Only a few people know the root of my decision to take Painter to court.
As I said before, I’m not going to get into the weeds of the topic, but after talking to a guy this week, I want to add a few thoughts for those struggling with moving forward.
There was a great deal of energy invested in weighing my options. I tried talking myself out of doing this for a long time. My decision not to act sooner was a shame-informed mistake. I took how I felt about myself as a directive not to defend myself. Essentially, “I deserved to be punished. I will forfeit every positive action I have contributed to the rigid and shallow story of infidelity.”
A lazy narrative entirety too familiar around infidelity.
Essentially, I should have sued Painter around month twelve after the breakup. Motivated by shame, I believed if I gave Painter time and were patient, she would eventually have a conversation about several things, including returning my items and dividing property.
In my situation, those beliefs are idealistic and naive.
In reality, I was avoidant of conflict and enabled her entitlement. As my closest friends reminded me repeatedly, Painter is never going to take responsibility to return anything, her cuntishness, or the fucketty around our relationship.
As my Queen, I thought she was better than me and would eventually step up. She isn’t. She didn’t.
I talked to the Good Doctor for over two years before deciding on this course of action. I spoke with Tiger repeatedly over the years before I filed. I sought counsel and reflected on what I needed to do. I went back and forth and back again.
Nothing was done impulsively or in reaction to Painter.
A few experiences finally caused me to act.
First, I finally accepted that Painter was never going to step up and adult. Frankly, I foolishly expected her to act in a way she never acted in our relationship.
Secondly, I recognized my growth required me to act in my best interest and stop being concerned for Painter’s well-being. Repeatedly throughout the relationship with Painter, I have placed her feelings, opinions, needs, and wants ahead of my own. It was how I prove my value.
This myopic approach to intimacy, vulnerability, and relationships by nature requires secret-keeping and deception. As a result, too often, I cared for her instead of about her. During our relationship, I never held her accountable emotionally, sexually, or physically. Instead, I made excuses and picked the ball-up and carried it.
I’m not doing that anymore.
Frankly, I’ve come to recognize holding someone accountable is loving. That isn’t the same as punishing someone. There are differences, and if you are interested in learning more, I recommend this podcast from Brene Brown on Shame and Accountability as an introduction to the topic.
Also, I recognize putting my life back together demands I hold myself accountable for defending it appropriately. Painter chose to end the relationship. She was always free to make that choice. However, she isn’t free to leverage my shame because of her entitlement.
However, in a single statement, Tiger pulled together years of therapy and self-reflection for me. Crossing Nebraska last year, she said, “No matter how patient, empathetic, and understanding you are, no matter how much responsibility you take for your behavior, Painter is never going to respond in kind or own her cuntishness.”
Frankly, I wish Painter had stepped into the opportunity to confront her patterns. She isn’t stupid; she has to have some awareness. At least that is the story, I choose to imagine.
I hurt for her because I know there is much more possible for her. However, as Tory Eletto writes, “You cannot force people you love to heal.” Every choice she has made makes sense, or else she would have chosen differently.
Over the years, I have respectfully offered Painter chances to return my things and discuss dividing shared assets. Most recently, about a month before I filed.
Predictably, Painter responded as I knew she would when I offered her an opportunity to adult: run to others, play the victim, and have them intercede on her behalf. Like she has done over and over and over and over.
When I got the phone call from one of her Heroes, it came as I predicted to the Good Doctor it would. Not that I’m clairvoyant, I simply have lived with her pattern long enough to see it. For me, the first step to breaking the pattern requires recognizing the pattern and stepping on it.
That is the pattern repeated before, during, and after our relationship. I never recognized the power of beautiful women to get men to behave specific ways until I was on the sharp end of Painter’s sword and not the one wielding it in her honor, but that is another post.
In the past, the pattern would turn and I would step away not wanting to cause further drama. That is the pattern!
I did that in year one after months of her Flying Monkeys bullying, harassing, threatening me, and making suggestions I kill myself. I avoided what needed to be done legally. I would never stand silently and let a stranger threaten another person the way they threatened me. However, out of shame and my desire to protect Painter’s feelings I did nothing to protect myself.
This time, I simply filed the paperwork. I broke the pattern and I have zero regret or remorse for that choice.
After the Police Chief served Painter, her Flying Monkeys began circulating the story my obsession with Painter drove my decision. Their stories were coupled to nonsense about a selfish need to hurt others for power.
However, the reality is far simpler. Painter has a right to end the relationship, but she doesn’t have a right to all the assets I brought, she wants to keep, or I invested in our life together. Any other story is simply bitter men and women justifying entitlement.
Of course, so many people are certain they know me and actively imagine my intentions. Of course, no one asks. I chuckle at the use of the word “certain” because it reminds me of Dr. Christian Conte’s statement, “Certainty is a feeling, not a cognition.”
It’s interesting to me how the story circulating strikes me emotionally versus other things. I may be angry, hurt, and grieving other things, but the rumors they are imagining and spreading around the lawsuit aren’t touching me because I know the truth of how I got here.
Because of how deep I have dived and how far I have swum, I hear this nonsense, and I realize how little I care about others’ opinions beyond Painter. And even that doesn’t matter as much.
Today I recognize labels such as narcissist, predator, and con man have no basis in what is happening or happened before. The ugliest of accusations are leveled by people that were never there and haven’t dealt with their acts of infidelity, bigamy, and mental illness. There is no basis for these accusations beyond the most damaged of people.
When I am centered and curious, I can see myself for who I am and not who people imagine I am. As Dr. Christian Conte writes, “You are not anything you are not. Stay focused on who you are.”
My amends begins by owning what is true about me and not what people imagine is true about me. Suing Painter symbolizes the meaningful growth I have made away from shame and the shallow narratives of identity, infidelity, and love. Just as I have “Loved Painter and betrayed Painter,” I can “Love Painter and hold Painter accountable.”
There are unintended amends in taking Painter to court. It is making amends for years of acting her Hero, treating her like someone too fragile to suffer discomfort, and feeding her entitlement. I’m treating her as an equal now instead of my Queen.
More importantly though, holding myself accountable by defending my own life is loving myself and taking responsibility for my life. I realize this changed perspective has created not just momentum but momentum away from the status quo, the stories, and the trauma of my past.
If you betrayed your Love(s), life, and self try to remember that being responsible and being held accountable is not punishment. It might feel like it at first but it isn’t.
Also, know that accepting punishment isn’t being held accountability or being responsible. People that haven’t cheated aren’t better people. They simply make different choices. If you have to use court do protect yourself from threats do so. If you need legal help to defend your life I encourage you to do so. I know it is scary, especially if, like my you have no experience with the legal system beyond Law & Order reruns or Judge Judy but make the same investment to defend your life as you did to rewrite it with your betrayal.
Your mistakes do not make you unworthy of legal protections.