“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”
“She seemed to spend a lot of time blaming herself for her injury…”
Jennifer, a thirty three year old, dental hygienist, had been a star volleyball player in her college days. She still looked fit even though that was a decade ago. She had been so good she was awarded scholarships to play for a school in western Canada. But, one day, she dove for the ball and missed, damaging her hip permanently…and in that second her dreams of the big time, were over. She said she had to switch schools the next year, and, according to her, her life has been in the pit ever since.
Then, about a year and a half ago, she met a nice guy, Coady, and they got married. But last week, when she was out with her girl friends “partying,” she was unfaithful. She was so overwhelmed with guilt she confessed to Coady. He was hurt, felt betrayed…but was also willing to rebuild. Jennifer said, “I’ve had one screw up after another, and now, I just blew my marriage!” She felt this was her last chance to get her act together if she was going to have a future with Coady.
“Now you think you have betrayed Coady as well…”
Jennifer frequently referenced her family, especially her parents and especially the volleyball injury that ended her career. She said she was from a ‘sports’ family, everyone was very competitive. Both her parents coached various sports, her Dad, minor hockey and her Mom, high school volleyball. She spent a lot of time blaming herself for her injury and remarked a few times on how she had disappointed her parents, especially her Mom. Then she added, almost as an after thought, how she and her Mom had drifted apart since her college days.
I said, “Jennifer, it sounds like you carry a lot of guilt about your hip injury…like you betrayed your parents, especially your Mom…and now you think you have betrayed Coady as well…it that an accurate assessment of where you are today?”
“That’s just about right! The only thing I would add is this screwing up of my life…it has been going on for a long time, Ken!”
“There are no accidents in anyone’s life, not mine and not yours…”
“Jennifer, I have some information for you to consider which will alleviate your situation, if you look carefully. It is this…there are no accidents in anyone’s life, not mine and not yours and not anyone else.”
“That sounds bizarre…what about all the car accidents which occur every day?” she asked, challenging me.”
“Jennifer, an accident is called an accident because someone says there were more negatives than positives connected to that event. But there can never be more negatives than positives to any event. It defies a basic law of nature, the law of symmetry or balance. We just need to uncover them for the events in our own life to prove this to ourselves. Even the insurance industry uses the term ‘auto collision’ more now because they’re so lucky we have auto ‘collisions.’ Otherwise, they would be unemployed along with a lot of other people including motor mechanics, auto body restorers, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, pharmacists and so on.”
“What also occurred, at the same time, which has been valuable to you…?”
“You’re saying when I damaged my hip in college…it wasn’t an accident…it was a collision? What difference does that make…it still hurt me and a lot of other people?” the frustration boiling beneath her reddening face.
“Jennifer, there is no doubt it hurt you and others. But it equally helped you and others…and I don’t think you have noticed how…at least, not yet!” I said.
“I don’t see it at all Ken, help me find it because I would like to believe that was true!”
“Let’s start with you Jennifer. Would you go back to the moment of your collision when you hurt your hip and ended your volleyball career. What also occurred, at the same moment, which has been valuable to you ever since?”
“The cultural expectation should be if there’s infidelity, the marriage is more important than fidelity.” – Dan Savage, writer
“I felt relieved…I felt kind of free!”
“Ken, when I think back to those days when I fell…I was in so much pain, I don’t remember much else. But later, when the doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to play competitive volleyball again without risking more serious injuries…”
She paused, then continued, “Ken, I have never told anyone this before…but I felt relieved…I really felt kind of free!” She said this with a half smile on her face.
“Free from what Jennifer?”
Her eyes watered and she looked away stifling her emotion, “Oh Ken, I was free from the pressure…parental pressure, school pressure, a crazy daily conditioning routine, practice and playing schedules, the pressure to do better and better, the stress of neglecting my studies…the stress of spending more time in a locker-room than a classroom…all of it!”
“Sounds like you got your life back when…you had your collision?” I offered.
“I really did…but my parents were so disappointed…my Mom was more upset than I was…which is kind of weird actually!” she said, looking at me with a childlike twist to her head and shoulders.
“Once you find it, things start to look different about your past, present …”
“Let’s check out how your collision benefitted your Mom at that time in her life…how did your Mom react to what happened to you?”
“Well, like I said, she was disappointed and upset. But she actually got over it pretty quickly. My parents are both hard working people. They had to scrimp and save to support me in my volleyball career back then. They even travelled to attend a lot of my games. I remember Mom saying one day, about six months later, how they were finally getting their debt under control. The other thing I remember now looking back Ken is my younger twin sisters got more of my Mom’s time after that.”
“This is exactly what happens Jennifer…the law of balance operates in everyone’s life in this way. Once you find it, things start to look different about your past, present and future.”
“Fidelity is a gift not a requirement.” – Lilli Palmer, actress
“If it’s true, then how does it apply to my infidelity?
“I like this law Ken, but, if its true, then how does it apply to my infidelity?”
“OK, let’s start with you! What is the benefit to you this event occurred? What did you learn which will balance it out in your own mind?” I asked her.
“The first thing that comes to mind is my commitment to Coady…before that night I was unsure about being married and unsure he was the guy I wanted to spend my life with…but Ken, the way Coady responded to it…the way he just listened and nodded…the way he held me and said we would work it out somehow…that was the moment when I knew he was the guy for me. I was never so certain before, so committed before…but now, I really am!”
Then, she added, “Looking back now…it was the uncertainty which led me to being out partying…that uncertainty all gone now.” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Was it worth it to you Jennifer…in your value system, was it worth it to you…was it a fair exchange…does knowing you are really committed to Coady in the future resolve the pain you’ve been experiencing since your night of partying?” I asked her slowly and carefully, knowing she would need time to evaluate such an important question.
“Can you see now your ‘partying’ was really an important learning event?”
She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Yes, actually it does Ken because before I was so confused and uncertain about so many things. I spent so much time beating myself up, blaming myself for past events. But now, using this idea of balance, I realize past events were not my failures, instead they were equally beneficial to me…and to others as well. This really frees me from my past and lets me get on with my life.”
“Can you see now your ‘partying’ was really an important learning opportunity which has enabled you to take control of your life…but like everything in life, it had a cost…there is no free lunch for anyone!”
“Yes, I see that now, Ken! But what about Coady? How does it serve him? How does he benefit from my ‘partying?’” she asked.
“Jennifer that will depend on Coady’s values. And, if he is interested in uncovering it, I can show him how to do it, because I know the benefits are there!”
“I was exaggerating my career at the expense of our relationship.”
And that’s what happened. Both Jennifer and Coady worked with me to rebuild their relationship. Coady was able to discover how Jennifer’s ‘partying’ was catalyst for him to realize he wanted children and he wanted them with her. They had been avoiding the topic due to his career commitments, but, now he was ready to get started and so was she.
At one point Coady said, “When I think about it, I was unfaithful as well, just in a different form…I was exaggerating my career at the expense of our relationship…if the ‘partying’ hadn’t happened we would probably have just drifted farther apart, eh?”
“Ah, …that law of balance again!” I said smiling.
“Faithful women are all alike, they think only of their fidelity, never of their husbands. – Jean Giraudoux, writer
Until Next time…
September’s theme is “RESOLVING RELATIONSHIPS.” I have talked so far about the purpose of relationships; Nancy Buck addressed the importance of parental relationships and today we have looked at infidelity.
Please remember to send us your feedback and monthly theme suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question about RESOLVING RELATIONSHIPS or are looking for strategies for dealing with yours, contact me.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- There are no screw up in your life, only learning opportunities.
- Your accidents disappear when you get the important learning under them.
- Your fidelity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
- You will only be faithful to your own values, consciously or unconsciously.
- Perceived infidelity is how we learn to be faithful to our own values.
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com