At the end of the story there is no villain or Hero or victim. It’s all just people peopling in the ways people know how to people. It’s one giant practice.
This: GUILT SEEKS PUNISHMENT
In a nutshell: K is my former wife, C is my former Partner.
K once asked me why I wouldn’t commit to loving her the way I loved C. Why I wouldn’t give myself over to her the way I gave myself over to my former Partner. I don’t really know…I wish I did. When we were married she deserved better. We both did.
After I decided to end the marriage with K, I met C. After I met C I never wanted to be anywhere else. Ever.
There is an overlap.
But I had unresolved shame and guilt about my marriage collapsing and K’s feelings. After all, contrary to the convienent narratives of outsiders, I have a conscious about my choices.
As such, while living my life with C, I was also trying to grieve the loss, hide my shame and sense of responsbility for K’s feelings and pain. I never stopped loving my wife but I couldn’t remain married to her the way things were between us.
I felt guilt and thought if K was angry enough and saw what a horrible person I am she would feel justified in leaving. I lied to K about my intentions, feelings, while trying to live forward with C in the life I loved, with the woman I loved, and in the place I loved.
Mix in my family of origin experiences with abandonment, love, shame, manliness, and Patterns and it was a recipe for a season are of Shameless.
- I acted with a great deal of selfishness and unskillfulness causing a great deal of hurt to good people that made the mistake of loving me.
- I lied extensively setting up a pattern with K: I would say or do things with K trying to fix my last error only to create new shame and guilt.
- I created an emotionally abusive Pattern come-here-go-away with K. I’d make committments, break them, feel bad, make new commitments, break them. I’d be kind and thoughtful and then a dick.
- I don’t use this phrases lightly: I actively gaslit and abused K. Damage she is still sorting through.
- I lied to K about my intentions, feelings, while trying to live forward with C in the life I loved, with the woman I loved, and in the place I loved.
I was on the way to an art show with C. I told K I wasn’t with C. I wasn’t going to the show. Meanwhile C was sitting next to me while I drove to the art show I denied I was going too.
K kept asking me if I was lying. I said, no, I became defensive, and accused her of imagining things.
That is gaslighing.
As such, out of a desire to maintain her sanity, K drove three hours to Indy to recover her power. She drove there to prove to herself she knew reality. As expected, it created drama. C ran and hid and and left me to deal with K. K became angry. K does what she does and refused to leave because in Ks mind C will always be the other woman.
…and I, of course, handled it with all the skillfullness as a turtle trapped on it’s back: I tried being nice, pleaded with her to leave, gaslighting K more, walked K to her car, gave her a hug, and ran back to the show looking for C, and then lied to C about K’s motives.
Then as I tried to avoid conflcit and maintain peace I preceded to defend K as not being unstable or dangerous but simply confused and hurt. I told C it was all my fault (which it was). After all my secret-keeping and escalating series of lies created this trap or everyone. I never spoke badly about K to C.
C never mentioned it again…until she gave me her gunnysacked list of resentments sixty days after she asked me to leave.
More of this: The Good Doctor
The Good Doctor challenged me today about my guilt and shame. I was making excuses for C’s entitlement. “Hurt people hurt people,” I said. “I created this situation by betraying her, keeping, secrets, and telling her an escalating series of lies. I hurt her.”
Listening to this she asked me a series of questions:
- Does you pride and sense of honor allow you to experience your own pain and loss?
- At what point in time do you recognize that she had a role in the relationship and its trajectory?
- Seven months before discovery you went to her and asked her to go to counseling was she supportive or did she avoid the topic? What other topics did she avoid that were important to you and the relationship?
- You made every house payment and paid all the bills for over three years. How did she respond when you asked her to contribute more to household expenses?
- When you raised issues about the boys and how she was making you the heavy did she respond constructively? When one her boys blamed you for things that never happened how did she respond?
- Setting aside her ending the relationship do you see how she mirrors back to you your immaturity and unskillfulness in dealing with conflict? How you were at the same emotional levels? What would have been mature? Skillful?
- Give me one example where C took responsibility for hurting you?
I answered each one and then took a few minutes to contemplate the meaning for me. I am only responsible for my choices and actions and I realize I did do loving, excellent, and caring things in our relationship. It is her choice to assume everthing was a lie. That is her choice to make.
“Sean, all of these other issues are just as significant to the story of your relationship as your infidelity,” added the Good Doctor. “If everytime you tried to being these issues up before the end and she did nothing or pushed it back on you, that is her unskillfulness. If after the fact you tried to give her a list of hurts and she cried, ‘Yeah but you cheated’ that is deflection from her choices too.”
“You’ve never blamed her or K. You’ve consistently worked through your side of the story, but perhaps it is time to be honest about her side as demonstrated by her actions. There is more than one way to betray a relationship.”
Made me think of an old post about Esther Perel’s The State of Affairs when her client, Dawson turned to his wife, Amelia and stated, “My loyalty has never wavered. I was always there. I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. But when you measure my allegiance only by where I stick my dick, it’s as if the rest doesn’t count for a thing.”
My betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies were wrong.
However, in talking to theGood Doctor I was reminded that C willingly encouraged, accepted, and benefited from my role as her personal Hero, soldier, manservant, sherpa, and provider. Safety trumped secure, intimate, and vulnerable attachment. She was equally responsible for the well being of our relationship. “You are only responsible for your choices, not her responses.”
However, the Good Doctor’s point is C’s experience doesn’t trump my pain and hurt. Her feelings and perspective is not more important than mine. Her pain doesn’t have more value.
Just as “…but I love you” isn’t a get out of jail free card following betrayal, “…but you cheated” isn’t either. In both cases it is a deflection from the things that matter. Unfortunately, to often we never get to the things that matter and the man or woman that was betrayed are too often willing to play the trump card instead of dealing with their own issues.
And contrary to the narrative peddled by entitled chumps, men and women that betray their lives hurt too. That isn’t asking for pity, empathy, or sympathy. That is an honest statement and emotional truth.
People want the truth except when they don’t. There you have it.
A Bit of THis: Contradiction
Over the last few months my writing and tone has changed. I have changed. What I am writing is going to change. Some of what I thought and felt a year ago is different today. Some of the people that were betrayed by loved ones are not going to like it.
So be it. There is only one truth of my experience and it is mine. Elle Grant’s motto on her website Betrayed Wives Club, is “My hertbreak. My rules.” I realzied reading something she wrote recently, it doesn’t matter how my heart was broken. Even a self inflicted wound is a wound that requires air and sunlight to heal. As I’ve dug into my life I realize I carry heartbreak too.
As such, my heartbreak, my rules.
“Do I contradict myself?” asks Walt Whitman. I imagine I will.
“Very well,” adds Whitman, “then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” As C said to be towards the end, “You are complex.” I too contain multitudes.