Tiger doesn’t have to be benched forever. He can come back into the game, and even back into a healthy marriage with Elin. Will it take work? Yes. Will it be painful? Yes. Will he have to face issues he never wanted to look at in himself or in his wife? Yes. If he rises to this challenge in his marriage, will his kids be better for it? Yes. Will he and Elin be better people and better partners for it? For sure!
We are surprised, but we are not that surprised. A big-time athlete with money and power and lots of opportunities to meet willing beautiful women cheats on his wife? We hear this all the time in our culture. But Tiger? He had millions of kids saying, “I’m Tiger Woods,” so we don’t want to face his imperfections or the reality that he is simply human and can mess up big-time like many of us. We loved his carefully guarded and protected image because it was a great story. But it was just that — a well-crafted story, not the reality of a man with faults and troubles.
Nobody in a marriage wants to believe that their partner would cheat on them. We hate seeing it in the media, especially when it involves people we like or who are likable, like Tiger. It reminds us of the fragility of our own marriages, and that, given a toxic cocktail of unhappiness, resentment, and opportunity, it could be any one of us who has to confront such a betrayal in our own lives.
It seems that all of Tiger’s alleged betrayal came to a crescendo the week of Thanksgiving, ending with Elin Nordegren reportedly bashing in the Escalade with a golf club. We don’t know what really happened between them, nor should we, truthfully. The moment you are faced with your world as you know it crumbling because of infidelity is a traumatic life-altering experience. It is as if time stops and all that was before is now unclear, and confusion, anger, and pain wash over you and you feel like you are drowning.
I know many women right now are saying, “I would leave the cheating SOB” — but I have found in my work with couples that it is not as easy or dramatic as that in real time. In real time, there is sadness and anger and love and confusion, and more lives than just yours involved. There is the painful realization that your lives will never be the same, so you want to run away from it and not look at it clearly and cleanly with the possibility of staying in the marriage.
First, it will never ever be the same, but that doesn’t mean it has to be over. Will it take time, even years, to recover trust? Possibly. But it can happen. Couples can recover from infidelity. The cheating partner needs to be fully remorseful and acknowledge that they chose to step out of the marriage. That partner must also be willing to do a lot of work around the affair and the relationship for the healing to occur.
My advice for Tiger and Elin
â€¢ Know that couples can recover from infidelity if you both are committed to marriage and the children.
â€¢ You need help — professional help — dealing with an affair. It may take years of work, but it will be worth it in the long run.
â€¢ There are reasons on both sides that you are dealing with the trauma of infidelity. This is not about blame, but about understanding the marriage.
My Advice for Tiger
â€¢ Own up to it ALL. Answer honestly all of her questions.
â€¢ You will need to be working very hard emotionally to heal the hurt and trauma you have chosen to expose your family to.
â€¢ Know that Elin has the more challenging experience of this trauma because she has to learn to forgive and trust you again.
My Advice for Elin
â€¢ Don’t give up until you have tried to work on the marriage. It will be better for you and your children to work through this trauma if it is possible.
â€¢ If Tiger is truly remorseful and wants to save the marriage, at some point after much therapy and personal work, you will have to choose to move forward into a new marriage and a renewed relationship with him.