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Public rule follower, secret rule breaker

GuiltAndShame posted 6/15/2020 21:07 PM

Growing up, my mom taught us that we must maintain a respectable and honorable public image at all times. How other people saw and perceived us was very important to her. We were also expected to make her proud of us. We were to be “rule followers”, at least to the public eye.

My mom taught us this through words and also by modeling this behavior daily. She was a very proud person, and “held her head high” in public situations. We used to joke about how she held her nose way up.

She was also a devout Catholic, and it seemed like severe judgement would be the natural consequence of any misbehavior.

As a result of this, “badness”, misbehavior, and “rule breaking” were typically carefully concealed, “buried”, and never discussed. Sex was never discussed, even in a basic educational way.

I believe that I learned that lesson too well, leading me to conceal and hide bad tendencies or behaviors. My terrible awful affairs were handled this way.

Just wondering if many waywards have this sort of “public rule follower” and “secret rule breaker” split......

Chaos posted 6/16/2020 06:24 AM

No stop sign. But your post intrigues me. Especially as a BS who was brought up in a similar fashion. Almost identical. Yet we are on opposite sides of the SI fence so to speak.

I think to an extent we all as humans have any tendency to rebel. The difference is in its forms and our ability to know when to check ourselves. And that check is usually in the form of causing no harm to ourselves or others.

I'll be the one in bright colors when the rest of my world is in tan. I'll eat the chocolate cake in the room full of those only touching the veggie tray. I still only wear risque undies.

As a teen - I did normal teen stuff. Sneaked the drink and cigarette on the back of the bus [it was the 80s and laws were different]. Broke dress code and curfew. I dated the guys my parents hated.

I never crossed the line of causing harm to myself or others [including infidelity] because I had a strong sense of right from wrong.

I challenge you to look at what you wrote. And explore it deeper. With respect - I challenge you to figure out if you did hit the tip of a very big iceberg or you are looking for an excuse.

I am most curious to see what other SIers [WS and BS] think of this.


DevastatedDee posted 6/16/2020 08:42 AM

I was raised in a conservative Christian household. Often in church, even Bible camp in the summer. When I hit my teen years, I went a little nuts. Everything "bad" had such an appeal for me. I loved sneaking around and doing bad things and getting away with them. I had sex, drank, experimented with drugs, etc. I was drawn to different philosophies out of curiosity. All that time, I tried to maintain a good girl appearance at home. That sort of thing can have an effect on a kid.

For me as an adult, it never translated into cheating. Putting aside my DDay freakout madhatter situation, I didn't cheat. I understand the thrill of illicit sex and getting away with that when I was a kid under my parents' roof, but that kind of thrill didn't exist for me in relationships because it couldn't coincide with hurting and betraying someone I loved. I didn't sleep with married or coupled-up men when single either because it was wrong to me on a deeper level. I wasn't under the thumb of my parents, so I had no need to rebel. If I wanted to have casual sex as an adult, it was just a choice and not an act of rebellion.

I think if that mindset stuck with you and influenced you to cheat, you're dealing with immaturity and lack of empathy issues more than you are that FOO thing. Acting out like a sheltered teenager makes sense when the person is still a teenager. Parents are the boss and you are trying to get away with things that you want to do. Adults have our own agency, though. If you were acting out like a teenager in your marriage, you likely saw your spouse as a parental figure and not an equal partner. It's natural for kids to rebel against their parents. It's a part of growing up and forging our own identities. Your wife isn't your mother.

I was on the other side of this sort of mentality in my marriage. My XWH treated me like a mom he was sneaking around on. This confused me because I was not playing that role with him. I didn't control anything he did. I didn't question him working late or what he did when he was out with friends. I was the easiest "mom" in the world to misbehave around because I viewed him as an adult man, not as my son.

[This message edited by DevastatedDee at 8:46 AM, June 16th (Tuesday)]

hikingout posted 6/16/2020 09:09 AM

I mean, all WS have led a secret life for whatever extent of time the affair happened or how long the lies were perpetuated. I think that anyone who has ever broken their integrity and then continued to break it in the same way over and over can become desensitized to their own conscience. In many ways we all have to be a secret rule breaker. To what extent that happens probably has more to do with practice than anything else.

However, I think you could really break this into two different subjects:
1. Being taught to hide for fear of being judged.
2. Being practiced at compartmentalization because you still continued the behaviors but were able to present yourself in a different way.

There are ways we can compartmentalize that can be beneficial, but there are many ways it can lead to dysfunction and emotional detachment. There are a lot of good articles online about it that might help you understand that part a little more.

I am not a good compartmentalizer for the most part, and that came with it's own different cuts on my husband as we have worked through my own myriad of issues. It's not a better or worse thing, it just has it's own "stuff" that comes with it. For me, the affair was harder to hide something was wrong. It also made me have a tendency to want to have to choose - causing my affair to quickly become an exit affair. I could not contain things in neat compartments which made me get very messy very quickly. That is what kind of tipped me that you might be a good compartmentalizer, because in essence, it sounds like you have been very good at hiding and presenting yourself differently.

For whatever reason, there are more men who are good at that than women (this is stated a lot when I have read about it from expert view points). I suspect that comes from having to hold emotions as a child through adolescence into adulthood. You are taught from a young age that "men don't cry" or to be more stoic. In essence, traditionally men are taught to manage certain emotions rather than experience them. I am not saying women are incapable of compartmentalizing or that some are not raised that way, but I do think that we have historically taught boys that to a different extent by expecting them to control their emotions in a different way.

The more you act in a way that goes against what you know to be right, the more it creates cognitive dissonance. (Basically put that is the anxiety that is caused by having conflicting values, emotions, beliefs, etc) Compartmentalization allows these to things to co-exist There are times where this is a healthy way to manage emotions, but there are other times when it can become very detrimental and unhealthy.

So, I state all this because I think you have done a good job of finding some patterns from your FOO. A lot of times tracking down those patterns can be enlightening because with that self-awareness we can recognize when we are doing them and correct the behavior. When behavior is engrained we typically do not analyze it. But, when we become aware of it and where it comes from it frees us to make a different choice.

Some look at things from FOO and think it's an excuse, but it's actually important to look at the origins of something to understand it. Maybe reflect on how much different it would feel to be the same person privately as you are publicly. When you make choices that reflect that take notice of them. Some of this will feed into self worth/self respect. Sometimes our bad behavior creates a lack of worth which makes us feel something is missing and it becomes part of that black hole void that we start trying to fill.


hikingout posted 6/16/2020 09:13 AM

I think if that mindset stuck with you and influenced you to cheat

I am going to say it maybe didn't influence the cheating, it just made the behavior more comfortable or easier to deal with? Someone with that similar background could find stealing to be a thrill - it may not have caused the stealing or influenced the propensity to steal, but there was already some mental ability to separate it from their belief system or how they present themselves to others.

Often on this site, we state things like "I had that background but I didn't cheat". I think what we have to keep in mind about FOO is it's not the cause of the cheating, it's that coping behaviors were learned there and those coping behaviors enabled some of the wayward behavior to be possible. FOO doesn't cause people to cheat. We trace FOO to get where our behavioral patterns come from that we have twisted to make not work so well for us.

[This message edited by hikingout at 9:16 AM, June 16th (Tuesday)]

DevastatedDee posted 6/16/2020 09:26 AM

I am going to say it maybe didn't influence the cheating, it just made the behavior more comfortable or easier to deal with? Someone with that similar background could find stealing to be a thrill - it may not have caused the stealing or influenced the propensity to steal, but there was already some mental ability to separate it from their belief system or how they present themselves to others.

Often on this site, we state things like "I had that background but I didn't cheat". I think what we have to keep in mind about FOO is it's not the cause of the cheating, it's that coping behaviors were learned there and those coping behaviors enabled some of the wayward behavior to be possible. FOO doesn't cause people to cheat. We trace FOO to get where our behavioral patterns come from that we have twisted to make not work so well for us.

That makes sense. When I left home on DDay, I cheated by going online and finding someone within minutes. My ease with casual sex didn't make me cheat back, but it influenced the method I used to do so.

hikingout posted 6/16/2020 09:40 AM

That makes sense. When I left home on DDay, I cheated by going online and finding someone within minutes. My ease with casual sex didn't make me cheat back, but it influenced the method I used to do so.

Yes! That is a perfect example!

gmc94 posted 6/16/2020 11:42 AM

BW here. My WH is exactly what OP describes. And he has a lifetime of deceit / cheating / secret sexual lives. Tho I tend to behave more like Chaos describes - my rule breaking is generally out in the open - I think in some way, each of us are “secret” rule breakers in one form or another. It’s all a matter of degree. Eg, I still feel guilty for not correcting the cashier who charged too little for a bottle of cleaning stuff I bought like 3-4 years ago. So I broke a rule and was dishonest by not correcting her, yet I did tell my WH about it (and maybe that’s the role of an AP? Aleving guilt by Co-conspiring in the secret?)

I think my WH also saw cheating (with me and all those he cheated on/with before me) as sneaking around on a mother figure. Like DD, I was the easiest mom to cheat on, as I trusted him to behave like a grown man- not a petulant child. Interestingly, WH’s CSAT (who is male) says all cheating is about the mother. I dunno if this is for WW as well as WH or what. I can see the logic in it, and I can see this stance as yet another way to blame women for the sins of their children (IOW, seems like just about everything can be blamed on mothers.... wonder what they say about cheating from a child of male same sex couples- when there’s no woman to blame, then what?)

And, as suggested in earlier posts, something about this feels pretty icky (technical term) to me. I agree with HO as to the idea that identifying behaviors/coping mechanisms originating in FOO need to be understood in order to be changed. However, I think it has a ton of potential to become an easy “why” or “how” instead of a starting point for curiosity/further digging. IOW, I view it more of an iceberg tip than base - Choas’ “challenge” strikes me as an important endeavor. I sense my WH is sniffing around a lot of excuse thinking- which IMO will never put him on a path to safe partner - or things like empathy or vulnerability. Recognizing a hole in his transparency bc he was raised in a family that didn’t value honesty is one thing. Being OK living a secret sexual life in one form or another for 30-40 years is something else.

what we have to keep in mind about FOO is it's not the cause of the cheating, it's that coping behaviors were learned there and those coping behaviors enabled some of the wayward behavior to be possible. FOO doesn't cause people to cheat. We trace FOO to get where our behavioral patterns come from that we have twisted to make not work so well for us.
I’m not a WS, but this resonates, and can help those (like myself) who think “yeah, my FOO was pretty effing shitty, but I didn’t cheat”.

It’s like FOO adds a blanket or layer of protection/comfort to the WS. But one must also see that it takes a thousand layers - from myriad sources- to create thae level of comfort/protection sufficient to go through with an A.

The more you act in a way that goes against what you know to be right, the more it creates cognitive dissonance
. I agree. My WH said “it got easier” to continue the PA “after the 1st time”. I think bc in his mind he got away with it - using that cognitive dissonance to avoid all the changes I saw - and confronted him about- immediately (w/in days) of that 1st time.

And maybe this is another place where the LTA layers create different challenges... IOW, I can see hope for changing that dissonance for those who have shorter length As. It’s a helluva lot harder to see how to change this if it’s been practiced for a lifetime.

Lalagirl posted 6/16/2020 12:21 PM

My mom taught us

You noted this twice in your original post.

What about your dad? Was he of the same mindset as your mom?

GuiltAndShame posted 6/16/2020 22:04 PM

Thank you to EVERYONE for all the words of wisdom and advice and thoughts and questions. I truly appreciate all of you, and I thank you for taking the time to write. It will take me some time to read and understand all your posts, but I will work on that soon. I am not looking for an “excuse” for my terrible choices, I am only seeking to understand how I was built so that I can rebuild myself and avoid all the same mistakes from now on.

One clarification - I mentioned my mom’s influence on my life, and someone asked about my dad. My “dad” died when I was 5 (recent DNA tests show that he was not my biological father), my step-father was in my life for 5 years (age 7 to 12), and my mom’s boyfriend after that was a married man who lived 4 hours away and came to visit us only every month or two. So I never really had a stable steady father figure during my childhood.

Lalagirl posted 6/17/2020 05:12 AM

My “dad” died when I was 5 (recent DNA tests show that he was not my biological father), my step-father was in my life for 5 years (age 7 to 12), and my mom’s boyfriend after that was a married man who lived 4 hours away and came to visit us only every month or two. So I never really had a stable steady father figure during my childhood.

This is pretty significant - I think more so than the way your mom influenced you.

To make sure I understand what you wrote, your mom was a staunch Catholic yet dated a married man?

GuiltAndShame posted 6/17/2020 06:37 AM

Lalagirl - Yes that’s correct. Before she died, I never asked her if she knew all along that he was married OR if she initially thought he was a “traveling salesman”......I never knew he was married until a few years after he started coming around.

secondtime posted 6/17/2020 08:15 AM

I dunno.

My mom is likely has borderline personality disorder. Untreated. Dad enabled everything.

OP resonates with me. We had our public family persona. We also had our private family persona, which was very different.

Anyway, I had some pretty shitty coping mechanisms. By the time I started high school, I learned how to be a workaholic. Industry was valued in my household. Being over extended was an acceptable way for me to escape my parents.

I couldn't really be authentic. When I got old enough, if I said something truthful, and mom didn't like it, I was punished with the silent treatment. I was in a double bind, because if I was caught lying, that was a physically punishable offense. And we aren't talking spankings administered where your parents sit you down, explain everything, and then give you one spanking and then you are on your merry way.

But, nonetheless I lied all the time..telling my mom what she wanted to hear, because 90% of the time, she wouldn't find out. And I could tolerate the physical punishment better the emotional punishment.


I'm the BS. Sure. I unknowingly married an addict because dysfunction was the most comfortable relationship in my 20s.

But, never cheated. I've come to the conclusion that I've refrained from engaging in undesirable behaviors as an adult mostly of how I'm wired.

In my journey, too, I was able to compartmentalize enough that I can separate my relationship with my parents with my relationship with my spouse and kids. IE, I can recognize for the most part that I have a healthy relationship with my husband. I've never been codependent with my husband...which I "should" be, given he's an addict. My parents, though...man I have to be careful otherwise I get sucked into codependency with them.

hikingout posted 6/17/2020 09:38 AM

It’s like FOO adds a blanket or layer of protection/comfort to the WS. But one must also see that it takes a thousand layers - from myriad sources- to create thae level of comfort/protection sufficient to go through with an A.

I agree wholeheartedly with this.

And at its basis, the saying we cheated because we wanted to is very true. Every single WS on this site decided what they wanted was more important than anything else - their integrity, their spouse, their family. It was a decision, not a mental condition.

But, all the little things that make up who we are can always enable a harmful behavior, or condition us to be very comfortable in that behavior. And, it's not just one thing. We have to find a different way to counteract that coping.

I will give you one example from me, even though I know it will be long:

Personally, I grew up in chaos. When things get still and easy I am uncomfortable as I am not conditioned to know what to do with that, in my house growing up it meant it was the calm before the storm. As an adult, I began unknowingly creating my own chaos. And that could be anything but usually it was finding ways to be too busy and numb myself. From deciding to make complicated changes in the house, Overdoing for my kids, going over the top on their celebration parties, trying to keep a perfect house, stuff with my career, etc.. whatever it was at the time that kept me from my thoughts or having to be idle. This was driven so much by needing to keep myself distracted and it was specific to another aspect of FOO where I was the golden child. I was the golden child for what I accomplished. The only shining moments in my house were when I brought home good grades, when I was elected things, when I was chosen to represent the school at various camps and honors. So, you have to add that I need be seen a certain way, and feeling like I had to earn love. These two specific things put together created a person who didn't manage her life in a healthy way.

The numbing and hiding in busy got so bad that I felt nothing. Shoot, I was diagnosed with emotional exhaustion around the time I started the affair and I still wasn't changing. For those who don't know, that's today's equivalent of what we used to call "a nervous breakdown". Completely barren, I doubled down and got myself even busier so I could feel better.

I did that until I absolutely hated my life. HATED. And noone appreciated anything! I couldn't distract the hate with the busy any more. By that time it wasn't hard to betray what was important to me, nothing was important any more. Every part of me was resentful, and by God I deserved something for me!

Um...really? Of course that was delusional. But my numbing and busy and need for chaos made that not so uncomfortable of a choice. I have had to learn to be still. For a long time after the affair and as I recovered from the exhaustion - any time I did things for anyone in my family that required moderate effort I had to really check in with myself on my motivation. Was I doing this from a place of love? Was I doing this to get love? Did I want to do this? It was a maddening thing to have to do, and it created a lot of confusion and took a lot of joy out of giving for a long time, but I learned a lot of my motivations were born of things that came from very common thought distortions. (One google search and you can find so many common ones that you do too!)

It's not at all easy to trace these thousands of things, GMC. And, noone will ever do it perfectly. I tend to think of it more broadly now and don't have to analyze each thing I am doing. I start my day reminding myself of 3 things I am grateful for. Having that as a practice, I notice so many more things in a day that I thought about in past days or things I should use for tomorrow. I have learned that I don't have to worry so much about whether or not I am overdoing for anyone, because in all honesty I really enjoy doing things for other people. I just keep a check on my own personal joy level. So, it can be complex as you are beginning the process of learning about yourself, listening to yourself, but as you boil them down overall the changes can be pretty simple -- it becomes more about managing your life so you don't have to get in a bad place where you have to cope with an overwhelmingly hard thing to untangle. This is when you are truly in touch with your happiness being your own responsibility and will never have to look to others to get it.

Not that other people don't make me happy they are in my life or I don't appreciate things they do for me. But, I don't have to rely on it. I do something for myself every day. Whether that's go running, or sitting on my porch for a few minutes alone and taking in the scenery, or whatever. And, if I am doing something for them it's from my heart and not for love or appreciation. Of course it's always nice to have those things in return but they are not expected and there is no disappointment in whether it happens or not.

I didn't learn compartmentalization growing up. In fact, I would say the reason I confessed was because I couldn't compartmentalize it. But what I did learn was numbing, ignoring, avoiding. And those were the primary things that allowed me to conduct the affair.

They are not the things that made me choose an affair. In fact, I would say the choosing of the affair was more latching onto the first thing that made me feel good and reveling in a new distraction when all my old tricks weren't working. It was easy enough to be in denial about what was happening at first. It would have been harder for me to choose stealing where you had to go all in on deciding to do something bad right that moment.

I am actually quite a rule follower in all reality. The affair started on a slippery slope until I wanted it. But, I had to let my boundary down to let it in. That's the thing - I still ended up going all in on the bad on that one thing, right? I made a decision then even if I was in denial of it myself. For what ever reason it was just easier to deny talking was wrong rather than say stealing something (I wasn't thinking of stealing, but I use that as a concrete example of something you have to plan before you do. It would be harder to deny that's what you were doing) Then by the time it evoked the high feelings, I really didn't care what I had to do in order to have it.

I had kept excellent boundaries with men our whole married life. I didn't have secret fantasies about having an affair. I never wanted anyone else. I truly know myself as a monogamous person, as you know I had the other experience of the open relationship and didn't want that. I am totally convinced that without the numbing and avoiding I learned in FOO, I would have maintained my rule following ways. But, it didn't make having an affair my vice of choice. It only was one of the things that enabled it.

It's actually amazing I am not an alcoholic -- I mean, I love numbing. My dad was an alcoholic so you would think I have the gene. He used it to numb his pain as he is disfigured and felt like an outcast because of it. I do drink alcohol once in a while and I like how it makes me feel after one or two...but I don't like anything beyond that where I would feel out of control. But, I can't go around saying "I had the same FOO as an alcoholic but I don't choose to drink" Because FOO doesn't make the choice - WE DO. FOO creates a lot of our inner environment, good or bad, and allows us to adapt to our choices, good or bad.


[This message edited by hikingout at 9:45 AM, June 17th (Wednesday)]

irwinr89 posted 6/24/2020 10:31 AM

Not trying to come across rude or anything, is just a common pattern w cheaters that there usually has to be some influential external factor that played a part in the infidelity.... In this case parenting, but there are many others
It's difficult to find a WS just saying "I did it, it was my wholy decision and I knew it was wrong but I didn't care because it felt great [PERIOD]

And what's wrong with that? nothing, it's human to want to do things that feel good...

hikingout posted 6/24/2020 10:42 AM

Irwin,

Actual quotes from my posts above:

"I am going to say it (FOO) maybe didn't influence the cheating, it just made the behavior more comfortable or easier to deal with?"

"And at its basis, the saying we cheated because we wanted to is very true. Every single WS on this site decided what they wanted was more important than anything else - their integrity, their spouse, their family. It was a decision, not a mental condition."

"They are not the things that made me choose an affair. In fact, I would say the choosing of the affair was more latching onto the first thing that made me feel good and reveling in a new distraction when all my old tricks weren't working. It was easy enough to be in denial about what was happening at first. It would have been harder for me to choose stealing where you had to go all in on deciding to do something bad right that moment."

So, it isn't at all that I don't agree with you, I do.

But, after just doing what felt good, how can we build back trust, confidence we have learned from those decisions? And how can we, for ourselves, not repeat the patterns in our lives that are not serving us as well? Digging into these things is about seeking growth, accountability, being able to see things we do that might be toxic to ourselves and our relationships.

We have to figure out the things that made us comfortable while making those choices. Those aren't about excuses or explanations. It's about facing ourselves and our choices and learning about them. About taking accountability for how our behavior effected our spouse and others. And, learning from the experience in general so we can be a higher version of ourselves and hopefully have higher versions of relationships.

[This message edited by hikingout at 10:43 AM, June 24th (Wednesday)]

thatbpguy posted 6/24/2020 12:31 PM

We have to figure out the things that made us comfortable while making those choices. Those aren't about excuses or explanations. It's about facing ourselves and our choices and learning about them. About taking accountability for how our behavior effected our spouse and others. And, learning from the experience in general so we can be a higher version of ourselves and hopefully have higher versions of relationships.

Well stated. This is the key.

GuiltAndShame posted 6/24/2020 20:54 PM

A very sincere and heart-felt THANK YOU to everyone!
Especially to hikingout, for describing how we must identify those things that allowed us to be comfortable in choosing the affairs, comfortable with conducting the affairs. For if we truly want to become better for ourselves and for those we care about, then we need to break the patterns and ensure that we never start sliding down the slippery slope again.

GuiltAndShame posted 6/24/2020 21:33 PM

I chose my affairs.
I wanted to have them.
I did not consider or weigh the potential consequences.
I acknowledge the severe pain and hurt I have caused to those who I care most about. This is my deepest burden.
I acknowledge that my choices hurt myself.
I regret it all, I wish I could un-do it all.
I want to be better, a better person & partner & father.
I want to stop hurting those I care most about.
I am learning about myself and how I was able to choose affairs repeatedly.
I want to fix myself, to develop a keen sense of when I may be slipping into “old shoes”, to have a refined instinct to help me always stay genuine and honest and real and focused.

wantstorepair posted 6/28/2020 10:05 AM

This post resonates so deeply with me and i appreciate everyone’s discussion to help bring understanding. Guilt and shame I am this, like you from the outside everyone thinks I am this great guy; coworkers, family, friends, everyone- because I have successfully hidden away and compartmentalized the awful character I have and the terrible things I have done. This went to a whole different level when I even blamed my actions on my BW in order to keep up the lie and protect my image. Disgusting. I think exploring how you were raised and why and how your cognitive dissonance evolved and enabled you to cheat and lie and abuse. I can trace my path back like that too in trying to understand who i am. I see now that I have to understand who i am anD honestly and why in order to effect real change. These aren’t excuses; your last post is spot on- those were your choices and actions and you are responsible, not your mom or one of the brief father figures you had and certainly not your BW. Only you.

Yes this sums it up perfectly: ‘We have to figure out the things that made us comfortable while making those choices. Those aren't about excuses or explanations. It's about facing ourselves and our choices and learning about them. About taking accountability for how our behavior effected our spouse and others. And, learning from the experience in general so we can be a higher version of ourselves and hopefully have higher versions of relationships.“

Being desensitized to your own conscious after years of upbringing, repetitive terrible actions and ego driven selfishness to put more value on your image and justifying your entitlement than investing in your character is a cycle that has to be broken and you have to work at this daily with humility and honestly. If we can’t do this we are still enabled and doomed to cheat again.

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