The desperate-to-reconcile folks always point to the apologies they get as proof that this thing can be saved. There was sobbing. Snot and running mascara. Operatic arias of remorse. Rending of garments, gnashing of teeth, and assurances of postnups.
And yet when pressed, they’re always missing something.
The cheater gave them all the passwords…. but is secretive about his work phone.
She says she’s truly sorry for the long-term affair… but gets defensive when asked for reassurances.
He says it’s all over with the other woman… but won’t tell you her name.
And the chump is confused by this — But they said they were SORRY! And then it becomes this weird dance. The betrayed person presses for more Signs of Sorry (please do these things) and the cheater resists, or promises to do them (and doesn’t follow through), or does two of the three things, but is half-assed about it.
Just when the chump is sick to death of this — are you REALLY SORRY? And is about to find their balls and file — the cheater amps up the verbal onslaught of remorse again. And the chump buys it, because… you can’t make that up. Right? You can’t just blub about how sorry you are on demand if you didn’t mean it.
If you find yourself in this spot, remember — sorry is as sorry DOES.
It’s all about the actions. I’m not saying there are not cheaters who aren’t actually sorry. But the way you distinguish the sorry from the sorry ass, is how they behave. Someone who is truly intent to reconcile and make this right is sorry regardless of what you do. Their remorse is not contingent upon whether or not you divorce them, on whether or not there are painful consequences. They feel awful for hurting you despite how you proceed.
True remorse is about humility and cheaters often have a very bad case of You Are Not the Boss of Me. How dare you set the terms, how dare you demand recompense? Your messy feelings are very inconvenient right now. Please go away. I will not be dictated to!
When you get waterworks from a cheater, it’s usually because you busted them and they fear exposure. The tears are for themselves. They are tears of fear and manipulation, because shit, they need a backup plan.
New chumps are terribly vulnerable people. It’s so natural to want the person who hurt you make this right. You hunger for that remorse.
And chumps are usually empathic people. Even when someone has gutted you, it is hard to watch them suffer. (But trust me, you’ll get there.) You see them in distress, and you want to comfort, to salvage.
That’s why righteous anger is so useful. It keeps you honest with yourself. It turns the volume down so you can see the actions, without listening to the words.
Finally, if you want a sure fire way to tell if a cheater is sorry — ask for a credit report and a postnup. A credit report to find the money trail of secret credit cards, PO boxes, or debt you don’t know about. What’s a postnup? It’s a legal agreement, a property and/or custody settlement that only goes into effect should you divorce. If they balk? There is your answer. It’s a pointless document if they’re going to remain faithful, and only they control that. Sorry is as sorry does. Get it in writing. Notarized.
This column ran previously.