A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

It’s Not a “Mistake” If You Plan It

Sad woman

(original image via fotolia.com)

I’m still thinking about cheating and how we, as a society, accept it as just something that happens. I think this is a huge problem for a number of reasons, not least because it gives the perpetrators a pass for their damaging behavior and leaves survivors feeling as though the crime committed against them—though it leaves them as broken and requires as much healing as many other types of abuse*—just doesn’t count.

Today I imagined, as I have been a lot lately, what might happen if I ran into the ex in a public place. I imagined a dialog wherein I told him to leave and he refused, telling me that he’d made a mistake but that didn’t give me a right to…whatever, that’s as far as I got before the following list began forming in my mind. It’s a response to the ghost of the ex and anyone else who wants to write this behavior off as a simple “mistake” to be forgiven and forgotten.

  • A mistake is typing “ass” instead of “ask.”
  • A mistake is putting your shoes on the wrong feet.
  • A mistake is getting into a car accident when you did everything you could to prevent it.
  • A mistake is an impulsive kiss or even a one-night stand.
  • A mistake is something you do by accident in a moment of distraction or thoughtlessness or passion and then you stop and say, “Whoa. That was wrong. I’m not going to do that again.”
  • When you are in a committed relationship and you purposely seek out a person outside the relationship for sex unbeknownst to your partner, that is not an accident. That’s not an impulsive action that takes place in an instant. That’s not a “mistake.”
  • When you set out to deceive your partner on a daily basis, lying to her multiple times a day for months about where you are, making up elaborate stories about searching all over town for the right “surprise” when you’re actually having sex with your secret lover, that’s not a regretful misstep. That’s not just something that happens. That’s not a “mistake.”

This was not a mistake. This was a campaign of deception and betrayal.

Let me tell you about mistakes I’ve made:

  • Spending seven years with someone because you believe what they tell you is true: that was a mistake.
  • Wanting so badly to believe that someone loved me that I ignored the signs that he was not capable of it: that was a mistake.
  • Trying to remain friends with the man who perpetrated what I have come to think of as abuse* against me: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he was even capable of being my friend after not only what he did, but the way he continued to treat me after the fact: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he would figure out how badly he’d fucked up and come back and do the work to make things right: that was a mistake.

These last few are mistakes because they held me back from healing. Who knows where I’d be now if I’d written him off in December, when I first tried to, rather than in February when I finally felt ready to?

Yeah, I know, it is what it is. But I’ve made my point: mistakes are not things you plan and execute like a serial killer. Mistakes are forgivable. Crimes like the ones this man perpetrated require more than forgiveness: they require redemption, and redemption requires sacrifice from the one hoping to be redeemed. It’s not something I can offer him—it’s something he has to want and work for and make happen for himself.

And maybe that’s one reason I’m having such a hard time with forgiveness—maybe it can’t happen without redemption. Or maybe I’m just not ready.

Maybe I never will be.

*I know, my use of the “A” word is a sticky issue for some. I am a survivor of many types of abuse and I don’t use the term lightly. I’m going to be writing more about it soon, but in the meantime, if it’s bothering you, ask yourself why. Ask yourself about power relationships and intent and consequences and damage. For some background, read this. We’ll talk more soon.


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26 responses

  1. Interesting… You are a lot braver than I am. Thoroughly enjoying your rants! Now for me to find some more of that moxie for my own blog.

    March 6, 2015 at 4:39 am

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you’re getting something out of this stuff. Not sure it’s bravery so much as I was SO PISSED OFF I couldn’t help myself. Two years later I am FINALLY starting to feel human and whole again, though there are still days I cry and rage at the injustice of it all. It has also been a process of finding my voice, and that voice changes over time. Also, Moxie was the name of my beloved dog. There’s a post about her around here somewhere. :) <3

      March 6, 2015 at 8:19 am

  2. so often we are told to forgive–but are some things not forgivable (is this even a word?) — I think we eventually have to move on–but sometimes forgiving is asking too much–it is like saying it is okay that you did the wrong thing and on purpose no less; the wrong thing not on purpose can possibly be forgiven

    August 23, 2013 at 2:26 am

    • Yeah, that’s kind of what it feels like–as though I can’t forgive because that would somehow make it ok, and it’s not.

      Someone asked me yesterday what I thought would be an appropriate sacrifice if someone like the ex were to seek redemption. A challenging question because I have no idea what the answer is. And am I even the person who gets to decide? Only to the degree that if I feel he has redeemed himself, then I might be able to forgive wholeheartedly.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:27 am

  3. I made the mistake of thinking that a “lifetime commitment” trumped all other considerations. This included my own emotional and mental well being.
    I made the mistake of thinking that forgiveness meant that I could no longer express(and by extension process) feelings of betrayal and anger.

    August 22, 2013 at 5:17 am

    • Thanks for sharing. Forgiveness is complicated, isn’t it? I wish I knew how to do it.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

      • Forgiveness is very complicated. Sometimes you can forgive someone who has not sought it, or necessarily deserves it. But it’s hard.

        My girlfriend and I have a lot of old baggage that we have had to work through, some of it we gave to each other. Both of us have done things that hurt the other and final forgiveness came long after “I am sorry” and “I forgive you” were said. It came because each of us still had to work through the anger. Each of us would periodically have to hear the other one out through “I know I forgave you, I’m just still really hurt/angry about what happened”. And the offending one would listen, sometimes apologize again, and wait till the offended one worked through it.

        On the other hand my ex who violated my trust in more ways then one never really apologized. With one violation after the apology and forgiveness I was never allowed to be angry about it or hurt by it again. I was taught that with forgiveness comes immediate and total restoration of faith, trust and peace. I was taught that true forgiveness wipes out the sin as if it never happened and we must forgive and forget.

        Yeah that’s like forgetting a splinter in your finger, if you don’t dig it out and go on like it’s not there it’s going to continue to hurt and may even infect and cause larger issues. There is a reason there is an “and” in forgive and forget, because they are not automatic, they are not synonyms.

        When the wounding party is not sorry, when they don’t apologize and they don’t seek to make amends forgiveness may never come. Peace, acceptance, and if you are very lucky even indifference. But forgiveness? Why must you forgive him? What has he done to deserve forgiveness?

        I suggest rather that you try and come to terms with the injury that was done to you. Find a way to be at peace within yourself, and that may not involve forgiving him. I say strive to be indifferent. Strive to move to where he no longer has an emotional impact on you.

        If you find that you were wanting in the relationship, seek to learn how to do better in the next and forgive yourself. If you find that you can now see the warning signs that were present, learn and forgive yourself for the ignorance that made you blind to them. If others in your life helped with the deceit and they are still in your life, seek to find a way towards forgiving them.

        But if the one who hurt you is not seeking forgiveness, and you are not inclined to give it, then move on girlfriend. Move on.

        August 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

        • :) Wise words. Thank you.

          August 22, 2013 at 10:19 am

          • Your welcome – they come from a lot of experience and a very patient girlfriend helping me along the way.

            August 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

  4. Reblogged this on RooRoo and commented:

    August 21, 2013 at 8:43 pm

  5. Ami

    Oy, I hear ya. It took me a lot longer than I liked to move forward with everything after my ex and I broke up. I was out of the country for about two months while the relationship fell apart and kind of blindsided by a phone call from him shortly after I returned. Given his history, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he seemed to be dating someone else so soon after we broke up. He denied that that was the case when I broached the subject, but he was engaged nine months later. I took a semester off from college to sort things out and try to return to top form.

    I learned so much about myself and life in general in that “getting past the crap” phase. At the time it sucked, but it became a powerful and important learning experience for me. Take as much time as you need, and don’t feel that you have to forgive your ex. You might be in a place where you’re able to do that someday or you might not.

    August 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    • Thanks, Ami. Part of what I’m struggling with is the phase of life I’m in right now. To be honest, I feel like I met him at a time when I still felt young and all things seemed possible, especially love. Now I’m nearly 50 years old and the last thing I feel like I will ever want in my life is an intimate partner. No, my life isn’t over, but I no longer feel young or optimistic about love. That’s something he stole, and I’m not sure how much of it I can get back.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:29 am

  6. Ami

    Oy, I hear ya. It took me a lot longer than I liked to move forward with everything in my life after my ex and I called it quits. I was out of the country for about two months while the relationship fell apart, and kind of blindsided via a phone call shortly after I got back. Given his history, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he appeared to be dating someone else right away after we broke up. I only got denial from him when I broached the subject, but he was engaged about nine months later. I took a semester off from college to collect myself and try to get back to top form.

    I learned so much about myself and life in general in the time it took me to move on from my ex. Though it didn’t seem like it at the time, it was a truly powerful and worthwhile learning experience. Take as long as you need, and don’t feel like you have to forgive anyone.

    August 21, 2013 at 8:03 pm

  7. A great post and I’m with Robin. Your ex knowingly caused you pain. That is abuse.

    August 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    • Thank you. I truly believe it is. And I think it’s time we called it by its real name.

      August 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm

  8. what matters is that you are on your way, each person has their own timeline. and you are very self-aware and clear. you will only move forward from here. peace, beth

    August 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    • Thanks, Beth. Progress feels slow sometimes, but then I realize it hasn’t been that long since everything changed.

      August 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm

  9. I am new, and I have to believe your perception is true about this man who was with you.
    I was married for much longer than 7 years without any cheating. I don’t think cheating is as simple as you have made it out to be. There are two sides. It seems to me that things are either clearly bad and neither wants to do anything about making the relationship better for each other or one has no intention of changing, leaving the other out in the cold or one is unaware or uncooperative about the other’s needs. There are reasons why someone goes outside and it isn’t necessarily because they are driven to destroy another. I just don’t think it’s that easy. It sounds like you were hurt and that’s really sad. I’m just saying that making cheating out to be black and white, diminishes both people’s responsibility to always be aware and present for their partner. Just a thought after reading so many people’s issues in relationships here in blogs. It’s really amazing how people stay together when they are unhappy and they clearly know it. I used to be one of that group.

    August 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    • I agree, there are lots of reasons a person cheats, and their aim when they do so may not be to destroy a life, but when they engage in long-term deception and sex outside the relationship, they are doing harm whether they set out to or not. That said, I understand that there will be extenuating circumstances that even I might sympathize with. I just can’t think of many right now. I believe that if a person needs to go outside the relationship, it’s time to be honest and leave the relationship.

      “diminishes both people’s responsibility to always be aware and present for their partner”

      Not sure what you mean here, but it sounds a little like you’re placing responsibility for one person’s cheating on another person’s not being present in the relationship. I buy that this is a good reason to throw up a red flag or even separate, but I do not buy that one partner’s lack of presence or awareness justifies or makes them in any way responsible for the other partner’s cheating.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      August 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      • I agree with you. I do see or read here about relationships and it is clear that not everyone is willing or able to be so upfront with their partner for many reasons. I only commented because I used to think “all you need to do is speak up and have the guts to be honest with your partner/spouse whatever” Some people just don’t find it that “easy”. Some partners outright refuse to make adjustments for the relationship to get healthy. or they can’t find the courage or they don’t know how to communicate well at all. I believe we each have our responsibility in acting “right” – each is accountable for their own actions. The one who cheats is not automatically the one who has done something wrong is all I mean. Some issues go deeper than just cheating. The better way to say it clearer is Sometimes people are simply cheaters but, generally, I think cheating is a symptom of something bigger.

        August 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm

        • While I agree that people cheating is a symptom of something bigger, it’s a symptom of something bigger within themselves NOT the relationship, NOT the other partner.
          I am not comfortable discussing in detail my own experiences with this subject but will state that should one research studies done on cheating, it’s NOT because of the other partner, it’s typically because of personal issues that the cheater has within themselves.
          The person that gets cheated on is NOT to blame, even if hypothetically the weren’t “there” for their partner, then the partner has a choice to make, talk about it with them and try to find a solution, accept that romantically they are to be unfulfilled or leave. Cheating does NOT have to happen, it’s a choice.

          August 21, 2013 at 7:02 pm

          • I completely agree with you. It’s a choice. In no way am I saying that the one cheated on is to blame BUT there are circumstances where the one cheated on is not doing their part in making the relationship any better. All I was attempting to highlight is that relationships don’t always have a clear “good” guy or “bad” guy. I have circumstances where my spouse would not do anything to understand or change our circumstances and believing that father’s are critical to children’s development, I remained in our marriage. Neither cheated ( that I know of) and it was our choice to remain married BUT he would have remained married still ok with a relationship that would have slowly killed me off spiritually. In that case, I think HAD I cheated, he wouldn’t ignored the fact and remain married. crazy but true

            August 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

  10. Robin

    What your ex did to you WAS abuse. He abused your trust, your friendship, and your love. Forgiveness might take a long time, but it’s a process that takes as long as it takes. Thanks for sharing your insights. They’re always worth reading.

    August 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    • Thanks so much, Robin. I really appreciate the support. More than I can say.

      August 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

  11. Heather


    I m sorry for all that you ve been through, but I m so grateful with how you process and share it. Always poignant, insightful, and so relevant. Thank you! and *hugs *

    Heather (hlrjo)

    August 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    • Thank you, Heather. That means a lot. <3

      August 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

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