127: Monkeys in the Middle

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

Herbert Spencer

I’ve gone to lengths not to put people in the middle of my situation. I don’t want anyone else to carry my emotional water.

For example, I’ve had to remind friends over and over that I don’t want to know what Painter is doing. It is none of my business. If she wants me to know she will tell me.

Just as I don’t want to hear other people telling me Painter’s stories it is not their responsibility to carry my message, remorse, intentions, or actions to her. They don’t speak for me. I’ve said this to Painter and other people privately and publicly.

If Painter wants to know she can ask me, read my journal or social media feed. I’m not hiding and I’m not making excuses. Painter knows how to reach me and she knows I’m still here.

Not putting people in the middle means, at times I’ve isolated myself as I didn’t have anyone to talk to. This was true especially early on.

Within the first few days I let five people know in general terms about my betrayal and asked them to check on Painter. I wrote a post telling friends that I had caused a “catastrophic non-recoverable failure in our relationship” and Painter and I had broken up.

From a place of shame and pride I decided I didn’t deserve help and that her pain was more important than mine. That isn’t playing a victim or martyr, it was, through some prideful sense of honor, taking care of Painter and making her pain the priority.

I was trying to keep her safe. The irony of the statement is not lost on me.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 12.35.37 PM
This was sent to me around Day 60 in response to my post Narcissists & Other Ghost Stories. This was one of many of Warren’s wordy editorials assuming knowledge he doesn’t have. This has been the Interloper’s narrative since Day 1.

Recently, I had a really fascinating talk with an original member of Team Paintet asking lots of questions.

They were very clear that much of what they thought is based on their own anger for me betraying Painter but mostly on the narrative the Interlopers have painted all over the area of me being a dangerous, out-of-control, narcissistic predator that was preying on poor, innocent and hapless Painter.

I learned a lot of things happening on the back-end that had nothing to do with Painter but with specific trolls. I even got an apology from this person for so willingly drinking the Kool-Aide of Contempt being served up by other Interlopers.

Combined with their own anger, Painter’s pain, and the shock of suddenly learning of my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies it was simpler to accept the ghost stories.

One of my questions to this person was, “How much of what you believe did you hear directly from Painter and how much did you hear second and third hand?”

In reality, they’ve heard very little from Painter over the last eight months.

It was only after they stepped back and looked at the individuals choosing to remain friends with me and compare that to the behavior and character of the individuals passing off the vitriol on and on over social media, and through hushed rumormongering, high-school name-calling and othering, did they start to see that perhaps they were part of the problem and not part of any solution.


They recognized that in their anger and confusion about my behavior they had developed, what Brene Brown refers to as common enemy intimacy.

“A lot of times, we share things that are not ours to share as a way to hotwire a connection with a friend,” Brown says.

“Our closeness is built on talking bad about other people. You know what I call that? Common enemy intimacy.”


It’s the zeal of the Interlopers that has caused so much collateral damage. It is the willingness to be the monkeys in the middle that have driven so much chaos and delayed moving forward. I misspent so much energy on defending my past with Painter, it stalled moving forward with, or without her.

Nothing the Interlopers and trolls have done makes any sense in any perspective I can find other than common enemy intimacy, their lack of self-awareness, and a serious inability to recognize irony. Everything they have done according to my attorney, law enforcement, two doctors, other betrayed spouses, and mature friends has been described as everything from criminal slander, libel, and harassment to middle-schoolish and childish to creepy and narcissistic.

Don’t misunderstand, in my opinion, Painter is no more responsible for the Interlopers behavior than she is for my betrayal et al. Although culpable in many ways I don’t hold Painter responsible for their actions – although people think I should.

Nearly everything Painter has done makes sense through the lens of infidelity and vulnerability.

Everything. Mostly.

A reminder from someone that knows Painter and me as human beings and not as caricatures or labels. Someone that has experienced all three sides of infidelity.

That doesn’t excuse Painter’s behavior but it does place it in perspective for me and has made me more patient with her.

As I read all these journals written by betrayed women and talk with them, I recognize Painter isn’t doing anything unusual.


The Partners that leverage the pain to re-pair their lives and relationships all are exploring new ways of being. Some Partner’s stay and some leave. There is no one right answer. It is what we do with the Ugly that matters.

For Painter, ending the relationship was the best answer for her in that moment.

We all have Ugly and my betrayal of Painter brought out new and old Ugly for both of us. That doesn’t make either of us bad people.

Vengeance is typical of the behavior of many betrayed Partners. Every action she has taken is a sign of her anger and new and old hurt. In some cases, like me, she has been carrying hurts that go back decades.

In the meantime, I will keep working through my Ugly for perspective, compassion, and understanding. If Painter lets me return, I will be different. It will not be window dressing. If she doesn’t, whoever comes next will be getting a better man.

I already am.

SIDEBAR: I think anyone that has tried understands why Painter went to such lengths to destroy Us. Our relationship needed to end: it was the best thing for her, me, and Us.

Over the last month, I’ve written repeatedly about my conversation with my friend and how their perspective on me, my betrayal, Painter, the people around her and I, and my maturing through this process.

I keep deleting the entries.

The reality is I cannot talk about the conversation specifically, discuss openly who it is, or in detail what was said. I think from a writing perspective it would be helpful to talk about it and learn more about the experience of others…but I cannot.


I can’t for several reasons.

  • Some of what was said was said in confidence and to write about it openly betrays the vault of trust
  • To talk openly about the individual is to bring unnecessary attention to them that isn’t their burden to carry
  • As the Interlopers have demonstrated repeatedly, they see my betrayal as a social justice issue and have actively sought to destroy any goodwill around me through rumormongering, slander, and libel. By openly discussing my conversation with this person is to bring pressure onto them to close ranks in a small, rural community.
  • As this conversation feels like a personal victory, rewarding my patience, vulnerability, and maturity to talk about the specifics is to be vulnerable to other people that would do me harm
  • Frankly, I don’t want anyone in the middle.
I left this book for Painter on 12/16 when I went to get my things hoping she would read it. A few weeks later she tweeted this message out. A friend said Painter wanted me to know. A few days later the harshest Interlopers stepped up their sideshow and Painter went fully silent.

Despite knowing all of this, the reality is my friendship with this person is over. Despite their attempt at vulnerability with me, and me with them, we will never be friends again.

As such, like my relationship with Painter, my relationship with this person is dead.

I hate it but it is true.

Which, in many respects is the goal of common enemy intimacy. It was the goal of the Interlopers, and their public and private smear campaign, to break the relationship with the people and the community around me and to break any lingering bonds between Painter and me.

As if what I did do wasn’t enough?

Besides Painter, the loss of this specific relationship is one of the two I have grieved most. I cannot unring the bell. The friendship is lost unless this person wants to move forward and strikes a new tune.

Until then this relationship will ring empty.