It would be easier to hate C.
I could manufacture justifications for hating her of course: the silent treatment, ghosting, the naming and shaming, her betrayals, covertly encouraging trolling and weaponizing my betrayal, secret-keeping and escalating series of lies. Not fighting for us…or with me. Sharing the truths, half-truths and ghost stories of my deceptions and our life together.
However, those are her uglies and have little to do with what I did – or what she imagines I did. Those are simply her reactions to both my real and imagined Uglies. We step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.
The actions she has taken are a result of what she thinks about her pain. And I’m sure Dolly Allen will throw a shoe at me for saying this, but what C thinks about her pain has nothing to do with me.
And to be clear, my pain has nothing to with her.
My thinking wants to blame the pain on others and to hide behind rationalizations and justifications. In this case, my thinking wants to hate her so I don’t have to deal with my loss. If I can push back on her pre- and post-discovery decisions I don’t have to sit in my pain and deal with the consequences. Hating is an emotional fallout shelter I can hide in allowing my brain to think it is helping.
Hurt people hurt people. I hurt her. She hurt me. That is the Way of the Thing but it isn’t the Thing.
I could also cherry pick stories of our time together and think of other justifications to hate her too. But that would be a lie too because almost every day with C was a great day.
I could manufacture reasons to hate her: she just used me, she never cared, she lied too, her betrayals, her emotional ghosting throughout our relationship, she threw me out of our home, or she loved me for what I did not who I am. Blah. Blah. Blah. Whine.
None of this is particularly true but it doesn’t have to be true to feel true, just as it doesn’t have to be bad to look bad. Both the justification and rationalization for hating are always easy to find. The brain is a rationalizing, justifying, negative thought manufacturing machine broadcasting thoughts at 50 hertz.
I should know. My brain created a negative feedback loop rationalizing and justifying all kinds of wrong, hurtful, and harmful actions during my betrayal and subsequent behaviors. Behaviors that hurt and harmed others and me. Behaviors that hurt while I was failing my character test. I’ve been told that is cognitive dissonance.
Like many betrayers, I read, and a few I talk with, we are shocked we could have been so self-centered and selfish. Are we really all those things others label us with? Are we incapable of change? Are we criminals, perpetrators, pathological, and unredeemable?
Will we ever be worthy of your love? Forgiveness? Partnership?
I carry both the shame, guilt, and remorse of the impact of my behavior on people I care about but also the shame, guilt, and remorse of not understanding my own behavior. My brain has lots of thoughts on my feelings. “The mind secretes thoughts,” says Tara Brach, “like the body secrets enzymes.” Most are not useful in understanding my feelings.
My thinking wants to focus on why we hurt. I’ve never hurt so badly emotionally and so to refocus the pain my brain wants to make it about something or someone else.
But it’s not.
It’s about loss. Loss of Partnership, integrity, self-respect, C’s respect, a shared future, love, friendships, community, self, and power to choose my future.
I’ve never been particularly good at hating people. Even the ones I probably could. I’ll get angry but eventually, I cycle down to two questions:
- Did I do something to set the ball in motion?
- What would I have done in their situation?
Which is useful in finding compassion, understanding, and acceptance in most situations but not always useful for maintaining boundaries and accountability. It definitely isn’t useful in a situation overrun with infidelity’s emotional minions.
I’ve learned a lot in this process of separating the wheat from the chaff of my betrayal and consequences but I’ve learned clearly that almost every damaging thing that has happened is a result of how I think about what I feel.
My feelings are not the problem. What I think about the feelings is the problem.
And that is what I truly hate.