No Body, No Crime?

Have you ever been subjected to a conversation? You know, like in an elevator or when the person in the restroom stall beside you is on the phone or when you carpool and the conversation turns personal? You try not to overhear what’s being said, but you really don’t have much of a choice? Okay, good, so you know what I’m talking about…

I was recently subjected to a conversation during which Jack told Jill he was thinking about taking the rest of the day off because he wanted some alone-time since things at home had been pretty stressful. Jill immediately suggested that he do it, saying Jack deserved some self-care and could go hang out at one of his favorite places. Jack remarked that he did not want another run-in with his wife like the last time he went somewhere he “wasn’t supposed to go.” Again, Jill immediately had a suggestion…she said, “Well, you could destroy the evidence.”

Y’all, I really did want to stay out of the conversation, but I couldn’t help watching Jack’s face to see if he appeared to be considering this friendly suggestion (read act of deception). When I thought I saw his eyebrow raising, I could no longer hold my peace. So, I apologized for my conversation crash and asked if I could offer a point of consideration. When he raised his other eyebrow, I took that as permission and said that destroying the evidence could make an innocent outing look very suspicious. I asked Jack why he didn’t feel he could be open with his wife about wanting some time to himself to unwind.

Jack furrowed his brow and explained that he thought his wife would be offended over his wanting to spend time without her and the children. He also shared what happened after his last impromptu solo outing. His wife happened to call while he was in the middle of the (truly harmless) activity, so he did not answer. When he had to explain the whole thing later, it led to a period of her keeping close tabs on him in case he had something to hide. A simple attempt at self-care led to an unnecessary fracture in the foundation of this couple’s trust. Now, here he was being encouraged to deepen that fracture with a repeat offense — and to add insult by destroying the evidence!

I responded with the following two points:

If you and your partner cannot be open with one another about how you feel and what you need, there is a problem with your communication and/or your level of respect for one another. Addressing it could reduce the level of tension and conflict in your relationship.

Just because your partner does not know you did something to which he or she might object does not make it okay that you did something to which he or she might object. You could do major damage to your relationship by choosing to act despite your partner’s feelings, hoping that he or she won’t find out or thinking that you’ll just deal with the consequences later.

If we’d had more time, I’d have also offered the following points:

Be mindful of how comfortable you get with sharing the details of your personal life with other people (especially those of the opposite sex who are not relatives or friends of both you and your partner) because said people (like me, obviously) will probably want to give you advice. While their intentions may be good, their advice may or may not be relevant to and healthy for your situation.

Don’t take forgiveness for granted. If you offend your partner, apologize to him or her, and then repeat the same (or very similar) offense for which you previously apologized, your partner may have difficulty accepting your apology as sincere. (Click here for more on this point.)

I don’t know how Jack decided to spend his day, but I hope that my inability to be a silent witness to the conversation was a good thing. I hope it prompted him to consider that while the no body, no crime concept may make for a thrilling movie plot, it is not the way to have a lasting and healthy relationship. Besides, even in the movies, the body usually surfaces…

I’d love to know what you think. Comment below!

This post is only for the purpose of discussion and is not to be considered clinical guidance. If you are in need of specific help from a mental health clinician, please call The Chrysalis Center, LLC at 225.776.2939 for a free consultation.

I’m sorry; It Won’t Happen Again. 

“I’m sorry; it won’t happen again.” How many times has the same person said this to you after doing the same thing he or she has done countless times before? How many times are you expected to take this statement at face value?

The offending party might have you believe that you are being harsh and unforgiving if you begin to question the sincerity of an apology repeated again and again after the same mishap, but let’s briefly examine this situation. What is an apology? Merriam-Webster defines it as “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” However, this reference also offers the word excuse as a synonym, with one definition being “something (such as a condition or set of conditions) that explains improper behavior and makes it acceptable.” So, it is important to determine whether the person who is apologizing (again) is admitting error and expressing regret or whether he or she is attempting to explain improper behavior in such a way that you should see it as acceptable.

Here are some questions that might help you to tell the difference:

Is the person defensive or unwilling to acknowledge that the behavior is wrong or inconsiderate?

Have you clearly communicated how the behavior affects you?

Does the person express understanding for how the behavior affects you?

Does the behavior usually happen when you are not around (i.e., intentionally behind your back)?

Does the person expect you to disregard the behavior because he or she does not see it as a “big deal” or because he or she “didn’t mean any harm”?

If you answered “no” to most of the questions, the person may genuinely be sorry for his or her behavior and may have a legitimate reason for continuing to struggle with it. It is usually a good idea to assertively communicate how you are affected by the behavior. Beyond that, you decide how much support you are willing and able to offer in dealing with the person’s struggle.

If you answered “yes” to most of the questions, it could be that the person is simply using an apology (read excuse) to pacify you and to avoid conflict, but he or she may have little or no intention of changing the behavior. It is a good idea for you to consider what type of boundaries you need to set with this person and to decide what will be the consequences for future boundary violations.

Comment below! What are some other ways you feel you can tell whether or not an apology is sincere?

This post is only for the purpose of discussion and is not to be considered clinical guidance.  If you are in need of specific help from a mental health clinician, please call The Chrysalis Center, LLC at 225.776.2939 for a free consultation.