Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough...the Tough Get a Plan

Whether or not you're staying and working it out, headed straight for your divorce lawyer or are adopting a wait-and-see stance, chances are you're feeling pretty off-kilter right now. Even if you're 110% that you're doing the right thing for you, you'll no doubt be faced with some opposition from those around you who think that they – not you. definitely not you! – know what's best. And it's often in complete contrast to what YOU think is best.
Herewith your guide to surviving tough times and tough choices.

1. Don't expect it to feel good.
Sure I blab on about how you need to trust your instincts and blah blah honestly blah, but that doesn't mean it's going to feel good. You might recognize absolutely that your husband is incapable of honesty and commitment and that you simply can't get over his betrayal, but that doesn't mean you're going to skip out the door into a glorious new life. Chances are you'll weep. You'll wail. You'll rant and rage. Your in-laws might cast you as a demon. Your friends might criticize you for "giving up (especially those who feel stuck in miserable marriages!)." Your children might accuse you of ruining their life. And you might wonder if you really do know what's best for you.
Yes. You do. The right decision isn't always the easy decision. But it's still the right one. You'll know the difference deep down. Even if you doubt it now and then.

2. It's absolutely critical that you take care of yourself.
A diet of soda and crackers isn't going to give you the strength you need to stand up to the critics (even the critics that exist only in your head).
This is a tough one because so many of us view self-care as selfish. There's a big difference. Self-care insists that your needs are as important as everyone else's. Selfish insists that your needs are more important than everyone else's. Where it gets confusing is that sometimes we need to be selfish about self-care. We need to put everyone else's needs aside (help with homework, a drive to the mall, you get the idea....) in order to give ourselves what we need (a warm bath, a run, a dip into a good novel, coffee with a supportive friend...). Now, especially now, it's time to put self-care at the top of your to-do list. Treat yourself as kindly as would a friend going through a similar tough times.

3. A network of support can prop you up when you can't do it yourself.
Get thee to a 12-step group for spouses of sex addicts, join Surviving Infidelity (which in my estimation, is the best online support group, with moderation to keep comments in check), seek out a group for betrayed wives (or start one!), post here and join and the conversation. Confide in a trustworthy friend, get a good therapist, talk it over with your dog. You can't go this road alone without making it a whole lot longer and lonelier than it needs to be. The isolation associated with a spouse's betrayal was, for me, almost worst than the initial betrayal. I felt so desperately alone in my pain. You don't need to be. It's the main reason I started this site...

4. Know that this all takes time.
Three to five years is the generally accepted timeframe for healing from a spouse's betrayal. I can't emphasize enough how long this whole damn process takes. The good news is you won't feel lousy the whole time you're healing. You will feel better incrementally, with occasional steps backward just to keep you on your toes. Then one day you'll notice you haven't cried all day. Or for a few days. You'll notice that you don't jump at loud noises. That your stomach doesn't flip at the sight of certain vehicles, or the sounds of certain songs, or on certain days of the year.
You'll never forget this. It's woven into the story of your life. But it won't BE your life. That I promise.

Friday, December 24, 2010

And to all a good life...

Just a quick post to let those of you still new to betrayal know that things will get better. I found out just before the holidays in 2006 and let me tell you that was one Christmas I'd like to forget!!
So hang in there. Don't get falling down drunk. Don't eat yourself into a Santa suit (though more likely you'll have a tough time choking down your turkey...and I'm not referring to your spouse!). And just remind yourself as often as possible: I am strong. I am valuable. I will heal...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lucky? Why My Father is Wrong...

My 82-year-old father is coming for the holidays. We talk daily, since my mom passed away 3 1/2 years ago. He simply stepped into her shoes, answering the phone each time I call and chatting about daily minutiae.
Every now and then, however, we talk about matters of more consequence. Like today, for instance. He mentioned that our family was "lucky" not to have been affected by divorce. My parents remained married, despite my father's emotional betrayal of my mom. My brother and his wife remain married, though I know of no problems. And my husband and I remain married.
But...lucky?
I felt my temper flare. My father knows only of the first OW – and nothing of my husband's sex addiction. A few days past D-Day #1, he chastised my husband with words to the effect of, "We're all allowed one mistake. Do it again and I'll break your legs..." Though Don Corleone, my father is not.
Now, however, that's all behind us, or so he'd like to think.
It's not the first time my father has minimized the impact of my husband's betrayal. Perhaps it allows him to assuage his own guilt or validate his own response to lying to my mother. He never did quite understand how devastated she was. Or why she didn't just "get over it". After all, he figured, he didn't really cheat.
And though I think I've forgiven my dad and am able to love him for his many good qualities, one thoughtless comment and I'm fuming again. On behalf of myself, my mom and all betrayed women.
"Lucky?" You've got to be kidding me.
Lucky to discover that my husband had been lying to me about where he was? Lucky to be home with children and a cold dinner because I believed my husband was working hard on his family's behalf? Lucky that he "picked" me over her? Lucky that he confessed to a sex addiction and years more betrayals?
Lucky that I didn't have the strength at first to leave? Lucky that I can no longer look at him as absolutely trustworthy? Lucky that my children will never know what hell I rode through so that they could wake up in a home with both their parents?
Lucky? Luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.
And I refuse to believe that those women who ultimately chose to end their marriage or were forced into divorce are UN-lucky.
In fact, I don't know a single betrayed woman, whether she remained married or not, who hasn't shown incredible courage. And conviction. And strength of character. Who hasn't wept with despair over what staying or leaving would do to their children. Who hasn't dealt with humiliation and pain and rage with dignity and determination.
Luck is for leprechauns and lottery winners. Not for betrayed wives.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Too Much Information? Or Not Enough...

Years ago, I heard an interview with Will and Jada Smith in which she teased him for his "crush" on Beyonce. Many were a bit aghast. And admittedly, it's not too often we see a wife tease her husband for having a crush on another woman. Berate him, perhaps. Ridicule him. Act hurt by it. But a good-natured tease?
The couple explained that they have total honesty in their marriage (I know, I know. They live in Hollywood...but I'm withholding skepticism!). They talked about how, if they find themselves attracted to someone else, they talk about it.
I was conflicted, at the time. As far as I knew, my husband had never cheated. As far as I believed, he'd never found another woman as attractive as I. (It's almost embarrassing to write that. How naive was I???) And frankly, if my husband did find another woman attractive, I'm not sure I wanted to know about it. After all, I figured, what could be gained by knowing that?
Now, however, I see things a bit differently. And I would want to know. In fact, it's something my husband and I have talked about. And though it kinda makes me squirm (his taste in women is...well...surprising. If I was a man, I'm not sure I'd find the women he likes at ALL attractive. However...vive la difference), I confess I feel "safer" having had the discussion.
Plenty of marriage experts back me up. And plenty others disagree.
The two schools of thought are thus.
#1: No secrets: This school of thought purports that ANY secrets in a marriage can lead to trouble. Lying, or lying by omission, can include anything such as how much money you really spent on a pair of shoes or about whether you'd like to curl up with someone other than your spouse.
I confess I find this a bit drastic. I'm not convinced that my husband needs to know EVERY thought that goes through  my head that might be construed as a potential threat...but perhaps it comes down to our own ability to recognize which notions are an actual threat...and which ones are harmless and should be kept under wraps. For example, I did confess to my husband that I was finding myself very attracted to another man. Ironically, that's what initially led us to couples counselling and THEN all the dirt about my husband's extracurriculars came out. But I knew that something was wrong in our marriage and I wasn't comfortable with how I was feeling about this other man...
#2: Judicious sharing: This school of thought maintains that there is such a thing as too much information. Sharing every time we're attracted to someone else can start to seem like manipulation or hurtful – a way to keep a spouse constantly off-balance. I've known couples who do this in the name of being "mature" and "open" but I've also been aware that on some level, it's really only one of them who's sharing the info and the other seems victimized. Perhaps it depends on the level of security both already feel in the relationship.
In any case, I do tend towards the first conviction – I'd rather err on the side of too much information than too little. Especially now that I know what I know...
What about you? If you remain married, do you want to hear every time your husband feels attracted to someone else? If your husband is a sex addict, do you want to know about it every time he feels a desire to act out? Or is that what sponsors and friends are for? Too much information? Or not enough...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tee-hee Tuesday: Let "Bradley" Do Your Dirty Work

Okay, so your husband is a scumbag cheater who isn't fit to lick your boots. You want to dump him...but just can't find the words to do it (yes, I know this scenario is far-fetched. I know of not ONE betrayed wife who wasn't VERY clear and articulate about how she felt about her cheating husband. However, stick with me here...).
idump4u.com is the brainchild of Bradley – which may or may not be his real name – an enterprising dude who's apparently well-versed in breaking hearts. For a fee, he will ditch the dirty dog for you. If you fear losing your nerve, you'll be bolstered by the more than two hundred others who've procured Bradley's services – from If you want to be kind about it, that might cost extra. Then again, if you're hiring a stranger to Dear John your spouse, kindness probably isn't high on your priority list.

Friday, December 10, 2010

D-Day or "Birth" Day

I just received a birthday card. An e-card from a site that I read frequently and sometimes comment on. However, I comment as "Elle", my pseudonym that I also use on this site. I guess at some point, in order to log in, this site asked for my birthday. So I typed "December 10". Which is not my real birthday at all.
It is,  however, the anniversary of D-Day #1, the day I confronted my husband and the truth came spilling out, changing...well...everything. Why did I put that down as my birthday? Haven't a clue. But now, four years later, I'm wondering if birthday is exactly what December 10 is.
December 10 certainly caused the death of the former me. The me that believed absolutely in my husband's loyalty. The me that thought I lived a charmed life in which things like cheating simply didn't happen. Accidents I could imagine happening. A deliberate act of betrayal? Inconceivable.
Or so the former me believed.
A new me was born on December 10, 2006. Like any birth, there was a fair bit of pain. I was pretty messy for awhile. I wondered what the hell the point of life was and my survival was my no means secure.
But I fought my way through. Kept on getting stronger, using any means possible. There were days when I didn't feel quite "alive" but I knew I wasn't dead. I thought I was just existing.
However, I can look back and see that, even when it looked like there was no growth, I was in fact, getting stronger. Stronger in the broken places. My heart was shattered but still beating.
And though, outwardly, I look the same (perhaps a few more wrinkles, a bit saggier around the middle), inside I'm, quite simply, not the same person that I was.
Though there were inevitable losses, there were incredible gains, too.
I don't take happiness for granted. I no longer think it's my birthright but rather something I work hard and steadily to maintain. In fact, I measure happiness differently – in moments rather than chapters or lifetimes. I find joy in odd places. Like time spent with our beloved dog, who recently lost his leg to bone cancer. He reminds me that I could focus on what's gone. Or, like him, I could choose instead to focus on what's gained...or at least preserved. The pleasure in a new snowfall. The delight in a warm bed. The love of family and friends who accept us, even with our missing pieces.
And so, I think I'll start looking at my D-Day anti-versary as a "birth" day. The day I started my new life.
Perhaps your D-Day signalled the start of your new life, even if you didn't truly emerge from the wreckage until long after.
Perhaps it's signalled a new single you – who, going forward, knows how to take care of her heart and keep it safe.
Perhaps it's brought forth a new marriage. One that withstood the storms or has been rebuilt, using pieces of the old, but a whole lot of new, better materials, too.
Whatever D-Day means to you, at least consider that it might have created some positive change in your life. It might take Herculean effort, but there's likely something that was born that day that's worth celebrating.
And, if so, share it with us here.
Happy "birth" day, indeed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tribute to Elizabeth Edwards: Betrayed Wife

I never knew Elizabeth Edwards personally though many of us who've known betrayal feel as if we did. We certainly knew much of her pain.
And so many of us couldn't imagine how her pain was compounded. She'd already buried a son. Was battling cancer. And then to be so publicly betrayed. It all seemed far more than I could handle.
But she did handle it. Whatever her private battles, publicly she displayed grace and dignity. And by so doing, showed all of us what we, too, might be capable of.
If I had met her, I would have loved to have told her – on behalf of myself and so many betrayed wives who have abandoned hope – "thank-you."
Her last words were about hope and resilience. 
In a Facebook posting on December 6, 2010, she wrote:
I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces, my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.... These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered...
There is little doubt that is her legacy to those who knew her intimately. And those of us who only felt as if we did.


Rest in peace, Elizabeth Edwards.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In Ourselves We Trust (Everyone else has to earn it!)

"It's easy to write everyone else off, harder to be responsible for your own judgments about who is and isn't worthy of your trust. It's harder still to tolerate the uncertainty and vulnerability that come from making such moment-to-moment judgments."


The words above could easily have been written or said by me in the months, even years following D-Day. I had trusted and I'd been screwed. And not just by my husband's cheating. At the same time, I'd had a friend betray my trust. Then my mother, who had spent most of my adolescence in an alcoholic fog, went and died on me – just when she and I were finally learning to forgive each other. How dare he! How dare she! How dare all of them!
I was furious with the whole lot of them for letting me down. And it was far easier to direct my anger outward – look what you've done to me! – than really examine the truth, which was that I'd never been very good at protecting myself. That I had a lifetime of trusting people who showed me repeatedly that I shouldn't trust them. But I would simply ignore that part of them that wasn't trustworthy -- that part that I'd seen lie to other people. Or betray other people. Or even, in some cases, betray me. I would quiet that voice in me that pointed out that these people couldn't be trusted, couldn't be counted on. And instead, I would blindly believe in them.
And then? Well...you know the rest.
What's amazing to me about that opening quote is that it wasn't spoken by a betrayed wife or betrayed husband. It was uttered by a war veteran, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. 
The thing with focusing our anger outward, at blaming everybody else for what happened, is that it defines us as victims. It takes away our power.
And it leaves us vulnerable to being betrayed again.
If we insist on others taking care of us, we relinquish responsibility for what happens to us. 
We get betrayed? Well, what did we expect? People can't be trusted, we decide. Then we go ahead and trust them anyway. Or perhaps, we don't trust anyone. Either way, we're not discerning. 
BUT. If we take responsibility, if we insist on only trusting those in our lives who have shown us repeatedly and over time that they can be trusted, we're far less likely to be blind-sided again. We're far less likely to "forgive" until we've seen hard evidence that the person seeking our forgiveness has done the tough work of figuring out why they hurt us in the first place. We're far less likely to overlook things that indicate untrustworthiness. He cheated on his last wife?  He cheated on his taxes? He short-changed the store clerk? He lied to his children about why he was late for their birthday party? He makes excuses to his boss for late proposals. Each and every time someone indicates they aren't trustworthy, our radar should send a clear message to our brains...which should inform our hearts. As a friend of mine says, the distance between our brains and hearts can be the longest 18 inches there is. And we should protect ourselves until we see, clearly and consistently, that he's taking responsibility for his actions and that his word means something.
It's contrary to how most of us think. We tend to trust until we're shown evidence that he can't be trusted. Thing is, in hindsight, most of us were aware of evidence. We just chose to ignore it. Or downplay it. Or assume that it didn't apply to us. (I know he cheated on his girlfriend but what he and I have is special. M'mmm...right.)
If there's one thing almost all Betrayed Wives Club members agree on, it's that we wish we'd trusted ourselves.
But it's not to late to start.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's the Most Difficult Time of the Year

Ah the holidays.
What can I say about the...holidays. I live suspended somewhere between the fantasy of what I think they SHOULD look like. And my reality of what they've – with few exceptions – always been.
If something lousy was going to happen to me (and it usually did), it happened around the holidays, ensuring that my Christmas stockings were largely filled with bitterness, resentment and tears.
And somehow anything bad is magnified by the holidays. Because we expect everything to be wonderful, when it's not.... Like, for example, you just found out your husband has been shtoinking his assistant for...well...far too long to insist that it was a "mistake"...it seems sooo much worse.
And yet, this year, after a lifetime of disappointing holidays, still has me thinking it's going to be wonderful.
And the strange thing is, after my D-Day on December 10, 2006 which had me driving around the OW's neighborhood on Christmas morning – sobbing, incoherent, suicidal – the holidays have actually become better than they ever were.
Crazy, huh?
The thing about hitting bottom is that you've got nowhere to go but up.
So after that Black Christmas of 2006 (which was my last Christmas before my mom died, and I spent it barely functional), I let go of any expectations of ever having a greeting card Christmas. Ever. Indeed, I was ready to declare a moratorium on Christmas altogether.
My childhood holidays were notable for the drunken fights between various relatives, including my parents. My young adult holidays were notable for the dismissive way my boyfriend's family treated me. And my married holidays were notable for my husband's distinct lack of enthusiasm and my in-law's distinct rudeness.
So when D-Day came and went, I simply waved the white flag. I gave up. I decided, without telling a soul, that I would go through the motions for my children. But, as far as I was concerned, the holidays were just more days to mark off the calendar.
And that's when my own Christmas miracle occurred.
Christmas 2007 was...nice. I made sure that we marked D-Day by being together (I knew I'd be a mess if we were apart and my imagination was free to create an entire demon fantasy world) and going...Christmas shopping. Something we'd never done together. And since we were both surprised and grateful that we were still together after all the past year had held, it was...nice. Maybe not greeting card material. But nice. Even with my mom gone. Even with my father grieving.
Christmas 2008 was...better. By this time I'd freed myself of any obligations that did not serve myself or my marriage well. If my husband wanted to spend time with his dysfunctional family, that was fine with me. But I had decided that it only led to resentment and bitterness. And I was done with holidays defined by those two nasty elves.
Christmas 2009 was...better still. By this time, we had developed some of our own traditions based on what worked for us as a family. Based on what we felt fed our family's value system and definition of a great holiday.
This year? Well. Remains to be seen. We have a beloved dog battling cancer and a house undergoing SERIOUS renovations. The place, frankly, is a mess. So my love of a beautifully decorated house has had to give way to an acceptance of a sorta-decorated house.
But I can look back to four years ago, when I thought I would never again experience joy. And certainly NEVER peace.
Yet here I am. Joyful. And filled with peace.
D-Day is now woven into the fabric of holiday memories. Most bad. But some, more recently, quite...nice.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Playing the victim role is for actresses...not betrayed wives

I've kept pretty silent about my husband's infidelity (well, except for this blog...). Few people in my "real" life know about it. And I prefer it that way.
Though I have days (especially close to D-Day, when I felt so raw) when I wish I could simply be totally honest about who I am, most of the time (especially now that I'm almost four years past D-Day #1) I'm glad I stayed quiet and told only those I could trust.
What kept me silent was my particular distaste for pity. I can't stand people feeling sorry for me. And though I was barely standing, I knew the day would come when I'd be back on my feet – and I didn't want to forever see a "that poor woman..." look in people's eyes.
Pity, I think, is sometimes a faux compassion to disguise a feeling of superiority. We tend to pity people we feel are somewhat hopeless. Who are pathetic. Who definitely are NOT us.
Which is why pitying ourselves and viewing ourselves as "victims" is incredibly unkind. It plays into the sense that we're helpless. And hopeless. And that we lack the power to do anything in our lives to stand tall again.
Which is absolutely and completely UNTRUE.
If your D-Day was in the recent past, you may not believe me. I can certainly recall moments (days, weeks...ack!) when I thought I was hopeless and helpless. When I couldn't imagine a day when this would be behind me. When the knot would disappear. When the pain would recede.
And it was in that stage that I embraced victimhood. "How could you have done this to me?" I would wail, even accusing my husband of "ruining" me.
Oh yes, the drama was high in those days.
Now? Not so much.
At a certain point, I felt as though I was performing a role. I'd be damned if I was going to let my husband forget what he'd done to me. So I put on my victim cloak and reminded him regularly of how pathetic I was, thanks to HIM. But slowly, it started feeling phoney. And I realized that my victimhood was victimizing me a second time. That it was holding me back from taking those tentative steps towards wholeness. Yes, this was done "to" me in the sense that I didn't know my husband's affairs were going on and they certainly weren't my choice. But staying there – believing that I was simply vulnerable to things being done to me – defined me as an object of pity. Hopeless. Helpless.
And I was most definitely NOT that.
Neither are you.
Shrug off the shroud of victimhood. Remind yourself that you do have choices, regardless of what was done "to" you in the past. You define your future. That's not to say you control every circumstance in your life. That little fantasy likely faded at the first hint of your spouse's infidelity, if not long before. But no matter what has happened to you in the past, you can stand again. With the knowledge you have now, the wisdom you have now, and,  hopefully, the boundaries you have now, you will be the one who defines your future self.
And it certainly won't be victim.
Because victims are sources of pity. And pity is most definitely not for you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beware the "Bewares": The Difference Between "Can't" and "Don't Want To"

A while back, I wrote a post in which I insisted that "the worst was over" – meaning that finding out was the lowest point and that there was nowhere to go but up (even if you spend some time mired in the darkness first). Some readers commented that might be the case for me, but not for them, which prompted me to write this post.
Clearly, there are some of us for whom the "worst" gets worse still. Who, even as they're reeling from the discovery of another woman, find out the Other Woman is pregnant. Or that they contracted an STD. Or, in my case, that there wasn't an Other Woman...but dozens.
However, it's critical for our own healing to recognize that much of what we say we "can't" deal with is more truthfully acknowledged as something we don't want to deal with. 


Deepak Chopra (on this site here) tells us this:

In reality you can let go of any situation any time. “I can’t” really means, “I fear the emotional consequences if I do.” Your ego draws a line in the sand and insists that you will not survive the inner feelings that will arise if the line is crossed.
A powerful limitation is being self-imposed here, and at bottom it isn’t true. You will survive any emotion; indeed, whatever you consider to be too much fear, too much loss, too much humiliation, too much disapproval, too much rejection has already happened.


He's right, of course. "I can't", in my case, absolutely means, "I won't because it will hurt too much." Like someone who's been burned before, I don't even want to get close to the flames.
But I've realized lately how much that attitude is holding me back. Keeping me from taking chances because I fear the possible rejection.
Just the other morning, as my husband was getting ready to leave for work, I started to reach for him to give him a hug and a good-bye kiss. And in that split second I felt myself hesitate. Don't, whispered a voice inside. Don't let your guard down. Don't let your heart soften. 
It was, perhaps, the first time I've really noticed that voice, though, if I painstakingly mine my memory bank, it has been whispering to me a lifetime of "bewares". 
What's astonishing to me, and likely to anyone who hasn't dealt with betrayal, is that I'm almost four years from D-Day. Surely one would expect the fallout to be long over. For life to have resumed its normalcy.
And yet, that little voice is still whispering. Still trying to protect me from "worst".
I've been lamenting recently that I take little joy in life anymore. So, while I think I'm protecting myself from further pain, I'm also insulating myself to life's pleasures. 
It's time, I think, to acknowledge that those "bewares" are holding me back from a life fully lived. 




Have you managed to fight back the "bewares" and open your heart again? What did you do to ensure you didn't become hardened to life's joys? How long did it take you from D-Day? Share your story here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What do you tell the kids?

Wow.
Not only have you discovered your husband is an A-List A-hole, your kids know something is up. Your husband is begging you not to tell them because...well...because it makes him look bad. Like someone who cheats on his wife. Which, incidentally, he is. Or was. Depends who you ask.
And you are still in the stinky robe you put on three days ago, the one that has chicken noodle soup stains and smells like tomorrow's armpits.
But your kids are confused. So you need to muster up as much dignity as you can and tell them... What?

How old are your children?
Young children don't need to know the details. Please, please, PLEASE remember that children are the innocents in all this. They need protection and guidance and are NOT to be made pawns in a game of "make Daddy pay for this pain", however tempting that is.
However, young children (age 9 and under) likely sense a tension in the household. They may have heard fighting. Or know that Mommy is angry or sad or both. It's critical, I believe, to acknowledge what they're sensing. Check in with them and ask them if they're wondering what's up. Confirm what they suspect by being honest...to a point. They don't need to know that Daddy is dating the homewrecking whore at work. But acknowledging that Mommy and Daddy are having a tough time getting along – that even grownups sometimes struggle – is a good place to start. Reassure them that NONE of this is their fault. That Mommy and Daddy aren't angry with them. And, if it's true, reassure them that you're seeking help to learn to get along. And that, no matter what happens, their parents will always love them and spend time with them. At this age, their big concern is "what does this mean for me?" Simply assuring them that they'll be taken care of, and that the adults have matters well in hand (even if that's a bit of a stretch) can go a long way toward reducing their anxiety.
With older kids, it's a bit tougher. In some cases, they already know, thanks to neighborhood gossip. At 12, I spotted my friend's dad with his mistress who was definitely NOT my friend's mom. Long before the marriage finally dissolved in divorce. Again, let children take the lead and ask them what they  know. If you can sit down as a couple, that's ideal. If the affair is over, it's important to let them know that. If your husband has taken responsibility for it and is working on ensuring it doesn't happen again, let them know that too. Don't focus on the sex aspect, which can be confusing for kids who are approaching (or immersed in) their own budding sexuality. Besides, affairs are far more frequently about escape than sex. Again, it's critical to assure kids that Mom and Dad are doing what they can to take care of themselves and, if it's true, the marriage. This frees kids to focus on being kids...instead of parenting the parents. If necessary or prudent, seek counselling for the kids. An objective listener can go a long way toward giving kids an outlet for their anxiety.


How honest should you be? 
There's honesty. And then there's Too Much Information.
As noted, let them take the lead. Don't give them more information than they want. This can be enormously confusing for kids in part because it means discovering their hero has clay feet. They can feel conflicted about still loving this person who's hurt the other person they love. As much as you can, do NOT get them involved in what's happening between the two of you. Bite your tongue right off if you have to!
As  a general rule, listen more than you talk.

Keep yourself okay (or as okay as possible)
Do your very best to keep yourself upright, sober and relatively functional. Watching Mommy fall apart is terrifying to a child – of any age. If you need to sob for a few hours, book a sitter and try to schedule it in. I generally managed to get my kids to school before falling apart. Then I'd wash my face and brush my teeth before picking them up. Scheduling in SOB-time (to sob over the S.O.B.) allowed me to buck up when the kids were around.

Again: This is NOT about picking sides
There's no right way to deal with this as there are so many variables. Is your husband still involved? Have your children met the Other Woman? Have you separated?
Though you can feel such rage toward your spouse, remember that your kids have a right – indeed it's healthy for them – to remain connected to and love your (ex)spouse. Even if he is a cheating bastard. Speak about him with respect, even if he doesn't deserve it. Don't make apologies or excuses for him. There's nothing wrong with letting your kids know that sometimes adults make choices that aren't the smartest, healthiest or kindest. But that, hopefully, we learn from them. Be dignified. Or as dignified as someone in a stinky bathrobe can be.

And finally? You'll all survive this. I promise.

Have you told your children? What did you way? What would you do differently if you had to (God forbid!) do it again? What worked? Or didn't?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Open Letter to the Other Woman

Dear OW,

WTF?

Honestly, just what the f&$k were you thinking? You knew he was married. You knew he had children. You knew he slept beside me every night. And you knew that I knew nothing. Is that what made it so delicious? So tempting? That I appeared by his side at various events, utterly clueless to what was going on behind my back? Did you feel triumphant? That you'd beat me at something?
Okay, so I looked stupid, at least to you. Is the satisfaction of that worth sacrificing your own dignity? Because, really,  how can you have any dignity when you're pulling on your panties as he races out the door to be home in time for dinner? How can you have any dignity when you're alone – again – on a Saturday night while he's  watching Toy Story with his children and tucking them into bed?
And frankly, though I might have looked stupid, and perhaps pitiful, to you...and some less-than-compassionate others, I'll take stupid over sleazy and low and cruel any day of the week. No matter how awful it felt to be me when I found out, I'd still take that over being you. No matter that my eyes were practically swollen shut from crying, I could still look myself square in the mirror without shame.
Did you think it was simply a matter of time? That you would be appealing enough for him to walk away from the life he'd built? That all those fantasies you'd convinced yourself of – that I nagged, that I was lousy in bed, that I was boring and bitchy – were actually true? Did you really believe that any relationship based on deception would deliver you from your unhappiness?
My guess is, yes, you did. My guess is that very few Other Women honestly admit their role as an accomplice in the intentional hurting and decepition of another human being. Often another human being you don't know. Or barely know. Or perhaps, shockingly, know well. Instead, they sell themselves clichés. Something along the lines of "we're soulmates", "we couldn't help ourselves", "the chemistry was too powerful" or "you can't stop love." All of which, I suspect you recognize on some level, is total bullshit. All of which allows you to divorce your abhorrent actions from your intent. "We didn't mean to hurt anyone," you wail.
Oh. Yes. You. Did.
Because you knew. You knew that I was being hurt, even if I didn't yet know it. You knew I was being lied to. And betrayed. And you participated in that. Knowingly. Willingly. Perhaps even happily.
What's more, my children were being hurt. And though I don't expect you to take total responsibility for that (after all, HE was their father), you nonetheless contributed to the potential dissolution of their family.
And for what?
Was the sex that good? Were the feelings of superiority, if only for the brief time he was with you, so intoxicating that it made all the humiliating departures, all the embarrassment when you were caught, all the shame this no doubt triggered, worth it?
And if he left me for you? What would you have gained? Three emotionally damaged children every second weekend. A man who lies and cheats. A man who doesn't have the self-control to stop himself from doing something he knows to be wrong. To be hurtful. What a prize. Guess what? If he's not willing to become something better than that – he's all yours. At least until he meets another you sometime in the future and you become cast as the betrayed wife.
In our case, you were shocked when he, after being caught and given the choice between me or you, didn't hesitate. Not for a second. And, believe it or not, I felt sorry for you. Though I raged at you in my head, loathed the look of you, wanted to spit each time I said your name, and shower each time I imagined you two together, I nonetheless felt a sliver of pity for you. Because no-one does this unless they value themselves so little that they settle for another's scraps rather than demand respect and kindness. Or unless they're so delusional that they really believe that this is how true love manifests. Unless they've fallen for all that "star-crossed lovers" and "us against the world" crap.
It has been almost four years. December 11, 2006 - a date that's seared into my mental calendar. I have no idea where you are now. And though I still taste anger when I think back, I'm able to wish you, if not well, then at least better than what you had. If only to spare another woman the agony of finding out that you're sleeping with her husband.

Elle

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Emotional Affairs are Still Affairs...and I Don't Care What Anyone Else Says!

There's been quite a discussion taking place in the comments section over at Project Happily Ever After, following a post by a therapist on how to cope with an affair. Even I, who rarely has opinions on this sort of thing (cough, cough) weighed in.
But I'm astounded at the number of commenters, clearly in pain, who apologize for entering the debate because their husbands "only" had an emotional affair.
Only? Seriously??
My father "only" had an emotional affair, but it unmoored by formerly invincible mother enough to launch her into a decade-long alcoholic-and-prescription-drug stupor. He never could quite get why she was so affected by it. My mom and I talked a lot about it as adults because that one event, quite literally, altered the trajectory of our lives.
My mother, after a childhood of abandonment (father died at five, mother left her with various relatives, she started a new school every year of her childhood...) finally felt safe. My father adored her. And she him. So when he began lying (overtly and by omission) to spend time with a "friend" at work who was going through a tough time, it devastated her and destroyed her sense of safety.
And that, my friends, is what affairs do – whether they involve torrid sex, tepid sex or no sex at all. They are a trust violation, which is the worst form of betrayal.
My own husband had sex all over the place with all sorts of people. Yet it's the fact that he could lie to my face and that he was willing, on some level, to lose me that's been the hardest thing to overcome. Once I managed to get the mind movies out of my head (in which the sex was always anatomically impossible but wildly exciting, I was sure), I was left with the feeling of total fear. I no longer felt safe.
So to all those of you who are beating yourselves up for being completely unhinged by "only" an emotional affair, I say you need to look at the situation as a trust violation and recognize that such a betrayal is devastating, no matter the details.
And stop apologizing for your feelings. You can't control those. Actions, yes. You can definitely control those (though it may not feel like it in the early days following D-Day, when you find yourself shredding wedding photos, rifling through old receipts and doing other crazy things apparently without any control at all!) But your feelings simply are. And anyone with blood coursing in their veins is going to feel like hell when they discover an affair.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Is HE Worth Suffering For?

In a great blog post about betrayal and suffering, Kelly Diels repeats Bob Marley's infamous line: Truth is everyone is going to hurt you; the trick is to find the ones worth suffering for.
Which got me to thinking. How do we know who's worth suffering for? Especially before we've actually suffered, which is ideally when we'd like to have that information. And does the fact that someone has betrayed us automatically render them ineligible to be worth suffering for? To hear the world tell it...hell yes! Once a cheater, always a cheater. He's shown you you can't trust him. And so on.
But what exactly is the point of suffering? Is it to escort us to the door where we bid betrayers an angry adieu and walk out into a world of people worth suffering for, but whom will never actually make us suffer? Or is it to shake us into a new way of seeing?
It's like the chicken and egg conundrum. Before I learned of my husband's...ummm...extracurriculars, I thought he was (almost!) the perfect man. Sure he worked too hard and helped around the house too little. Sure his mother was a dragon. But those weren't him, I was sure. He was wonderful. It was life that complicated things.
And then, well, it turned out it was actually HE who complicated things.
But now that I know all about him – those deep, dirty secrets that made him feel ashamed and disgusting and worthless, if he allowed himself to feel anything at all, well now I actually love him more deeply. Not as purely, perhaps. Definitely not as blindly. But more deeply. We've seen each others scars, even –especially – the ones we caused. And we don't turn away from their ugliness. Dare I say it, I've learned he's worth suffering for. The old him would have never cheated on me, or so I thought. The new him, I'm all too aware, is capable of cheating on me. He's done it, for gawd's sake. But this new him is also far more likely to talk to me about his feelings rather than deny them. He's far more likely to seek help when he's feeling like he might be going down the wrong path. And he's definitely more aware of the damage his choices can cause me. So though I know he's capable of cheating, strangely I feel...safer. It took me four LONG years to get to this point. But now that I'm here, I like the view. It's a view that sees all of him, not just the pretty parts. And it's a view that allows me choices based on knowledge, not on projection.
And, it's a view that sees him as worth suffering for. After all, what is suffering for but to make us rage and slay the demons that stand in our way.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Liann Rimes: Living Out a Country 'Cheatin' Song

LiAnn Rimes recently told People Magazine that she's doesn't "regret" cheating on her husband and that it's only because she fell in love. She's not a cheater, she insists, even though she cheated. It's just not who she is. And if we can't understand what the hell she's talking about, it's only because we don't understand the circular logic (and I use the term "logic" generously) that cheaters use to justify...well...cheating. In a cheater's world, you can cheat...without being a cheater. Seriously.
All of which makes it abundantly clear that LiAnn has learned absolutely nothing from her experience. Sure, we all make mistakes (a point she stresses in her interview). But not all of us learn from them. And that's the difference between a cheater who's likely to cheat again...and one who isn't.

What's the difference?
A cheater who's likely to cheat again will often refer to their behaviour as if it was something that "happened" to him/her. "We couldn't help ourselves," they'll wail. "We just fell in love." As if falling in love is the same as falling down a flight of stairs, a product of gravity and high heels rather than choice and deception.
Another popular defence is the "soul-mates" version. Soul-mates, a cheater's logic purports, can't be held responsible for any pain caused to former soul-mates, spouses, friends, children, etc. etc. because soul-mates recognize each other and within minutes must be naked and coupling because, after all, that's what soul-mates do. The whole notion of wedding vows, commitment and "til death do us part" is alien when a soul-mate comes along. The thing is, soul-mates seem to come along frequently for many cheaters. They're kinda like spiritual buses that run on schedule.
Conversely, though many cheaters will initially offer up the "I couldn't help myself" and "It just happened" (that was the excuse provided by my husband's OW, as if the clothes just took themselves off) defences, those who ultimately recognize the devastation they've wrought and truly regret it will eventually come to recognize their cheating as a choice, a very poor one. Especially if, in the cold, hard light of reality, the affair seems cheap and tawdry, and the marriage looks maybe not so bad after all.
But even if their affair led them to exit a lousy marriage. Even if they are in love with their affair partner, those who really get what they've done will likely regret the cheating, if not the relationship. They recognize that, for gawd's sake, it wouldn't kill them to just file for divorce THEN jump into bed with the great love of their life. And it would likely leave them and their ex-spouse with dignity, generally good feelings towards each other and the respect of their friends, family and children. In other words, they wouldn't be branded a cheater.
And so that brings us back to LiAnn, our textbook cheater, voted most likely to reoffend. Rather than trouble herself with some soul-searching to determine why it was she looked outside her marriage rather than honor her "in good times and in bad" commitment (or perhaps, she struck that one from her vows). Rather than take responsibility for the pain and embarrassment she's caused her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Rather than consider that, just maybe, delayed gratification is the grown-up's way to live a life of dignity, she simply dismisses her cheating as "just not me." The thing is, LiAnn, it clearly is.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tee-Hee Tuesday: Christine O'Donnell "Masturbation-is-Adultery-Advocate Loses Out

In a way, I'll miss her bizarre postulations, now that Republican Christine O'Donnell has lost her race. Though perhaps, like many of her ilk, she'll continue to entertain from the fringes.
Regardless of which party we members of the betrayed wives club happen to support, I can't imagine there's a single one among us who thinks that masturbation is adultery. In fact, I firmly believe that ALL of us would rather our husbands made love with Palmala Handerson...than any of the...ahem...partners they chose.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Your "Story of Us": Don't Censor It

"So how did you two meet?" a new friend asked me recently, about my husband and me.
My stomach clenched.
Of course I have my "Story of Us". Most of us do. It's the one we tell new friends. The one our kids love to hear, at least until they become teenagers at which point they'd prefer us not to speak at all. It's our time-worn, agreed-upon version of how two strangers came together...
Until one steps outside the marriage...and that story suddenly seems more like fiction. How can all that be true? we wonder. And this betrayal be true also? One truth seems to cancel the other out. In our versions of "us", most of us never considered a chapter where one partner violated trust in the worst possible way.
So, when asked, it can be tempting to leave out the painful bits. To give the world the Hollywood version, where even complications are simple and everyone pretty much lives happily ever after, the lighting is never bad and even women who've had three kids have abdomens you could bounce a quarter off.
And, frankly, that's pretty much the version I offer up...though it's clear to anyone looking at me that the abdomen bit is pure fantasy.
But there's a real danger is censoring the story we tell ourselves. In editing out the grief and shame and fear and agony because it just doesn't fit with the version we want.
We just want to get on with it, for goodness' sake. We don't want to keep tripping over the mess and it's so much easier to shove it aside.
Yet it's that mess that often is the soul of our lives.
Honesty can be a balm and a blessing. It can also be painful as hell. But the price we pay for not being honest with ourselves is a sort of half-life. A publicly acceptable life that belies a private hell.
Tell friends and strangers whatever you want and whatever feels safe and right.
But make sure you tell yourself the whole story. Your "Story of Us", especially if "Us" survives intact, just got a whole lot richer and grittier...and real.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is the Affair the Problem? Or the Symptom...

A few years ago, a friend of mine, Mary, left her husband for another guy, with whom she had only just started an affair. I was bewildered. Her husband was a good guy. I thought they were happy. This new guy was kinda...creepy. But, Mary insisted to me, she'd never been happier.
That is...until a few months ago. When she dumped this new guy, after a few years of emotional abuse that was inching its way toward physical abuse, I figured she'd be filled with regret. After all, her first husband was really nice guy. And they'd cobbled together a really good friendship, with their three kids as a common denominator. She must be sorry for the way she'd treated him. Sorry she'd left.
Right?
Nope. Not at all.
Mary's affair had really nothing to do with wanting IN to another relationship and everything to do with wanting OUT of the marriage she was in. She just didn't have the clarity or courage at the time to recognize that.
They're called "exit affairs". And they're basically the coward's way of getting out of a relationship. They're frequently the affair of choice for conflict-avoiders, people who don't have the guts to face their spouse and state what they want.
And, at one point in my life, I was one of those cowards.
I was 21 and in a relationship that was getting out of hand. I knew I wasn't happy. I knew it wasn't healthy. But tentative steps out the door resulted in threats of suicide or bitter recriminations. I lacked both the maturity and the sanity at that point to just keep walking.
Instead, I took up with an ex-boyfriend, knowing full well that my current boyfriend would find out. And that his pride simply wouldn't stand for being cheated upon. He, I knew, would dump me.
Which, though totally passive-aggressive, worked just fine for me.
Now though, through the lens of betrayal, I recognize how hurtful my actions were. How immature.

Within a marriage or committed relationship, and when there are children involved, the exit affair makes a painful proposition – the dissolution of a committed relationship and family – so much more painful. It makes a complicated situation so much more complicated. And it makes it far more likely that bitterness and acrimony play starring roles in the divorce proceedings.

Mary was lucky, if you could call it that. Her first husband was as unhappy as she was and, though he initially directed some anger and spite at my friend for her affair and subsequent departure, he ultimately recognized that he was somewhat relieved the marriage was over. He was able to move past his anger and develop a relationship with Mary based on their mutual love for and interest in their kids.

If you suspect your husband had an exit affair, ask yourself whether you think, honestly, the marriage is worth saving. Often by the time one of the spouses wants out, the marriage has actually been dead for awhile. That's not to say it can't be resurrected – and it's worth exploring that option if you genuinely see a future together, even if your spouse doesn't right now.
But some marriages are dead for a good reason. There is a such a thing as a bad fit, two people who, when it's all said and done, simply don't want to be together for any good reason (and no, money, prestige, laziness, fear of being alone, etc. etc. are NOT good reasons).

Was your spouse's affair the problem? Or was it simply a symptom of a dying marriage? Once you can answer that, the next step often seems a whole lot more clear. Either working damn hard to build a marriage that fills both of your souls...or pulling out your best self to work toward a dignified divorce.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three to Five Years: There Are No Shortcuts...

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going," said Beverly Sills.
And ain't THAT the truth.
Still, we think we should get there faster. Whether "there" is getting over our husband's betrayal. Or, perhaps, "there" is no longer caring that he's with the other woman because you're separated. Perhaps "there" is feeling ready to date again. Or maybe "there" is no longer beating yourself up for something that was never your fault in the first place.
But wherever "there" is for you...you're likely not reaching it nearly as quickly as you think you should.
And, I believe, you won't.
It's gonna take a whole lot longer than you expect.
But that's okay. Because, if you take your time... if you really do the hard work necessary to peel back the layers of pain and really turn them all over in your mind and heart, when you do get there, you won't need to keep looking over your shoulder to make sure heartbreak isn't gaining on you.
Three to five years, say the experts. Three to five years!
Yep, I know it sounds like an eternity. I'm with you. For gawd's sake, I could have conceived and given birth to an entire basketball team in that time.
But – and I speak from experience here – I'm finally starting to feel as if I'm wearing my own skin again. And it has been – get ready for it! – two months shy of FOUR YEARS.
When I first heard the three- to five-year timeline – about one month after D-Day – I didn't believe it. Didn't want to. Figured that maybe it takes OTHER people that long. But I'll just fast-track this healing stuff and be back on my feet in a few months.
Uhhh...sure.
That was around the time I was face down on my bathroom floor, sobbing into my dog's neck (who, incidentally, was just diagnosed with bone cancer. Honestly, can't I catch a break?? Please??).
It was around the time I had lost 15 pounds without even trying (I'll be honest – the highlight of my day was stepping on the scales...then I'd go back to feeling miserable) and I didn't bother applying any makeup because it was just going to slide down my face by 9:15 a.m.
Still, THREE TO FIVE YEARS??
Yep.
You could probably reduce that time-frame if, unlike me, you manage to skip the whole self-loathing suicidal period, which lasted close to a year and forced me to face all sorts of childhood abandonment issues I thought I'd successfully drowned in copious amounts of wine when I was 15.
But though it seems like a long time (and it is!), the place you'll end up is really amazing.
Having to reassemble my heart took time and courage, but it also allowed me to step into myself fully – something I'd never done. It offered me a glimpse into how much of my heart was going into relationships (not just my marriage, but with friends, colleagues, hangers-on...) that drained me. I'm far better able to recognize these emotional vampires, and to protect myself. As a result, I'm less blurry around the edges. I know exactly where I end and someone else begins.
So, yeah, three to five years.
Sorry.
But you just might find, as I did, it's worth the trip.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'll tell you my story, you tell me yours...

I recently ran into a friend whom I hadn't seen in a few years. Last I'd heard, her divorce was final and she was dating a wonderful man, whom she adored.
However, she now filled me in. Her new man, thanks to a fling before the two of them got together, had fathered a child – a fact that came to light after my friend was completely in love and committed to this guy. And though her new love was eager for a relationship with his new son, the mother was using her child as leverage to try and extract some sort of relationship.
Which left my friend feeling constantly off-balance. And wounded. Full of fear. Full of "what-ifs".
I could offer little more than my sympathy.
"I'm in such pain," my friend confessed. "And I wonder if it'll ever go away."
I know the feeling. Well.
And so I said, "It might not. It might just be something you learn to live with." And, I suggested, leaving her beloved might remove the pain of his fatherhood and relationship with this other woman...but it will replace it with the pain of the loss of this man in her life.
She looked at me, surprised. And relieved.
Her friends had all pretty much told her to "get over it," she said. They thought she was making a big deal out of nothing.
Easy, I assume, for them to say.
And it drove home something of which I've become increasingly convinced.
Pain left unshared isolates us. It keeps us feeling alienated.
Yet pain shared connects us. It allows us to bear up beneath its weight and know that though we might not feel we can handle it, there are those who will carry us. If you take one step towards the gods, the saying goes, the gods will take ten steps towards you.
The need for connection is why I began this site. And why I'm so grateful for your comments, the ones that let me know how valuable you find it. The ones that tell me your story.
No matter the specific details, our stories, though ours alone, connect us. They remind us that we're not alone in our pain. Every crisis we face is a chance to step into our own greatness. And to share our story in order that we can help each other.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting Unstuck: Ask Your Body For Answers

In many ways I envied the women who, upon learning of their spouse's infidelity, simply walked out the door with a breezy buh-bye over their shoulder. But even more than I envied what I believed to be the shiny new life they were walking into was their certainty.
I sometimes blame the fact that I'm a Gemini (on the one hand..., but on the other...) for my inability to simply, uncategorically make choices without second-guessing, regrets or what-ifs. But whether it's the stars or my parents or my second-grade teacher who's to blame for my wavering, I seem stuck with it. I can barely decide whether to buy the generic toilet paper or pay extra for the name-brand, let alone whether to stick with my unfaithful spouse and keep my family intact, or make for the hills.
Which is why I found the following (thanks to Martha Beck's Finding Your Own North Star) so interesting:
Your social self lives by what psychiatrist Alice Miller sees as the cardinal rule of all repressive social systems: "Thou shalt not be aware."... Don't know what you know, and don't feel what you feel.
Once you've learned to obey this rule, you can easily lose access to your own experience of joy and desire, loathing and revulsion... Since the only way to find lost feelings is to feel for them, the search for your own heart is always a blind one. Instead of any clear impulse, you register only flat nothingness, a hollow, yearning ache that doesn't lead you clearly in any direction at all.
Wow. Sounds a whole lot like me. And, likely, a lot like you if one of the ways you coped with your spouse's betrayal was to stop feeling.
Cutting yourself off from feeling can work in the short-term. It can get your kids to soccer practice. It can get you to your desk. It can get dinner on the table.
What it can't do is get you to your next step. At least not decisively.
It's taken me a few years of putting in time to realize this. Of not feeling and simply moving along in my life and marriage. Not so much deciding what I want in my life as letting life decide for me. Which isn't a bad thing for a period of time. It can make sense to simply bide your time until choices become clear. But they won't – can't – become clear if you're so divorced from your own feelings that you don't even feel them anymore.
What Beck suggests sounds rather odd. She maintains that the answers rest in your body. Literally. That by taking an inventory of your body parts and soliciting their opinions (I'm not kidding here!), you'll find your answer. She takes her view on this from Asian philosophy which, as she points out, insists that it's our bodies that hold the answers, not our minds, which bend and change to all sorts of untrustworthy beliefs.
It's an interesting exercise and one that I recommend, if only because it can't hurt and doesn't cost a thing.
How?
Get as relaxed as you can without the benefit of drugs/alcohol. Try and still the mind, which, if yours is as annoyingly toddler-like as mine, is no easy task. Then start paying attention to your body, starting with each toe. (Settle in, this is going to take awhile.) Ask yourself what it's feeling, Beck suggests. Hot, cold, itchy... "Don't think," she admonishes, "just describe." Again, if you're like me, you'll likely start to notice, if you don't on a regular basis, that certain parts of your body are...tense or tight. Beck advises us that there's likely a lot of information being stored in those parts.
Think of these tense parts as frozen. Try and breathe warmth into them and let them thaw.
This is where the exercise can get uncomfortable emotionally. Locking feelings up keeps us safe from them. And letting them out releases the capacity to once again feel pain. And as we all know far too well, pain sucks. A lot.
The thing is, NOT feeling pain doesn't serve us either. It keeps us alive...but not living.
The time will come when you have to let it out. Sadness, anger, hatred, fear. You have to allow the feelings to breathe...and within them to find your answers.
You'll also be surprised to discover that, rather than paralyzing you with pain (though it can be excruciating to feel them) these feelings will actually make things a whole lot clearer. You might not miraculously know what the rest of your life will look like, but you'll be far clearer about what you want it to look like. And therefore, what you should do to create it.
It's not magic. And it takes a certain conviction, not to mention suspension of judgement to undertake such an exercise.
But if you stick with it (even making it a daily practice, as Beck does), you just might find your answers aren't in the stars at all...but in your kidney.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

More Danielle Laporte: How to Build Confidence

Tummy trembles. Brain Fuzz. That discombobulating feeling that you’re not quite sure what you should be doing but you should be doing something to keep your act together. Think of it this way, beneath the butterflies in your stomach, behind the clouds in your mind…is your greater truth, and it’s trying to break on through. Whatever you want to call it, positive thinking, re-framing, self-encouragement, ra-ra-rah, this is where you need to step up to the plate, look at your fear head on and confront it with your truth. The truth being, that you manage to get through everyday whether with grace or grit; that fear will not kill you; that your God, or your friends, or your grandma in heaven will have your back; that you have risen above before, and that you will rise above again; that, it’s only life after all.
—Danielle Laporte, creator of The Firestarter Sessions

Read the whole interview on Girl Habits! 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

When "Worst" Gets Worse

There were a couple of comments to The Worst Is Over post that gave me pause. Perhaps that's easy for me to say. Three-plus years from D-Day and the dust has pretty much settled. I'm able to see far more clearly that the worst is indeed over.
When you're still navigating the emotional debris wrought by the D-Day bomb, it's not always so clear.
And with the very real possibility that there's more D-Day bombs to follow (men rarely let it all out in one clean sweep. It's called the "trickle truth" because it trickles out, like a faulty faucet over days and weeks and sometimes months). Or the reality of a looming divorce. And when there are kids involved, sometimes the worst (finding out about your spouse's infidelity in the first place) pales in comparison to having to tell children that a divorce is inevitable.
I've dodged that bullet. Thus far, anyway.
Though my marriage is slowly being rebuilt, brick by back-breaking brick, the threat of divorce hangs like a storm cloud just on the horizon. And I know for me that would be the worst. Because it's something I can control – whether to leave or stay – and that it affects my children who wouldn't have a choice in the matter.
So, I'll be honest, there are degrees of worst.
There's the "worst" we can't control – the shocking, devastating news of betrayal. The STD we contracted. The "other child" that's born. The divorce we don't want.
And there's the "worst" we can control – the boundary setting that completely freaks us out because it seems so unnatural to relegate our husbands to the couch until they offer up full disclosure...and a clean bill of health. The "other child" we choose not to acknowledge. The divorce we do want.
Wherever your worst falls on the spectrum, acknowledge it...then let it pass. It won't last forever, even if it feels that way.
You will be able to say, sooner than you expect, that "the worst is over."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Worst Is Over

I recently came across this HuffPo post on dealing with the trauma of betrayal.
Betrayal trauma was a notion I resisted. I remembered all too well my response when a friend asked the hypothetical question, "what would you do if your husband cheated." Back then, I knew exactly what I'd do. Dump him. I was so sure that I'd kick him out the house, march straight to a divorce lawyer, wipe my hands clean of him and move forward into my life. At no point did I imagine trauma. Wasn't that for people who'd been raped? Or prisoners of war? Or abused? A cheating husband might lead to anger, I thought, but not trauma.
File that quaint notion under the "yeah, right" category.
Following D-Day, I couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours at a time, waking to panic. I felt powerless. Enraged. Terrified. One day I would feel numb but fine. The next, I couldn't get out of bed. I became a stranger to myself, entertaining thoughts of suicide. Anything to avoid this pain that I thought was endless.
Then a friend, who worked with adult survivors of sex abuse, suggested I was experiencing post-trauma.
She gently explained to me that betrayal is trauma. Her list of "symptoms" rang true.
I felt guilty, however, putting myself in the same list as rape victims. Or abuse survivors. I felt like my experience didn't warrant being traumatized. I should be able to get over this, I thought. I should be stronger.
But I wasn't.
I wish then that I'd heard those words:
The worst is over.
According to Judith Acosta, who wrote the HuffPo blog piece and a book entitled The Worst is Over, those are the most critical words a terrified and traumatized person needs to hear.
And, with the brilliance of hindsight, I know she's right.
Knowing that the worst is over – that gut-dropping, brain-scrambling discovery that what you thought was...wasn't won't ever be repeated because you'll never be caught so off-guard again – can help you breathe again. It can help you focus on what's ahead, instead of what's behind. It can give you the trust in yourself to know that you survived...and that the worst is, indeed, over.
If you can't believe that, then more trauma work is probably a good idea. If you find yourself hyper-vigilant for any signs of impending pain because you just don't think you could go through it again, find someone to hold your hand and your heart (a therapist is darn good at doing that!) while you heal.
But in the short-term just keep telling yourself the worst is over.
Because it's true.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guest Blog: Heart broken? Here's how to heal...

by Vikki Stark


[Editor's note: I came across this blog post on womenonthefence.com and thought it was insightful and compassionate and could help a lot of us betrayed wives. Vikki generously allowed me to reprint it here.]



The fall of 2006 should have been one of the happiest times of my life. My first book, My Sister, My Self, had just been published and I’d just completed a book tour speaking at bookstores and community centers across the United States about sister relationships, the subject of my book. Planning the trip, I’d envisioned how great it would be out there driving the open road alone, listening to local radio stations and getting the chance to talk with dozens of women about a topic dear to their hearts. Although the reality of driving three thousand miles across America proved to be much more challenging than I’d expected, at least I had backup. During our nightly phone calls, my husband of twenty-one years was cheering me on, telling me how proud he was, always encouraging me.
After three sometimes very lonely weeks on the road, I took the red-eye back east from California, stumbled off the plane and fell into my husband’s arms in tears. I was so relieved to be home, so happy to see him. There was only one more event on the book tour later that week, and it was the one I was most eagerly anticipating—my official book launch in Montreal where I live. All my friends were coming (some flying in from New York), as were the press, my colleagues and many of the women who participated in The Sisters Project that formed the basis of my book.  We were expecting close to a hundred people. It was to be my triumphant return—the best day in my life!
When we returned from the airport, my husband dropped me at home and rushed right off to work, which I found a bit odd; usually he loved to stop for coffee and reconnect whenever one of us returned from a trip. I took a shower and noticed a long dark hair in the bathtub but thought little of it. Later, however, when I was on the phone with my longhaired daughter, I asked, as an afterthought, if she’d been at the house recently. She said no, not while I was away. Then I forgot about it.
I spent the day unwinding from the trip and enjoying the anticipation of the upcoming book launch. That evening, when my husband arrived home from work, I threaded my arm through his, gave him a squeeze and said, “I bought fish.” He looked at me rather strangely and said, “It’s over.” I stared at him and asked, “What’s over?” vaguely thinking that that was a weird way to say that he didn’t want to eat fish anymore. He answered, “The marriage. It’s over. I’m leaving you. I’m moving in with my girlfriend.” Horrified, I watched the words take shape in slow motion as they left his mouth and hang in the air before they crumbled. Pow! Shock! I’d spent twenty-three days on the road only to be hit by a Mack truck in my own living room.
My husband had never mentioned that he was unhappy or thinking of leaving me. During the previous months, he’d signed greeting cards with endearments like, “I love you with all of my heart,” “Thank you for the myriad joys you bring me” and “You are the rock of my life – then, now, always!” Until the moment of his revelation, I was deeply in love and believed him to be, too. Had you tapped me on the shoulder five minutes earlier and asked me to describe my marriage, my eyes would have misted up as I rhapsodized about how my husband was the most loving, attentive, and trustworthy man any woman had ever married and how lucky I was to have found him. In other words, I’d had no idea!

Although at the time I felt as though this bizarre event was unique to me, unfortunately, as time went on, I learned that Wife Abandonment Syndrome is reaching epidemic proportions. I started a study of this phenomenon and defined it as a pattern of behavior on the part of a husband who leaves his wife out-of-the-blue without ever having told her that he was unhappy in the marriage. Following his sudden departure, he replaces the caring he’d typically shown her with anger and aggression. He often moves directly in with a girlfriend, leaving his bewildered wife totally devastated. This will undoubtedly be the defining event in her life, and although recovery is a struggle, many women find that it forces them to reinvent themselves in positive and exciting new ways.
The moment of rupture starts an exhausting, painful process and it will take a very long time until life feels normal again. It will, but it will be a “new normal” – unrecognizable from the life you were living till now. In the early stages, you will be desperate to understand what happened and how the man you loved and believed loved you could morph overnight into an angry stranger. Your mind will be spinning relentlessly as you try to make sense of it all. But you can empower yourself to try to fight the negative self-defeating thoughts.

Harnessing your mind requires practice and a willingness to reach for happiness, even in the midst of your misery. Too often people wrap the victim label around themselves like a protective garment, reluctant to remove it. But if you can get in touch with the healthiest part inside of you, the one that knows you need to keep building a life for yourself, then you can boost your recovery from heartbreak. And this goes for any broken relationship.
No doubt, time is the best healer, but while we’re waiting, here are some tricks you can use to make it through the days if you or perhaps someone you know has been effected in this way:



Sweep, Sweep, Sweep
Imagine that your mind is a small, wooden-floored room that keeps getting all dusty and dirty with your negative thoughts. Now visualize a tiny, inch-high cleaning lady snoozing in the corner of the room, an old-fashioned twig broom leaning against her chair. When your thinking drifts back into dangerous territory, wake her up and urge her to “sweep, sweep, sweep” away those pesky thoughts! Imagine her working away furiously, tidying up the floor, sweeping all that unwanted muck out the door and making the place spic ‘n span.


Barking Dog
This simple but effective trick helps you separate yourself from intrusive thoughts.
Imagine that you’re walking down the street and you see a dog chained up to a fence next to the sidewalk, barking wildly at you. Continue on your way down the street knowing that the racket he’s making, which represents the cacophony of thoughts in your head, can’t hurt you. It’s just noise. Hold your head up and keep on walking.

Shake It Off
While we’re on the topic of canines, here’s another very simple option for breaking out of a bad mind-set. You know how a wet dog shakes from head to tail in that goofy way to dry himself off? Well, when you need to lift yourself out of a funk, stand up and literally shake it off. “Shake, shake, shake” from head to toe, good and hard. Waggle your arms, bobble your head (but remember to remove your glasses first!), jiggle your derrière!  It’s guaranteed to break the spell at least a little bit. Try it now!

Paint the Wall
This technique enables you to manage those rotten bad feelings you walk around with. Picture yourself vigorously painting all those angry, hurt, pent-up feelings in strong colors on a great big wall. Use your whole body, jabbing and stroking until the wall is violent with color. Stand back and take a good look at the turmoil exteriorized. Then imagine grabbing a roller, dipping it in a tray of thick white paint and rolling it criss-cross and up and down until the wall is covered all over with a field of pure white. Stand back again and let yourself exhale. Then inhale and breathe in the clean paint smell!
Recovering relatively unscarred from the unwanted end of a relationship requires that you use all your positive energy to fight off those doom and gloom thoughts that hold you back. Happiness is a choice that we have to keep making for ourselves at every twist and turn in our lives – the choice to roll up our sleeves and do whatever it takes to keep moving forward – even if it means shaking from head to toe like a wet cocker spaniel.
– Vikki
I would love your thoughts. Have you been the victim of a runaway husband? Have you been abandoned by a spouse? Has your relationship ended without you truly understanding what went wrong? How have you been coping? I encourage you to share your stories, even anonymously.
***************************
Vikki Stark, M.S.W., is a family therapist and the author of Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and RenewalThe book is based both on Stark’s own experience as well as the Sudden Wife Abandonment Project in which she interviewed over 400 women worldwide.
Stark has brought women together through her website, www.RunawayHusbands.com, which is an active resource center for those who have experienced Wife Abandonment Syndrome. It has become a life raft for many women seeking support and counsel. Runaway Husbands is available through the website or from online booksellers.

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