**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a close friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
“I moved all the furniture onto the lawn and put a ‘free’ sign on it,” she said. “My husband was livid because it was expensive, and we only had it for three months. But I didn’t care. I was so angry.”
A friend of mine, who wished to remain anonymous, admitted that she and her husband had not been “intimate” for several years. “That part was definitely me, but he had to know that I would never agree to let him ‘see other people,’ as he so delicately put it,” she said.
The couple went to therapy, but it didn’t help. “I just couldn’t get over the fact that he wanted to sleep with other people,” she said. “It felt like a betrayal.”
Ultimately, the woman decided to give away their new furniture because they were sitting on the sofa when he made the suggestion, and she “never wanted to see it again.”
“I know it was childish, but it made me feel better,” she said. “It was good furniture too! It took two years to convince him to buy it.”
Her husband has been sleeping on an air mattress in the guest room ever since. “But I’m not filing for divorce,” she admitted. “I still love him, and I know he still loves me.”
“I know I probably could have handled the situation better, but I was just so hurt and angry,” she said. “I still can’t believe he would suggest something like that.”
When I asked her what they were going to do about their “problem,” she admitted to being unwilling to talk about it.
Punishment in relationships
While this situation may seem extreme, it’s not unusual for people to lash out in anger when they feel betrayed by their partner.
“When you get hurt by someone, you naturally feel vulnerable, and the very idea of forgiving someone also makes a victim feel vulnerable. When some form of punishment is involved, the victim feels more empowered by that and is more able to forgive,” says psychologist Dr. Peter Strelan.
Dr. Strelan also believes that there is a difference between “retributive and restorative” justice when it comes to relationships.
Restorative justice is more about repairing the harm done, whereas retributive justice is more focused on making the offender pay in some way for what they have done.
It’s pretty evident that my friend employed retributive justice when she got rid of their furniture. And while it may have made her feel better in the moment, it’s not likely to help her relationship in the long run.
“Retributive justice may restore a sense of balance, but it leaves behind a lingering resentment in both parties. The transgressor may apologize, although probably not sincerely. And the victim may forgive, but probably not completely.” — David Ludden, Ph.D.
Punishment may be vital to forgiveness.
If you’re feeling hurt and angry after your partner has betrayed you, it’s important to remember that forgiveness is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. You may need to express your anger in order to move on.
While forgiveness is never easy, it is possible. When it comes to matters of the heart, healing is a process that requires willingness and effort from both parties. And sometimes, getting over a transgression requires help from a third party like a therapist or counselor.
“Many people feel that when a wrong has been committed, it somehow creates an imbalance in the world. If you do a crime, you have to do the time — just to set the world right again.” — David Ludden, Ph.D.
If you’re struggling to forgive your partner after they’ve hurt you, don’t suffer in silence — talking about what’s going on can be the first step toward healing and forgiveness.
Do you think my friend’s reaction was justified? How would you have reacted in her situation? And if you have any advice for my friend, please leave a comment below. I’m sure she’d appreciate it.