When You Arrive at a Watershed Moment, Cross It

rr-imageWe’re at a watershed moment on the Road to Reconciliation. It’s a crucial juncture where you go from thinking you’re just a victim to knowing that you’re a perpetrator, at least a partial perpetrator. You can admit you’ve victimized others, including the one who hurt you. It’s the moment you get real. It’s when you roll up your sleeves and take responsibility. It’s what naturally happens after you’ve climbed the mountaintop and gazed at the context of your injury. You know the part you have played and it hasn’t been pretty.

This doesn’t mean that you were not victimized or that you don’t have valid claims for restitution. It doesn’t mean that you weren’t hurt or that someone didn’t act like an ass. It doesn’t mean that you deserve more or an equal proportion of blame; maybe she is still mostly to blame, maybe not. It only means that you understand things better and can do something about them.

Let’s say you caught your husband having an emotional affair with another woman. He didn’t disclose it to you; you discovered it when you were looking at his phone. His culpability is obvious, but, when you look at the context, the role you played also becomes evident. Maybe you haven’t been there for him. You’ve been too caught up with work or preoccupied with the baby. Maybe since that baby, you haven’t lost the weight you gained in your pregnancy. He doesn’t seem to mind, but you do, so you have pulled away from him. There might be issues between you, disagreements you have not been able to resolve, so you avoid them because you haven’t got the energy to fight. When you avoid the issues, you avoid each other. He might have wanted to tell you about his growing friendship with this woman, but had a valid fear you’d over-react.

I don’t know what your part was, these are just some possibilities. When you’re at the watershed moment, you see both sides of the problem. Your side does not absolve him of his, nor does his side absolve you of yours. You’re seeing the big picture.

A watershed moment is a moment of decision, or, perhaps, indecision. You might be saying, “OK, I’ll apologize to him if he apologizes to me; I’ll do this, but he has to go first.” Well, he’s probably saying that, too. If you both keep saying that, you will stand at this watershed moment forever.

If your husband does any work towards reconciliation, he’ll be at his own watershed moment someday. Maybe he got there before you and has been wondering what took you so long. Maybe you’re the first. By the time he gets there, he’s also made the passage from feeling like a victim to knowing he’s a perpetrator. How do things look from his perspective?

Let’s say your wife caught you having an emotional affair with another woman. You didn’t disclose it to her; she discovered it when she was looking at your phone. She’s angry with you, but you see the context. The role your wife played is evident, but she’s not having it. She hasn’t been there for you. She’s been too caught up with work and preoccupied with the baby. Since the baby, she’s pulled away from you. She says she’s ashamed of her weight, but you think she’s beautiful. There’s been issues between you, disagreements you’ve not been able to resolve, but there’s no good time to talk. She used to be your best friend, but you’ve become nothing more than roommates. Why is it surprising that, when another woman took an interest in you, you let down your guard? You’ve wanted to tell your wife about her, but, with her insecurities, you knew your wife would take it all wrong. She went snooping on your phone without your permission and found something she didn’t understand. Then the shit hit the fan, making you look like the bad guy.

You see, both the victim and the perpetrator start at the same place. They both start with the conviction that they are the victim. When someone has done harm, we usually want to start with them admitting they were at fault. We’re looking for a confession, before repentance begins. We want them to be sorry, to take responsibility, if not, grovel and plead for forgiveness. I don’t believe in starting there; we don’t make meaningful progress if we start there; we may not start at all if we try to start there. It goes better if we start where the perpetrator is, at the source of their offense: not at the conviction of sin, but at the conviction of injury.

The cycle is obvious. When the husband felt injured and ignored, he acted out and harmed his wife. Now she feels injured and may act out and harm him as well. Around and around it goes. The solution is obvious, too. If the perpetrator found a way to deal with his injury, he wouldn’t need to act out and injure anyone else.

When you, as the husband, stand at your watershed moment, you realize that you wimped out, big time. With a new baby, you needed to suck it up. Women go through their own travail when they give birth; a father’s labor pains come later, when he’s feeling ignored. You were supposed to be OK with this because you’re an adult. Instead, you found some other woman to mother you. That, by itself may not have been so bad, we all need support; but, when you didn’t tell your wife about her, you guaranteed she’d go apeshit when she found out. So, get real; you’re not just the victim here. There’s a lot more to it. There’s only way to move on. Instead of claiming you’re the victim, claim your share of responsibility.

Ideally, both you and your partner will lay down your arms together. However, if your partner has not done so, you may have to show them how.