Mary J Blige is cycling in my mind today. Songs about betrayal and abandonment, but nothing connected to my own except the burden of guilt and shame and anger I carry for something you maliciously hid away from me in the darkness. Disguised and cloaked to perfection, I was unaware as they silently screamed trying to alert me. Trying to warn me. Trying to save them from the betrayal you had in store. Innocently I stumbled into the past. All it took was one lost file, and there they were staring back at me.
Friday at work, I inadvertently saved an urgently important file in my photos folder. This is what happens when I work 110 hours in two weeks on top of my regular spiritual studies and meetings and service and blogging. I pretty much end up mindlessly zooming around and do things like this. Photos of three of the most beautiful young women that you will never get to know. How can someone so hateful have such beautiful daughters? How can someone abandon them and leave them behind to fend for themselves without care, without second thought?
She said hateful things about me to you when she found out you were living with me. I know because you forced me to sit and read her every word and gloated at my suffering as you shared with me more proof of how miserably horrible and worthless I was. By then I had learned that the woman I met at your father’s funeral was not your ex as you claimed. As you had lied, repeatedly for so long. I looked this woman in the eye, just having learned in a car already out of town that she was still your wife. Your wife, the one you dragged through endless chaos, through heartache after heartache, through the same abuses you subjected me to, looked me in the eye and asked me to help her with something, completely unaware that I had just found out that the knife in her back was being twisted and buried deeper by me. At a memorial for your father, and I had to swallow it and do my best to act normal for your family — not for you — because they were in mourning. Your sister was torn. I was destroyed. Your wife had no idea.
You had us sit at the same table, your wife, your daughters, and I, while you were mysteriously absent the entire time, talking to people you claimed you didn’t really care about. They were just convenient for you to avoid the smoldering inferno waiting for you back at the table. All the while, I remember sitting there looking at her and your two teenaged daughters, praying to Jehovah that she wouldn’t hate me for being trapped by a monster we both shared. Praying that she wouldn’t blame me for your endless trail of infidelity. Wanting to disappear, to vanish into thin air… anything to not have to look her in the eye, all because you lied. I had already started to emotionally and physically pull away from you before that, but this act of betrayal, this act of evil and hate sealed it. And I felt your wrath for this, too, but I would much rather you lay your hands on me in unquenchable and volatile anger than in false claims of affection and intimacy. I don’t take what doesn’t what isn’t mine to possess. And although your brutalizing me had long since been underway, here is where you lost all reason and all control. My refusing to give myself to a man who was not mine was what unleashed the monster from the closet. Here is where the torturous abuse began in punishment of my non-compliance.
Today I had an extended conversation with a friend about my inability to overcome this and forgive myself for his lie. That I could not get this feeling of remorse, sorrow, hurt, humiliation, anger, shame, and utter disbelief to fade. That couldn’t forgive myself for something he did to me and to her and to their children all with one insidious word: ex. I remember you telling me a story about the woman immediately before me tried to lure — you said date, but really it was a trap — into a relationship with you. You were honest with her, as with the others who came before her, and told her that you were still married but separated. In unmistakable words, you told me of how she went along with it at first, but eventually she flipped out on you about being married and disappeared. Because she had a conscience. Because you weren’t hers. So you adapted your approach, and the story I got was that she was your ex, but you still copped to being a horrible father. To be blunt, that last part is grossly under-exaggerated.
What you did was steal our choices when they weren’t free for the taking. Not only did you fool me into believing you were someone you were not and do not have the capability to be, but you devastated your wife’s life. In the beginning of your relationship, an ex of yours paid a surprise visit with your infant daughter. She had shown up looking for you while you were out running the streets. This one got away. Moved on, married someone else who gave your first child the life and the role model she deserved. And your wife? You got her pregnant not once, but twice. And since then you have been in and out of their lives, although it’s been far more absentee that present. When you were around, you put the family in dire straights from your addiction, you abused this woman who gave you two children you did not deserve, and then you left them all on their own to fend for themselves. You simply abandoned them.
And me…. you made me the “other woman.” The untouchable one. The one people shun and avoid lest they be stricken by the plague and die a miserable death. When my family found out, they all incorrectly assumed that I had acted with full knowledge of what the reality was. They talked about me behind my back, saying hateful things, and never once did any of them think to ask. Your wife and daughters did not ask either. They connected A and B thinking the end result was C, but they missed all the points in between that would have led them to W instead. If they had only asked. To be fair, after so many times of hearing about you being with other women, I probably would have done the same thing — assumed. I don’t know any woman that relies on logical thinking when she learns she has been betrayed this way, especially not if had been multiple times. Sometimes the cut goes too deep.
When she repeatedly confronted you about it, you gave her infinitesimally small pieces of truth coated with pounds of deception and outright lies. You not only did nothing to refute things she accused me of that were not true, you often led her to believe that they were true. This was your happy place: brutal and unending emotional torture of those closest to you. Our purpose is to serve as your punching bags so you can vent you anger, hate, spite, evil, and betrayal out without consequence. Your lies destroyed us all in different yet equally painful ways, but the part of this I have not been able to clear from my heart is what you have done to her… by using me as a tool. This woman gave her life to you, gave you two beautiful daughters who no longer call you father, and tolerated your craziness, your addiction, and infidelity, and your abuse. Time after time, she tried to work it out, but you only stay married to her to use her a last resort, and that, too, is abuse.
How can I look at myself or look anyone else in the eye with a clean conscience, knowing that this pain is what I have caused? I don’t care how it came about. It doesn’t matter that your lie is what precipitated the whole unfolding of events. Not to me. What matter is that it is, and I cannot forget, I cannot let go, and I cannot relinquish the responsibility of sharing in being the cause of her pain. Spiritually, she is a sister to me, and quite frankly someone I could have been friends with if we met a different way. Even though unwilling, I will always be a party to this betrayal she has once again endured. To me it means nothing that you beat me because I refused to sleep with you, that I was trapped, that you were devilishly cruel. Because all I see when I look at these photos of your daughters is destruction and devastation. Lies and betrayal. Deceit and evil. I see the pain of your actions and absence in their eyes. I feel the emotional distress they suffered burning chaotically in the pit of my stomach, and I cannot put out the fire. I cannot forgive myself for you being a liar. A cheat. A phony.
My friend told me, as I am sure several of you would, that I was not being fair to myself, because I couldn’t act on something I had no knowledge of. That I couldn’t make a different choice where the option was not present to begin with. She had to remind me that my circumstances were different, as I was so brutally and sadistically abused by him. That he was the one who betrayed her, not me. But it doesn’t feel that way. To me, it feels like I’m the one who broke the blade off in her back and called it love.