Dear Chump Lady,
I have been “stalking” your site for a few weeks now, gleaning a lot of wonderful advise from you and the terrific folks who are part of the Chump Nation. I am one of you.
My ex cheated on me twice, although the first one was with a woman on-line 16 years ago, “so, it didn’t count,” according to him. According to me and the mental health professional we saw for 6 months, yeah, it was cheating, but, due to many circumstances and a very young family, we decided to give our marriage another try.
Eighteen months ago I found evidence on social media of his love for his best friend’s wife, kicked his dead ass out of the house and proceeded to have panic attacks, soul crushing anxiety, intermittent with relief that I was finally going to be able to breathe again, have a life again. Filed and got my divorce, now, walking around with a smile on my face most of my days.
What made this phase of my life so strange is that I had two, not one, but two mental health professionals test and diagnose my ex with NPD, once while he was in the Navy with a Navy shrink, and once in civilian life by a very well respected counselor in our area. And still I stayed married to him, fed him ego kibbles until I was almost dead from exhaustion, trying to convince myself that once we got our two youngest off to college it would all be different. We were two years short of my “goal” for us, the girls were high school juniors when I read about his undying love for the whore. Through his unemployment (2 years+), through naval deployments, through schooling for him…I took the odd jobs, working off shifts and working two and three part-time jobs so he could go to school to advance his career and we would not need to hire daycare for our three girls. Not to complain about how we managed to raise our family, but I was hoping for some payback, if you will. Well, I got payback, BIG time. Six days before our 20th wedding anniversary, I read his missives to her, and how he couldn’t go on without her. I literally chased him out of the home. It was AWESOME! And then the reality set in and so did the fears, panic attacks, anxiety, money woes, blah, blah, blah….
Long story short, 18 months later, he still takes up space in my head, rent free. Not nearly as much as before, but he’s still there, sometime frolicking happily with his still-married whore-friend. I can most times successfully push those scenes out of my head, but, he’s still THERE. I want “meh” — but, more than meh, I want to forgive.
I am old enough to have forgotten many of the wrongs that were done to me from grade school on, so I guess that is a form of forgiveness. I really want to forgive. Not to forget, but truly I want to not give a shit and actually know that I forgive his lousy, narcissistic, cheating, lazy ass. Not that I will let him know if and when I forgive. It is not his business, and most likely, not a concern of his. Is “meh” the forgiveness I am looking for? Do you or any one else in this forum actually believe that forgiveness– true, heartfelt, religious-like, (Christ-like?) forgiveness is possible when the person you want to forgive is such a dysfunctional turd? I am really beginning to love my life — my kids are my focus and making there last few years in high school grand and wonderful has been a blast, I have a beautiful support system with precious family and long-time friends who have been patiently waiting for me to get rid of him and welcome me back into their social fold. But, I am hung up on this forgiveness thing. I feel that it might be wrong to keep moving forward without it. How can that be? Will it happen? or is meh the best I have to offer?
Hmmm. I wonder if you shouldn’t have written to a theologian. But you asked me, so I’ll give you my take on forgiveness — I think “meh” is forgiveness. I think it is enough to not actively wish them dead. I’ve covered this topic a few times, if you want to do some back reading. Essentially, my take on forgiveness for someone who is not acting one bit sorry, who is not making amends for the wrong they did, and in fact, may still be trying to provoke and harm you — is that you must detach. Go “meh.” Don’t let them drag you down, create that new life, and try and achieve indifference to their crazy. It’s the best thing you can do for your sanity AND it releases you from victimhood. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu — it “unchains you from the perpetrator.” You stop living and reliving the hurt. You stop reacting, and start focusing on your own path.
Where I part ways with a lot of people is that I don’t think forgiveness is imperative. That kind of Christ-like, saintly aura of well wishing. The whole “go and sin no more” welcome into the fold of disciples kind of thing. For one thing, odds are, your cheater is going to go and sin some more. For another, we aren’t Jesus. He sets a pretty high bar. I don’t have it on authority or anything, but I’m wagering He is okay with “meh.” Meh is very New Testament. Contrast that with Old Testament God, who is all about smiting people and raining hell fire and brimstone on sinners’ heads. Old Testament God is pretty unequivocal on infidelity — Thou shalt not commit adultery. A commandment! With no caveats like, well if she drove you to it, or you were in a sexless marriage, or were kind of bored one afternoon…
I also don’t think you need to forgive in order to whitewash your victim status, like his crimes are some kind of stain on YOU. “Oh, I’m past it now. I forgave him.” Like, quick! Get over it! Lest anyone think you’re a chump! “Victim” is thrown about like this dirty word — “don’t play the victim.” Cindy? No one is play acting at victim. You were chumped for 20 years. Disrespected. Abused. (I am of the opinion that infidelity is abuse.) You are a victim of infidelity. But that shit does NOT have to define you. We cannot control what others do to us (i.e., victimizing us). We can increase our odds that it not happen again. We can get smarter, wiser, have more boundaries. But we aren’t responsible for (or didn’t drive anyone to) abuse. They did that to us. What we DO get to control, is ourselves. How we’re going to react.
“Meh” is saying — you don’t have power over me any more. You don’t fill my head or my heart. I don’t react to your provocations. You didn’t destroy me. I have risen above this pain and I am rebuilding my life. I am indifferent to your existence. If karma bites you in the ass, that’s between you and God. I am not plotting your destruction. I have my own life to work on and I trust that given your crappy character and your personal depravity, this shit will catch up with you. Whether it does, or does not, matters less and less to me as the days go by — because my new life eclipses my old life. My new life is good and I fill it with people who respect my gifts and my love. I’m sorry you did not appreciate these gifts. Your loss.
That is what forgiveness looks like to me. That’s what “meh” feels like to me now seven years after DDay. I have a blessed and full life and he’s not a part of it (except as blog fodder).
I’ve fielded the bigger forgiveness issue to my dad, a United Methodist minister. Hopefully he’ll report back soon. But FWIW, as a man of the cloth, his reaction to my ex was wishing my grandfather was still alive to take my cheater on a “hunting trip” and shoot him.
I don’t think his conscience bothers him for that remark. Yours shouldn’t bother you either. We do the best we can.