I can’t imagine anything more important in the wilderness than self-trust. Fear will lead us astray and arrogance is even more dangerous.
Braving the Wilderness
My infidelity and behaviors were all rooted in Fear and Arrogance. Is it any wonder I was so far astray from my own values and commitments? So far from my True North?
If I cannot trust my own judgments, how can anyone else?
In Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to someone else’s actions.”
I think this is the root of C’s pain.
It wasn’t the sex, secrecy, lies or anything else – although those obviously hurt. Those behaviors are the Way of Thing but it isn’t the Thing.
The Thing © risked wasn’t her heart, that’s a cliche, it doesn’t mean anything.
I realize as I was rereading the beautiful stories C shared with me in April, May, and June of 2011, she was risking things she never shared with anyone before: her hopes, dreams, ambitions, humiliations, family, reputation, health, body, and passions. She risked the things that define what is most beautiful about her and that she hid from others.
And for a long time, I honored that trust. I protected that trust.
However, eventually, because of my unaddressed fears, hurts, and losses I betrayed her trust. I betrayed her because, although in many ways she was willing to risk making the things she valued vulnerable to me, I was not able to reciprocate.
In this way, she will always be braver than me.
She had far more on the line than I did and because I wasn’t protecting her trust she sought others ways to keep herself safe. Setting aside the reality of her Patterns, I’ve known my emotional withdrawing is what contributed to her checking out of the relationship in the months leading up to discovery. My fear of discovery caused my heart to harden to the people and things she valued. Eventually, I didn’t honor the Things she valued.
In this way I dishonored her. In this way, I shit on her trust. The trust I chose to protect through secrets and lies ended up being the very Thing my secrets and lies ended up destroying.
I know this.
And for this reason, as I’ve said before I wouldn’t take me back either without a shift of our relationship’s paradigm. A shift that would require her leaning into her pain as well…but as we are all clear about, she is dealing with her pain in her own ways.
So while once she was willing to trust and risk everything, now she risks nothing.
I have done too little too late…
Brene Brown breaks Trusting of Others and Trusting of Self into Seven Components of Trusting she abbreviates into the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G. I changed the pronouns to the first person to apply it to her “Self-Trust”
- Boundaries: You respect my boundaries and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.
- Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. This means staying aware of your competencies and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
- Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
- Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you’re not sharing with me any information other people that should be confidential.
- Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You chose what is right over what is fin, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
- Non-judgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.
- Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.
As I was reading I decided to create a self-score. My approach is hardly scientific and is riddled with bias and blind spots. There are two scores:
- Where I think I was during the infidelity
- Where I think I am now.
On a scale of 1 to 10 this is how I acted in my relationship with C:
Boundaries – 3, 5
I would tell K it was over and then out of anger (externalized fear) or shame (internalized fear) I would ignore my own boundaries. Outside of K, I believe I was good with my boundaries. Not great but not as suckishly bad as my relationship with K would suggest.
I was good with the boys and with C. Except when I wasn’t.
I’m really digging into my boundaries and what needs to happen next. It seems so simple but I come from a long line of Go-Along-To-Get-Along men. Boundaries aren’t for Heroes; Heroes do whatever it takes.
Have you noticed how Villians always have boundaries? I realize to establish Boundaries means I have to be willing to be perceived as the Villain…even when I’m not being the Villian.
Reliability – 7, 8
I was ALWAYS there when C or the boys needed something. If someone in the household needed something I made sure we had it. I looked after my parents and tried to be a good son checking on them when I was passing through Columbus on my way to Pittsburgh.
I hit my deadlines – mostly. I’m not time sensitive and sometimes would be late but I tried to communicate that clearly to others.
I can argue that I broke my promise to not lie or keep secrets from C. While true, and it definitely impacts my score, I am more than the sum of my betrayal.
If you cannot see your own Partner as more than the sum of the betrayal, do everyone a favor and leave. Save yourselves both the grief and years of misery.
Accountability – 8, 8
Out of the first half of this list, I think this is something I did a good job with. I know when I screwed up, generally, I had no problem saying to C, the boys, or others I am in the wrong and I’m sorry. I never looked to blame anyone. My mantra, in general, was, “Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?” Let’s figure this out and move forward.
However, because I scored so low on the boundaries, my willingness to throw myself on the sword and be hero often meant that I didn’t always hold others accountable and instead took the blame to keep the peace. However, I think my Boundaries score reflects that coping mechanism runs amuck.
Of course, I was the oldest child in a neglectful and abusive alcoholic home so my ACOA issues bleed out all over this. I came out of the birth canal with a red cape.
Vault – 7, 8
The Vault is more complicated.
Where is the line between going to seek counsel on making things better and coming up with new ideas and learning and saying too much.
For example, after the fact, I realized I told Davey too much about C’s business and my business. It is clear he couldn’t be trusted but I didn’t know that until after the fact. C knew though. She asked me specifically not to discuss things with Davey. I blew that trust too.
I had a sense he did it to other people, I just didn’t think he would do it to me. I talked to the other members of our business group and they all tell me the same thing, they only let him in the group because of me. They knew he couldn’t be trusted.
It leaves me wondering, “Why did I overlook his personality red-flags?” I think there are two answers:
- As an INFP, I make excuses for others because I know we all have secrets and try to accept people as they are
- I want to fit in and so trust them with vulnerable information to try and jumpstart a connection.
In Davey’s case, as my Doctor reminds me, I made myself vulnerable to an unstable and unsafe personality that takes glee in hurting others to prop himself up.
However, when it came to the deep internal issues of our Family, F Et Al, and our intimacy, I never shared that. That was always in the Vault. I took any concerns directly to C.
Having said that, I realize I did talk about C’s boys to two people. One was Davey and one other person that was struggling with step-children issues too. In both cases, I was looking for insight, not gossip.
Maybe 7 is too high a score?
Integrity – 0, 8
I slept with C before I left my ex-wife, and then cheated on C with my ex-wife. Do I really need to elaborate? Maybe I should add a negative score scale?
It isn’t a 10 because I know that I still have fears talking about my needs and wants. I still struggle with risking with others the things I value…but I am doing it anyway.
Maybe that’s a 10? IDK.
Non-judgement – 5, 10
I’m torn about this one. I’m going to split the score. I feel like C or the boys could have come to me and asked for anything. They could have shared their needs and I would have listened. I did listen. Sometimes I was listening so much I started trying to guess about C’s needs before she needed them. I too often tried to provide a solution instead of just listening and giving her an opportunity to ask for help.
I can see how she might eventually resent that assumptive approach to problem-solving…
Other than sexually, I sucked at talking about what I needed. At the end of the relationship, I was doing my own laundry because I didn’t want C to feel like my maid. In hindsight, I think she took it as a criticism of her. I’ll never know.
In truth, I needed lots of help but thought to ask for help made me look weak. I confused being vulnerable with being weak.
In truth, I needed C.
A gift of all this is now I a much more open to listening and a lot less likely to jump into m Hero cape. It’s a work in progress but once you see the pattern it cannot be unseen.
Generosity – 10, 10
Are you kidding?
Even while C’s Flying Monkeys were all up in our shit, I still made excuse after excuse for their behavior, never really believing C was involved or instigating anything. I was baffled how anyone could believe my motives were so horrible.
These were “friends” right? lol.
Anyway, I even ended up apologizing to two of the worse offenders in April for responding so harshly to their trolling. And they responded with more trolling. Even now, when C lashed out and acts in petty ways, I try to greet each strike with compassion and understanding. I remind myself, “Hurt People, Hurt People” and excuse it as lazy grieving.
Here is the thing about generosity, there will always be people that will perceive it as a weakness and use it against you. The least generous people will great generosity of intention as an opportunity to gain power. That is what separates the narcissistic soul from others: they lack a spirit of generosity. They are always working and angle and assume everyone else is too.
Even now, sitting here, after C’s tantrum last week, after the theatrics at the bar, and the pettiness with my truck title, I still recognize her as someone who is hurting. Her intentions are not to hurt me (unless I make it so), her intentions to find a way to stop hurting.
I have said my entire adult life, “No one gets up in the morning planning to make things worse.”
How much more generous can I be?
After this exercise, this is what I realize: I failed to protect ©’s what is valuable to her and through my actions betrayed her trust. In these ways, I proved myself untrustworthy and dishonored her trust.
I like Brown’s book because she talks on how to rebuild these trust foundations. I can do this with, or without C.
I wish I knew where C would score me but, “If horses were wishes, beggars would ride.” Although, her silence probably tells me far more about how she scores me than numbers on a page…yet still, I’d really like to work through some of this with her because so much of how I saw myself through my betrayal is still below the line.
In Part 2 I will talk more about the Self-Trust, Fitting In, and Belonging.