Conversations tend to be visceral, loaded, polarized: “Infidelity? It’s a deal breaker. Once a cheater, always a cheater.”
Esther Perel, The State of Affairs
One of the first commitments I made to C was no “secrets, no lies”. It was our first and only real covenant. It was the foundation of our relationship. The relationship contract was my idea.
There are a few details:
- I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize her joint custody schedule with her kids
- I wouldn’t force her to choose between her art and our relationship
- I wouldn’t hide, hoard or spend money to the detriment of the relationship
- I wouldn’t shame her in front of her family and friends
- I wouldn’t drag my past into our future.
- I wouldn’t make her sell kettle corn at the state fair
I asked for a few things:
- When I fucked up, she would kiss me on the forehead and love me anyway
- I didn’t have to pretend to like abstract art or paintings with birch or aspen trees
- Also, she didn’t make me sell kettle corn at the state fair
We agreed to review the contract every week, then every month, and then every year. That was it.
There was one more thing: I could sleep with whoever I wanted as long as I was upfront and practiced safe sex.
I have, when lying awake on my parent’s couch at four in the morning, angrily ruminated on C’s response to my infidelity. Self-righteously, I’ve bristled that she abandon the relationship when things are at there worse.
Where is my kiss on the forehead? Instead, she rejects me, us and our history and Partnership.
However, when I sit quietly and contemplate the consequences, I wonder what she is really rejecting?
My selfish infidelity wasn’t simply a breaking of trust, it was the willful assault on the foundation we had built and I had submitted to honoring:
- I didn’t have permission
- I didn’t practice safe sex
- Also, K and I have a complex history
This means maybe she isn’t rejecting the relationship, me or us.
I need to give weight to the idea she is embracing the larger truth of my infidelity: she cannot trust me to honor my promises.
Which in truth, is an oversimplified and limiting perspective on my behavior but in the black and white world driving the conversations around infidelity, rigidity is a strength, nuance is an excuse.
The truth will set you free…but first it will piss you off.
Which is why we are both angry.