I recently re-read my May 3 post, “Sick obsessions.” A little over 40 months ago, I e-mailed my last affair partner to say the affair was over. At the same time I was dedicating myself to becoming a better, faithful husband, and re-dedicating myself to TL. That was 40 months ago, and TL and I have come a long way since then. But, occasionally, like the other night, TL still recalls the injustice, disappointment, and anger over the idea that I wrote, “I’m sorry . . .”
I should have written something less ambiguous. I was not sorry that I was breaking it off with the affair partner, and it was pointless to claim that I was.
I should have just said something such as: “This is over. Don’t contact me. I was a fool to betray my wife. She is the only woman I ever loved.” I could have said that. Everything therein was and is true. Why didn’t I? Why did I soften it?
To me, this goes back to one of the reasons I chose the pseudonym “Mindless” on this blog. It really sums up my pathological behavior. There are some things in life you say deliberately and with meaning, things like: “Yes, I will buy this car,” “I’m certain that man is the murderer,” or “He’s dead.” You put a lot of thought, emotion, or both into it before you pronounce such things. They don’t spill out of your mouth thoughtlessly or inadvertently.
Then there are statements like: “I’m fine,” “Bless you,” or “Sure, no problem.” A lot of times such statements roll off our tongues instinctively. We don’t really attribute much meaning to them. We don’t say them deliberately or with great forethought or emotion. It’s probably better for our relationships if more of our remarks are in the former category and fewer are in the latter. Prior to D-day, I let a lot of my remarks fall into the latter category. In short, I said stupid stuff without giving it much thought. I just went through the motions.
So, why mindlessly say, “I’m sorry . . . ” to an unimportant person who didn’t mean anything to me? I had spent forty-two years practicing the bad habit of speaking in a cowardly manner. I said, “Oh, I can’t go to that activity. Maybe next time.” What I meant to say was, “No thanks. I’m not interested.” I said, “Yeah, maybe.” What I meant to say was, “No, I respectfully disagree.” I said, “I’m sorry. I’m afraid I really have to leave now.” What I meant to say was, “It was a nice party. Thanks for inviting me.”
None of those statements needed all the explanation, apologetic tone, hesitation, and deference. I should know what I’m saying, feel confident about saying it, and say it clearly. When I began that note with “I’m sorry,” was I not sure I was ending the affair? No, I was sure I was ending it. I was sure I wanted to end it. I did not regret that I was ending it, even at that moment. Was I afraid — afraid that the affair partner would push back, judge me, be angry, or be hurt? No. No, I wasn’t.
So, what was the meaning of “I’m sorry?” Nothing. It was mindless. It was a cowardly reflex.
I’m not sorry I won’t buy what you’re selling. I’m not sorry I won’t spend time responding to your survey. I’m not sorry I won’t give the panhandler a dollar. I’m not sorry I am not interested in attending your party, meeting, or activity. I’m not sorry I’m ready to leave your event or activity. I’m not sorry you dialed the wrong number. I’m annoyed, but polite. And, I’m not sorry.
I’m not sorry I’m leaving a life of adultery behind. Even on D-day itself, I was not sorry I was cutting ties with an affair partner. I did not care about her or her feelings. I was only sorry that I had done such a terrible thing to TL.
My “I’m sorry” that day was equivalent to picking at my fingernails, overeating, failing to confront my mother when she made hurtful comments, being inflexible, and being inattentive. It was part of a mindless, pathological, pointless, self-defeating bad habit. It was the habit of talking like a coward, of talking without honesty.
One of my goals is to be more mindful: to be in the moment, to do things thoughtfully and deliberately, to say what I mean and only what I mean. I’m practicing that.
My other goal, or perhaps hope, is to prove to TL that I never doubted my decision to immediately cut ties with the affair partner. Faced with a clear choice between TL and the other woman, the choice was easy and instantaneous. When it became clear my double life was over, I knew immediately which individual life I wanted. I’m sorry I said “I’m sorry” to that woman. I was not. I am, however, very sorry to TL