The Gray Area: Cause and Effect

By: Misty Smith

Cause & Effect: Forgiveness or Revenge?

Those possible turning points in relationships where the decision of forgiveness or revenge is the one we make. It’s that hurtful word or event or that embarrassing moment that puts us in complete control of the future of our relationship. Will we choose to forgive, or will we seek out revenge with hate and anger that consumes us and eats away at our entire life. This choice is one that needs to be considered carefully because the result of this decision to forgive or seek revenge can change the course of our lives forever. We all have one of those stories where you wish you could go back and choose a different path to see what MIGHT have happened.

I know most of you understand what I’m talking about. Let me tell you a little story.  A friend of mine, we will call her “Mary,” came over for a glass of wine one evening not so long ago.  After half a bottle of Syrah, a warm piece of chocolate brownie, and a few tears, a story emerged. For some time, she and her husband had been having a situation in their marriage. It started out innocent enough, but quickly turned after sometime…well, less innocent. “Mary’s” husband, while a great guy, had started a friendship with a coworker of the opposite sex.  This relationship quickly went from innocent conversation to spicy texts, emails, and phone calls.  “Mary” found out about this “affair.” While there was no actual sex involved in the relationship, “Mary” still felt very betrayed by the situation, and her husband’s actions. He agreed to cease all communications with the other woman, but this did not take away the hurt “Mary” felt. She had some decisions to make…. hold a grudge, seek revenge, or forgive.  What to do, What to do?

Let’s play a little game of “What if?”

What if she chooses to hold a grudge? This would eventually lead to resentments, angry words, unfair and unwarranted arguments. Eventually leading to one of two things: 1) an EXTREMELY unhappy marriage or 2) DIVORCE.

What if she chooses to seek revenge? Has anyone watched that show “Revenge”? Let’s just say it usually doesn’t end well for anyone, including the one seeking it. Ultimately, it will most likely end the relationship.

What if she chooses to forgive? This does take a lot of work, and maybe even some counseling, but is it not possibly worth it? Maybe it is….maybe it isn’t. Maybe it works, and you are happier than ever before. Maybe it doesn’t, and you still find yourself in a divorced situation. BUT…at least you tried.

I guess the question one has to ask themselves is whether you want to potentially look back and wonder “what if?” or look back and worry about the “wasted time.” I am usually not a proponent of “wasting time,” but I hate that feeling of “what if” even more. That feeling can eat at you for years, and ultimately cause you to waste more time. “Mary” and her husband don’t have children, so the decision could be made so easily to just leave, but they got married after years of dating and time spent making sure they were each others “one.” What about that time?

When you receive a negative or less than appropriate reaction from your spouse to something extremely important to you, it makes you frustrated…Confused…ANGRY! Why didn’t they give you what you wanted or what you needed? I recommend taking some deep breaths, writing your thoughts down on paper, and then having a rational conversation or discussion about it when stress levels are as low as possible. This absolutely means that the children should either be in bed or not at home because we all know the wonderful level of stress our precious little ones can add to our day.

Can affairs, embarrassing moments, and harsh words truly EVER be forgiven?

About this column: Please be aware that this column potentially addresses sensitive issues that might, at times, be considered offensive. Feel free to send your relationship-related questions to my email: Be aware that email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information so it’s best to keep your questions general. If your question is featured in the column, your name and email will not be published. Submitting a question does not constitute a professional relationship in any way, and this column is not meant to substitute for face-to-face therapy. If you feel you’re doing the best you can and still need help, it may be time to seek counseling services from a professional. You may also join in on the conversations over on her Facebook page.

Misty Smith, Ph.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She owns a private practice, Smith Counseling Services, Inc. She obtained her Master’s degree in Counseling from Jacksonville State University, an Educational Specialist degree from The University of Alabama, and her Doctorate in Counselor Education from Mississippi State University. She provides counseling services in the following areas: couples/marriage, family, stress management, employee assistance services, time management, divorce, and other major life changes. She generally focuses on solution-focused brief therapy, as well as, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral techniques, but feels a flexible approach to therapy is necessary because all people are different. She is a wife of 10 years and a mom to a 5 year-old daughter, a 3 year-old son, a 19 year-old step-son, a 16 year-old step-daughter, and a 20 year-old Russian exchange daughter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *