A chump wrote to ask me what I thought about “pain shopping.” I had no idea what it was. So I asked her, “What’s pain shopping?” She wrote back, “Like when I ask my husband about his affair.”
So I googled. Apparently, in unicorn circles, “pain shopping” is that chump habit of hyper-vigilance, you know, where you ask your cheating spouse over and over what they did, and with whom, and how often. You need to stop that, because it’s just “shopping for pain.”
Strange metaphor. I never had to shop for pain with my cheater — he was giving it away for free. The man was like a Blue Light Special of Pain. Aisle 6! We’ve got your secret cellphones! Aisle 12! Multiple dating profiles! And act right now and we’ll throw in HIDDEN DEBT!
As you can imagine, I have a few problems with this concept.
It’s not that I want chumps to stay stuck in misery (I’m skeptical of reconciliation!), I am all about meh! And do forgive if you want to forgive (IMO it’s not mandatory). By all means get a life. But “pain shopping” still sounds like a euphemism for “eat the shit sandwich.”
The cheater would prefer that you not bring up the affair again? Don’t shop for pain! Eat the shit sandwich and stuff that natural impulse to catch them in a lie. Or be comforted. Or see remorse.
Shopping for pain seems to work from several faulty assumptions:
1) That the cheater is truly sorry, so you need to stop bringing it up.
2) That cheaters are Timid Forest Creatures and reconciliation is a fragile, endangered ecosystem that could be destroyed by your bad attitude.
3) That responsibility for this reconciliation is on you. It all depends on your emotional leadership. You’re pain shopping? You’re making a deliberate choice to STAY in pain.
How about THIS SHIT IS PAINFUL? And you’re in pain because you were betrayed, and it takes years to get past this crap. More I reckon if you stay married to the person who betrayed you. If it were as simple as tra-la-la focus on something pleasant instead there would not be a bazillion websites devoted to people obsessing over infidelity.
Let’s put some “pain shopping” through the Universal Bullshit Translator (UBT). These tidbits come from “The Betrayed Spouse’s Role After an Affair” at Marriage Advocates.
I developed a plan to let her see there was hope. My plan would NOT be to change her. It would be to try to motivate her to want to change.
Dude, that’s the same thing. Trying to motivate her to change is, YES, trying to change her.
Put down the codependency and walk away.
My anger and focusing on my pain and telling her about it? I had to stop that. I had to realize that my feelings were mine to contend with and work through. Work through, not ignore. She could help and support, but the feelings were mine. Without remorse and desire in her to help, I would feel all alone, but I wouldn’t later when she decided to try. For now, I had to show her I could and would face my own responsibilities and not make them hers, and I did.
This is fucked up on so many levels. If you hit me in the head with a threaded pipe, yes, the pain is mine. (You there with the pipe, you feel just peachy.) But the larger point is YOU HIT ME IN THE HEAD WITH A THREADED PIPE. The natural reaction to assault is pain.
Yes, I’ll have to work through my pain alone, but IMO part of working through that is avoiding people who want to assault me.
But no, you’re going to work with that, and even though she is “without remorse” — she might LATER try and feel sorry. So you’ll eat the pain on the small hope that she’ll be impressed with you taking your “own responsibilities and not make them hers.” YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HITTING YOURSELF WITH A THREADED PIPE. She hit you! She is responsible for your injury and ergo your pain.
And another thing — she’s NOT SORRY. You can wait around for sorry, but more likely, you’re in for another blow to the head, IMO.
Finally, I had to let her know – by showing her – that I was not going to punish her and make the affair a lifelong nightmare for her. She had every reason to believe and expect that I would. I accomplished this by promising to not do that and by demonstrating to her how I would control myself.
Sure, let the affair be a lifelong nightmare for you, but why hold someone responsible, who is in fact responsible? Yes, it’s all within your control. If you just control yourself, you’ll make her come around.
We don’t control other people through our self control or stuffing our pain or imagining them with unicorn horns.
It’s great you can control yourself. Now why not put that ability to a greater purpose, like say, giving up carbs for Lent.
I showed compassion for her feelings once she started to try. I knew she was going through withdrawal from the other man and did not abandon her to deal with it on her own. As would be expected, this was extremely hard for me, but it reinforced that we were a team. We were there to support each other, and this let her know I wasn’t going to punish her.
Let me get this straight, dude — you’ll wait on her “sorry” all alone, but you cannot “abandon” her while she grieves for her affair partner?
So fucked up.
Where she was at that moment clearly told me that she did not have that strength. My determination gave me that strength. I decided that my integrity and belief in my vows, “In better or worse and till death do us part,” should be my guide. I believed that marriage was partnership and that BOTH parties had to try hard to keep it going. Yet, she was unable to, so I had to be the rock and strength. I knew that failure was a possibility. I also knew the changes in me had to be permanent – not just to woo her back. I knew it wouldn’t work if I was making changes that were not me or that I would resent and regret later.
You think you can unilaterally change a marriage by yourself.
You put “BOTH” in all caps, although what you’re actually saying is that you’re in this alone because she’s “unable” right now.
Changes in YOU had to be permanent? So you’re saying the problem here is you? I’m sorry, who did you screw outside the marriage? You must woo her after she sucked some strange dick? Seriously?
Listen, if you want to reconcile, the unicorns have a point — you DO have to “let it go”. No one wants to stay locked in a marriage of the Martyr and the Fuck Up. But that’s the mental gymnastics you signed up for — suppressing the knowledge that this person betrayed you. Eating that shit sandwich in perpetuity.
Now, I would suggest you not eat it without a postnup and a ton of demonstrated remorse. You what demonstrates remorse? Answering the goddamn QUESTIONS! Taking the lead on repairing what you broke. Not asking chumps to stuff their pain.
If anyone is “shopping for pain,” it’s these crazy unicorns who don’t ask for one bit of accountability. Talk about a recipe for misery. Geez.
This column ran before and the RIC is still quacking.