If only that BS still stood for Bullshit in our world. If only it didn’t have this new meaning, a toe tag to the dead me. The new me replacing the old complete me. Now I’m just the Betrayed spouse. Labels are tricky, they define things that maybe shouldn’t be defined but I wear mine now cause I’m really sure what else to do. It’s not comforting.
Your label, as the Unfaithful Spouse, comes with so much. So much pain and hurt wrapped up in it, inflicted by you but also being carried by you. Ashamed of your own actions, you tell me the shame you feel engulfs you sometimes, you can’t help but harm yourself, mostly with food you binge and feel disgusting, sometimes you hit yourself in the head, you’ve dreamed about self harm and suicide. You carry those things with you. I don’t dismiss them, it sits heavy on me the risk of you harming yourself, it frightens me at times when I see you triggered and struggling with these thoughts. I don’t want you to think that your emotions don’t matter to me, sometimes I express that they don’t, I don’t care I’ve told you many times, but I do. I do care. I just don’t have the emotional space or ability to deal with it at all. You have to deal with it because you’ve filled me up with pain and anger and emotion so much that I’ve no space to carry yours.
I want to explain how I carry shame too. You’ve used it for yourself so many times, that shame is palpable when you speak about your actions during your affair. You’re ashamed of your selfishness, hypocrisy, greed and lies. You’re ashamed of yourself. How quickly you abandoned your ethics and all those people who loved you for your own ego. It’s easy to see why you would be ashamed. It’s logical. I want you to understand all the reasons why I carry shame as well.
I guess the easiest and least complicated one is society. Society, pop, female culture, has told me repeatedly that cheaters, scrubs, fuck boys, are not good enough for me. They don’t deserve me. That I am a beautiful, strong, independent woman who frankly no longer has to put up with this shit. And I’m all of those things, however here I am standing by you after you’ve put me through the 7 circles of hell twice over. You’ve degraded, denigrated and used me again and again. You’ve broken marriage vows. You’ve put your selfish needs above our child, our animals, our families and our friends. You’ve lied and you’ve misrepresented. You husband are not good enough for me. Yet I’m here, I know that the man you became, and possibly the man you were before, is not good enough for me, and so the shame of allowing you to be with us, my child and I, is hard when I’m surrounded by a culture which talks about kicking cheaters to the curb and never looking back. Taking a slugger to your headlights, telling you I’m sorry not sorry, demanding you say my name, and telling you now it’s your turn to cry a river as I turn my back and walk away.
I only know of one person in the public eye currently (at least in music, lets ignore politics shall we?) who talked about staying after cheating and that’s Beyonce, but she smashed up a car and wrote a whole album about how her husband was a bastard very publicly outing him before she was able to live with it. Us normal folk, we have to live with the shame that we will quietly take you back into our lives and love you again. There is so much that we BS just have to accept if we chose to stay in our marriages and that realisation also brings the shame that we won’t be these women, we won’t be the women who get revenge and who sing about it on TV. We will just be the spouses who quietly get on with it. We aren’t the women we are told we should be, we don’t act how we should act, and the lyrics tell us that we aren’t strong, we aren’t able, or independent, and we aren’t the ones who will be stronger for our adversity.
I’ve come to realise that I am stronger for not living in a world with rose tinted glasses on, that living in that bubble where I excused behaviour from you that was unacceptable before the affair was something that contributed to it, I am stronger for knowing that. But not for staying. So that is Shame v1.0.
Shame v2.0 comes in how I handled the discovery of your affair. The embarrassment of vomiting in the street more than once. Of nearly vomiting at your workplace, maybe had I have eaten in the prior 3 days I might have actually done. I look back at being honest and raw with you in the days after dday 1, of being so overwhelmed that I was clinging to you even from my homeland 300 miles from you, of the sex we had again and again, the plans we made together, with red faced shame. The kind that flushes you from your chest to your temples, that you have no control over. The shame that engulfs you so publicly. The shame of feeling so so stupid. The shame of throwing myself at someone who was still actively seeking validation from her, whilst I wept, gnashed my teeth and tried to care for our child you asked her “are you still my best friend?”. The shame of the desperation I had clinging to our marriage like I would drown without it. The shame of the vulnerability, the displays of strength and faith in our marriage, the shame of believing you every day when you looked me in the eye and lied. The shame of being so gullible.
This v2.0 shame still engulfs me, but alongside that red faced embarrassment now, there is a rage that burns. It doesn’t always ignite but you know when it does. That shame is transformed in to pure, white hot, rage which burns so brightly it threatens to blind us all when ignited. Every second of those weeks between discovery day one and discovery day two I played the pick me game. To a lesser extend I did between two and three as well. I did the thing that all the writers say not to do. I argued with you, I told you how stupid you were being, I laid out what I knew about you. The shame that I begged you to reconsider when you told me you would rather be with alone – lets face it that meant be with her because you hadn’t actually broken up with her, just with me – the shame of being dumped at your workplace, in front of your affair partners friend, with your affair partner in the building still awaiting your text, makes me physically nauseated. The shame that once I built up the courage to walk away from you to see how you would react you continued to walk away time and time again. I still begged you to reconsider. To pick me. Because I’m just a pick me ass bitch. That link sums up the humiliation well. I’m just something to be ridiculed by society. I begged you to love me and you didn’t.
Shame v3.0 that I wasn’t enough for you to remain faithful. Now husband I know that really you were the one who wasn’t enough, but reality is, you ended up with two partners and I couldn’t even keep one. The 3.0 shame brings to the surface all the acts in which I denigrated myself for the sake of our marriage, the suggestions that I step back from my job with strong career progression options, the suggestion that I defer my Masters degree a year, the attempts to build an interest in our life by making plans with you, encouraging you, holding your hand through your pain whilst stuffing mine down, all those things I did to try and fix our marriage which was struggling, and there you were finding your way out of reality with her. The 3.0 shame is all about how I was willing to sacrifice myself for someone who wouldn’t even be honest let alone sacrifice anything for me. The double kicker of 3.0 shame is that you were willing to sacrifice everything for her: your wife, child, pets, home, family, friends, respect of everyone around you, your self respect, your career possibly, and she was angry at you for even looking at something to see if your relationship was allowed because she wanted to protect herself and her position.
You see the difference?
I sacrifice myself, my career, my self esteem, and my interests.
She sacrifices and commits to nothing (except maybe you if it came to it, she would have thrown you under the bus I’m sure)
You take and take and take what you can from me and everyone around you, then throw us all away for her.
You didn’t sacrifice or risk sacrificing anything, that adds to 3.0 Shame, because the reality is you didn’t see us, your family and friends, your career, your pets, as a sacrifice, we were an inconvenience between you and her. You didn’t blink when she lost her shit because people might find out about you both. You didn’t slow down when she said she couldn’t even think about being with you until she had moved. Do you see the nuance there? She hadn’t even thought about being with you, let alone committed to it, when you were willing to throw us all away for her. You didn’t consider that you’d never be able to have a relationship with your family and her because they, particularly your mother, would not accept the woman you cheated on me with. You just blocked them out. The shame of being able to be blocked out, compartmentalised, and reduced to a tick list pro and con list and a job to get rid of, being reduced to a “:/” emoji. That shame may never leave me.
Whilst I know it is you that behaved abhorrently, sometimes I have to remind myself that even though you did, I didn’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. I never will and never have deserved it. I have to remind myself of this because I didn’t realise I was a person who could be reduced so much by someone I loved. I told myself I would never let that happen to me again and here I was, letting it happen again.
Shame 3.0 is a real bitch.
Shame 4.0 is linked to all the shame that came before it. Because despite all of them, and despite knowing that I shouldn’t feel any of this shame, I love the person who caused it all. I am not able to not love you. I tried. I tried so hard so many times but I do. I love the life we were creating. I loved our shared passion for the world. I love it still. For a long time I tried not too. I realised how fiercely I felt as I sat on the grass outside your workplace, in 30c heat, having not eaten for days, to hear you tell me that I couldn’t love you anymore, that I had to stop because you didn’t want me. Because you wanted what she could give you more. That you had a better emotional connection with her than you did with me. That she got you and you moved in the same circles. That you loved her. That you did love me. You told me that day that you weren’t leaving me to be with her, which was true, she was around a month from moving out of her marital home with her ex husband, she hadn’t committed anything to you. Reality is she probably never would have.
Reality is she was ashamed of you. Ashamed of being with a married man, and the judgement that would come with you both being in a relationship. I think that point made it on to your con list of being with her too. You both knew what you were doing was morally and ethically wrong. You knew. You did it any way because you’re both inherently selfish and insecure people but you both recognised that if you were a couple that would be laid out for all to see and judge they would have. I would have made sure of it. I absolutely would have and still would.
Shame 5.0 is very simple. For 5 months of my life I believed every word you said to me, whilst you lied to me everyday. Looking me in the eyes and yourself in the mirror you lied about who you were, what you were doing, who you were with and how you felt. You lied to yourself and to everyone around you and I am ashamed of being one of the many who believed you because they loved you. I am ashamed for not more closely examining my fears, my discomforts and my concerns about you and your behaviours. I’m ashamed for not pushing the issue about H harder. For not demanding to see what you were talking about.
For not knowing that something was wrong. I’m full of shame for believing that it was a bad patch that we would make it through because love was enough. I’m so brimming with shame for ignoring the instinct that serves me so well day in day out in all other areas of my life. I abandoned myself for you which is disgraceful and disgusting and I cannot let it happen again. So shame 5.0 is for blindly loving you and not challenging the needs that my son, and I had. Had I questioned you about why you couldn’t go to the toilet without your phone, or how we couldn’t get around the supermarket without you getting lost in texts and trailing behind me like a petulant teen, would it have made a difference? If I had read those texts maybe but then you had already built this wall around that, how you were a fiercely private person who should have privacy, but then that is a post for another day for sure.
Every one of these shames, every version has it’s own .1 and .2 and most all of them a .3 and .4. The nuances of the shame, the triggers and the despair that goes with it, it’s all there too. So wayward spouses, cheaters, adulterers, they may feel shame, but they caused others to feel it too for simple things like loving you.