Friday, September 20, 2019

What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do

If I had a nickel for every time I said, aloud or to myself, "I can't do this any more", I'd be eyeball deep in nickels. It was my phrase of surrender. Of defeat. It was about exhaustion. And fear. Yeah, mostly about fear. Cause the weeks and months and, yes, years after D-Day often felt like holding on by my fingernails while I dangled over a canyon. My two options seemed to be to keep holding on or letting my body split apart on rocks. It felt inconceivable that there was a third option: To heal. To restore myself and my marriage. To reclaim my life.
So many of you seem to know that intuitively. You know that, yes this is a horrible painful experience but it will not determine the rest of your life. And I envy you that ability to understand your own strength. 
Like most lessons in my life, I've had to learn the hard way that I am stronger than I realize, that I'm more resilient. And yes, there are many of you here also that are like me. 
The ones who "can't do this any more."

1. Rest

I know that fear. That if you stop treading water for even one second that you'll certainly drown. That if you stop fighting for more information, that if you stop watching his every move, that if you just...stop, that it will all come crashing down. It's not true, of course. But it feels true. 
But here's what's really true. You cannot stop him if he's going to continue to cheat. You cannot force him to answer questions he doesn't want to ask. You cannot save your marriage if he isn't interested in saving it too. But you can save yourself. And that starts with feeling the incredible pain you're in and sitting with it. Rest.  

2. Accept the unknowingness

Ugh. I hate that this is part of it. Unknowingness is jet-black terror for me. Not knowing why he did this. Not knowing if he's still doing it. Not knowing if he will do it again. Not knowing if my marriage will survive. It all felt so unfair. Just yesterday, I knew. I knew my husband would never do this to me. I knew I'd married the right guy. But...see my point? What I thought I knew was wrong. Cause here's the thing: There are some things we can know and there are many many more things we can't. That we never will. And the better able we become at accepting that, the happier we will be. I'm not suggesting you become a fatalist about your marriage, that you accept that he just might cheat at any moment. But I am suggesting that there are things that we will never know about another person. And here's something else – there are things we may never know about ourselves, unless we're faced with certain situations. Unless we know ourselves deeply, though few of us ever do.
So...we face the unknowingness. We determine what we can and cannot know and we determine what we need to know and what we can release. 

3. Stay small...and keep your world small

Remove anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Build that "no" muscle. Cull the toxic people from your life. Get rid of social media if it's making you miserable. Turn off TV shows if they're triggering. The day will come for expansion again. But it's not now.

4. Gather your tribe

There is no shame in seeking help, in telling your story, in gathering those who can hold you while you weep. In fact, one of the surprising gifts in this horrible thing that happened is the incredible people I've come to know. Many I know only from their pseudonym on this site, or their Twitter handle. But you are friends. You are my tribe. I watch you gather around others' pain, even when you're feeling it yourself. And it affirms what any of this – life, to sound grand – is about. Loving each other through the storms. 

5. Search your heart...

  • What do I want? A therapist can help you with this. It's a big question. Most of us want this to have not happened. But since time-travel isn't an option, what does your future look like? What do you have control over and what must you accept that you don't?
  • Have I had enough? You have not "wasted" time if you tried to reconcile and changed your mind. You have not "wasted" time if your marriage is over. Letting go can be a brave act of self-love. 
  • Are my actions moving me toward what I want? I know the pain is intense. And the temptation to numb that pain is huge. To pour a third glass of wine, to buy another outfit that only briefly distracts us, to flirt with that new guy at work. But if healing is our goal, then consider that our actions need to move us toward it. Self-care. Radical kindness. Healthy habits. And yeah, probably therapy. 
6. Rise
It might seem inconceivable that you'll arrive at a point where the thought of his infidelity isn't a stab to your heart. But rising is about having learned to trust yourself, having learned to love yourself, having learned just how strong and incredible you are. Rising is your destiny. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Guest Post: It’s All About the Cheese

by Chinook

I read the strangest thing the other day.

It’s the result of a psychology experiment, described by Amelia and Emily Nagoski in their excellent book “Burnout”. Research participants were asked to solve different kinds of mazes. You know, mazes. The kind my kindergartener loves. 

In one set of mazes, little illustrations showed the participants that they were trying to get a wee mouse away from a predatory owl. In another set, they were trying to get the wee mouse towards some tasty cheese.

You would think the illustrations would make no difference. The mazes were all equally difficult. But it turns out that participants were faster at solving the ones with the cheese, by a statistically significant margin (i.e., there’s a less than 1% chance that the difference was a fluke).

The researchers called these “cheese” puzzles “approach-related” and the owl puzzles “avoidance-related”. 

“The moral of the story,” Amelia and Emily Nagoski write in their book, is that “we thrive when we have a positive goal to move toward, not just a negative state we’re trying to move away from. If we hate where we are, our first instinct often is to run aimlessly away from the owl of our present circumstances, which may lead us somewhere not much better than where we started. We need something positive to move toward. We need the cheese.”

It’s pretty easy for people like us, working through betrayal trauma, to identify our “owls”. We want to run away from the pain of infidelity. We want to leave the trauma of trickle truth behind. We want to flee the horrible feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But what is our “cheese”? 

What positive things are we running towards, not for the sake of our marriage (which is only partly in our control) but for the sake of our own life? 

Loving kindness for ourselves?
Freedom from unhelpful thought patterns?

What skills do we want to cultivate? 
What perspectives do we want to adopt? 
What feelings do we want to have about ourselves?

If I choose to focus on the heavenly cheese ahead of me instead of the menacing owls swooping at my back, I might just find a faster way out of this maze.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Guest Post: The Truth About Trickle Truth

by Lynn Less Pain
Trickle truth is the name for what happens when a cheater gives one version of the affair but excludes some of the information. With time (and questions) more information and then more information "trickles" out. There are several versions of truth that come out over time, in bits and pieces. 
My granddaughter wanted to get married at 20 years old. She made plans but didn’t want to tell the family. The truth was she wanted to get married, period. She didn’t want to say it out loud because of judgements, assumptions, unwanted advice and disapproval. She told us her plan in bits and pieces. She tested our family’s reaction with bits and pieces.   
Cheaters test the water a little at time. What the betrayed hears is a small version of the truth. The cheater wants it to sound, well, not that bad. She was just a friend. She came on to me at work. I was in a lost state of mind. I didn’t think you cared. He wants to gauge your reaction.  
I knew this person worked under my husband’s contract. He told me he felt sorry for her.  Her husband left her because she had Parkinson’s. I suggested we invite her to Sunday family dinners if she was alone. My husband said she is mentally unstable. Then later, I saw a text that said, I fell last night and need TLC. My husband’s response, when I questioned him about the text was, she is crazy and not stable. I asked him to tell her that she needs to be professional and the text made me uncomfortable. 
The next text I see is from my husband to the OW, What did you say the name of the perfume is? I confronted him. Then the trickle truth started and lasted four years. He trickled truth to the therapist for six months. If the therapist had known the entire truth, she would have taken a different approach. I felt like she really worked me over, when it should have been him. I had my suspicions. One night I took out the calendar and said this timeline doesn’t make sense. I would like to go over it again. He said, Can we take a break from it for a while? Then D-Day 2! The affair didn’t last a year, it lasted two-and-a-half years. Did he tell me? No, I saw a charge for a restaurant earlier than the affair started. I pulled over to the side of the road and called a lawyer. 

With each fresh revelation, the betrayed spouse is sent back to D-Day. 
The first story, year one, I asked him how much money did he “loan" her.  He said $800. I looked at the bank statements again in year four and there was an additional check for $300. I called the bank and yep, the additional $300 was written to her. He said he forgot.  A large blow-up lasted three days accompanied by a therapy session. 
I got version A of the truth. I try to wrap my head around it. I start to deal with it. Next is version B so the time between A and B is wasted time in the healing process. I try to wrap my head around this new information. I feel pain again. 
Now he says the last version was the last detail and I know everything now. Guess what?  That doesn’t mean anything to me because I’m convinced that there is still more information. It is not only information I seek but an understanding. Like trying to understand, when my husband drops the OW like a hot coal.  Suddenly he turns to me to say I love you. He switched his allegiance from her to me so suddenly. It is hard to believe what he says when he switches his allegiance to me and the OW goes up in a puff of smoke. I keep asking the same questions over and over to try to get to the truth and more information. 
Here is the point, eventually you will conclude you are never, ever, ever going to get the entire truth. It will take a long time to be sure he loves you.  A woman can only go through that process a number of times, which makes you think, I’m never going to heal. I started by asking my husband, “What is your definition of a lie”.
Definitions can differ. Get on the same page. Explain to him, lies are self-preservation that can turn into destruction. Even if he doesn’t get caught lying, it damages your healing and marriage. His intentions do not justify the lying.  No matter what he says you won’t be manipulated or controlled by his omissions. It is not about becoming honest eventually. It is about becoming honest immediately.    

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Guest Post: The D Word

by StillStanding1

A sunrise over a remote lake is an annual part of the life I choose for myself.  
Choose something beautiful for you.

I wanted to show up today to talk to some of our newer arrivals; those of you who don’t yet know what warriors you are and are reeling or are in full-on “try to save and fix everything” mode. I am more than 3 1/2 years out from D-Day and, looking back, would never have believed it would be possible to be where I am. I would have been a little mad/annoyed/not ready to listen to the Me now. In those first, shuddering, pain-filled months, all I wanted was for my husband to wake up, get his head out of his ass and see what he was going to lose. And to stop hurting.

I don’t come to the site daily anymore. While I care deeply about the friends and connections I’ve made and feel so much empathy and compassion for the endless, tragic string of new arrivals, infidelity and triggers just aren’t an influential part of my daily life anymore. And I've begun to feel that my experience as a divorced, single person post-infidelity, lines up less and less with what I read in the posts and comments. I think that’s okay. New folks are showing up and Chinook inspires with her fire and words; it’s like a changing of the guards (hear the rattle of swords and line up to get the dirt smudged under your eyes) but I can continue to show up and hold space for that.

But it has also been suggested to me that my experience and voice may still be relevant, especially for those who choose or have divorce chosen for them. Even for those of you who feel physically ill at the idea of divorce (like I did), it's important to know that it doesn’t have to be all fear, failure, loss, struggle and poverty. You can come out the other side a stronger, healthier, more confident person. I can’t tell you exactly how that will go for you because we are all different, but I do know you have to choose it and pursue it (even if you have no idea what the hell you are doing when you start).

I’m on my own healing journey and without the perp (my ex-husband) in my face daily, I don’t have the same challenges to navigate. I have different ones but I worry that talking about them on this site will trigger and terrify new arrivals. I know when I first got there, the last thing I wanted to look at closely was even the possibility of divorce, let alone wrap my head around the idea that I would end up better-than-fine. One of the biggest things to accept? That ending my marriage has been one of the best things to happen to me for a long time. It has freed me to work on and release old patterns and learn to value myself. Yes, my ex is still around (he comes to my home two nights a week for dinner with our son). But I am not obligated to make it work if it doesn’t work for me. I’m not required to deal with his shit when he tries to push past boundaries. And while he is working on improving as a human being, he manages to remind me how far he still has to go just regularly enough that I don’t feel anything much like regret. Not anymore. 

Instead, I have worked at crafting a life I can be proud of and a story I am willing to claim as mine. I pursued volunteer work that has led to friendships and connections that fill me up. There are real people in my life who love and value me, in all my flawed weirdness. I have learned to love myself and treat my time and health with care. I’ve been working on trusting myself, both with personal life decisions and in my business. I committed to growing my business so it could support me after the alimony runs out, and I’m doing it. I am succeeding. I learned all about money and budgeting because not being in control of your finances is the source of a lot of fear for a lot of us. And I’ve done a lot of work in therapy and on my own to bring old stories and unhelpful beliefs into the clean light of day.

I’ve even dated a little and learned a lot about myself in the process. It’s not for the faint or fragile, let me tell you. When you are still raw from the massive rejection of a spouse choosing to cheat, even the tiniest rejection (a guy doesn’t follow up when he says he will or ghosting or any of that stupid dating stuff) feels much bigger than it really is. I started dating way too soon, mostly out of a need to prove to myself that someone, anyone was going to want me. But what I learned was that people who barely knew me could treat me with kindness, be thoughtful, be affectionate and that I had been starved of that in my marriage. I decided that I had to find, create or be a source of that for myself, to be whole before I went looking for someone else. And where I’ve landed with the whole dating thing now is that I’m not in a rush. My life is full. I’m proud of who I am and I don’t need a romantic partner to be complete. Of course, I’d love to have a best friend who gets me and thinks I’m awesome and all the closeness that real intimacy can bring but I’m content to wait and see who shows up. And if no one does, that’s okay too. I’m living a good life.

When I look back at everything I’ve done and gone through and all the therapy and coaching and reading and running and meditating, I’m not sure I would have arrived here without the divorce. I needed the space to breathe and explore without those old dance moves getting in the way. And you should know that, after we separated, he tried to come back three times. Each time, I trusted my gut and said no. I knew he hadn’t done the work. I knew, on two of those occasions, that the OW was still in the picture and all he really wanted was for me to rescue him from the mess he had made. So, as I said to him, "I finally choose me".

Do I sometimes still feel like I was robbed of what I thought our future was going to be? Yes but the real talk voice reminds me that that was just my idea of a future and reality was not likely to have been what I imagined, even a little bit. And reality, my life on my own now, is so much richer than I would have believed possible in that first year after D-day. So, blessedly, infidelity and all the complex stuff around it, is becoming a thing that happened, in the past, and without much impact on my day-to-day life. It is diminishing in the rearview mirror with increasing speed. I know I’m fortunate in that regard. I want you to know that no matter how your story goes, if divorce is in your future, you can keep yourself safe. Not by hiding and closing off from the world but by running toward it, by claiming a space for yourself, by loving yourself fiercely, by choosing you.


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