04: A Love Letter to the Betrayer – The Three Questions

Do you really want to save your marriage, or are you just scared?

Dr. Caroline Madden

Good day my Friend.

I don’t know about your experience, but I’ve been asked a lot of questions and I’ve asked myself a lot of questions.

Early on most of them were the same three questions:

Understandably, these are the three most common questions I am confronted with. In my opinion, they are also the three least important questions about infidelity. They are the fuel for clickbait articles an it bitter rants across social media.

Any answer, or opinion about those answers, will be completely subjective and self-serving. Of course, I’m not saying don’t answer them, I’m just saying don’t bank on the answers to be respected or change anything.

Talk is cheap and by our actions we cheapened them by the dozen.

It took me months to realize people weren’t talking to me, they were simply regurgitating their pain. The louder they talk the louder their pain was talking to them. They aren’t really talking to us as much as talking to their pain and hoping we will talk to their pain too. If it is the Partner we are committed to, we should try to hold their hand, listen and listen to what their pain is saying.

In reality, I’ve answered all these questions to varying degrees over the last several years elsewhere in my writing, as such, I am not going to spend a lot of time on them. I’ll simply say, what I’ve said elsewhere: the only honest answer to “Why” is “because I wanted too.”

However, as I’ve trudged through a great many resources and read a great deal I have decided there are three questions that need exploring and want to make some time to talk about this.

I stumbled across these questions as I’ve actively sought out counseling, read challenging perspectives, and worked to separate what is true about my actions and what was true about my Partnership with C and my marriage to K.

These are the three questions that I come back to over and over:

  1. Your first Partnership is over. Are you ready for your second? (Dr. Esther Perel)
  2. What has changed in this person so that the next time a crisis occurs, or they aren’t feeling loved and special, they don’t opt to go fuck another person? (SpaghettiSam)
  3. Do you really want to save your marriage, or are you just scared? (Dr. Caroline Madden)

I’m going to make a few minutes and talk about the first two briefly and then a bit more time digging into the third one.


Shall We Try This Again?

Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences.

Eckhart Tolle

“Your first marriage is over,” writes Esther Perel. She goes on to ask, “Are you ready for your second?”

No?

If your immediate response is “No,” then pack your things and get out…or at least move to the spare bedroom.

Although, if your answer is “no” you probably aren’t reading this anyway,

Telling someone you are leaving and then sleeping with them is a recipe for disaster. I would know better than most.

Besides, what is there to discuss? It’s all over but the crying.

I’m not encouraging ghosting but don’t compound the selfishness by offering false hope. Also, try not to simply shift the burden to the Partner we are leaving. Own what is yours.

If you have foresight, and are manipulative, you may decide to hide assets, gaslight them into thinking it is all their fault, and be a prick or cunt in a hundred other ways. I know it is tempting to arrange things to minimize consequences but don’t use your anger or entitlement to be vindictive or petty when they lash out at you or seek clarification.

This is a person you loved once. Try to go out like you came in. If you are leaving that is your choice, and not their fault. Let’s not inflict more damage on anyone by getting them to carry the burden of our choices.

However, regardless of what you do, I cannot say this often enough: go to counseling. You cheated, kept secrets, and lied. None of that is constructive or healthy. Those behaviors are hurtful to yourself and others. Figure out what you are about before you inflict the same old mistakes on yourself and others in a whole new way.

And statistically, unless we do the work we’ve been avoiding, we will.

I say this knowing, of all the things I truly regret in my life, the way I abandoned my marriage is one of the most shameful. I carried a guilt that opened a portal to a rabbit hole of confusion for everyone involved years afterwards. A rabbit hole that brought me to the banks of the Ohio River and heartbroken.

My truth is I simply didn’t want to be married anymore for my own reasons having everything to do with the intricacies of my marriage and nothing to do with anyone else. I left because I didn’t see how it would get better. I left because I was finished. I left emotionally and mentally exhausted.

Perhaps if I had been willing to adult, do the work I am doing now, it was salvageable but at the moment I couldn’t imagine anything worth salvaging.

Lacking experience in ending a marriage, when the time came I ghosted.

The way I left almost killed my former wife. I simply packed up while she was at work, left a note on the nightstand, and drove away. I believed we were both miserable and I was doing what needed to be done. Maybe at the time it was, but it was also classless, tactless, cowardly, unskillful, and forever carried a stench of shame.

Already a petite woman, K dropped thirty pounds in a short few months, she was suicidal, and could barely function. I wouldn’t speak to her and left her without answers or a voice. Her pain and hurt, with some help from my guilt, ate away at my conscious.

I have always loved K.

She has her faults, but at her core, she really does have a good heart. There are reasons to love her but I cannot act lovingly if I am a black hole of drama, constantly absorbing the light of other people’s love, or a well constantly being pumped to feed the thirst of other people’s insecurities.

In the end, I essentially treated K with the same avoidant silent contempt that C has treated me with. It is why I make excuses and have compassion for C’s choices, because I understand her need to deflect, avoid conflict, and hide.

It is also one of many reasons I am compassionate towards K.

It is why I have felt responsible for K’s feelings. I understand her fear and the pain, the despair and the loneliness. These feelings are one of many thing all three of us share. No one escapes youth unscathed by other people’s damage. It just manifests in our lives differently, at different times, and in different moments of stress.

Of course, considering this was the first marriage I ever left, I was making it up as I went along. I certainly didn’t do much with real forethought. I signed a quick claim deed to the house, took the minimal I could carry in my truck, dropped the note on the dresser, and left.

…I said left, I mean “fled.” We do what we know how to do.

Frankly, K deserved better from me. I just didn’t know what that was so when I unconsciously asked myself “Am I ready for a second marriage to K?” the answer was “no.”

In hindsight, I wish I had given K more. More time. More consideration. More compassion. More love.

Unfortunately, what I gave her more of was my guilt. More than anything else my guilt is why when we did start the process of negotiating the divorce decree two years later I took responsibility for her feelings and life. I felt her pain and made it mine, and then tried fixing how she felt so I could feel better.

Eventually my anger and resentments leached out and I treated her cruelly and then would feel guilty again, and the cycle would repeat.

Too often we are so committed to fixing and hiding the past mistakes and abuse we perpetuate the injury to ourselves and others as we move forward. I recognize much of my behavior with my former wife is built on trying to fix her feelings so I could be more comfortable with the traumas I experienced in my life. I wanted to avoid the sense of guilt and shame.

Many of my choices, and the inevitable personal and emotional conflicts, were a result of the contradictions found in working to live and love forward with C while trying to fix the past failings of my choices and heal the people I injured.

I put so much energy working to hide, control, manipulate, and fix My Shame, and avoid My Fears, I re-injured people creating new shames and reenergizing old fears. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to live that way anymore.

Is it any wonder we hurt each other over and over? Hurt people hurt people. I am an emotional sponge, K’s hurt was mine. Lacking boundaries I absorbed their pain. I just couldn’t emotionally say “no” to her.

…or to C.

Don’t misunderstand. There is nothing noble about my behavior. Over time, when squeezed I gave back the equivalent of emotionally dirty dishwater. Both C and K shifted responsibility for their feelings and well being to me, and I soaked it in. It gave me meaning and fit the rescuer role I was cast to play. It was a dynamic we were all invested in perpetuating.

Everyone does this to some extent. This in no way makes either of them bad people.

However, an emotional sponge can absorb only a limited amount of other people’s emotional water before we are saturated.

I left my marriage with K because I couldn’t absorb anymore. It was my way of saying “No more.” Of changing the patterns. That isn’t her fault. It remains a selfish and necessary attempt to take care of my own sanity. I did it unskillfully.

Do what you must but don’t expect anyone else to understand your selfishness. Contrary to the sense of entitlement we all carry about our own pain and fears, the understanding of others is not required.

In reality, ending a relationship is ultimately a selfish act but by my silence, avoidance, and resentments I made it a cruel one.

Yes? Maybe? I Don’t Know?

However, if your answer is “Yes!” Or “Maybe” than where do we go now?

There is an Atlantic Ocean sized gulf between saying “Yes I want to be here” and demonstrating it. There is a Star System wide gulf between “maybe” and finding a launching pad to exploring a universe of options.

To be clear, if you want to leave your Partner and go to another one, I’m not going to judge you or that decision. I don’t think that is wrong. If you want to stay with your primary Partner and make it work, that is great too.

However, this isn’t your decision to make. You don’t get to choose in a vacuum. People are not a prize at a carnival you get to choose just because you finally pop the balloon. As Elle Grant writes, our actions broke hearts. The people we betrayed have feelings, thoughts, dreams, ambitions, and desires too. They are people and not objects. People are complex. As K said to me, “I’m just a person. How can you expect this not to hurt?”

We did and said things that contributed to their heartbreak and as such, they get to decide on the rules for putting their lives, and hearts, back together. Our behaviors may have simply given others cover to do what they want to do anyway.

Shouting “Shazam!” isn’t going to bring a Lightning Bolt of Change where we will be seen in a different light by the very people we betrayed.

Our behaviors have inertia. Turning this ship will take time and energy. And in reality, no one will do it perfectly. We will have to do it alone. No one is required to help and if they are there to help they are there by choice. We are not owed help.

There will be more failure than success. Be patient. If success were easy everyone would do it.

Frankly, any pleadings for another chance tied to declarations of newfound fidelity or love will understandably be met with a deep skepticism at best.

We aren’t entitled to an audience.

We had a chance. Sometimes several.

Our newfound awakening and remorse doesn’t mean we are owed a chance for forgiveness, clemency, redemption or reconciliation.

We aren’t entitled to an audience.

No one is entitled to an explanation as to why someone else might want to climb into a lifeboat and make their own way.

If we are being honest about our choices, and have empathy, we should already know why they are leaving. Just as fear often drives our decisions, it also will drive our choices to hang on to relationships that needs to change too.

For many, leaving the relationship will be a reasonable, valid, and healthy response to what will understandably appear to others as our irrational and baffling set of choices and actions. And let’s be clear, our choices were irrational and baffling to even the most generous of souls.

I barely understand when my shitheadery was in full swing, and I’m the one that made the choices.

Last Thing

I want to add one last piece: it is okay to change your mind. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

You may start down a path of “Yes,” or of “No,” and realize this isn’t what you want. In those moments set aside your pride, go to your Partner, and own what is true. Don’t let fear and bravado, peer pressure or expectations, stand in the way of the people and places that bring you joy. Be where you want to be based on what you value.

What has changed?

What has changed in this person so that the next time a crisis occurs or they aren’t feeling loved and special they don’t opt to go fuck another person?

SpaghettiSam

If you answered “Yes” or “Maybe” to Perel’s question than it’s time to confront SpaghettiSam‘s question.

As a woman that was betrayed, she asks other Partners that have been betrayed to consider the question of, “What has changed in this person so that the next time a crisis occurs or they aren’t feeling loved and special they don’t opt to go fuck another person?

It’s a great question and one worth considering by everyone involved.

Although, I think it is especially pertinent to the Partner we cheated with and lied about. After all, if our plan is to leave one Partner for another, what makes the next relationship anymore special? Are we anymore emotionally or mentally prepared to address the difficult and hard issues we are avoiding in the relationship we are leaving? Have we deluded ourselves that all the problems are the other person’s fault?

That is as delusional as believing all the problems were ours.

In October 2018 I wrote my experience in internalizing SpaghettiSam’s question. I’m not going to revisit it here, but I’d encourage you to make some time and think about the promises you are making right now to yourself and others and ask yourself, “Why should our promises be believed?

This is a good questions to contemplate, considering our lack of integrity in this area, our history of selfishness, and the inability (or unwillingness) to respect boundaries. Before opening our mouths and making promises and commitments we aren’t willing, or able to keep, we best decide what has changed. After all, our track record in this area sucks.

I see too often, out of fear and anxiety, we rush out trying to provide the right answer that will soothe our distress immediately instead of providing the integrity based answer that will guide us along a path towards a principled solution over time.

A path that will involve pain and loss and change.

Photo by Philippe Donn on Pexels.com

As I said, I think we all want change to happen like a lightning strike.

SHAZAM!

All better. All changed. All different. No more fear. No pain.

Hero mode go!

Change doesn’t happen like a lightning strike.

It isn’t how anything grows or heals or evolves. The sooner we embrace the principle that this experience is an opportunity to grow over time the sooner we can start making value based choices and not simply fear based ones.

Although K calling C could be perceived as a Shazam! moment, in reality it was a tsunami finally coming ashore. A tsunami caused by a release of energy trapped in the friction between my words and my actions. A tension between vulnerability and fear, snapping my integrity, along a fault line in my identity. Two tectonic plates resetting their relationship along a deep fault across the ocean floor deep in my life. A release of energy that happened long before the wave of destruction finally rolled ashore, wiping out our lives together.

Today, I’m grateful that I don’t have to live with these lies and secrets. I’m grateful I am not expending energy towards maintaining an arbitrary status quo.

Everything I am trying to do right now is about living, and loving, forward. I cannot unring the bell. I cannot undue the injury I inflicted upon good people. I cannot undue the injury others have inflicted onto me. However, I can establish boundaries and develop a more vulnerable relationship with myself and with others.

Frankly, I’d rather lose everything again than to let My Fear run me. I say this knowing that my fear and anxiety run deep and there are still things I need to confront. I am not doing this perfectly but I am doing this.

You won’t do it perfectly either. There is no such thing as perfection. If you, or others, measure every action and decision against an arbitrary scale of perfection, that is a recipe for disaster.

In truth, the damage is done. The old relationship is deàd. “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to,” declared The Last Jedi’s Kylo Ren, “That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.”

This isn’t the same as ignoring or pretending we didn’t betray the people we love and that love(d) us. If we are intent on resurrecting our past relationships by pretending normal we are likely to find ourselves living Zombie lives or in a Frankenstein relationship.

Perhaps worse we will live the life of the Invisible Man (or Woman), never seen, never heard. A shadow moving about the lives of those that once loved us and we loved. We can feel them but we cannot touch them.

As such, we need to decide if we will invest effort into harvesting the beneficial seeds of the old life and planting them in a better and more truthful relationship or continue to fertilize the now exhausted and barren fields with more bullshit.

We cannot grow crops on a salted earth…and make no mistake our behaviors salted the fields of our relationships. Moving forward will require separating the wheat from the chaff and the sowing of a new garden. We may have to do it alone. We may have to choose to come down off the fence, pick a side, and invest resources to prepare a new field for a new crop.

It is my sincere hope we will both use this experience to plant fruits worth harvesting.

Either way, your old Partnership is over and now everyone is finally free to make new and more truthful choices moving forward.


What do you Value?

This above all- to thine own self be true, 
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man. 

Polonius, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3

Depending on how I respond to SpaghettiSam or Perel’s question I should consider Dr. Caroline Madden‘s questions from her book, After a Good Man Cheats: How to Rebuild Trust & Intimacy with Your Wife.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

In her book she asks, “Do you really want to save your marriage, or are you just scared?

There is a lot of meat on that question. There is a lifetime of DSM-5 level subtext in her question. As such, I want to take a moment and paraphrase what I hear when I read her question: “Are my choices and actions consistent with what I value or am I doing things simply because I are afraid of what will happen if I don’t?

Frankly, the subtext of this question has been a driving factor in my choices since I worked through her workbook the first time in the Spring of 2018. The actions I take to support my answer defines whether I am living my life with integrity, even if no one else recognizes the merit of my actions or acknowledges my intentions.

And many people never will.

To own my truth I have had to make choices and take actions that scare me and make me uncomfortable. Sometimes it will scare and make others uncomfortable too. Our choices now will set the stage for the next act of our life.

Regardless, whatever we choose someone will criticize and condemn us for them. Adopting the hard edge that “your opinion of me is none of my business” has allowed me to take a less confrontational and emotionally sensitive approach to my choices and their consequences. It has been a mantra that has brought much peace…plus it annoys some people on Twitter when you tell them you don’t care about their opinions.

That can be kind of fun too.


When I focus the question, “Are my choices and actions consistent with what I value or am I doing things simply because I are afraid of what will happen if I don’t? ” on my relationship with my ex-wife, K, the answer is clear. I recognize, and admit, many of my behaviors with K were driven purely by a fearful intention to avoid consequences and pain.

I’m not simply talking about avoiding the consequences of my former Wife, K, calling C, but by a desire to avoid any conflict with K. This was true throughout our marriage.

During my marriage to K I often attempted to avoid the conflicts with K over money, intimacy, sex, and where we going to eat for my birthday. My arguing with K was akin to bringing a spoonful of water to douse a forest fire.

Besides being a great cook, my ex-wife is the smartest and most passionate woman I’ve known, and despite my verbose written communication skills, I am not good verbally. I’m even worse when anxiety kicks in. I was ill-prepared to debate the subjective with her. She fights better than most lawyers and spars verbally like Ali fought. I tend to feel like Mr. Bean and become defensive, freeze, or flee.

I often walked away from arguments feeling like I must be brain damaged for not seeing it her way.

As such, repeatedly over our marriage my goal was to avoid the hard fights with her, and my primary tool of choice was to go along to get along.

Even my rolling over in the divorce decree was about trying to end the marriage without fighting with her. This trying to smooth things over, be nice, go along to get along, and make it easy reflects my unwillingness to simply say, “No” and be thought the bad guy.

Plus, when K argued a subjective “I owed her” and “her pain was my fault” I already believed that. As a result, I tried to fix her feelings because wanting to end the relationship with her is not the same as not caring about her. My Shame simply greased the tracks.

Now I am bound financially to K for ten years, longer than I was married to her.

And here is one more betrayal of C: I made this financial decision without talking to C or asking for her insight. I made this decision in tribute to my shame, guilt, and compulsion to make everyone happy. I put my emotional anxieties above our relationship and to avoid the conflict I lied about, and hid, the terms of the agreement.

I did it so there would be minimal conflict and avoid humiliation. All I wanted was to be free of my marriage to K.

Now this is purely my take on my choices and what happened.

If you ask K, she will counter with selective math and claim she is entitled to it all. That she deserves the money.

And here is A Truth: from our perspectives, we are both right.

In reality, I should have let the judge decide what was equitable. It certainly would have resulted in me carrying far fewer resentments and less anger…and as attorneys have told me since, no obligation to K.

At the time, I had no idea how much shame I carried for simply breathing. I didn’t understand how much I resented K or how angry I was until much later when I recognized I was emotionally abusing K and my anger was leeching out all over my life.

I will always maintain the divorce decree was dictated by my guilt and manipulated to facilitate the extortion of blood money. It was clear then, and it is clear now, that my approach to adulting with K was unskillful, short-sighted, selfish, and immature. I allowed it because I lacked boundaries.

As American Indian activist and 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills wrote, “In America, you don’t get what is right or wrong, you get what you negotiate for.” Negotiating means conflict, and as I’ve discussed before, I have a silver medal in conflict avoidance.

I’d have the gold medal but I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.

My unwillingness to engage constructively in conflict is one thing I contributed to the marriage, with K. It is the one thing that lead me to decide on a divorce, it is what I contributed to the divorce decree, and it is what I contributed through my secret-keeping and escalating series of lies. It was an effort to stay comfortable in my discomfort. It was, as Madden reminds me, bourne from a fear of what would happen if I don’t act a particular way. A way that reinforced the same dynamics I was trying to get away from.

Whatever happens moving forward, if you are embracing integrity, be truthful about your obligations and do not allow your shame or guilt to be manipulated into simply doing what someone else wants because they are hurt or angry or you feel guilty or are ashamed. Your infidelity doesn’t automatically make you a bad parent or a bad spouse. It certainly doesn’t make you, or your life, irredeemable. It doesn’t mean you won’t change. You are more than the worse thing you have ever done.

Just as we need to own the consequences of our choices moving forward, so do others. Two wrongs will not make something right.

The only right we have with others is to walk away. If others use our infidelity to emotionally blackmail us into giving up children, money, jobs, or life to fix their feelings that will breed resentments. If they leverage some archaic sense of morality or self-righteous and selective use of justice brow beat us into submission it will breed more secrets and lies. Both are unsustainable in the long run.

Integrity requires us to acknowledge the truth, take responsibility, and make choices accordingly. Taking responsibility doesn’t mean we repeatedly take abuse from people unaware, or unwilling, to own their actions.

You are owed nothing…and neither is anyone else. Not everyone is going to like that.

For example, if your plan is to move forward with one of your Partners, there is going to be someone that is going to be emotionally, sexually, and possibly, financially abandoned. From their perspective, that may not go over well and you may face wave after wave of chaos throughout your life as a result.

Some of the chaos will be consequences of your choices. Some of the chaos will be from others that aren’t dealing with their own issues. It takes time and effort, but a good therapist will help you own what is, and isn’t, yours to carry. I’ve seen over and over the problem is not what I felt but what I did with what I felt.

My integrity requires I walk into the teeth of the storm owning the truth and the consequences.

However, my choices will force others to live in the storm too. I stole their say in many matters. They may try to drown you to stay alive. Hurt people hurt people and those closest to us will hurt the most. That isn’t a consequence or personal as much as a symptom of humaning. Facing these issues is work, but try not to take it, or make it, personal. A therapist or other professional you can talk with will help with this.

It is obvious, as Madden points out, my choices and actions were inconsistent with what I value and were made from a place of the imagined hurt I would experience, from a place of fear.

As such, I recognize that I placed myself, and sailed K, and others, into this storm because I made choices and took actions out of my fears. This is purely my take on my choices and what happened. Opinions may vary.

Perhaps if I had chosen guilt over resentment I wouldn’t have felt unconsciously compelled to be so cruel and vindictive towards K over the two years following the divorce decree. I wouldn’t have angry fucked her six to eight times over two years. Perhaps if I had the emotional maturity to know my boundaries, needs, and wants, I would have been more willing to say “no”.

Instead, out of fear I emotionally abused K with a roller-coaster of lies, secrets, and broken promises. To make matters worse, with every choice, my fear grew until it was all consuming thought: when will I lose C forever?

A terror I secretly carried alone for over four years.


We are uncomfortable because everything in our life keeps changing — our inner moods, our bodies, our work, the people we love, the world we live in. We can’t hold on to anything — a beautiful sunset, a sweet taste, an intimate moment with a lover, our very existence as the body/mind we call self — because all things come and go. Lacking any permanent satisfaction, we continuously need another injection of fuel, stimulation, reassurance from loved ones, medicine, exercise, and meditation. We are continually driven to become something more, to experience something else.

Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

However, if I focus Madden’s question on my relationship with C, the reality is I have known my truth from the day I met C. A Truth I tried to pour myself into even when I was fucking it up.

Since the day I met C, I’ve tried to honor My Truth. During moments in our six years and seven months together I clearly failed.

In moments.

Contrary to what the narrative spun by the self-righteous, we both know not everything we have done was an act or a lie. In reality, for many of us, most of what we did was neither. Our joys and love in the time we were present in our Partnership are just as real and truthful as the times we were fucking up our lives, and our Partners’ lives. Our life is more than the sum of the clickbait narrative peddled by people profiting off of pain and lacking the courage to look in the mirror.

I also know, following the reveal, I have consistently acted lovingly and greeted each vara and arrow from C with compassion and understanding. I have acted on the Truth of my values. I’ve tried to give C the benefit of the doubt to the never ending frustration of my friends and, occasionally, the Good Doctor.

I’ve not done it perfectly but perfection is an illusion too. Perfection is just another kind of lie.

It is human nature to play to the audience in some ways so we will fit in and be accepted. Therefore, we conform publically to expectations and keep secret our non-conformity. Relationships are mirrors and when we play for the audience we hear applause, but when our performance fails, humiliation and shaming follow, and our pride demands we look away.

The desire to protect the appearance of a relationship runs deep. It is based on our investments in what others will think and say about us, our lives, and our choices. C and I were referred to as the “Cutest couple at summer camp” and “the golden couple of YoYo Town.” There is a great deal of emotional inertia in protecting those narratives. A great deal of Pride.

Whether we recognize it or not, that puts a lot of pressure on people to maintain the image. I know betrayed Partners who sound far angrier about their wounded pride and ego than about the actual infidelity. They lament the loss of face in their church, family, community, and job. They were proud that “Everyone thought we were a perfect couple!”

“When people feel betrayed, they tend to be so wrapped up in hurt and anxiety that they lack curiosity about the person they feel betrayed by,” writes Lori Gottlieb in her advice column, Dear Therapist: Can I Still Trust My Husband? for The Atlantic.

Gottlieb adds, “At the same time, they’re so wrapped up in anger and self-righteousness that they lack curiosity about themselves.”

It is why when the hurt happens, we are so quick to think it personal. “You did this to us!” being the refrain.

As such, it is why there is such a rush to throw out the bathwater and the baby. We toss out the things and people we value with the dirty water in an attempt to remain emotionally clean. The thinking is if we start over with a new baby we will find “happiness”.

This is one more lie we tell ourselves.

In my situation, the problem isn’t my former wife or my former partner. Neither of them are the solution either. The real issue is wherever we go, there we are. I tossed the people and kept the bathwater. Do that often enough and it becomes your pattern. You are always the bottom denominator in all your failed relationships.

At some moment, we have to stop blaming other people for our feelings, relationships problems, and fears and look in the mirror. Perhaps your former Partner is a bitch, selfish prick, or narcissist but you chose these relationships. You were there. You benefited from some aspect or else why would you remain for as long as you did?

A forty year-old woman with two marriages and half a dozen other relationships said to me recently, “All my exes are narcissists.” I had to bite down on my tongue because that is statistically not probable. However, it is easier to blame others than reflect on our own choices.

Look through many social media threads and you see over and over people decrying the behavior of their Partner. Dig into the thread and you will find a tribe of laypersons piling on and endorsing a sense of entitlement to being happy to be treated like a princess, or prince.

So we tell Twitterverse our pain and Twitterverse tells us we are in the right. Always.

I think this is why so many of us blame one Partner for our choices instead of owning the choices. We are chasing happiness and in the rush to avoid pain we toss the Partner we once love under the bus instead of facing the realities of our choices and learn how to adult. It is more comfortable than looking into the mirror and owning what is ours. “People rarely tell their partners exactly how they’re struggling,” writes Gottlieb, “instead, they express their loneliness or fear or hurt in other ways.”

We avoid spending the resources to gain perspective through the insight of counseling and self-reflection, being emotionally responsible, and taking the risk, facing the uncertainty, and being open vulnerability demands. We run from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship, bed to bed, lie to lie. We are running because our fear and loneliness has to be someone else’s fault, and someone has to be the solution. Many of us are conditioned from birth to believe that all solutions are external.

Don’t misunderstand, some relationships need to die, but figuring out which ones need to die versus where I need to change to grow is a process of discernment. A process requiring a curiosity about myself and people. A process I am still practicing.

Madden is encouraging us to make the time to discern between what we value and is true versus what we fear and is shame. She challenges us to reflect on how can we better act true to our intentions. Act true to Our Truths.

Until I stop running, My Truth cannot catch me. Until I stop running My Fears will continue to masquerade as, and entwine with, My Truth. My Fears will drive my choices until I admit the fear of what might happen if I stop running and turn to face the truth of my reflection. Until I see I am creating my own fears and pain. Until I recognize, “This wasn’t done to me, this was my choice,” I am going to struggle with separating what is fear and what is integrity.

When I did stop running, and tried to live My Truth, it was uncomfortable as hell which is why the last year together I told C repeatedly that if we were going to move forward there were some things we needed to address. I always recognized my betrayal was just one cog in a very dynamic relationship with a complex history.

Complexity we both brought to the relationship.

Which of course brings me back to the central point of Madden’s question: “Are my choices and actions consistent with what I value…?”

And what were my choices and actions?

For starters, in this situation I sexually and emotionally betrayed my Partners, kept secrets, and told an escalating series of lies to save face, cover my shame, distance myself from fear, fix my feelings, and protect the people and things I cared about.

In the most basic sense, I valued what I imagined losing more than the value of what I did have. I acted on the values fear dictated and not the values my integrity demands.

Clearly these choices and actions are not consistent with My Truth. If they were, I would have felt no remorse, regret, guilt, shame, or doubt. In reality, I lived with those feelings in the background every moment. Everytime C’s phone rang with a 614 area code I cringed. My Actions and Choices actively conflicted with my personal truths and so I hid.

And this is why it is essential we make time to separate out the intentions of our choices as we move forward. I have had to sit over the last year with friends, a therapist, and with myself and learn to separate the wheat from the chaff; to discern what is and isn’t of value, what is true about my relationship versus what I think is true, and to to face my loneliness and all the fear it entails.

All we can choose is how we respond now, and act accordingly. We cannot choose how others will respond. It is one reason why, when C asked me to leave I left. C isn’t my property. I don’t want a hostage. I am entitled to nothing (and neither is she). I didn’t do it perfectly but I did it.

One of Madden’s points is that how we choose to respond post-reveal/discovery is a defining moment of this experience. If we do what we’ve always done we will get what we’ve always gotten.

I truly wanted to create something better with C. C just wanted something better.


The tree said, “No, it’s time we set some boundaries.” And the tree was happy.

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

Winston Churchill

As I’ve sussed through these issues I’ve had to break them down into small bites. It is the process of breaking down the forest so that each tree can be seen. It is the only way to separate the mighty oaks from the diseased ones. It is how we separate what is healthy from the widowmakers.

For example, here a few questions worth confronting:

  • What do we value?
  • Are our choices driven by a fear-based bravado or a courageous vulnerability and how and where have those choices manifested in our lives?
  • What are our intentions in this relationship? With these people? With our lives?
  • What changes do we need to make to support our intentions?
  • What changes do we need to make to get closer to where we want to go?

With the help of the Good Doctor, friends, and the occasional stranger I’ve been able to separate what is My Truth from My Fears. Once I start to separate them it is easier to find The Truth. Once separated I can see what I value and start owning my choices and actions.

Below, I’ve added a few examples to give you an idea of where I currently am.


My Fear

My Fear told me C was perfect and she deserved better. My Fear told me C would eventually leave because I wasn’t good enough. My Fear told me I had to prove my love for her by keeping her safe and protecting her. My Fear told me I couldn’t count on C when things got hard because I wasn’t worth fighting for.

My Fear told me that every problem in our relationship was my fault and my responsibility to carry and fix. Every problem.

My Fear is a prick. He speaks through His experience with old, and unaddressed abuse. For this reason My Fear is a bully; it’s how he communicates his pain and tries to keep us safe.


My Truth

My Truth is my relationship with C is of value to me. My Truth is I wanted only C. My Truth is my relationship with C was more important than my relationship with K. My Truth is my life with C is more important than my relationship with anyone or anything else.

My Truth is I never wanted to be anywhere other than exploring the world with C. My Truth is I would have done anything to preserve and maintain my life and relationship with C even if I had to lie and keep secrets.

My Truth is I don’t need to be the most important person in her life. My Truth is C was the one, she was always the one.

My Truth is even after all the vengeful, childish, and angry things C has done since discovery, and the entitled things before, I would still talk and listen with her like she is someone I loved.

My Truth is I didn’t act like this was My Truth.

Here is another of My Truths, I would try again…and again and again and again with C…but with better boundaries. If I fail again, at least I failed while daring greatly and acting on My Truths.

This is a primary lesson of Stan Tatkins research: I was willing to accept C and all of her good, bad, and ugly as my burden too…within clear boundaries. I accepted C as she was.


The Truth

The Truth is I betrayed My Truth. The Truth is I didn’t act according to what My Truth would have me do. The Truth is I made choices and took actions base on My Fears. The Truth is I acted to protect My Fears and that reflects what I valued more than the relationship, more than My Truths.

The Truth is I betrayed many things I loved in my relationship with C.

The Truth is the person I betrayed more than anyone else is myself and I did more damage to my own life and psyche than anything C or K, or C’s Flying Monkeys, could possibly have done.

The Truth is a gift of C’s Flying Monkey Squad, and their ghost stories, harassment, and abuse is I have been forced to separate what others imagine from what actually happened. The Truth is their behaviors taught me to more honestly own what is mine and not be defined by the emotional and mental projections of strangers.

The Truth is I lost only the fairweather and fickle friends and have developed deep and intimate relationships with others. The Truth is I finally understand Minnesota Nice and it isn’t nice.

The Truth is C is not perfect either and has Ugly too. The Truth is C lied to me about the history of her relationship with Indy and her ex-Husband.

The Truth is C has her own history with infidelity.

The Truth is the one time I needed C to stand with me, she fled and hid in another artist’s tent instead of standing up for the relationship. The Truth is C was never going to do the work to make the relationship work in the long run. The Truth is C never took responsibility financially or emotionally for the hard things in our relationship.

The Truth is, knowing this, when I see C now I feel a deep compassion for her because I know the fear that is behind the carefully curated veil. The Truth is I feel sorry for her.

The Truth is the problems in our relationship were just new versions of the old things that killed my marriage and killed her marriage.

The Truth is the way C and I met, loved, and fell apart is part of C’s Pattern too. The Truth is being on the receiving end of her Ugly I still care about her but cannot care for her.

The Truth is I hurt and C can still do things that could hurt me. The Truth is I’ve made myself vulnerable to her anger. The Truth is this is my choice and a natural part of grieving.

The Truth is I have consistently taken responsibility for my actions and am actively looking to learn from the experience. The Truth is I have a different life now and I don’t regret the choices I made following the end of my relationship with C.

The Truth is I maintained poor boundaries with my Partners and allowed them, and others, to take advantage of me because I was trying to disprove My Fear and shames. The Truth is I let my fear of pain and loss own me.

The Truth is I say “No” more often now.

The Truth is I am genuinely curious about myself and others.

The Truth is I often perceive C as being perfect, better than me, and fragile. In hindsight, the pressure to live up to my expectations must have been tremendous on C.

The Truth is I treated the relationship as static and non-dynamic, and I tried to freeze our relationship in an emotional amber. As such, neither of us had a place to grow. Is it any wonder she started keeping secrets too?

The first painting C made for me: The Protector. The irony of course is the “Raven is considered a trickster because of its transforming/changing attributes.

The Truth is I treated C as someone that needed protected and a protector. The Truth is it is a role she embraced and encouraged.

The Truth is if C slept with her ex-husband, covered it up, and lied about it for years I probably would have ended the relationship too…

…but My Truth is I would have excused her behavior as my fault and begged her to return. Probably not in that order.

The Truth is my betrayal, secret keeping, and escalating series of lies makes me unsafe. The Truth is I understand C ending the relationship. The Truth is I would have done the same. The Truth is our relationship is dead as a result of our choices.

The Truth is, 90% of the time, I believe this is for the best. The Truth is in the middle of the night I still reach for C.


carry only what is yours

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

Socrates

I’m not giving you a list to copy. Your list will be different.

It should be.

There is no one type of betrayal or one way to heal or one way to work through it.

My Truth and The Truth will not be your Truths.

It has taken a great deal of effort but I am learning to own only what is mine. I cannot own what others think is mine. I am responsible for what I do and say, I am not responsible for what others think or feel about what I do or say.

Recently someone gave me a boundary based on their values. I knowingly broke it. I told them upfront I was going to break it. I didn’t lie or pretend.

Afterwards when they confronted me about breaking their boundary, I told them the truth. “It is not my responsibility to enforce your boundaries.” If I establish a boundary purely to control another’s behavior that is not a boundary, that is control to manage my own fears. Boundaries are for ourselves and not for others. Boundaries are about my values for me and not a law for others.

Because I didn’t lie or keep secrets I cannot be shamed by others. We can only own what is ours. I won’t be blackmailed by people that would rather I be weighed down carrying their anger, pain and hurt too.

In reality, it is hard to see ourselves as we are and if we betrayed our Love, life, and selves, through a process leaving us deluded, demoralized, and defensive it’s hard to separate Pride from the truth. And the truth is we are liars, cheats, and, in absolute terms, thieves. Thieves in terms of stealing time and intentions from others.

That is a truth about me. I did those things.

It doesn’t mean I have to do them again.

I am dedicated to this change even if no one else recognizes it. This change has cost me nearly everything I thought I valued.

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found,” write Pema Chodron. What I did to my former Partners destroyed me. What I am doing now is burning down much of what was left. What remains is purified and solid.

These efforts have brought me criticism, ridicule, and contempt from friend and foe alike. However, it has also brought me a sense of peace, power, self-respect, and deep and meaningful friendships.

In comparison, the cost as been miniscule compared to the benefits. C is happy and the rumor is engaged to a man she loves, and presumably hasn’t cheated on her – and she isn’t cheating on. K has a newfound confidence and belief in herself, has an outstanding job, and is traveling the world.

And on most days I am content with my loneliness.

Also, I have a convertible, a beautiful apartment on the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, and I am traveling a great deal.

Is this where I’d like to be? No, but it is where I am.

One of the goals of lies and secrets is to avoid the change that The Truth would facilitate. By avoiding The Truth we avoid risk, uncertainty, and emotional openness. By avoiding integrity, we surrender sovereignty over our lives to fear, pride, and shame.

A surrender limiting our opportunities.

I wanted things to be perfect for C and our family. I compared my imperfections to her perfections and hid. I made it personal. “Imperfection is not our personal problem,” writes Tara Brach, “it is a natural part of existing.”

I know what I did was wrong, selfish, dishonest, and lacked any integrity. I consistently operated out of fear of losing a relationship I wanted, with the Partner I wanted.

Others will dress up our infidelities as a nefarious plot, and some have from the beginning, but when I read, listen, and talk to other men and women that have betrayed their Loves, lives, and selves, it almost always boils down to fear: fear of missing out, loss, abandonment. intimacy, change, judgement, failure, conflict, rejection, and loneliness.

Even the act of talking about out behaviors with professionals and loved ones still seem to reek of the fear of loss. “I’m afraid if I talk about it I will make it worse,” being the refrain.

Worse than what?

As such, over and over again we avoid our pain and fear with bravado, more secrets, half-truths, and pretending normal instead of simply owning the truth: we did what we wanted, we are in pain and are afraid, and we don’t know how to move forward.

And how do I respond to those that say, “None of it matters because you cheated”?

I say grow up.

We am more than the sum of my behaviors. We are more than the worse thing we’ve ever done.

Our relationship was more than these moments where I was failing to keep my promises. I am not a villain or conman or narcissist and this isn’t an episode of to catch a predator. I am complex, dynamic, and brought a lifetime of experiences to our relationship that ran from good to bad to Ugly.

And so did C. C is not a saint. A damsel in need of rescuing. She has Ugly too but you have to look past her appearance to see it. And although she is no way responsible for my choices, she is responsible for hers.

Loving her meant accepting her anxieties, Uglies, and history as my burden and I did.

I cannot honestly address the change that needs to happen in my life if I keep throwing myself onto the sword that everything unskillful and unhealthy in our relationship was because of my betrayal, secrets, and escalating series of lies. That is one more lie and if our Partner wants us to explore a new future they need to own what is true about themselves too.

This of course brings us back to Madden’s central question: Are our choices and actions consistent with what we value or are we doing things simply because we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t?

Are we afraid that if we speak the truth, whatever the truth is, the consequences will hurt? Afraid we will lose the Partnership? Are we afraid we won’t have a home? That we will lose our job, prestige, or money? Are we afraid our family will reject and abandon us? Does the possibility of losing what matters and is important to us scare us? Are we afraid of Hell and that God won’t love us?

Or are we terrified that there is something fundamentally wrong with us and to start digging might open a Pandora’s Box of unrecognized and unaddressed trauma?

Are you afraid to look in the mirror?

First of all, frankly, it is too late to worry about that. Some, or all of those things, will happen.

Some, or all of these need to happen if you are serious about starting over with either, neither, or both of your Partners. And really, as I mentioned before, that may not even be a choice for you to make in your situation. Elle Grant at Betrayed Wives Club is correct when she tells the men and women we betrayed, “our heartbreak, our rules.”

I would agree.

Mostly.

If you are staying in the relationship simply out of fear that isn’t going to be sustainable.

Frankly, I think our betrayed Partners need to ask themselves the same question. Are they staying because there is something here they still value or because they are afraid?

If they are staying simply because they are afraid of getting a job, the social stigma, the welfare of the children or any one of a thousand other reasons, they are guilty of using us to fix themselves.

That is just a different kind of betrayal, but it is still betrayal.

Fear is like a cat spraying all over the house, you may not see the cat but you can smell it. You can coat the spray with Febreze but now it just smells like cat piss and Febreze. Bravado is simply emotional Febreze sprayed over fear.

Everyone in this situation is afraid. Just not everyone will admit it. Fear and anger would be normal and not a weakness or something to be ashamed over.

Being fearful is not the problem. We all have fears. The real damage happened when I was acting in fear. There is nothing sexy about acting from a place of fear. Pretending we aren’t afraid, when it is obvious we are, isn’t emotionally attractive and is precisely what makes us unsafe to partner with.

When I listen and talk with other men and women that betray their Loves, lives, and selves the underlying theme is consistently anxiety over discussing the difficult things in their primary relationship. Betrayal, and all it entails, is built around avoiding consequences, pain, hurt, loneliness, loss, grieving, conversations, and hurting others. It is driven by fifty shades of fear.

This is why people assign the word coward to our identity, and although I think the word’s use is a self-serving, abusive, and manipulative attempt by others to shame us, fear definitely played a role in how I approached the problems I created for myself and others.

I doubt most of us are particularly surprised by the reactions we received as much as we try to minimize and deflect from our behaviors. It’s why many of us chose to lie and keep-secrets. Its human nature to chase good feelings and natural to want to avoid the hard and uncomfortable.

However, this is Madden’s point: if this is the Partnership you want, you have to learn to travel through life with Fear as a passenger and not as you chauffer. We drive towards what we value. If you value the people in and around your life you have to stay on the road.

If you value yourself you have to choose the road that will keep you closest to who you want to be.

Traveling my road I failed. I failed C and our life together. I failed K and our life together. I failed me.

If I fail again it will be in a spectacularly new way.

I have decided to try and use these failures as feedback reminding me what I value and try to travel accordingly. I will on occasion contradict myself. I may be inconsistent. I will be a hypocrite…but I am trying not to hide my failures and follies behind secrets and lies. I am trying to learn to act on my values instead of acting because I am afraid.

The idea that love is always safe, always feels good, always brings joy, and is always there for us is a fairy tale adults peddle to children in Sunday School to manipulate their naivety. It is the love of poetry and school yards.

For the many people that grew up in an abusive, neglectful, and empty home, to love, or to be loved, is to be exposed to hurt and abuse again and again and again. That is not an excuse for infidelity or our behaviors but it is a reality of our life.

My fears didn’t just create themselves in a vacuum. We will always have fear. Fear exists to keep us safe but when it is driving our actions and decisions it will keep us alone and isolated. Without proper coaching, skills, and habits to transform the inherent conflicts fear breeds we will continue to make selfish, self-serving, and self-destructive decisions.

I firmly believe that ninety-four percent of the people that have an affair, lie, and keep secrets aren’t trying to hurt others. We are simply trying to be safe and loved in the ways we know. And in this way, one more way, hurt people hurt people. Of course, hurting people isn’t the goal, but an outcome.

And to those that say, “Bullshit”?

I say, “Fuck off.”

Most of the time we barely know is happening within us, it is simply arrogant to assume we know what is happening within others.

The reality is to consistently act lovingly is hard and fraught with conflict, fears, anxieties, pressures, expectations, and losses. If it were easy, Love wouldn’t have meaning. People are complex systems of thoughts, feelings, biology, history, desires, stories, and experiences. A system encapsulated into the ethereal. To love someone is to be hurt.

I realize that to be in a relationship with others is to live with risk of loss and abandonment. To be connected is to dance with the uncertainty of rejection and ridicule. To be open is to be on the receiving end of people’s bad and Ugly.

This is vulnerability.

However, taking the risk, facing the uncertainty, and being open also leads down another road full of adventure, joy, friendships, and potential. It is never all one thing all the time. We are not entitled to happiness one-hundred percent of the time. It is not your Partner’s job to make you happy. They are not here to share in your insecurities, not be enslaved to them.

I wouldn’t allow C to love me. I struggled with allowing K to love me. I made fear-based, selfish choices that split the risk and uncertainty across an era of my life. Choices that find me living with the loneliness, pain, and isolation I fought so hard to avoid.

Reading Madden, and digging into her question, I recognize that I don’t want to live from a place fearing risk, uncertainty, and openness. If I chose that road will lead me right back here again. There is only other option: vulnerability.

If you are serious about regaining your integrity you will have to tell people “no”, you will have to be willing to break their hearts, you will need to confront your history, you will have to be willing to disappoint and hurt people, and you will have to face the reality that being honest is not the same as being truthful.

Integrity is selfish by its nature.

If we wish to reclaim our values we must be willing to be rejected, cast out, abandoned, ridiculed, and demonized. Having integrity requires a willingness to do the unpopular, the inconsistent, the contradictory, and the things we fear.

It is the reason most people treat integrity on a scale of convenience. Integrity is what we expect of others while we excuse our own deceptions. It is why we take comfort in the sins of others. The whole mythology our Partners believe they can do and say anything to us, or about us post-reveal/discovery, under the guise of “Yeah, but you cheated” is just as manipulative as us blaming them for our actions.

If we are going to reclaim our integrity and act on our values we must be willing to risk losing the very things we were trying to protect and keep when we lied and kept secrets.

If you are going to speak your truth know it will come with a consequence. They may not make you drink hemlock or nail you to the cross, but at times it might feel like it. However, if we want a different life we will need to make different choices. They won’t always be popular or accepted or appreciated.

I will say this again, you will not do this perfectly. Abandon the idea you will. The only thing we can absolutely do with certainty is not lie about where we stick our dicks, or are dick stuck.

Everything else is a negotiation. Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be when you get there? What is the best path?

If we can answer those questions, and act accordingly, there is hope for a better future.
Esther Perel writes in The State of Affairs, “Surely millions of renegade lovers can’t all be pathological.” If I fail again it will be in a spectacularly new way.

I have decided to try and use these failures as feedback reminding me what I value and try to travel accordingly. I will on occasion contradict myself. I may be inconsistent. I will be a hypocrite…but I am trying not to hide my failures and follies behind secrets and lies. I am trying to learn to act on my values instead of acting because I am afraid.

The idea that love is always safe, always feels good, always brings joy, and is always there for us is a fairy tale adults peddle to children in Sunday School to manipulate their naivety. It is the love of poetry and school yards.

For the many people that grew up in an abusive, neglectful, and empty home, to love, or to be loved, is to be exposed to hurt and abuse again and again and again. That is not an excuse for infidelity or our behaviors but it is a reality of our life.

My fears didn’t just create themselves in a vacuum. We will always have fear. Fear exists to keep us safe but when it is driving our actions and decisions it will keep us alone and isolated. Without proper coaching, skills, and habits to transform the inherent conflicts fear breeds we will continue to make selfish, self-serving, and self-destructive decisions.

I firmly believe that ninety-four percent of the people that have an affair, lie, and keep secrets aren’t trying to hurt others. Esther Perel writes in The State of Affairs, “Surely millions of renegade lovers can’t all be pathological.” In reality we are simply trying to be safe and loved in the ways we know. And in this way, one more way, hurt people hurt people. Of course, usually, hurting people isn’t the goal, but an outcome.

And to those that say, “Bullshit”?

I say, “Fuck off.”

Most of the time we barely know is happening within us, it is simply arrogant to assume we know what is happening within others. It is self-serving to reject what people tell you about themselves simply because their pain isn’t yours.

The reality is to consistently act lovingly is hard and fraught with conflict, fears, anxieties, pressures, expectations, and losses. As people we are constantly competing with conflicting life experiences, cultural expectations, and the mixed messages between sacrifice for love and the need of self-care. If loving were easy, loving wouldn’t have meaning.

People are complex systems of thoughts, feelings, biology, history, desires, stories, and experiences. A system encapsulated into the ethereal. To love someone is to be hurt.

I realize that to be in a relationship with others is to live with risk of loss and abandonment. To be connected is to dance with the uncertainty of rejection and ridicule. To be open is to be on the receiving end of people’s bad and Ugly.

This is vulnerability.

However, taking the risk, facing the uncertainty, and being open also leads down another road full of adventure, joy, friendships, and potential. It is never all one thing all the time. We are not entitled to happiness one-hundred percent of the time. It is not your Partner’s job to make you happy. It is not your job to make them happy. If you expect that, or accept that role, you will find yourself on a path of disappointment. People are here to share in your insecurities, not be enslaved by them.

I wouldn’t allow C to love me. I struggled with allowing K to love me. I made fear-based, selfish choices that split the risk and uncertainty across an era of my life. Choices that find me living with the loneliness, pain, and isolation I fought so hard to avoid.

Reading Madden, and digging into her question, I recognize that I don’t want to live from a place fearing risk, uncertainty, and openness. If I chose to, that road will lead me right back here again. There is only other option: vulnerability.

If you are serious about regaining your integrity you will have to tell people “no”, you will have to be willing to break their hearts, you will need to confront your history, you will have to be willing to disappoint and hurt people, and you will have to face the reality that being honest is not the same as being truthful.

Integrity is selfish by its nature.

If we wish to reclaim our values we must be willing to be rejected, cast out, abandoned, ridiculed, and demonized. Having integrity requires a willingness to do the unpopular, the inconsistent, the contradictory, and the things we fear.

It is the reason most people treat integrity on a scale of convenience. Integrity is what we expect of others while we excuse our own deceptions. It is why we take comfort in the sins of others.

The whole mythology our Partners believe they can do and say anything to us, or about us post-reveal/discovery, under the guise of “Yeah, but you cheated” is just as manipulative as us blaming them for our actions. It lacks the integrity that is demanded from us.

We can know this without shaming them for it. As I have moved through this experience I have to constantly remind myself that how others respond is often from their place of fear too. I try to approach C’s venging from a place of compassion and forgiveness. After all, that is what I am seeking too. Acting with compassion to those that hurt me is one of my core values. It is also a choice.

If we are going to reclaim our integrity and act on our values we must be willing to risk losing the very things we were trying to protect and keep when we lied and kept secrets.

If you are going to speak your truth know it will come with a consequence. They may not make you drink hemlock or nail you to the cross, but at times it might feel like it. However, if we want a different life we will need to make different choices. They won’t always be popular or accepted or appreciated.

I will say this again, you will not do this perfectly. Abandon the idea you will. The only thing we can absolutely do with certainty is not lie about where we stick our dicks, or are dick stuck.

Everything else is a negotiation. Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be when you get there? What is the best path?

If we can answer these questions from Perel, SpaghettiSam, and Madden, and act accordingly at least fifty-one percent of the time, there is hope for a better future.

If no one else tells you this today, regardless of the worst things you’ve done, know that you are worthy of love, forgiveness, and opportunity.

Regardless of who or what you value, moving forward and seeking contentment is always your choice.

Cheers,
Sean K.

2 thoughts on “04: A Love Letter to the Betrayer – The Three Questions

  1. Sean,
    Holy crap this is such good stuff where can I start? As you know from my previous blog I was cheated on by my son’s father and then rebounded into the waiting arms of a sexual sadist narcopath. Lol. Good times. That said, I didn’t know about his sex addiction til the end.

    “Frankly, I think our betrayed Partners need to ask themselves the same question. Are they staying because there is something here they still value or because they are afraid”

    I can field this one. For me it was fear. At first, in the beginning I thought it was love that kept me staying, it felt like love. After a ton of therapy? I realized I didn’t know what love even should look like. Ahem. Yeah. Humbling. So after therapy I realize it was fear that was driving me to stay. Fear of loss, fear of being alone with myself. Oh horror of horrors because I’ve been running from me my whole life. And also I was “staying for my son” which is really some bullshit that I told myself because I didn’t think I could make it as a single parent.

    Your next quote, “The whole mythology our Partners believe they can do and say anything to us, or about us post-reveal/discovery, under the guise of “Yeah, but you cheated” is just as manipulative as us blaming them for our actions. It lacks the integrity that is demanded from us”

    Another excellent point. Betrayed partners who are not in therapy dealing with their pre-relationship shit are apt to wield the “you cheated shit” longer. Lots of anger and resentment festers, it can be overlayed with older injuries . Less apt to look at their own culpability in the breakdown of the relationship. Infidelity rarely (operative word) happens in a vacuum. There are some exceptions. This is coming from me, the victim who nearly killed myself from the pain in both relationships. While I don’t blame myself for his actions. There were signs that I overlooked. Signs he wasn’t present and not meeting my emotional needs and I stayed anyway…. Hello? Not okay, screams lack of self esteem and boundaries and a whole lot more. After therapy, I was able to see the ways in which I may have failed him.

    Good good stuff man. Thank you!

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