Dear Chump Lady,
Why do we care what cheaters say to justify their infidelity? Do all chumps fear validation issues as much as I do?
I am a person, who is strong and have a good set of supportive parents, family and son. They know me, trust me and see nothing wrong in me leaving my marriage. Over the last 2.5 years of my husband’s cheatings and blaming me for his neglect, I got support from some good friends and extended family and even some members of his family. However, my strategy was to stay put in my place and fight.
The fight was context dependent as I come from different set of values and beliefs (I belong to a middle-class north Indian family). This fight needed me to cut open his allegations about my being a bad wife, daughter-in-law etc., by reasoning and evidences. In the process, my husband lost a lot — his friends’ and employers’ respect, distrust of his son and a number of his family members. However, this “doing the right things and going on” strategy has led me to become very approval seeking. I was approval seeking earlier too and this was my weakness, which my husband exploited. But, I didn’t know this fault of mine then. People say I am too emotional and too value-laden. But, I don’t know why I care for the opinions of my near and dear ones and about society in general. Is this common to all chumps?
What can I do about it, when I feel bad about people’s opinion about my being a single mom? What can I do, when I feel let down with comments like I didn’t care for my husband enough and that he left me for my failings? I did go through therapy and approval seeking has been identified as one of my behaviour traits. However, whatever I do, I just don’t seem to get over it. The failure of my marriage has perhaps hit this part of me the most. If I can get over this wretched feeling of guilt and approval seeking, I think I am over most of my pains. What should I do?
You sound like a lovely person. Most chumps are. Considerate of others, people pleasing, attuned to what other’s need. This probably makes you very pleasant to be around. Entrusted to the wrong person, however, these qualities can also make you a chump.
What should you do? Know where you start and other people end. It’s okay to consider others, to want to earn their good opinion of you, and it’s quite another to shrivel up and loathe yourself if they don’t approve. When you’re clear on your values and who you are, then the slings and arrows of others’ judgements cannot hurt you in the same way. If you need their good opinion to feel good about yourself? You’ll give their disapproval a lot of weight. If you don’t need their good opinion? You can listen to garbage opinions about “single mothers” and pity them for their ignorance.
Let me put it another way. If I told you, Anudi! I hate you for being a purple Martian! You’d be taken aback, but think me crazy. You know you’re not purple or from Mars. The error is mine. You see, people cannot land blows on you unless you at some level you believe these things to be true, or are unsure. Maybe you deep down believe there IS something wrong with being a single mother. There is some whiff of failure in being divorced. That these things make you Less Than.
I’m sure in a country like India it must be exceptionally difficult to stand out. To buck tradition and patriarchy and entrenched entitlement. It’s everywhere, but women like you Anudi are pioneers, like women were generations before us. My aunt divorced in the 1970s (her husband was an alcoholic, philandering lawyer). Back then, the U.S. laws stated women couldn’t get loans without their husband’s permission. She couldn’t hire a lawyer until her boss (years later) fronted her the money. She had to buck that culture — and Anudi, you have to buck yours and not lose your soul. Know that who you are and what you’re doing is ADMIRABLE. Don’t internalize the judgement! You gave your marriage your very best effort. No one is perfect, and your ex-husband certainly wasn’t. You could not control him, and you should never have had to tolerate his disrespect and abuse. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is an asshole.
Seriously, cut these people from your life or hold them at a distance. You don’t need their negative messages. Let’s start with your cheating ex-husband. Why would you look to that idiot for validation? Consider the source! To quote Frederick Douglass again: “A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.” He’s not a gentleman. He’s a liar and a cheat. His words are worthless.
Don’t stop being a lovely person. Don’t stop caring about others or what they think. But don’t lose sight of yourself. Your values (like self respect) are going to conflict with others sometimes. Let the haters hate. You can’t do anything about that. Just hold your head up high and keep being your awesome self.