Who Are Your Backseat Drivers?

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Most of us who have experienced betrayal have, at least for a season, anger as our front seat driver.

But who is riding in the back seat fueling that angry driver? Fear? Frustration? Betrayal, Sadness? Loneliness?

Once I uncovered loneliness and injustice as two of my backseat driver emotions, I've discovered that loneliness and injustice was part of my childhood when I struggled to be the 'good child' as my parents were trying their best to handle a difficult son, my only sibling.

More damaging than that was my mother's very natural tendency to worry about me. Would I go down the same path as my ne'er-do-well brother? Would I stay out late? Lie and sneak?

Of course, I knew that was not part of my character. Hey—I was the 'good child'. I earned good grades, flew under the radar of the drug culture of my high school. I was not interested. I found those sorts of choices scary, even repugnant. I wanted to live a life of no regrets.

Why didn't my mother know that?

I remember one evening she came after me, already upset, and accused me of planning to do the things my brother did. I went ballistic. So out of character. I NEVER went ballistic. (Good children are seen not heard.) I railed, "How could you possibly think that of me?"

I was shattered. How could my mother, the woman who ostensibly knew me best, accuse me of these things I had not only never done, but would never consider? Why didn't she give me the benefit of the doubt? No…more than that—why didn't she praise me for all the hard work I actually did—all the 'right' choices, all the giving, loving behaviors?

Looking back, I realize she was under tremendous emotional stress with the challenges of parenting my brother. Special classes, principal office and counselor visits, rebelliousness. He was in fact all that. I was not.

My mother was upset about something that had nothing to do with me; just as my husband's choices to betray had nothing to do with me. Both of these human choices, the foibles that led to my personal pain and destruction were about their woundedness. My emotional explosion in that context highlights my sensitivity to unjust criticism. I have a lifelong trigger, if you will, to being accused of intentions I do not have. In my mind, I work too hard at being a good responsible person to be cast in such a negative light. Such aspersions cut me to the core. They break my heart.

And so, the revelation of my husband's years of infidelity–sexual, emotional and financial—quite understandably sunk a dagger into my invested, responsible, loving, giving, hard-working heart. His casting blame on me for not being enough for him–"What did you expect? You didn't have enough sex with me!"—ripped the thin scab off the wound of not-good-enough-ness present from my family of origin. All the criticism poured over me by a mother who felt that that was the way to mold a good citizen (me), was, in an instant, proven 'right'.

At least that is how it felt.

How could a man who had benefitted from all my care, my support, my huge investment in home, children, and him, choose to abandon our marriage? I knew I was more than enough. I knew I was an excellent housekeeper, employee, mother, and wife.

To be told I was not incited volcanic rage (held in check).

This rage did not come out immediately. Oh, no. Good, responsible Christine had to see to the hearts of her adult children who had just been devastated with the news. (Yes, their father told me of his long-term affair in front of them.) It took me many weeks of torrential tears, sleeplessness, agony, and sadness to get to the underlying rage.

I journaled that rage. Pages and pages. I filled notebooks. In moments of isolation at home, I would verbally rage at the imaginary him. I spent months and month venting this powerful, very human reaction to being betrayed. Oh, the injustice of it all!

Until the energy of that injustice lessened.

The sadness is still there. The pain resurfaces sometimes when I am tired, hungry, lonely. The difference is that now I have allowed myself the time to grieve. The anger at the injustice of being betrayed for so long has been vented. Revisiting that anger is less and less powerful.

e-motion= energy in motion

As an adult, I can find healthy ways of coping with, mitigating, and healing my anger. These methods may include, but are not limited to therapy, support groups, 12-step work, safe friends, going to church, prayer, meditation, exercise, gardening, and other fun hobbies such as painting, writing, reading.

These things help me to relieve my loneliness as I heal mostly alone, and thus disarm it from influencing and 'driving' my anger.

I have been put in my own driver's seat toward healing. And I knew I didn't want that seat to be forever occupied by a raging, bitter woman. These four and a half years have been the hardest, most painful of my life. They have also provided opportunity toward the most personal growth.

This life experience has reinforced the truth. I am a good, invested, giving and loving person who has been accused, tried, and treated as someone guilty of something I am not by a person who is wounded by his own life circumstances and has projected them oh-so-painfully onto me.

His inability to see my love in no way diminishes the reality of all the years of caring, giving, support and love that I gave. Hey—I AM that loving person who would no more harm, ignore, or abandon my family than I would fly to the moon using my arms. I gave all I had to give. I lived my life as a loving person.

That is reality.

And the broken accusations and behavior of another—even if that 'other' is my mother or my husband—cannot change that.

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Wow, Christine! Thank you for

Wow, Christine! Thank you for your powerful words. So full of truth and insight. This spoke loudly to me today.

This post was incredibly

This post was incredibly impressive! It spoke to me as well. Very well written and very insightful. Certainly giving me food for thought. Thank you!!!

The good kid

Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s somewhat validating to comprehend how our FOO impacted us in our relationships with others, especially our spouses.

Good Girls Get No Credit

I could have written this. I was a self professed good girl and nothing was good enforcement my mom either. I spent years being emotionally and verbally abused by her and another sibling. I married young believing my future husband was going to rescue me. Find him was to be my reward for being “good.”
Three decades later I can say no two people have hurt me more than my mom and my husband.
I’ve realized that just because you’ve been “good” doesn’t mean that bad people won’t happen to you!
Jesus said,”in this world you will have tribulation...” He’s right! But, then he added, “but cheer up for I have overcome the world!”
I know some how I will overcome this and have a wonderful testimony some day. I’ve got to do my work and I gets that’s part of the healing process.

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-D, Texas