I am cheater. Every relationship that I have been in I have cheated to get out of or cheated while in it. The first time was 13 when I kissed a boy at piano camp while I was "dating" another boy back home. It happened in high school, college and even most recently in my own marriage. My spouse forgave me the first time I cheated before we were married, but this time that forgiveness isn't there. I understand why. I would have a hard time forgiving a multiple offender like me too.
Part of my work is learning why do I keep making this same mistake over and over again. One of the things that stands out to me is that I have a difficult time with endings. I really, really despise endings. On the trivial side, when I am in the middle of book, even a fantastic book, actually, especially in the middle of a fantastic book, I already begin thinking about the next book I'm going to read because I need something to look forward to when the one I am reading ends. On the more serious side I see that these affairs happened during major transitions & endings in my life, after high school, after college, after a big move, after I was done nursing and having children.
I don't want to be a repeat offender. I don't want to be a cheater. I feel like I have been down this road before. I am scared. This time it does feel different; I have a better understanding of why I had these affairs, but just because I know why, does that mean I can make a different choice? And how do I make a different choice? Or is the process further upstream with the letting go and the grief that comes with the ending and not the choice to cheat itself? I don't really believe "once a cheater, always a cheater" but so far I haven't proved that one wrong. Yet.
Thank you for listening.
Desperate to stop the cycle
Dear Desperate to Stop the Cycle,
Are you really desperate to stop? I hope so. Because that’s an essential ingredient in what I pray will be your ultimate success. Being scared is a sign that you know your actions have very big consequences, and that you don’t like them, for yourself and for others you are hurting (or may one day hurt). A recovering alcoholic—who knows a lot about destructive behaviors—might tell you that one of the most important steps towards changing one’s life is to become “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” If that’s where you are, you could be on your way to a more centered way of living, so take heart.
There’s a pitfall to watch out for, however. You might not get sick and tired of being sick and tired! You could get stuck in just feeling bad. It could even start to feel good to feel bad. That would be a mistake. Just because you may not be the best person in the world does not make you the worst person in the world. This kind of exaggerated thinking is not uncommon in people who spend a lot of time in self-analysis: they are seeking self-knowledge, which is a good thing; but they often end up simply being really interested in themselves, which is not. I don’t know if this is you, but if it could be, be on guard.
Although you don’t say so, I assume you have already enlisted the help of a skilled therapist, and that you have your pastor’s confidence and spiritual guidance too. I hope that in addition to helping you gain insight into your behaviors, they are also able to give you workable strategies and concrete practices to change the way you act. It’s hard to think your way into changing, but it is possible to act your way into different habits of thought and feeling.
In the meanwhile, try to keep your heart focused on this truth: No matter what, you are cherished by a God who knows our weaknesses and our desperation from the inside out. The Bible tells us that nobody can do anything bad enough to change that. Nothing can separate you from that love.
"Dear Theo" is written anonymously by three UCC ministers of different ages and backgrounds - one main writer and two respite writers. We're hoping the questions will span all kinds of topics: from sexuality and relationships to church culture and conflict to mental health, family drama, ethical and moral dilemmas, and everything in between.
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