The "I Should Have Known" Mantra
I never felt responsible for my ex-husbands actions of infidelity. I didn't feel like I caused them or that I "drove him" to make those choices. In fact, the heartbreak after discovering his second life was incredibly intense because I felt exactly the opposite. I felt like I did everything possible to be a loving wife and partner. After a lot of hard self-examination, I was confident that I put my best forward in our relationship in all the ways that mattered, and then some.
So while I didn't feel a sense of guilt or shame for driving him to those actions, I certainly still struggle with the inner voice that says "I should have known." It's a strong and painful statement I've reflected on and challenged myself with. It is one which replays frequently in my inner dialogue in a haunting sort of way.
I should have known. I should have seen the signs. I should have paid more attention. I should have picked up on this, or, on that. I should have followed instinct sooner. I should have monitored the financials. I should have been more involved in his social network. I should have questioned the private nature of which he treated his work life. I should have questioned his closed-off tendencies instead of chalking it up to being introverted. Ugh. I should have....
Then maybe. Then maybe I could have avoided so much pain for my family. I wouldn't have married him. I could have made different decisions before starting a family with him. I could have averted more distress sooner. I could have saved myself and those close to me from pain extending over years.
The statement of "I should have known" made me question things about myself that felt impossible to change--like my intelligence, my own sense of awareness, or my ability to detect danger. It made me feel like my own personal smoke detector was completely broken. That's scary, because if that little smoke detector malfunctioned once, it's surely going to malfunction again. The fact of the matter was that for YEARS, I didn't even smell the slightest hint of smoke when the flames were spreading like wildfire.
Moreover, no one can fix that little, important inner detector for you. They might be able to point out some red flags, but ultimately, you've got to know. That shakes a person. It makes you feel like you can't even trust yourself in the midst of being betrayed by the person you let in closest to you. I should have known; those four words carry a lot of weight.
I broke down in tears recently with a new therapist (who is amazing), and she had an enlightening but simple way to help me turn it around. Instead of replaying "I should have known" over and over again, she told me to immediately start playing, "I did my best."
In the face of a brilliant individual who intentionally knew how to manipulate, how to lie, and how to hide--I did my best. I wasn't anticipating he would do those things, nor that he would hurt me. I don't think I should have (that'd be a hard marriage!). For many reasons, I didn't have a fighting chance to know. So, in the face of trusting my partner, I did my best with the information I had at hand.
I Should Have Known vs. I Did My Best.
It's time to start believing the latter.