As many of you know 15 months ago I took Painter to court to try and recover personal belongings and force a conversation about a division of assets. It’s been an important and meaningful experience for me. The experience has been worth every anxiety attack.
I would do it again. I would do it sooner.
I’m not going to spend a lot of energy on this post because I am still digesting a few things that happened in court yesterday morning.
Here is the outcome.
The judge ruled that clearly, I was a partner engaged in both the well-being of the relationship and of the partnership. Painter kept and sold things that were not hers to sell or keep. He ruled that Painter “unjustly enriched” herself by selling off assets that were mine or were ours.
At the end of the day, the Judge awarded me more money than I expected, wished us well, and closed the case.
There is a lot to unpack in this experience and I’m not sure how I feel emotionally or mentally at the moment. It is a win but doesn’t feel like a win, but that is a different post.
At lunch yesterday with Chef and Star, I remembered a simple truth. “I didn’t do this to Painter. Painter brought this on herself by not stepping into, and leaning into her own discomfort. I simply did what I did because growth demanded I defend my life and stop enabling takers.”
I say this knowing just as Painter or Beatrice are not responsible for my betrayal, lies, and secrets, I am not responsible for theirs. At the end of the day how each of us reacts or responds to others is about our relationship to our emotional selves. Essentially, the ways in which we rigidly grasp our stories, imaginings, and entitlements define how we react or respond to the world around us. It defines everything from our suffering to our joys.
I’ve spent a long time now letting go of the stories, imaginings, and entitlement.
At first, it was in the hopes Painter would see the commitment and allow a bit of clemency. I’ve come to realize, what a naive romantic pursuit that actually was. Beatrix’s call simply gave Painter the excuse she needed to do what she wanted within a role she understood, coping in the only way she knows how.
At least that is what I imagine when I am being compassionate and trying to offer her clemency.
I missed Painter for a long time, or at least missed who I was when we were together. I really liked us together.
Today, I like us apart too. Now I like who I am without her.
As the Judge talked, and Painter sat and stewed at the table next to me, I recognize she continues to believe herself a victim.
Somewhere today is a conversation about the patriarchy screwing her. I imagine Painter and her friends are having that conversation about rural Wisconsin’s patriarchy and the “good old boys” ganging up on women. Anyone that reminds her that this was avoidable and a consequence of her actions will be kicked out of the mob.
It’s easier to be resentful and entitled than accountable.
Of course, she could also be thrilled.
Financially, she is in good shape. I paid nearly $70,000 of her bills in the three years we lived together. I paid the mortgage, utilities, and almost all the repairs to the house and cars. I paid for the boys and their clothes, games, and entertainment.
I spent tens of thousands on her business.
What she has to pay me now is a pitenance compared to what I invested into our life–into her life or the inventory she continues to sell on her Etsy pages.
Yet knowing this, I don’t regret a moment or a dollar invested into our life together. If I had better boundaries I’d probably have done it differently, but I would do it again.
I loved her and in loving her I discovered myself.
I recognize there will always be a variety of opinions around infidelity. The discussion will often revolve around whether a man or woman that cheated has any freedom to feelings such as grief, pain, sadness, loss, hurt, self-pity, remorse, or even happiness and joy.
Of course, a small number of bitter and sanctimonious people bound to common enemy intimacy are always going to opt for the vindictive and shallow. Which, probably explains the emotional trajectory of their pre and post-infidelity relationships. It’s always about them and so there is no space for other people’s experiences.
That was Painter’s argument in mediation and in court. “I’m a victim of abuse,” Painter claimed. It was never that Painter refused to discuss the end of the relationship, the returning of my belongings, or the division of assets.
“Those were gifts,” she claimed repeatedly.
When I took Painter to court there was some monkey business about how I was harassing this poor girl or dragging things out to punish Painter. Ignorant people called me narcissistic and worse for wanting things returned and a conversation on assets.
My therapist and friends called it adulting and it’s about time.