I stumbled upon your blog and subsequently your book after two D-days that unearthed three affairs over a six-year period. I’m currently in the process of separating from and ultimately divorcing my soon-to-be-ex-husband. We have 3 kids under 4 and he can be volatile so I have to approach divorce proceedings with a lot of wisdom.
We are still living together as i figure out how to go about this and line up my ducks…though that’s about it… this is essentially an in-house separation. We get along for the kids but don’t interact much outside of that.
Last week somehow a conversation about his Infidelities was initiated (I can’t remember how, I try as much as can not to engage him in this topic as this is as grey rock/NC I can be given our living arrangement and current situation) and he brought up the fact that I wasn’t/ hadn’t been a good wife.
This is true. We married young and I really didn’t know how to treat a man then. I didn’t respect him (and verbalized it on many occasions), turned him down sexually and isolated him. I was an asshole on many occasions.
Believe it or not I never meant to hurt him, as I’ve now come to see my wrongs and unearthed a plethora of emotional/ childhood issues and trauma that ultimately played a part in me behaving as I did. I’m working on healing from these and becoming a better, more compassionate human being. I own my behavior 100% however and won’t dump my actions on any issue or anyone.
I’ve read over and over that an affair isn’t the victim’s fault, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes what if I’d been different. What if I hadn’t been such a cold bitch at times? What if I’d respected and affirmed him? What if I’d been more available sexually (I was raised in a very strict religious denomination that promoted negative views on sex and never know how much they affected me until I got married). I grieve the marriage that could have been. I feel bad for having treated him that way. I hurt for my kids knowing my actions contributed to a less than ideal marriage.
He says he was looking for companionship and what was missing in our marriage. I can’t argue against that because he’s right, they were lacking in our marriage. Divorce is inevitable because I can’t trust him, yet I can’t help but feel the outcome and his choices might have been different had I been what he needed. Is this a mindfuck?
Dear Regretful Chump,
Yes. This is a mindfuck.
You didn’t drive your husband to cheat on you. He had an entire decision tree of ethical choices available and he chose — multiple times (multiple D-Days?) to screw around on you, and risk your health, emotional well-being, and children’s home life. He conducted a double life. That makes him the asshole.
We married young and I really didn’t know how to treat a man then.
We aren’t born with training manuals. You learn by doing. Which invariably means screwing up. You have to assume mutuality, however. That your partner will be an honest broker and communicate with you. That you both care about not causing the other harm.
This isn’t a gender thing, it’s a human thing. This “how to treat a man” phrasing raises my hackles. What’s that supposed to mean? Bonnets and butter churning? Deference and dick sucking on command?
Is he rending his garments over how he treated YOU?
I didn’t respect him (and verbalized it on many occasions),
Did he earn your respect? Does he behave respectfully?
turned him down sexually and isolated him.
You are allowed to turn down sex. You are not OBLIGATED to fuck anyone. There are no “wifely duties.” (Well, unless you live in a religious cult, or the 1950s. But you’re in luck, the Supreme Court might drag us back shortly.)
A great sex life is the happy sticky glue that holds many a relationship together. But it’s no guarantee of anything either. A thousand chumps here will raise their hands that they were rocking things in the bedroom, and they still got cheated on. And there are a bunch of companionable people who live together quite chastely by choice, or in frustration, who do not cheat. Cheating is a character issue.
Also, the Not Enough complaint is an ever-moving goal post. Oh, there was enough, but it was too vanilla? Or didn’t involve thirds, fourths, or quadratic equations?
I’m just saying, healthy relationships are about respect. You need to feel safe to get your freak on. Someone who is silently tallying up your deficiencies and fucking around elsewhere is NOT someone you can work with. It’s not healthy or safe.
I was an asshole on many occasions.
It’s laudable that you can own your issues and work to improve them. But, you didn’t drive him toward abusing you. That’s on him.
Apparently, you were such an asshole that he made three children with you in four years. You were so deficient he came back again and again to invest his life in yours. You were so awful he could not mention how awful you were, he could only express himself through fucking randos.
When you find yourself doing that post-D-Day calculus of Not Awful Enough to Divorce, But Just Awful Enough to Cheat On — you’ve been mindfucked. It’s blameshifting.
I’ve read over and over that an affair isn’t the victim’s fault, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes what if I’d been different.
Bargaining stage of grief. All the woulda coulda shoulda. It’s a comforting thought to think you could control outcomes. It’s much less terrible than vulnerability. We’ve all been there.
What if I hadn’t been such a cold bitch at times?
I don’t know. My grandmother elevated it to an art form and was married for 70 years.
What if I’d respected and affirmed him?
What if you had and he cheated anyway?
I was once a bouncy ball of affirmation — still chumped.
What if I’d been more available sexually (I was raised in a very strict religious denomination that promoted negative views on sex and never know how much they affected me until I got married).
What if you had a loving partner who worked through that with you instead of fucking around on you?
I grieve the marriage that could have been.
That’s normal. Don’t stay there. This is skein untangling.
I feel bad for having treated him that way. I hurt for my kids knowing my actions contributed to a less than ideal marriage.
Let’s reframe this to: I’m going to model good things to my children by not tolerating an abusive marriage. I will be the sane parent. I will treat my ex civilly and fairly for their benefit and because I am a civil, fair-minded person who behaves ethically.
Much more productive than having a sadz over a serial cheater.
RC, brush yourself off and get that divorce done. I think your head will clear with proper no contact. Until then, no more relationship autopsy discussions with a fuckwit, okay?