My loyalty has never wavered. I was always there. I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. But when you measure my allegiance only by where I stick my dick, it’s as if the rest doesn’t count for a thing.
Dawson to his wife, Amelia
via Esther Perel
A friend, M, has been reminding me that as of yet I haven’t spent much time, if at all, writing about the positive qualities I bring to life or the many beautiful qualities I brought to my relationship with C. Few people talk about those things.
In the blogs by betrayed spouse and partners, I rarely see a list of the good qualities of the men and women they love. It is almost always about the pain and loss. Is it any wonder people assume if you stay with a wayward spouse you must not love yourself?
We treat betrayal as if it is the only act in a long life together.
The difficulty with losing the trust of your loved one is both the big and small get filtered through the pain. Like many moments in life, it doesn’t have to be bad to look bad. As Tigerlily writes in her blog, Reconciled4Life, “My imagination always goes to the worst possible scenario. Sometimes the worst is true, sometimes it is ghosts, but when I express those fears, a discussion is really the only way to work through those differences.”
As soon as my first post went up about Day 20 following the first ambush by a misinformed troll about moving day I’ve been off balance and defensive. Which is the perverse pleasure of trolling.
In the process, I gave validity and energy to outsiders whose jealous, self-congratulatory and ill-informed opinions don’t matter. Tragically, while I spent a great deal of time responding to ghost stories and trolls I lost the ability to see myself. I began doubting both the realities of my betrayal (and subsequent behaviors) but also the realities of our life together.
I forgot the only opinions that matters are Cs, mine and perhaps my doctors.
I know who I am and what I’m not and unless my doctor or well-meaning and honest friends call me out I won’t be defined by haters and strangers. I appreciate M reminding me my pain and loss matters too.
M knows me but believes that if anyone were to simply read my blog they may perceive me as a morbid, humorless, miserable, sad, remorseful Eyore whining about the loss of love and friendships. I can see how an outsider might see that as true. I’m grieving and I’m Irish so perhaps there isn’t the stoicism the Danes around me would prefer.
M asked if I thought of myself as a bad man. I responded, “There is no such thing as bad men or good men. There are only men.” A line I stole from the TV show, Jericho. Also, a principle I believe wholeheartedly but apply to others more easily than I apply to myself.
The truth is, I’m an excellent partner and do many more things well than not. My betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies, while true, only define the entirety of relationship if I allow it. As such, I’m going to take M’s suggestion and make a list of the beautiful, loving, and kind things I did in my relationship with C and in my life.
Everything I did was based on my understanding of what she needed or wanted. If she needed or wanted something different she failed to inform me. One of several things this experience has made abundantly clear: I lived in an information and emotionally vacuum which eventually filled with truth, half-truths, fears, and ghost stories.
The list will be incomplete, short on details, and simply a summary.
Relationship Values with C
This is a short list of the things I did on a daily and consistent basis out of love of C. These were loving actions and I never asked or expected anything in return.
- I believe in C and her art and life and consistently acted in ways supporting what I understood was her Vision as a mother, artist, and bohemian.
- I accepted my place in the relationship and treated her as an equal never asking her to stop doing the things she loved as I understood them.
- I made her needs and wants as understood them a priority and repeatedly asked her if she needed or wanted something else or more.
- I was committed to her success. I tried to create an environment for her success by encouraging her to paint, finding an art studio, new galleries, and helping fund her business as it grew.
- I repeatedly talked publically about my love for her, never intentionally belittled her, promoted her art as an extension of her identity, and posted clips, photos, and stories of our Partnership and life together.
- I never hid our relationship and constantly was open about my passion for her.
- I repeatedly talked privately about a future together as her partner, my belief in her art and creativity, and encouraged her to take risks and be more of her authentic self.
- I regularly made time for her romantically taking her out on dates, telling her how beautiful she is, taking her places I thought she would enjoy even if I knew it wouldn’t be my favorite places such as for sushi, Mexican, and Chinese.
- I never hid money and made sure I paid all of my own bills and used any excess income to create a family savings account and pay additional expenses.
- I was sexually attentive to her needs and wants and tried to keep her safe and satisfied.
- I was always open to trying new things with her and worked to trust her completely with my sexual needs and wants too even if I didn’t always articulate them well.
- To the extent I was able and allowed, I tried to take care of her twins, make sure they had what they needed. When we traveled made their needs a priority sharing time, money, space, and attention with them. C is lucky to have the boys and they are lucky to have her.
- I was a fierce defender of C and our life together to our friends and families.
Specific Loving Actions with C
This is an incomplete list but in hindsight, I was committed to my life with C and acted accordingly.
- I worked dozens of art shows every summer setting up and tearing down her booth in an effort to demonstrate a love of her, our life, and her art.
- I would voluntarily work her hockey concession stand time so she could watch her boys play hockey and the boys would know she was watching.
- I tried to never get between her and her boys or make demands on her time with them.
- Made sure the cars were properly serviced.
- I’m a great travel companion. When traveling I was patient and attentive making stops and meeting people based on our interests in people, art, vintage and Americana places.
- On more than one occasion I introduced her to people and places she would have driven past because she was too shy to talk to people. There are dozens of examples including Boots Cabins and Red Rock II (Carthage, MO), Bill’s Garage (Lebanon, MO), Fox Theater (North Platte, NE), Neon Art Gallery (Nob Hill, NM), Groovy Garage Sale (Levering, MI) and Epic Corporation Tour (Verona, WI).
- When she needed an extensive root canal and crown I drove 17 hours in one day to make sure she didn’t have drive three hours round trip alone to the specialist.
- I moved from a large metro area to rural Wisconsin after two years of dating long distance to be with her.
- We opened a pop-up art gallery in downtown Minneapolis and worked every day for eight weeks over Christmas in an attempt to build something lasting and loving with her
- I never complained about helping her with her art, kids, or work.
- I took crappy and humiliating jobs so we could travel together in the summer.
- I made sure all the bills were paid on time.
- I tried to make our home safe and secure so she and her boys would feel safe and secure.
Specific Loving Actions for My Friends
I did these things because it is who I am and never asked or expected anything in return.
For example, I was an enormous supporter of a local cafe and I never asked or expected a free meal or cup of tea. I act this way because I believe with my entire being we are all in this together and the success of others is a success for everyone.
- I was a relentless promoter of my friends and their businesses.
- I made time to check and call them when they weren’t feeling well or if I hadn’t heard from them.
- I tried to treat my friends with the same respect I wanted to be treated with including listening to them, encouraging them, and not judging them.
- I never took their ugly personally because I knew I had ugly too.
- I believe in people and acted accordingly consistently giving people the benefit of the doubt.
- If I screwed something up I admitted I was wrong and tried to make it right.
Specific Loving Actions for My Community
I never asked for money or recognition for this work. These are actions I took believing in the power of community,
- I started a local meet-up group trying to bring together people to learn about one another, be introduced to new ideas, and to learn about the greater economic and recreational corridor where we live.
- I worked with others to create a Mastermind group where other business owners and friends gathered to share ideas and find support.
- Through my networking group, I facilitated the establishment of a regional woman’s entrepreneurial organization.
- I am a tireless supporter of the region, people, businesses, and the community where I live encouraging people to visit or open businesses in the region.
- I sought out opportunities to serve my community as a village trustee, member of the tourism committee, and the water and sewer commission.
- I made my self-vulnerable publically by speaking out in support of regional economic and tourism initiatives
General Behaviors Defining My Qualities
Around Day 60 a friend that has known me wrote this letter to me about Zero Sum Love. She knew the silent-treatment was cover for things C had hidden from me. She knew the trolls were feeding their ego off of C and my pain. It came at one of the lowest points post-discovery.
- I’m optimistic
- I believe in people and act accordingly
- I believe in community and act accordingly
- I own my mistakes and am always willing to face my failures
- Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but I am willing to walk through the pain and face my pain, fears, and anxieties
- I am willing to learn
- I am willing to make mistakes
- I believe in love
- I am an excellent Partner for the right Partner
- I believe in you and I’ve never met you
Does any of the things I listed on this page – and the dozens of other things – negate the depth or length of my betrayal, secret-keeping, or escalating series of lies? Absolutely not. Does it mean C should reconcile? Of course not. What is good about me certainly doesn’t give me permission to lie, keep secrets, break my vows, or stick my dick in whomever and whenever the opportunity presents itself.
However, my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies do not negate the Values, Love, and Vision I also live in my life and share with others. Nearly every single day of the seven years we were together I acted, believed, loved, and lived for a future with C. They were heartfelt, genuine, and true. My betrayal doesn’t negate the great, fun, and loving aspects of who I am unless I’m going to let other people define my truth. Fuck them.
If I have to own the Ugly I need to own the Good too. Otherwise, I’m living just one more lie.
One More Thing
I was hesitant to start going through old pictures of us.
At some point in time, I know they are going to go have to be put away. C deleted all of the images of us together in December but I’ve been stalling.
I have 7 years of pictures of us together. For a variety of emotional reasons I haven’t looked at them at all thinking, the pain might break me. This morning is the first time I’ve looked at them and scrolled through seven years together. In reality, as I started combing through these images they made me incredibly happy and not sad. I’m a good man and my life with C brought me – and her – a great deal of happiness. There are obvious reasons why I miss her.
She’s a woman. I’m a man. Good or bad is what we make of the opportunity.
I will carry that forward into the next place in my life.