53: A Frank Story, Et Al

Since we’re being frank, and Painter brought this up, I was originally going to address Et Al in a bit more detail. I believe my earlier post was pushing back against Painter’s gaslighting and shaming.

I had thought about explaining and giving more details, tossing in a few images, and stories as I owned my own experience. I had debated defending my life and choices. However, after some reflection and dinner with Chef last night, I realize how little I care about the details, or what anyone else thinks happened.

Although, I remain shocked, SHOCKED, at the questions she asked and the narrative spread since the end of our relationship of an affair with Et Al too. Like so many interactions with Painter, I was dumbfounded by the accusations.

As I have said before, I have plenty of shitheadery and fucketty in my infidelity and subsequent betrayals of Painter and Beatrix. Ask me about what I did or didn’t do. If the goal is to make me look like a monster we don’t have to make up accusations. Although, accusing me of a second affair, suggesting to people that Chef is stalking her, telling people I was sleeping with other women as I traveled the country, and that I was using money to control her are all revisionist history.

However, because I remain curious, I came home and really wondered if Painter was right, “Was it an affair?” Was I deluding myself to avoid the discomfort of looking clearly and without judgement at myself?

Painter’s decision to label it an affair means it is true for her, or she needs it to be true. Whatever.

In my opinion, it isn’t an affair as I define affairs – and I have a very broad definition of infidelity.

Infidelities core component is shame and secrecy. I have no shame about my relationship with Et Al, what happened, or the way it played out.

It certainly wasn’t a secret.

I may have remorse and regret about how poorly I managed my behaviors but I won’t be shamed. It was a poorly executed attempt by all involved to explore sensuality, sexuality, vulnerability, connection, and intimacy. Although, none of us were particularly emotionally agile or honest about intentions, motivations, or goals. Gin inhibits more than simply inhibitions. There was no kitchen table conversation about what was and wasn’t on the menu. What we could, or couldn’t indulge in, so to speak.

The other truth is, we are each responsible for how that experience was managed. All three of us are adults and all three of us participated, encouraged, and flirted with this experience. I’m not clear how anyone is at fault. We aren’t children.

And frankly, Et Al drove a long way for the opportunity to indulge in Painter’s company, not just mine.

Definitely not making that mistake again with Chef and have used that experience to improve my skills. I’m definitely better at clarity in those situations.

Frankly, Painter asked me the wrong question. She failed to ask the meaningful question. If she has asked me if I betrayed her in relationship with Et Al, than yes.

Yes, I did.

I would list all the ways how I behaved was a betrayal of her trust and sense of safety–but we didn’t have those conversations then because we both were pursuing comfort and lacked the skills to really sit and talk about what mattered despite the fact we both wanted to figure it out.

We certainly aren’t going to have them now.

However, that was always the pattern in the relationship. Anything that made her uncomfortable was someone else’s burden.

The other reality is if Painter believes she is a victim of abuse she should be in real therapy digging into her stories. Perhaps even examining what she was contributing to these relationships. Perhaps she would be looking how she ended up in one more relationship with someone that she labels an abuser. What is true and what is the projection?

If she feels shame over what happened that is one more thing to discuss with a licensed, professional psychologist. I’m not responsible for her shames.

However, that would require a willingness to be uncomfortable and check her own neurological wiring.

Far more confusing for me is why any of it matters at this point. Why does it matter to her? Why does it matter to me? Why bring this nonsense into court nearly four years later?

I’m fairly certain I didn’t respond to the topic the way she expected when she brought it up in court. The three of us did what we did. I did what I did. We are all consenting adults. Again, we are adults.

Painter got what she asked for. The relationship is over. Painter’s moved on. I’ve moved on. This is what she wanted so why is she dragging stuff unrelated to why we are in court to court?


Honestly, I had a bunch written on this subject.

The reality is, I once cared deeply what Painter thought and felt. I cared how my choices impacted her and our life together. To be frank, I’m fairly ambivalent about Painter, how she feels, her perspective on this topic–and many other topics.

I also don’t see any reason to reveal details about Et Al or her life. I’m not interested in betraying Et Al’s trust. Of all the people involved in this experience I imagine Et Al understands more than most what has happened.

Lastly, none of these stories matter if we aren’t going to talk and listen to each other. And despite all that I know today I would still talk to Painter as if she was someone I once loved. I would till listen to her like she is someone I once loved. Despite her disorganized response to her discomfort she isn’t a bad person. Good people can cope in poor ways.

We practice what we know until we know better.

However, Painter has had plenty of opportunities to ask me questions or confront me.

Instead Painter just makes up some story to justify her behaviors. A coping skill I recognize as my marriage to Beatrix was full of that kind of story internalizing and response justifying. I’ve frankly had enough of holding space for Painter simply to have it manipulated for her benefit. I still care about her but I cannot care for her.

I still love Painter, and despite my best efforts–and hers–probably always will. However, breaking the pattern requires I stop pursuing the distancers in my life. As such, despite her stories I stopped pursuing Painter a long time ago. Today I pursue growth.

I spent nearly a decade arranging my life around Painter’s life because I wanted the relationship with her to grow. I was willing to spend another decade doing do the work to love her better–but as Stan Tatkin writes, “love isn’t enough.” Today, I will no longer invest the energy in a relationship with a distancer that lacks the self-awareness to occasionally stop running.

I have a new life and new opportunities. I have great intimate relationships with people that participate. Today, I am pursuing something more meaningful.

That is far more interesting but grief is gonna haunt.