Cookies are required for login or registration. Please read and agree to our cookie policy to continue.

Newest Member: Rlewis1226

Reconciliation :
Beyond regret and remorse

default

 onlytime (original poster member #45817) posted at 5:18 AM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

I have noticed a few topics today that have talked about regret, remorse, and the difference between the two. I read this article a while ago and thought I would share it here in the hopes that it may help those of you who are trying to understand not only what a remorseful WS looks like, but what a genuinely contrite WS looks like.

IMHO, remorse is great, but contrition is what you really should be looking for if you are considering R.

"How to Recognize True (and false) Contrition" — by Dr. George Simon, Jr.

A person’s character deficiencies inevitably spawn a host of irresponsible behavior patterns – bad habits that can become easily ingrained and, once rooted, extremely hard to break.  Often, these dysfunctional patterns involve forms of mental, emotional, and even physical abuse within relationships.  And while many of the character-impaired individuals I’ve worked with experienced periods of profound unhappiness and even a degree of regret over their actions, only a handful made truly significant changes in their once destructive behaviors. But those who truly did address their behaviors and succeeded in changing their lives for the better displayed a rare quality that seemed to make all the difference: genuine contrition.

By definition, personality patterns are deeply ingrained and hard to modify.  But that doesn’t mean a person can’t change.  People can and do change every day.  That is, genuinely contrite people do.  This begs the question about what contrition really is and how to know when someone is really experiencing it.

The word contrition comes from the Latin contritus (the same root for the word contrite), and literally means “crushed to pieces.” The contrite person has had their once haughty and prideful ego completely crushed under the tremendous weight of guilt and shame. Such a person has “hit bottom”, not only because they can no longer bear the thought of how badly their actions hurt others but also because of their deep realization of how their usual way of doing things has resulted in abject personal failure.  That’s why the contrite person is first and foremost a broken person.  And, by definition, only by acknowledging personal defeat can a person become potentially open to reconstructing their life on very different terms.  It’s been said many times, but it’s profoundly psychologically true.  One cannot begin a new life without laying to rest one’s old self.

A regretful person is not necessarily a contrite one.  Regret often precedes contrition but is definitely not synonymous with it.  And when it comes to making meaningful changes in one’s character and turning around an irresponsible life, regret is simply not sufficient.  The word regret comes from the Old French, meaning “to bewail.” It’s a person’s intellectual and emotional response to an unpleasant or unfortunate circumstance (originally used to characterize a person’s loss of a loved one through death).  Anyone can regret something they have done and for a variety of reasons, some of which can be quite ignoble.  Even some of the most hardened criminals had certain regrets. They regretted the loss of their freedom. They lamented the fact that a judge was able to exercise power over them and subject them to various unpleasant consequences.  Many “bewailed” that the sentence they received was greater than they anticipated or longer than someone else’s who committed a similar crime.  A few even regretted their actual actions, but most of the time even that kind of regret had to do with practical considerations (e.g., they didn’t plan their crime carefully enough to avoid detection, or they misjudged the character of their partner in crime who later “ratted [them] out” to authorities).  And when expressing their regrets, some were even moved to tears. But tears do not a contrite person make. And mere regret has never been sufficient to prompt a person to change their ways.

Remorse is a prerequisite for contrition, but it’s also not sufficient for it. Remorse is a genuine empathy-based expression of one’s regret over hurting someone else.  By definition, psychopaths (alt: sociopaths) cannot really experience any meaningful degree of it, although they are quite capable of feigning it.  Fortunately, most people are capable of it to some degree, and having remorse for the injury caused to another is a necessary first step toward real contrition.  But true contrition goes even beyond remorse.  Genuinely contrite people – their prideful egos crushed and torn asunder by the weight of their guilt and shame – not only hate their “sins” and the pain they inflicted on others as a result of their sins, but also are deeply unnerved about the person they allowed themselves to become that permitted their travesties in the first place.  And they necessarily resolve not only to make amends but also to make of better persons of themselves and their lives in a better fashion in the future.

Contrition is that very rare but absolutely essential feature of changing one’s life for the better.  It requires a true metanoia or “change of heart.” And even more importantly, it requires work – a lot of very hard, humble, committed work.  Reforming one’s character is the most challenging of human enterprises.  You have to put a lot of energy into doing it, and you have to feel a deep sense of obligation about doing it in order to maintain the energy to get the job done.  And contrition wears a very distinctive face.  Truly contrite people behave very differently, even from regretful and remorseful people.  And when you know what to look for, you can readily tell the difference.

One of the more reliable outward signs that someone has really experienced a change of heart is their willingness and commitment to make amends.  The contrite person is not only “sorry” for what he/she has done but is willing to repair the damage inflicted on the lives of others. Many irresponsible characters will challenge their understandably hesitant to trust again victims with retorts like: “I’ve said I’m sorry a million times now – what else do you want from me?!,” attempting all the while to throw the other party on the defensive for doubting their sincerity.  Or they will cite some small efforts they have made over a relatively short period of time and then chide their victims for not immediately accepting those small gestures as concrete evidence of meaningful, sincere, permanent change.  Contrite individuals understand that the burden of proof rests with them and that they owe those they have hurt a justifiable basis upon which to resume some degree of trust.  A contrite person is willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to regain good standing within a relationship.

It’s one thing to say you’re sorry.  But it’s quite another to prove it by how hard you work to change. Behavior is the best indicator that a person is truly contrite and working to really change.  Living and dealing with persons of deficient character is always difficult, but many people increase the level of pain they experience in their relationships with problem characters by buying into the notion that if a person says they’re sorry, sheds a tear, or looks unhappy, and appears to mean well, things will necessarily be different. They give too much regard to a person’s regret and sorrow and don’t look hard enough for evidence of true contrition.

A person’s genuine willingness and commitment to make amends is always accompanied by plan of action to accomplish precisely those ends. In short, a person’s actions always speak louder than their words or even their emotional expressions.  And I’m not talking about demonstrative gestures that make good impressions on others like going back to church or getting religion once again.  The contrite person conducts themselves in a fundamentally different manner than they historically have. They might not do so perfectly or every time. But they evidence a constant effort toward reforming their conduct, and when they fall short they readily admit it and do their best to get back on course.

All too many times therapists as well as the victims of irresponsible characters make the assumption that things are moving in the right direction because the bad actor shed a tear or two about something horrible they did or said they were sorry.  But even when sorrow is genuine, it’s certainly not enough to make a difference.  Sorrow is an emotional response usually connected to the loss of something. And while it is always painful to lose – especially when losing something of great value – that kind of pain is not in and of itself a reliable predictor of change. Individuals who have been in abusive relationships and who give a lot of weight or credence to expressions of regret and sorrow are most often doomed to an escalating level of personal pain and hardship. And in proper cognitive-behavioral therapy for abusers, where the principal focus is on behavior and fostering fundamental attitudinal and behavioral change, the therapist has to be much less interested in what a person has to say and much more concerned about what he/she is doing to truly correct problematic thinking and behavior patterns and repairing damage they have done.  Talk, as they say, is infinitely cheap.  And therapy that just focuses on getting someone to express their feelings or communicate their regrets is likely doomed to be ineffective in fostering meaningful change.

Having some regret simply isn’t enough to make a person mend their ways. It takes a lot of concerted effort to overcome our shortcomings.The truly contrite individual works to make amends, to do better, and above all, to be better.  That always involves demonstrable, consistent behavior – behavior that can be observed, monitored, encouraged, rewarded, and measured by both the therapist and other parties to a relationship with the troubled character.

Edited in Aug 2018 to add:

In summary, someone who is genuinely remorseful and contrite will:

1. Admit that their behaviour was wrong.

2. Continuously take full responsibility for their actions.

3. Accept and understand that their choices and actions brought them to where they are.

4. Make NO attempt to blame anyone else

5. Have humility (are receptive to and actively seek constructive criticism because they know it leads to self-improvement, they display a willingness to learn and become better, they quiet emotional responses so they can actively listen, they are eager to understand others and show a genuine interest in them and put them first in their thoughts)

6. Engage in openness and honesty in ALL aspects of their life

7. Do everything in their power to make things right with the person(s) they have harmed

8. Have patience and recognize that trust is rebuilt over a long period of time with consistent good choices and actions

9. Focus on the person(s) the have harmed - recognizing and acknowledging the impacts of the harm in both heart and mind

10. Understand the emotions of the person(s) they have harmed and have empathy and compassion for their pain

11. Validate the pain of the person(s) they have harmed and have a deep understanding of how their actions caused that pain

12. Put 100% effort into making real changes in themselves and not try to take shortcuts

13. Deliberately choose to making lasting changes and psychologically transform themselves, and are intrinsically motivated to do so

[This message edited by onlytime at 10:23 AM, January 19th (Saturday)]

R'd w/ BetterFuture13
T 20+ yrs w/ adult kids 😇 + grands
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall" ~Nelson Mandela

posts: 6298   ·   registered: Dec. 3rd, 2014   ·   location: 🇨🇦
id 7587285
default

mchercheur ( member #37735) posted at 5:35 AM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Dr. Simon is truly enlightened.

Me: BWHim: WH --Had 10 mo. EA/ PA with COW; Dday 5/2011Married 31+ years/Together 32+ years/4 kids togetherOW 20 years younger than us/divorced no kidsTrying to R; don't know what the final outcome will be

posts: 2685   ·   registered: Dec. 7th, 2012
id 7587302
default

GreatPretender ( member #48951) posted at 5:37 AM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Interesting read. Thanks for posting!

Me: BS
Him: SAWH
DDay: too many - summer 2015

Status: not sure I actually care right now

Most sex addicts seem to end up with very loyal, deeply loving, and strong individuals. So this is what I get for being loyal, loving & strong? WTF.

posts: 294   ·   registered: Aug. 13th, 2015   ·   location: Midwest
id 7587304
default

Valentinessucks ( member #46486) posted at 11:40 AM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Onlytime, you are awesome for posting this!

Thank You

Me: BS, 52 Him: WS, 68
Married 30 yrs; DDay E/A, 5/2012
2nd DDay, again E/A, broke NC 2/2014 Reconciling.

posts: 2705   ·   registered: Jan. 24th, 2015   ·   location: pa
id 7587416
default

TheIrishGirl ( member #43496) posted at 2:13 PM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Great explanation of it all. And oddly comforting based on one of the more pivotal conversations I had with WH before I committed to R.

We were 12 mos out from Dday, and I had originally told him he I wouldn't make any decisions for a year, assuming he met the minimum requrirements (NC, transparency). At the one year mark, I told him I still didn't know what I wanted to do. He was officially at that point on day-to-day notice of me staying or going. He had the best response, one that fits with contrition- he said that I could take all the time I needed. Every day I stayed was another day he got to spend with me and our kids, and another day he could work to show me that he is a changed and changing man. That if, after more time, I still decide that I need to leave, he'll know there was nothing more he could have done. He was leaving it all on the table every day, and if that proved to not be enough for me to stay, then he'll know that his past behaviors were, in the end, a deal breaker.

A month after that discussion, seeing his continued consistency, I told him I would commit to R, and to finding our way out of this together. It's now been another 14 months, and while there have certainly been bad days, and points of frustration, and growing pains, he has continued on his path of change.

Me: 33, BW Him: 40, fWH
Together 11y, married 8
2 children (ours) 7/11 & 3/14
D-day 4/18/14 I saw his 'other' email
Working on R, and it's working

posts: 3226   ·   registered: May. 21st, 2014
id 7587507
default

steadychevy ( member #42608) posted at 2:52 PM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Thanks, onlytime. Great read. I agree with mchercheur.

TheIrishGirl, that was a great response from your WH. He really "gets it". In the end it is up to you to determine if it really was a deal breaker. Committing to R doesn't mean successful R. But, at least, you have a WH that really gets it and does understand all of the potential consequences.

BH(me)70; XWW 64; M 42 yrs
DDay1-01/09/13;DDay2-26/10/13;DDay3-19/12/13;DDay4-21/01/14
LTA-09/02-06/06? OM - COW
"dates" w/3 lovers post engagement;ONS w/stranger post commitment, lies, lies, lies
Separated 23/09/2017; D 16/03/2020

posts: 4705   ·   registered: Feb. 27th, 2014   ·   location: Canada
id 7587558
default

KJP711 ( member #51299) posted at 2:57 PM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

onlytime - thank you for this article. It is enlightening and comforting.. My FWH is definitely contrite.

TheIrishGirl - I have also told my FWH that I won't make any decisions for a long time. Our first marriage is over (to me) and I wouldn't agree to marry him again until I was ready. I'm glad R is working for you. Your husband sounds like mine although we're only 6 mos from Dday. We have awhile to go.. Thanks for sharing your story. It gives me hope

Me (BS) 55, Him (FWS) 61
Dday 12/6/15
11 mo affair with MOW
Married 28 years
2 sons
Reconciling

posts: 194   ·   registered: Jan. 13th, 2016   ·   location: New York
id 7587562
default

sisoon ( Moderator #31240) posted at 3:26 PM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Neat article. Thanks for posting it.

This is in some sense a quibble over words. IMO, SI's 'remorse' includes making the changes that Simon associates with 'contrition'. SI's 'remorse' is Simon's 'contrition'. But...

A quick check of online dictionaries shows 'remorse' is associated with guilt.

The same online dictionaries include remorse in the definition 'contrition' but also include 'repentance.'

Getting to 'repentance' requires going a bit deeper, but it seems to mean acting so as to change from 'sin' to 'righteousness', or changing from doing wrong to doing right.

IOW, 'remorse' doesn't always imply change; contrition almost always does.

That means 'contrition' is probably a better term for what we mean by 'remorse'. I'm not sure we can or will make that change, though.

But this jumps into my mind:

For months after d-day, my W said she felt no 'remorse'. Starting on d-day, however, she worked to change herself from cheater to good partner - she was 'contrite'. Simon's article explains why it was OK to commit to R despite my W's lack of 'remorse'.

Very cool.

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

posts: 27886   ·   registered: Feb. 18th, 2011   ·   location: Illinois
id 7587597
default

trophywife411 ( member #47784) posted at 3:58 PM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Thank you for posting this today. I do have a deeply remorseful (contrite) WH but it is good to have that confirmation that he is on the right track and I judge he has the right IC to help him there. The reminder is good, sometimes I miss the bigger picture when we are deep down in the thick of it.

Me-BW 40
fWH 45
together 18 years, married 16
Dday March 2015, Final TT 6/17/15
Reconciling

posts: 858   ·   registered: May. 6th, 2015
id 7587640
default

northeasternarea ( member #43214) posted at 6:39 PM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Thank you for this.

The only person you can change is yourself.

posts: 4263   ·   registered: Apr. 23rd, 2014
id 7587824
default

Allbrokenup ( member #52393) posted at 8:24 PM on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

What a great article. Thanks for sharing.

Me BH 40s
WW 40s
Married 17 yrs 1 DS 11
Dday 1 12/13/15 multiple online affairs one ONS
Dday 2 1/3/16 4 more ONS and at maybe 3 short term OEAs
Dday 3 1/17/16 a threesome with her BFF and BFF's AP
She stopped all A's on DDay 1, but TT until

posts: 247   ·   registered: Mar. 22nd, 2016
id 7587926
default

Matos ( member #52687) posted at 3:00 PM on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

The contrite person conducts themselves in a fundamentally different manner than they historically have. They might not do so perfectly or every time. But they evidence a constant effort toward reforming their conduct, and when they fall short they readily admit it and do their best to get back on course.

Great read. I feel this part is important to realize and remember. It takes much time and effort to change who you are and there may be mistakes along the way. Obviously some mistakes are unacceptable, but a little leeway for human error is often necessary.

Me: BS
Him: WH
DDay: 3/2016
Status: Considering R, Working on ME!

Full story in profile.

"What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you."

posts: 209   ·   registered: Apr. 11th, 2016
id 7588476
default

 onlytime (original poster member #45817) posted at 4:27 PM on Friday, June 24th, 2016

Great read. I feel this part is important to realize and remember. It takes much time and effort to change who you are and there may be mistakes along the way. Obviously some mistakes are unacceptable, but a little leeway for human error is often necessary.

I don't disagree that it takes time and effort to change who you are, and yes a little leeway is often necessary, however, I think the key takeaway from the part you quoted, especially for those trying to R, is that the effort should be constant, and that the WS needs to be able to recognize when they have regressed, explore why it happened, and work harder to address the underlying issues in a way that fosters further growth.

R'd w/ BetterFuture13
T 20+ yrs w/ adult kids 😇 + grands
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall" ~Nelson Mandela

posts: 6298   ·   registered: Dec. 3rd, 2014   ·   location: 🇨🇦
id 7590328
default

Baxter ( new member #53773) posted at 7:41 PM on Friday, June 24th, 2016

The best explanation I have read do far. Actually copied it and sent it to my WH. He has put up so many walls that have to come down and do so with absolutely no guarantee from me that it will make any difference.

I think I beginning to see that I do not and will not live with the man he allowed himself to become. The only way a door MAY open is if he becomes a different better man every day with no guarantees that he will be "rewarded" for that behavior.

Only time will tell if that can happen.

DDay 6-19-16

M. 40 years

A. 6 years

posts: 17   ·   registered: Jun. 22nd, 2016
id 7590509
default

BtraydWife ( member #42581) posted at 3:22 AM on Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Love this!!!!

Me-BW
Him-WH
DD-March 2010

posts: 5437   ·   registered: Feb. 25th, 2014   ·   location: United States
id 7591458
default

Violet2009 ( member #46783) posted at 3:45 PM on Sunday, June 26th, 2016

I love this and it has come at the most perfect time for me. After 3 years of R, and a gradual, continuous improvement, I still felt there was something missing. I couldn't put a finger on it, but about a month ago we had a big row. Over nothing.

It all blew over, apologies said, and we just got on with life. At least, I did. But a few days later, my husband became a different man. He suddenly showed all the signs of 'contrition' as described in this article. His previous apologies, guilt, remorse etc, pale into insignificance. He describes this as a revelation, his 'Road to Damascus' moment. The row triggered it, he says. He realized that he had to change himself.

So, I'm going to send him this article to give him encouragement. I know he is on the right track 100% now.

posts: 91   ·   registered: Feb. 13th, 2015
id 7591683
default

sisoon ( Moderator #31240) posted at 5:07 PM on Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Bump

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

posts: 27886   ·   registered: Feb. 18th, 2011   ·   location: Illinois
id 7600127
default

 onlytime (original poster member #45817) posted at 6:10 PM on Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Bump

R'd w/ BetterFuture13
T 20+ yrs w/ adult kids 😇 + grands
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall" ~Nelson Mandela

posts: 6298   ·   registered: Dec. 3rd, 2014   ·   location: 🇨🇦
id 7620934
default

DIFM ( member #1703) posted at 7:46 PM on Saturday, July 30th, 2016

IOW, 'remorse' doesn't always imply change; contrition almost always does.

That means 'contrition' is probably a better term for what we mean by 'remorse'. I'm not sure we can or will make that change, though.

I am pleased to see this article posted. I have always referred to contrition over remorse and it is nice to see someone think in these terms as well.

Catholics refer to "acts of contrition". You can show remorse in sincere ways, but contrition is much more connected to specific acts that are observable and often measurable. In other words, acts that reflect real, specific, progress........and contrition.

My WW, in her defensive, guilt ridden stupor saw acts of contrition as punishment. It took her a very long time to get and internalize contrition as it is described in that article.

Because of the lengthy reconciliation I endured, and the inextricable tie it had to this concept of contrition, I am always interested in hearing how others that made it through the process dealt with this, even if they did not call it by this name.

posts: 1756   ·   registered: Jul. 14th, 2003
id 7620987
default

psychmom ( member #47498) posted at 11:47 PM on Saturday, July 30th, 2016

I, too, found this article enlightening. Thank you for sharing and providing some good food for thought, onlytime.

As yes, raised Catholic so 'acts of contrition' has a familiar ring!

BS (me); fWH (both 50+; married 20 yr at the time; 2 DD
DDay 1- 9/13/2014 (EA)- 3+ yrs
DDay 2- 10/24/2014(PA2)-July'14-Sept'14
DDay 3- 11/12/2014(PA1)-Oct-Feb '14
Reconciled

posts: 4269   ·   registered: Apr. 10th, 2015   ·   location: Back among those who found Peace of Mind
id 7621100
Cookies on SurvivingInfidelity.com®

SurvivingInfidelity.com® uses cookies to enhance your visit to our website. This is a requirement for participants to login, post and use other features. Visitors may opt out, but the website will be less functional for you.

v.1.001.20221201 2002-2022 SurvivingInfidelity.com® All Rights Reserved. • Privacy Policy