31: Drive by Shaming

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People make mistakes. When you judge them, you measure their weakness against your own strength. That’s not a fair measure. They have their strength, too. Their strength might be the weakest point in your life.

Nesta Jojoe Erskine
Unforgettable: Living a Life That Matters

Every time I hear one person tell another some variation of, “Staying in your partnership and trying to transform the conflict means you’re weak, a chump, abused, suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and your past history was just one big lie,” I think, “Wow! Who’s gaslighting who here?!”

Seriously?! How do you know?

I have a friend who knows her relationship had problems but after counseling and self-reflection, she recognizes her Partner a good man, making unskillful decisions. She has great memories and experiences in her relationship. Why the fuck do you get to decide what is and isn’t real? How do you know the man that betrayed his Love, life, and self is faking remorse or guilt? That he will cheat again? That he is faking his pain? Why would you claim he was abusive or didn’t love her?

Your decision to tell her what she experienced, thinks, and feels, isn’t real is textbook gaslighting! You are shaming her, insulting her intelligence, and reinforcing the self-doubt she already has? That is abuse!

screenshot 2019-01-24 at 11.00.40 pm

Who the hell are you to decide staying is wrong? What great wisdom and omnipotent power do you have that allows you to see into someone’s future or heart? Because you read a couple of books that fed your confirmation bias?

Why do you and your mob get to call these men and women weak or chumps or stupid or victims of abuse?!

Perhaps you feel that about yourself and your life but you aren’t living their life. There is no wrong answer. Deal with your shit and let them deal theirs. Stop dumping your unaddressed and shitty issues in their garden.

Why don’t you be happy for them and encourage them instead of tearing them down? Planting fears? Seeding doubts?

You say the “cheater” lacks empathy, compassion, understanding, then call those repairing to re-pair chumps? You shame them?! And when they end up doing the natural and human thing and defend there lives you gaslight their experiences and suggest they are in denial, suffering trauma, a victim of abuse, or some other diagnosis you aren’t qualified to make?

FFS. Deal with your shit and stop projecting it onto other people.

I read all your nonsense in the comments on the journals written by betrayed men/women. When someone is having a bad few days, weeks or months with a partner you just “know” it must MEAN something treacherous: abuse, acting out, cheating again, blame shifting, blah, blah, blah. It’s all a vast conspiracy.

You know, it could also be life? It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy.

You spend seven or fourteen or twenty-one years with someone and there will be bad days and good days that have NOTHING to do with infidelity. NOTHING! Just as people are more than the sum of their betrayal, so are relationships: the kids are being entitled, moody teens, the boss is an ass, a parent is sick, your exhausted, finances are difficult, yada yada yada…

There will always be something and that something is rarely about infidelity.

Disappointment happens. Hurt happens. Loss happens. Good people do dumb things. Life isn’t an exact science.

We aren’t entitled to happiness. We experience happiness. And then sadness. And then happiness. Then sadness. And a thousand moods in between. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

FFS. Stop waging shame war on woman and men that decide to keep trying. Stop with the petty jealousy and attacking those that stay and deal with your shit. Go to counseling. Talk to a professional. Do some work on yourself instead of dragging others into your mental sewer of negativity and paranoia.

Stay or leave. There isn’t a wrong or right answer. They are all equally difficult choices. All with consequences. You aren’t stronger if you leave or stronger if you stay. Your situation is just different. There isn’t a merit badge. It isn’t a competition. No one wins.
It is none of your business why they stay – or leave.

You aren’t owed an explanation to their choices. Your opinion of them, their partners, or their lives is none of your fucking business. People have enough issues without having to defend their decisions because you have an opinion about a situation you know nothing about. Stop gaslighting these people and making them doubt their own experience.

Here’s a novel idea: your opinion is none of their business.

And they certainly don’t need to hear from the peanut gallery that staying makes them a chump. How about recognizing their courage as they heal and trudge the road towards forgiveness and compassion, self-discovery and understanding? How about offering encouragement instead of gaslighting their positive experiences?

Develop some empathy and compassion and then shut up and listen.

Better yet, use that energy and get some help with your own issues and stop lashing out at men and women that have made a different choice.


35 thoughts on “31: Drive by Shaming

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    1. That is true. Criticism and commentary isn’t the problem.
      I would argue that much of what is excused as “criticism” is simply cover for projecting someone’s pain onto someone else.
      I have no problem with thoughtful criticism of my behaviors – even unthoughtful. However, I learned a long time ago that people criticising me were confusing thoughtful for dogmatic rhetoric.
      It’s funny. Last week one if the Flying Monkeys showed up and showered me with more of their anger and when I ignored it, accused me of only posting comments that stroke my ego.

      Essentially, because I treated their opinion of me as none of my business, and acted as such, they tried to shame me into making room for their name calling and ill-informed opinions.
      Not all opinions are equal but unfortunately we’ve reached a tipping point where we think all perspectives are equally valid. As my sponsor was always fond of saying, “There are uninformed opinions, informed opinions, facts, and assholes. Sean, don’t be an asshole.”

      However, regardless of what I do their will always be people that think I’m an asshole. I try not to waste time on them.

      1. I am a firm believer in reading others comments and asking myself why it irks me, if it does…

        I try very very hard to comment in a compassionate and helpful way. I know I occasionally become blunt and bossy. Usually because whatever is happening has a personal tie that I can’t see past.

        Of course, that’s the point. Using the hard parts to open up.

        Until recently most of my blogging has been about sobriety. My “purpose” is that makes sense is to give people still struggling a little hope that things can get better. Because that’s been my experience.

        I think it’s important to see the perspective from all sides. I admit, some of what you wrote here stirred me up. But people need to do what they feel is best for them. If they can on,u listen to others opinions they will never be satisfied. You are right. Most people are really commenting with advice they give themselves.

      2. Thanks Anne. And so there is no confusion, when I wrote this I didn’t have you in mind.

        You are working a program of recovery and the steps and sponsorship will force self-awareness on you. Unfortunately, entirely to many confuse opinions with insight.

        And yes, you can be blunt but I’ve never found you malicious.

      3. Anne, I don’t know if you are in FB, but you may want to check out the Esther Perel FB page.

        There are some very mature experiences there and it is an excellent place to ask questions in a health and nonjudgemental environment. I’m constantly forced to check my entitlement and biases.

        And like so much of Perel, it is about more than infidelity.

        Here is a link if you are interested –> https://www.facebook.com/groups/793115204193690/.

      4. I’ve read her stuff. I disagree completely. She is either completely in it for the money or lacking any moral code. I’m not quite sure.

        If people don’t want to be married that’s completely fine. But if they are, and there is an expectation of fidelity, then cheating is morally wrong.

        She can rationalize all she wants that it’s a natural desire. I don’t believe people should do whatever they want. I believe in ethics and responsibility. Especially as a parent. My children deserve security.

        If a spouses actions exposes someone to disease, without their knowledge, it’s morally wrong. And abuse.

        Sneaking, lying and hiding is all unethical behaviour.
        Perez is an example of just how self centred society has become. The pursuit of personal happiness regardless of the collateral damage. Plus, happiness will never be found in the arms of another person. It comes from within.

      5. Of course.

        You see it purely as a moral discussion. It’s odd, people use to make the same argument about alcoholics and Bill W and Dr. Bob motives.

        Have you read The State of Affairs, watched her TedTalks, or read any of her other writings on relationships?

      6. Yes.
        No, I see it as a contractual agreement. By getting married We had agreed not to have sex with anyone else.

        The contract could have been amended, but instead it was broken.

        I am not opposed to the idea alcoholism is a moral problem. The sober alcoholic has a moral responsibility not to drink, once they understand that drinking is creating problems in their life. If they do drink, there are consequences.

        While caught in the disease of addiction a person cannot always see their actions. It is a self destructive disease.

        Infidelity is a choice. It involves lying and hiding.

      7. I think people are different.
        I’m my experience, my stbx has always like the thrill of the deal…I could see it manifest in many ways over the years.

        I expect the illicit thrill of doing something he knew was wrong was too much to resist. Plus, the girl was 20 years younger and looked up to him. She fed his ego.

        I know he is left wondering how he ended up alone. I know he liked our life. We are still quite friendly.

        Discontent is real. People search all over for ways to fill the void. Drugs, sex, food, Netflix. Some people are just never content. It’s not a simple path. It takes effort and practice and sacrifice. And it isn’t always fun. But it’s worth it.

      8. Still, not real clear though.

        Do you think he lied and hid things just for the thrill? The way that reads, were you thinking about leaving anyway?

      9. Yes. I think he was in a funk and somehow this girl caught his attention and it was that illicitness that hooked him. I don’t believe he has ever cheated before.

        I was not thinking of leaving. We were best friends, spent lots of time together, work at the same company and travelled a lot. We had a fun life. Look at my blog. We were always together…

        But ever since he got sober he has struggled with this inability to be at peace. He had it for a while, but in 2016 we had a mass evacuation of our city due to forest fire. It was very stressful and he never settled back in again.

        For the past 2 years he has gotten many tattoos and we travel to concerts obsessively. He’s been struggling. I’ve tried hard to help him, but you cannot do this for someone else…it’s too codependant.

        I see now that he has his own path to discover. I have mine. I will be ok on mine by myself. It makes me very sad, as I like craig a lot. But it is what it is.

  1. For me I don’t think this post was about comments, it was questioning why people feel that they have the right to have an opinion, and tell people what they are doing is wrong. I can hold my own and don’t give a fuck about what other opionated people think, they fail to see that often it reflects in them. But I too have seen people in the most vulnerable of places be told what they should do, often in the most vicious of ways.

    I understand that not everyone is as strong as me. I think this is what you are saying, isn’t it Sean?
    I think it’s sad, in this day and age that people feel that they should hide away what has happened because others will judge them. Infidelity affects mental health, and as with all mental health issues shouldn’t we be able to talk about it without judgementmif we want to. Shouldn’t we be able to encourage others to do the same, and give them confidence if they want to?

    1. For some people they will always see infidelity at the supporting behaviors as a morality tale. It’s the residual effects of a Puritanical American worldview. Every adulter should be branded with an A and by extension their partners are guilty by association in a morality tale. The peanut gallery feel morally entitled to shame (This is Warren and the rest of her Flying Monkeys view).

      For others adultery will always be perceived as a criminal act and as such feel that if a partner stays they must be a willing victim. By staying partners are enabling a crime. Which is why every time a partner is subjected to the victim shaming of “You are asking for it” whenever they try talking about their pain. And don’t misunderstand, I do think the supporting behaviors can be criminal but mostly not. (I think this is mostly ©’s view).

      There is of course those that have such a narrow view of feminism and masculinity they see any action that doesn’t involve tossing the “cheater” to the street as a betrayal to the sisterhood/brotherhood. It becomes a character issue. “Stand on your own or you are weak and pathetic” becomes the rallying cry of people that treat every issue as one of entitlement.

      There is nuance of course. Sometimes their is criminal behavior or sexist motives in infidelity. People in these groups aren’t all wrong but because they cannot see the forest for the trees they never get to the nuance.

      Their are people where everything is either right or wrong, good or bad. Their compass only points in two directions. Maybe it innate or maybe they have had life experiences that have shaded their worldview. Everyone has something.

      As such they never get to the people are people part but are inevitably restricted to seeing people in absolutist terms of “once a cheater always a cheater” and “by staying you are asking for it” nonsense.

      While you talk about Rich’s behavior in terms of emotional and mental health, and I talk about my behaviors in terms of patterns, skills, and dynamics, we share similar philosophies of love, grieving, life, pain, and loss.

      I think their is also a small group that ate just bitter, immature, and shallow entitled people that are jealous of anyone’s efforts to reconcile. It didn’t work for them, it won’t work for you. And they don’t feel as if they should have to do anything to get what they want.

      I think this is why those that repair to re-pair are treated with such distain by others. You and others are treating your partner’s as people first, dealing with yourself own shit, and refuse to join the pile on mob of people too angry to deal with their own shit.

      There are others that choose to leave and recover their dignity and still treat their ex with dignity and respect. They don’t use their partners behaviors as an excuse for further damaging their lives, their ex partners life, or their children’s lives. Like those that stay, they own their choices and don’t blame others and as such don’t see any shame in staying or leaving.

      Just my opinion. 😉

  2. Hmmm. Interesting.
    I would probably say supporting a person in whatever they decide to to (staying/leaving) is the most humane thing to do, especially if it’s a friend. But, I would also think having a level playing field and all the relevant information to make the correct decision for them is essential.
    If a spouse lives a double life unbeknownst to their partner, they can’t very well expect rational decisive actions to follow.
    Once everything is out in the open most people can decide what’s a deal breaker for them. For most people I know who stayed , they mentioned later that in order to not have the infidelity poison everything that came after it would’ve required a full brain bleach because it seeped into every crevice of their lives. They said it was a constant struggle to block it out so it didn’t ruin everything. I’m not an Esther fan, but I will say that she has a few salient points for people trying to cope with new ways of thinking about their betrayal. On the other hand my New York upbringing causes my bullshit meter to read defcon 1 on some of her stuff. I guess it’s a trade off.

    1. Why not a Perel fan?

      Can you give me an idea of what you consider BS? Is it because it challenges your value system? Pride? What is she saying that isn’t consistent with what Gottmans, Tatkin, Brown, and other knowledgeable experts are saying?

      I’m trying to understand a bit more about why people are so offended by her.

      1. I’m not really offended by her but sometimes I think she deals in double speak. For instance, she loves the exuberant act of defiance line for describing infidelity. That’s fine, but I prefer the plain, basic blunt version of life. Relationships are so varied and complex they can’t be boiled down to an image of someone bursting through the forcefield of banality and achieving this ecstatic escapist state. I like the idea that you’re going on a rocky voyage with an improbable crew to an almost unreachable destination and you’re going to get your ass beat emotionally along the way. There are going to be temptations and huge problems and you’ll probably fail BUT you need to strive to be a decent human along the way and not do morally questionable things to hurt the people you love. It’ll probably happen but you have to deal with that when you get to it.
        I feel like Esther glosses over the real meat of life with fancy words. I’m not saying I condone poor treatment of others after mistakes I’m saying I genuinely feel like she’s seven levels above the pit of humanity looking down with smarmy observations.
        But plenty of people love her, so she’s clearly resonated in many lives.

  3. I need to back up just a moment.

    What I am really fired up about is the horrendous things women are saying to other women who decide to try and reconcile. I keep running into comments on social media and in the comments sections of some well-read writers.

    I get loathing and judging me. I understand holding me in contempt because of my behavior.

    However, I’m at a loss as to why the women that leave are shaming the women that stay. I find the whole thing confusing.

    I’m very curious about people’s thoughts on the topic.

    1. I can only go by my friends that have chosen different routes when faced with a reconciliation or a breakup- so many factors went into their decisions. Children, finances, length of relationship, etc. I have never waivered in support of what decisions they made. Some are happy, some aren’t, but man I can’t inagine compounding their agony by forcing my opinions on them. Where are you seeing people shaming others about decisions to reconcile? On that front, they are already dealing with way too much to get crushed by more. It’s fine to offer help and support and even advice, but I’d say shaming anyone for their choice might be going too far?

    2. Occasionally I see an attempt at tough love. Some writers seem trapped in their attempt to prove they can reconcile. They almost seem not to know why they are doing it…or who it is benefiting.

      I don’t wish pain or hardship on anyone. The choices to stay or go both suck. What everyone really wants is to be able to turn back time and have the spouse not cheat.

      1. Agreed. I approach friends or family members going through it like I do after a death. Sort of like “I’m useless and I always say the wrong thing, but I’m here to help in any ham fisted way I can”
        But as you mentioned, if I see a case of relentless reconciliation positivity in the face of glaring imminent disaster (spouse still actively cheating, lying, skulking around like an infidelity sex panther) I think giving it to the betrayed straight with no chaser is the right thing.
        You can’t salvage something that is being actively incinerated with a flamethrower.

      2. I do not know what everyone wants…what I do know is that the way my relationship was with C was nonsustainable and it needed to change to grow into something more.

        For things to grow requires sometimes painful consequences but as long as I don’t run I will grow into something better…with or without her.

  4. Well, this is quite relatable as my break from posting publicly was due to the comments on my blog. No one has enough information to provide an opinion on what Carol or I should be doing outside of us and our therapists. Support is great and advice can helpful at times, but I’m done dealing with the abrasive comments and judgements.

  5. Rest assured that bring betrayed by your spouse is a painful experience.

    If you refuse to accept that basic fact you clearly don’t understand empathy.

    The rest is moot. Infidelity causes pain. To the betrayed spouse, to the children. To the extended family. Trust is broken and their sense of security is shattered.

    It doesn’t matter if a person does it due to unhappiness or a list for life. It is still a violent and cruel move.

    1. Hi Anne. What makes you think I don’t understand empathy, or have empathy, for the pain I caused C or K? I’m curious what you think that should look like?

      I also have repeatedly acknowledged my reckless, selfish, and unskillful actions and how they endangered both woman and myself. Is that you don’t believe I am sincere or that I am not capable of that level of honest introspection?

      And again, can you explain to me what motives the women to leave to shame and gaslight the choices and experiences of the men and women that are attempting to reconcile?

      1. I can’t say. I don’t know you….
        What I read is that you admit you were selfish, but that you still feel you are owed something from K and C. Closure, acknowledgement that you have changed…something. That shows a lack of empathy…empathy would mean you hope they are both out living their best lives, never thinking of you at all…

        If people trying to reconcile feel shame that’s their emotion to own. I can’t believe anyone who has felt the pain of betrayal would honestly shame someone trying to make it work. They might question the sincerity of the cheater. And encourage caution to the betrayed.

      2. Interesting. Thanks Anne.

        What makes you think I don’t want them out living their best lives? She’s engaged, living w/her fiance, and I couldn’t be further away. I have made choice after choice over the last 16 months trying to give her space and distance while I piece my life together.

        Is it the fact I openly talk about my feelings, remorse, and behaviors or is it that men that betrayed my Loves, life, and self should shut up and disappear?

        When you make these statements I’m curious where it comes from? Is Craig trying to reconcile?

      3. People can write about whatever they wish. If your x came across this blog would she feel supported or critiqued and blamed?
        Craig and I have decided to get divorced. I don’t see reconciliation as an option. Perhaps some day we will date again. But this relationship is done. Trust and honesty are requirements for me.

      4. And that is a good question.

        I guess my answer is, C and I are finished. I can care about her but I’m not responsible for whether she feels supported, critiqued, or blamed. I’m not responsible for her emotional well-being or her mental health. I owe her nothing and she owes me nothing. She is quite capable of taking care of herself. And if she is as wounded, as I imagine she is, it is her responsibility to get help. If we had a conversation things might be different but things are done.

        However, I have never blamed her for my choices or laid the burden of my feelings on her to fix. I have written about our patterns and our roles within those patterns, I have written about my consequences, and I have written about my experience through this process. If she came here and read what I wrote and in any way thought I was being disingenuous, deceptive, or dishonest that is because she chooses to see if that way. I have repeatedly defended her and her choices but I don’t have to celebrate them, and I certainly don’t have to pretend that I’m not grieving simply so she can be more comfortable in her decisions.

        I assure you however, she is not giving me a second thought and is very happy with her life. And as hard as it is for people to accept, that is all I’ve ever wanted for her.

        It still is.

        So Craig wants a divorce to?

      5. I’m sorry Anne.

        On the one hand that makes things simpler but on the other it can be heartbreaking. I’m sure Craig has some great qualities, and together there must be some great experiences.

        It’s difficult when you love someone, and regardless of the situation have to walk away.

        I hope he finds a way that he can more fully articulate how and what he feels, needs, and wants. The lack of clarity adds to the pain.

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