Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Harnessing your suffering

How did we all get so screwed up? Putting aside our damaged parents, poverty, abuse, addiction, disease, and other unpleasantries, life just damages people. There is no way around this. Not all the glitter and concealer in the world can cover it up. We may have been raised in the illusion that if we played our cards right, life would work out. But it didn’t, it doesn’t.
~Anne Lamott, Almost Everything

It didn't. It doesn't. She speaks the truth, doesn't she? 

I fell firmly in the if-I-just-do-everything-right camp, then I'll sail through life. I never dreamed that the guy I married, the guy who wasn't the cheater that I dumped before I met the guy I married, would turn out to be a cheater too. I thought he was the most principled man I'd ever met. I was so certain of that. Not a doubt in my mind.
My running partner, who's still reeling from betrayal and a husband who just doesn't quite get how devastating his emotional affair was, said that it was as if, in the midst of an argument, her husband had punched her in the face. Even if he somehow apologized, even if he felt terrible about it, there's no way to un-punch someone. And no matter that it only happened once. No matter that he just acted on impulse, that he didn't "plan" to punch her, forever after he's someone who just might punch her in the face. 
We all got punched in the face, didn't we? And not all the glitter and concealer in the world can cover it up.
And it has nothing to do with whether we played our cards right. 
That's the thing with hope, with a naive conviction that life owes us ease and pleasure and safety. Eventually, all of us, every single one, faces a reckoning in which we come to understand that life will hurt us. And when your heart is broken, out of betrayal or loss or grief (which are all pretty much synonymous), it doesn't matter whether you're sobbing into a silk pillow or a gutter. 
But you know what does matter? What we do next.
Maybe not immediately. You're allowed to stay down until you've had a good, long cry.
But then...
Then it's time to consider your options.
And hopelessness – cynicism – isn't one of them.
It's tempting. It's so tempting to just decide that life equals pain and that nobody will ever love you and that you might as well just get used to being miserable. I see people like that all the time. They're angry and bitter and if they laugh at all, it's brittle and at someone's expense. 
I understand the impulse. It's wrongheaded, I think, but I get it. Just armour up and treat every relationship – from the grocery store clerk to your boss to your sister to your ex – as warfare. Better to hurt others than be hurt, right? Better to eat than be eaten.
But what if there's hope for something better that isn't just rose-coloured glasses to soften the truth? What if what we do next comes from a belief in our own goodness, in our own strength? What if our next step comes from a place of self-respect?
That sounds good, right?
Cause sure, life will damage us. Just ask my yoga instructor who's buried two children from suicide but who remains the most open-hearted woman I know. She's turned that pain into compassion for others. She has nursed her students through cancer and the death of a spouse and diagnoses or mental illness. She doesn't hide her pain, she harnesses it.
Not right away, of course. She honoured her grief. She cried a million tears. And then...she decided to keep living in spite of the damage life had inflicted. There's no glitter and concealer on her pain. She wears it. But she wears it in a way that's a badge of strength and resilience, not bitterness.
We can wear that badge too. We can harness our pain too.
It happens every single day here on Betrayed Wives Club. A woman comes aching with grief and loss and you all rush to her, using your own pain and your own stories to lift her up, to remind her she's not alone, to invite her to follow the light of those further ahead.
And that's the point of life, I think. Not to avoid the inevitable damage life inflicts but to wear it as a badge of strength, a symbol of our own resilience. 
None of us is spared. Maybe their pain won't be betrayal but it will be something. And maybe something that the rest of us know nothing about.
For the newly betrayed here, let yourself absorb the grief and the loss. Cry your million tears. Your next right step can wait for now.
Those of us further along, let's reimagine our pain as a badge of strength. Let it remind us to keep our hearts open because closing them won't prevent further pain, it will only prevent further joy.
And let us use our hope to create change in our lives. Hope that uses the tools the self-respect, self-care, compassion to build. 
Life rarely works out the way any of us think it will. But, as long as we accept our screwed up, damaged selves as nonetheless worthy of deep self-love, it will work out. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Gift Guide for the OW

When they go low, we go...lower? Hell yes. 
At Lynn Less Pain's request, we're going to create a Christmas list for the OW. Maybe not what she wants but most definitely what she deserves.
Unleash your inner Mean Girl, ladies!

Send her a lump of, ummm, coal: https://www.amazon.com/Lump-Coal-Glacial-Blue-Gift/dp/B00R28HW8Q

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Guest Post: Light Your Candle

by StillStanding1

I’m not going to lie. These holidays and the run up to New Year’s Day is some rough ground for me to cover. A wise friend – ahem, Elle – recently pointed out that I seemed to have a death grip on some idea of where I should be and what I should be feeling. And life isn’t lining up with my expectations. Why am I not over this yet? Why am I so angry? Why am I not handling this better? 
I’m not excited about Christmas. I’m tired. And when anyone asks me how I’m doing I give them a brittle toothed “Fine, everything’s fine here. How are you?” I’ve come to realize, however, that I am not fine and I am not alone in this. That same friend also gave me permission to loosen my grip, to admit that I’m not okay, that I don’t know what I need right now, and I don’t know where any of this is taking me. That I’m scared. That I’m tired. 
And I’m here to do the same for you: You officially have permission to not be okay right now and for as long as you need.
Each of us – most of us – has gone through or is going through something. Our hearts are broken. We’re grieving a life we thought we had or a childhood we should have had or a parent who never showed up for us or who chose alcohol or whatever else over us. We’ve suffered grievous wounds to our bodies or souls or both. Little, everyday things remind us of what happened, what’s gone, what should have been or what isn’t.
At this time of year, more than most, we are told we should celebrate, we should savor, gather, spend, deck the halls, be merry. But sometimes, when you are grieving, seeing the joy of others only provides poignant contrast to what we lack, have lost or never had.  Even when we are in a good place, being surrounded, finally, by love can make us ache because it shows us what we deserved and missed all along. Or someone treating us as if we have worth feels alien because we don’t know what to do with it. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And so, we’re sad. And tired. And not sure we have energy to keep going. We try to put on a brave face. Try to be strong for our families and friends and shield them from how we are struggling. Next week we’ll rest. Next week we’ll do that thing for ourselves. For now, we just keep going. 
But when we try to protect others from our sadness or grief, we rob them of an opportunity to serve us, and in so doing, get in touch with something that’s best in themselves.
I’m here to tell you: Don’t grieve alone. Don’t keep your suffering hidden. Don’t be ashamed to admit that you need help. Be brave enough to acknowledge that you don’t want to be by yourself. That you don’t know what you need right now. That you are sad, depressed and can’t find your socks, let alone change them. Ask for help. Reach out. Wave a tiny white flag. Let someone safe know that you’ve had enough.
I’m also here to tell you that everything you are feeling is normal. This time of year is a rough go. But. People in your life love you and want to be there for you. If you are feeling worthless, or at the end of your rope, know that there is someone right now who needs you to keep breathing. Someone you have not even met yet will need your words or kindness on some distant day. Keep going. If you need to sit down or lay down and catch your breath, do it. 
Long before Christmas became the vast commercial and economic machine that it is today, it was about lighting a candle in the darkest, coldest days of the year and providing hope for brighter days ahead. It was a time to hunker down by the fire and rest, recover. Just be. Know that no feeling is forever. You will be okay. If you need help, have courage. Take a deep breath and ask for what you need.

Wednesday Word Hug: Forgive

Monday, December 3, 2018

When Culture Insists It's Our Fault He Cheated

This cat is having none of your blame. Let's all be this cat. 
Here's a tweet I saw last week via a couple whose business relies on convincing people they've rebuilt a wonderful marriage after his infidelity:
Wives, you will NEVER build your man up by belittling and disrespecting him. Think about your words before you speak.
That stupid tweet infuriates me.
It's so patronizing. I can practically see the finger wagging in my face, chastising me for not keeping my man "happy". (As an aside, I tend to resist any advice that comes from anybody who refers to my husband as "my man". Please.)
There's plenty of advice like this floating around, on social media, in articles and books. And the underlying message is always the same: You can keep your husband "happy" (ie. faithful) by behaving in a certain way. Or to put the message more succinctly: You control whether or not your husband cheats.
Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I think belittling, demeaning, humiliating and so on are toxic to any relationship. The single greatest predictor of marital breakdown is contempt. So I am most definitely not saying it's okay to belittle, demean or humiliate your husband on a regular basis (you're forgiven for the occasional jab in the wake of infidelity cause, c'mon, he kinda has it coming).
What I reject is this notion – and it's pervasive – that happy men don't cheat. That happy men don't even think about it.
That, as so many of us know, is a total lie.
Cause another thing statistics tell us is that the majority of men who cheat insist that they're "happy" in their marriage. While women typically cheat to get out of a marriage, men cheat with every intention of staying in their marriage. There are exceptions, of course. But typically.
So let me make clear the truth:
You did not make your husband cheat and you cannot stop him if he is determined to cheat.
You have far less control over other people than you think you do.
Which feels terrifying for a whole lot of us.
I thought that if I was the reason my husband cheated, then I could also be the reason he didn't cheat. So, while it was devastating to think that my husband cheated because I wasn't fill-in-the-blank enough (smart, sexy, interesting, young...), it nonetheless felt better at the time than thinking I had nothing to do with it. Cause if I didn't cause him to cheat, I had no control over whether he continued to, or whether he cheated again.
And lack of control, to a control-freak like I was, felt horrible.
You would think I'd have figured out a long time ago that I had little control over others' choices, after realizing that nothing I could say or do stopped my mother's descent into addiction. But I hadn't. We children of addicts are famously insistent that we're more powerful than we are. If we can just be...something, then everyone will stop this nonsense and we'll get our family back.
Sound familiar at all to you? If I can just make myself look younger/thinner/sexier. If I can just be calmer/more fun/less tired.
I've got bad (and good!) news for you. It won't matter. At least not long term.
But something good does happen when we finally get that we aren't the reason our husbands cheated -- not the real reason. And that something good is we finally understand that we control so much less than we thought but that we control the only thing that really matters: ourselves.
Which sometimes means that changes need to occur. Not to keep him faithful but to respect yourself. Maybe you really do need to take better care of yourself. Maybe you really do need to raise your expectations of yourself and your own behaviour. Maybe it's time to consider that it's not his betrayal of you that's the real kicker but the betrayal of yourself. The loss of yourself.
But that change must come from a place of self-care, not a misguided belief that it will keep him faithful.
So, to recap: Don't belittle or demean or humiliate your husband (or anyone else) because that demeans you to behave that way. Think about your words before you speak, especially when you're speaking to yourself.
Insist on being treated with respect and honesty. Start by respecting and being honest with yourself.
You can't stop someone from betraying you. But you can ensure that you don't do it to yourself.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Incredibly Slow Painstaking Heaviness of Healing from Infidelity

It's taking a l-o-n-g time, isn't it? You thought you'd have been over this agony months ago. Years ago.
But here you are, sobbing in the bathroom because your husband said something thoughtless over dinner. Or you're hyperventilating in the condiment aisle at the grocery store because, for a minute, you thought you'd spotted the Other Woman pushing a cart of groceries. Your heart is pounding because your husband is a half-hour late getting home.
What the hell, right? This shouldn't still bother you so much.
After all, you've done everything humanly possible to move past this:
Therapy. Check.
Establishing clear boundaries. Check.
Reading every book about infidelity ever written? Check.
Devouring web sites and blogs. Check.
Watching videos by marriage counsellors. Check.
Self-care, including the occasional massage. Check.
So why? Why can a forgotten photo bring tears to your eyes? Why does a certain song, one you haven't heard in a long time, suddenly transport you back? Why is this so goddamned hard?
I'll tell you why.
Because betrayal is an injury that calls into question everything we thought we knew about ourselves, about him, about our future. It shakes us to our core.
There's a saying about football, that it's a game of inches. Well, my secret sisters. That applies to healing from infidelity too.
We heal from it inch by barely perceptible inch.
I know, I know. We want dramatic finishes. We want healing to be like smashing through the ribbon at the finish of a marathon. Applause and accolades. The incredible high of having done it.
Yeah. Doesn't work like that.
There is no chorus of angels singing hallelujah. No miracle cure. No trophies. Not even a certificate of completion.
There is only a little by little lightening. As if you've been lugging a sack of rocks and someone is removing them, one by one, so that each day the load feels just a teensy bit lighter. There are days when you'll be convinced someone is actually putting rocks back in. Those, perhaps, are the days you check her social media account, or your husband seems evasive and you wonder if he's lying, or you can't shake the bitterness. Days when your arms and heart ache from the strain. Days when surely you're actually being pulled backwards.
That, my dear warriors, is when you rest. That is when you respond to yourself not with recrimination (What's wrong with you! Why aren't you further along by now?) but with kindness and tenderness. The way you'd respond to a friend or child. An afternoon ignoring the messy house in favor of a good movie. An early bedtime. A visit with a friend. A perfect piece of chocolate cake. A romp in the woods with a four-legged friend. Anything that reminds you that you are worthy of attention, that your pain matters. Anything that gives you permission to tend to your wound.
It isn't magic, of course. You might still feel sad. Or lost. You might feel mired in the worry that you've made the wrong choice. If it was the right choice, wouldn't it feel better than this?
Probably not.
Cause the right choice isn't always the easy choice.
And there is nothing easy about healing from infidelity, no matter what choice we make.
Inch by almost invisible inch.
But only if we continue to do the work.
Like enforcing clear boundaries that keep us safe and are rooted in self-respect. Like ensuring that we only allow those into our lives that treat us as if we have value. Like taking care of ourselves, both out outsides and our insides. By prioritizing our healing.
Just as we can't outwardly watch a wound heal, inward wounds also heal imperceptibly.
But I guarantee you that healing is happening.
Inch by barely visible inch.


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