A very good friend of mine is on the verge of leaving her marriage and I feel so bad about it. Sommie* got married early on and was really inexperienced when she walked down the aisle with her beau. When she got pregnant with their first child, amongst other things, her sex drive took a nosedive and her husband got himself some help outside. She was probably #teamnosnooping so she had no idea what happened until le boo confessed out of guilt, when she was way into her third trimester. They had dated for years before getting married, so she had grown to trust him even before they got married. The hurt and betrayal is hard to imagine…I can’t even pretend to understand what she must have passed through. According to her, he begged and cried as he confessed; pleading for her forgiveness and pardon. She said she lashed out at him; slapped him a few times, broke some stuff and even threatened to leave him that night but he held on to her PeeJays and sobbed for forgiveness. Please don’t ask me if he confessed because his conscience was killing him or because he was indeed sorry for what he had done.
Sommie forgave him that night and tried to sweep the entire matter under the carpet. She tried her best to act normal, until one day I drove her to the hospital for her antenatal as her EDD approached. She was unusually quiet but I attributed it to stress until she just calmly said “Freddie cheated on me”. I instantly looked her way and the waterworks were in full swing “I am carrying his child, suffering from low self esteem because of the skin discoloration, stretch marks and the swollen feet…yet he cheated on me. I didn’t beg for my sex drive to plummet, I miss sex too but did I cheat on him? No. How can I cheat on him anyway when I am like a life-size balloon? Who would want me? But it’s our child! Our child! And he cheated!” My mouth was still agape as I willed myself to park somewhere safe. WHATTTT! I was dumbstruck. I didn’t know what to think, act or say. Freddie just wasn’t the kind of guy to cheat; always so nice and calm and loving. Clearly it must have been a slip in judgment somewhere…it wasn’t his nature; it couldn’t be! When I recovered and consoled a now terribly shaking and sobbing Sommie, I asked why it took her so long to open to me and if she had talked to someone in the church about it. She said she couldn’t ‘report’ him to the church since she had forgiven him when he apologized. I tried to explain that they needed counseling but she insisted that she had forgiven him, and only needed help to forget it all.
Over the months that followed, Sommie tried to act like a woman who had forgiven her husband’s indiscretion but it killed her all the more inside. She suffered from postpartum depression and as her sex drive did not return immediately, she secretly wondered if he was helping himself out again. A thousand questions in her mind that she couldn’t ask because it would seem she was resurrecting a dead issue. He went about feeling relieved that he had confessed and she had forgiven instantly, but she was a mess emotionally. Her lips had said he was forgiven, so the rest of her being needed to comply. But the thing about the human soul is that we always need closure…those questions haunt us until we get answers. Sommie died a little every day; still scared of going for counseling and yet getting increasingly distrustful of her husband. Their marriage died a slow death and they are currently at the point of separation, even as their religious leaders got wind of the issues and are trying to reconcile them.
When I say to forgive is not by force, I am not advocating for unforgiveness. I simply believe that forgiveness is a process and should not be forced because the other party confessed and showed remorse. When we force forgiveness, just to appear as good people or lovers of peace, we deny our humanity and emotions; this only lead to deeper mental, emotional issues (which could turn psycho-social). Sometimes you need a break, sometimes you need time away, sometimes you need to process things before saying the three saintly words ‘I Forgive You’. Closure is important for our peace of mind. I was discussing this with a group of friends yesterday when I suggested that instead of rushing to forgive and suffering in silence, a woman can either pack a light bag and go visit an old relative who won’t ask a lot of questions, or take a trip to Sao Tomé or someplace else to get a clear head. One of my friends believe that taking a break would give the other party room to sin more. AH! If you cheat on me, beg for my forgiveness and I decide that the pill is too bitter to swallow; hence needing a short trip (which I hope you would be funding, by the way) to clear my thoughts, and you use that one as an avenue to cheat more; then you were never sorry in the first place. Abi my people, how una see am? Then my friend asks ‘how would you know that the person was cheating again while on your trip?’ to which I replied “finally sef, my mental health is more important to me than the affairs of someone’s sexual organ mbok”.
I would like to believe that someone who owns up to indiscretion and is sorry enough to tender an apology should be willing to pay the price to regain my trust and wait on my forgiveness. Before someone screams who forgiveness epp? Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. The other party gets exonerated when they confess (or get caught and have to own up)…the mental drain of lying back and forth and wondering what would happen if they got caught is over. The baggage has been dumped on you and you are left to deal with the hurt, betrayal and pain. So take your time to heal. Actually forgive the offender before you say so. No point in saying ‘I Forgive You’ and then working hard to make that sentence true. Ask any questions you think would help you find closure; connect all the dots and let the natural healing process take place. To forgive is not by force…too many beautiful women walking around with broken souls, fronting smiles and acting like it’s all good when it is not. This is 2016, own your truth and love yourself enough not to rush things that need processing.
* Sommie is not her real name though