Tearing at the Fabric

Of the space-time continuum


Great betrayals

I have a bookmark to the wonderful 2013 opinion piece written by psychiatrist, Anna Fels that ran in the New York Times, on my laptop, Great Betrayals. It absolutely voices my experience. And explains the societal pull that means others want you to hide your pain, and just get the hell over it.

In particular, I relate to this part:

“And to an astonishing extent, the social blowback for such miscreants is often transient and relatively minor. They can change! Our culture, in fact, wholeheartedly supports such “new beginnings” — even celebrates them. It has a soft spot for the prodigal sons and daughters who set about repairing their ways, for tales of people starting over: reformed addicts, unfaithful spouses who rededicate themselves to family, convicted felons who find redemption in religion. Talk shows thrive on these tales. Perhaps it’s part of our powerful national belief in self-help and self-creation. It’s never too late to start anew.

But for the people who have been lied to, something more pervasive and disturbing occurs. They castigate themselves about why they didn’t suspect what was going on. The emotions they feel, while seemingly more benign than those of the perpetrator, may in the long run be more corrosive: humiliation, embarrassment, a sense of having been naïve or blind, alienation from those who knew the truth all along and, worst of all, bitterness.

Insidiously, the new information disrupts their sense of their own past, undermining the veracity of their personal history. Like a computer file corrupted by a virus, their life narrative has been invaded. Memories are now suspect: what was really going on that day? Why did the spouse suddenly buy a second phone “for work” several years ago? Did a friend know the truth even as they vacationed together? Compulsively going over past events in light of their recently acquired (and unwelcome) knowledge, such patients struggle to integrate the new version of reality. For many people, this discrediting of their experience is hard to accept. It’s as if they are constantly reviewing their past lives on a dual screen: the life they experienced on one side and the new “true” version on the other. But putting a story together about this kind of disjunctive past can be arduous.

Understandably, some feel cynical if not downright paranoid. How can they know what is real going forward? How can they integrate these new “facts” about family, origin, religion, race or fidelity? Do they have to be suspicious if they form a new relationship? As my friend said in despair, “I’m just not a snoop; it’s not in my genes.”

And the social response to people who have suffered such life-transforming disclosures, well meaning as it is intended to be, is often less than supportive. Our culture may embrace the redeemed sinner, but the person victimized — not so much. Lack of control over their destiny makes people queasy. Friends often unconsciously blame the victim, asking whether the betrayed person really “knew at some level” what was going on and had just been “in denial” about it. But the betrayed are usually as savvy as the rest of us. When one woman I know asked her husband, a closet alcoholic who drank secretly late at night, how he could have hidden his addiction for so long, he replied, “It took a lot of work.”

FREQUENTLY, a year or even less after the discovery of a longstanding lie, the victims are counseled to move on, to put it all behind them and stay focused on the future. But it’s not so easy to move on when there’s no solid narrative ground to stand on. Perhaps this is why many patients conclude in their therapy that it’s not the actions or betrayal that they most resent, it’s the lies.”

It’s. The. Lies.

Chump Lady posted about the article the day after it ran, and I just love how she disseminated it in her post.

I found this to be such a stumbling block, and Roger would rage against my saying, “but it makes my whole life with you a lie.” Because, it did. I no longer knew whether he ever loved me, if the good times in my brain were ‘real’ or if they were just a thing he allowed me to think while he was off grooming and fucking other women. The time we were having fun on holiday together, oh, he was fucking Leanne while I walked the dogs. The times we were at movies, holding hands, cuddling in the back row, he was thinking about Leanne. All the anniversaries, parties, dinner’s out – when he was no doubt going to the toilet and texting someone else. When he would send me cute pictures and comments about his day while I was at work – probably sent to other women too. The reality of my life was now in question. How could I believe anything anymore? But, he would insist it changed nothing. That everything was true, that everything was just fine and dandy. So, why wasn’t I feeling it? I honestly believed he loved me, kind of bizarrely, more than I thought any of my friends were loved. Is that a weird thing to say? He just makes you feel like you are the only thing that counts. I can guarantee Trinket feels loved and totally treasured, like I did, like I was the only woman in the universe who counted. Ugh. I bet she has ignored all the red flags – hey, I would be pretty damn wary if the guy I had just met online’s partner showed up and said, “um, hey lady, you are dating my partner, WTF?” Does she just think, “ah well, we’ll have SOME good times, and when he cheats on me (um, he already has, Trinket, he was sleeping with me the whole time we lived together, ick), at least I’ll have a few good memories, #worthit?”

My daughter, however, said to me last night, over dinner, that she thought he just always seemed bored, and distant. Jesus. Really? I must have lied to myself for thirty years that he loved me.

Man, that cut really deeply.

I watched this clip again recently, from good old Love Actually. That heartbreaking scene where Karen cleverly confronts Harry about the necklace she found, and had expected to get for Christmas, but realised when she opened a CD instead, as her gift from him, that he was having an affair with his secretary.

I thought it was bad when I watched it the first time, pre-DDay. But, watching it again, faaaaaaark!

Harry: Oh, God. I am so in the wrong. The classic fool. Karen: [voice breaking] Yes, but you’ve also made a fool out of me, and you’ve made the life I lead foolish too.

Yes, Roger never got that he made my life foolish. My life, that I built around him, for him, meant nothing.

Absolutely nothing. All that work. For nothing.