Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Make the world gasp!

Kjerringsleppet, says Sue Monk Kidd in her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, was a group of women during the 1994 Norway Olympics who felt excluded from the men-only opening ceremonies of the Alpine Center. The 35 women crashed the ceremonies, emerging on skis from the trees and clanging cow bells.
The crowd loved them.
The term, loosely translated, apparently means "women on the loose."
I read this account with increasing discomfort. Not because of what the women did. That sounded like outrageous fun. And I love the thought of wronged women on the loose, as long as they're not armed. And I'm not the one who wronged them.
No, my discomfort stemmed from my recognition that I, perhaps too often, discourage betrayed wives for acting outrageously.
Instead, I suggest that betrayed women "take the high road". That we steer clear of drama and vengeance and instead focus on our own healing.
Now, I'm wondering if I've done women a disservice. And if I've missed an important step.
"Powerful women are always surprising themselves, always getting a small gasp out of the world," writes Monk Kidd.
I know what she means.
We can bolster our own power by doing something that shocks even us.
Like refusing to back down. Like digging in our heels and insisting that the world acknowledge the hurt done to us...and make it clear that we won't let it happen again.
Indeed, I did something that for me was outrageous...and outrageously empowering.
One morning, after licking my wounds for a week or so, I showered, dressed and arrived at my husband's office where the OW also worked. I was a nervous wreck. Confrontation was not what I wanted. What I did want was to make it clear that I was not going to fade into the background. That I was standing tall and proud and that I had nothing to be ashamed of.
I also, privately, made it clear to the OW that she had betrayed all women, including herself, by carrying on a relationship with a married man.
It may not have been as dramatic...or public...as skiing out onto the national stage. But, once the shaking subsided, I felt stronger than I'd felt since D-Day. Sometimes our actions send a message to our psyche: We are not invisible. We will not back down.
So let me revise my high-road stance:
I still don't advocate screaming matches and revenge-seeking if it leaves you feeling diminished and angry and ashamed. And that's the question you need to ask yourself. What can you do to declare yourself a survivor and thriver...that's legal, dignified (relatively speaking!) and empowering?
Then do it!
We'll gasp with delight.

(And, please, share your story with us here!)

20 comments:

  1. Here, Here!
    It's not a proud moment of my life, but getting a small portion of revenge has been very therapeutic to me.
    It only lasted a couple of months this need and now it's done and I can move on from that.
    I would like to point out my revenge did not really hurt anyone (throwing away most of my husbands possessions would only upset him)
    Revenge in some ways gave me something to do when I was lost.
    My biggest diabolical plan was to cook (I'm a chef). I made delicious meals every day not sparing the butter and fat. Deserts every night and double cream with everything! I am a slight person that can eat like this and not put on weight and I needed to eat after becoming painfully thin from the truma.
    My husband on the otherhand needs to eat lean or he piles on the weight. So I cooked. I never made him eat but eat he did!

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  2. I threw a beloved watch of my husband's against the wall. Again and again and again.
    Not a proud moment, also. But also nothing I'm ashamed of. Petty perhaps. But I wanted to hurt him even a tiny bit as much as he'd hurt me.
    But I love the notion of slowly killing a cheating husband with cream and butter. Or at least rendering him utterly incapable of finding his privates amongst the flab... :)
    One of my favorite stories involved a betrayed wife whose husband was still giving her the "but I just can't choose – I love you both" crap.
    She'd had enough. So when he sent her flowers one day after a romantic evening, with a loving, rather graphic note, she forwarded it all to his OW...with her own note that she hoped the two would be blissful together.
    Sometimes revenge can be truly sweet.

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  3. No real revenge here yet......except for throwing away the coffee cup she had given him for Christmas (he claimed his cousin gave it to him). I told him he needed to get rid of it and left it sitting out for him. It sat there for a few days, so I finally tossed it in the trash. Not all that dramatic, but it made me feel better! I also tore up the photo of her that I found hidden in his stuff. I found out she gave him a ring, too (and again, he told me his cousin gave it to him). I told him he better get rid of it. He said he threw it out of his truck window on the freeway. They may all be little things, but it's closure, which helps!

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  4. Wow! Your restraint amazes me. I would have smashed the mug and pawned the ring, using the proceeds to buy myself something quite lovely! Your'e clearly far more mature than I.

    Yes, I agree that closure is important. Something almost ritualistic is good, to let us shut the door on the past and, hopefully, look forward.

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  5. I backed over his Blackberry with my car. And when that didn't kill it totally, I bashed it with a sledgehammer. I put the remains in a ziploc and gave them to my spouse. I told him if he ever did anything like this to me again, it would not be his Blackberry in the baggie.

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  6. Really and truly, can I wander along the low road for awhile? I have a letter written to the OW (in more or less the same flip and breezy tone you use in this blog) and I'm aching to send it. I know I'll regret it someday, but right now it would do me wonders to dump some of my hurt, hate and rage on her. Please, pretty please....

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  7. Hey, who am I to insist on anyone taking the high road! I sent a Christmas card to the OW (D-Day was December 11) and included a photo of my husband and our three children. In it, I wrote a note (she worked for my husband so I was very careful I said NOTHING that could be considered harassment or libelous or...) that read something like "Thank-you for everything you did for my husband and our family this past year. Since Christmas and the new year is a time to take stock, perhaps you want to examine your own actions this past year and ask yourself if you did everything you could to make the world a better place..." or something like that. I guess it's a good sign that I can't remember exactly what I wrote. Either I'm getting past it or I'm getting Alzheimer's. Either way, the pain is less. :)
    So...go ahead. Just make sure there's nothing in it that'll come back and bite you in the ass someday. Nothing that can get you sued? Or publicly humiliated if you (or your children) ever decide to run for office? Then go for it...and let us know what you said. And how it turned out!

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  8. Argh! Now I'm having second thoughts. I mostly want to send this letter to her because I want to make SURE that she knows what devastation she has helped bring about and I want her to feel guilty and miserable about it. I feel kind of like I'm whining, though, because I have not been through anything nearly as traumatic as you - not sure I could survive that. My husband's was an emotional affair. It took ME several weeks to begin to understand why I was so tormented since they "didn't actually do anything." My husband is still coming to grips with the seriousness and consequences of "not actually doing anything" and I'm pretty sure that she has some idea that something is wrong (they haven't communicated since the night I finally figured out where he was and called her home at 1:30 a.m.) but has no idea of the magnitude of the offense.

    What makes this all particularly horrid to me is that his relationship with her started the same week that our daughter was diagnosed with cancer (she is doing well now). It was, of course, "just friends" at first (she was an old acquaintance), but as he selfishly began to feel that he wasn't getting enough attention at home she became his escape. So, while I was staying for days in the hospital while our daughter underwent chemo, then nursing her at home - holding a bucket while she threw up, cleaning her PICC line, giving her extremely painful shots, managing pharmaceuticals worth thousands upon thousands of dollars, and crying with her when her hair fell out, he checked out on us and decided he needed to relieve his stress and complain about his emotionally distant wife over beers in the OW's kitchen. I might also add that I was trying to keep life as normal as possible for our older daughter who was a senior in high school trying to get into an Ivy League college. So, in between hospital stays I got to do all of the financial aid forms and taxes (my area), as well as my mother's taxes since my father died last summer.

    My mental movies are of him escaping from us for his kicks and giggles with her just when we needed him most.

    That said, he's not a bad guy. He knew that lying to me about his whereabouts was wrong, but did not equate this with an "affair." Now that he sees how much he hurt me and how damaging this was to our marriage he is pathetically remorseful. He is especially ashamed of himself for not understanding the incredible emotional stress that I was under when our daughter became ill. There is nothing that he would not do to fix this, if he could, and there is nothing that he would not do for me right now if I asked. But, he would rather I didn't send my letter (I did show it to him). I think it's partly because he's embarrassed by it, partly because it really doesn't reflect the best of my character, and partly because he just doesn't want her brought back into our lives in any way, shape or form. So, I'm torn. I did tone it down slightly (I took out the part where I called her an emo-whore and hoped she rotted in hell), but what do you think? Is there ass-biting material in here that I should just keep to myself? Or do I deserve to try to make her feel a little bit of the misery that I feel? Read my next comment for the letter (I guess I hit a character limit here) and thanks for letting me vent. :)

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  9. Dear (I was going to insert a rather nasty name here, but decided against it because I want you to continue reading. However, since I am unable to utter your name or commit it to print, I'll just say, 'whatever'),

    It's been seven weeks now and I have held my tongue, but it hurts too much to bite it any longer, so I thought that I would share with you. After all, you might not even know that anything is amiss (ARE you that stupid?).

    So, I ask you: In what universe is it OK for a "good Catholic woman" to booze it up in her home (and in a couple of bars) until the wee hours of the morning, week after week after week, with a married man? And in what universe is she considered to be a good mother and to be setting a good example for her impressionable 14-year old daughter?

    In what universe does a so-called "friend" NOT tell her philandering buddy to get his ass home to his cancer-stricken daughter and emotionally overwhelmed wife where he ought to be?

    In what universe does the "other woman" not know she's the other woman, even though she can't call her buddy boy, can't meet his family, and knows that he is lying to his wife about where he is and who he's with whenever they are together? (Hmmm.... there's that 'stupid' thing again.)

    Oh, wait. Let me guess - it's the Homewrecking Bitches' Universe, where there is only one side to every story and all wives are frigid and totally incapable of understanding their husbands.

    Yeah, he's a bastard, but you're no better. And before you get all huffy and start protesting that "we didn't even do anything!" do your research on the marital devastation caused by "emotional affairs."

    Thanks so much for all of your help with the destruction of our marriage. We couldn't have done it without you.

    Yours truly,
    Bill's wife

    P.S. I may regret sending this someday (OK, I'm pretty confident that I WILL regret it), but right now I have a ton of hurt, hate, and rage tearing me up inside, and dumping some of it on you is doing wonders for me. Toodles.

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  10. Wow! I think there's a great career waiting for you writing letters to the OW. Very impressive.
    That said, I think I would follow your gut on this one. Or, if you must send it (and though I'm a firm admirer of biting sarcasm and wit), tone it down and just be honest. That you're devastated. And that she played a clear role in that and you hope she's learned that the pain extends to all parties when this occurs. And that you expect her to remain out of your family's life from this day forward. Perhaps your husband would sign it, too (??).
    Re. your comment about "he didn't do anything" ie. emotional affairs: They're devastating. Multiply that by about a thousand when it's occuring while your daughter is being treated for cancer (can there be anything more frightening than a sick child??) and of course this is excruciating for you. It's great that your husband is remorseful and so on. But if you're not already, it would be wise I think to get marital counselling. The rage you're feeling must be huge (I'm feeling it on your behalf) and unless it's completely exorcised could keep poisoning your relationship. That's a whole lot for you to handle in a short period of time.
    Wow -- I really admire your strength in getting through this. I'm glad your daughter is doing better.

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  11. Thanks - all good, sound advice. I suppose it would be best if I abandoned the low road and tried to keep to the middle road, at least. You are right about the rage, and yesterday was a bad day. It really freaks my husband out. He can't understand how I can wake up civil and thoughtful, and then suddenly, with one misspoken word, become a raging, venomous shrew (but he's trying).

    I really appreciate your listening and taking the time to respond. Neither of us has spoken to anyone else about this as yet and it was cathartic for me just to vent to someone who understands. Your own journey through infidelity has been heroic - I will keep reading and hoping for the best for all of us.

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  12. I put together this blog, in large part, because I found the loneliness of coping with infidelity to be so devastating. I wanted to reach out to other women in the hopes that we could support each other and, hopefully, help each other heal. I think there's great strength in a community, especially of women.
    Re-read your comment re. you "want to make SURE that [OW] knows what devastation she has helped bring about". And that's the thing with this whole infidelity s@*t – the decent people will generally feel awful enough and vow never, ever to do it again (they're generally the ones who inadvertently got involved with a married guy and broke it off the minute they found out). The others, the ones who tell themselves they can't help it, they're in love, they're soul-mates blah blah blah aren't going to see it any other way no matter what we say or write or scream. You hit the nail on the proverbial head when you referred to the "the Homewrecking Bitches' Universe, where there is only one side to every story and all wives are frigid and totally incapable of understanding their husbands." That's exactly the universe they live in...and you nor I nor anyone else is going to change their minds. Until it happens to them.
    Hey -- anytime you want to blog for the site, I'd love to post it. You might also find it cathartic to share your experience...and I think plenty of BWs would benefit from your thoughts. That goes for any of you... Advice, thoughts, tips, wisdom are all welcome.

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  13. Elle, I’m going post my reply to your recent question way back here in the archives in a small attempt to protect my identity but it is fitting with this “Make the World Gasp” post. My husband had an affair with a co-worker. Someone at work found out and complained to management. Interrogations led to my husband and the OW being forced to resign. The company has about 200 employees, all of whom knew why my husband left and assuming at least half of them went home and told their spouses, I estimate about 300 people total knew of the affair and forced resignations before I did. Many of them knew me in a “holiday party” way.

    My husband had been unhappy in the job and it was very stressful so when he decided, rather abruptly in my opinion, to quit (as was the story he told me) it didn’t seem unwarranted. He seamlessly moved onto another job and seemed happier. Months after he left the previous employer, I received an anonymous letter in the mail telling me of the affair and the forced resignations. The letter arrived on my birthday.

    I don’t know who sent the letter. It could have been someone who didn’t like my husband or it could have been the OW. But, the language in the letter wasn’t kind. The person who sent it was intentionally malicious. I ‘made the world gasp’ a few days later when I sent an open letter to the employer to as many email addresses as I felt necessary. The email addresses were all in a blind cc so they had to involve IT to figure out exactly who received my email.

    My email included a scanned copy of the anonymous letter and the envelope and while not acknowledging the affair, I let the world know that I refused to be bullied and if anyone had anything further to say to me I wanted it done more directly and I included all of my contact info. One employee forwarded my email to the OW at her new job. According to what I heard, I created quite a ruckus. The sane, compassionate people at the employer were horrified that someone could be so callous as to send me that letter. And, to do so on my birthday was pure evil.

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    Replies
    1. Elle --

      Have you ever seen this? http://www.ted.com/talks/stacey_kramer_the_best_gift_i_ever_survived.html

      It's particularly poignant to me for the reasons in the above comment. Since it struck a cord with me, thought you might want to share it with the BWC if it resonates with you.

      BTW, I'm doing well as you can probably tell from my lack of comments. No longer consumed by the entire thing at 20 months post Dday. But, I still read all your posts.

      Pippi

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  14. Pippi,

    What a horrible experience for you on top of a HORRIBLE experience. Why/how people can be so cruel is, honestly, beyond me.
    I say "Yay" for you to calling whomever it was on it -- and making it clear to all that you were simply not going to tolerate such cavalier cruelty. I imagine it must have empowered you even in a small way to stand up for yourself so publicly.
    It's bizarre to me how much shame still exists around infidelity. It's far too common – meaning that too many of us suffer silently – to allow it to be swept so effortlessly under the rug. It requires the cooperation of far too many people, who agree on some level to treat it as shameful for all involved. I remain convinced that if we talked about it more openly it would eliminate at least some infidelity. If society agrees to simply turn away...or respond with anger/cruelty...the more likely it will remain hidden and creating pain that few of us can openly express.
    Thank-you for sharing your story. It must have been unbearable. How have you handled things since? With head held high, I hope.
    You're an inspiration. Seriously.
    Elle

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  15. I'm trying to hold my head high but really struggle when I see people (mostly wives) in public who knew but did not tell me. Not one person has come forward and asked me if I'm ok now that they know I know. Not. One. That kind of hurts. Goes with what you are saying about shame, I guess.

    My husband wants to have the letter finger printed and DNA tested and then file a lawsuit. I'm undecided. I have not given him the letter. But, the statue of limitations is a couple of years so I have time to decide.

    In many ways the letter was a gift -- arriving on my birthday is a bit symbolic when I get all philosophical about it. On good days, I can see it that way. As many times as I've wished the whole thing never happened, I've never wished that since it did happen that I still didn't know. So many things in my life were "off" because of this but I couldn't put my finger on it. I never would have imagined/dreamed something so horrific -- that my husband was capable of that level of betrayal and lying. He says he was trying to protect me. I think he was trying to protect himself. Which oddly, I do understand. But, in the end, it doesn't even matter what he was trying to do.

    I got hurt. Very badly. And, in so many ways by so many people. So I do my best every day to tend to the dagger thrown in my heart and have compassion for myself. Nothing I've ever done could have warranted this. I try to remember that.

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  16. Pippi,
    I wish I could sit across a table from you with a pot of tea between us. You sound like such an incredible person.
    There's nothing easy about this and I often hear others – who've experienced tragedy from losing a child to a terminal illness to who knows what – talk about how suddenly the world comes into focus. You know who your friends are and who aren't.
    I think those not saying anything to you honestly believe they're protecting you. Consider this: When I was pregnant with my first child, a routine test revealed that she was at very high risk of having Down Syndrome. I grew up with an aunt with Down Syndrome so waited for results from my amnio by holding my breath.
    In the meantime (this was over Christmas), my in-laws returned any Christmas gift for me related to a baby and did not say ONE WORD to me about what we were going through waiting for results. It was like I was suddenly not pregnant any more. I was so scared and in such pain...and they simply couldn't reach out to me.
    It took me years to realize that their misguided intentions weren't outright cruel. When someone else is in pain, it triggers all sorts of issues in others. That's a long way of saying I think you're right to chalk it up to "their problem...not yours."
    And yes, I too experienced the "off" sensation for years until it all made sense.
    It seems to me that, no matter how things turn out, you've weathered this with dignity. And that's no small feat.
    Keep holding your head high. You're right. Nothing you've done warrants this.

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  17. Thanks, Elle. I'd love to have tea, too. And, I know I've written it before but this site is a godsend. You have such a big picture of infidelity and your writing reflects that -- making this blog applicable to all of us even though our particulars are very different.

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  18. I did send a letter to the OW--2 in fact--one adapted from one I found here, I think. I called her to account, since she's all public crowing about how "Christian" she is (i.e., hypocritical, IMHO) on Facebook and so on.

    She a physician, so she's very concerned about her public reputation, and of not getting fired by her (Catholic) hospital. Her first marriage ended in divorce (cheating, I believe). her 'fiance' was cheating on her when she cheated with my husband...in other words, she lives on a cheater's planet.

    A truly awful, despicable person. (Also racist, btw. Ugh. worse as anything in my book.)

    But what I learned, when she took me to court in her state for harassment--and I have never even been to her state (thank goodness) was just how paranoid and narcissistic these people are.

    Talk about projection!

    She lied on her court filing, and I ended up hiring legal counsel out of state.

    End of the long tale...they just don't care.

    I mean seriously, these are people who think nothing of having sex with married or committed/partnered people. They're morally bankrupt to begin with. They have little to no sense or remorse--it's just not in them. (If it were, they wouldn't be cheaters, right?)

    So although i 'indulged' in a bit of retribution, I didn't go far enough, in my own opinion--wish I'd taken out a newspaper ad!, and now I cannot due to the legal issues.

    In the end, more trouble than it's worth.

    Cheaters are junk, garbage. The person who owes you is your partner. The other cheater was a means to an end. I regard them as barely human, and not worth wasting mental energy on.

    But that's based on my very unpleasant and expensive experiences. I am watching my husband, to see if he is truly committed to reknitting a relationship, or if it's all talk.

    Which brings me to a question for you all: if he is, as he and various therapists seem to think, a sex addict (porn and other acting out stuff in addition to the affair), how come he does not seem to be having any withdrawal symptoms now? How does that work?

    When I have had any addictions (a smoker in my stupid younger days, and later a creeping valium addiction, that I mostly kicked--now back on it--yay for cheating!) ...I had super duper withdrawal.

    So how come my 'sex-addict' hubby seems not to have any, although he has been NC with his cheating partner for nearly 6 mos, attends meetings, therapy, has sworn off porn etc?

    Help much appreciated.

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