On this eve of Father’s Day 2016, I want to deliver an invitation from grace.
Merriam-Webster defines grace as:
unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
Have you ever been the recipient of grace? Have you received blessings, advantage, or favor even when you didn’t “deserve” it?
You can probably guess where I’m headed.
You may be so angry, so hurt, so devastated, that the thought of showing grace to someone who betrayed you makes you want to hurl your phone or laptop across the room.
That’s okay. I honor exactly where you are at exactly this moment. No need to read further.
If you’re still here, I’d like you to consider how you might show some grace tomorrow on Father’s Day if your partner is also the father of your children, or has children of his own.
I don’t expect or encourage partners to be cheerleaders for the person who betrayed them, or to be inauthentic or fake. But are there times when you feel genuine appreciation, warmth, or even attraction for him and you don’t tell him? Probably.
Many partners consciously choose to withhold genuine feelings of gratitude toward the addict as a form of punishment. While I understand it, I also believe it’s a deep loss for her, her partner, and their relationship.
Let tomorrow be the day. It could be as simple as “thanks for taking the garbage cans out to the curb every Tuesday morning before you leave for work.” Or it may be sincere gratitude for all the 12-step meetings, therapy sessions, and acts of contrition and repair your partner’s been engaged in. Whatever the case may be, my challenge to you is to Speak It.
In Chapter 11 of my book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts (“Partners Beyond Betrayal: Trust, Gratitude, and Forgiveness”), I share the stories of four women who transcended deep pain, loss, and betrayal to create a life of meaning and purpose.
If you could use some inspiration, here are their stories:
- Beckie Brown. Beckie founded the first chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Pasco County, FL in 1980 after her eighteen-year-old son, Marcus, was killed in an accident involving a nineteen-year-old drunk driver.
- Zainab Salbi. Zainab is an Iraqi-American author and women’s rights activist. Born in Iraq, her father was Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. In an effort to protect Zainab from Hussein, her mother sent her to the United States at the age of twenty in an arranged marriage to a man who sexually abused her. At the time, Zainab felt deeply betrayed by her mother and didn’t learn until much later her mother’s reasons for sending her to the United States. After escaping her abusive marriage, she founded Women for Women International in 1993 at the age of twenty-three. Today, Women for Women International has helped more than 400,000 women in eight countries around the world affected by war and conflict.
- Amy Purdy. Amy survived Meningococcal Meningitis at nineteen years old, and went on to become a para-athlete snowboarder, founder of Adaptive Action Sports, and competed in Dancing with the Stars in 2014 despite having two prosthetic legs.
- Katie Piper. Katie is a former model from the United Kingdom who survived having acid thrown in her face by a man who was solicited by Katie’s boyfriend to carry out the outrageous crime. Not only was her face disfigured in the attack, but she also lost her eyesight. She founded the Katie Piper Foundation, a nonprofit organization to raise awareness of the plight of victims of burns and disfigurement injuries. A documentary was produced about her experience titled Katie: My Beautiful Face.
I don’t know about you, but when I read about the tenacity, courage, and resilience of these women, I feel inspired and elevated.
So here’s my challenge to you tomorrow:
If you can find it in your heart to offer one—just one—appreciation for your sex addict partner tomorrow on Father’s Day I hope you will. And if you do, make it as clean as you can.
Instead of, “Well, it’s been a nightmare of a year but Happy Father’s Day,” or “You really don’t deserve it, but thanks for being a good father,” how about “Happy Father’s Day,” or “You’re a good father.” And leave it at that—clean and simple.
It can be scary and painful to open your heart again. But if you feel up to it, offer your partner some grace tomorrow.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
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