we need to NOT know what the person meant,
so we can ask.
we need to NOT know why someone does something,
so we can ask.
we need to NOT know someone’s thoughts and
feelings, so we can ask.
we need to NOT know how to fix something so we can
work with others and include other ideas and come up
with things together.
~Terri St. Cloud
I knew exactly why my husband cheated. It was because she was a porn star in bed. It was because he was raised in a sexually repressive family that trafficked in shame. It was because he didn't love me. Or his kids. It was because he felt entitled. It was because of the alpha male "locker room" atmosphere in his stock-jocky office.
It was because I wasn't pretty enough. Or interesting enough. I nagged too much. I didn't cook the foods that he liked. He hated the color I painted our bedroom.
The list went on.
But I knew.
Nonetheless, I continued to ask him. Why would you do this? What's wrong with you? What's wrong with me? What does she have that I don't. Why? Why? Why?
He told me. It's not you, he said. There's nothing wrong with you. It's me, he said. There's something wrong with me.
But I wasn't listening to him. I was only listening to me and my long list of reasons. I was listening to our culture and its long list of reasons. Men cheat because they like sex more than wives do. Men cheat because they're dogs. Men cheat because they're hard-wired to spead their seed. Men cheat because sex isn't about love.
I couldn't hear what my husband was saying over the noise of everybody else.
There's something wrong with me.
The problem with "knowing" is it closes our ears to answers that don't line up with what we've already decided to be true. By "knowing", we can't learn. By "knowing", we aren't open to other thoughts, other truths, others' experiences.
It gets in the way of really understanding, or at least moving toward understanding.
My husband tried to tell me his truth for months, even as he continued to hide the extent of his cheating. There's something wrong with me, he said. I hurt too, he said.
But I was so busy telling him who he was and why he did what he did, oh! and reminding him daily (minute by minute!) of the price I was paying for his cheating.
It was a normal response to the worst pain I've ever experienced.
But it wasn't helpful.
If I could go back and have a do-over, I would try and stop myself from knowing quite so much. I would urge myself to listen a bit more. To ask myself, when my mind was racing with the infinite reasons why my husband cheated on me, what was my source of information.
Knowing can sometimes get in the way of finding a deeper truth that can move us toward healing. Knowing is the enemy of learning more, of allowing another to tell his story.
Not everyone can tell his story, for lots of different reasons. He doesn't understand himself why he made such a painful choice. Although, "I don't know..." is a valid part of his story too, at least until he's willing to learn more. Or maybe he accepts what our culture tells us: it's "normal" for guys to want sex all the time. Monogamy is unnatural. And on and on.
Some prefer the fiction they've been telling themselves that absolves them of any real responsibility for what they've done. She nags all the time. She's not interested in sex. She doesn't love me anymore.
Sometimes, as I've said before, a dog is a dog. And they're not worth the heartbreak of trying to rebuild a relationship because they see nothing wrong with what they did (except they got caught) and have no plans to really change their behaviour. It's that old "locker room" defence. Guys will be guys, right? And, eyeroll, women...amirite?
Yeah but those aren't the guys we want to be with. They're not the guys willing to dig deep to discover what's driving their hurtful behaviour. They're not the guys worth gambling your future on.
But the others can be. The ones who, though it might take a little while, are willing to recognize that they alone are responsible for the damage they've caused. The ones who hate what they did and hate the pain they've caused us. The ones who want to understand who they are and how they can become a better person. Who want to like the guy they see in the mirror.
My husband was one of those guys. But I couldn't see it until I stopped "knowing" quite so much. It was only when I challenged my own "facts" that I was able to see my own fiction.
I was right about a few things but wrong about plenty.
And I continue to be wrong. Just ask my kids.
Opening my mind to others' perspectives has changed how I interact with everyone in my life. I can no longer presume to understand what's driving anyone's behaviour. Truth is, I don't know. Sometimes they don't even know. But being willing to listen, to take the time to challenge not only my own version of events but others' versions too, gets us all to a place where we better understand ourselves and them.
It's tough. We hate not knowing. But not knowing gives us the opening into knowing better.