I had a long discussion with a guy from the State Department (recently returned from the Middle East) at BC’s Sunday cocktail fest last week about shame cultures- societies where the worst possible thing would be to embarrass your family or friends in a public way. Because the humiliation from this shame is so great, people behave differently than if their actions only reflected on themselves.
So, because I’m not that tough, I’ve built my own shame culture. I would give anything to turn a blind eye to everything the ex has done, listen to his begging, crawl into bed with him for the weekend, and stop being so miserable. And I know that about myself. I have given in to him before, when I really wanted to believe he loved me the way I love him and that this time would be different. And the other night when he said all the right things would normally have been my cave-in point.
But, the shame culture kicked in. This time, I didn’t keep it all to myself and pretend he was treating me well. I told. Everyone. All the wedding guests. All of my close friends. Co-workers. My family (who I always try to brag about him to). The bartender at our favorite bar (last night’s first bourbon since this happened was SO good). All of you.
So this time, when I get weak, when I want to take him back because it would feel better in the short run, the shame will kick in. I’d have to tell all of those people, who know what he did, that I was staying with him. And that shame would be worse than the embarrassment of telling them how I was wronged in the first place.
It’s not easy. Last night I would have given my left eyeball to tell him to come upstairs to bed and have him there to lean against and fall asleep. But this morning, when I walked past him sleeping on the couch, grabbed my purse, and headed out the door to work (yes, I’ve rejoined the world today), I knew I had made it one more night.
And that next week, he won’t be there tempting me to cave in. He’ll be on his mom’s couch instead.