You want the quick and honest answer? No! But before you collapse into a state of total despair, depression, and helplessness, perhaps you should read on and figure out why. For, I don’t want to be the one to have delivered the bad news without also telling you why it is actually good news.
Often times, when our relationship is running on autopilot, or more appropriately running on empty, we find ourselves just going through the motions as if we were living a robotic existence. You feel like you are living the life of a Stepford Wife and your Partner is some rendition of R2D2 or a cyborg Terminator (appropriate don’t you think considering it appears as though your relationship is heading in that direction). It’s almost as if we don’t really have much, if any, control over our lives. We’re just going through the motions. We discover that we are just caught up with life; a mundane ordinary life. In the movie Steel Magnolias, Shelby, played by Julia Roberts, says “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special”. That’s what we find ourselves living; “a lifetime of nothing special”.
One of the conversations I consistently have with those suffering from BT (Betrayal Trauma), women mostly, surrounds what I commonly refer to as “things that make you go ‘hmm'”. Have you ever experienced situations or events in your life, in your relationship, that makes you question it? It is that moment when you go “wait, did I really just see what I thought I saw?”, “did he really just say that?”. or “why in the world… (just fill in the blank and pick an ending)?” Why the confusion? Because what you are seeing, hearing, and believing is so obviously inconsistent with what you already know to be true. Or so you think.
When I have these conversations, I generally start with this:
“Don’t ignore your ‘gut instincts’, ‘women’s intuition’, ‘sixth sense’, or whatever you want to call it. It usually is almost always right”
When your Partner just isn’t on the up and up and being 100% forthright and honest, there are all these subtle events happening all around them, you just can’t quite put your finger on it. I call these things Red Flags and they are definitive signs that characterize that “something just doesn’t smell right” to coin a phrase often used to describe it. Something is wrong, but you just can’t quite put the pieces together and connect the dots.
Each of these occurrences, individually, could easily be summarily passed off and dismissed as a coincidence. Besides, each standing on its own merit, there really isn’t much to corroborate anything more than that because there just isn’t anything else to support it. The evidence is insufficient. Nothing adds up. Or so it would appear.
So, what are the signs? What do these Red Flags look like? Do any of these resonate with you? Here is just a small, well a few dozen actually, yet incomplete, list (while I did have a woman compile a list once, and this isn’t specifically hers, I did stop her once she reached 36 as that, in my determination, was pretty reasonably self-evident, that something was definitely amiss):
- Deteriorating quality of sex.
- Deteriorating, declining interest in, quantity of sex.
- Experiencing physical symptoms of ED (erectile dysfunction) such as premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, or lack of erection at all.
- Says one thing, but does another, or vice versa.
- I work. Partner doesn’t, yet has no real responsibilities at home that a stay at home parent would otherwise have.
- Patronizes, manipulates, redirects, and tries to control me and just tells me what I want to hear just to shut me up.
- Chooses to spend time on the internet over time with me.
- Early to bed, early to rise (and also to the toilet, to the man cave, etc.) with his electronic devices.
- Consistently persistently minimizes behavior as if “it’s not that big a deal”.
- Discovered huge amounts of evidence of inappropriate content in web browser history.
- Heard strange, yet very familiar sounds coming from the adjacent room.
- Sexual advances rejected for something, anything, else.
- Lack of any interest in trying new, more, and different things in our sex life
- No libido. No sex drive.
- Responds with hostility on rather innocuous things in a state of anger (wrath).
- A discussion about my concerns, I am blamed, I am hormonal, I make broad ridiculous assumptions and accusations, and I am crazy (gaslighting).
- Takes personal responsibility for absolutely nothing.
- Narcissistic, pompous, arrogant, belligerent, angry, along with so many other more colorful adjectives.
- Declining interest in recovery.
- Lacks motivation in a genuine state of apathy.
- Widening communication gap or disconnect.
- Declining, zero, interest in sex.
- Declares to be in one place, yet phone location says otherwise.
- Modifying image to appeal to desires/fetishes.
- Excuse du jour (too tired, body ailments, unaroused).
- Access to electronic devices declined.
- Declares there isn’t any problem.
- Very defensive on everything.
- Lack of initiation.
- Discovered inappropriate text/sexting conversation.
- Discovered receipt.
- Smelled the aroma of perfume that isn’t mine.
- Discovered adult novelty items that I am unfamiliar with.
- Opened DVD player to find an explicit movie.
- Abruptly stops me when I try to use his phone, tablet, or computer.
I don’t believe in coincidences anymore, as what appears on the surface to be one, actually isn’t when we peak past the trees to see the forest the trees reside in. If it were only one of these things, then perhaps it could be a coincidence. Two, it starts to look like more than just a coincidence. Three, it begins to look like a pattern. Add together three more, doubling it, and it doesn’t look like a pattern anymore. It is a pattern. By the time you reach a dozen, as the old expression goes, “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck”. A preponderance of the evidence suggests that it is a duck. With 36 of these Red Flags, “it waddles, swims, smells, and tastes, not like chicken, but a duck, too”. There is so little doubt at this point that it is, in fact, a duck.
Keep a log. Compile a list. What you will see is that what started out as a bunch of insignificant pieces of the proverbial puzzle, all laid out before you, only signifying that all have one thing in common, your Partner, actually go together and connect to one another. By the time you have connected and put together a dozen or so of these pieces of the puzzle, a picture begins to emerge. And while you may not have all the pieces of the puzzle put together yet, you have enough of the pieces to make out the picture that the puzzle reveals. It reveals a picture of betrayal.
Is the evidence overwhelming? Sure! Is the evidence circumstantial, albeit some more so than others? Sure! So where does the level of uncertainty lie and go from there? The thing is, nothing is impossible. Improbable perhaps, but not impossible. Conversely, to quote Spock, on Star Trek, “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution” The reality is, in all probability, your suspicions are correct, and unlike a criminal matter where the requirement exists for a unanimous conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt, this is a civil matter requiring only evidence sufficient enough to convince us that it is our truth.
So “why me”, “it’s not fair”, “I deserve this…I don’t deserve that”, and much much more. But life rarely is, and as I have told so many others, “if you want fair, I’ll buy you a ticket, and you can go to the fair”. We play the hand of cards that life has dealt us. Yes, it is very unfair. You feel abandoned, betrayed, embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, unworthy, and so many other negative adjectives that you use to define yourself as you ponder “I am right here!” and “you’re over there!” as if your Partner ignores your very presence and existence. Yet none of these have anything to do with you. You are not, nor were you ever, responsible for another person’s actions and behavior. You’re only responsibility is to you and of yourself.
We could dissect whether the behavior is intentional or unintentional, but neither really matters. I recall a time years ago when, as I worked in the telecommunications industry, I went to a NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention. All of the major players in television broadcasting were present, including but not limited to, CNN, TNT, HBO, Hallmark, Showtime, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, Lifetime, etc. with exhibits. One such program provider, as you would imagine, the Playboy channel, was, by and large, the single most popular exhibit visited. Partly because it was the Playboy channel, but also because of the vast numbers of Playboy bunnies that did photo ops with the many visitors at their booth. One thing stood out to me above all else with these very attractive and voluptuous Playboy bunnies. When you got up close and personal enough to have a photo-op, they weren’t so extraordinary anymore. They weren’t really even ordinary. And I am reasonably quite certain, when you wipe off all of that makeup, airbrushing, and body propping attire they were wearing, you’re left with very little that anyone would take a genuine interest in. Sex sells, and the obvious objectification of the women that promote it is all they’ve got to offer. Once the disappointment wore off, I couldn’t help but have a lot of empathy for them, for they couldn’t possibly live up to any of their pixel counterparts and expectations.
So let’s take a moment and talk about what you have that they do not. First of all, you are three-dimensional. They are not. They are two-dimensional, and that’s all they will ever be. Second, you can indulge all of your Partner’s senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste). They can only indulge the sense of sight, and in some cases, with video, sound. Third, your blemishes and imperfections are exposed. Theirs are covered up, painted over, and glossed over like a really bad repair job at the local body shop. They are perfect, a mirage, an optical illusion and the subject of fantasy you can never live up to. Your imperfections reinforce that you are human.
The bottom line is this. You don’t want to live up to it because it is beneath you. You are above it all. Living up to it implies it is a step up; a step above. It is not. Regardless of how your Partner’s actions and behaviors have made you feel, this, none of it, is about you. It is all about your Partner and their own internal issues and insecurities that they, and they alone, must acknowledge, embrace, and endure. It is theirs to resolve.
You will never be enough. And you will always be enough. You cannot ever compete with the entourage of primped, prepped, and airbrushed women who grace the pixels on a screen or the pages in a magazine. You just cannot compete. But you don’t want to compete. It isn’t real. It is all fantasy. It is a dream unfulfilled and unfulfilling. You are the real deal. You always were and always will be. You were always good enough. You are good enough. And you always will be good enough.
The parallel twin to this article is I Betrayed My Partner: “Am I Good Enough?” (Part II)