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Resentment Over a Betrayal
Hi Dr Paul, My last serious girlfriend cheated on me. When I found out about the affair I ended the relationship but attempted to maintain friendship. After several months went by I became haunted and embittered over the betrayal. I decided that I needed to end my friendship with both parties. Months after I realized that I was still resentful to the point of making myself sick. I decided that in order to solve my resentment issue I needed to forgive both of them and become friends again. I initially felt relieved but now I am having second thoughts.
Further, I am aware that my Mother cheated on my Father and Step Father and my Sister cheated on her boyfriend of 5 years with his best friend then cheated on him years later with another guy. Being on the receiving end I now find myself also resenting them as well. If I shut out my x girlfriend do I also shut out my mother and sister? I know that having good boundaries means that you say no to people who are destructive but what happens when you realize that most people are in some way all destructive and immature. This is a tough situation for me because in general I consider my Sister, Mom and X very good people on many levels. Some levels they are awful people. How does one deal with this?
It's a big question, and on the surface, a complex question. However, one of the advantages of having laid down all of psychology as a set of diagrams, defining everyday words, and categories in an interlocking web-like way in both MindOS Mastery and the Mature Masculine Power Program is this: it also lays down a pathway to solutions.
For one, consider that because of boundaries, it is possible to relate to your ex, your sister, and mother as each being separate and unique individuals with separate sets of limits, "rules and conditions" of relating. Also because of boundaries it is entirely normal and rational to decide that yes, you will forgive (that happens in YOUR brain, not in them or in the relationship even), while simply deciding NOT to be friends. You can BOTH forgive, and NOT be friends with the ex - especially if further contact proves toxic and brings back the past, essentially producing a NEW injury with each encounter.
Here's how that goes (from the MMP): When you were cheated on, because you were entwined and intimate - the latter of which relationships need. However, when she cheated, because the boundaries are open in intimacy, you necessarily are a "sitting duck" for injury if the woman does something (cheating) that not just diminishes, but hemorrhages your sense of masculinity.
It's admirable the sense of restraint and composure you have been able to keep actually, because a massive drain on masculinity is psychologically one and the same as a felt "threat on your life." I'm sure you know what I mean - masculinity is an energy of vitality and "feeling alive" for men (as femininity is the same function for women)...
...so when it is threatened or in actuality drained, it feels the opposite of "alive." You feel "deadened," diminished in passion for life, of existing...
...and the animal nature in people has a natural reaction to spring to action to defend its life - fight or flight. You may have heard of the old term, "going postal" - which is this reflex in tragic, destructive action.
Another word for "diminished masculinity" (or diminished femininity in women) is "shame." And a synonym in our systems is "rage," not just anger. Rage is shame turned outward.
You've contained this, absorbed it, and to a degree, forgiveness helps relieve some of it like a pressure relief valve on a boiling, locked kettle. However, we can't pretend away the immense force inside that's still there, even after forgiveness. So some of this is also what you are feeling with this on-again, off-again attempt at "friendship."
Someone who did this to you is NOT A FRIEND. Not the type of person you would want as a friend, and not friendly. This person didn't just let you down in a minor way. They glibly attempted to "soul-assassinate" you. And you just didn't matter to them.
You can temper this and still try to forgive by way of understanding that people's instincts and passions, the reflexes of the animal brain are the most powerful force in psychology. Nobody is perfect at containing that degree of force, even with solid boundaries, all the time, for all their lives. But in this case you were a casualty of that.
So you can forgive this aspect, but the second half to forgiving is "doing well for yourself." A college roommate once told me that "the best revenge is getting a better girl." And he was right. After forgiving comes forgetting. Part of forgetting is NON-CONTACT (meaning no friendship once again) and part of it is getting better for yourself so that the prior relationship just pales in comparison, and in quality is no match for what you build for yourself next. Ongoing contact with her may be accompanied by more shame (and diminished masculinity) because what guy who has healthy pride and self-respect would keep in contact with someone who did such harm, it is at the level of your sense of identity, masculinity, passion and "existence?"
The most common reason that men still "stay friends" after such a thing is that they secretly, or even unconsciously are trying to (passively) win her back, or recapture that invisible masculinity that was stolen or squandered. Same with the male. Your investment in the woman was not returned back to you in value, but rather, transferred over to another male - which is also enraging. So you don't need to be friends with that guy either, even if he was the passive and innocent recipient of her overtures. Seeing him for some men would be further injuring due to the reignited memory of this "stolen masculinity."
As you have non-contact, and richer, more loyal, honest, rewarding relationships, the pain will fade and you can look back on the events as her foolishness rather than her metaphorically "murderous" actions. Then they soften, and just don't matter.
They say the opposite of love is not hate, but APATHY. Slowly move toward apathy about the ex as you move toward investment in far more worthy women.
As for your mother and sister, their behavior is only a trigger of remembering hte actions of the ex. In fact, your mother and sister did not cheat on YOU. They did on OTHER men. Not you. So you can disapprove of that as their family member, but you do not owe the men they cheated on to be their freedom fighter or champion. That's THEIR job to process their own pain or lack of it. Crossing into personalized hatred of your sister or mother's actions would then be a little bit like invading the boundaries of the men they cheated on. It's THEIR life. Let them own that.
Again, as you channel your shame and rage into an energy that fuels bettering yourself, becoming more discriminating and choosey with the women who need to earn your attention, bettering your career especially - a welcome effort, not a distraction but very healing in this process to blast off in success in the career area. And selecting only very high character, high quality women. These will all lead to healing through ACTION, rather than just thinking on these matters.
Men need ACTION to heal, not just talk. Maybe that's why they more often shun therapy than women.
As the Londoners said during the U2 bombings of WWII, "Stay calm, and carry on..." Do what's right by yourself, self-respecting, ethical and kind to self, all of which is courageous at the same time because it's lonely to start over.
But you aren't starting from scratch. You're equipped with a kind of heavy wisdom that men cannot acquire except through such experiences as this degree of being wounded.
For men, in this way, love is most similar to war. Survive, which you have, and you gain skills and strength which will serve you all your life...
...and make for a much easier time of things.
Observing Ego is highlighted in MindOS Mastery at:
and all of human courtship is in the Omega Male Program at:
Complete answers in the Omega Male Program, and for those who have
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