Question by Amanda: At what point does the transgressor become the transgressed?
O.K. I know this will sound crazy, but I really need advice.
I am 32, african american, ivy league educated, and married to a Kenyan national I met in college. My husband is very, very western (or else I would never have been attracted to him in the first place probably) but a year ago we decided to live a year in Kenya, in his village, as Kenyans, and he would make a documentary about it (he is an independent filmmaker). While I was there, I made a huge mistake one night and I had an affair–it was the biggest mistake of my life, and I am still ashamed and humiliated.
In his village (maybe more widespread than that, I don’t know) if a woman commits adultury she has to go to her parents house, strip naked, and walk (accompanied by her brother and law) through the streets to her husbands house in shame to ask forgiveness. This is, obviously, an antiquated and medieval practice……but I was so in the wrong for the affair, and so wanted to convince my husband to want to keep working to fix our marriage, that I agreed to submit to the ceremony when we were visiting his family this summer. It was the most humiliating and humbling experience of my life.
The problem is that my husband has put 2 pictures from this event in his film. He sees no reason to hide it, says I expressed my shame publicly, and why should I want to hide that now (unless I’m not truly ashamed), and that it is an integral part of our experience in Kenya. I, however, say that I agreed to do something very important to him in a non-western context to make things right…..but having this enter my very western life is not appropriate….rather I am the one who had the affair or not. I am a college professor, not a African wife….this could have REAL WORLD consequences for me.
I’m sure most of you will think I’m crazy to begin with, but for those of you who can take the question seriously (rather than attacking me for what I did) I would appreciate advice
Answer by estragon
This sounds to me like a powerplay cloaked in the guise of morality.
If your husband is serious about repairing the relationship and continuing the marriage, he should heed your request and not use the pictures (why are there pictures of this to begin with?) in his film.
If he really is so Western, he should understand that there is a world of difference between consenting to a public humiliation in a remote village and consenting to the broadcast of its visual documentation all over the world. If he claims not to understand this, he is either being disingenuous (see powerplay, above) or isn’t anywhere near as modern and progressive as you’d thought.
Marriage is first and foremost about taking care of each other, and being responsible to and for each other. Doing what he’s proposing to do is the opposite of this. Repairing trust after an affair is a difficult and complicated thing, and sometimes isn’t possible in the end. But if you’re going to try, you have to give the marriage the best chance possible — and be kind to each other. What your husband is proposing to do is not kind, and is emphatically not the right way to build a stronger marriage.
If he really cares more about his film than about you… is that the kind of person you want to be married to?
Give your answer to this question below!