Context Full Disclosure:
My adult girlfriend recently cheated on me.
It was devastating. Least of all because she is the furthest thing from a cheater. No one would ever consider her capable of cheating, let alone worthy of that title. She was sweet, kind, generous, a little naive, but golden in every way. That's why it made no logical sense.
If I was a nut, a poor provider, a bad person, unwilling to make scarifies, maybe I could make sense of it. But I assure you I am a regular (sometimes boring), down to earth, caring and compassionate human.
To this day she is unaware that I know she cheated on me. I didn't know how to tell her without being concerned for her (you'll see why).
Shockingly, I wasn't sure she could handle me knowing. After it happened she became distant, different and avoiding. Then she asked for space and time. This was all so confusing until my worst fear was realized.
I had asked her if she wanted a break, if she wanted to break up, if she wanted some time apart – to which she vehemently answered "NO" to all of the above. Just like she tried to protect me by lying about cheating, so I protected her.
It was at that time that my logical brain took up the task of trying to answer the question everyone poses to themselves when this happens: Why me?
Do you see? The first point was that it had nothing at all to do with me. You ruined a fantastic opportunity at a potentially (and still hopefully) world-changing time.
I am strong enough to carry on. Smart enough to have figured this out. And wise enough to share my experience, so others may find peace.
Her, on the other hand, I worry about. I worry all the time.
You see, I spent over a year (and one of the best years of my life) with your daughter.
Despite your vile and torturous attempts during her childhood to strip her from all that is good, honorable, fun and enjoyable in this world, she turned out alright. In fact, she turned into an amazing person. Smart, funny, beautiful, quick as an arrow, generous to a fault and compassionate beyond your wildest dreams.
But the consequences of your actions live on, buried so deep under the surface that I fear she may never have the opportunity to truly know herself. She is terrified of nights, sleeps with stuffed animals though she is well into adulthood – she made damn sure I locked the doors every night – has a guard dog and could only fall asleep if I was already in bed.
She would never watch a "drama" or a "thriller", and don't bother asking about scary movies. That's your legacy.
Do you see? It was the body's defense mechanism. To fight or flee. SHE WAS A CHILD! What did you expect her to do? The only thing she could, she fled.
But there was a catch. She would never stop running. To this day, she has difficulty maintaining social relationships. Intimate ones are infinity more difficult. She seeks attention everywhere because she never wants to be alone, afraid you will find her.
But in that search, I fear she may find the wrong person or people. She will never fully trust anyone, and has a scarred perspective of all men in general. You stole this from her. You stole innocence. You stole hope. You replaced these with paranoia and suspicion. This is your legacy.
Do you see? Within herself she is stuck in this purgatory. A purgatory created by the person originally charged with her protection.
You were supposed to be her protector! The original shelter from the storm. Her primary comforter against what lurks in the closet. Her invisible cloak when night got scary.
Not only were you none of these, you were the storm, the night and the lurker in the closet. She started running all those years ago, and continues to this day although she doesn't even know it.
You are the darkness that she runs from. That is your legacy.
Do you see? She looks around and sees one world: full of love, caring and generosity.
Yet her mind sees another: one full of shame, guilt, disgust, confusion, terror and fear.
Whenever someone (friend or intimate partner) gets to close, she runs. She holds a permanent, fatalist view of all relationships, but this led to the belief that she has no value.
Give yourself another pat on the back!
You're a pathetic disgrace to the lineage of great fathers. Even worse, she doesn't know why she runs. All she knows is that it will keep her safe. It kept her safe from you, the original protector, so it should work against anyone else.
It is a learned behaviour. A behaviour she learned not from you, but because of you, good old dad. This is your legacy.
Do you see? Her mind and body tried to forget what you had done. It worked. Somehow she managed to get over your idea of parenting. She graduated university, proceeded to get a master's degree and unto an aspiring career. But the mind is a funny thing. It never truly forgets. No matter how hard you try. Her mind buried the pain and cruelty so deep and tried to colour in the missing pieces with parts that weren't her.
Live that way long enough and eventually you are forced to believe it. You are forced to live a lie, because this truth hurts beyond all others. This truth can't be handled alone. It may be buried so deep, it has been lost altogether.
But to lose a piece of yourself? Not knowing where it went? Awful. Sad. Humiliating. Confusing. Not sure we have a word in the English language to describe it. Her mind will try to compensate for that lost piece for eternity. That is what you took from her!
This was my attempt to give it back. Even if this letter doesn't reach her, my hope is it will reach others.
Regardless, this is your legacy.
But it wasn't enough for you to just go after her. You had to take away the one person who might have been able to do something about your legacy.
You turned your sights on dear ol' mom. Mom may have tried to stop you, once, twice or 100 times, but it didn't work did it? Nope, you just had to keep going. Today, mom is incapable of dealing with the consequences of your actions. She throws money at the situation, thinking that should make her daughter's life easier and in the process maybe make up her biggest mistake.
But no. Mom isn't strong enough. It is very difficult to revisit your worst mistake. Infinity more difficult when your darkest mistake affected your children. The guilt she must feel having put her daughter through the immense pain you inflicted, impossible to deal with. This is your legacy.
Do you see? It is my fault for not realizing the immense pain and anguish she was in.
But she had become an artist of deception even to herself. So what chance did I have? That is something I will have to live with.
I am certain she may not understand why: why she acts the way she acts, why she surrounds herself with only "yes" people, why she seeks attention all the time, only to turn away when the attention turns real.
This culminates in infinite unhappiness, infinite confusion. She is unhappy, has been for decades and may never get the opportunity to experience true happiness. After all, how can she be in adult relationship, if not first being happy with herself? How is she supposed to be happy with someone she doesn't know? This is your legacy.
I didn't understand then. I knew she had problems that stemmed from childhood. I always told her "when you're ready to face it, I will face it with you". But it had to be on her terms, one of those things no once can force on another.
We all have problems – you know this more than any of us. But I was ill-suited and poorly prepared to see the signs and cookie crumbs of your actions. No piece of multimedia or pop culture could have exposed or prepared me for the result of your idea of parenthood. But now I see the scars you left. The imprint of your legacy.
I cared for her and loved her as best I knew how. Having come from a loving, caring family and being surrounded by the best set of friends one could ask for will do that to a person. I wasn't perfect (thank you video games!).
Far from it. But if I had known what you had done, if I had known the legacy you had left, I could have been so much more for her.
Now that she is running – yet again – my only hope is that your legacy does not result in any more permanent damage.
She has been through enough at your hand and deserves no more. She deserves better, probably better than I can provide, but exponentially better you did.
I tried so hard to be her rock. Little did I know the deck was rigged against me before the game began! You made sure of that.
And not just for me, but for anyone who ever tried – or will try to – show her that she is valuable, that she is worthy of love, she is deserving of the best life has to offer.
She deserves to have someone who loves her no matter what. This is what you took from her. This is what I am trying to give back.