For some reason, I’m thinking about infidelity again.

No, there hasn’t been any in our relationship recently—certainly not that I know of!

But once it has happened, it isn’t possible to “forgive and forget.” Anybody who claims to have done so is a liar.

Forgiving? Yes, that’s possible. The forgetting isn’t.

And it’s always going to be there between you. That damage, that betrayal of trust—there it is.

The betrayed partner is always going to have that doubt in the back of her mind—is it happening again? Is he lying? Should I check?

Giving in to the “should I check” crap is generally a sign that the betrayed has gotten compulsive in some way—or that she’s subconsciously noticed signs of infidelity again.

But dammit, it’s hard to know which is which! You can take that moral high road. “I trust him. Why would I look at his email?” And then you can get kicked in the teeth by finding out, yet again, that everybody but you knew he was a lying bastard.

No, I don’t read Sam’s email. I can. He’s given me the passwords to all of his accounts in the past. I don’t use them. I don’t feel a need to do so.

But do I have an occasional nasty voice whispering in the back of my mind, telling me that I SHOULD just take a look? Hell yeah.

And that kind of insidious doubt is one of the shitty little gifts that infidelity leaves its unwilling participants.

Anyone who has ever been involved with an abuse survivor to any serious extent will tell you that it requires even more work than usual to build trust. Those of us who were abused as children were betrayed so very deeply that it is HARD to trust (okay, there are those who just trust everyone and get screwed over repeatedly, but that’s the other end of the spectrum).

When you put in the time and energy to build that trust and then do something as stupid as betraying it because you couldn’t stay away from some skanky bitch online—well, it’s even more crushing a betrayal to that woman who you betrayed.

BTW—yes, I consider the man involved to be skanky too. I’m not in denial about it.

Okay, now I know what got me thinking about this. It was a discussion of guilt by association that came up while Katie, Sam, and I were in the car. I freely admit that I judge people by the company they keep. No matter how good you seem, if you willingly keep company with dishonorable people you are tainted by that choice. It’s unlikely to matter to most people—but FWIW, no, I won’t ever trust you as long as you make that kind of choice.

Yes, yes—people change. Sam has. Do I think that MOST people change? Do most people actually do the work to make real changes? No. In my experience, they don’t, so I don’t count on it happening. I’ll believe it when I see it—and I sure as hell won’t seek out the company of people I’ve seen behave dishonorably to see if just maybe they’ve changed. I don’t give second chances, as a rule.

Sam got a second (and third, and fourth) chance solely because of the depth of our relationship, and the fact that our lives and children’s lives were already so intertwined. Had I not had Katie’s welfare to consider, I seriously believe that we wouldn’t be together now.

I know there were many women who cheated with Sam. I know—because I did read a hell of a lot of those messages and logs and so on—that they knew that he was in a committed relationship with me. He was very clear with them about the fact that I did not know about his relationships with them, and that it would NOT be okay if I did know. Each of those women made a conscious choice to hurt me. I hold every one of them responsible for those choices, just as I hold Sam responsible for them.

Of the four women I know personally, one apologized and exited our lives completely. One apologized and stuck around to heal our relationship. One actually tried to paint herself as a victim, then tried to claim that I was crazy. And one seems to be playing some kind of “let’s just not mention it” game, despite knowing that I do know and that I know that she knows that I know.

The first two did behave with some class. The third? His involvement with her hurt me more than any of the others (especially since I had specifically vetoed involvement with her BECAUSE she was a drama queen, and he went ahead anyway). She has tried to claim that she’s a victim and that I’m crazy/controlling/etc. The last—well, “cheap tramp” is the nicest label I can begin to think of for her. I’ve been told that she’s changed, she’s trying to turn her life around—that doesn’t hold any water. If she were honorable, or if she had any class or actual desire to make up for her wrongdoings, she would have apologized to me, at the very least. (Note: apologies received after this post goes public are utterly discounted.)

If you are involved with someone who is cheating on a partner, you are consciously choosing to harm that person’s partner. Don’t bother trying to candy-coat it. You’re cheating. You’re wrong. You don’t ever get to take any kind of moral high ground about infidelity or dishonesty again. Nope, you’ve lost it. And don’t bother bitching when you are cheated on—you asked for it. Hello, karma train!

No, I’ve never been tempted to “pay him back” or do some tit-for-tat bullshit. I have to live with myself, and I’m happy to do so with a clean conscience. Hell, sometimes it feels like that’s all I have to cling to.

Will it ever really be “okay” again? I wish it could. I wish that those wounds would heal. They haven’t, not completely. I don’t know that they will. I know that I won’t do anything to try to remove the memories. I had to work too damned hard to recover other memories in my life, and they’re all precious. That’s my life. Those memories represent what I’ve learned, even the ones that are horrible, harsh lessons.

I don’t trust Sam as much as I did before. That feeling of absolute trust with no reservations is gone forever. He threw it away, and that causes me to feel that he threw me away.

His choice of partners—the fact that he doesn’t even remember most of them as individuals, that they were damned-near anonymous and interchangeable—they make me feel disgusting and cheap by association. It’s nothing special to be chosen by someone who would do that. The kinds of activities they were involved with have seriously damaged my ability to engage in something that was precious between us before. It isn’t special. It’s a lie.

I know that every instant message exchanged causes a nasty little part of me to wonder—is that another one? Is it happening again? How stupid can I be? Every excited mention of a new female friend (and there are always lots of new female friends—the price of involvement with an extrovert who just genuinely loves women) brings doubts and questions.

Is he doing anything wrong? Not that I know of. Do I want him to cut himself off from other women? No. It would suffocate him. He couldn’t live that way. I wouldn’t ask him to. I wouldn’t want to live with him trying to live that way.

But I don’t know that I have any forgiveness left for betrayal. I hope I don’t ever have to find out.

Current Mood: 🙁sad
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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