By Jennifer Imming, PhD. I work with couples, who come to therapy due to relationship issues, as well as individuals who bring their problems with relationships to their sessions. One of the most difficult breaches in trust and with the most difficulty to repair is that of deception, whether that be an emotional affair, sexual affair, or some other form of one person presenting themselves in better light than they should. The definition of deception is to intentionally trick someone into believing something that is untrue. A lie. It sounds better to say “untrue” but it’s really lying.
People deceive all the time, and it’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves when a bit of deception is acceptable, and if distorting any truth to one’s partner is not. The scope of that discussion is too large for this brief article.
What I do want to address is what happens after the deception is found out. I have worked with many people who deceived another, and who truly wanted to do what it takes to mend their ways and heal their relationships. I’ve watched those people get help through therapy, end friendships that were a bad influence, make all the electronic devices that concealed the deceit open to their partner so all interactions are transparent. I’ve watched them grieve and feel the shame of their actions and the consequences of hurting someone they love so much. I’ve watched them become better people than they ever had been before. Even to become role models to those around them.
But, the deceived partner asks, how do I get past my hurt? Even after the deceiving partner has taken all the steps that anyone can conceive of taking to mend the relationship, the hurt doesn’t simply go away. There are “anniversary dates” of when breaches occurred, there are the little reminders of the deceit that sneak into daily living when one doesn’t even expect it — a reminder of the hurt that happened.
Again, now what? What does a person do after their partner has done everything possible to heal the damage done? This is where forgiveness comes in. Just as we have to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have made, resulting from bad childhoods or parents who didn’t know how to teach us any differently than their own childhoods, we have to find the blanket-of-compassion, as I call it, to lay on top of all the hurts that cannot be undone. Not to shut them down, of course, not even to stop the grieving, as you have to allow this. But when nothing more can be done, and the reminder of the breach rears it’s head, I encourage people to dose it with forgiveness. I encourage the partner — when every reasonable action has been taken to heal the rupture to the relationship — to start the important act of forgiving their partner. And, please remember that, as we are seeing here, forgiveness is a verb. Something that isn’t a one-time act, but given over and over with each reminder that tries to rob the deceived partner of peace. Because, you see, forgiveness is not just for the partner who did the deceiving, forgiveness is for the person who was deceived. To regain that sense of calm, and peace in one’s life, forgiveness in a relationship becomes essential. It’s the ingredient that can seal the final cracks in one’s heart.
Here is wishing each of you the courage to heal and to ultimately forgive!
Dr. Jennifer Imming is in private practice, working with individuals and couples. She practices from a model of therapy, ISTDP (Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy), with the intention of working in an active, focused manner to bring suffering to an end in patients’ lives as rapidly as possible. Dr. Imming values ongoing training to pursue precision in her therapy skills and regularly is involved with international collegial groups for this purpose. She has been active in the community in a number of ways, including being a founding member of the Therapeutic Assessment Institute, participating on several boards, doing presentations, publishing articles, and volunteerism. Personally, she considers herself blessed to have an integrated family of two girls and two boys, who constantly have her laughing and striving to be the best possible model for them.
Jennifer Imming, PhD, Psychologist, 3307 Northland Dr., Ste. 220, Austin, TX 78731, Phone: 512.374.4900. Website: www.drjenniferimming.com
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