Raking over old coals. Still smoldering, I see.

Photo by Pablo Martinez on Unsplash

Periodically, I feel a need to watch some of the old infidelity channels on YouTube. I’ve been watching a video this morning that reminds me it’s not over yet, at least for me.

Seven years. And I can’t forgive. Or forget.

The speaker on today’s video talked about how an unfaithful partner wrote a letter to her betrayed spouse. It was basically a list of all the things the cheating spouse had reflected on over the past year, since disclosure of the affair. And it went deep.

I felt heavy and melancholy after listening, because it perfectly pinpointed one of my greatest disappointments in my husband. He has continued to fail me by never really doing any soul-searching. Or at least none that he’s willing to tell me about.

His only expressed reason has always been, “Well, I just thought you were through with me.”

Like he was entitled to SOME share of female attention if he wasn’t getting enough from his then-clinically depressed wife. Like he would die if he didn’t get praise and purring from some supportive woman. Like it was all about him, and not anything about me.

It’s never been anything deep for him, such as this list that I imagine he might write:

  • I’ve never felt “enough” as a son, a boyfriend, or a spouse.
  • I’m afraid or unwilling to develop my conflict resolution skills, so I just stuff it all down inside.
  • I didn’t realize that the bottled-up resentment I felt toward you would erode my behaviour as a good man. Or I felt justified when it did.
  • I don’t feel strong enough to deal honestly with my wife.
  • Your depression scared me.
  • I was selfish enough that I only saw you were no longer serving me, not that you were suffering in a well so deep you didn’t know how to get out of it.

He’s never given me the gift of that honesty or of even knowing he’s reflected deeply about what flaws in his thinking and in his moral character led to his affair.

Here’s the video I watched. Listen to the list the speaker reads. (I wish he read more slowly so I could ponder each item.) Let me know what you think.

Or if you want the Cliff’s Note version, here’s the list of what the speaker read from the woman’s letter, slightly paraphrased. (NOTE: I was copying this for myself, so I translated any gender words to he, him, husband, etc., to see if I felt it rang true as something my spouse might say. But the letter he read was from a female cheater, FYI.)

GENERAL

  • Self-centeredness
  • Self-absorption
  • In love with my image
  • Pride: It kept me in denial about the gravity of my actions and character defects
  • Focused on other’s faults and magnified them in mind while minimizing my own
  • Felt entitled to being validated by women
  • Lacked empathy
  • A tolerance of infidelity, promiscuity on TV since childhood. I even rooted for TV affairs since betrayed spouses were always portrayed as jerks.
  • Sex was presented as a natural progression for characters feeling love.
  • Relying on my good intentions and inner vows, like, “Well, I’d never do anything like that” or “I’ll never do that again.”
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of transparency
  • Wrong thinking patterns
  • Victim thinking
  • Instant gratification
  • Blaming
  • Uniqueness
  • Everybody’s doing it.
  • I’m “a good one.”
  • Reckless attitude
  • Lacked courage to be authentic and “out” myself, so I stayed in my shame, which led to thoughts of worthlessness, which held me to want people (especially women) to think well of me. So I would do things to impress and began to wonder what they thought of me after all.
  • I needed to feel like I was not flawed. I stayed in denial. Staying in denial, in general, kept the destructive cycle alive.
  • Lack of true compassion for others.
  • Lack of self-respect.
  • Didn’t use my voice and went along with sex even though I was uncomfortable about really doing it.
  • Lack of general boundaries.

FAMILY BACKGROUNDS

  • Became very good at hiding things early in life to survive emotionally.
  • Believed my worth and normalcy were tied to having girlfriends and receiving attention from girls.
  • My family had a culture of shame.

INTERACTIONS WITH WOMEN

  • I romanticized any attention from girls.
  • Lack of boundaries for interaction with other women after marriage: Talking, texting, notes, emails, Facebook, chat, Facebook comments – all done separately from my wife’s knowledge. Not that I was necessarily keeping all of them a deliberate secret. I just never included her in the knowledge of talking to those people in general and never seeing anything dangerous about it.
  • Gave others windows into the marriage.
  • Let conversations with some women become inappropriately personal.
  • Felt  more comfortable interacting with women than men, because I mostly judged and like an outsider with other men.

PROBLEMS IN THE MARRIAGE

These aren’t things that led me to be unfaithful – only problems that I chose to deal with in a destructive way. (The problem wasn’t the problem. The problem was my REACTION to the problem.)

Early disillusionment.

  • It wasn’t all romance anymore.
  • Felt a lack of emotional intimacy, which I blamed my wife for. But what I was doing was making emotional intimacy impossible.
  • Not recognizing my wife’s needs to be as important as mine. Nor did I see that she felt those needs as intensely as I felt my own needs.
  • Wife’s total trust in me. I didn’t allow my wife to ever see me as I was. I didn’t trust her. With my false callousness toward her, I minimized wounds and stuffed them and let them build into resentments and my lack of transparency and honesty.

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