Cheating is Abuse

I recently started reading Chump Lady ( -CL, and making my way through the archive. I find her point of view refreshing, and makes me appreciate the fact that my relationship with M. collapsed in a matter of months and I did not spend years trying to make it work with him, playing the “humiliating dance of pick me”.

CL makes a point about cheating being an act of narcissism and a form of emotional abuse. It is abusive for somebody who is married to you and has vowed fidelity to disregard your feeling and sleep with somebody else. In M.’s case the fact that he chose that X. would be his new best friend (and told me), was also incredibly abusive. He was blaming me for failing him, and my punishment for being insufficient was that I was no longer his prime emotional companion. This was deliberate and cruel. It was abusive.

Emotional abuse is the worst, because it is so pervasive. It hits you at the very core of what defines you as a person, and it is silent. There are no visible scars from emotional abusive. It is just the damage that years of an unhealthy relationship have done to your confidence and self-esteem. I do want to say that neither of us was aware of what was happening. M. was not doing it on purpose. He was never verbally abusive or threatening. In his worldview he never asked me to act this way or do these things. He is in fact “hurt” because of the way I let myself act during our relationship (blame deflecting, anyone?).

M.’s main way to be controlling was to be withholding, and pout whenever he was unhappy. There was a lot of nonverbal communication. If things didn’t go his way, he would pout, disengage and leave.  M. could be wonderful, he could sparkle like the best of them (see CL), but he was always in control and things were always on his terms. If M. said or did something that bothered me, like use sarcarm in a biting way against me, then I was “too sensitive” or took things out of “context”. He was prone to treating me as a child, and chastised me when I acted against his worldview. Sometimes in the middle of a fight, M. would correct my English (because I’m not a native speaker).

I always felt like I needed M.’s permission to do things (although he would tell me it wasn’t the case). If I ever made a commitment to somebody without running it by him, he would be very annoyed. If this commitment was something HE had to show up for him, he would be an outright ass about it. He used his silence and his body language to indicate his disproval. Which is why it is so hard to explain the ways in which he was controlling (i.e. how can somebody control you when they say and do nothing specific?).

M. was all about respect. He could not feel disrespected in any way (and obviously was completely unable to laugh at himself). If somebody was late to meet him,  that was DISRESPECT and his entire day would be ruined. If any of my friends had “disrespected” him, they were no longer welcome in my house, and if I had them over then he would be an ass about it.

M. could never take responsibility for his actions or ask for an apology. M.’s version of an apology is saying “he is sorry you are hurt by this”, because people are “too sensitive”. I don’t think that in 9 years I have every gotten a “I am very sorry for what I did, I would never do it again” type of apology from him that didn’t come filled with excuses. In general, other people were always responsible for things, including his problems and life difficulties and his unhappiness.

M. struggles with empathy. He cares for people and wants the best for those he cares about, but cannot go the extra step of putting himself in their position and understanding their pain. His sister’s struggles in life were always boring to him. They were being drama queens about not much, only his problems were real. M. doesn’t care about my feelings –which is widely demonstrated by his cheating and the way he went about our separation. Whenever our feelings about something disagreed,  mine were easily dismissed.

I have lived with him and loved him for 9 years. In that time, I have approached every social situation as the official bomb diffuser. It was my responsibility to make sure nobody pulled one of M.’s triggers and disrespected him. I had to constantly validate him, and try to cheer him up when the world was so unfair.  In reality, there was never room for my self-respect and M.’s ego.


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