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.
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...). 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? 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" 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.


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