So my husband posited this theory yesterday and suggested I write about it. (With the hope, of course, that we prove his theory…) He believes the difference between the Stuck and the Unstuck is emotional sloppiness. He posits that blabbing to everyone about what happened is essential to field marshaling and getting yourself the hell away from cheaters. The folks who stay stuck, in his opinion, are the folks who keep the secrets. Who maintain the image. Who keep things under wraps.
I think he’s on to something.
He’s a verbal gerbil and he got unstuck very quickly. Ten entire days of false reconciliation (other affair partners emerged) and he filed and separated. He was immediately on infidelity boards, found his own therapist, chucked the marriage counseling and got divorced in under four months. (God bless Texas and its 60-day divorce laws.)
He told his parents, his kids, his friends, his siblings, a few neighbors, his realtor (who took him to feed cattle to keep his mind off it). He was the walking wounded, and he didn’t hide it.
Me, I wasn’t as much of a quick study as he was. But I did have a big mouth. I also told everyone, and got on infidelity boards, and was incredibly emotionally sloppy. On my D-Day (the first), we were having a new furnace installed, and I had to pay the bill. As I wrote the check for $8,000 (out of my account, of course), I burst into tears and told the steamfitter what happened. He looked stunned and told me he’d “hold me up to Jesus” and pray for me. Which was very nice of him in a Bible-thumping, Lancaster County kind of way.
The upshot of telling everyone, is that I couldn’t really front that my life wasn’t falling apart. Everyone knew it was a dismal wreck. And the brave people in my life bitchslapped me into lucidity when I did stupid shit like take him back. Don’t get me wrong, I still tried to maintain I had it all under control (unicorn chump!) — but they knew the ugly details.
And looking back, I think I told people the ugly details because at some level I wanted them to keep me accountable, to be my reality check. I knew I had a hopium problem.
I told the therapist when he threatened to kill me. I told the people at county court. I told my appointed lawyer at Mid-Penn Legal Services.
And yet, I still didn’t believe myself, that this was my life, that this was truly happening to me. That the wedding I celebrated 6 months earlier, the new life I had bought into so completely, the love I felt, the dreams I had planned were crashing down like a burning Zeppelin.
Every person who knew, who reacted in horror and compassion, was a guide post on my way out of that darkness.
Contrast this with the Stuck. If you don’t tell the secrets, who can unburden you? Who is going to look at YOU with horror and compassion? Who will give you those reality checks? Who will light your way?
If you maintain their image and never speak of what they did to you, and how it felt, and what the repercussions were — how will you, or anyone else, ever see who they really are?
If instead of emotional sloppiness, you have super powers of reserve, how will you know this loss is real? When you look at the news, when someone learns of a death, those people collapse in grief. They wail. They sob. No one judges them for it. This is what grief looks like. If you keep it under wraps, are you telling yourself and others that It Wasn’t Really That Bad?
Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe you don’t feel the betrayal that deeply. But if you do, then what? Does it eat at your guts? Make you sick? Is it like that Langston Hughes poem?
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
like a heavy load.