So I’ve been watching True Tori on Lifetime. I don’t actually know why, but then again I am a sucker for TMZ, so maybe this kind of stuff is just in my DNA. Regardless, this reality show about the repercussions of an extramarital affair has been hard to watch for a number reasons, especially because lately I’ve been seeing some of these exact situations played out by a number of people extremely close to me.
I just binge-watched every episode, so here are my gut reactions:
Cameras Won’t Help. Whenever you go through something like this, it’s always best to get help and work on your marriage in private. Having cameras there and putting this real, raw, emotional stuff on TV is something our society loves to watch, but it’s terrible for you and your marriage. One of the only plusses I can see for a show like this is that having a producer and a network behind them might force Tori and her husband to work through these things and get into places and find help they might not have otherwise found. But then, that positive could also be a negative, because they’re being guided by a producer instead of themselves.
Kids Need to Know. There was a lot of discussion in one episode about whether to tell the kids or not (presumably the kids aren’t watching the show itself). Personally, I think kids from probably age 7 and up need to know what’s going on. No matter what age, though, they’ll sense that something is going on, so it’s up to you to fill them in.
Now, this brings up a bigger issues, because if you’ve never talked to your kids about sex, then it will be hard to talk to them about something as complex as an affair. Be honest with your kids and avoid generic terms like “Dad is away” or “Dad is in treatment.” Why is Dad in treatment? Why was Dad gone for 3 months? Why aren’t you two sleeping in the same room? Talk to your kids and fill them in. They don’t want TMZ levels of details; they just want reassurance that you and your spouse love each other, are trying to do the hard work of reconciliation, and that things will be okay. Now, if you can’t say that, then don’t lie. Be honest and discreet. But if you can, just stress that you are working through something very hard, but it will be okay.
Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes. The build-up for next week’s episode is whether Dean will go away again to Canada to work on his TV show or not. His two-night stand happened while filming his cooking show in Canada, and now the show was picked up for a second season. The drama is: should he go or not?
This is the part I can’t stand and don’t honestly believe, because reality TV is so often either exaggerated or straight-up manufactured. But this “decision” is easy: of course he shouldn’t go! Dean screwed up, Tori doesn’t trust him, and that is not going to change overnight. You screwed up and you have to decide what is more important: your spouse and family or your career (Tweet This!).
We saw this with Tiger Woods years ago when, right after treatment, it was up in the air on whether he would go back to golf or not. He chose golf and the road, and his wife said peace out. I’m not saying that was the total reason, but this kind of stuff plays a factor. Dean doesn’t need to work or go to Canada; if he wants his wife and family, he should stay and not take this job. He should be a father and support Tori during this season of life and be there for her as she has an opportunity to do a scripted show, something she hasn’t been able to do since Beverly Hills, 90210.
For the rest of you guys and gals: if something like this happened and you don’t want it to happen again, decide to make changes in your life so you don’t get back in the same situation and do the same things.
Guys Need to Lead (Tweet This!). Now let me explain this. Tori is the driver in this relationship; I think she’s had Dean’s balls in her purse for quite some time (but that’s a whole other post). Dean, it’s time for you to lead, get the help you need, and not just do what Tori tells you to do. It is so hard to watch this guy on this show. He says he wants her back and yet I watch him just doing what she wants him to do. I don’t see anything out of Dean that says, “This is what I’m doing for me and my health.” Don’t try and buy your wife a gift and make her sushi and think you’ve learned to nurture her overnight (Tweet This!). Figure out how to be a man and put your family back together.
Let’s reverse this for a bit: let’s say your wife cheated on you and you are wondering what to do. Men, make sure you don’t just take her back. Men, fight for this and lead the way out. You make sure you are going to counseling, you ask the hard questions, you demand that things change and things are different this time.
I’ve seen people take people back out of “love” before, only to let things slide back into how they used to be… and then the same thing happens again. I don’t know Tori and Dean personally, but feel like I do a little bit after watching this series. I see this as a major problem in their relationship. Tori is the stronger more dominant person and Dean is not a leader in his marriage or as a father. Tori is disappointed that Dean doesn’t do what she wants him to do. My two cents: Tori, let Dean lead and Dean, step up and lead. Both those things need to happen for this to work. Yes, this is much harder than buying gifts, but it’s cheaper and will do more to help things get better.
People Cheat When Their Needs Are Not Being Met. Dean wanted sex the night before he left on a trip, but Tori said they’d had sex the weekend prior to that; that’s not enough for Dean. Now, there are obviously some other issues at play here—especially when I heard Dean took her to a sex shop and wants her to push her comfort level with sex.
But “needs” doesn’t just mean “sex.” We all have needs beyond physical—there’s also the emotional, the spiritual, and beyond. The show treated us to a counseling session with Tori and Dean that focused mostly on the details of the night and how Dean got someone in bed with him. This is the wrong focus—if this happens to you, both of you need to focus not on how it happened but why it happened. What needs were you trying to meet? Because the bottom line is that something is wrong.
“I Don’t Deserve This” Doesn’t Help. Tori was crying while saying this, and it was tough to watch. None of us deserve this, but we have to move away from that mentality and get back into the reality that we live in a society where many marriages end. A lot of people are going to cheat, and whether you deserve this or not, this is your reality.
It’s not your fault, but in so many cases, I could say I saw it coming. Sadly, I’m rarely surprised when I find out someone’s had an affair, because the warning signs were usually already there. So move away from “I don’t deserve this” and realize both of you play a part in your marriage; if you want to get through it and move forward, then take a look at the things that were wrong in your marriage and in your personal lives, then dig into those so this doesn’t happen again.
If you aren’t married, just know that if you decide to get married one day, then you have a chance that it will end in divorce. Sex and money are the two biggest reasons for divorce, so you and I don’t deserve this, no, but we all deserve to know what we’re getting into. What you are getting into is a great union and a covenant of marriage, but it is hard as hell and people cheat because it’s an escape and temporarily easier than walking through their issues.
“I Can Forgive But I Won’t Forget.” I have heard this said a lot. The therapist even said something like this to Tori and Dean, but when you truly forgive someone, you forget. Is that easy? No way. I personally don’t know whether I could do it, honestly. I know I am an awful person in general; Jeanette and I have talked about this stuff, and I don’t know whether I have it in me to forgive her and forget about it. I’d like to think I would, but I just don’t.
But the point is that you can’t hold it over their heads for the rest of their lives. Forgiving someone means being willing to forget it eventually. That is a tough decision and it won’t come all at once. If you believe in God, ask him to help you with this process of forgiveness. The next time you get in a fight and you say “are you just going to cheat on me again” you obviously haven’t forgot about that and the therapist was trying to say that is normal. But let’s also be honest: it’s extremely difficult, once trust is broken, to regain it.
Don’t Stay Together for the Kids. You might hate me for saying this, but I think we think of the people in True Tori as characters on a TV show and not real-life people. So much of what we see is staged, so we then think this is a show not real life and I personally don’t think they stand a chance at making this work. I hope I’m wrong—I’ve certainly been wrong before—but these two people don’t connect. They both have a series of issues and I’m not sure they’re ready to work through them based on the sheer fact they are being followed around by cameras during the worst part of their marriage.
So then comes the question: do you stay together just for the kids? Will your kids appreciate the fact that you stuck it out just for them, but as soon as they’re out of the house you run for the doors? Is that what you signed up for when you walked down the aisle? Are you going to continue to live in fear that this will happen again? Is one of you in and the other one out, but you both act like everything’s okay?
My friend is thinking about walking away from his wife for another woman and I said to him, “I think your kids might never follow Jesus if you decide to do that.” Don’t stay just for the kids. Stay if you both are willing to do the work (Tweet This!).
Some final thoughts:
- If you’re the one who cheated and are “not sure” you want to be married still… at least show courtesy to your spouse and get out. You obviously don’t want to fight for your marriage or the commitments you’ve made, so stop delaying the inevitable and at least let your spouse move forward toward healing.
- If you are the one who cheated and you want your spouse back… fight like hell (Tweet This!). Make the tough choices to work on yourself and work on your marriage and let your spouse see a change. Don’t be afraid to bring up past issues and all your garbage. Put everything on the table and get professional help as a couple.
- If you are the one who was cheated on and you’re not sure… only you can make the decision about whether you’re willing to walk down that path or not. Don’t beat yourself up. If you know you could never get over an affair and have it in your heart to move on, then do that. If you have compassion and can bring yourself to forgiving and forgetting eventually, if you can walk down that road, then set up some boundaries and expectations and do the work that your marriage and your spouse need.
- If you’re either the cheater or the one who was cheated on and you’re solely looking at blogs on the internet for answers, then you have big problems. I believe strongly in what I’ve said here, but I’m not the authority on your marriage. You are. Hopefully what you’ve read here can spur you to action and conversations with your spouse and a counselor who knows what they’re doing.
- This stuff is hard and there are no easy answers. But don’t make any of these decisions without serious thought, wise input, and emotional maturity. And definitely don’t try to make these decisions in front of cameras for a TV show on cable. We don’t need to watch.
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