That’s how I view things now. Everything is filtered through the lens of infidelity, which is how our brains are rewired after DDay. Good or bad, or anywhere in between – somehow, it all goes back to what my husband did. I’m told that it gets better over time – A LOT of time – but I also hear that it never quite goes away, and that triggers can spring up ten, fifteen, even twenty or more years down the road. I cannot tell you just how sad that makes me.
The other day, I asked my husband if he’d read this article just before he’d cheated, would it have mattered. “Maybe,” he said at first, then, “Probably.” Now, honestly, I don’t believe him at all, and I wonder if he actually does think it would have made any difference back then. Of course, we’d both like to think it would have helped to redirect his behavior to something more honorable, but at least I know better. Because most of these wayward spouses convinced themselves that we, the betrayed, would never find out…because they were going to be so smart and clever about their deception that we couldn’t possibly notice anything awry. That, coupled with their supreme selfishness (and their other wayward characteristics), is almost always a lethal combination (maritally speaking, anyway), so I bet even if he’d read it back then, he would have dismissed it as not applying to him because I’d never know anyway.
So now, each interaction, each experience, we have – individually or together – I process through post-DDay knowledge. If my husband wants to talk about <fill in the blank>, I wonder if he ever talked about it with OW. Or, when my husband does something, my brain automatically compares the now to the then – well, to both the ‘during-the-affair-then‘ and the ‘before-he-destroyed-everything-then‘.
I think our traumatized brains do that so we avoid the risk of experiencing that trauma again, and because it is crucial to rewrite – well, overwrite – the reality we thought we knew with the truth that we’ve learned since then.
Except that this isn’t just about analyzing my husband’s actions and thoughts back then. Now I see combinations of these behaviors even when the subject isn’t about infidelity at all. I see them in other people – that self-serving tendency to rewrite the story, to blameshift and rationalize, and then to get angry when they are called to account for their actions.
I see it in the family member who moved out of the home she shared with her husband, and promptly became involved with another man. For awhile, her husband begged her to come back, but after more than a year, her husband met someone else and now, suddenly, she is upset because she can’t have her cake and eat it, too. Suddenly, she wants her husband back. Suddenly, she’s angry with her husband because he seems happy with another woman.
I see it in the supervisor of a friend, who unilaterally made changes to her position without discussing these changes or the expectations around them, and then judged her harshly in her annual review for not meeting still-undefined performance benchmarks she did not know she had to meet…and then getting angry with her for asserting her right to know.
I see budding signs of it in the adult child of a friend of mine, who lies to her mother and then, when her lies are discovered, tries to blame someone else for both her actions and her lie, and gets angry when her mom is attuned enough to know what’s really going on.
And no, I don’t mean that I see that all of these people are future cheaters (though in my family member’s case, that’s already come to pass, though she disagrees), but I see the signs. I see that these people are playing with boundaries, both in their interactions with other people, but also with regard to what is, or should be, their own moral compass.
And in a sense, even when it’s not specifically marital infidelity, lying to others is an act of self-betrayal. It’s astonishing to me how there are so many people walking around with such unhealthy behaviors and coping mechanisms. And sad, too. Because they’re not just hurting themselves; they hurt so many others, too.