Sandra Metts Illinois State University
Dear Abby: My husband and I were planning a 40th anniversary celebration, but I called it off three months ago when I learned from someone that my husband had had an affair with a young woman while he was stationed in Alameda, Calif., during World War II. The affair lasted about a year while he was waiting to be shipped out, but never was. When I confronted him with the facts, he admitted it, but said it was "nothing serious.". . . I am devastated. I feel betrayed, knowing I've spent the last 37 years living with a liar and a cheat. How can I ever trust him again? The bottom has fallen out of my world.
This letter is a poignant illustration of how a transgression can rock the very foundation of a relationship. In this case, the act of infidelity is only the first blow; the 37 years of omission is the second, and probably more devastating, hit. Moreover, although it is not likely that any account would be easily accepted by this wife, the statement that the affair was "nothing serious" is insufficient and does not address her feelings of betrayal.
Relational transgressions are not necessarilw as traumatic as the one experienced by this letter writer. However, even comparatively minor offenses tend to disrupt the stability of a relationship because they involve violations of rules for appropriate relational conduct. Some rules have been explicitly established by the couple, whereas others have been taken-for-granted expectations that were not recognized until the moment of their violation. In either case, if the behavior is considered sufficiently untoward by the offended partner, the misconduct will be considered a relational transgression. The con-