My husband cheated on me after 3 years of marriage. I've decided to stay for all the other things he is and does. Buddhism has helped in all other facets in my life. What would the Buddha advise me to do, what tools would he suggest in overcoming the betrayal of trust, the lying and find my way back to a happy partnership with someone I believe deserves the forgiveness. I no longer want to speak to him in a way which I feel that is punishing for his transgression. Please help.
According to the Buddha, confessing one's misdeed, seeing the fault and blameworthiness in that misdeed, and resolving not to transgress again is considered a maturing, a growth in a person. So too is the ability to accept that confession, forgive the person and harbour no malice.
I hope your husband understands the hurt he has caused you after making a solemn vow of fidelity, and that he has resolved to never do that again.
Now that you have decided to continue stay married, the Dhamma would tell us to let go of thoughts such as 'he cheated on me, he lied to me, he betrayed me'. For holding on to such thoughts will not allow you to find peace and move forward. Re Dhammapada verses 3 and 4.
I did a search on Google a little while ago and according to the results the estimate is that 30% of married men will. Ofcourse the results will vary based on location. I am currently in Sydney.
Also some studies have shown that 1 in 4 or even 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce.
So relationships are risky business, but they can be rewarding too. People make mistakes. However having the maturity to, admit the mistake, have the insight to see the error in it, and forgive and continue to move forward together lovingly is the Buddhist way, but it takes two.
If one party is continually failing to hold up their part, the Buddha says it's better to live alone, our find suitable companions. Also even in relationships we are adviced to practice being an island unto ourselves. For all meetings end in parting.
I recall watching a talk by Ajhan Brahm on this topic some time ago. Perhaps you might find that useful.
No matter what you do, don't live in regret and with thoughts of anger.
In addition you will find it useful developing the practice of the 5 daily recollections recommended by the Buddha.
I wish you well.
It is possible that there are answers directly in scripture relating to your situation. If there are, I am not aware of them.
There is some guidance that is in the spirit of Buddhist awareness that I can offer you with regards to some of the spaces you are likely to go through.
Real Buddhist practice can be the most transformative when dealing with emotional unpleasantness. It is as if during times of stress, our mind reacts like a hornets nest being hit with rocks. "Stuff" gets stirred up; and long supressed emotional conflicts and past traumas seem to rise up to the surface -
If you wish to understand yourself, you must succeed in doing so in the midst of all kinds of confusions and upsets. Don’t make the mistake of sitting dead in the cold ashes of a withered tree. - Enyo
I suggest throughout your path of forgiveness, you keep the spirit of that quote in front of you.
When you try and bulldoze through upsets and constantly overcome emotional setbacks, it's easy to get swept up in the mess of thoughts and feelings - and easy also perhaps to stop caring; or to lose sight of the spiritual possibility that gives you power to face what frightens you. I find that if I treat my upsets as an opportunity for awareness and awakening, I have much more power in traversing the dangerous territory of the mind.
For now, I will refer to you as two - I will say it when referring to your mind ( to MIND ) and you when referring to possibility of being who you really are ( to SELF ).
It is nasty. It will attempt in many insidious ways to sabatoge your goal. You wish to forgive, and it will do what it can to try and make sure that doesn't happen.
Your goal is forgiveness. It's goal is survival. It will attempt to protect you from getting hurt again using whatever resources it can. It does not want you to be free. It wants you to be safe.
You may find that yourself in an argument with your husband about something totally unrelated to the infidelity - and it will start chattering away. "Well what does he know anyway? He cheated. Why do I even trust him? He might be lying to me right now."
If every time thoughts like that arise, you try and suppress them; overcome them; or the like, you will lose the opportunity of awareness. What will give you freedom is if you can find a way to give space to those thoughts without succombing to them or trying to overcome them. If you can just let them be, they will lose their potency and your awareness will expand.
You might also find it thinking negative thoughts about you. "I'm such a fool. He doesn't even love me. Why am I forgiving him?" It is the same thing, the target is just reversed.
If you deal with these thoughts as the TRUTH - you will be trapped, a helpless victim of it's whims and fancies. However if you permit these thoughts to exist; recognize them for what they are; and allow them to be - as it talking - then you will gain freedom. The more space you have for what you consider to be the worst parts of yourself - the more your awareness will expand - and forgiveness will stop being the right thing to do or a good idea and become a natural freeflowing expression of your Self.
It is very difficult. From my perspective, infidelity is one of the most difficult upsets, because the emotions that get triggered tend to be the most primal and the most deeply rooted. If, however, you find a way to give yourself space - not once, but repeatedly - then this can become a most transformative experience.
The last bit I have to offer is this: You chose to forgive. You didn't have to choose that, and many people don't - and I suspect the majority of people who do don't have the awareness to confront it head on as you are. Your word given freely has a great deal of power. If you relate to your word as a sacred promise independent of any emotional state or discomfort you feel, this too can help you guide yourself.
As you chose this freely, you get to be the author of your destiny; not a victim who is at the effect of something or a bystander watching your emotions overcome you. Because you said, "I choose to forgive", that is solid ground you can stand on. That is you. It would not say that.
It's impossible to know what the Buddha would have said, but to make a guess, he would have looked into your mind to see what faculties are developed, what are lacking, what inclinations and latent tendencies you have etc. Then he would have given you a customized sermon to put you on the path to end of all suffering.
A lay disciple of the Buddha would say, if your husband broke the precept, he would have to suffer for that Karma in the future. You don't have to punish him yourself. The grief and the disappointment you are experiencing is a result of your past bad Karma. Samsara is so long that the amount of tears you have shed for heatbreaks like this is greater than the water in all the oceans.
Dhammapada -213 comes to mind:
From affection springs grief, from affection springs fear. For one who is wholly free from affection there is no grief, whence then fear?
The Buddha preached about 7 types of wives to Sujatha, the daughter-in-law of Anathapindika. One of the good wives out of the seven is the motherly-wife:
(matusama or matubhariya) – she treats her husband like her son in every way, being compassionate and kind, as well as caring responsibly after his wealth;
A person who lets his desires overcome his sense of shame and fear(of consequences) is like a kid who goes after things by instinct. He's no longer a matured adult. So you have to act like a motherly-wife and try to bring him to the Dhamma. Practice compassion with wisdom, teach him the demerits of breaking the precepts and try to make him understand how his actions will ruin his life and your relationship.