“There is no such thing as a clean slate.” Simon Asher
Beth has had so much hurt and betrayal over the last 25 years in her marriage.
- Her husband has shown her rage and anger, blaming her for his pain.
- He abandoned her in the middle of a very serious health scare.
- He has had at least one emotional affair.
So when I asked her if she could open her heart to him again, she thought about it for at least a minute and said……..”I’m not sure.”
She shared with me that a therapist had told her that she needed to give her husband a clean slate in order to move forward, but that angered her.
- It felt like sweeping all the hurtful, bad behavior under the rug.
- It felt like lying and pretending like it didn’t happen.
- It felt like letting him off the hook.
And truth be told, now that she’s got one foot out the door, her husband would like nothing more than a clean slate and another chance.
The Truth about a Clean Slate
I don’t see this issue as purely black and white:
I don’t think hanging onto – or continuing to re-hash – the past hurts does either spouse or the marriage any good at all. If you want what you had in the past, then all you have to do is keep it alive and active by focusing on it and talking about it. But if you want something new, you need to turn your attention to the present and the future.
I also don’t think creating a perfectly clean slate is even possible. The best predictor of the future is, in fact, the past…so it’s important information. To pretend that all those experiences never occurred is a lie.
We can, however, create a future that looks different than our past together when something interrupts the hurtful patterns between you. And that interruption exists in the present. What is Beth’s husband doing now to create change for himself and how he’s showing-up inside the relationship?
- Seeing a coach or therapist regularly to get new tools and create new habits?
- Doing a ton of self-study and applying what he’s learning?
- Demonstrating consistent changes over a long period of time?
Any one of those can be interrupters. Any one of those can give you hope that the marriage can evolve. Any one of those can give you the ability to forgive the past hurts and move forward from this new place.
A Future Different than the Past
You for sure don’t want to hang onto the heaviness of all the past hurts and carry that throughout the rest of your life.
You also don’t need a clean slate for the past in order to move forward.
You need to simply look at the present for new indications that the future will be different than the past.