Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Guest Post: Anger is Armor

by StillStanding1

There was a comment on one of the threads recently where one of our sister warriors couldn’t understand how calm and level we all were. Where was our anger? Weren’t we furious!? Why weren’t we screaming and breaking things!? This post is for you (and for all of us).
I think we are taught young that anger is “bad.”  Especially if we are girls, the inevitable silencing we experience emphasizes the erasure of any difficult emotion that makes us appear unladylike or, worse, makes others uncomfortable. We must be quiet and submit. We are fed messages that tell us we must always be positive. Don’t pout. Turn that frown upside down. Just smile. You’d be prettier if you smiled.
Then D-Day happens.
After the grief, pain, shock, horror, numbness, fear (or sometimes before those things), there is an unquenchable rage, like nothing we’ve ever felt before. And we are totally unequipped to deal with it because we have no practice. We maybe even fear our own anger. It's big. It makes us say and do crazy things. But that anger, in those first moments, is protecting us. It’s a kind of temporary armor. It is shielding us from the pain and hurt that is fueling it.
I was sitting in bed early evening on Jan.1 reading. We had returned from visiting a relative for New Year’s Eve. It was a gruelling, exhausting trip but one that we made, despite no one wanting to go, because of how hurt the host would be if we hadn’t (the address is at the intersection of dysfunction junction and codependence court). My husband had been awful. Drinking even more than usual and being just a cocky shithead. I was glad to be home, unpacked and resting in some relative quiet (cue the ominous music).
He walked in to the room and shut the door. Gave me his prepared speech. He was unhappy, thinks I’ve been unhappy too and wants a divorce. “What are you talking about? Are you crazy?” This is out of nowhere from where I’m sitting. Then…in less than a second, all the pieces click together and these words come out of my mouth before the synapses stop firing. “There’s someone at work, isn’t there?”
He admits, yes. And I am, in that moment, pure rage. I have so much adrenaline my skin hurts. I can’t see. I’m shaking. I spew something at him like “You are the only person I have ever loved, you worthless piece of shit.” I push him aside and race out of the room. Some hind part of my brain knew I would not look good in prison orange and got me out of there before I beat him to death with my bare hands.
I came to myself driving. I had no idea where I was going but realized I was in no state to drive, so I pulled over in a park. And sat there, shaking, raging, my skin on fire, ready to run 500 miles and kill a bear at the end of it. And for many months since then, anger has been a regular visitor. I did many embarrassing things in those immediate weeks, in addition to crying and generally losing my shit, sometimes barely making it from one second to the next, and eventually discovering my strength. But often, I was just fucking angry.
The thing is, anger is a feeling like any other. It’s not good or bad in and of itself. It just is. Just like love. Just like sadness. Just like contentment. Feelings just come up. Each has a job or something to tell you. And its what you do with them that matters. Anger scares people around us because it generally means that we are about to not put up with their bullshit anymore. It means they might have to face some uncomfortable things themselves. Anger tells us when our boundaries have been violated. It's part of our body’s fantastic and sensitive alarm system.
Anger is also a defense mechanism. Have you ever observed someone get angry when they are embarrassed? Or feeling hurt? Or shamed? They lash out to push the shame or embarrassment or hurt on to someone else. It’s a kind of emotional offloading. And it armors them up, makes them hard. They think maybe if they just stay angry, they won’t be hurt again.  And they end up hurting others instead.  Sound familiar?
Anger is essential to recovery. Your anger is legitimate. Justified. You are entitled to rage. Lean into it. Do no harm. But feel all of it. Let the revenge fantasies rise. Picture chasing her naked ass in your car and mowing her down with it. Or, if you are like me, you prefer the simple expedient of smashing their heads between concrete blocks or with a crow bar.  Lean into those thoughts. Don’t fight them. Run them out. Bench press. Hit a punching bag. Expend that energy. That’s all it is in the end. Just energy. Get that shit out of your body. And what you’ll find underneath is what the armor of anger is hiding. The hurt, the grief, the pain, the sorrow. All the pieces of you to be put back together. Softened up but more beautiful than ever.
I had a neighbor who had been through an ugly divorce preceded by her husband’s infidelity. (I didn’t get it at the time. You often don’t until you join the club.) She wears her pain like a badge. She’s bitter but disguises it as longsuffering. It has been nearly a decade. I’m not saying she needs to be over it because I don’t know the other parts of her story and that’s not mine to judge. But what I do know is that I don’t want that to be me. Although I give myself permission to feel my anger, I won’t build a suit of armor from it.
Months after D-Day, I found two photos that my phone snapped as I was running from that awful moment. It captures exactly what I saw. Dark strange lines, blurred, red, hint of a window. The room familiar yet completely alien, tilted crazily. It was like nothing I had ever felt before (or thankfully since). And when I look at those pictures, I can still feel the ghost of that rage in my body, the burning of my skin. I’m hopeful that someday those pictures will not command that same power. That I will look at them and feel only sympathy for my wounded, former self, and now it was just a single chapter in a really, really long, incredible story.  Because anger, like all things, like all feelings, has its time and then passes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Note to the Newly Betrayed

This comment appeared below the All-you-need-to-know post-infidelity guide to quashing hyper-vigilance but it really applies to anyone who find themselves here with that perennial question: How will I survive this? While she speaks from the perspective of a wife whose husband responded by making sure he deserved the second chance he was offered. But much of what she says is about learning to take care of you.

Ok here goes...

I am 2.5 years from D-Day 1, almost 2 years from the final D-Day.  

It does get better. I promise.

When I first found out, and I read that it would take years to get over this, I honestly thought "screw it." I was sorely tempted to chuck my tattered marriage away but something stopped me. That something initially was my kids, because I didn't want to put them through the trauma of a complicated divorce.  

Then I started to see small changes in him. He made the effort to keep me in the loop, involved me in his work, talked about everything and anything, trusted me with his harrowing childhood stories. I slowly, slowly realised that his infidelity was his (terrible) way of escaping, of pushing boundaries, of holding on to something deep within himself that he was scared to live without, because he had never felt good enough, loved enough, safe enough to let go. He messed up and I hated him. I really hated him. I probably hated him for a year solid. He saw me become horribly thin both physically and mentally. I became a ghost person. I wasn't inhabiting my own skin. Instead my heart and mind were locked in another place, piecing together the fragments of truth and hiding from the pain. But you know what? He was there, he rode the wild donkey alongside me, he took my shit but wasn't afraid to call me out when I needed it.

Now, after a lot of work on both our parts, things are different. I hesitate to say better, although they are a vast improvement on the months following dday. We cannot go back, no matter how much living in a bubble can seem appealling. We live in the here and now in all its dirty, messy, beautiful glory. And, shocking as it may sound, I wouldn't have it any other way.

As a result of trauma, of having my world turned upside down, I have been forced to face myself and my own demons. I know myself and I love who I am. Sure, I wish I had behaved with a bit more dignity at time (yeah...the OW heard a few unpleasant truths from me). 

To the newly betrayed....you really have got this. It isn't about you but it is an opportunity to make it about you, to put yourself first and realise that you can deal with this shit and come out of it a stronger woman, deserving of love, kindness and honesty.


Monday, November 13, 2017

How to release suffering

Oh, how we suffer. In the hours and days and weeks and months following the discovery or disclosure of our partner's affair, we exist in an excruciating state of suspension. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to wake up. It hurts when he walks out the door and it hurts when he stays.
Everything hurts.
But, as I've noted before, sometimes it's what we do to ourselves in the wake of betrayal that hurts us even more.
The fantasies we conjure, for instance. You know the ones. Where we replay how we imagine their interaction went. Where she's witty and beautiful and sexy. Where he's besotted and generous. The truth often resembles nothing like this. But it's almost like we refuse to believe it. Why would anyone risk their marriage, their family for someone who wasn't dazzling and irresistible? It defies logic. And so we cling to this fantasy. Even when it's wrong. Even when it hurts us more.
Or we spend our days longing for things to be different. If only...we tell ourselves. If only he hadn't taken the job where he met her. If only we had insisted he stay home that night. If only we had seen what was happening sooner. Suffering, says Sylvia Boorstein, is our attachment to the idea that now could be otherwise. Spending our days wishing things were different only keeps us tethered to our suffering. It's not like suffering magically vanishes once we say to ourselves, "well, this is my reality so I might has well deal with it". But it does move in the direction of less suffering. It gives us back our power when we accept our situation. When we're so busy wringing our hands, we can't use them. When we let go of our attachment to the idea that things could be different (of course, they could. No matter what our reality is any day of our lives, things could be different...), we free ourselves of the Gordian knot that keeps us stuck.
Well, you practice. If your self-esteem is a bit shaky (and whose isn't after our husbands cheat on us?), then you begin by shoring it up. You check the foundation and patch any cracks. You remind yourself that his cheating has nothing to do with your value. Rather it devalues him, not you. You're as great a catch as ever. You ensure that only those people who think you're awesome, a workshop leader I know calls them "super-fans", the people in your life who support every thing you do, are allowed into your life.
You switch up your affair fantasies. It's more likely true that the fairy tale you're imagining was a bit of a nightmare. I mostly hear stories of kinda crappy sex, miserable and/or unhinged Other Women, shame and self-disgust, feelings of being trapped. It's just as easy to change the channel in your brain to this less idealized (and more accurate) depiction. Imagine an Other Woman with room-clearing flatulence. Or an embarrassing laugh. Or whatever else makes her human and less threatening.
Try and catch yourself when you begin wandering down the "if only...." road. I went right back to the night my husband and I met. If only I had stayed home that night. If only I had said 'no' when he asked me out. Our life is not sliding doors. We're shaped by our choices and those of others. That's life. If, in hindsight, we want to review some of our choices with the clear eyes that come with time and perspective, then by all means, do it. We can all learn to pay more attention to our gut or our intuition or our inner wisdom or our self-respect. We can recognize when we're doing things we don't want to do.
But, mostly, we can release the idea that we had any real control over a decision that our partner made. We didn't make that choice, he did. And he did it for reasons of his own that he, if he wants us to consider giving him a second chance, needs to discern for himself.
Leave that with him.
Focus on you.
Wonderful, devastated you.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Let's crowdsource some common questions about healing from infidelity

A few weeks ago, one of our betrayed wife-warriors posted a typical question. I've had a Frequently Asked Questions post in my "drafts" folder for, oh, about a year or more. But here's an idea. You wildly wonderful wife-warriors have such wisdom to share so I'm going to ask for your help. Let's make a list of those typical questions/concerns/fears and then let's respond to them. I'll compile them and we'll create a section where anyone can go and get the "Betrayal 101".

I'll start with some suggestions:
When will I get over this?
How do I get him to understand how painful this is?
How do I get him to talk to me about this?
Should I tell the OW's husband?
What should I tell our children?
I can barely function. How do I survive this pain?
What's the single best thing you've done to heal?
How do I find a good therapist?
How do I get my husband to go to counselling with me?
What do I do when I discover he's lied to me again?
How do I turn off the mind movies?
How can I ever trust him again?

Okay...that's a start. If you have some advice to offer, please do and let us know what question you're answering. I'll compile them as best I can and reproduce them on their own page.

Thanks...and let's help heal everyone who finds this site.




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