On sleazebags and self-loathing.

Dear Coquette,

I’m engaged to be married to a wonderful man. After a string of unhealthy and abusive relationships, I finally got my act together enough to quit seeking sadists and take up with a total package man who is smart, hot and incredibly good to me. What we have is the real thing. I don’t want to screw it up, for my sake and for my son’s sake, who the wonderful man is now being a wonderful dad.

But despite a ton of therapy and hard work, my self-destructive tendencies aren’t gone for good. I’ve been cheating on him with a jerk from my past. There’s no good reason to do it. The sex isn’t very good, he treats me terribly, and I know if I continue to mess around with him I’ll lose the wonderful man in my life. I’m sure of it. 

I’m self-aware enough to know that this is a facet of my psychology that gets off on the betrayal and deceit of cheating. And no, it’s no coincidence that I’m cheating on the man of my dreams with a sleazebag who feeds my self-loathing. My therapist’s best advice is to just not give in, to take it one day at a time, and just say no. And that works just fine, until it doesn’t. As soon as he presses to see me a little, I cave. It’s like I just can’t wait to go back for more abuse.

How the hell can I force myself to stop this horrible behavior before it destroys my life and the lives of the two people I love most? I already know what I need to do. What I need from you is something, anything to help me succeed.  

Take it one day at a time and just say no? Your shrink sounds like Nancy Reagan at an AA meeting. Success isn’t not giving in. Success is not having anything to give in to. This isn’t about saying no. This is about not getting off on sleazebags in the first place.  

Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ve gotten your act together. You’ve only learned how to play house. You are still damaged goods. You know it, I know it, and all the sleazebags sure as hell know it. You may be intelligent and self-aware, but that’s no cure for your flavor of crazy. Your intelligence merely allows for more complicated means of self-sabotage, and your self-awareness merely prepares you for the inevitable disasters.

Come on, girl. Just because therapy got you to stop looking for sadists, that doesn’t mean you’re cured of masochism. All that introspection just armed you with the ability to mask the same self destructive tendencies you’ve always had. Your therapist calls it progress because that’s what he’s trained to do, but you’re still a hot mess.

Sure, you’ve come a long way now that you’ve landed a guy who treats you with respect and looks after your little boy, but that’s all window dressing until your partner knows your whole heart. Unfortunately, you’d never show him, because you’re terrified that he’d run screaming for the hills. 

Well, guess what? He won’t. Just because you want to run screaming from yourself, that doesn’t mean the people in your life feel the same way. He’ll stick by your side, but you have to be brave enough to let him.

If this is the man you’re going to marry, then you have to share yourself completely. I’m not suggesting you confess your infidelity. You shouldn’t, not yet anyway. Confession isn’t the same thing as baring your soul, and showing him what you’re capable of doing isn’t the same thing as telling him what you’ve done.

Until you really dig deep and entrust your fiance with all the dark and sticky parts of yourself, you’ll never believe in the kind of love that he gives you. Of course, that’s your real problem. You’ve felt worthless all your life. You still do, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. So much of your identity is still tied up in hating yourself that you act out in ways that you know damn well may ruin your life.

Quit it. There’s no excuse. Enough with all the psychological Band-Aids. Success is finally realizing that you’re an amazing woman who deserves the love that you’re getting in your healthy relationship. Once you finally feel worthy of that love, the thought of betraying it with some sleazebag will seem repugnant.


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