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Love and Conscience: Trying to Do the Right Thing

            For some time, I have had a feeling and a hope that this column might also serve as a healing forum through my responses to readers’ email questions.

            I recently received an email from a divorced woman in her 50’s who finds herself in a dilemma with an old school friend who had contacted her some time back. What began simply-enough through emails and phone calls led to more involvement after he told her that he was also a lonely divorcee. From the beginning, he had told her he wanted them to begin with a clean slate – no secrets, no lies and no holding back on their feelings. They became very involved, with both declaring their love for each other. Recently, she was shocked to discover he is still married. The revelation came when his wife found a gift she had given him and responded by calling and blasting her. Now, her newfound trust is crushed. He called her with his wife present and “ended” it; yet he continues to call her and see her behind his wife’s back, affirming his inspiration that they are meant to be together.

            My emailer feels very much in love; feels conflicted about her desire to be with him and her awareness that continued relationship is not possible. She doesn’t know what to do to stop her pain.

            Since this dilemma is not uncommon, after emailing her answer privately, I paraphrased her letter and now offer the response in my column.

In Response to Your Question

            You are talking about a guy who originally came on strong about the importance of honesty and openness, while actively deceiving you about his relationship with his current spouse. Now, he continues to deceive his wife because he “loves you so much.”

            Considering his track record of deception, have you wondered about this man’s character and integrity?

            Deficiency in character limits our capacity to love, because character is based on our ability to experience and express empathy - to “feel with” another human being. The capacity to “feel with” is what develops compassion. Compassion is not only the nectar that constitutes the essence of true love. In mature love, compassion holds sexual desire in check, so that we do not let the behavior driven by our sexual passions override our compassionate awareness of others’ needs. The ability to “feel with” another human being allows us to experience their essence – to taste the sacredness of the sweet spirit that gives a person life while embracing that person, without judgment, in the depth of his or her conflicts and struggles to understand that life.

            Admittedly, achieving love at this level is our greatest challenge in life, and also our greatest potential accomplishment. Yet, to seek anything less is to invite suffering and limitation into our lives. One way of inviting suffering into our lives is to blind ourselves to compassionate feeling for one in an existing commitment while becoming involved in another relationship. The lack of willingness to “feel with” the pain of the jilted spouse is exactly what defines the limitations of capability to truly love the new lover. The lover jilted and the lover enticed are simply standing on opposite sides of the same character roadblock to authentic love. We all know what happens to roadblocks. When one project is finished, the roadblock is eventually moved to the next project.

            Of course, without hearing his side, it is impossible to appreciate any dynamics of pain and alienation that may exist in his current marriage – or whether he has sought help to heal the relationship. One thing’s for sure. While he’s staying with her, he continues to entice you – which keeps two women in continuing pain while it serves his purposes. Do you wonder how he feels about that? And, since he was deceptive with you from the beginning, you may be aware of what you called “trust issues” coming up in you regarding whether you can believe what he is saying now. It may be that you are trying to ignore your own intuition. Intuition is the channel for that still small voice of inner spiritual guidance. We often dismiss intuition as imagination because we don’t want to hear it. What is it saying?

            You seem to have empathy for the man’s wife and her pain in this. You also explained that he said, “If we seek the Lord’s guidance we will be together soon.” How might her pain reconcile with this guidance? Such guidance does not come through the egoic mind that deceives and seeks fulfillment now in what is exciting and what feels good. Does he expect to find it through scriptures? Prayer and meditation? In what scriptures might he expect to find guidance that would encourage perpetuation of such pain? (In spite of the scriptural interpretations you may hear in some religious circles, the “thou shalt nots” are lovingly meant to guide us away from acts that induce suffering and cripple our growth, not to put us in fear of evoking God’s eternal wrath). If he opens himself in prayer (genuinely asking) and meditation (genuinely listening), will he find answers that fit with his preconceived notions? Will your answers be the same, and whose answers will you trust?

            Your disclosures indicate you were deceived into an intimate relationship, so you cannot be responsible for that deception. Now, where does your responsibility begin? You found something you believe is beautiful, but is it, and is it yours? Or should you return it? Would the one you love put you in such pain, or is that love an illusion contrived to serve baser goals? You said you didn’t know what to do to stop this pain. Could ending the pain begin with coming to know that the one you love in your heart may not be the same one out there in the real world who feeds you the morsels that perpetuate your suffering?

            Perhaps the “awful nervous feeling” you get in the pit of your stomach when you hear his voice is the still small voice of your conscience? I have complete faith in your ability to answer these questions in a way that will resolve your suffering and provide valuable lessons for creating the solid foundation for a truly loving future relationship. Thank you for having the courage to seek the truth, for every spark of human wisdom contributes to the light.

            I invite readers to submit questions for the column to my website, where I can consider them in a more confidential environment. In your email, please indicate whether I can include all or part the letter in the column, or whether you want it paraphrased as in today’s column. Your confidentiality will be protected at my end, but remember that email may not be completely secure as it crosses the ‘Net.

Granville Angell (Copyright 03/2006)

Granville Angell, EdS, LPC, NCC, is a licensed professional counselor with 30 years experience. He may be reached at his private practice, TRANSITIONS Personal & Family Counseling Services (www.transitions-counseling.com) by emailing angell(at)transitions-counseling.com or calling 704-735-1554 or 704-276-1164.

To call TRANSITIONS/SoulMentors: (704) 276-1164

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