Choose divorce, it doesn’t matter if your cheater is sorry or not sorry, the infidelity is a deal breaker.
If you choose reconciliation, however, the matter of How Sorry Are They comes to the forefront of the decision. Not only How Sorry Are They, but What Exactly Do They Intend to Do About It? And that’s where chumps get tangled up in limbo land — trying to parse how remorseful the cheater is and weighing it against demonstrable acts of reconciliation, such as a post-nup, no contact with the affair partner, honesty, transparency, etc.
Remorse? Proceed. No remorse? Go directly to divorce — it seems pretty straightforward. Because, why would you waste one New York second with someone who isn’t sorry, right? I mean, you’d have to be a masochist.
…. There’s a work around.
The Reconciliation Industrial Complex has a wonderful loophole to the remorse question. I call it: Cheaters are Timid Forest Creatures (TFC).
Oh no, you can’t ask for transparency right now — you might frighten them away!
Don’t be angry and emotional! This is very difficult for them too! They’re grieving the affair partner.
Don’t take any immediate actions to protect yourself! You might intimidate your cheater away from reconciliation! They’re very undecided right now and the LAST thing you want to do is get all bossy and demanding with the consequences. Didn’t you read the memo on making the marriage a Good Place to Be? These ugly accountability requests are creating a dangerously bad vibe.
Beware their FOO issues! Didn’t you know your cheater is in the grip of TOXIC SHAME? There you are, being all loud and judge-y — it could trigger them into another bout of toxic shame, and THEN what? You know they don’t handle stress well! They may just be compelled to cheat again. So be patient and loving and ask them heart-felt questions about their subterranean shame issues. Hold their hands on this. The cheater is in as much pain as you are.
Yes, cheaters are Timid Forest Creatures. Very delicate, fragile, and skittish. Just one wrong move and… poof! They’ll scurry off into the underbrush and leave you. No one can make any decisions until the cheater stabilizes! They’re sad. Very, very sad. And broken. Would you break a broken person?
You? Oh sure, they’re sorry. It’s very unfortunate when Things Just Happen to splendid people. (Splendid people like them. Who are you again?)
When the narrative is TFC, who are you to ask for demonstrations of sorry? They need help! They have sex addiction or FOO issues or Borderline or depression… It makes them do things for which they’re not responsible. Not really. Hate the sin, love the sinner. Oh, here’s an idea! Why don’t you join a support group to help you HELP them?
Think of reconciliation as a soap bubble, and think of yourself as a raging rhinoceros. Do you want to crush the fragile surface tension of remorse with your clumsy demands? You realize if this all falls apart it’s your fault, don’t you? You weren’t there for them during this crisis.
How many of you bought this shit? How many of you waited before making a drastic decision of self protection like seeing a lawyer? Did you wait 6 months? A year to decide? Were you patient with your TFC?
How’d that work for you?
I think it’s better to keep the decision tree simple. You don’t see remorse? Don’t wait around for it to emerge from the fog. You don’t see it because it doesn’t exist. Don’t make this complicated. Don’t let your cheater or some quack therapist make this complicated. People who treat you like shit and don’t demonstrate one bit of sorry are not people you need in your life.
Are cheaters Timid Forest Creatures — or are they grifters?
Are they undecided — or are they eating cake at your expense?
Do things “just happen” to cheaters — or do they have agency?
Are cheaters compelled to Do Bad Things because of their FOO issues — or do they manage to hold it together for other people, like their friends or their boss?
Are cheaters really sad — or just sad for themselves?
Ask a Timid Forest Creature and find out!
Oops…. wait… it scurried under a tree root and is unavailable for comment.
This column ran previously. Check beneath the underbrush for a timid forest creature near you.