to run him over, not go and have a bloody cup of tea in his new depressingly childless flat. He told me once that he would never forgive me for depriving him of his children and he still feels that way.
It is all so desperately sad. How easily lives can be changed forever by the actions of others. Cause and effect. I’m not bitter anymore. “Shit happens” is my new philosophy in life and I’ve grown and learnt from my experience. However, it doesn’t help that he is still so angry. I think it’s a shame that we haven’t moved on to a better acceptance of what went wrong. He actually said to me just before we divorced that he hoped, one day that I would do something I needed forgiveness for and not get it and then understand how awful it was not to be forgiven….
So have I forgiven him? Yes (sort of). Have I forgotten? No I haven’t and I never will.