TL often asks whether I enjoyed sneaking around, hiding things from her, doing illicit activities, lying, and generally deceiving her. This is a difficult question for me. I don’t understand why she asks. I don’t really know the answer.
Did I get some adrenaline rush from it, some thrill or excitement of the chase, like playing hide-and-seek? I guess so. I think that’s a natural physiological phenomenon. I’m certainly not proud of it. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel deep remorse about my crimes against TL.
I guess it’s just a fact of life. I did get an adrenaline rush from deceptive behavior. It was not the reason I did those illicit things. The reason was my low self-esteem and obsessive race to feel better about myself. And, I certainly don’t miss, crave, or need the adrenaline rush of sinning. When I want adrenaline, I really prefer to get it from diving, skiing or something similar.
What can I tell TL about the adrenaline rush of doing illicit activities? I am truly sorry.
She says it’s not fair that I had those experiences and she did not. I respond with, “You’re right. I really am sorry about that.” I know I’d have no right to feel bad if she were to go outside the marriage to find those experiences.
I wish I had a better response to this. Was sex fun? Yes, there is almost always at least some small element of fun in sex for me. Did deceit give me an adrenaline rush? I think that in a small way it did.
Do I regret doing it? Yes, with all my heart. What do I feel about it now? Shame and remorse. Are all these facts irreconcilable? I don’t think so. What do you think?
TL’s reaction to my foregoing discussion was to ask whether I felt guilt when I deceived her. Yes, I did. Then she asked how I became such a deceptive person. Please re-read my June 24 blog entry called “I will never again be a liar.” In short, the following things led me to my sick and wrong behavior of lying. First, I subconsciously learned from my mother to consider manipulative lies to be normal. Second, I sickly and wrongly justified my lying and cheating by telling myself I deserved illicit sex as compensation for my self-perceived lack of experience with sex and self-perceived lack of sufficient sex. Third, I compounded this sick and wrong justification by thinking the whole world revolved around me and not placing any value on other people and their feelings.
TL asked if I’m still intrinsically the same person. That’s a difficult and metaphysical question. I believe I am the same person. But, I also believe that I have been successfully working hard to change the way I think and behave. I have been building new neural pathways to include honesty, courage, empathy, confidence, and compassion. I have been erasing neural pathways leading to deceit, self-centeredness, self-pity, and self-protection. How? Practice, practice, practice.
How do I know I am doing this successfully? I know because I have not lied since second D-day, September 13, 2012, with the awful exception of my smoking lie (which I know is bad on account of the lying, not just the smoking). I know because I can describe several moments in the past few years when I was tempted to not tell TL about a beer I wanted to drink, a woman I thought was too friendly, or a health issue that embarrassed me. On each of those occasions I successfully reminded myself to tell TL everything.
I know because every time I look at TL I am reminded how traumatized she is due to my lies and I remember how terribly I’ve damaged our relationship. I remember how wonderful it is when TL and I spend time together doing “normal” things and how desperately I want more of those moments and fewer moments of tearful memories of my sins.
TL said that even after first D-day, I continued to deceive her with absolutely no outward signs of guilt about doing so. She said I was seemingly loving, kind and concerned, but still easily willing and able to deceive. How do I explain that? For new readers of this blog, this is referring to the fact that on D-day, I only told TL about my most recent affair. It wasn’t until ultimate D-day that I revealed my whole history of cheating and lying to TL.
Here’s the way I understand it. On first D-day, I promised myself I would never cheat again. But, I was still too afraid to tell TL about my whole history. I was loving and caring after first D-day, and I did sincerely intend to stop cheating and to start loving and appreciating TL properly. But, I was not brave enough to reveal everything until ultimate D-day. And, I did not fully appreciate until then that complete honesty, including about the past, was absolutely required in order for TL to feel safe. The smoking lie, a year later, shows just how cowardly I was about telling TL the truth and just how difficult it was for me to create the new neural pathways making honesty a habit.
TL asked if my tendency to lie to her before first D-day was different from my continued lies after first D-day. You bet it was different. For one thing, this little adrenaline rush that was present when I had illicit sex before D-day played absolutely no role in my life after first D-day. That little adrenaline bump didn’t come from lying. It came from pursuing something illicitly. After first D-day, I never again justified in my own mind pursuing something illicitly.
Second, before first D-day, I actually justified my lies in my own mind, telling myself I deserved the illicit sex. Yes, again, that was sick and wrong. After first D-day, however, my continued lies to hide my previous sins from TL had no justification, even in my own mind. I did feel guilty about those lies, even as I spoke them. I did feel shame and remorse, even as I told those lies. But, until ultimate D-day, I continued to tell those lies simply out of fear — fear that I would lose TL forever if she knew the truth. Yes, I know that was wrong of me, to put my fear ahead of TL’s need to know the truth. It was wrong, and it again shows just how difficult it was for me to quit thinking about myself and start thinking about TL.
Then, you might ask, after learning the lesson of ultimate D-day, seeing the pain I caused TL by continuing to hide my 18-year history of cheating, why could I still not bring myself to be immediately honest and transparent about smoking? Did I feel guilty about the smoking lie? Yes, a lot. Did I think it was OK to deceive her about smoking? Justified? Thrilling? No, no, and no. It was just a sad failure on my part, again. I failed to muster the courage and compassion to share that hidden part of me with TL.
Unlike before first D-day, I wasn’t telling myself I had insufficient experience with tobacco nor that I deserved more tobacco at any cost. Please re-read my June 20 post called “I’m not a little boy.” In short, I arrived at smoking through some combination of restlessness and a history of warped thinking about the role of smoking in a man’s life. It was sick and wrong. But, I admitted to myself — even at the time — that it was wrong, I went to great lengths to hide it from everyone. Unlike with the illicit sex before D-day, I did not pat myself on the back for it or excuse it. I just did it, not even fully wanting to continue it. I really think I became a bit physically addicted to the smoking. Lying, to hide it, was just another attempt at self-protection. That’s where I failed the most. Like before ultimate D-day, I again cowardly put my own self-protection ahead of TL’s need for total honesty. I again behaved selfishly in that regard.
TL asks what actions can show I am no longer willing to deceive TL, both the kind of deception I used before D-day and the kind I used after D-day. Good question. I know in my heart that I do not want to deceive her. But, how can I prove it? I suppose that if the roles were reversed, I would also be looking for proof, evidence of safety, security, and predictability. All I can say is that I’ve been learning and practicing compassion and courage. When I say “practicing,” I do not mean it in the sense such as “practicing such-and-such religion” or “practicing witchcraft.” I mean it in the sense of “practicing piano” or “practicing handwriting.” For me these are skills — underdeveloped skills that I’m working hard to develop properly. I’ve made some mistakes. I mean the smoking lie. I’m making fewer mistakes with time. The evidence, in my mind, was that the smoking lie was my last and only lie since before ultimate d-day.
Again TL asks if there was no guilt when I lied after D-day. Again I tell you I did feel guilt about my lies after D-day. In that regard, there was a qualitative difference between my lies before D-day, which I justified through my sick and warped calculus, and my lies after D-day, which came not from sick justifications but from cowardly self-protection.
How was I able to hide that guilt? No, my guilt did not rise to a level that compelled me to confess. My cowardice and selfishness still outweighed my guilt. I regret that. Now, I’m working consistently to reduce cowardice and selfishness and increase courage and compassion. I’m on the right path. The only way TL, or you, will see that, is for me to just stick to it and let time show my commitment to compassion and courage.