13: Thoughts on Punishment and Consequences

One of the oft-repeated cliches when talking about my behavior and the consequences is people believe I’m trying to gain sympathy and pity. That talking about my actions, feelings, and thoughts openly is simply me working to gain control over a narrative that makes me look better than I actually am.

I had an affair. I lied to cover up the infidelity. My lying included gaslighting C and K for years in order to maintain a firewall between them. There is no excuse for the behavior. There is more, but nuance is irrelevant here.

My behavior reflects my character, morals, and integrity in a way that demonstrates a sense of relationship entitlement. It also reflects a deeper issue related to my emotional cowardice about vulnerability, intimacy, trust, and perhaps a few other things I’m still sorting through.

I’m not sure what in the narrative could possibly make me look better.

They are giving me credit for being more high-function than I actually am. At the moment I’m barely able to concentrate on much more than the meaning of my actions, the loss of my Love of loves and the debilitating pain where I think my heart is supposed to be. My entire strategy at the moment involves writing copious amounts, not forgetting to eat and using whiskey to try and get least five hours of sleep a night without inducing a hangover.

Even that factual, accurate and meaningful statement will be interpreted as manipulative. Paraphrasing my troll, “You’re a narcissist. Too bad your living in your van. You don’t deserve anything better.”

If I were a narcissist, you’d think I would sleep better.

All of this, of course, fits into the limiting criminality narrative of infidelity I’ve written about before based on Esther Perel’s book, The State of Affairs.

They also suggest, by talking about the consequences of my infidelity, and how I feel, I’m not owning my actions. They see it as a dodge: a sign of a dark and sinister strategy to get others to feed my ego with well wishes and strokes.

Which is, of course, is bullshit. The real issue is my writing and behavior is a reflection of my humanity and any discussion of my humanity doesn’t fit into the narrative being peddled in circles by armchair psychologists that there is something “seriously wrong” with me and I’m a danger to people.

I recognized after multiple conversations this week I need to stop being bogged down in the past and confusing punishment I feel I deserve with the natural consequences of my choices.

Regret is vain.

I need to stop letting my guilt limit my choices and actions. I need to stop seeing C’s acts of jealousy, anger, and revenge as simply a consequence of my infidelity but a choice she is making about how to punish me because of her feelings of jealousy, anger, revenge, and pain.

Just as my choices and consequences are not her responsibility, her choices and the consequences are not my responsibility.

My decision to continue paying her bills, sending occasional love notes, and writing letters of apology to her family is always going to be seen as manipulative and never as I intend. The arousing of suspicion, jealousy, and bitterness is the natural consequence of surrendering my integrity.

A consequence is, among other things, the loss of my credibility and people’s trust.

The punishment, among other things, is my decision to continue living in a van, sleeping on my parent’s couch, and bouncing between hotel rooms while paying C’s household expenses.

I’m choosing this because I don’t believe I deserve forgiveness and am trying to demonstrate my remorse by giving up what I need to do to move forward. I’m doing this despite the instructions of my doctor, knowledgeable friends, and experienced counsel. I’m doing this because of a toxic potion of guilt, peer pressure, arrogance, self-pity, and more than a bit of grandiosity.

Consequences are natural. Punishment has intent.

Any acts of vulnerability will be considered a ruse. C – and her team – will perceive any earnestness, as simply cover for a wolf in sheep’s clothing looking to get into the thick of the flock and I will be treated as a threat.

That is the consequence.

The punishment includes C emailing and texting anyone offering comfort and trying to tell them “the rest of the story.”

Should she waver in her decision, there will be someone to remind her of my betrayal or reminders by trolls of my “crime”. “If it was once a stigma when you divorced,” said Esther Perel in her podcast, Where Should We Begin: Episode 4 The Addict. “Today the new shame is choosing to stay when you can leave. And that is the challenge of a lot of betrayed partners.”

That is punishment.

Being able to own the consequences and not being invested in the punishment is liberating. I’m not responsible for how people choose to act in response to my infidelity or lies. Just like my infidelity is a reflection on my humanity, their choices are a reflection on theirs.

I can live with that.

There are things C wasn’t honest about either, and she is using my infidelity as cover to get her needs and wants met. In no way does that make my infidelity and betrayal acceptable but knowing this helps free me from carrying her punishment. By paying her bills against the advice of sound counsel, I’ve been trying to protect C from the consequences of her choices to prove my love.

That was selfish and stupid. And I clearly know a thing or two about stupidity and selfishness. I’m done with that.

I’m sincere in my desire to learn and move forward. That means choosing my consequences, not allowing my ego or others to use my guilt to punish me. It means recognizing and embracing my humanity

If I do this, the past is of no consequence.



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