Disillusionment is a good thing. It takes resilience of character, but you can become disillusioned without also becoming bitter.
Disillusionment is a good thing. It is not a sad, terrible thing that has to make you bitter. It takes resilience of character, but you can be disillusioned without closing yourself off to happy relationships filled with the kindness and warmth the world has to offer.
In my younger days, filled with naiveté and many, many illusions, I somehow missed what are now obvious signs of dishonesty and betrayal. As a fundamentally honest young person, I assumed that others wanted to be fundamentally honest as well. Let’s be clear. Mistakes were made (by me). Lies have been told (by me). And I haul around my fair share of the missteps of youth. But as a natural optimist, I had some pretty sticky illusions that had disastrous, time-wasting results.
I don’t miss my illusions at all. The world is not a worse place because I’ve been disillusioned. The world is what it is (just the same as it when I thought it was something else) in all its complexity. I just see that reality now.
Disillusionment: Illusion #1 – Liars Don’t Lie To Everyone
For some reason I thought that friendship or love meant that a habitual liar would suspend their deceitful ways for me. This is NOT the case. Liars lie. They lie to everyone, including and especially their loved ones. And sadly, they always lie first to themselves. Liars take a short cut to feeling good about themselves in the world by: leading double lives that let them avoid hard decisions, stealing esteem and good will from others by making up stories to make them look heroic, and hiding drug abuse and other dangerous behaviors.
Part of the addiction of lying is the intoxicating power of manipulation. And naive people can be manipulated like no one else. If you see that someone easily lies to others or her stories do not jive with what you observe, chances are, you are also being deceived. If you aren’t being deceived today, someday, when it suits the needs of the liar, you will be deceived. It is only a matter of time.
How to identify a habitual liar ?
Now, everyone lies in small ways and that doesn’t make all of them the habitual liars I’m describing. You will learn to identify chronic, pathological liars over time. If your Spidey-sense about someone is tingling you can protect yourself against deception with a few simple and smart techniques that let you honest people shine through. Pay close attention, let the relationship build slowly (deceivers aren’t in a relationship for the long haul and may move on quickly), and look for signs.
Here are some earmarks of a deceitful person:
- Their stories have weird or significant inconsistencies.
- They have no long-term, deep, healthy relationships.
- They move around a lot. Once people start to figure the liar out, the liar moves on.
- Bizarre things seem to happen to them a lot because the truth has been morphed by image-protecting lies into something that is unreal.
- They are NEVER at fault for anything and are frequently (according to their version) victimized by the world at large.
Disillusionment: Illusion #2 – Cheating Is A Mistake That People Learn From And Never Do Again
This is the same essential idea as “liars lie.” Cheaters cheat. Some people start and never stop, especially the ones who don’t get caught. And, it’s likely that once you’ve been cheated on, your beloved cheater will cheat again. According to Psychology Today, once someone has cheated, they are less likely to see it as wrong. Your trust in them may be misplaced.
I recommend you grieve the loss and move on, or buckle in for the long haul of repeated heartbreak. I’ve never seen a monogamous relationship flourish after a cheat. Is that what you want? It’s not about being kind, loving, forgiving or cute enough, so don’t think that you are the exception to someone’s cheating ways.
What about apology ?
NOTE: “But he apologized and said he won’t do it again.” It took me some time to learn that if there is a heavy tone of rationalization, justification, reverse accusations or any other personal defense made for cheating, the following apology (if one happens) is useless. I’ve observed that the truth of a person’s thinking is revealed in what they do, not what they get backed into saying. They’ve cheated. If, by some very small chance, it was simply a moment of insanity that has now passed, they will be as horrified by their own behavior as you are. These are rare and unusual circumstances, but they do happen.
Now, I’ve never been able to deal with the complexities of multiple romantic partners, but when there is an understanding between adults and everyone is on board with and “open” relationship (all health concerns addressed, etc.), I understand that some folks can make that work. Genuinely, this is about personal choices of things that work for you. Four out of five Americans believe that fidelity in a relationship is important. I’m part of that majority.
Disillusionment: Illusion #3 – It Is Impolite Or Disrespectful To Question Someone About Their Relationship Status
This may be the dumbest illusion yet. I always felt like it was impolite to suggest that someone might be in a relationship by asking questions like, “Do you have a girlfriend/wife/fiancé?” It felt a lot like asking, “So, are you a cheating dirt bag?” But, let’s be clear. You have the right to ferret out whatever you think is important with someone you are going to spend time with. In fact, it’s a matter of safety.
Many people out there believe that if you don’t ask, you don’t care. It’s a happy, convenient cop-out that the not-so-naïve apply to the world, so they don’t have to lay their own cards on the table. If you care about someone’s relationship status, ask about it early. Be careful of Bill Clinton-like responses that, depending on your perspective, could be interpreted in a number of ways. They may still lie to you, but if their answer to a point-blank question is a lie, when you do find out, you know that they’re a liar. That will make the decision to dump them clear and easy. (See Illusion #1)
Disillusionment: Illusion #4 – People Who Are Married Don’t Ask Other People Out
When talking about disillusionment. Asking people out while the’re married, is an important subject. And yes, they do. Example: I was on a lunch date one time when the guy started talking about his wife. He went on about how she’d cheated on him and how angry he was. As I sat there blinking dumbly, I realized that I was his lucky revenge date. He was wearing a ring! I didn’t even look for one, because the notion of a married person asking someone out on a date was completely foreign to me. And I realized I had been an absolute numbskull.
How did it end? Well, I kept it simple. It’s not word for word, but it went a bit like this. “I didn’t realize you were married or I wouldn’t be sitting here. It sounds like you’re in a terrible place in your marriage, but I don’t want any part of that. Relationships between just two people are complicated enough and adding a third person makes my head hurt. Thank you for lunch and don’t call me ever again.” Genuinely, I wish him the best. He was terrible at cheating and that spoke well for an essential core of honesty. I hope he figured it out.
People DO ask you out on a date when they’re married, have girlfriends, boyfriends, whatever.
Disillusionment: Illusion #5 – Judgment is “Judgmental”
Being called ‘judgmental’ can feel like slam about being harsh, stuffy and snotty. I put up with all sorts of foolishness to avoid it. It took some time for me to realize that someone telling me I’m judgmental meant I would eventually have to make a judgment call not to be around them. I had every right to decide that I didn’t want to deal with certain behaviors in my life, and so do you.
I had made decisions not to do drugs, lie, cheat, steal, whatever, and I wasn’t comfortable around them in others. You don’t have to teach your truth to others or fix their lives, you just need to know your own truth and live yours.
Disillusionment: Illusion #6 – Protecting Yourself Means Closing Your Heart
It doesn’t. In my experience of disillusionment, the best way to protect yourself in the world of relationships is to know what you want for yourself – to have a clear vision of that life – and take steps to build that vision. Just like immersion training programs that are more successful in teaching adults new skills and knowledge, when you surround yourself with the sort of people you admire, you immerse yourself in a community that feeds your goals. That will mean actively choosing your friends and romances. Many people have a very strong reaction to disillusionment and protect themselves by closing themselves off to everything and everyone.
For while, I believed that disillusionment, bitterness and a closed heart was my only alternative to the goofy naiveté that was causing me to make foolish choices. But not for long. I discovered that there are many good people out there who are friendly, kind and generous to balance out the ones who are cruel, manipulative, and selfish. I just needed to recognize the good ones and quickly walk away from the bad.
So much literature characterizes disillusionment as a sad transition into adulthood, something lost, something to be mourned. But for me, becoming disillusioned was the beginning of the best part of my life. It was also the end of investing time and energy in relationships that would never be what I wanted them to be. Sure, there is sadness in letting go. But there is a happy freedom in having a real sense of the true nature of the world and creating a real life that works.