Teach Me: How does name-calling help get over infidelity?

As a lot of you know, I’m working on my second book right now. It’s a collaboration with a great therapist out of California that is going to be geared at the female partners of male porn addicts. He’ll handle the therapy side, I’ll handle the been there, done that side. The early work we’ve done is good and I look forward to continuing.

We’re not talking about sex addiction in the book. My co-author could, but I don’t have experience with it. My life was not secretive rendezvous and texting on burner phones. I don’t have the DNA makeup for that although I don’t judge any of them harsher than any other addict.

There are many women who have to deal with men who are both porn addicts and sex addicts. Many of them are loyal followers on this site and I always appreciate their feedback to me. Knowing what’s important to them helps me focus on what I should put in the book.

Sometimes I’ll need to directly ask them about something I don’t understand. I’ve never been in their shoes and betrayal trauma recovery is nothing I’ve ever participated in.

I suppose I could ask them the question central to this article individually, but I’d rather pose this to the community as a whole because I’d love to get feedback from different kinds of people who have had different experiences around infidelity and addiction. I sincerely hope it doesn’t trigger or open any wounds. There’s the warning. Trigger, trigger.

Why hate the other woman/women so much? I understand that they participated as your husband’s illicit partner, but why does it matter what their story is?

In the best possible scenario, your husband was lying to them the whole time and they had no idea your husband was married or boyfriend was in a serious relationship. They were duped the same way you were.

In the worst-case scenario, they knew he was married, were a close friend of yours and set out to destroy your relationship.

Either way, your husband was a willing participant and these women owe you nothing. Sure, it’s kind of sleazy to sleep with another woman’s husband, but it’s not like the husband didn’t also sign-off on the dalliance.

No perfect answers

I spent most of my last therapy appointment talking about this book. My therapist is voraciously secretive about her clients, but she told me she’s dealt with women going through betrayal trauma and it’s even harder to deal with than somebody going through the death of a loved one much of the time.

She said for whatever reason, there are just some women who can’t let go of the betrayal, yet don’t want to end their marriage. After running around in circles, she said that there have been a couple where she just didn’t know what to do with because they either couldn’t or wouldn’t move on.

The betrayal to my wife was on a lower scale because it was just pornography and chat rooms, or at least I think that’s what she told herself. There was also the involvement of the police and legal proceedings, so I think that threw the average betrayal situation off its normal track. I believe getting myself healthy over the course of time, and her having the time to do the same for herself took care of most of the pain. Either way, I know that I got lucky with how little she held against me. She could get totally mad at me, but the women on the other end of the computer had no idea who they were talking to…how can they be the target of her betrayal?

Oh yeah, well you’re a stupid head

In reading many of the entries these women put on their blogs, I’m impressed by their strength and dedication to their families and their systematic way of picking up the pieces and fixing things. Sometimes I think they may go too far with the boundaries/discipline with their husbands, but that’s probably natural for me to think things are excessive for the guy since I was the guy in my scenario.

The one thing that almost all do, that I have never been able to understand is how much anger, hate and resentment they carry for the “other woman.” Since none of these women use their real names on their blogs, everyone gets a nickname. Usually the husband or boyfriend gets a positive name, although I think it’s used ironically. The other woman, though, gets roasted.

I won’t use the real nicknames I’ve seen but they would go along the lines of “Supertramp,” “The Homely Whore,” or “Satania.” Feel free to use any of those, ladies.

Why so much hate toward the other woman? I read some of these terrific entries that encapsulate their feelings of grief, anger, betrayal and loss and am right there with them and then the other woman is introduced as “The Angry Cow.” It takes me out of the blog entirely.

I understand these women being an object of scorn, but is the name calling just to lower them? Is it to degrade them as a human? It is to build yourself higher?

I’m not saying the name calling is right or wrong, but it comes off so jaded sometimes. It’s hard to see the blogger as the better person when they write 500 fantastic words about dealing with their situation like an adult and then refer to the other woman as “Pig Face.” I wonder if being supported by similar women who also use name-calling as a literary technique clouds any objective view toward it.

I know it’s a complex set of emotions and I really don’t mind those names being used if the feeling is genuine, although I think healing is going to involve letting those monikers go. It’s easy to say how much you hate a situation, but when you call someone a name, you’re putting that hate on display. Much like I said in a recent blog, somebody once said the best revenge is living well. How can you live well when you’re still calling someone names like you’re in middle school?

Recovery began by dropping resentments

“I could never forgive/am still upset with X for doing Y.” I’m sure you have plenty of X’s and Y’s. I try not to anymore. One of the biggest pieces of my recovery has been learning to drop grudges and squash resentments before they start. Letting things go feels like releasing oxygen; refusing to feels like suffocation.

I remember it was only a few days into my first in-patient rehab when we were tasked to write a letter to someone we held a resentment against. At the end of the exercise, we put them through the shredder, so it wasn’t like it was going to ever be seen by them. It was more just about a cathartic release.

On the surface, I thought it was one of the stupidest things I’d heard. In the past, my way of dealing with resentment was to either stifle and move forward or angrily confront the person, usually just making things worse in the process. This exercise sounded like hippie, touchy-feely crap. Then I did it.

The first person I could think of was one of the people I co-owned a couple of companies with prior to being arrested. They, like most of my business partners, were once someone I considered a close friend, but had distanced themselves from me a few months earlier and I was still framing it like an abandonment.

Once I started writing, I focused on the small things this person did that irked me over the years. You know, the kind of stuff that gets under your skin in the moment and you look back and think “That wasn’t cool.”

It was little things, like saying they’d help with something I thought was major, but backing out at the last minute. In retrospect, it wasn’t major, they had a decent reason, and my Plan B was just fine. Or needing them to step out of their comfort zone to deal with somebody, but them not being able to overcome their anxiety. I have anxiety too, so I get it. I just wish they could have faced it.

It surprised me how good it felt to understand their side of things. When I stopped being the center of the universe, it’s easier to understand other people’s issues.

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Then I moved onto the bigger things. This person had spoken ill of me to quite a few people. I don’t know why they didn’t think it wouldn’t get back to me. I realized just how much this person and I did that to others when we were on the same page. Should it be any great surprise they would do that me? Maybe it’s my journalism roots – or why I got into journalism in the first place – but I used to really enjoy gossiping and this person and I had earned PhDs in the science.

I was collapsing in on myself like a black hole, but they weren’t. Their behavior was boorish, just like mine was when I did the same thing, but they were still behaving naturally.

When it came to them “abandoning” me as I flamed out and crashed like a satellite entering the earth’s atmosphere (What’s with all the space references today?) that wound was still very fresh when I wrote the letter, but I was able to take a breath and recognize it was not abandonment. It was pulling away from a bad situation by someone who was looking out for themselves. People shut themselves off to others as a form of self-preservation. This is what they were doing. Through an objective lens, it honestly made sense.

I read the letter out loud to the group and put it through the shredder. Writing down that I forgave the person and then saying it out loud was powerful. That night, as I went to sleep, I noticed I felt a lot better. I thought about some of my other business partners and other people who had made it onto my list of resentments. Once I got that first person out of the way, it was so much easier to just let things go with everybody else.

Asking myself why I was holding onto things actually made me feel kind of dumb in a way. What did I think would change or come out of negative thoughts or energy? Nothing could change what happened in the past and I wasn’t looking for anything to really change in the future. Did I expect them to grovel at my feet begging forgiveness? Even if they did, I’d have been angry for them causing a scene to make me look like the bad guy. Those kinds of lasting bad feelings weren’t going to be mended, because they couldn’t, so why carry it with me?

Letting go isn’t saying they were right or wrong. It’s not saying I was right or wrong. It’s saying that the energy in taking a side isn’t worth the outcome, especially when the outcome is negative emotions. I don’t have to admit defeat because there is no winning side in resentment.

I talked with my wife every night while I was at that rehab on the telephone. She and I were in very similar places of resentment against many of the same people when I left. When she’d voice anger toward someone, I realized mine was either gone or had dissipated greatly. Somehow, I was learning to let things go.

Now, nearly four years after that happened, I look back at the angry person I was and feel bad for that guy. Sure, he may have been more successful on the surface, but he carried too much spite inside. I think my wife has released a lot of it, but I know there are still people who carry resentments for me and carry resentments against me that they’ll probably never let go of. I feel sad for both groups. It’s just not worth it.

Let your resentments go. You have nothing to gain by maintaining them.