How do you heal when you find out your significant other has been two or three or four-timing you for years?
Ms. Outtta’ Here
Dear Ms. Outta’ Here,
In 2007, I launched a solo show about my experiences growing up as a half-Jewish kid in the south. In it, I re-enacted a scene from middle school where the Stromboli sisters lured me to an empty lot with the promise of a first kiss only to jump me and beat me up for being Jewish. “Why’d you kill God’s son?” Silvia yelled as she punched me in the stomach. “Yeah, the Jews kilt Jesus!” Selene sang as she gave me a round house kick that knocked me to the ground.
I remember staring up at the wobbly sky as they laughed at me and feeling more pain than I’d ever felt in my life. It was physical pain mixed with embarrassment, shame and guilt. I walked home and never told anyone about the fight….until 2007…on stage.
After the show’s debut, my own sister confronted me about the scene. She didn’t believe it happened. In fact, no one in my family did.
It made me realize that even in the same house, two people can live in two totally different realities, especially when one has a coping mechanism that involves silence. There was no way I would ever be able to convince my sister or any of my relatives to believe what had happened. And there was no way I could explain to her the pain that came back, when years later, Silvia sent me a friend request on Facebook that I accepted.
I bring up this story up Ms. Outta’ Here for two reasons. First, because I suspect there were two different realities going on in that home of yours. Your husband had one and you had another. And second, it worries me that you included so much empty space and silence in your message.
I can tell more from what you left out than what you included. In your silence, I can feel your physical pain mixed with embarrassment, shame and guilt – the same things I felt when I didn’t tell anyone what had happened for nearly twenty years. I have to wonder how your own silence affected your relationship.
My guess is that you’re replaying all sorts of scenes in your head like I did with my own defeat. At first, I imagined my fight just like it occurred, and the rush of shame, guilt and pain always came back. It’s the most common way we play the victim in our own script. Often, when we think that life is “happening to us” it strips us of our power and blinds us to the gifts contained within the pain. I thought it was my fault just as you think, I’m assuming, that you’re partially to blame for what happened. If I wasn’t Jewish things would have played out differently right?
The partial truth is, only a naive kid with his head in the clouds can get lured to empty lot by two angry anti-Semites and get beat up. I was so obsessed with my first kiss that I missed a thousand cues that would have easily hinted to that inevitable fight scene.
I wonder what you were so obsessed with that you missed the cues the first, second, third and fourth times your significant other cheated on you? I suspect you were a little like me, a naive little kid with your head in the clouds. My question to you isn’t why you allowed the cheating to happen again and again. My question is where does your silence take you? How does it serve you? How do you use it? How do you not use it? How does it comfort you? And what could you replace it with if you didn’t have it?
Days after my beating something happened. In my own silence, I became a karate expert (in my mind) and when I’d re-imagine the fight, I was suddenly blocking punches and throwing the Stromboli sisters around like they were corn tortillas. Instead of feeling shame and guilt in the incident I found myself filled with anger and anxiety. I’d traded the lousy hand I’d been dealt for another lousy hand. The thing is, things don’t change much inside that room of silence, no matter how much imagination you use – the outcome remains the same.
I think it’s time to explore your relationship to your own silence and how it’s been affecting your relationships, not only your intimate ones, but your most important ones as well. When something happens to us again and again and again, it’s like life is knocking on our door asking us to look at something we actually need to look at. It rang the doorbell politely the first time and you ignored it and so it busted down the door. Don’t let it set your house on fire the next time.