“However we may judge (infidelities‘) consequences, these liaisons are not frivolous. Their power is often as mystifying to the person involved in the secret as they are to the spouse who uncovers it…” – EstherPerel, The State of Affairs
I’m well aware how secrets and lies cut us off from the people we love most. I did it anyway. Knowledge and adulting meant nothing in the face of emotional discord. I can explain, now, many of my motivations. I could explain them before.
None of them are a defense.
“You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem.”
While my best thinking created the environment making the betrayal possible, I was reduced to forging a path through the same wilderness I had exiled myself into. Pride was my co-pilot. Shame was reading the map.
I finally understand, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
My infidelity created a situation where a smart, aware, conscientious and loving man was doing stupid almost continually for a long time. When faced with a problem of your own making you are reduced to using the tools you have.
In my case, my tools consisted of paint and a hammer. A hammer to beat down exposed truths like a nail, and painted over the hole with another lie. No amount of beating or paint is going to cover up dishonesty. I always knew it was going to come to light.
Like nails in a new house, the truth finds new places to pop through.
For nearly sixteen months I’ve been going to a Mastermind group where we discussed both the personal and professional. One of the recurring themes in meeting after meeting was the concept of Imposter Syndrome. Also known as Fraud Syndrome, it describes “individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.”
And I was a fraud, carrying “a persistent fear of being exposed”.
While others were discussing their insecurities about success or opportunity I was struggling to find a face-saving way to confess my secrets. A way that wouldn’t burn back humiliating and shaming those I love.
One that would allow me to maintain my relationships and my successes. One that wouldn’t make me appear to be a monster or sick to Painter, Beatrix, and our many friends in our cloistered community and professional circles.
There isn’t one.
Every effort of my best thinking only reinforces their narrative.
I can go through and list my accomplishments in my relationships with Painter. There is actually a significant list of constructive, positive and meaningful contributions I made to our relationship as a fully vested partner. When not shame lashing myself, I was physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, sexually and personally invested in the success of my relationship with her.
However, none of those behaviors matter: a great fireman doesn’t get credit for his valor if he is the one starting the fire.