You are, however, not perfect. But neither is anyone else.
If I had experienced different things,
I would have different things to say.
The Book of Awakening
It’s been a year since I read this meditation in Mark Nepo’s book, The Book of Awakening. I realize as I reread this post I wrote a year ago today that so much has changed and so much hasn’t. More work to be done but thought I should drop in a marker for next year.
I heard a woman say, “Change happens one funeral at a time.” At the time we were talking politics. However, in the years since I heard her say that I’ve come to appreciate this truth applies to a host of other places in my life as well. Fighting change invites suffering. Death is inevitable. The only way to grow and be healthy is to let go of the things that are dying.
Everything to its season.
As such, here is a brief summary of the deaths in my life that have created so much change:
- The Knight died: I cannot go back to playing the Hero in my relationships. I’m seeking a partner that is willing to see my attempts at playing Hero as they are, and love me enough to tell me I am enough as I am and don’t need to prove anything. There have been moments where I have slipped into that role but I say what that looked like over the last year here, here, and here. I don’t want to be that guy.
- The Queen died: A friend said to me this morning, she isn’t a Queen, she is a spoiled little girl. Ouch. I’m not sure I completely agree but I get her point. I’m seeking a Partner with enough self-awareness not to feed on my Patterns so as to prop themselves up upon a Throne of Appearances to avoid their own Uglies.
- My integrity died: I killed it the moment I started lying and keeping secrets.
- My Heart died: No two love experiences are the same. I can love again. I can love as deeply, passionately, thoroughly, but I will never love anyone the way I loved C. That is probably for the best. Looking at the patterns it was an immature love and I can only change my part of the pattern.
- The Mythology died: I really believed, in my deepest, quietest places, I would share the last half of my life with her watching her paint and having her dance with me. We would own an old building in some quiet Mississippi River town, a studio and gallery on the first floor, our flat upstairs, and a motorhome parked out back allowing us to escape the winters. That death has been a hard felt one.
- The Relationship died: There wasn’t just mythology, there was reality too. I believed, perhaps out of naivety, that as long as we were together we could overcome anything including the bad and Uglies…but it takes two and she isn’t interested.
- Shame died: Either the shame died or I would die. Although, it’s kind of a walking dead. I just have to make sure I don’t let bite me again.
A few other things died:
- My expectations
- My romanticism
- My identity
- Shallow Friendships
Some I’ve grieved and realized they are better dead.
The meaningful ones I am still grieving. Some I will grieve for a long time. Regardless, the echos of these deaths and their meaning will ring through the rest of my life. The bell cannot be unrung but the law of unintended consequences means that there are unforeseen, yet meaningful, important, and beautiful outcomes too. Not all consequences are negative if I’m willing to adopt a healthy perspective. Karma isn’t intended to punish but rather it intends to reveal.
SIDEBAR: My perspective on grieving has changed. I thought it was about surviving the pain. It isn’t. It is about sussing the meaningful lessons from mythology. More on this later. Grief, the Law of Unintended Consequences, Karma, Pain, Suffering, and Loss are all Friends if I listen and be willing to let die the things that need to die and embrace the change.
As such, I thought I’d make a list of what did these deaths change for me and bring about?
- Truer friendships and deeper connections
- Travel opportunities taking me 75,000 miles across 16 states over 12 months
- A reconnection with my writing and creativity
- Freedom from shame, secrets, and lies
- The reawakening of personal power and self-respect
- I bought a convertible
- My personal finances are much improved now that I’m not supporting C and her twins
- Pain that pushed me to listen and seek healing and counseling
- A growing understanding of people and love
- I’m less judgemental and more accepting of others and their Uglies
- I bought a sailboard
- I have better boundaries
- I’ve deep dived into vulnerability and it’s importance in my life
- Thicker skin and a better ability to separate the meaningful criticisms from the noise of self-righteous flying monkeys and trolls
- Improved perspective on myself emotionally, spiritually, sexually, and mentally
As a really wise woman said to me recently, “at some point I had to draw a line under the betrayal: what was is past, what is is future. I am sovereign over what happens next.” Looking at the changes death brought, and the change in my life, I realize how I leverage these experiences will determine my journey. I can either choose sovereignty over my life or I can wail over the casket of what was.
And for C? I’m not sure from her perspective, but this is how I see it (most days):
- She found a Partner she loves, loves her and didn’t cheat on her
- She has a relationship that is meeting her needs (else why be in it?)
- She doesn’t have to struggle with the doubt, confusion, and anxiety of sussing out the intentions, meaning, and truths from our relationship that I see so many couples resentfully and bitterly trudging
I’m sure more will be revealed to both of us. Change, like death, is unavoidable.
The wound is the place where the light enters you. – Rumi
I occasionally get pushback from individuals that see my writing as a con. They think because they read my writing that they know everything there is to know about me or that it is just another game in some scam they imagine they know. As if looking at someone’s painting or pottery tells me everything there is to know about the artist.
Recently, C took the initiative and wrote to me. A lot.
I wrote back. Too much.
It was never a conversation just accusations and rebuttals. We ended falling back into the Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic. It’s unhealthy.
Read more at the link[…]
One of my favorite two writers are the wife and husband team at Reconciled4Life. I feel I have a great deal in common with MindlessCraft and I really appreciate TigerLily’s directness. Their writing is truly a “No Bullshit Zone.”
Today TigerLily shared an October 5, 2013 post written by Anna Fels entitled Great Betrayals and it struck home to one of the central struggles I have with the consequences of my experience: I don’t know what the reality of my relationship with C was about.
I’m not going to pump this well too deeply because I want you to read the original post. If you’ve read anything I’ve written you know my story.
SIDEBAR: I always feel like there is a need for a disclaimer: C’s decision to end the relationship makes perfect sense in light of the depth of my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies. By ending the relationship she did the most loving thing she could for herself, me, and Us. I don’t like it but I get it. I’m entitled to nothing. Although, I would like my things back.
Anyhow, this sentence that TigerLily wrote, really jumped out at me: the “betrayed’s healing isn’t about [betrayers] maintaining [their] centrality. Healing from cheating requires allowing the betrayed some centrality.”
The doctor keeps reminding me, “all you can do is hold her hand – and only if she lets you.” I realize that regardless of what my xp does or doesn’t do, if I haven’t done the work necessary to reclaim my life and integrity, I can be of no use to others. Other people are not responsible for what needs to happen next. I have to put my oxygen on first and allow others the dignity of asking for help if they want it.
Only in this way can others reclaim the story of their life.
Also, here is one reason why I am still struggling. While I have never shied away from owning who I am and what I did, I have no idea what the reality is of our relationship.
I, of course, know how I feel and think. I’ve gone to great length to document it for myself, C, K, my doctors, and anyone interested enough to read what I’ve written. I have a narrative that is true to my experience: C was the one, the only one, even when I wasn’t acting as such.
Narratives are not bad. They are stories of how we make sense of the world.
On the other side C has her own narrative as does K. And if you were to talk to either of them, their narratives would be different than mine. Their narratives won’t agree either. That is not unusual or wrong. It doesn’t make anyone a liar.
I use to say “perception is the reality.” It isn’t. Perception is a perception it is neither right or wrong although we like to think so.
It simply is.
I hear, although it may simply be too much Law & Order, eyewitness testimony is the least reliable because the brain gets in the way of the facts. As a man that lied and kept secrets, I know a thing or two about how that works.
And here is the point: I use to think I knew the C’s truth. I use to believe I knew the reality of how C saw me. However, with the help of others, I’ve broken down my secrets and lies, practiced new behaviors in new relationships, and started to untangle all the unskillful patterns of my life with C I’ve come to recognize that I will never know C’s truth.
I see over and over as I’ve moved away from the eye of the storm that my relationship and life with C was far more than the sum of the betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies.
As far as C goes, I’ll never know how she sees me or herself unless she talks with me and I think at this point we can all agree: that is never going to happen.
The reality is she is recovering her life and trying to make sense of it all in her own way. She is engaged, living with her fiance, and he is part of her business now.
I hate it but I get it.
And if it helps to think me as a caricature to help her heal so be it. If it helps to pretend I never existed? Well, I’m not sure how that will work in the long run.
But I’m here. I’m willing. And I’m patient. I refuse to just slink away from my life like a coward. She will always be able to find me if she is ever interested in a conversation.
I’ve got skills and I intend to practice them.
However, where I get lost, and where I get confused is from the things I do know what happened. For example, while she was telling me she loved me and wanted to spend the rest of her life with me, she was telling others I was dangerous and controlling, and emotionally involved with other men. When she would say to me I needed to take responsibility she wouldn’t tell me what that meant. While I paid bills for the two months after I left she told other people I was trying to control her with money. When I decided to stop paying for the art studio after three months she responded talking about Us and We and making decisions together. While sharing a home and a life, while planning on buying a business together, she told K she was glad to be rid of me and was planning to throw me out anyway.
And then there are the patterns over and over and over which I’m not going to rehash here…mostly because it doesn’t matter at this point.
I have to keep reminding myself every situation is different but in reality: I don’t know what is true and I never will.
As such, I have a lot of options. Here are the Top 5:
- I can throw myself on the sword: it’s all my fault
- I can throw C under the bus: nothing is my fault
- I can move on and pretend none of it matters: plenty of fish in the sea
- I can embrace the narrative that seems most true based on my perception and endeavor to embrace new skills: lean into the experience
- I can get drunk. Often.
I’ve tried #1 and #5. They are non-sustainable.
#2 is a non-starter, I know better. Trying to integrate #3 into my life led me back to K’s bed and life of secrets and lies.
- C loved me and cared for me. She is a beautiful and magnificent woman, mother, and painter.
- She has a loving, generous, and caring heart and is an asset to her community, family, and kids.
- Our relationship was powerful, beautiful, and held deep and meaningful symbolism for us as a couple and as individuals.
- In the time we shared I could not have asked for a better partner. We loved our life together.
- Our inability to discuss the difficult emotional problems we created and brought with us would have eventually broken our relationship.
- The pain of my betrayal caused her to lash out. Regardless of rumors to the contrary, she wanted to make a life with me, trusted me, loved me.
- The depth of my betrayal shattered her and our life together in a way that is non-recoverable and catastrophic for Us.
- As a mother and woman safety and stability trumps vulnerability, exploration, and experience. I’m drawn to exploration and experience. Together these values both enhanced our love and limited our lives together.
- We both struggle with vulnerability, taking risks, uncertainty, and being emotionally open.
- I hurt her deeply and how she chooses to respond to that pain is her choice. A choice I have no control or influence over.
- We are mirrors for each other. She brought unskilful patterns, old secrets, and shame to our relationship, just as I did. We chose not to address those problems while together or apart.
- We both fell into roles which we felt most comfortable adopting leading us to codependent and enabling behaviors we both lacked the willingness or skills to discuss.
- Our expectations on each other were often unfair and unreasonable.
- I miss her. I will cherish our time together and use the experience to make something better moving forward. I will honor our experience by learning better skills, confronting my shames and fears, and leaving a place in my heart for her.
- If the time and place is right I will always be open to being with her again but I will not sabotage a relationship for her.
- I loved her paintings and creativity. The passion she brought to our life, love, and bedroom changed me in fundamentally significant and heartfelt ways for the better.
- Our relationship is more than the sum of my betrayal.
- My life is more than the sum of my betrayal.
- Our life together is more than the sum of my betrayal.
- Here pain is more than the sum of my betrayal.
- She was the one, the only one; my Love of loves. I miss her.
Choose Your Truth
Elle Grant at Betrayed Wives Club and Moisy Swindell at Making this Better both discuss choosing your truth and reintegrating into their lives and memories. Worth the read if you want some additional perspectives.
We lie to ourselves you see….. by Moisy Swindell
Now I know that I have to make my mind up about what I believe to have been the truth and go with that, because I will never know the truth; and it doesn’t matter what Rich says I will never fully believe him.
We say we want the truth. Do we really? by Elle Grant
The details really didn’t matter. They didn’t change anything. My husband had cheated on me. For yrs. With many ppl. That is, really, all I needed to kno. That, and what I was going to do about it…
Please leave your thoughts below. I’ll be curious what you think.
Here’s the thing, cheaters, the betrayed’s healing isn’t about you maintaining your centrality. Healing from cheating requires allowing the betrayed some centrality. A Betrayed’s recovery isn’t just about the fact that you have things to fix about yourself, though that is certainly a necessity for any safety to exist for the betrayed. It is also […]