The Incredible Lightness of Cheating – part 2
If you haven’t read Part 1, go here.
First, I want to apologize for not responding to the comments on the original blog. This last month or so has been incredibly challenging.
Not only was I exploring the depths of the material in Part 1, which I will expand more on in a bit, but I was dealing with classes. I was also sick with a sinus cold shortly after I posted Part 1, and as of last week I had acute appendicitis. These are not excuses mind you, but rather just context for how this project fell to the wayside. My intention is to be as active on my blogs as possible. I also feel like saying that this blog is only partially for sharing and spiritual education about my particular angle on the angle-less nature of non-duality. Its other intended function is a means for me to process and explore myself and my experiences as both a human being and a budding spiritual teacher. So I want to assure that I read your comments even if I do not always respond.
Another aspect I want to clarify is something that came up both in the comments as well as in discussion with a few close friends of mine. I wrote this blog as a means of processing a really painful series of events I experienced, as well as to share an insight that has stayed true for me throughout the awakening process. That being, that from the depth of silence, we can handle whatever pain or trigger arises. It is possible that instead of choosing violent anger or shame, we can instead show up as radical presence and fierce compassion.
I did this not only as one reader put it ” to perform an exorcism” [paraphrased], but to share with the people I work with and teach. I am of the opinion that a teacher needs to be open, authentic, and skillful. I am still working on the second two of these, and as for the first, I do think that seeing the human side of someone sharing the Dharma with you can be valuable.
Not only did I write this blog (and the previous one) for myself, but I also did it with the permission of my partner. It turns out that this experiment turned out to beneficial, as it allowed us to move deeper into the wound that she was suffering from and to explo9re the true nature of the horrific experience she faced. Seeing the printed word can be a powerful thing, and allowed us to admit something to ourselves that we were hiding from, as you will see below.
As I elucidate the following, I do so with her full permission and with the caveat that I am leaving particularly painful details out intentionally. I also add that any mention of her feeling states are based on conversations that were had, not on my projections.
After I wrote Part 1 of the above blog (which Jordan helped me edit, as my grammar is not the greatest), the next two weeks can only be described as a personal hell. During that time, my partner and I engaged in a dance of fear and pain. On my side, I was feeling wounded, jealous, and hurt. That didn’t mean that I didn’t have compassion for what had happened, but rather, that I was experiencing a myriad of feelings, some mature, and some very old and immature. On her side, she was experiencing a tremendous fear. A fear that I would leave, thus confirming what her stories of self-loathing and revulsion were already telling her.
As we dug through the previous months, more instances of infidelity appeared. One after another became clear as we dug through her Facebook together, her Google drive photos, and as I spoke to her friends. In total, my beloved had been cheating on my since August of last year with a total of five people!
Obviously, pain and jealousy arose in me. Or, I ought to say, they were chosen. Not only because of the betrayal, but for the pain of having to dig for this information. Her fear that she would be abandoned was so potent that she felt she couldn’t tell me directly. That choice, in my opinion, is obviously problematic both from an awakening standpoint, as well as from an authenticity one. Nevertheless, despite everything I was feeling or the reactions I was choosing, compassion was present.
It wasn’t until a few days before the Pagan convention I taught at that following weekend that I had all of the information. As I spoke with her friend over Facebook, slowly getting each name, she and I wept. The last name was the sticking point, a final floodgate that her fear was blocking. It was in this moment that both of us showed up. Radically so. I chose in that moment to do something I hadn’t done before. Based on my conditioning, I tend towards extremes. I either unconsciously connect or disconnect. Co-dependence or hyper-autonomy. I chose instead to consciously connect, offering a restructuring of our social contract.
The decision was simple: I would not leave based on what had happened. I would not simply abandon her due to the behaviors she exhibited over what we now know arose from a toxic and self-destructive time in her life. I would break the cycle that we had discovered, and liberate both of us.
Her decision in response broke me open. She trusted me, knowing that our relationship, like all things, was impermanent. I was making a decision to stick by her. And she in turn would finally reveal the whole of her actions.
We cried; we argued. We discussed what had happened and the details of those situations. We discussed her states of being at that time. We spoke about the people she chose to be intimate with and their behavior. From this series of heartfelt discussions and openings two clear truths arose.
The first truth is that she and I have a complex pattern centering on our feelings of abandonment and anxiety, though they are configured differently. The patterns seems to work like so:
For her: Anxiety and self-worth issues arise in mind. To quell those voices, to feel liked and pretty, my love would seek out partners to get attention. Of course this didn’t work, as the quality and emotional capability of most men in the various fan communities was, for the most part, exhausted after orgasm. This would create more anxiety in her, and then start to turn to depression. Rather than answer the emotional phone, so to speak, she would just leave it there and ignore it. This in turn made her again act out sexually, which then increased her depression, which I found out made her nearly suicidal a few times. Where things got incredibly complicated was when she was in a serious relationship. The pattern would continue and that is when the deception would start. Mind you, this isn’t deception based in maliciousness, but rather in that initial fear of abandonment. Do you see how this reifies itself?
At the beginning of our relationship last year, around this time, other than in a few instances this pattern had broken. She was content, and she posted things that made her happy rather than things that made others happy. That was how things were until the summer. She was dealing with an injury and started socializing again with certain communities with fairly unconscious sexual boundaries. In August, in order to feel prettier than her friend, she cheated on me with the gentleman her friend was pursuing.
For me: My pattern is that I was raised by a single mother who swore off dating to protect me from men she believed would hurt or molest me, just as the men in her life had done to her and her five sisters. So for me, I experience a tremendous amount of energy through the trigger of jealousy. My immature mind has little concept of sharing female companions (paging Dr. Freud), and is for the most part terrified of men. So I, for most of my adult life, have lived in fear of being left or eventually betrayed. The “eventually” part being an aspect of my own low self-esteem. Something like, “They will eventually figure out I am no good, inadequate, fill-in-the-blank.” This leads me either to cling or push away, as I noted above.
Which leads to the question: “So what?” We have complimentary patterns. It means that both of us have to show up in an entirely new way. We cannot run away anymore, nor can we cling or disappear into someone else’s arms to escape our pain. We have to show up as consciousness rather than as the poem of pathologies we have been saddled with, and choose to make new patterns of behavior.
The second truth is far less positive. When I wrote the previous blog, I did so only with the information and understanding I had at the time. I framed in the previous blog that the relationship my partner had with her last partner was one between BDSM and sexual abuse. We have since amended that framing after a lot of soul searching, Zazen, and understanding.
To put it bluntly, my partner was raped. No, I didn’t stutter. She was raped.
What started as a toxic relationship based on her own low self-esteem in which this person degraded her emotionally and harmed her physically ended in an event in which no consent was given initially, and when it was, it was done so only because she was forced through physical violence. If you do not understand how this differs from BDSM, please go here.
Initially, in the previous blog, I attempted to allude to such (due to my then growing suspicions), but it seemed to be missed in my perspective. The most notable responses either created framings that missed the various aspects of complexity (due to missing or vague data) or were strange posts vilifying my partner (or a projection of her to be more accurate). I already had my suspicions that things had been worse than she was ready to share. It wasn’t until laying in a hotel bed during ConVocation that she finally admitted to herself that she had in fact been raped.
The event of ConVocation became a turning point for us. Between the classes I taught, the profound deep drops we had into silence, and the shamanic ritual from my teacher Kenn Day, we experienced a huge change. Our community had not only seen us, but supported us. Friends came together to hear what had happened, and discussed how we could move forward. Old wounds and some long held grudges were discussed and let go. It was a transformative weekend.
We have begun the work to rebuild. My partner has moved into our apartment (with my daughter, my roommates, and me) to be in a more healthy and supportive environment. She has begun therapy with my Gestalt teacher who is specialized in women who have suffered abuse. She has begun a stable daily meditation practice of Zazen using the principals of Hollow Bones. She is journaling and doing sketches as well. Overall she is doing far better and we have worked hard in the last month to cultivate a support system taking advantage of both her friends and the growing Thunder Drum Sangha.
As for myself, back to work. My meditation practice is strong right now, and I have logged 50+ hours since December 1st on Insight Timer. Of course, with witness consciousness comes seeing one’s own shit. I am starting up therapy again to work on my jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. I am also working with a priest-mentor in Hollow Bones not only to work towards priesthood in June, but also to look at some of this pain and stuckness about the cheating within myself from a few different angles.
As for the other men involved, my partner realized that the folks she was intimate with were acting egocentrically (essentially using her and her pain to get into her pants). This became painfully true as she reached out and created boundaries around our relationship, and found only arguments and apathy. Heck, one guys argued that she had no need to tell me the truth if that tells you anything…
Only a few choice individuals from her online interactions really showed up and came to understand the situation honestly and maturely. To those individuals, I am really grateful.
Regarding her last partner and assailant, my partner has also decided for various reasons that she is not pursuing any legal action at this time. Between time passed due to her shock, and the nature of the beginning interaction, proving anything would be difficult; for which we are grieving. We have, however, given his names (Real and Steampunk) to various leaders in the Steampunk community to prevent anyone else from being hurt, and I have permission to share his names with those who ask.
With that all said, the goal now is to more forward together. Despite all of the poison we drank, we are still here and still care for one another deeply. Her playful nature keeps me honest and out of my head. And I provide a stable force for her that she hasn’t had before.
This experience, while tremendously painful, has really exposed a lot of things that I need to look at within myself. It has made me question relationship formation as well as the nature of trust. My partner presents me with the koan of “How can I best serve her?” In this moment, does she need a lover or does she need a teacher? Can I hold the simultaneity of that complex situation?
All of this is incredibly terrifying. For the first time in a year and a half, the work is right here once again. No escape. Larger than life. Time to wake up more deeply from my conditioning; to see through the ego rather than ignorantly try to destroy or ignore it.
Thank you for reading. 🙂
(My partner and myself after my appendectomy)
Side note: If you like my blog and want to help support me in my projects or connect with me for anything, you can contact me at Stay Awake Tutoring and Coaching or share my GoFundMe page “Hokyo’s Journey” raising money for the expenses of priesthood and building a Sangha. I am single parent in full time school and currently out of work (though searching for a job) who is just trying to live and help people. Any help, even just sharing this blog, means a ton to me.