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.


  1. Hi! I'm new to your amazing, inspiring blog that speaks to me on so many levels. Thank you! I'm about 7 months past D-Day and haven't told that many people (though a lot of people in my husband's life know... ugh). Your comment about pity -- not wanting people to pity you -- resonated with me. I've explored that a lot in therapy and trying to figure it out. There's a lot there, and just thought I'd thank you for articulating!

  2. I remember in the early days, I told my husband how alone I felt because none of my friends knew (except for one very close friend that I knew I could trust to keep it secret). He told me I could go ahead and tell my friend, he didn't deserve to be protected from the fallout. Except I didn't want them to feel sorry for me. I didn't want them to say things like, "You should leave that bastard!" because I'd decided to stay and try to save my marriage. I didn't want them judging me as a doormat for staying. Pity does feel a lot like contempt, and I wanted none of that.

    It was hard, though, because I pitied myself a lot. A friend would complain that her husband wouldn't take the garbage out, and I'd think, "Yeah, but at least he didn't cheat on you!" Ugh.



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