On being betrayed

I was poking around the depths of the internet recently and I found an old, but still relevant, article on betrayal in the NY Times: https://nyti.ms/2k8oupp .  As much as I dislike the level of discourse in most comment sections, the NY Times moderates and curates theirs pretty carefully.  Two comments to the article hit really close to home:

From stuenan in Kansas:

Liars are also thieves. They steal time and possibilities. What life might you have led if you hadn’t believed all their lies? What opportunities did you miss out on because you made choices based on the lies you were told? What did you give up and sacrifice for someone you loved, believed in and trusted?

It’s hard not to feel that you have been preyed on in the worst way and that your life has been wasted.


From Amy in Chicago:

Discovering betrayal is like taking a hit from a baseball bat to the knees. It takes a lifetime to learn to walk upright again and look the world in the eye.

To me, both comments ring true in a very personal way. Yes, Handsome is a sex addict, but his addiction involved multiple forms of cheating and betrayal. I’m no different from any other betrayed spouse except my cheater now goes to 12-step meetings. Any infidelity is sufficient to cause these feelings, whether the betrayal is emotional, physical, or otherwise.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t even think it matters much if your spouse cheated five times or five hundred, or over the course of one week or one decade. While some may find consolation that what their spouse did wasn’t “as bad” as what another spouse did (or, conversely, believe that their misery is greater because of a longer duration or greater number of misdeeds) it’s a distinction without a difference.

If you are betrayed, you suffer. You hurt. You cry, rage, scream, and lash out. You question. You doubt. And then you suffer some more, usually for a very long time.

What life might I have led if I hadn’t believed all of Handsome’s lies? On my good days I think that if I had pressed harder in 2012 (after the Flame reared her ugly head the first time) maybe we wouldn’t be where we are today.  Perhaps I should have believed less or doubted more.  On my not so charitable days, I feel as though I was sold a bill of goods about Handsome from the very beginning and that had I been shown a truthful picture of him from the start, I’d be blissfully living a trigger-free life with someone else. I can’t imagine being with anyone else and the very thought of it makes me sad, but still…

What opportunities did I miss out on because I made choices based on the lies I was told?  What did I give up and sacrifice for Handsome? I left an amazing job with fantastic benefits, dear friends, and a full, independent life in a big city to move back to where he and I met, because he said he’d love and honor me forever.  And here we are, facing the fallout of that unfulfilled promise. I seem to have also sacrificed healthy portions of my self-esteem, dignity, and confidence to his lies as well.

Most days, I get by okay. Some days now, I actually do well. My mind only reels for portions of the day, not all of it. Nonetheless, Handsome’s betrayal has maimed me and inflicted a trauma of the type I’ve never had to deal with before: a Tonya Harding-esque bat to the knees for sure. So, when Handsome exited his therapy session with the Doc yesterday and started talking about forgiving himself? Well, forgive me, but my initial reaction was along the lines of “Now? So soon? That’s it? You’re told to magically let this years-long shit storm you created go after 6 months, but I get the joy of dealing with it, and you, forever?” Uh, no.

I should have seen this coming though. As the article says: “…it is often the person who lied or cheated who has the easier time. People who transgressed might feel self-loathing, regret or shame. But they have the possibility of change going forward, and their sense of their own narrative, problematic though it may be, is intact.” Yes, Handsome certainly knows his own story, while I grasp at straws to figure it out. He knew the life he was living, even if it was compartmentalized. My narrative, on the other hand? My life hasn’t been what I thought it was for a very long time.

I’m all in favor of Handsome not carrying shame with him every day for the rest of his life. Shame was a driver for his acting out. And yes, at an appropriate point he should forgive himself. To me, however, that point comes after he has (i) made a full accounting of his behavior and the harm he has caused, (ii) endeavored to make amends for that harm, and (iii) evidenced the commitment to never betray his family again by living a life of integrity day in and day out for longer than a red-hot minute. Once he does these things I will be prepared to forgive him as well. But he’s nowhere near that point, and neither am I. I’m still struggling to walk upright again and look the world in the eye.


20 thoughts on “On being betrayed”

  1. 100%. My sister-in-law reportedly once said to cheater, “what’s her problem? It was just the one?’ Hmm. A. So what if it was? (It wasn’t.) B. It was long and with my friend and in my homes and around our children. C. Even if it was a ONS, betrayal is betrayal is betrayal. Unprotected sex has exposed me to diseases I could have protected myself from. I did not get the choice to not get this HPV induced cancer. Ugh.

    1. Oh, a million times YES on the abject selfishness of the exposure to the VD parade. (They get an orgasm and we get crabs! Chlamydia! Herpes! HPV! AIDS! Hepatitis!) As if dragging my crying, distraught self and my lady bits to the gynecologist and asking to be tested for everything possible wasn’t bad enough. The fear, humiliation, sadness, and anger was overwhelming.

      I couldn’t be tested for HPV back in January so I have to WAIT till January of 2019 to return, remind them of what a gem I’m married to, and have that test done. Awesome. Waiting an entire f’ing year to find out exactly how skanky the Whore is (when we already know she has syphilis) is agonizing.

      You are a better person than I am Paula. If Handsome had an orgasm and I got cancer, we would be the subject of one of those murder mystery news shows where the wife ever so slowly does her husband in by some incredibly painful (yet undetectable) means.

      I occasionally ponder the issue of whether I could, if Chris Hemsworth showed up on my doorstep or something, cheat on Handsome. Every single time my answer is simply NO. A thousand times NO. I could never, ever, put his health and well being in jeopardy the way he has jeopardized me. I could never intentionally cause him pain or bring him harm. I thought that was a given for him too, but it wasn’t.

      Ugh is right. 100%

      1. Yup. And the worst of it is, he never really understood the devastation I felt at the chlamydia and HPV diagnoses. I thought that so odd at the time. You have given me diseases, one of which is possibly life threatening….nope. Nothing.

        1. Handsome had the same non-response to finding out the Whore had syphilis. A flat stare. Shock? Maybe. But then when I said that we were both going to get tested his reply was along the lines of “Oh, well, I guess so…” as if that was overkill. No tears. No profound expressions of remorse. Just a blank look like an insolent teenager.

          1. Weird, eh? That was when I realised I was dealing with someone with a very different operating system than me. He refused to be tested at first. Overkill. Oh yeah. When my results came back he was horrified. So, it was denial. He even said, to me, “don’t be ridiculous and overdramatic, she’s clean,” when I said we had to be tested. Crazy denial.

          2. And actually, saying that felt like he was defending her. Protecting her non-existent honour. She was his multiple cheating ex GF. In her 40s at the time. Never had a long term relationship since him at 21. Do lots of sexual partners. Nothing wrong with that per se. But it does expose her to more potential diseases.

          3. Yes. When Handsome tried to tell me he thought the Whore was “decent enough” it was as if he was vouching for her. Blah. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

  2. Mr. P hesitated with the STD testing as well – his words ” I always wore a condom and the lawn has to be mowed”. Yaaaaa hmmmfff, what?!! Now!! And make sure they stick the q-tip up there as well! They thought they had it all figured out…

    1. They are so simple, aren’t they? After Handsome admitted to performing oral on the Whore on multiple occasions, I asked if he bothered to use a dental dam. 😳 Based on the deer in the headlights look in response, the answer was clearly “no.” I’m not sure any of them understand how the “T” in STD actually occurs.


      1. Exactly, when Mr. P said he always uses a condom I asked “Oh yeah hero? Even when someone was giving you a blow job or at the very least saran fucking wrap when you were performing oral??” Well, no not then.

        Well then, no, he didn’t always use protection.

        Crazy the risks that they take, it’s just insane.

    2. Well, mine looked shocked when I asked if he always wore a condom. Nope. Not even once. Gross. I cannot tell you how many times we had that conversation over the decades! If anyone ever cheats, that is bad enough, but USE PROTECTION!!! My Dad was forced out of the closet in the mid 80s. Pre mass education/knowledge of how to help prevent AIDS. So, no condoms. I was terrified for years that my Mum had contracted HIV. She hot tested a few times in the years following her divorce. I kept a box of condoms in his sock drawer. And explained to him that if he screwed up (please don’t) to USE ONE! He could replace the box, etc. I rarely checked it. Only occasionally to check the expiry date and replace it.

  3. “its a distinction without a difference.” Thank you for this. A lot of harm is done to hurting and betrayed women when their pain is minimized rather than being validated as THEIR pain.

    I can certainly understand that for you to forgive Handsome, point i), ii) and iii) may need to occur, but possibly the order is the other way around for him. Perhaps Handsome needs to forgive himself before he is fully and genuinely able to accomplish your points. Does his order really matter if it brings the same outcome at the end? You are both broken and hurting people, but healing from different things with a different healing process. Just a thought, my friend xo

    1. Very fair points, Cynthia. I wonder though if you can really live with integrity or make amends if you haven’t fully acknowledged your bad acts? I suppose that you can if you legitimately have repressed memories and you don’t recall things, but otherwise? I’m not saying it’s impossible. Just difficult and perhaps a tad unfair. It’s kind of like when my 8 year old comes to me in tears apologizing for something. Of course I want to know what he did. If he admits to spilling milk on the floor and I forgive him for that and we clean it up, and then later I find out that he had actually tracked it throughout the entire house and he just didn’t tell me, I’m going to feel suckered. This seems to be a bit the same to me.

      That said, I do get your point about the outcome. The path is ultimately less important than arrival at the destination. I’ll try to stay mindful of that.

      1. This whole situation we are in is unfair. But we are in it anyways. I think it is doubtful someone can live with integrity or make amends if they haven’t acknowledged their bad acts. But I believe you can do both without forgiving yourself. I think most of us consider ourselves to be good people and live as such, yet still haven’t forgiven ourselves for something we have done in our past. At least that is true of me.

        As for us, the betrayed partners, forgiveness and trust are two separate things. Forgiving someone does not mean we trust them, or are saying that what they did doesn’t matter. They have to earn our trust again. Whereas forgiveness can’t be earned, it is given. Handsome, or my husband, may not ever do the things we require to fully trust them again or feel safe, but that doesn’t mean I can’t forgive my husband to free my own heart from the bitterness and anger. Forgiving him is for my benefit, not his. And it is possible the betrayer may be genuinely remorseful and repentant and make amends, but that does not mean the betrayed is able or willing to forgive them at the time of amends or ever for various reasons. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the amends weren’t true.

        I just think it is very okay to recognize that Handsome forgiving himself does not require you to forgive him. And he making amends to you does not require you to forgive him. And you can choose whether or not to forgive him at any time or not at all independent of where he is in his recovery. It depends where you are in yours. And very likely you won’t be in the same place at the same time. And that is okay too. Just focus on you for now, and keep breathing xo

Please share if you've had a similar (or totally different!) experience on your journey.