We often read in the blogosphere of some reconciling adulterer who is so overwhelmed by his (usually male, with a couple memorable exceptions) own shame that he doesn’t put much energy into helping his spouse, the victim. I admit I’m always skeptical about these stories. So, the cheater wasn’t too overwhelmed by shame to commit the adulterous acts, but suddenly shame rises within them and it prevents them from doing anything constructive to repair the damage they’ve done? I am tempted to view this as a excuse for not moving forward and helping their spouse, and as a convenient shield to protect themselves from admonishment. In effect, they’re saying, “Don’t worry about criticizing me, I’m already criticizing myself. You couldn’t possibly get down on me more than I’m getting down on myself. Don’t you feel for me?”
But, maybe my view of these stories is unfair. I feel considerable shame for all the ways I lied and cheated. If someone else had done even a few of the things I did, I would have piously held my nose in disgust and looked down on their moral failure. Yes, it’s quite hypocritical.
So, why am I not debilitated by my shame? I think it’s because I already spent decades allowing my feelings about the past to debilitate me, and I consequently almost destroyed my whole life and everything I truly value. Also, if I were to obsess on my shame now, I would know damn good and well I was doing so by my own choice. I no longer have the luxury of obsessing on myself. If I want TL, my only option is to learn to think about her rather than just about myself.