Often a man’s own angry pride is cap and bells for a fool.
Some House Cleaning
Things left unsaid
I greatly appreciate K talking with me to help me see myself, my behavior, and her hurt more clearly. Her actions require a great willingness to be vulnerable and a deep love and acceptance of me and my Ugly.
She’s incredibly brave.
However, one of the things I’ve learned post-discovery is everyone, C, K, and trolls – have their own Uglies. Hurt people hurt people and you never really know how people will respond to hurt until they are hurt.
Some people run. Others fight.
I did a lot of both.
I’ve talked elsewhere about My Ugly with C and general shitheadery.
For clarity, let’s take a few moments to talk about my shitheadery and Ugly with K. There are lots of Ugly with K. Specifically, I want to talk about the selfish, misleading, and reckless Uglies and shitheadery causing me the most remorse and I feel hurt K most.
First of all, prior to the discovery, I stole time and energy from K. You can repay the money and replace property but you can never give people their time and energy back. At this moment, I feel this is the most selfish behavior related to my betrayal and K.
In the years I tried to manage, hide, and end the affair with K, I was interfering in K’s ability to heal, learn her lessons, and move forward. I didn’t give her the dignity of her pain. I arrogantly thought I caused her pain and I should fix it as if she were a car with a blown head gasket.
What I was doing was trying to control her feelings. We never want people we love to hurt. She may be my ex-wife but she is a beautiful woman and we had many good years together. Only as I’ve grown older have I begun to appreciate what I squandered.
For three years I tried to keep K’s focus off of C. I did things like telling K, C was okay with me being in an open relationship, C didn’t care what I was doing, C had other boyfriends, C was bisexual, C had a girlfriend, and C and I weren’t having sex. All were lies of course, but it was my hope it would keep K from focusing on C.
I even sent a series of four emails over two years from C’s email account pretending to be C. Essentially as evidence and cover for the lies I was telling K elsewhere.
More than once, in personal emails and conversations, I also told K I couldn’t be in a sexual relationship with her because my counselor advised against it, I was suicidal (actually true) and unsafe (also true), and I was ending all my relationships and just needed to be alone for a while.
To get out of spending time with K I lied repeatedly. I pretended to be in the hospital twice, told her I had a car accident and used work to cover multiple lies.
All of these behaviors backfired. Horribly.
As such, while K was spending time and energy lovingly concerned about my well being I was probably having a great time at an art show, traveling with C, or out dancing on a date night.
C or I would post some pictures, K would see them, and the cycle would start all over again. I’d try to fix K’s feelings with sex, lies, or half-truths. I’d feel my betrayal of C again. Feel shame. Lie to K again. Try to fix it. Repeat for three years.
Every effort re-energized the cycle of shame. Every effort made me more ashamed and sickened. Every effort only made the eventual reveal more humiliating and damaging for everyone. I’m reminded of Sir Walter Scott’s poem Marmion, where he writes, “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” Clearly, these are not my best peopling moments.
As I said, I tried everything with K but honesty: I was in a monogamous, committed, long-term, sexually fulfilling, loving relationship with C and under no circumstances was I ever going to leave C’s side.
Is it any wonder I grew to hate myself and why K is so humiliated and hurt she felt the need to call C? After all, if I was willing to do it to K, aren’t I equally willing to do it to C? Again, K claims altruistic motives, and I’d almost be willing to believe her if it were not for other things K choose to do as part of the reveal.
However, I go to sleep knowing every day I stole time and energy from K. I did this to my everlasting shame. The atonement for that selfishness can only be paid forward. Life is short and I stole parts of K’s life.
I love K but not enough to let her hurt and, at the time, not enough to stay to hold her through her pain.
I want to add one last comment about K before moving on. I blew my marriage with K. I made the statement yesterday that I had remorse over my behavior with C but no regrets over the time I spent with her.
With K, I have both remorse and regret. I was not a good husband and or committed partner. Im truly sorry. I certainly didn’t embrace the opportunity and it will always be a significant regret in my life.
I hope she will forgive me.
One of the oft-repeated accusation from interlopers is I am unaware how badly I’ve hurt C.
I actually agree.
I don’t know how badly I hurt C or her consequences because of C’s unwillingness to confront me directly. That is her choice. Much of what I do know I learned by talking and listening to betrayed women in other relationships.
However, at six months out, I’m done trying. C’s hurt isn’t my issue. She wants the relationship to be over: it’s over. There is nothing else I will do.
As I’ve talked elsewhere about the consequences, I will just summarize it here: the consequences for my selfish, dishonest, prideful choices to sleep with K, keep secrets, and cover it all with an escalating series of lies is the immediate and understandable ending of our relationship on whatever terms C chooses.
People only grow through a cycle of hurt and healing. I’m not afraid of the consequences – or the punishment.
I will add, outside of ending the relationship and the naturally occurring consequences, everything else is revenging.
Revenging and Punishment
After months of throwing myself on the sword, I’ve recently been forced to grapple with C’s culpability in creating much of the post-discovery drama and dragging it out. Just as my betrayal was a choice, so are C’s actions since the reveal. Her acts of vengeance have been ugly and designed specifically to hurt me personally, financially, and socially.
I’m not going to spend time detailing her acts of revenge. I’ve hinted at it elsewhere and the details no longer matter. Six months later I see none of these things matter in the grand scheme of life, and at this point, I cannot be blackmailed.
I did wrong. All I can do is admit it, accept it, and move forward to new experiences with new lessons with new people.
Plus, I’m not interested in humiliating her.
She either knows what she is doing and doesn’t care or she isn’t capable of seeing herself as anything other than a victim. In either case, she feels justified in every action.
C’s revenging is not unusual. My betrayal causes a humiliating and difficult change in her life perhaps. I know her lashing out and rumormongering is because she is angry, hurts and is frightened. If she isn’t that speaks to a different problem.
I truly don’t know anymore.
All I can do is take an educated guess based on what I’ve learned talking with other betrayed men and women, and my doctor.
“Revenge,” writes Esther Perel, “is a lazy form of grieving.” Clearly, C is still grieving. Remembering this helps me have perspective and compassion when I remember her actions are a form of grieving and, although hurts, isn’t personal but my thinking makes it so.
As opposed to consequences, punishment is “the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.” It is an action by choice intended to cause pain. It is revenging.
For example, after K called C, I sent a childish, reactionary, and hate-filled email to K driving spears into all her weak flanks. That was intended to hurt her. It did.
I clearly intended it as punishment.
I was wrong and it was immature but much of what happened prior to discovery related to my infidelity was wrong and immature. I acted vengefully. It certainly wasn’t a reasonable consequence.
Recently, I’ve given thought to the intentions of the interlopers. Early on they stalked my online journal, and in response to my writings, told me I don’t deserve any answers from C. Someone else told me I deserved to live in my van. These two phrases have really stuck with me.
Who are They to decide what I do and don’t deserve? More importantly, as interlopers, by what authority do they get the power to decide my fate? Are they to forever act as judges, jury, and executioners?
I need to keep this in mind every time I take the judgment, actions, and words of strangers, interlopers, sycophants, and outsiders personally. Their opinion of me is none of my business. Their perspective is tainted by their own pains and arrogance. They were never within our relationship.
Frankly, I don’t care anymore.
These people only have the authority over my thinking, feeling, and choices when I allow it. They don’t have any real power to punish me except as I surrender it to them.
There are some other consequences to my behavior worth noting. I’m just summarizing them here. The details aren’t important. If the details become important, I’ll write about them elsewhere.
Consequences are neither negative or positive. How we interpret them is an issue of perspective. From my perspective, some of the of the consequences have actually been positive.
I’m listing consequences here as well and not making any judgments about their value. I’m sure I will miss things:
- I lost the trust and respect of important relationships including SL, AK, SP, PK, FM, SM, LS, C’s family, and many artist friends
- I lost the opportunity to travel with C over the summer
- I resigned my position on the Village Board
- I’ve traveled 30K miles and visited 16 states in six months
- I have more truthful, honest and accepting friends
- I’ve picked up a couple of new clients and projects
- Trolling has thickened my skin
- I know more clearly what I am and am not
- I have more self-respect and power
- What I thought would kill me around Day 15 actually made me stronger
- I’m writing
- Personally meaningful economic and community development projects stalled
- K and I are talking more honestly and truthfully
- I have an apartment overlooking the lake in YoYo Town
- C painted over my name in one of my favorite paintings
- I feel unwelcome at my favorite Cafe
- I have more free time to focus on my writing and travel
- I’ve certainly downsized and minimalized
- I’ve been reading a great deal more
- I spend more time with my parents
- I cannot be blamed for other people’s bad behaviors
- I have more money
- I see more clearly what I need and want in a relationship and with a Partner
- I cannot be blackmailed
- I’ve met some great people in my travels
- I’ve driven some great cars
- I have put on twenty pounds (that may be a consequence of doughnuts)
- My experience has helped people
- I have no more secrets
- I’m not carrying any shame
I will be asked, because it always comes up, didn’t you waste C’s time too? After all, she was your Partner.
The short answer is, “No.” The longer answer is, “Fuck no.”
The truth is I was never playing a relationship with C. I was never faking it or pretending my commitment was something it was not. It was never a game. I never had a double-life I was trying to maintain. I wasn’t hanging out until someone else showed up. I would never have thrown C out simply because of her betrayals and uglies. I was committed to her for the rest of my life.
Whereas K was given lots of fancy words, C was shown lots of meaningful deeds.
I was working every day trying to figure out how to live and love with congruence of spirit with her. I was trying to maintain her respect, love, and admiration.
There was always the intention – and action. I knew what I want and need. I know where I belong and with who. I may love other people but I know where my heart is home.
So no, I didn’t waste C’s time or energy.
However, the truth of my actions and intentions, and C’s perception is forever tainted and will never be the same. That is a tragic consequence when you ring a bell best left unrung.