Three Good Reads about Betrayal

In the past few weeks, I’ve read three helpful books on the subject of healing from betrayal.

I just finished reading, When Your Lover is a Liar: Healing the Wounds of Deception and Betrayal by Susan Forward, PhD with Donna Frazier.

High school health teachers should add Ms. Forward’s book to their curriculum so that young women can be warned in advance about the charismatic side of liars and how to avoid them. This book helped me move through thinking that my betrayal was unique  to seeing the universality of betrayal. My boyfriend is  a life long liar. In the first few months of our reunion, I believed that he had changed, but as it turned out, he was still a liar. Had I read this book in advance I may have been able to bail out of the relationship by realizing that the lying was never going to stop. If I had left the relationship earlier, I would have been spared the heartbreak of his betrayal. Liars lie. They keep on lying.

I liked this book so much that I sent a copy to my daughter at college to give to a friend who was trying to escape from a relationship with a liar who was cheating on her. I also recommended it to a friend my age (44) who had just finished a nasty divorce from a liar. She  thanked me for the recommendation and said that she recognized many patterns from her own experience while reading the stories of the women in the book.

Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity , by Shirley P. Glass, PhD, illuminates the phenomenon of friendships at work budding into extra marital affairs. Obviously, this is nothing new, but Ms. Glass believes that due to increased time spent in the workplace and the availability of secret communications systems such as texting and email, this trend is growing. This book focuses on how women and couples can repair marriages and other committed relationships after an affair between ‘just friends.’

Ms. Glass also clearly delineates how these friendships, unlike one night stands, focus on emotional intimacy and grow as the two people involved view their special friendship as a type of fantasy relationship, free from the troubles of their committed relationship.  Intimacy between the friends develops slowly over months or even years, so that it seems innocent and natural for them to finally embark upon a sexual relationship. This type of relationship is all about selfishness; the person sneaking around developing an intimate relationship with a friend is trying to avoid dealing with the real life problems in the committed relationship.

If I had read this book beforehand, I never would have trusted my boyfriend’s ‘friendship ‘with this other woman. I would have recognized certain warning signs early on. There was a point when they began spending more time together, and in retrospect it is clear that  she was pursuing him, and  that he probably turned to her to discuss problems he was having with me.  It was the perfect set up as they worked together, and so he created a parallel relationship with her with very little effort. Since I’d never experienced infidelity before, and trusted him completely, I was thinking, “Oh that’s nice, he has a good friend at work.” As he’d asked her out a year  before he and I had reunited and she had turned him down coldly, I had thought that this woman  was ‘safe.’ She just wanted to be friends with him. It never occurred to me that her feelings would change. I was doubly at risk because he and I lived a couple hours apart, so it was very easy for this ‘just friends’ relationship to bloom into sexual intimacy with him running very little risk of me finding out.

Finally, How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To, by Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD, is a breath of fresh air. I have always been a proponent of forgiveness and have forgiven many things in my life. But I knew fairly quickly after discovering my boyfriend’s betrayal, that given my long history with him,I could never forgive his recent lying and web of deceit which he’d been spinning around me for eighteen months, with me never suspecting!

Ms. Abrahms Spring offers acceptance as an alternative to forgiveness. This concept has worked very well for me and helped me move forward with my healing process. I will write more about this excellent read in another post soon.



Self Deception Meets the Deceiver II

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Self Deception Meets the Deceiver, Part II

So many times, in my thoughts, my dreams and my hearts, I have created excuses for this man‘s behavior.

For the past, “He was mixed up,” or “He was in with the wrong crowd.”

For his recent betrayal, “She stole him from me.” “He wasn’t very experienced with women.” “He’s an addict.”

In 2008, in order for me to deceive myself about who he was, it was necessary for me to buy, lock, stock & barrel, his apology and his excuses, “I tried to find you but your mother stonewalled me.” (Good for her!) “I had my head up my ass and failed you and our daughter!” & Also I had to validate his self pity and victimhood which went along with these statements. (Yes, I believe that he did feel himself the victim, not that he was trying to convince me to believe it.)

I opened my arms readily to this repentant man with his declarations of apology and devotion because I accepted his version of the story with himself as the victim.

The victim? Excuse me? The man who chose drugs and druggies over his wife and baby daughter? The man who never sent us a dime, never a note to ask how we were? The man who never listed his phone number in case we tried to call him?(All those years of poverty, with my little daughter, of eating potatoes & lentils, of no health insurance, and me telling her, “I loved your Daddy very much but we had to leave because he was doing drugs and in with the wrong crowd but he’s not a bad person,” & every six months or so, calling up directory assistance, to see if he’d listed his phone number yet, thinking that would be a sign that he was turning his life around and wanted us to find him…)

But my biggest mistake in how I handled this situation back in January, 2008, when we first began communicating, first via email, and then instant messaging, after eighteen years of estrangement, was that without knowing it, I deceived myself into thinking that I was communicating at last with  young confused husband from 1989, or the young boy who wooed me as a teenager in 1986.

It did not sink in, until after I discovered that he was sleeping with another woman last fall, that he was neither teenager nor young father; he was a man in his forties who’d learned to lie often and well to cover his secrets from the world, and a man with secrets to hide, and with well established, very bad habits.

It was not my young teenage lover, or my young husband, who cheated on me with another woman in such a callous way as to keep me driving six hours round trip to see him for eighteen months during his infidelity, because neither of those aspects of him would have been capable of such duplicty.

But for the fortyish man with bad habits and a highly developed skill for lying, well, he slipped into the role of cheater quite easily. He was a natural at it.

As for the young boy I remember, camping across country under the stars the summer we were nineteen, he was mixed up and heading for a lifetime of addiction, but he would never have cheated on me.

And, as a wise older friend pointed out to me last week, this young boy whom I’ve loved and whom I’ve grieved for all these years- this young boy whom I thought I’d been reunited with, that boy is gone. He does not walk on this earth any longer. He has vanished.



(to be continued…)

The Unraveling

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A couple weeks ago I wrote about being in a ‘Maze of Denial.’ Happily, I can report that I’ve found my way out. When the betrayal issue first came to light on October 26, I was shocked and in a state of denial because I didn’t understand what was happening. I thought that he was different than he really is, and I thought that our relationship was something which it was not. I thought that he was mature and committed, and I thought that our relationship was monogamous.

In the past weeks, I’ve had to unravel my reality and strip it bare to the ground. There has been a lightening effect with this experience. (Not lightening from the sky, but a lessening of weight.) I no longer care about many of the things which were small worries prior to this experience. In order to process what had happened, I had to let go of everything in my life save for the bare minimum needed to survive; work, eating, laundry, shopping, showering, dressing, caring for children.

Everything else- home repairs, financial concerns, organization, exercise regimen- I pushed to the back burner. I needed all my energies to concentrate on what had happened.

A combination of my dreaming, writing, conversations with family and friends, lack of communication from the man who betrayed for four weeks, and then communication with him via phone, writing and email within a course of a few days last week led me to the discovery that he was absolutely not the person whom I thought he was and whom he led me to believe that he was, and that our relationship, far from being monogamous, had contained the person if not the actual body of a second woman for close to two years.

Why? Simply because he is shallow. His professions of love, by his own confession, wore out quickly. I was a new toy that he lost interest in. He was not able to break it off with me, also due to shallowness. If he broke it off with me, he didn’t have a mainline connection to his daughter. I was providing all of the family events, visits and activities which happened. He doesn’t like to drive, and so his daughter and I were coming to see him. I would make all the arrangements.

Every day,  I understand more and more about his shallowness . He is simply not a whole or a healthy person. He began the new relationship with me based on lies about habits he had twenty years ago. He simply told me that he’d grown up and these weren’t issues for him anymore. It turns out he was completely untruthful about this. When I began to discover the truth and ask him about his lies, he began pursuing another woman.

And being shallow, he lacked the honesty to tell me that he’d found a new love interest so that I could move on with my life. Being shallow, he lacked decency and/or respect, and by his silence about his second girlfriend, he encouraged me to continue driving six hours round trip every month for our relationship which I never doubted was monogamous. In the past 18 months while he’s been sleeping with this other woman without my knowledge, I’ve used up roughly three weeks of my vacation time from work to visit him. How incredibly rude of him to let me take all these vacation days and travel all this time to see him when he knew that my seeing  him was predicated on a complete falsehood!

I’m not sure if even ten percent of anything he’s told me in the past three years has been the truth.

I am glad to be out of it- I feel like an animal who has wriggled out of a trap. How long was he going to continue to deceive me? He took advantage of my geographical location to begin another relationship and simply did not tell me. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. My eyes weren’t open wide enough.

Every day now I remember more of the thousands of small unkindnesses which began happening more and more often in the past few months. I did not see them for what they truly were- unkind acts, words, deeds, gestures, because they didn’t fit into the context of the reality that I wanted to see- he was kind, devoted, had loved me for 25 years, etc.

Learning painful lessons is not fun. For the rest of my life I will never trust anyone easily again. Is this the right way to live? I am grateful that I escaped intact. These types of situations can turn out much worse. This man and I have no legal relationship, we have no financial connections. It’s just done.