Many romantic relationships
end because one partner is "guilty" of doing something that destroyed the
relationship, which makes us conclude that the other partner is innocent.
Is this really so? Too many partners get away with the "innocent" cry
because the spouse has done the “obvious”—committed adultery, or had a
non-sexual affair. Then you hear the innocent one exclaim: "I am innocent.
I did not break my marriage vow." The sad part about this picture is that
although it might be true that one partner did have an affair, we often come
to the conclusion that the "innocent" partner did no wrong. The other
painful result is the “innocent” goes on living a well respected life
because to the world he has done nothing wrong.
I avoid coming to the
conclusion that since a partner did the “wrong” we all can bear witness to,
then the other partner is really innocent. Many partners have committed
adultery after years of loneliness, abandonment, abuse, or not having their
emotional needs met. This does not excuse the behavior, but it sure does
not exonerate the “innocent.”
The irony is that the
“innocent” does look innocent in public. He or she is usually well poised,
gracious, kind, respectful, and well mannered. However, no one sees the
ugly, dark side displayed in the home. There are cases when even the
children will vouch for their parent’s “innocence.” This is usually because
the “innocent” knows how to camouflage the behavior with kindness, or the
children are too young to understand what is happening.
A SPIRITUAL MATTER
This is a deeply spiritual matter. The truth is
both the innocent and the guilty can be candidates for punishment in hell
fire. However, many times it is the "guilty" spouse who is remorseful,
repents of his or her wrong doings and goes on to live a godly, Christian
life, in peace and happiness because his or her sins have been "washed in
the blood of the Lamb." For this repentant "guilty"
spouse, there is a crown
of glory awaiting. Ironically, the so-called "innocent" spouse remains
arrogant, self-righteous, proud, and stubborn, making him or herself a good
candidate for hell fire. His or her relatives actually reinforce that
self-righteousness because they refuse to believe that their sister,
brother, son, or daughter would do such wrong.
Since it is the "innocent"
spouse who is never dropped from membership, or loses his or her job,
because the church refuses to investigate both sides, the arrogance blinds
him or herself to the fact that lurking around the dark corners of his or
her heart is a "cancer" that will soon metastasize throughout the body,
causing a long and painful, spiritual death. It is true that there will be
surprises in heaven. Matthew 5:7 remind us: "You hypocrite! First remove the
beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the
speck from your brother's eye."
For decades I have been saying that unmet needs
in a relationship makes one vulnerable to having an affair. Yes, no one
goes looking for an affair and most do not want to have an affair. It
starts very innocently with a “healthy” friendship relationship. The
partner feels comfortable with this new friend because he or she listens, is
kind, and pays attention to his or her pain. Then the “wounded spouse” who
is seeking attention, wakes up one day to the realization that he or she is
caught in the emotional web of a romantic encounter. Although it might be
confusing at first, it feels good.
The “innocent” partner may
suspect or actually discover the questionable behavior and warns or argues
with the “wounded” or “guilty” spouse. The “innocent” partner refuses to
hear the plea for inclusion and romance. The “innocent” partner comes
The “guilty” may have painted the room red but the
“innocent” bought the paint.
home anytime, often
very late at nights, does not discuss where he or she has been, and in some
cases does not get involved in sharing household duties. Many innocent
partners are emotionally or physically abusive, utilizing perhaps one of the
most subtle, yet powerful form of abuse—intimidation. It is as though
the “guilty” has become the slave and the “innocent” the slave master. But
we do not know that the “well-behaved and respected” spouse is a “slave
master” or “cold ice box” in the home. We quickly throw stones at the one
who did the “terrible thing” and never pause to question or challenge the
one who appears to be innocent. Even family members of the “innocent” are
often blind and provide bias support, criticizing the “guilty” partner,
condemning, and causing more emotional pain and frustration.
Yes, there are many partners
who are truly innocent when the other partner violates a marriage vow. But
far too many are not innocent. Our role is to help expose the truth, even
if it is painful. We must stop preserving the “good image of the family” at
the expense of the emotional health and destruction of a relationship. Are
you innocent or guilty? Before you accuse or condemn your guilty partner,
pause and take a look at your behavior. My concluding statement is one
that should cause you to think: The “guilty” may have painted the room
red, but the “innocent” bought the paint. Think about it.
Barrington Brennen is a
marriage and family therapist. Send your question or comments to P.O. Box
N-896, Nassau, The Bahamas or email
or call 1242 323 8772 or visit www.soencouragement.org