Thursday, February 14, 2019

You are lovable, you are enough, you are more than just a Hallmark Holiday

Get yourself a miniature horse! Better than the ass you married. 
I woke up to this beautiful note from StillStanding1 today. It was so sweet and thoughtful that I wanted to share it here because I know that a whole of you struggle with this day.

Here it is:
Good morning lovely people, I just wanted to send you a quick note on this day, which can be a difficult day. I wanted to remind you all that you are loved, that you deserve kindness and care, and that there are amazing people out in the world who value and respect you right where you are.
Today is probably a day for radical self-care, if ever there was one. 
Let’s break out our revenge ponies (or tigers) and ride (well maybe not the pony and tiger groups together. I have a  feeling that might end badly)!

I hope you'll all recognize the truth in SS1's words and take her advice to heart. Radical self-care. Deep self-love. Revenge ponies or tiger-riding (take your pick!!). 

Love,

Elle

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

We say we want the truth. Do we really?

I was relentless. My mornings began with questions: Where did you go? What did she wear? My day was filled with questions: How much did you spend on her? How long did it go on? My nights stretched late with questions: What positions did she like? Did you hang out with her friends?
When I wasn't asking questions, I was poring over cell phone bills, VISA bills, rifling through drawers looking for receipts and cross-referencing dates. I was the Carrie Mathison of Homeland: Infidelity. And sure, I was good at it. But I was making myself crazy.
I was close to making my husband crazy too when I decided upon my 24-hour rule: I would make myself wait 24 hours before I asked the question that I absolutely believed I needed the answer to. Most times, by the time 24 hours had elapsed, the question was gone. I couldn't remember it. Which told me something: The details really didn't matter. They didn't change anything.
My husband had cheated on me. For years. With many people.
That is, really, all I needed to know.
That, and what I was going to do about it.
That doesn't stop me from insisting that cheaters need to answer our questions. Rebuilding trust is a painstaking exercise that involves a delicate dance in which the betrayer is always where he says he is, always with who he says he's with, always doing what he says he's doing. There can be no untruth. There can be no stretching of truth. There can be no minimizing of the truth.
There is only the truth, offered without compromise.
There will be glitches. There will be the guy who forgot, genuinely forgot, that he also stopped for a coffee on his way to a meeting because this stopping for coffee was a non-event. Honestly. There will be the guy who says he stopped for a "couple of beers" with his friends because he, honestly, thinks a "couple" can sometimes mean "three". That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the guy who "forgets" to mention that he bumped into the OW at the coffee shop he didn't tell us he stopped at. We're talking about the guy who isn't supposed to be at the bar with his buddies at all so by saying he had "only a couple" of beers, he's really saying "why are you so bent out of shape? Jeesh. I can't do anything."
So, sure, I think that we betrayeds need to be able to ask any question and expect an honest response.
But, as a discussion is taking place on another site, it has prompted me to consider, again, just how much truth we really need. And why.
Because sometimes our need to know extends into pain shopping. Pain shopping, for those who haven't heard the term before, is about refusing to shift focus from the affair, instead keeping ourselves locked into it. Pain shopping is about deliberately driving by her house even though another route is shorter. Pain shopping is about stalking her social media. Pain shopping is about playing a song that reminds us of the affair, on a loop. Pain shopping is asking questions about details of the affair that don't change a damn thing but ensure that we're talking about the affair, thinking about the affair, and adding highly flammable fuel to the ever-present fire of fury that's burning in our guts.
Do you really need to know, as I was sure I did, what type of underwear she wore? Do you really need to know what her favorite drink was? Or whether she wore her hair up or down?
Some details change the nature of the affair. Introducing an affair partner to children, for instance. Bringing her into your bed. But, for the most part, does it matter whether they met at your favorite coffee shop? Wouldn't it be better to not know that? To continue to enjoy your latte without trigger?
And finally, the poster here makes a point about how, eventually, a cheater will agree with our versions of "truth" just to get us to shut the hell up about it. Is that what we want? Isn't that exactly what we're trying to avoid? Lying to keep the peace? Lying to avoid conflict? Lying for any reason at all? If we say we want the absolute truth, then we need to be ready to hear it.
And that's something that a whole lot of us aren't ready for. In the early days post D-Day and sometimes ever.
Our spouses will have secrets. So will we. There are things that my husband will never know about me. There are things I'm still discovering about myself. I have secrets I may or may not share – about aging, about envy, about disappointment.
Coming to a point where I can accept that there are things about my husband's infidelity that I will never know was quite amazing. I never imagined I would ever get there. Now? I honestly don't care about so much about it. It feels almost like a different life.
I know that's hard for a lot of you to imagine. You feel cemented into the life you have right now – one in which you're desperate to understand why he did this and you think that understanding will come from details. You think that knowledge is power. You think that by constantly pulling these details into the light, you will come to understand.
What she wore and where they met and who said what to whom likely won't give you the answers you really need. Those are details. The real truth, the one we truly need, is why he cheated, what he believed about his marriage and the affair, what he's doing to ensure he never cheats again, and whether he deserves a second chance. And that truth gets unburied with a whole lot of digging.

Monday, February 11, 2019

A conversation with therapist and infidelity expert Caroline Madden

Dr. Caroline Madden
I'm pretty active on Twitter these days and enjoy the conversations I have with others who tweet about infidelity and healing and how to get through this thing called life with our hearts mostly intact. 
I'm often intrigued by Twitter comments by Caroline Madden. She's a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles and also author of a bunch of books about healing from infidelity. She's smart and insightful but mostly she's got a way of reaching out to both the betrayer and the betrayed in a way that makes them feel seen and heard, like their story matters too.
I decided to read one of her books. I chose After A Good Man Cheats in part because I think there are fewer good books available for the betrayer.
I was gobsmacked by After A Good Man Cheats and I wished a whole lot that this book had existed back in 2006 when the bomb that is infidelity blew up my life. Gobsmacked because Dr. Madden gets it. It's like she read my diaries, removed all the angst-y woe-is-me and farewell-cruel-world stuff and wrote a book that addressed what I needed most: 
I am in the worst pain of my life and how do I make him understand that?
And then she put my pain through some sort of betrayed-to-betrayer translation machine and came out with things like this: 
"...the symptoms women experience after an affair are similar to the symptoms people experience after going to war or experiencing a significant trauma. They experience a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)." (from After A Good Man Cheats)
I can scarcely imagine how my healing might have been different if someone had said those words to me (or I had read them) early on. Rather than wondering what the hell is wrong with me that I'm such a mess?, I might have recognized that what I felt was reasonable, under the circumstances. It was normal. It was even expected.
And what a relief that would have been.
Relief is a key part of Madden's role. To offer relief to both partners. To assure each of them that infidelity doesn't have to be a deal-breaker, that they have options available to them and, perhaps most of all, that they will heal from this if they do the work. 
I recently called Dr. Madden where she lives and works in Los Angeles (lucky Angelenos to have such a therapist in their midst! Lucky the rest of us that she's written books to share her expertise). We talked about her work, her books and what she's both learned and taught.
She opened with this: "Reconciliation is not an entitlement. It's a gift."
Wow, huh? How would your marriage look different, right now, if you proceeded with that core understanding? That staying with someone who's been unfaithful isn't an act of desperation or wimpiness but generosity. Benevolence. A gift. Assuming, of course, that he wants to be a better man. That he wants that second chance and is willing to work hard for it.
Even then, she says, "men are stupid, and often say the absolutely wrong thing to their wife."
She's empathetic to them. "Stupid" is said with affection and, she says, in 20 years, "I haven't had a man disagree."
She offers them scripts in After a Good Man Cheats. Literal scripts. Not to put words in their mouths that are disingenuous, she says, but to help them decode their wife's pain, to "install empathy chips." She urges them to step into their wife's experience: Where is her pain? Why is she asking these questions?
To keep men focussed on their wife's pain, she urges her unfaithful clients to, whenever they find themselves feeling guilty or ashamed by what they did to think about what they can do for their wife that day, to become giving without any expectation of reciprocation.
Most men are stunned by the extent of the damage they've caused, she says, and at a loss for how to take steps to remedy it. 
"They are prepared for the anger,  not the devastation. They often believe that their wife doesn't really like them. They think their wife has [intentionally] been looking the other way."
She places at least some of the blame on our culture, which, she says, allows men to have three feelings: happy, angry, drunk. So when they're feeling lonely, or disconnected, or lost...well..."attention from another woman is like warm milk to a feral cat." 
This can be hard to hear when you're newly betrayed. We don't care that he was sad. Or lost. Or disconnected. We're all those things now too because they're big fat idiots! Maybe we were those things before but we didn't cheat!
Dr. Madden makes clear that understanding the cheater's mindset is in no way giving them a get-out-of-jail-free card. This isn't about exonerating them, it's about understanding them. 
"Cheating is in no way an acceptable response," she says, noting that it's not a therapist's job to be "neutral" about this. When she's counselling couples, the cheater needs to put his guilt and his shame aside, she says. 
"It's about her pain. He can deal with his feelings one-on-one."
To that end, she maintains that husbands need to accompany their wives to the doctor when they're tested for STDs. She normalizes the roller coaster of emotions that we so often experience, the up and down and all around. What did he expect? she tells him. Your wife is in the worst pain of her life. 
Those who cheat again? "If you can see this pain and do it again, you are a bad person," she says. But she says that with the same straightforwardness with which she talks about everything. No drama. No judgement. Just the facts, ma'am. With a huge dose of compassion.
Dr. Madden's books are widely read and well reviewed. No surprise. She offers a sane, realistic approach to rebuilding a marriage after infidelity. This isn't a quick fix and she doesn't promise miracles. 
But her books are easy to understand, even by men unfamiliar with the language of self-help and therapy. She brings her personality to every page – empathetic, funny and warm, with a steady approach to guide men, women and couples through to healing from the pain, whether or not they choose to rebuild their marriage. 
Healing from infidelity, she says, "is a process of humility and soul-searching." Despite a career spent largely helping couples who've experienced a fracture in their relationship, she believes in marriage, she says. "With all its ups and downs." 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Funny Friday: Your Post-Infidelity Valentine's Gift Giving Problem Solved

Thanks to BeachGirl for alerting me to this perfect Valentine's gift for the jerk in your life (even if that jerk-in-recovery isn't an ex and may never be).

Here's how the news item begins:

Looking to get yourself a present this Valentine's Day? The El Paso Zoo has you covered. It will name a cockroach after your ex and then feed it to a meerkat live on camera...

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Rx for When You Can't Sleep

A few days ago on Twitter, someone asked for help with insomnia. For so many of us, sleep is elusive in the days/weeks/months following discovery of our partner's betrayal. I spent my days longing for the heavy blanket of sleep only to find myself in bed, feeling alone and desperate and wide awake, longing for the night to be over. I tried a few things – melatonin and an anti-nausea medication with drowsiness as its side effect. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn't. For some people melatonin has nasty side effects. Increasingly, I've been hearing that CBD oil is effective though I haven't tried it.
But Samuel, who tweets as @infidelityscars responded to the tweeter's plea for help getting sleep with an intriguing offer to share what he and his wife, a dietician, have relied on to treat their own insomnia. And so I invited him to give up his sleep-inducing secrets. (Before we proceed, however, a caveat: Before you take any over-the-counter medication, please make sure it's appropriate and safe for you, that it doesn't interact with any other medication -- prescription or otherwise -- that you're taking. Use only as directed. This post is not meant to replace a medical opinion.)

My name is Samuel and I help those in crisis due to infidelity. On August 26, 2005 I walked in the door of our California home and disclosed to my wife of 10 years, Samantha, that I had been unfaithful. I had been having a two-year affair with my assistant, who happened to also be one of Samantha’s closest and most trusted friends.  
Enter insomnia. (Ed. note: I suspect more than insomnia entered at this point but for the purposes of this article, we'll stick with that.)
We tried everything. Before too long, Samantha's reliance on Ambien was such that she could not sleep without it. However, she paid the price the next day. Grogginess, no strength or energy, hopeless, discouraged. 
Repair work was tough enough, but to try and heal while exhausted and barely sleeping at night added to the torture. There’s a reason our Navy Seals are trained to battle sleeplessness and still perform at an elite level. While not a Navy Seal, Samantha is no less a warrior for the agony and trauma she has been able to overcome. 
Samantha is a dietician and has found three remedies that have been life-changing for her and many of her clients and friends. Here are three different remedies that are also over the counter, homeopathic remedies that we recommend to clients and friends.  
1.  Theanine Serene with Relora by Source Naturals. This is an exceptional product that for Samantha and me leaves no grogginess the next day but provides a stable support for sleep. Can be combined with the product below:
2.  Adrenal Health, Nightly Restore by Gaia Herbs. Another exceptional resource for stable sleep. Can be combined with the Theanine above. I take one of the Theanine and one of the Adrenal Health and sleep like a champ (and I drink way too much coffee every day). 
3.   Kavinace Ultra PM by NeuroScience. Will leave a bit of grogginess for some the next day as it is very powerful. Probably not wise to combine this product with any of the above products.

To healing and recovery,
Samuel
(I speak to and coach those who are attempting to heal from infidelity and sexual addiction. Samantha and I have been married for 23 years, and have been actively engaged in repair work for more than 14 years. I work with Affairrecovery.com and support those who are healing from infidelity.) 


  

Monday, February 4, 2019

Passing Through the Wound: What Mary Oliver Teaches Us About Healing From Betrayal

"I recall my students, stunned by language that appears so simple but evokes a complex nexus of ideas about the intersection of self and world. I think about the story Oliver’s poems often tell about what it means to heal by passing through the wound; how the courage to do so heals ourselves and the world, one person at a time."

I subscribe to a newsletter called Writer Unboxed. It offers writing tips on everything from character and plot development to focus and motivation.
A recent post focused on poet Mary Oliver, who recently died. If you haven't already discovered Mary Oliver, I urge you to do so. She was sometimes not taken seriously because her poetry is so accessible. If anyone can understand it, the thinking seemed to go, then it wasn't worthy of being elevated to art.
I disagree, as did legions of Oliver aficionados. It was her simple language that opened the door to so much. The ability to pack so much into a compact sentence is what made an Oliver poem so stunning. So beautiful. And, sometimes, so painful. It touched us in our tender places. 
Oliver didn't turn away from her pain. She, as this writer above puts it, passed through the wound. 
It's what we're doing here, isn't it? Pretty much everyone who finds themselves here discovers that going around or under or over the wound just doesn't work. We must pass through it in order to heal ourselves.
What does that look like? To pass through a wound?
Well, it looks like the tough conversation you no longer avoid. 
It looks like setting and holding to clear boundaries.
It looks like giving yourself the time and space, if you need it, trusting that if your husband will move on that quickly, he had one foot out the door already.
It's about facing your own demons. What pain did you bring into the marriage? What old wounds still need tending? What have you been doing to avoid feeling?
Passing through the wound requires so much courage. Which is why it's crucial to be gentle with yourself. Self-care has become one of those catch-phrases that life coaches and advertisers use to sell us stuff. But self-care isn't about a spa day or a fancy new journal with multi-coloured pens, or a new pair of shoes. It's about asking yourself what you need right now. And then listening carefully for the answer. It's about cultivating a space that amplifies a deeper voice, one that knows how to care for you, one that knows your worth. 
This will sometimes take your breath away. You will need support. You will need this army of fierce and fabulous secret sisters to remind you that you are strong enough and brave enough and enough enough. 
But I bring to you the kinda lousy news that there is no other way to a genuine and long-lasting healing but to pass through the wound.
It's dark and frightening and painful.
But on the other side? It's glorious. 



The World I Live In
by Mary Oliver

I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
what's wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn't believe what once or
twice I have seen. I just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever, possibly, see one.

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