A couple of months ago I posted a poll survey asking about the benefit of contacting the other woman after your partner has had an affair. Should I or shouldn’t I, was the ultimate question. Some very wise people left very wise advise. Naturally, I ignored it. But only after much thought and internal deliberation. Some voted no, some votes yes, most voted in that gray maybe category.
My partner has taken a lot of good steps and I believe he’s trying in his own way, based on his own emotional state, to repair the damage he caused. I believe this. I give him credit for this. He has never learned what it means to fully give yourself to someone, to earn and give trust, or how to express what is in your heart without fear of rejection. He’s trying to learn those things now. To let go of a lifetime of programming and dysfunction that still govern how he thinks and acts today. The problem is that he does not always advance at the speed I need for him to advance, nor does he completely understand how it feels to stand where I stand, and thus he’s sometimes at a complete loss to understand what I need or how he can help me. Because of this he’s not able to completely reverse the annihilation he unleashed inside of me and so I have to find ways to accomplish this without him.
When at a loss for how to react or respond my partner’s programmed response is one of two things, anger or some varying form of avoidance. Since he rarely ever directs his anger toward me that leaves us with avoidance. In this particular case a cautious avoidance of the affair topic, whenever possible. It is about the only form of dancing we do these days. We dance around and around the issue but typically we are careful not to dance too closely to it. He has stopped pushing back when I bring it up and does his best to try to discuss it openly and without becoming emotional or defensive but he hasn’t reached a place where he’s the one who will bring it up when he knows something is wearing on me. We are leveled off at a stage where I know I can make him discuss it but that I will also feel icky about it afterward. As though I nagged or pushed too hard. As though I ran out of time for questions and might have to wait months for my next chance. As though he heard what I had to say but might not truly understand how I feel.
One of the biggest barriers for us now is that like many others caught red handed at betrayal his instincts were to try to minimize the damage. Denial was the operative word and while he had to admit to what he was doing, he was damned and determined that he was going to withhold the extent of the gory details. A large part of that was to preserve his image as a good guy. He simply did not want me to know what he was capable of. Another part was his hope that he could spare me at least some of the pain by minimizing the details and trying to focus on the reconciliation process and the future while shutting the past securely behind us. In his mind he was protecting not only himself, but me. He didn’t realize that he was driving nails in the coffin. Didn’t understand that he was poisoning the well we would one day have to drink from to survive. And now, we’re miles down the road, and his “good intentions” have blown up crossroad after crossroad and landmark after landmark. So that here we are trying to find our way back to the main highway and to our destination with a lot of the roads damaged and bridges burned.
Each time he swears he has told me the whole truth, I am incapable of believing it in my core. I try. I try like hell! I have debates with myself willing myself to believe there is nothing else bad to find out, convincing myself he will never ever risk a lie again. But there is not one fiber, one cell within me that will allow myself to believe that he’s not capable of lying to me again. I’m aware this takes a lot of time and a lot of work on both our parts and that only time can build a record of truth that will run longer and deeper than the betrayals have. But some days I’m not interested in time. Some days I just want to know that I know what the reality is.
And so, out of desperation for the information I suspect I’ve been denied, I finally crossed over the line of my own avoidance and contacted one of the other women. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, I didn’t want to overwhelm me. So I chose to send it via Facebook message rather than approach her face to face. For one, I’m not sure if I would be able to control the anger that might sneak up on me and erupt and I don’t want to be that woman. The crazy bitch that comes innocently knocking and gets driven away in a police car. I also didn’t want to find out that I liked her in any way or related to her in anyway. And yet, I have spent all these months feeling some how bound to her more than the others. Feeling bad for her that she may have been used and discarded unfairly.
Here’s what I know. I would respond. As a woman I would owe her that much. If I truly had no idea he was involved with another it would be even more important that I respond to her and try to help her anyway I could. If I did know about her then I would feel required to respond out of remorse. For the mistakes I had made. And the injustices he had committed against both of us. I would tell her the truth. Answer all her questions. I would withhold the specifics. Stick only to the questions she asked of me. I would answer them all, then assure her I was out of their life and would never return. Then I would block her from my Facebook page so that she never need look at me again nor contact me again. That to me seems like the most decent thing to do in the middle of this really bad situation. But maybe that’s just me.
This OW, on the other hand has not chosen the same route. Now, in fairness, neither has she chosen to contact me out of anger or out of cruelty to share with me all the details of their sex life or things he may have shared about me in a negative way. Still, it doesn’t set well with me. In my opinion a woman of integrity would choose simple straight, even if slightly cushioned honesty. Her lack of response has a hint of revenge to it.
As a woman she’s well aware of why I want to know the truth. I mean what woman wouldn’t understand that need? She’s also aware that by not responding she’s ensured that whatever he has told me goes unverified which in turn leaves my imagination open to presume other scenarios and prevents me from ever obtaining any evidence that he has told me the truth.
But these things are not the kicker. Avoiding me out of shame, fear, or wanting to forget the pain he caused her is somewhat understandable. But if you wanted to avoid your lover’s partner why would you leave your Facebook open for her to still see you? Why would you make it a point to post the morning after you received the message, how soundly you slept the night before? Why go in and start erasing benign posts on your page about gardens and such things but be sure to leave the daily horoscopes that list your perfect match for the day as his sign? And then comment with smiley faces? I know, as the betrayed woman I am suspicious and my mind runs away with me. But seriously, if those are not pointed messages meant for me then I must be losing my mind. What she is really telling me is….. I have the power and I am telling you absolutely nothing. She doesn’t really have the power, of course. But maybe on some level this is as much control as she can hope for.
Dear Cinderella, As you’ve probably discovered by now, we have a mutual connection with Tom. I’m not sure if you have known about me from the beginning or found out about me along the way. I’m not writing to cause you any problems or to establish an ongoing communication. I’m writing to ask you just a few questions.
I realize that there is a risk that you won’t answer them truthfully. You could minimize it all, exaggerate it all, tell me any lies you like or you could contact Tom to coordinate your stories. I’ll have to operate on faith that you’re a better person than that and take my chances. I don’t think I know a woman anywhere who over the years has not been lied to, cheated on or used in some way or other, at least once. I’ll take a guess that not only have you been there but you know and care for many others who have too. For most of us women, having our hearts ripped out is a universal bond we share. Men are phenomenally wonderful beings, yet they can often be heartless in the ways they compartmentalized their lives and activities. That’s not to say we’re all just helpless victims, only to say that as women we often open our hearts fully and fearlessly at the wrong time, to the wrong people. I’m hoping that woman to woman you might be respectful enough to be honest with me and not contact him to give him the opportunity to spin the story the way he wants it told. He’s aware that I may contact you and the other women as well. He says if I feel I have to then I should. He would prefer I didn’t. I’m sure he’s gambling on the fact that I won’t. I know that it won’t be easy to hear your answers but it’s necessary.
I’ve been aware of you in particular since last June. It was a while before I confronted him. I also confronted him with some of the others and he has since confessed to others as well. We are now in the stages of “affair recovery”. He originally chose to blame me for all of this, saying I wouldn’t move forward with our life or living arrangements and that I was still in love with an old flame who is still a close friend. Since then he’s conceded (hopefully sincerely) that it wasn’t me keeping our life in limbo. It was his issues and his imagination and now that he knows I’ve known about his activity for the past few years, he also understands why I would understandably shut down and not want to pull him into my life. In order for me to move forward I need to know the truth about what happened in each of these affairs whether it’s one of the affairs that strung out over time or part of the list of one night stands. Each one matters. You can probably imagine how confronting this many lies all at once makes it difficult to know whether he is taking recovery seriously or continuing to lie. For some reason despite his visible efforts toward recovery I can not stop asking myself how much worse is this really? I’ve put 7 years into this relationship. I don’t want to agree to build a life with him just to find out that none of the recovery process was real and that he’s only pretending to own his problems and make them right. I hope that you will understand why I’m contacting you.
The questions I have are…
Where did you meet and how long ago?
Are you still seeing each other and if not when, how, and why did it end? If you are still seeing him, when is the last time he was with you or you spoke, sent texts or emails? Which email was he using with you?
What kind of relationship did/do you have? I already know it’s sexual. I’m asking if it was/is serious, casual, or something else? Has he made you promises of a future? Did he sleep at your house frequently on the nights he wasn’t here? How often did you visit him at his apartment? Which apartment did he use with you? How much time did you spend together? Did you take trips together?
Cinderella, as I’ve said I truly don’t wish to cause you any problems or inject myself into your life. I have no feelings of ill will toward you. I know too well that Tom weaves a wonderful illusion when he wants to. I’m sorry if for some reason my letter comes as a shock, but I have to assume by now it won’t be. I’m also sorry if you’re still involved and are finding out things that could hurt you or contradict the story you’ve been given. I’ve debated this contact back and forth for months. I have no idea whether it will help me or not but I’m really left with no other choice for the answers I need. I’ll also say that I won’t contact you again with any further questions, regardless of the answers you give. You have my word and my word is good. It’s time for me to ask the questions and walk away. I wish you all good things in life.
So there you have it. So much for appealing to her decency as a woman! Suprisingly I am more irked than devastated by her lack of response. It irritates me but I knew it was a long shot anyway….