06: Infidelity’s Paradox

There is a method to the madness – an underlying riddle of human nature that leads people to unexpected trespasses. I often feel like part therapist, part philosopher – explaining to couples the existential paradoxes that make what seems inconceivable also quite logical.

Esther Perel, The State of Affairs

My behavior wasn’t a rebellion against my ex, Painter or the relationship.

Saying it was simply rebellion is the argument of entitled men-boys everywhere. The sex, lies, secret and betrayal of Painter (and my ex-wife Beatrix) wasn’t because of she was being too controlling or motherly or over-bearing.

It isn’t because Beatrix is a Huntress poaching other women’s meat – I mean men.

It isn’t for any of the reasons I can discern when I read the sophistry and click-funnels of for-profit affair recovery services turning a profit on our pain.

My was a “fuck you” to Adulting; It was a thumb in Adulting’s eye.

Adulting is about knowing the difference between what is – and isn’t – your responsibility. My was about not honoring the limits of my responsibility.

It’s about arrogance. I thought it was my responsibility to make everything right all the time for everyone impacted by this betrayal.

The foundation for my infidelity was laid on the conceit of my self-importance. My oversized, damaged ego and pride conspiring with shame to justify selfishness. My damage convinced me it was my responsibility to emotionally, sexually care for someone other than Painter.

Someone more than capable of caring for themselves who I felt an unhealthy desire to make amends too.

I didn’t honor my boundaries, Painter’s boundaries or the relationship’s boundaries. I didn’t honor Beatrix’s boundaries and the dignity of her pain.

I know all of this.

I knew this before, during and after my selfish relationship with Beatrix. I struggled with being honest about it and even in the midst of it all found ways to rationalize my behavior. I was selfish and neither of these people deserve the treatment.

Don’t misunderstand, Beatrix clearly was getting something from the too. In some respects, so was Painter.

As I said, adulting is about knowing the limits of responsibility. Nothing is learned by throwing myself on the sword or hiding behind a shield of rationalizing.

In the over-simplified and basic parlance of our era, I fucked up, and for some people that is enough. However, writes, if the story is just about sex and lies than we lose the chance to find the value in the pain.

People angrily respond that as the adulterer, I’m adopting this “philosophy of meaning” as a tool for minimizing my lies, sex, and betrayal.

Maybe they are right.

Maybe I am one of those people that are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. I’ve weaved myself into a high-functioning liar to avoid intimacy and vulnerability. Maybe I’m lying to myself even here. Doesn’t feel that way but they could be right. We all have blind spots and are limited in how we see the world by where we stand within our personal silos.

This pain certainly has reorganized my perceptions. The Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions says, “Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth.” The question becomes what am I to do with the pain? In reality, with or without Painter, my life will go forward; I can choose to grow from this experience or continue to hold to the pain and the past.

I’ve learned a great deal over the last few weeks about pain and loss. I didn’t know it was possible for the body to withstand this much misery. Thirty-six days later every breath is labored. Every step feels like it will be my last. Where my heart is I constantly feel either sharp debilitating cramps or a constant ache. I’m still only sleeping three or four hours a night.

I don’t know what is suppose to happen next. The world is small and colorless without Painter but there is still a world. I can either embrace the pain or hide but regardless the world will go on. The Universe is indifferent to my needs, wants and pain.

However, when I reflect on some of the opinions I’ve read and heard from people, I’ve been forced to adopt the hardened position that their opinion of me is none of my business.

Only Painter’s pain and opinion matters right now.

However, eventually our pain will fade and the memory of our life together will become simply a footnote in our hearts. A truth, that at the moment, breaks my spirit.

Meanwhile, the Universe will continue.

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