BETRAYAL IN RELATIONSHIPS
I have read many a hub lately and many an article on other sites about cheating and infidelity in marriage. In some hubs and articles, there seems to be an urgency to convince the party cheated on, I guess, the cheatee, often the woman, that it is not his or her fault. And as long as we stay stuck on whose fault it is, we miss the many pieces that, when put together, can result in life-altering events for both parties. These life-altering events can serve as a catalyst for yet even more profound life-altering events, that can move a relationship to a plane never before imagined. But as long as we stay bogged down in hanging on to whose fault it is, these new discoveries will elude us.
Now, it is a given in my book, that some folks who cheat, really have far more "interesting" issues than simply cheating. They walk around with such a complete void of emotional connectivity, that they could be considered, on some level, dangerous. And they will continue to cheat almost addictively and with little awareness of the pain that either they are suffering or the pain they are causing for others. Healing for this person is like trying to repair a shattered limb or a shattered body. Not impossible, but extremely painstaking. And I think for the person cheated on in these cases, there is a responsibility to ask themselves, "Why am I drawn to this person?" The point here is not blame, but simply self discovery and healing.
But I think that many times cheating occurs because all of us come to a relationship with holes in our soul. The ecstasy that accompanies the initial closeness in a relationship at first does an incredible job of covering up those holes, but as distance takes over again, the holes are exposed. Sometimes the pain that pours out of those holes is so intense, a person is driven to do every and anything to find relief. There is no emotional disconnection here. Unfortunately, no one ever brings our awareness to those holes and the resultant pain because we are so focused on whose fault it is. And as we will find out in the story's conclusion, sex is not the driver.
In my work with couples, I always invite both people to confront how each has been unfaithful to the relationship. Obviously, this can be very difficult for the "cheatee." But often the person cheated on has become blind to how they have not been in the relationship, perhaps for years. In fact, sometimes there has never been a relationship from the beginning. Two people went through the motions of getting married, but were never married in any psychological or spiritual sense. Perhaps both people were incapable of marriage. As in the story that follows, the person cheated on possessed his partner and never held himself accountable for his own behavior.
None of my commentary here is meant to excuse infidelity or to try to erase or minimize the pain for the one cheated on. But it is meant to open up some windows to look at a more complex and definitely bigger picture of what infidelity actually is..
Now a hubber you want to definitely read on this topic is Justsilvie.http://hubpages.com/profile/Justsilvie. Sylvia really tells a story of the depth of love and the complexity of love and how affairs, as painful as they are, do not have to sound the end nor are the couple codependent or crazy for staying in the relationship. In one of her most recent hubs, she also talks about the holes, although perhaps from a slightly difference perspective. But I think she brings us new insights into betrayal.
WHAT FOLLOWS HERE IS A SHORT STORY, one that therapists hear over and over, if they are able to hear it. Many therapists are in too much of their own pain to allow these stories to unfold, so they too get on the whose-fault-it-is bandwagon. The story is made up mainly of dialogue between a couple, between a therapist and the one cheated on, in this case a man, and between the man and his own internal voices. Please leave comments if you have any or share your own personal experience.
A STORY: A LONGING AND A YEARNING
She was calm, but loud. He worried that the neighbors could hear.
"How many F words do you know, Jack? Obviously forgiveness isn’t one of them. Come on, Babe, think about it. What’s going to happen if you just let go of this...this, what should we call it? An obsession? I think that’s exactly what it is, an obsession with me coming clean, as you put it, wanting me to tell you the dirty details of a momentary fling some eighteen yeas ago. You don’t seem to worry about it when I’m on top of you."
She took a cup of tea out of the microwave and picked up where she left off.
"You don’t get it do you? You treat me like some little kid with a dirty diaper, and worse you want to rub my nose in it. Won’t work for me anymore, Jack. Won’t work for US.
She slowly and loudly sipped her tea. The sound was annoying to him and she knew it. She continued.
"So when was the last time you saw ME? Can you even remember? Do you ever see anything about me other than my moment of failure? Try, just for a split second, seeing all of who I am. Try loving all of who I am. What the hell are you afraid will happen if you do that? You know you have a few dirty diapers yourself."
"I never said I was perfect, Arlene, but...."
"There’s no ‘but’ here, Jack."
"But you don’t get it."
"You damned right, I don’t get it."
"Arlene, I watched what happened in my family, and I swore I’d never let any of that happen to me. You know..."
"Jack, get a f***ing grip. You repeated exactly what happened in your family. How do you not see that? Come on. How about we start with your drinking and then you’re affair with porn, and can you get it for even a moment that you’re righteous insistence that I replay every detail of my adultery is like a choke hold? I mean, come on, Jack. There’s only so many ways two people can do it in two minutes. Are you wanting to get off on the details? Is that it? Or are you wanting to get off by rubbing my nose in it?"
"I wasn’t having an affair with porn. Men look at porn."
"Oh, so you’ve done a study. Men look at porn. Well sometimes a woman screws another guy, but that doesn’t make it okay, does it? Like I said, this obsession with the nasty details is like a choke hold on me. Can you see that pretty picture, Jack? You gotta choke hold on me, and then you want me to make love to you. You think I’m into that kind of s**t? Do you think your strangling me with your insane need to know details makes me want to love you? You want to know what I get out of it? A mouthful of your sick need to get even, and you don’t even know who you’re trying to get even with. But I gotta tell ya, Jack. Look me in the eye, Babe. It’s over!
"You choking me with this s**t and then thinking that I can turn around and have sex with you....Where in your alleged mind does it make any sense that me telling you some blow by blow details is going to do anything for you or for us? It’s not going to come close to even touching that hole in your soul, Jack. And you don’t get it. That’s your hole in your soul and has absolutely nothing to do with my two minute fling. You were already out of the relationship, Jack. You weren’t there for me. And I don’t hold that against you....Eighteen years ago, Jack. Eighteen years ago....You’re killing me, Jack. No, on second thought, you’re killing us." She started for the staircase.
"Where are you going?"
"What do you mean, where am I going? I’m not going anywhere, just like I haven’t gone anywhere for the last eighteen years. I’m here every night, in bed with you, but apparently you somehow miss that."
They lay there together that night, looking up at the ceiling, saying nothing, being perfectly still. She kept hoping that he might say something, anything with even a hint of forgiveness or letting go. He kept hoping that she might say she understood and was sorry for being so hard on him earlier and maybe even relent and begin giving him what he desperately wanted. They somehow managed to fall asleep.
In a dream that night, he saw himself making love to one woman after another. At some point, in the dream, she entered the room, and just stood there, staring at him. He woke up feeling embarrassed, making a startled sound as he did. When he turned to get comfort from her, she was gone. He could hear her snoring in the other bedroom.
As he walked the aisles of the store the next day, he noticed woman after woman wearing shorts so short that he could almost not stop himself from looking. Some of them weren’t even attractive, but he still felt enticed to look.
With no awareness of his staring, he started thinking, "I wonder why I want to know the details?" But he could not find an answer. He just could not let it go. He had held on to the need to know for so long, that his body whispered to him that he would die if he let go.
In his session with his therapist, she suggested that perhaps it had something to do with the nightmare of events related to his work, But he couldn’t see it. He saw no connection whatsoever and began thinking of firing her. "What psychological bulls**t," he thought to himself.
"So you have a look on your face, Jack. What is it? What are you thinking about right now?"
He didn’t want to tell her that he was thinking about firing her. "Nothing, really. I...I was just trying to make sense how whatever I’ve been through has anything to do with my wife cheating on me."
"So how long ago was it?"
"How long ago was what?"
"Your wife cheating on you."
"Eighteen years, but I still can’t trust her. She falls in love with every and anybody at the drop of a hat."
"Everybody, but you."
"Yeah, everybody but me."
"So why can’t she fall in love with you at the drop of a hat? Is there something about you that prevents that? I mean you seem like a really good man to me, Jack. I can’t see why any woman wouldn’t fall in love with you at the drop of a hat."
"What are you getting at?"
"I don’t know, really. It’s just a question. Why can’t she fall in love with you at the drop of a hat?"
"Yeah, I heard the question. Don’t you think I’d like to know?"
"So, what is the one thing, Jack?"
"You’re so f***ing slick! Has anyone ever cheated on you?"
Now there was silence.
"And so what did you do?"
"In the first case, I left. The second time, we worked it out."
"The second time?"
"Yes, the second time. That was 12 years ago. And we’ve been good ever since. My first husband was one of those people who cheat because they are completely empty on the inside. They have no remorse about anything. They use people. But then there are people, perhaps like you and me, who cheat because there is some need the relationship isn’t filling, and perhaps the relationship can’t....You know, Jack, at rock bottom, we are all pretty simple people, but then again we are also complicated people, and sometimes we have issues that we have to take care of for ourselves. And instead of stepping up to the plate and taking care of them, we act out. And sometimes cheating occurs when both partners are being unfaithful in some way or another, and then both partners have to take responsibility for healing to occur."
"I heard you try to slip that in, people like you and me cheat. I didn’t cheat. And what would I have to take responsibility for?"
"I guess the question is how did you cheat or how do you still cheat? So you didn’t have a one night stand, but there are a thousand ways partners can be unfaithful to each other."
"I have not been unfaithful, no way no how."
"You’re being unfaithful now!"
"You’re being her judge, her father, her probation officer, her jailer, you name it. Everything but her lover."
"She won’t let me be her lover?"
"I think you have to face the painful truth, Jack. She will never be able to love you while you hold this over her head. It’s not like it happened yesterday or continues to happen. You gotta give it up, Jack. And if you don’t, it probably won’t kill her, but it may kill you, and it definitely is going to kill your relationship for good if it hasn’t already."
He left her office still holding on. He wondered if he could ever let it go. He wondered if a male therapist would understand.
He woke up sweating. At first he could not make his eyes open, and the darkness from the nightmare spilled over into his awakened state. Finally, he was able to get the message from his brain to his eyelids. His eyes opened. The nightlight from the hallway brought relief. He reached for her, but there was no one there. He could hear her sleeping in the other bedroom.
He was angry with the therapist. She planted that seed so that one more time he had to relive a nightmare he just wished would go away. He felt so completely powerless over those events so many years ago. He felt so betrayed by the way everyone turned on him. He was just doing his job. He had done nothing wrong, but management seemed hell bent on protecting the bad guys. And for a moment, he got it, what the therapist was saying, but it quickly faded, and he did not remember his awareness when the sun finally rose on a new day.
When he went to give her a kiss, he saw a beautiful woman and he felt lucky, but it quickly dissolved, and again he saw someone who betrayed him, and she wasn’t supposed to do such a thing. Whatever he had done in the relationship was small in comparison, he thought to himself. He had to get out of the room quickly as a rush of sadness and anger began to overtake him.
When the therapist asked him if he knew what tunnel vision was, he wanted to be a smart ass and say no. What was she up to now? She continued relentlessly.
"So how do you imagine you can even get to first base here when you see yourself as the good guy and she, the bad guy? It’s not like that, Jack, with the two of you. But as long as you insist that it is, you’re stuck, and I feel sorry for you. Because you are the kind of guy that I or any other woman could fall in love with at the drop of a hat. But you’re going to make damn sure it doesn’t happen with your wife."
He was stunned. Is she trying to tell me that she is attracted to me or what is she trying to tell me? "What the hell do I care," he thought. But he couldn’t get it out of his head, that she was saying that she could fall in love with him at the drop of a hat. What the hell was that about?
"Jack, you’re a good man, a good catch. How many times does anyone have to tell you that before you believe it? And if you ever get to believing it, then you got to ask yourself if you want your wife to be the one who catches you. Or are you going to try to lock her up with a life sentence, or worse, strangle her until she finally runs away from you?"
He hated these moments. He didn’t know if she was waiting for him to say something or not. And worse, he had nothing to say. They both sat and stared at each other for what seemed like the time it takes for the light to change when you’re in a hurry. .
"You try to keep good track of her, don’t you, Jack? Well, the problem with that is, it probably wasn’t the sex that drove her eighteen years ago."
"Oh, so now I get to hear what it is that drives a cheater to cheat."
"I don’t think she cheated on you Jack. It’s something bigger than that, and you might want to try to catch this. What drives many people, and maybe women in particular, is a longing and a yearning to be free."
He wasn’t sure why he put up with her annoying questions and commentary. What the hell is a longing and a yearning to be free? He wondered why he paid for such bulls**t. But for a split second, he faced the question like never before. What will happen if I do just give it up, if I freed myself of what Arlene calls my obsession? His body kept whispering, "you will die." But he knew that wasn’t the case. If he was going to die, he would have died that night so many years ago, now only a lingering nightmare. Somewhere in there, he knew. He knew there truly was nothing as awful as that night, when perhaps the only one who had any control over his life was God. Somewhere he knew that Arlene's two minute fling was really nothing. Except that perhaps it was the one thing in his life he thought he should have control over.
He held that truth for all of thirty seconds. And then once again, locked Arlene up in what he thought was his heart.