35.2: No More Mixed Messages: Breaking Patterns (Part II)

If peace comes from seeing the whole, then misery stems from a loss of perspective. –

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I’ve given a great deal of thought over the last two and half months about how I respond to C – and others. How do I focus on myself and use the pursuing dynamic for constructive purposes? How do I reclaim my self-respect and power? What does a life without C look like? What does a life without secrets mean? What do I have to own to not be in this place again? To not put others in this place?

How can I see the whole and not just the misery? How do I break the pattern of post-discovery dynamics?

The weight of carrying any secret for so long warps perception of self.

After the debacle of Day 49, my doctor helped me outline a few choices. After I left the office I created a list of additional options. Here is the short list in no particular order:

  • I could carry a grudge and resentments
  • I could start separating the issues from what is mine and what is not
  • I could continue to fight with others out of pride
  • I could send mixed messages to C
  • I could keep waiting out the storm
  • I could make choices based on my values, needs, and wants regardless of the opinion of others
  • I could do nothing and continue on my current path
  • I could engage in renewed Pursuing
  • I could restart an intimate relationship with K
  • I could never speak to C again
  • I could stick my neck out, practice emotional sincerity and vulnerability to C knowing I may lose my head
  • I could keep fighting battles with strangers working their own issues out through C and my pain
  • I could do nothing and/or hide
  • I could make choices based on the reality while still leaving the door open to C
  • I could buy a sailboat and live off the coast of Maine
  • I could kill myself
  • I could keep borrowing trouble and tilt at windmills
  • I could love C even if she doesn’t love me

Clearly, I have options, it is neither all or nothing.

The list provided insight into my thinking and starkly laid out options.

First of all, I have options I didn’t know existed. The meaning and lessons of my infidelity are not black and white. The post-infidelity choices are not black and white. The pain is not black and white. The solutions are not black and white.

Secondly, not all these options are compatible but I was thoughtlessly and emotionally trying to act to varying degrees on several incompatible options. Hence, “I love you, go away.”

Here is where I’ve landed today: no more mixed messages.

I’m going to stick my neck out

Following my list making I sat down and wrote C a letter committing to consistent messaging:

  • I love her
  • I will wait by the door for a bit longer for her to choose to open it
  • I need to live my life forward but will no longer Pursue her
  • She has all the power to make the decision

She gave me seven of the best years of my life. I can give her time. In the meantime, I am free to address my own issues. She can do with her issues as she chooses. Her issues are none of my business unless she asks for help.

Trolls and Lancelot

I will not lash out at her for the actions of her friends. My opinion of them is none of her business. Their opinion of me is none of my business. I will ignore them. Maybe they are right. Maybe they are carriers of her anger. I don’t know.

Instead of engaging in their game of To Catch a Predator I will defer to the insight of experienced, knowledgeable professionals.

As such, I told C I will no longer pursue a defense against rumormongering or charges of triangulation, narcissism, grooming, gaslighting, etc with her or anyone else. I’m not an expert and neither is her small crew of armchair psychologists. Armchair psychologists are dangerous and have repeatedly perpetuated drama and pain by enthusiastically inserting their ignorance into a situation naturally fraught with emotion.

Which, in my opinion, this behavior has created distractions and deflects both of us from the actual issues at hand: how to end or mend the relationship like adults.

I’ll go to counseling with her and she can confront me (that doesn’t mean reconciliation but rather conversation) but I won’t take seriously the input of men and women working their own damage through us. I know they have their issues too that have nothing to do with me. I’m just a safe downrange target for their own damage.

So be it. I will no longer be defined, manipulated, or vulnerable to people using C’s pain, and my betrayal, to fuel their own emotional highs.

They aren’t helping.

Break the post-discovery pattern

Whenever I’ve had email conversations with C it tends to become adversarial and accusatory. We end up lashing each other over things that have nothing to do with the things at hand. Instead of discussing what happened – or more importantly, what happens next – we end up discussing the ghost stories of the things each of us thinks happened over seven years. Things with no bearing on the pain of the moment.

I said to her recently this is exactly how we fight: she is a matador and Distancer (probably); I’m a bull and Pursuer. We interact with the tools we have. When things are good that works…but when things are bad?

Well, things will remain bad.

I care and want to know how bad I harmed and hurt her but she doesn’t feel safe enough to be vulnerable and share with me. She said to me recently, I don’t know what I did to her. She’s right, and I never will as long as she refuses to speak with me.

Texting and emails are the worse way of communicating complex and emotionally charged issues. And for 81 days it’s been the only way we have communicated. Unless we are counting her use of third-party armchair psychologists and trolls to carry her anger to me. I’m going to have to keep working on that resentment.

For a Pursuer like me, emails and texts easily become emotionally needy and overly wordy; for a Distancer everything becomes emotional shorthand. Even in the best of times, I can over-communicate while she has a tendency to under-communicate. As such, there always tended to be a bit of guessing and assumptions in our relationship.

This is neither good or bad. It just is the way it is.

However, she is under no obligation to speak with me. She owes me nothing. When she does interact with me, even when she is angry, it takes a huge amount of courage and energy for her. It’s simpler just to tag me with labels. Based on our limited email interactions she is unable to see me in any light other than her pain and anger. It is where her lens needs to be focused right now in order to do what she wants to do. Every reactionary attempt to refocus her lens only serves to reinforce her low opinion of me.

There are other layers to the post-discovery dynamic according to knowledgeable people but I can only change my role in the pattern. It isn’t my place to point out her contributions to the dynamic or highlight her patterns. Part of changing the dynamic is to speak my truth, separate the principles from the personalities, learn better tools, and recognize the act as separate from the actors.

This is my attempt to break the pattern and to establish a more loving one, even if she cannot see it. None of this will lead to reconciliation. We’re over unless she says otherwise, and I’ve done what I can to respect that since the day she told me to go to North Dakota.

However, I am committed to diving deep and swimming far. When I come to the surface again, it will be far from the place I started.

It already is.