Many years ago I read a letter to one of the two twin sisters of advice…Abby and Ann…from a woman who was totally devastated after the death of her husband of 50 or so years; a man who was well-respected in the community and with whom she had an almost fairytale marriage. No, not because of his death itself, which is to be expected, especially after that long of a marriage. But because of what she found out in the weeks after the funeral.
You see, after her husband was dead, someone felt free to tell her about the many affairs he had during those 50 years, and that he had worked very hard to keep her from finding out about.
Now, before I go on, we will all pause to virtually smack that person upside the head with a 2 x 4. Why? I mean really, just what did this person hope to accomplish? What good did this person think would come from this? Was getting this long-held secret off their chest worth the price of what it would do to her? I’m guessing that you can figure out my answer.
When this woman wrote to the twins, one of the things she said was that when she learned this, she realized that her whole life was a sham, and that her husband never really loved her anyway.
Wait. Time out. Hold it. Stop. It’s logical fallacy time. It’s also time for me to introduce you to a little cognitive dissonance.
In our culture, we make the mistake of confusing love and fidelity, and maybe they’re not always the same thing. Maybe you can love someone with all your heart, and not be able to be faithful to him or her, as hard as you might try. I can see that some of you aren’t buying this, so let me give you a different example.
Suppose someone said “If you really love me, then you’ll learn how to play the piano?” And suppose you just happen to be tone deaf? You could love that person with all your heart and soul, but not be able to play Heart and Soul. Does your inability to play even the most rudimentary piece of music, despite getting the rest of the relationship right, mean that you don’t love that person? I know this is an imperfect example, but can you see my point?
Conversely, in the song Silver Threads and Golden Needles, the singer says that she doesn’t care about his stupid mansion or all his money. She wants him to stop fooling around with other women and love her again. Um…I hate to ruin her pretty little picture, but his being faithful to her wouldn’t necessarily mean that he loved her again, but simply that he was following the rules because they were the rules.
Is it reasonable to ask, nay, demand, that the person who claims that they love us be faithful? I’ll give you a definite “maybe” on that. Perhaps it can be done most of the time. And perhaps we modern westerners are a little to tough on ourselves. Look at the story of Jacob from Genesis. He was counted as being faithful while having two wives and being able to get it from the maidservants.
But let’s go back to the beginning. The letter-writer claimed that all of this showed that her husband never really loved her anyway. I beg to differ, and this is where the cognitive dissonance kicks in. I can see him as really loving, really adoring, his wife, but knowing that no matter how hard he tried, he could never be faithful. And I can see him working very hard to make sure that she never found out, so that he could preserve the world she knew…precisely because he loved her.
And then along comes some well-meaning dolt who feels that they have to tell her the truth.