This is a posting by wincing_at_light made over in the Betrayed Men's thread. I hope it is okay with SI guidelines and WAL to repost this here. I feel it is a very important message that you BH's need to see and hear.
Over the last couple of months my mind has defogged and I'm now beginning to see all the warts - flaws etc. of stbxWW. This process has been nothing short of amazing to me.
This is both a good and a healthy thing. I'm going to say this, because BH's often get bombarded with the inverse (i.e., all the ways that you "betrayed" your wife that led her to be vulnerable to an affaair), so it's worth having in your back pocket:
I have rarely -- like *never* -- seen a BH show up on an online forum for whom infidelity was the first marital betrayal his wife had ever engaged in. Fucking other dudes was just the straw that broke the camel's back. On some level, I think that most married people realize on any given day that they are given less from their spouse than they're entitled to by the phrase "love, honor, and cherish." We all fall down on that sometimes. We get crabby, don't have enough coffee, become snappish because of shit at work, forget to be compassionate during arguments, spend too much money on something we want, etc., etc. The list is endless.
Then there's that whole other layer where we each keep an image in our minds of what an ideal spouse should look like (product of television, family of origin, the model of our opposite sex parent, on and on) and grade our spouse against that yardstick -- while never *telling* them about the yardstick, because to do so would be manipulative.
My sense is that in normal marriages, these petty sins and betrayals dismissed beneath the gloss that mature love gives the other partner the benefit of the doubt. Love is patient, in it's very narrowest definition. It is *at least* patient, and immensely more besides.
Before any man chooses to reconcile, the question he should be asking himself first is what else his wife can bring to the table other than just not fucking other people -- because I can guarantee you that when the WW comes back to the negotiation of the new marriage, she's going to ask for a shit ton of concessions (under the guise of "unmet needs" or "pre-A issues)...as though she's been living with this horrible example of a man for years and years as a perfect saint, then one day it was just too much and she snapped.
That is a gallon of bullshit, and every married man I've ever met knows it. If we're honest with ourselves, when our WW presents us with a list of the things we've done wrong, need to change, or have historically slighted her...we've got a list just as long that now has "fucking other dudes" appended at the bottom.
There is some value to be obtained from the process of differentiation that should (and must, I contend) come after a major betrayal with regards to the image of our wives that we carry around inside our heads. It's a good thing to dust off that list and read it in the light of day. Betrayal on the scale of infidelity or physical violence doesn't just happen one day, out of the blue. It's built on an edifice of minor betrayals over years and years. Little manipulations, lies, disrespectful judgments, faulty comparisons against the imaginary standard (on and on) for which any consequence was deemed worth the joy derived from the betrayal. (This is usually phrased as some variety of "finally standing up for myself" or some such shit, like the wife has been silently accrueing these wounds and burdens over endless years, just taking it and taking it until she reached her breaking point. Don't know about you, but that's nobody's wife I've ever encountered. Not even my mom, and she's the closest thing to a genuine saint on the planet since Mother Theresa passed.)
The default shouldn't be reconciliation, not without that honest inventory of your betrayals list that forces you to ask yourself if this person was ever really fit for marriage with you -- because it's going to be clear from her justification pattern that she's got a whole raft of pre-A issues that she's still itching to take you to task for, even while she's telling you out of the other side of her mouth that her A was the price you paid for that multitude of sins. That's the great part about being a BS -- you're told that no only did you have it coming to even up accounts, but that you should have to pay for all of those things again in order to repair the marriage. You're going to have to change, become "better" (however she defines it) and comply with her ideal standard of what you and a marriage should be like so she gets her redemptive kudos for turning other dudes' dicks into marital aids. (You know this narrative -- if the marriage doesn't end up somehow bettah.than.evah, the WW is likely to view the whole reconciliation as a failure and be ready to bail again in five years. In this game, she's always setting the terms for bettah.than.evah without any real consultation with you about what you might want out of marriage. You're supposed to be content with the fact that all of the dicks have gone back into her mental dresser drawer to only be dragged out again in those times when you *really* -- and inevitably -- fail to meet her standard again.)
As Admiral Akbar said, "That there, son, looks like a trap."
Because it is. If any relationship is going to succeed at being truly intimate, there's got to be give and take. That doesn't mean just doing each other's honey-do lists and trading off dinner prep. It has to mean that when she decides to identify some shit she thinks you've got and call you on it, that you also have the freedom -- and the right -- in the context of the relationship to pull out your own list of ways you'd like her to be more like Amy Adams. And if she expects you to be compliant or it means something terrible about your depth of love for her, than she ought to be goddamned giddy about the opportunity to submit to your demands.
If she gets to remake you into her image, then it should be her greatest desire to be remade into yours. I'm sure most of you have heard this same advice in softer language: a man should do whatever he can to please his wife, to show her that she's the most important thing in the world to him.
What I'm saying is that it's reciprocal. It must be reciprocal, otherwise it's just manipulation. There's no give and take; it's you giving and her being the one given to.
And that's an easy trap to fall into if you're a guy who has become accustomed to the little betrayals and expressions of selfishness and decided to cover that multitude of sins with love. When you begin to see your wife rightly -- as the product of her actions, a mix of both the one who took care of you when you had a cold that one time, and the one berated you in front of your buddies because you hadn't cleaned out the gutters after she told you it needed done *two days ago* -- then you remember that compassion has to go both ways if the relationship is to be worthwhile. You have the right to demand as much compassion as you've given; and if she won't reciprocate, then you have the right to treat her with the same disrespect (or, you know, divorce if that's not your ideal relationship model).
In any honest inventory, most of us should be able to come up with dozens of examples where we let our wives breach our boundaries -- treat us in a way that we wouldn't let someone else treat us, but that we forgave or dismissed in the name of love. Fucking other dudes was just the most egregious example; the one that rose to the level of intolerable.
Look, I'm not advising you to be an asshole scorekeeper here. I'm advising you to be honest with yourself. To ask yourself why you settled for less than you deserved while not accepting the same in return. What is it with you, your model of marriage, or your habitual train of thought that let you dismiss the same sort of damage that you've been called to pay full price for?
Why was forgiveness an option for you, while she was stockpiling her resentments for future punishment? Why didn't you demand equal treatment? And why did you stay in or consider rejoining a relationship where there exists such a gap of equality?
Because that shit has got to change. Either she's got to be willing to do better, or she's got to be willing to accept less. Otherwise, you should have no interest in allying yourself with someone who is always going to take more than they give.
Does she want to feel more secure? Than she should be willing to make sure that *you* feel secure -- and not just because you're "not the jealous type". Does she not want to be yelled at when you're angry? Then she'd better be willing to never raise her voice at you. Does she not want you to spend so much time on a hobby? Then she'd best be making a list of the things she likes to do that she's willing to give up to carve out more alone time with you and the kids.
The biggest flaw I see in modern relationship counseling is this bullshit idea that when we identify a relationship problem (i.e., something my spouse is fucking up), that our sole responsibility is to bring that to their attention. Tell them you have a boundary and won't tolerate it any longer.
That's shit. It's a cop out. It's taking something I don't like and making the solution your problem. It takes the "problem" out of my basket and puts it into yours, so I get to blame you not only for the problem existing, but for any failure of the issue to get resolved if the future doesn't live up to my liking.
Here's what I think: if you identify a problem, the onus is on you to work through the possibilities and come up with possible solutions that will remedy it. That's owning the problem *and* the process of resolution, as well as demonstrating that you're willing to compromise in a way that no one feels like they bear the brunt of it. Even more importantly, this sort of approach gives some valuable intel to both parties: the "problem-identifying" partner gets to gauge how invested the "problem" partner is in addressing the issue (i.e., how much their input is valued); and, the "problem" partner gets to gauge how reasonable (or just manipulative) the "problem-identifying" partner is by the solution they propose.
Both parties gain valuable information on whether or not the relationship is worth continuing in light of the issue that's been raised. They're on a level playing field.
So many of us were "blindsided" by our wives' infidelity...and that's a pity, because I can guarantee you that she'd given you plenty of warning that fucking other dudes was in her grab bag of potential responses to butt-hurt if we'd been paying attention to who she was demonstrating herself to be rather than who she was telling us she was. No, we were too busy looking at the mental image of her as "someone who would never do something like that; she luuurves me" to read that sanskrit.
Actions, not words. For most of us who looked back over years of marriage before the cheating, it wasn't hard with a bit of emotional distance to see that fucking around was just one more step in a pattern of disregard, abuse, and disrespect that had been going on for quite some time -- but that we didn't pay attention to because we loved her too much to call her on her shit (or whatever).
If you ever had the thought, "Boy, if that was any woman other than my wife, I'd say that was pretty hinky behavior", you know what I'm talking about. If you ever watched a buddy just absolutely get his shit reamed by his bitch-wife and thought, "Man, that reminds me of that one time my wife...", then you also know what I'm talking about.
If you ever gave your wife the benefit of the doubt when you would have taken someone else aside and said, "Son, you need to stand up for yourself" -- then to believe that your wife fucking other dudes was an aberration is simply an intolerable assertion.
And then you need to set about figurig out why you've loved yourself so little that you let yourself settle for that kind of treatment instead of tossing her in the rubbish bin of your past like she deserved.
"Because I loved her" is not a viable answer. Users and abusers do not provoke authentic feeligs love.
"Because she's better than that; it was a bad day/week/year." is also unviable. She's not better than that. She is who she is, which she tells you by her actions. If you believe she is better than who she has shown herself to be (repeatedly), then you're not married to your wife. You're married to an imaginary version of your wife who just happens to resemble the warm body you crawl into bed with every night.
Don't misunderstand me here: I believe that at it's best, love is aspirational. I believe that it sees the best in us, even when we don't. I believe that the best love even gives us the benefit of the doubt when we fail, and we all do.
What love does not do is call the truth a lie, and a lie the truth. Love doesn't pretend that the abuser is not. It extends grace to the abuser in the hope that the abuser will become something better...and it also loves itself enough to care for its own needs and safety. Love does not break itself so the abuser can feel better about who they are while aspiring to nothing.
None of us should settle for less than we deserve from those we love. We've made that mistake in the past, and we've seen how it ends. You want real love? Demand as much as you give. If your partner isn't up to it, accept that and move on to someone worthy of you -- all viewed through the lenses of honest self-reflection and grace. You can still grade on a curve, but if you're tempted to change the answer in the teacher's edition of the textbook, then chances are you're going to far.
And for the love of God, always remember that you know yourself better than anybody you're married to/dating/in a relationship with. If they're full of shit, trust yourself well enough to acknowledge that they're full of shit (or FOO or childhood trauma or whatever other base they might be working from).
Machiavellian idiot savant
Posts: 6307 | Registered: Apr 2007 | From: Indiana