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“You had a sinful response to having been sinned against.”

April 10, 2023


Coco,


I have a question I’ve been pondering based on the articles on Medium. When it comes to affairs, do you think that women get involved when they meet a guy and become instantly infatuated even if they have a picture-perfect relationship? In other words, she can’t get him out of her head even if she deeply loves her husband or longtime partner? I’m reading many of the articles that are listicles of the 5 or 7 or 10 things missing from the relationship. I sometimes think that once that immediate spark occurs that many women will be open to the possibility of cheating even when nothing important is remiss in the relationship.


M.


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M.,


Oh goodness. No, none of that. I’ve written extensively on the why. I don’t have it all figured out. But it’s nothing like you might think.


Here’s some of what I’ve written. It wasn’t hard to find these passages, sexual sin is one of the most prevalent threads of my very existence, it’s interwoven through so much of what I put to paper.


I think it boils down to something a Christian counselor I worked with for many years used to say to me: “You had a sinful response to having been sinned against.”


That’s it. That’s the whole of it. We enter destructive relationships because we think it’s all we deserve. And often, we’re simply battling our demons and desperately trying to work through our pain, desperately trying to redeem a situation that may simply be unredeemable.


Affairs are never about sex. They’re never that simple, not ever ever ever. They are about grasping at the counterfeit phantom notion we can do this “thing” and be healed of our pain, or our pain will be alleviated for at least a time. And the pain is so intense, we’ll do anything anything anything to alleviate it, even if it’s just for a few fleeting seconds of reprieve. It’s all false and unsatisfying as all hell.


The biggest reason, for me, was Daddy Issues. When a woman has a healthy relationship with her father, when her parent’s make it a point to prepare a young woman for adulthood in a healthy way, when she has the privilege of having been reared in a healthy functioning family, a lot of this bullshit gets warded off at the outset. Those things aren’t a sure-fire guarantee of success, but they go a long way towards the probability a woman will not fall into the traps I fell into — and I was only susceptible because of the ways in which I had been sinned against.


My choices were my own, but I was a victim acting out of a victim mentality. Which is a very selfish mentality. “I deserve this because this horrible thing happened to me.” I was blinded to the destruction I wrought. But that doesn’t absolve me from being responsible for my choices, for bearing the negative consequences. But there is always context to sin. Always.


We must always look at the entire picture before we pass judgment on others and especially before we pass judgment on ourselves.


There is nothing good about an affair, for anyone involved. The potential for destruction is immense. And yet, there is redemption in the aftermath.


I can’t explain it. I’ll write about it more, now, that your question has caused me to delve into this a bit. Thank you for that. So much to think about, so much to put to paper.


Coco


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Summer 2017 Writings from the Nuthouse


I’m not sure what I want to change. What I can change. If I will change. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve done things I never imagined; didn’t know I was capable of doing. I don’t mean deviant sexual things. I mean immoral things. Relationships with married men. Mostly, pretty much that’s it actually.


I feel sad for being part of an activity that tears at the fabric of marriage. I feel bad about betraying a wife, a sister. I feel bad about responding to a married man’s advances to satisfy the need in me. The lack, the emptiness in me.


Married men are very appreciative lovers. Their desire for me is voracious. They’re usually not getting sex at home. I’m it. I’m the source. It’s very heady stuff. Hedonistic. But with such potential for destruction, the destruction of families and of innocent people’s lives. I’ve had a piece in that. Whether or not the affair is discovered, I took part in a dangerous thing.


I don’t think about it. I don’t give myself reason to ruminate at length on having partaken in such evil. First because it’s not happening now. And second because I have the clear option to opt out ever again.


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December 21, 2017


Recall a few weeks back, when I was out of control with manic hysteria, and I wanted to go back to the hospital. I called Chase and he walked me through it. My brother and I had not spoken for some time, not by phone. I had Chase call my brother and tell him I was in a state of severe disorientation and mania. My brother called me right away.


I remember very little of that conversation. In fact, I only remember that I was speaking to him in a terrified tone, and I could not get my breath. I had conferenced in Chase, so what I know of our exchange comes largely from him.

Apparently, I went on and on about how I needed him to take care of my cats. That I wouldn’t go to the hospital unless I had a plan for them. I needed someone to promise me they would be OK, they wouldn’t be split up and if I was to be sick for a long time, a good home would be found. Chase told me my brother said, “Coco, I am thousands of miles away. This is not something I can help with.” I do not remember how the call ended. I remember I was not angry, nothing like that, I had just wanted to tell him what was happening and secure a plan for the cats.


That was a Saturday morning. By Saturday night, I was still unable to get someone to help me get ready to go to the hospital. I didn’t have a ride. I didn’t have money for Uber. I couldn’t get someone to come over and help me set the cats up for a few days and help me pack. I didn’t know what to do. I was paralyzed. I slept.


The next morning, I tried again. Same result. I was helplessly paralyzed. I slept.


Sunday afternoon, I talked to my old counselor I had worked with off and on for fifteen years. I told her everything that was happening. I told her it had all finally caught up to me, my affair with Jeff. The guilt was enormous. I could not bear it. My shame, the way when I thought of loving him, it pierced me inside so badly my chest felt constricted, heavy and I could not breathe. My hands and feet were numb. I was engulfed in panic.


She talked me through it. She told me the things I did were the result of having been sinned against and although I was responsible, still there was context I needed to consider. And there is no condemnation. God forgives. His mercy is endless. We prayed. I calmed. I decided to put off going to the hospital. If I couldn’t get up the next day and work, I would reconsider. I let my family know.

That night was when I wrote the poem about Jeff being the Serpent, about me being Fallen. Since, I have come to understand more.


Whereas Jeff may have initiated relationship with me out of selfish opportunistic motives, he has grown to care about me. He cares what I think, he cares what is going on in my life. He does not seek me out, he cannot. But he knows me and wants to know me. Or he would have ended communication long ago, told me to stop emailing him. He never has.


When I get frustrated with him for going days without acknowledging me, he always emails me. Is he just stringing me along? Keeping me on the hook because I think he’s Incredible and tell him so every day? Maybe that’s part of it. Maybe a large part of it. We all do tend to act in our own best interest. But I think he also values me as a person. Will anything romantic ever come of us in real life? Absolutely not. That I know for certain.


Jeff is tormented by guilt to the same degree I am because he betrayed his wife and family and because he hurt me deeply. He knows it. He knows he was selfish and cruel. Which of us is more at fault? It took us both to create this enormous breach that has resulted in such ugliness in both our lives, that has continuously robbed us of our peace of mind, that has left a black mark on our souls. Both of us are equally guilty.


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January 22, 2018


I went back through my memoir and looked at all of Jeff’s emails over the past year. Many of them are sexually charged. Make no mistake about the fact we were having an affair. However, many of them are kind and tender and contain very personal uplifting sentiments. He was there for me, to send me words of support, to tell me I was good. He was there for me when I needed him to be. Not always, he could have done better. Yet I believe he did the best he could, given our situation and given who he is. He has done right by me up until this latest turn of events. And even in regard to the latest, I do not seriously believe he has behaved in character. I simply don’t believe his recent callous behavior is who he really is.


I struggled with indecision all morning, then suddenly everything was clear. When I wrote the email telling him I just could not go through with sex, I felt strangely calm and empowered. This is all new, these emotions. I cannot say I have ever felt empowered in my relationship with Jeff. After I wrote the email, I sent it immediately so I wouldn’t have time to second guess myself. It’s been several hours, and I still feel I did the right thing.


I reread all the emails I’ve sent since his initial request for sex a couple of days back. I still agree and stand by everything. I have made assumptions about his wife, about his marriage and I’ll never know how accurate they are. No one outside of a marriage ever truly knows what that marriage is like.


There are other assumptions I made about Jeff, but I believe his irritation with me proves I hit on his truth. So, I still believe what I said was pretty accurate and I am convinced it was good and right to call him out.


I certainly know for a fact he’s a handful. He’s been a handful for me. The challenge of dealing with his difficult closed personality has kept me perpetually off guard, a scenario which apparently attracts me a great deal. And that is my sickness, that is my lack. That is where I repeat the pattern of choosing and then falling hard for emotionally unavailable men.


I’m not certain what will happen with our friendship. I am frightened we will no longer connect; I cannot deny that. On the other hand, I know I did what was good and right for me. I championed me. I championed him, too, but mostly, I honored and protected myself. This is a sure sign I am better than before. I never would have challenged him, and I never would have said no to him even a couple of months ago. Well, I might have challenged him, but I’ve only felt able to do that in more recent months.


Up until now, I felt Jeff owned me, my body. I did not think I would ever or could ever say no to him. I just didn’t think I had the strength to be my own person, to protect myself. I saw myself as powerless because of my obsessive love for him, because of his charismatic hold on me. Powerlessness and subordination have been my chosen roles with men my entire life. But it’s immensely apparent I’m growing and changing.


I’m not as afraid as I was. If I lose him, I lose him. And I know now I won’t lose all of me if he walks away. I will not be destroyed. I will not die from wanting and loss. I will Persevere. I can’t control Jeff’s choices, nor do I want to. We are both navigating the confusing, exasperating, yet immensely fulfilling path towards our destiny. I want him in my life desperately. But I understand whatever happens, happens for a reason. And wherever I am is right where I am supposed to be. I hold steadfast to these truths. God takes care of single women.


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June 26, 2018


I have a friend I worked with many years ago. We had lengthy discussions about God, Christianity, the various doctrines. He was well studied. I had many questions. We were talking about sexual sin once, and he said some things that have stuck with me for some two decades.


He said “God is not surprised by sexual sin. He made us sexual beings. On the scale of evil, sexual sin does not rank high.”


He was not referring to violent or deviant sex acts, such as rape or pedophilia. He was referring to sex outside of the bounds of marriage. I have taken his words to mean I ought not to give sexual sin more credit than it is due.


The choices I’ve made during my “sexual reawakening” can be labeled largely as deliberate acts of pure rebellion. Like a wayward teen, I rail at Father God, shake my fist in his face, deliberately and repeatedly defy him. I disobey. I willingly disobey. I make an active choice to behave in ways contrary to God’s intentions for me and for my life.


On the face of things, I’ve been a very very bad girl. Before I judge myself, and before you judge me, it’s important to look at the context within which my choices and behavior occurred. This is by no means a rationalization. I am not trying to convince myself or anyone else that the choices I’ve made were good and healthy. Quite the contrary.


“Daddy issues” is such a trite and overused term. But my relationship with my father, actually the lack of healthy relationship with my father, is at the crux of my rebellion. Part of me believes that I’m entitled to do what I want to do with men, with sex, because God put me into a family where my dad was a major shit.

As a result of unhealthy relationship with my father, I have made a series of unconscious and conscious choices about the men with whom I become involved.


There are a couple of theories around the impact of having suffered abuse at the hands of a father. The first is we make vows that we will never be with someone like our father again. There are a number of consequences to making such vows.


We may become blinded by our resolve, often we don’t even recognize a man as having the same traits as our abuser. This was the case for me well into adulthood. And I’m certainly not immune, still, at the age of 55. I tell my nieces, “Stupidity has no age limit.” It’s often only in hindsight that I can see the dynamic at work, that I can see all the places where I made foolish choices that I must pay for now and into the future.


For many of us, entering an abusive relationship feels very familiar. And we all know the quip “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”. It’s easy to fall into relationship with an abuser. It feels right and normal and even comfortable. We know what is going to happen. It’s predictable. We all feel uneasy with uncertainty. Without even realizing it, we may go so far as to seek out relationship with an abusive partner. We may feel an abusive relationship is what we deserve. That it is our destiny. We may hold ourselves in such low esteem, we actually welcome abuse because it confirms our belief we are worth nothing.


I suffer from low self-esteem, have my entire life, low self-esteem stemmed directly from the abuse. One time I asked a therapist what my father had done to me. I explained I didn’t have a definition for it. Sexual abuse wasn’t big enough for the damage he’d done. She responded, “He deliberately and systematically deconstructed your self-esteem.” In light of this, is it any wonder I make some of the ridiculously bad choices I make?


Some might say the affair with Jeff was abusive because I had no rights, I had no control. But as I’ve emphasized again and again, a mistress has no rights. She can expect NOTHING from her married lover. Whether or not it should be like that, it just is like that. Even knowing that, I chose the affair eyes wide open. Jeff didn’t do anything to me I didn’t allow him to do. He is not an abuser. He may be opportunistic, that makes him pretty much like any other man, and that makes him pretty much like me! But Jeff is not an abuser. My relationship with Jeff was not an abusive relationship.


All this insight, all this self-knowledge! I think, “Man! I’ve got it down! I’ve got it going on! I know this shit! I can see it! I don’t have to do it ever again!” But I do do it again. It’s two steps forward, three steps back. Sometimes, though, I see progress. But still, I’m plagued by a tendency to make unhealthy decisions, both unknowingly and knowingly.

“You’re choosing to let your past define you when you could just choose something else.” -Dr. Tom, Being Erica

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