Dear Jesse James: Childhood abuse does not excuse cheating

I finally watched Jesse James’ interview with ABC’s “Nightline” and was struck by something he said.

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No, it’s not his allegation that he was abused by his father as a child.

It’s his rationale for cheating in the first place.

“I may seem like a monster in peoples’ eyes,” Jesse says, “but I’m not that kind of person where I’ll willfully be like, ‘You know what? I’ll show her. I’m going to get her.’ That’s what what it’s about.

“It’s about trying to push someone away that was going to leave anyway.”

Wow. That’s quite an admission. And you know what? I totally believe him.

I believe deep down he feels unworthy and completely undeserving (perhaps in more than one aspect of his life); that he’s actually looked over at Sandra Bullock and wondered, “Am I really married to her?”

I think that’s a feeling that all of us can relate to at one point of our lives or another. It’s a feeling The Talking Heads have even sung of in their song “Once in a Lifetime”:

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house,
with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, ‘Well…How did I get here?’

This feeling of unworthiness cropped up more than once in this interview with Jesse. At another point, when he’s talking about it in the context of his childhood, he says this:

“I grew up with a huge amount of shame and fear and abandonment on my shoulders from a very young age and I think, you know, the way my mind rationalized (cheating on Sandra), ‘Well, you know, I might as well do whatever I can to like run her off cause she is going to find out what I am anyway and leave me anyway.'”

I don’t think that these feelings are an excuse for cheating on Sandra, but I think they are a big part of the reason why it happened – especially when practically everyone was questioning how the pair wound up together in the first place. Could Jesse have also been playing into the whole “the public thinks I’m a bad boy who doesn’t deserve her so I’m going to prove them right” attitude? Maybe, though you’d think he would step up to the plate and prove those naysayers wrong.

But who knows? None of us are in his shoes, thankfully. I’m just appreciative that Jesse was honest and open – more open than I expected him to be. He may have blown his chances at ever reconciling with Sandra, but I don’t think all hope is lost. But he does need to stop playing the blame game. If his father did indeed abuse him as a child, that may have contributed to his lack of self-worth. But it didn’t make him a cheater.

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