When I drive into Blanco County, I am greeted by an old weather worn sign proudly announcing that it is the home of President LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson). I’m amazed that it’s still legible after all these years.
One of the LBJ stories that shows his insight concerns when he was about to reward one of the people close to him. He called the person into his office and gave him a severe tongue lashing. Soon after leaving the President’s office, LBJ rewarded the person with the expensive gift and praise.
An aide puzzled by what he just witnessed asked him about what just happened. LBJ looked at him and explained “You never give a gift to a man when he’s feeling good. You want to do it when he’s down!”
As an amateur historian, I am fascinated by LBJ stories. This one reveals his keen insight regarding human nature. LBJ knew the dangers when a man is feeling good.
He knew that when a man is up, his gratitude and appreciation are limited. LBJ knew at which times someone was most vulnerable.
Those days when he’s feeling up is when he’s most vulnerable.
He intentionally kept the people around him ‘off guard’ with his actions. He did it so they wouldn’t slack in their efforts or grow complacent. He knew that it’s when people start feeling good, they grow complacent.
Do you have one of those cars with the irritating buzzer sound? Although they are intended as a reminder for when you leave your lights on or the door is opened, over time, they often malfunction.
When the buzzer on our car began malfunctioning, I thought it would be a good idea to fix it. The buzzer began going off and not shutting off, until the car was off. I began a diligent search for the source of the bad connection that kept the buzzer going.
No matter how many times I attempted resetting the car and locating the source of the problem, the buzzer continued going off. Anytime I plugged it in, it began its irritating chorus. At that point, I concluded that the buzzer itself is the problem. It was promptly removed and things have been peaceful ever since.
That episode reminds me how cheaters often reconnect with the lover and it triggers the whole affair all over again. The emotions, the drama, the tension all come back. Often all it takes is just making contact with the lover.
In some cases, that contact happens on social media, or a phone call or even a face-to-face. All it takes is a simple reconnect and the affair starts up right where it left off. Like wires that reactivate a circuit, the reconnect reactivates the affair circuit.
One weekend, years ago, a teenager named Norman took me with him down to Galveston in order to learn how to surf. Being unfamiliar with surfing except from the Annette Funicello movies, there were many lessons to learn.
After waxing the surfboard with a tropical smelling product called "Mr. Zogg's Sex Wax" we began my lessons. The first lesson was that when you fall off your board, get back up. That first day, I did my share of falling off the board. Eventually, I was able to get up on my knees on the surfboard.
Although I had body surfed before, it was not the same thrill as riding a wave on a board. Even when the thrill only lasted seconds, it was enjoyable and exhilarating.
Norman explained that if you give up after the first time you fall off, you're never going to learn surfing. At that point, you give up and quit trying. Mastering surfing requires a lot of falling off and getting back on your board.
In the same way, when you are in the recovery from an affair, when you fall off, the most important thing is to get back up. There's many different ways to fall, yet when it happens, the more important things is getting back up.
Successfully recovering from an affair takes practice. You fall, you get back up. Whether you are the betrayed or the cheater, each of you falls at times during recovery. It's important that when you fall that you get back up.
Have you ever had one of those moments where something is so unsettling it shakes you up inside while your mind fills with "That could have been me" type of comments.
After returning home from a trip to Costa Rica, I read reports of a large earthquake with the associated mudslides since it was rainy season. On watching the news reports coming out of the country, I recognized the location and mountain roads involved.
The news that sank a shaft into the bull's eye was the report of the epicenter of the quake being two miles offshore from where we stayed. Later I received word that the home we stayed in experienced major damage.
I recalled watching the peaceful sunsets from our back porch from there. It was unreal hearing that the epicenter of the quake was there.
I recalled having driven on those roads just weeks before. In disbelief, I turn to my wife and say "We were there a couple of weeks ago. That could have been us."
Such incidents are reminders of how things can change quickly. We managed avoiding a natural disaster but didn't know it at the time. Incidents like those leave me uneasy for a few days afterwards. At those times, I express gratitude for timing and protection for unknown close calls we survived.
Twenty years ago, anytime I drove through neighborhoods, my awareness was limited to “I like this house” and “I don’t like that house”. My approach to houses was simple and basic. If you questioned me, I’d tell you “I know what I like and what I don’t like”.
It was quite an awakening when it occurred to me that I really didn’t have a clear idea what was behind my liking and disliking of houses. I knew the final decision, but was clueless when it came to awareness of my reasoning behind my choices.
I went through a learning process. It was an humbling moment when I realized that “I didn’t know what was behind what I like and didn’t like”.
I started questioning what was behind my choices. I started asking questions about what specific features I liked and which I disliked.
Over time, I learned how to express my thought process. I learned ways of improving my observations and noticing my own personal reactions to what I was looking at. I started noticing details and patterns that escaped me before.
Now I can say things like “The layout of that house feels cramped” or “The openness and colors in this kitchen are soothing to me. I like it.” The transformation was gradual. I developed self-awareness of how my thinking and preferences happened.
Several years ago, I visited the island of Orkney. It's not by accident that they use the slogan "Escape to the Edge" in their promotions. In many ways, it felt like the edge of civilization.
This island was a stronghold of Vikings and Scottish lords who used its strategic location and harbor. The island was the perfect spot for launching raids and smuggling contraband.
Over the years, those in charge of the island constructed a massive castle here. It was so massive that it was considered a threat.
Large strongholds with high and strong stone walls are often considered threats, especially when shady dealings are going down. Eventually the rulers of the island were pressured into tearing down the castle.
It was dismantled, with the massive stones used for paving the streets of the main city of Kirkwall.
When cheaters have an affair, they often construct massive walls to protect themselves. It remains to be seen whether the walls are built in anticipation of an attack or from guilt. Whatever the reason, walls are put up, keeping you and others out of their 'private life'.
When the affair ends, the question comes up "What to do with the affair castle that was built?" If you don't tear down the defensive works, they can be used again. Those defensive walls become barriers to your relationship.
Forgiveness is used for both good and bad purposes. Withholding forgiveness is also used for both good and bad purposes as well. Although things go smoother with forgiveness, there are some people who for whatever reason, wait until the last minute before they take action on the matter.
One female family member waited until her husband was on his death bed before she went in to him and asked his forgiveness. This was after years of abuses and mean spirited acts.
Perhaps she had her reasons for waiting until that moment. Much like a deathbed confession, she revealed things to him. I suspect she admitted to some of her affairs at that time. She followed this up with a plea for forgiveness.
Waiting until someone is about to die before confessing is cold-blooded, calculated manipulation.When your spouse is on their deathbed, there’s little they can do or say. They’re a captive audience.
Such confessions are manipulative if not a form of emotional abuse. When you intentionally wait until the person is dying, such admissions put them ‘on the spot’. It’s one thing if there are sudden accidents or changes in health. In those cases, it’s good for the soul to clear the air.
When you intentionally put off dealing with forgiveness until the person you’ve wronged is on their death bed, it’s manipulative. You’re using guilt and the forces of nature against the person.
In raising children, one of the many things that fascinates me is the creative ways they solve problems. My sons have shown me solutions I never imagined. Whether it be in building things, working on cars or fixing broken items around our home.
Their solutions have often humbled me. It has shown me that I get stuck in one way of seeing things, which blinds me to potential solutions. I get tunnel vision, and they see the world differently.
They on the other hand have a different perspective that allows them to see solutions. I have taken those lessons and applied them to affairs.
One area that a new perspective changes things on is when you try forgiving the affair rather than the cheater.
People write me wondering ‘why?’ they have trouble forgiving. In many cases, they are trying to forgive the affair rather than the cheater.
It’s a weird thing in that the term forgive the affair is used, in reality, you can’t forgive what they did, unless you’re a judge and in that case, it’s called a pardon. Only judges have the power of the pardon.
The pardon erases what was done, clears the books and lets the once accused free. It’s as if the wrong never happened.
With all the emails I’ve sent out on forgiveness, there’s been some fascinating debate and discussions. I’ve received numerous emails in response. Some of the behind the scenes discussions have gotten lively. I would have assumed that with a topic like forgiveness, there would’ve been more consensus and agreement.
One of the questions that came up is whether it’s better forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve it or forgiving someone who does deserve it. My initial thoughts were, “I never considered forgiveness from this angle”.
The second thought was that your motivation changes as to whether they deserve forgiveness or not. If someone deserves it, then you are feeling obligated to forgive. In that case, it’s a matter of duty or being pressured.
When forgiveness is driven by ‘obligation’ it comes across as being inspired by guilt. Guilt driven decisions are more about emotional manipulation than being a noble reason to forgive.
With those deserving forgiveness, there’s a sense of ‘balancing the books’ kind of obligation. In such cases, it’s like someone is tapping me on the shoulders saying “You owe her that!”
I suppose that when it’s your spouse, I owe her the respect of hearing her out. In my mind, that still doesn’t mean I automatically forgive them. They also owed me loyalty.
The first time I encountered a card trick, it was magical. The first trick was from Susan the babysitter. Looking back, she may have done it as a way of making me think she had powers.
I was amazed at what just transpired before my very eyes and wanted to see it again and again. I saw it and wanted more. When you encounter something that’s magic, you want more.
The cards seemed to magically change. Susan was suddenly ‘the master of the cards’ with her ability to read them. The magic amazed me and changed the relationship. Susan wasn’t just the babysitter, she had ‘magic’ powers.
Eventually, I learned some of those very tricks. Anytime I use them, the audience reacts with a sense of wonder with their mouths wide open. Being on the other side of the ‘magic’ things look very different. The audience experiences ‘wow’, while I see the result of practicing a skill.
When couples come to see me with their marriage problems, they often want a magic experience. They want sudden improvements that provide that sense of ‘wow’. Whether they call it magic or ‘a miracle, it boils down to wanting sudden, immediate change.
Who wouldn’t want something that suddenly changes behavior for the better with little to no effort?
‘Real changes’, the kind that last don’t happen suddenly. If the change is a lasting one that is for the better, it takes time. Those changes come from skills that are learned and practiced until they become habits.