For some reason I have an incredible need to be validated and vindicated as being “right” about things by my ex. I don’t want her back at all, but I really want her to come completely clean about all the bad things she has done and the lies she has told — basically to confess, for her to confirm and affirm that I was right about my suspicions and suppositions all along, and for her to feel bad about what she has done.
It’s the “not knowing” about what really happened about certain relationships that drives me crazy. I suspect many things, but can prove only few. And believe me, they are enough to make walking away the best decision. I have a high sense of “honor” about doing the right thing, even when I’ve done wrong. So I guess I’m projecting that onto her. Plus, since she did a total mind-%#@*/gaslight job on me, I just want to know I wasn’t crazy all along.
I know the problem with my desire for this is somewhere in my twisted mind and heart, but beyond that, I don’t know how to break free of what is presumably a totally unrealistic expectation.
Could you address this issue?
Thanks. And don’t take your foot off the neck of these liars and cheaters. Pain/pain avoidance is the only thing that motivates them.
You just answered your own question there, Buck-o. “Pain/pain avoidance is the only thing that motivates them.”
Yep. Cheaters have a pathological need to avoid — responsibility, grown up life, feeling bad, feeling guilty, feeling frustrated, feeling anything less than deliriously entitled and exceptional. Given what you know about cheaters and your wife in particular, Palmer, do you really expect her to say she was wrong? Because, gosh, that’s kind of a bummer.
Much better if you’re just an asshole who she had to cheat on because… oh I don’t know… you watch those insipid “Storage Wars” TV shows. Or you didn’t trim your ear hair. Or she never liked your cousin Ronny.
Because you know, if you cornered her and asked her to “feel bad” about cheating on you, she’d have to give you some crazy blameshifting excuses. And do you really want to stick your head in that blender?
Okay, I get it, that’s not the fantasy. In your imagination, she validates you. She dissolves into a puddle of moist, hanky-clutching remorse and answers all your questions. Yes I screwed him in our bed. On your birthday. I have multiple online identities, a drawer full of secret cellphones and assorted chargers, and a blonde wig I wear for incognito hook ups. Bobby? Oh yeah. Bobby too. And Jeremy and that guy who gave us an estimate on repaving the driveway. There were others.
Then she cries out in soul-piercing anguish, “And I am SO SORRY! I know I can never feel even a FRACTION of the pain I have inflicted on you! I am a terrible, terrible person unworthy of your forgiveness.” Sob. Sob. Sob.
And depending on your fantasy, you either turn on your heel and leave without a word. Or you magnanimously confer absolution of her sins, and then depart. And she’s crushed. And wrong. So, so Very Wrong. She’ll never get over it and she’ll spend the rest of her life trying to live with herself.
That doesn’t ever happen, Palmer. I’m sorry. You’re going to have to let that one go.
Why doesn’t it happen? Several reasons. Let’s start with the most obvious one first:
1) She’s not sorry. Sorry people act sorry. She’s not tripping all over herself to apologize because she doesn’t feel she has anything to apologize for. At some level she thinks you deserved this. (What did you think would happen when you didn’t trim your ear hair? Huh?) Your grief is this annoying background buzz that’s getting in the way of her fabulousness. She’s not going to bother herself with that.
Some of the freakier cheaters can fake remorse when they want something. But they cannot sustain it, nor can they describe it. (Ask “what exactly are you sorry about?” and watch them sputter to come up with the particulars.) Her lack of remorse is a sign that — yes, she’s perfectly capable of betraying you and not feeling one bit bad about it. She might care what other people think about it (she’s got a pocketful of justifications and self pity just in case), but you? Nope, she doesn’t care. It doesn’t hurt her to hurt you.
2) Even if she was sorry (and she’s not), narcissists need to save face. And they’ll do that at great personal cost to you. Character assassination? Bald-faced lies? Sure. If we’re having an epic battle of Who Is Right, they’re going for the jugular. It’s a dirty fight you won’t win. The best thing to do is trust your senses, know you’re right, and not engage. Walk away from this and live your life with integrity. The people who matter will get it. The one’s who don’t matter will be swayed by her spin, and good riddance to bad rubbish.
3) They get their sick jollies from knowing what you don’t know. Gives them shivers of delight, makes them feel powerful having this knowledge you want. Why would they hand over their power? Why would they make themselves vulnerable? Disordered people love to lie about stupid shit that doesn’t even matter. Why? Makes them feel superior. I know this Thing You Don’t Know.
I know that’s the dumbest thing ever. It’s like saying you’re the greatest boxer in the world when your opponent is blindfolded and handcuffed, but that’s the kind of pathetic validation they need. They’re better than you! Don’t forget it!
Why do you need the details? Because denying someone’s reality makes a person stark raving bonkers. You want affirmation that these things really happened from the person who did them. But Palmer, listen to me, you’re never going to know all the details, and it doesn’t matter. Because she’s not in your life. You know enough to know that she sucks and she cannot be in your life. The rest is just the cherry on the shit sundae.
So why do you need to hear her apologies and explanations?
Bargaining stage of grief. You’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around who she really is, how little she cared, how much she got off on having a double life. And so the bargain your grief is trying to strike is, okay, she cheated and lied, but maybe, maybe she’s Really Sorry About That. So, she’s not a total waste as a human being. If she’s a total waste, then you have to accept that you invested in a truly dreadful person who doesn’t give a shit about you, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow. We’ve all been there, Palmer, some of us are still gulping.
If she wakes up and finds her conscience, first I’d be highly skeptical. What does she want? Next, remember it doesn’t matter. Your healing is not dependent on her confessions or remorse. These betrayals happened. They were real. You had to remove yourself from that painful situation. This can never be a “love” that is healthy for you. There is no explanation other than she did it because she could. Because her character allowed it. And people don’t get new characters overnight. If it happens at all, it happens over a long, painful period, when the boot of those consequences stays firmly planted on her neck.
Don’t waste your life waiting for that day. Trust that she sucks, Palmer. Trust that she sucks.
This column ran previously.