I have been in counseling for one and a half to two hours every week for thirty-three of the past thirty-four months.
I have written and journaled for hundreds of hours over the last three years.
I’m not even going to guess how many hundreds of hours I’ve invested reflecting on truths about being human, being a partner, and being me in podcasts, reading, and videos.
Here is the thing, I’m deeply bored with the topic of infidelity. It isn’t even interesting.
There is more to my history, and future, than infidelity.
Infidelity wasn’t even the real conflict in my marriage or my relationship with my X or in my life. As someone on the Facebook Esther Perel Discussion Group recently wrote, “The affair is not something you do, it’s a place you go.”
I’m reminded over and over that the people that truly grow through this, with or without their partner or affair partner, are the ones that stop focusing on the infidelity and focus on feelings what is beneath the infidelity. Infidelity is the Way of the Thing, it isn’t the Thing. It is sunlight light reflecting off the moon.
I’m finished willingly wearing it as a dead albatross around my life. Believing everything my X has done is excusable, justified, or understandable. I’m finished tilting at the windmills created in the imaginations of other people.
I also realized something else after listening to Therapist Uncensored’s podcast TU51: Conquer Shame by Understanding the Science Behind the Feeling, with Guest Expert Dr. Steve Finn: much of the shame I carried over my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies is gone.
I have guilt, remorse, regret, and a few other truths I’m still sorting but I am making real, lasting, significant, change as I pursue skills and not relationships.
Once I finish this seventeen-week Affair Recovery Hope for Healing Course I’m moving on from this focus.
Ironically, I will finish the course almost thirty-six months to the week from the end of my relationship with my X. Almost seventy-two months to the day we started living together. And nearly one-hundred twenty months from when she and I traded our first love notes.
I have a handful of things I’ve had in the hopper to post. Some are mostly finished. Others are pencil scratchings with thoughts on this and that.
But as I said, I’m tired of this topic.
I was reminded of interesting truths in a conversation with my Good Doctor this morning:
- I like me
- I am happy
- I am more conscious about my habitualized responses to loneliness or sorrow
- I feel grief, loss, guilt and not shame, humiliation, isolation
I’m having a good moment. It will pass and when it does I’ll be okay because I know, not every day can be the best day…but today has been.
A green and yellow basket
Recently, I hit an emotional wall.
I recognize this is part of the pattern for me and I have been in this exact spot several times now. Essentially, I take responsibility for my patterns and choices and I blame myself for her patterns and responses.
In that process I refuse to stand up for what I need and want because I still have her on a pedestal. Like so many other (men) I make her comfort and feelings more valid than my own. When I have spoken up she plays victim. It is old damage and I struggle with how to navigate it in a way that represents taking responsibility and not blame.
The reality is I do not confront my remorse and regret skillfully. I try to manage it instead of experience it, and act accordingly.
Paraphrasing a friend, “For nearly three years you have ceaselessly excused, minimized, and justified your X’s behaviors. Shifting the blame onto your white horse and imagining her behavior is about yours. It is not. Her behaviors are as much about her Ugly as your Ugly was about you.”
She went on to say, “You keep thinking if you treat her respectfully she will treat you respectfully. That is not who she is Sean. Never was. Take off the rose colored glasses and really look into your past with her. Look at your bank account. Look into her art. Look at her friends, heroes, and choices. Look at how she responds to you even now. She uses people.”
Knowing this, I yet again stand once again at the foot of the wall. Clearly, there continues to be much to learn.
I wrote a letter to my love
While yes, my decision to have an affair, keep secrets, and tell and escalating series of lies is solely my responsibility, it doesn’t in any way diminish the reality of my X’s entitlement, grandiosity, or dishonesty before, during, and after our relationship. A reality I have too often chose to overlook out of passion, love, and a selfish need to be the Hero and make the relationship work regardless of the red flags.
I was reminded recently reading a love note on Twitter, being a contempt-filled, critical, and entitled bitter bitch doesn’t excuse someone’s infidelity but it also doesn’t make someone any less than a contempt-filled, critical, and entitled bitter bitch.
As Dr. Stan Tatkin writes, “Love isn’t enough.”
And that is why we cannot have nice things.
And on the way I dropped it
I dropped it, I dropped it
Guilt is a sign of a conscious. Guilt is a feeling, not a directive.
Accurately identifying my feelings is essential to skill development. To that end I’ve been listening to an early Therapist Uncensored podcast entitled TU51: Conquer Shame by Understanding the Science Behind the Feeling, with Guest Expert Dr. Steve Finn discussion regarding shamelessness, shame, and guilt has me thinking how limited my emotional vocabulary actually is.
For the first time in a long time, shame doesn’t run my life.
A few of the eighteen that caught me attention:
Liability – Sometimes feeling liability but not shame can cause feelings of guilt. You may feel guilty for not feeling shame over something you were liable for.
Penitence – The sorrow that accompanies penitence can often lead to depression and feelings of low self-worth.
Self-reproach- Similar to self-condemnation. Comes with feelings of guilt, shame, low self-worth, blame, and sorrow. You are likely ruminating frequently on the bad thing that happened or you think you did. You may be overwhelmed with these feelings, and you continuously beat yourself up.
And on the way I dropped it
A little Girl picked it up
I try hard not to judge a people or situation. I know how it feels & I wouldn’t want to do that to others.
And then I do. And then I try again. That’s why it’s a practice.
When I judge and mock others that’s my issue not theirs. When I look to start a fight it’s because I’m frightened.