Monday, December 20, 2010


Envy and jealousy aren't the same. (Sometimes I get annoyed that I can subdivide these so finely in English but I need to borrow from Greek to discuss love.) Jealousy would be a situation where I did not want my wife and the new guy to be happy; because I felt she was mine, or because I was not. I think I feel relatively little jealousy. I can hope that I'm wrong about how bad he is for her. I can think of several guys I'd be reasonably happy to see her with.

But Rogue Bambi in comments to the Forgiveness post made me realize that envy is where I have the bigger problem in this case. One of the things that had bugged me in our marriage is that I could not get her to wear costumes she wore at conventions at home for me. But she will apparently wear a slave collar for him.

envy (noun) 1. Resentful desire of something possessed by another or others (but not limited to material possessions). (Definiton from Wiktionary.)

I feel resentful desire for what she will do for him but wouldn't for me. I believe that would have changed everything. I have to face this down in myself.

I also have to face down her part, so I can forgive her. And so I don't exaggerate my own fault in the breakup, which I am prone to do. Because that sort of withholding in marriage is behaviour that I find wrong and contemptible; I would accept no such thing in myself, and I explained before we were married that I would not respect any such attitude in her.

Things like the costume thing have also always made it difficult for me to accept what she said about how hard she tried. There were a good number of things she did for me; they just were not what I asked for. Perhaps she was trying to get me to accept the real her, without being told that was the choice before me.

If I don't face her faults, if I just gloss over them and pretend they never happened, I cannot forgive them.


  1. Mousie, I think you are striving for understanding; understanding of a different human being, of what makes her tick, and the extent to which she may have lied to herself, or (inadvertently) to you, in your relationship.

    Other people are hard to understand. That includes their faults, drawbacks, as well as good sides. There is always the temptation to project, to arrange things into neat profiles, to make the irrational look rational...

    As someone who also (didn't we all?...) go through the experience of a breakup that left me feeling shattered and guilty, and also in some ways resentful and envious, I think in the end the best way to find the strength to forgive is to go beyond a simple understanding. 'She was right about A, but wrong about B...' this is good, it is interesting, it helps with our feelings; but like any deductions we try to make about the world, it is a hypothesis, and one that we could change later on if we had more data. Whatever conclusion we come to about where it was 'our fault' and 'their fault', about what our problems and their problems were, we may change it in the future.

    If forgiveness is based only on that -- on understanding 'what exactly happened' so that we can get over it -- then it has a somewhat shaky basis. When new data change our understanding for the worse, do we take the forgiveness back? Was it forgiveness then, in this case?

    In my case, I ended up coming to the conclusion that, no matter what my final conclusion was about what was my fault and what was hers, which mistakes were mine and which were hers (and yes, I did and do think about that, it's a valid exercise), my final forgiveness wouldn't depend on that. It would depend on her being a human being, a wonderful little microcosmos, a universe with many wonderful patterns that no psychomathematical model can explain even approximately.

    I strove first for compersion, then for forgiveness. I strove first for the desire that she should find happiness, that she was worthy of it, and later for the desire that I would stop feeling resentful about my not being a part of it -- about it being in some respects her fault that I wasn't a part of it.

    I think I have achieved it. Especially now, that I'm married to a different woman. But it certainly took time...

  2. Thanks for your comment, Aeshpe!

    I never lost the desire that she should find happiness.

    Way back in March, when she had just recently moved out, before she suggested filing for divorce, she was living with a friend whose husband had moved out. Then the husband from another couple who were breaking up then moved into the house as well; we'll call him Bald Brain. I told her did not approve of that, knowing how people do tend to hook up. But I like and respect Bald Brain. Not a Christian, but a good man. I thought she might be happy with him. And I really hoped she might be happy with him.

    I never lost the desire that she would find happiness, but I don't anticipate it now. The guy she's with, Saturnine Thespian, I just always got a bad vibe from. I guess no one will ever believe that I disapprove of Saturnine Thespian because I always did, more than out of jealousy.

    I guess to some extent I'm mad at her because of what I have to go through. This is the second marriage which I wanted to last forever that isn't. I don't believe in divorce for myself, and here I'm about to be twice-divorced. On top of the shattered and guilty you already know about.

    I love your description of loving someone because of the wonderful little microcosmos they are. But I don't think that's quite the same as forgiveness. Love is a good thing, about the best thing, and it's certainly something I want to strive to keep and grow. Forgiveness of offenses is one of the many concrete actions by which that love can be expressed and grown. If you had the concrete individual chance to do her good, and you didn't, your love would be revealed as less. And that's why forgiveness is made up of the specifically identified instances rather than the general feeling; it's not the same thing as loving someone despite them wronging you; it's a part of it.

  3. This is one of those things that's either an insight or evidence of my future career in a fortune cookie factory.

    One of the common roots of misunderstanding my spouse, I've found, is making the basic error of assuming him to be a completely rational being at all times. I'm very familiar with my own issues, quirks, irrationalities, and areas of flat crazy because I live with it in my head, but I tend to assume he acts rationally because that's always how he is in his own head rather than because it's the result of the same self-filtering I do because acting on or verbalizing every feeling isn't actually productive behavior in a relationship.

    So, acting on the theory of "people we're in relationships with are as crazy or crazier than we ourselves are, because they are human"...

    We know she doesn't really know who she is because she told you as much when she said she had to "find herself". Probably she was looking for that self and maybe thought she had found her when she began a relationship with you. We also know that this was her second marriage as well and that she was probably just as invested in the idea of getting it right this time, even if not enough not to finally end things.

    What if she WAS trying very hard- to be Good Wife Woman, whatever she envisioned that to be? Would Good Wife Woman, who was married to Good Decent Man, have worn costumes? Is she perhaps now auditioning a new self as Exciting Woman, who does?

  4. Well I've certainly discussed enough ways I'm crazy here. It sounds pretty plausible to me. I'm pretty boring; for example, next time she saw me drunk would be the first time. So perhaps though I tried to get her to be more Exciting with me, I didn't provide a suitable atmosphere.

  5. Acting in ways you think are uncharacteristic of you is much more difficult/threatening when your self is kind of a shaky construct to begin with. That might also be a source of the disconnect between good wife to you, and an abstract Good Wife concept to live up to.

    Mousie wants his wife to listen to him and be more sexually adventurous and giving. Would Good Decent Man want Good Wife to act that way? I may be very wrong because I don't actually know her except through you, but she may have been more married to Good Decent Man than to you. (This is probably also a basic suspicion of mine about people who claim not to quite know who they are playing out; if you don't know yourself, how on earth can you begin to know anyone else?)

    It's not just who she's trying so hard to be, it's also the role you're filling in her head. Same would be true of the annoying guy she's dating, I'm sure.

  6. LabRat, it all sounds like a strong possibility to me. With her first husband, she was worried about his faithfulness, and he eventually left to hook up with his friend's wife. It was obvious faithfulness would never be an issue with me. I made a point of avoiding things that might even look suspicious. That might have been a special contributor for her looking for Good Decent Man and thinking it was me. I'll probably never know because we're talking about what was going on on in her head.

    Now I really want to know how to make sure I don't get fooled by a woman with a malleable personality again. The one thing I've identified so far is to look for depth in her philosophy; she should be able to discuss why she believes what she believes, not just agree with me when I discuss it. That is not exactly a precision separator, it will also tend to eliminate women who are not that smart or self-aware; but I think I'm best off with a smart self-aware woman anyway.