Category Archives: the forgiveness project

Where Should We Begin?

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Esther Perel is the unlikely name of an esteemed couples therapist, who made her name with a book called “Mating in Captivity,” about the death of desire in marriages. (Why unlikely as that relates to her name? I read “Perel” as “peril” and Esther as a cognate of “etre” or “to be.” But maybe that’s just me.)

Moving on, she’s got a podcast called “Where Should We Begin?,” which is a really excellent title and a TED Talk called “Rethinking Infidelity.”

(How do I get to have a TED Talk?)

A quote I like, from The New Yorker: “Betrayal may spell the painful end of a chapter in a relationship, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole thing is done: Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?”

And this one: “it’s never been easier to cheat and it’s never been harder to keep a secret.”

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injured party

no party at all.

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More on forgiveness

“There was love, an abundance of it; we just had to respect and accept that it was not the love of happily ever after. No, we would not be celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary, or even our sixth, but we would always be celebrating our children and the physical and emotional bond that brought them into being.

As it turns out, the world of moral absolutes is ill-suited to divorce. It isn’t a question of good/bad, success/failure, right/wrong. It is a recognition that what existed is irretrievably broken and that something else must be built in its place.

The decision to end a marriage is not about quitting; it is about letting go of one relationship in exchange for another. The equation isn’t love/not love. Divorce, at its best, is a love reborn — birthed from heartache and rage and despair and ultimately, forgiveness — that creates a different kind of family.”

Such a good essay. I read it, in the cool sunshine of my porch, the church up the street tolling its bells on the hour. Around me, fall is obligingly fall like: clear sky, dry leaves rattling in the breeze, the haze of summer dispelled.

Also, apropos of nothing, her characterizing child-rearing as feelings of love (of course) but also “corrosive boredom.”

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the forgiveness project

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Frederic Luskin, a psychologist and the head of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, offers thoughts about forgiveness when “when you’ve been harmed by someone you’re close to and must work through all the conflicting feelings to get to a place of dignity and peace.”

Reading even these words gives me the thrill of coming upon something that can help me. A project! I love projects because I love plans and focus and work. More to the point, I am so uncomfortable with indecision. Much like Caroline “it’s not that I can’t make up my mind, it’s that I can’t stop making up my mind,” that’s how much she is troubled by indecision.

Dr. Luskin’s advice is standard: honestly apologize (no “I’m sorry but”), ask for forgiveness, practice forgiveness. Here’s what reading it triggered in me: forgiving is not the same thing as reconciling. You can let go of the blackness of blame — forgive in other words — but still decide to step away from the relationship, for awhile or forever. Maybe, even, you can’t know if reconciliation is possible until you forgive?

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