Have you ever addressed how to get past the feeling of revulsion or “ick” when you finally see the cheater for who they really are?
I was involved with a cheating freak for 8 years. Very covert guy — likeable surgeon that always knew how to navigate social graces with well-placed humor or a generous offer to pick up the bar tabs for friends and strangers alike. Look at me! I’m a great guy!
Then I found out about his double life. (Secret girlfriend in another town and all the abortions that follow her) and fell down a wormhole of the most disgusting and vile behavior I have ever known a human to commit in secret.
Now I feel physical repulsion at the very thought of him, which is more often than I like to admit. It’s like he has infected my headspace. How to I get past the skin-crawling disgust I feel almost constantly knowing I shared the same air as him, much less my bed. I feel dirty. And no amount of hot shower is helping.
Disgusted in Kentucky
Dear Disgusted in Kentucky,
Perhaps you shouldn’t move past the “Ewww.” Your feelings are there to warn you not to touch — or commit your life to — disgusting things.
You’re asking me how to integrate the knowledge of Dr. Jekyll’s heinous deeds with the charming guy you thought you knew. When faced with this kind of cognitive dissonance (My! You don’t LOOK like a monster!), there’s only a few ways you can go.
1.) Spackle. Refuse to believe the evidence. He’s not a monster, he’s a fuzzy misunderstood kitten. Who acts out sometimes, but only because toxic shame/Mercury is retrograde/peanut allergy.
Do you want to make excuses for him? Explain away his double life with some crackpot theories? Knit a giant sweater from that fucked-up skein? No. I hope not. Which brings us to…
2.) Feign sophistication. Who among us hasn’t aborted a few kittens? Life isn’t black and white! Forgive and forget! You could try to integrate Dr. Douchebag’s nefarious double life with his charming guy persona by deeming it All Very Sophisticated and labeling your revulsion “judgement.” Don’t wrinkle your nose at kitten extermination!
Many people fall for the sophistication trap. It’s nice to consider yourself sophisticated. You can avoid all manner of icky, inconvenient truths. Sure it’s intellectually lazy and morally vacant, but the guy picks up the bar tab!
Feigning sophistication explains a lot of Switzerland friends. It’s a lovely free drink, until you find this person has stolen your wallet/wife/pension fund. And then judgement suddenly looks a lot less judge-y.
3.) Drop the skein. Kentucky, you could also decide to just decide. He sucks. In your moral universe you will not reconcile a double life with Mr. Nice Guy. He is his double life. That eclipses whatever facade he was fronting. You don’t have time to see what’s behind Door #147. Move on.
I know it’s shocking that such people exist. That’s our big takeaway lesson from being chumped — these people exist. It’s not ALL people. Mercifully, they’re a minority. But unfortunately a lot of people get snowed by fuckwits because of factors 1 and 2.
I wrote this once about the shock of discovering a double life — Surely You Must’ve Known.
We all see the world from our own moral lens. And if you have a particularly good set of morals (and assume everyone else does too), that makes you a good mark. If you’ve never experienced infidelity before and you know that you wouldn’t cheat on your spouse — you stumble around the planet with a certain naivety. You wouldn’t have done such a thing and therefore you can’t imagine a world in which the person you are most intimate with daily would do such a thing either.
That’s why infidelity is so shattering. It completely up-ends your view of the world, your sense of reality, of who you can trust. When it happened to me, it was like that scene in the Twilight Zone where the “normal” people suddenly rip off their masks and reveal that they are pig-snouted aliens. I was shocked to my core. The world has PIG-SNOUTED ALIENS?! WTF?! No one TOLD ME!
Kentucky, pig-snouted aliens walk among us.