Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dear Elle: A Letter to My Shattered Self on D-Day

Dear Elle,
I. Am. So. Sorry. You've dealt with a lot of pain in your life...but nothing like this. You thought you'd found your safe place in the world. And I ache for you that you believe it's lost. 
It's not. But your world has changed. You're right about that part. Years from now you still won't believe absolutely that you can trust another person. But I've got good news for you. You will learn through this how to trust yourself. And that's a gift that I'm not sure you could have received any other way.
The thing is you've spent your entire marriage trying to make him happy. To create a home that he wants to return to. To create a family that nourishes me. To be pretty. To be smart. To be fun and interesting and a perfect hostess and wife and friend and mother. And... And... And.
And it didn't work, did it? All that work, all those compromises you were making even though he didn't know you were making them. All the words you swallowed. All the dreams you put aside. None of it made a bit of difference, did it? And do you want to know why? Cause you were fine all along without having to try so damn hard. You were enough. You still are. He didn't cheat because you haven't lost that last 10 pounds of baby weight. He didn't cheat because you aren't a gourmet cook. He didn't cheat because you prefer to read over watching his favorite shows. Or because you prefer jeans over tailored suits. He cheated because he was looking for something in himself that's been missing for a long time. And you couldn't give it to him. And she couldn't give it to him. And the other "she" couldn't either. And that's because none of us have it to give to him. It's something only he can give to himself. And it's approval. And it only ever really fills that hole when it comes from within. 
And that's the same lesson you need to learn. You don't need his approval. You never did. And even if he'd given it to you unequivocally (impossible for him because he couldn't even give it to himself), it wouldn't have mattered. Because you've never believed you were enough. Not pretty enough. Not skinny enough. Not smart enough, or interesting enough, or anything enough. Just. Not. Enough. 
And so he sought that feeling in other women. And you sought it in him and in work and in toxic friendships and, too often, in alcohol. 
So while this betrayal by him might seem like yet another kick when you've had so many. It might feel as though your heart is shattered beyond repair. 
But when you begin to re-piece your life, you'll understand that this time it's truly going to be your life. On your terms. A life that's full with or without him in it. A life that's full because you're full. You. Alone. Are enough.
Perhaps there are easier ways to learn that lesson. But this is the lesson you've been given. You are your own safe place in the world. Learn it well and you'll never have to learn it again. 
Enough.









22 comments:

  1. It's so hard to convince yourself you are enough when going through this. So. Very. Hard. I'm trying. Thanks for the reminder to all of us who are enough.

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  2. I so needed to hear those words. Thank You.

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  3. thanks alot.Im trying to gather the broken pieces

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  4. Hi. You said it so right. If there is anything I learned after being cheated on (2 years ago), that is loving myself more. What happened made me realized that no amount of love or service to any person will guarantee fidelity, then I started looking after myself and my kids more. I was not ready when I found out about his infidelity, I was devastated and have lost a lot of confidence in myself, but now, I am starting to regain my self-confidence and getting back to my old self, hopefully a lot better than I was. As for my husband, he is just a partner, a father to my children and he can stay with me as long as he remains faithful.
    - Jamie

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  5. I need to read this every single day until forever.

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    1. :) No...not forever. It's hard to believe right now, but the day will come when you won't need it. And then you'll be able to offer it to someone else who's where you are now.

      Elle

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  6. wow... here I sit a 1/2 hour before work starts, before the rest of the world gets here. I will likely read this several times over the weekend. This is my first week back from a cruise. Our first cruise to the Bahamas. Our Anniversary cruise. I hear all the yays and good for yous, but, a few days before leaving for the cruise I found several emails between my husband and two other women. He has been seeing two different women for about 3 years now. I am devastated. I live in Canada and on the east coast, my husband moved to the west coast to live with our oldest son and a better job and for me to move there in the spring. So here I am alone, holding down the fort unsure of my future. Unsure of everything. I found myself one late evening standing by the dark cold river. I could only think of our 2 boys and new granddaughter. I have Dreams of paths leading to darkness. I find myself Crying while driving to work. Sitting in parking lots late at night. Crying on friend's shoulders. He says he is remorseful. He tells me he loves me. He wants to make our relationship work.Promised to get help. 5 years ago almost to the recent D Day, I found out about a one night stand. He was drunk, worked too much and I knew he was stressed.His brick wall went up and I was closed out. Now I just had DDay #2 and the situation is 10 times worse. I even received an email from the OW #1. Stating that she pretty much wanted him and was in love. For me to just give it up. What an idiot! How do I ever trust anyone again. Or love again. My heart hurts. Yes... loving myself more is important right now and forever. Perhaps I will attract someone who loves themselves also.

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    1. Anonymous,
      I'm so very sorry you find yourself in this situation. And, yes, the second time (after forgiving the first) can feel so much more painful because you can no longer believe the illusion that this was "just" a mistake...and that life can resume. It can't. Betrayal is a wound that cuts so incredibly deep. And not tending to that deep, deep wound simply leaves it to fester and, eventually, rupture in some way.
      It's fine that your husband is remorseful...but he has shown that words can't be trusted. He needs to show with his actions AND his words that he is willing to do the hard work of examining how he allowed himself to betray you, and ensuring that he's got a system in place so it never happens again. He needs to understand himself. And that's a lot of work.
      While he's doing that, it gives you a chance to understand yourself. Why you gave him a second chance the first time...and what you truly need from him now.
      It also gives you the chance to determine whether you want to give him another chance. My advice is to not make any big decisions for six months or more. You're simply too hurt, too raw and on too much of a roller coaster to be able to see far enough in the distance. You want to act...not react.
      Keep reading here. There's lots of great advice that, unfortunately, we all had to learn the hard way. There's also enormous compassion and understanding for the pain you're in. You're not there alone. And you won't heal alone. We're here every step of the way to guide you along.

      Elle (who, incidentally, is also Canadian!)

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  7. Thank you, i could not say that to myself. Its been 4 years since d-day i still lack the motivation to pick myself up. He left, moved with her. She was pregant with their baby. I decided to leave the u.s. with my 3 kids and move back to my country. I mannaged to take care of the kids and build a nice life for us..but me I am a mess.

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    1. It certainly helped me to understand that betrayal is trauma, and treating it as such can help with healing. Too many of us think that time will heal, without recognizing that we've numbed ourselves to cope. By acknowleding that you're experiencing post-trauma, you can seek the help you need to truly examine how this has impacted you, recognize coping strategies that don't serve you in the long run, and begin to feel whole and joyful again.
      I felt like a "mess" for a long time. Looking after three kids after a move has no doubt taken its toll -- especially without your ex's support or help. Do you have any emotional support where you are? Are you in any sort of counselling? Don't underestimate how this has affected you. I sometimes think too that by no longer having a relationship with the cheating spouse, we expect it to be easier to move on. But a trust violation, as betrayal is, affects our world view and sense of safety in the world.
      I'm glad this post spoke to you. I hope you'll continue to share your thoughts on this site. Welcome.

      Elle

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  8. My husband left me and moved in with the OW about a month ago. After 16 yrs of togetherness, he has almost no remorse. He had absolutely nothing when I had met him now he is a president of a company at the age 43. We worked hard together to build our lives. He tells me the OW does not want to get involved in this and tells me to "let it go". We were in a middle of a baby adoption to boot. I am at the anger stage and will seek therapy once I return to the US (traveling overseas in my home country.) I am trying to do things that make me happy but the wound is too fresh to let it go. I am angry at his aloofness, cruelty and callousness. I absolutely had given my 100% to my marriage. (yes I am not perfect either but this blow was uncalled for...I am trying to see the big picture and the universal lesson in this. But again I go back to the cruelty of my husband and how I much had trusted him.

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    1. Anonymous,

      I'm so sorry for the pain you're going through. I suspect your husband is feeling more pain than he's showing (or more than he ever realizes he's feeling). That's the thing with affairs -- they distract people from negative feelings, almost like a drug. They're new and exciting and shiny. Until they're not. Eventually they become comfortable and familiar just like marriage. In the meantime, however, your husband isn't the first guy to convince himself that this is different.
      I'm also so sorry about this happening when you're in the middle of adopting. Certainly adds another layer of confusion to the mix.
      I'm glad you're feeling angry. You SHOULD be angry. Just don't let it consume you. Use it to ensure that you get every single thing you're entitled to from him. As for not dragging the OW in (ie. she doesn't want to "get involved")?? She IS involved. She was involved the second she decided to be with a married man. So do whatever feels right to you (that's legal and ethical).
      Eventually you will see the universal lesson, which might just be that you mistook him for someone worth giving your heart to. Sometimes people just aren't as great as we think they are. And sometimes, no matter how badly we want them to, they don't love themselves enough to possibly know how to truly love another person.
      Hang in there. Will you continue with the adoption? I hope you'll be able to see your life without him as potentially wonderful. Because it will be.

      Elle

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  9. I cried so much when I read this. I wonder when I will ever give myself approval for being just me? I am 11 months since D-Day 2. I am trying to work on my marriage but I just don't look at him with the same eyes anymore. When will the hurt stop and when will I feel safe again. Will my feelings come back for him? How can someone I loved and cherished so much want to deceive me and spoil our beautiful family? The effects of this have shattered his relationship with his family and now my mother has no understanding of why I would want to even look at my husband, never mind share a home with him. I feel so isolated by his betrayal and all he can do is say sorry! I worked so hard for my family and my children (teenagers) and I feel so disappointed in life right now and especially in him. Please tell me it gets better!

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    1. That's a very good question: When WILL you give yourself approval for just being you? What are you waiting for? You need to know that you are absolutely fine just the way you are right now. You need to tell yourself that often enough that you start to believe it. My guess is that, instead, you're constantly -- even if you're not aware of it -- reminding yourself what's wrong with you. We do it all the time. "I"m such an idiot," we'll say, because we can't find our keys. "I can't do anything right," we say, when we forget to sign our kids' permission form for school. I need to lose weight. I need to be more patient blah blah blah.
      Stop. You are enough right now. Once you begin to know that deep in your body, you'll be in a much better position to determine whether you can rebuild a marriage with your husband.
      You might also find that, by being more compassionate with yourself, you're able to be more compassionate with him. By letting yourself be human and screw up, you might be able to acknowledge that he's human and can screw up (and yes, it was a BIG screw up).
      But as long as you position yourself as the martyr, the one who worked harder, tried harder, did more, you'll resent him. All that stuff needs addressing (therapy is a good place to do it!) but if you focus only on that, it'll fester and infect your entire relationship.
      I competely get the isolation factor. That's why I started this stuff. Betrayal is isolating. Many people can't or won't understand.
      And that's painful. But there's not a whole lot you can do about that.
      What you can do is be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. And, perhaps, extend that compassion to your husband as he works through the guilt and self-loathing that he's going through. You're not obliged to. You're completely within your rights to walk away and refuse to stay in your marriage.
      But if you choose to stay, you want a good marriage. You want a new marriage in which there's honesty and open-ness. In which you can rely on him and vice versa.
      Is he in counselling to understand why he jeopardized his family? Does he have any insights into his painful choice? That can also go a long way toward helping you extend compassion to him.
      In any case, start by giving yourself approval. This had nothing to do with you. His choice to cheat was HIS choice. Two people create a marriage...but one person creates betrayal.

      Elle

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    2. I am 5 months since D day( he told me he wanted out and there was maybe some one else) after 27 years 3 kids and 4 years post breast cancer, he moved in with the OW 10 days later and posted his new relationship on Facebook, after 6 weeks he tried to come back but only for the kids and he said that to me, I couldn't do it and asked him to leave, he went straight back to her and then just 3 weeks ago tried to come back again stayed for 8 days then told me he wasn't sure and started emailing and txt her again, I told him to leave. He told me he loved me but loved her more. He has lied so much and the honest truth is he only came back when things weren't going well with her. She knew he was married and is very insecure about him and he has worked really hard to keep her in the dark about his coming and going. But the truly hurtful and odd thing for me is he treats me like none of this has happened,he rings and asks how I am, when I tell him to leave me alone he says don't be silly we will always have a family, he tried to deny in the early months that the relationship was physical they were only friends he said and would contact me when she was not there during the day. This is the second time for him the first time was 6 years ago and just emotional so he said and we worked through it and came out the other side he tells me he's just selfish and on a journey. Every time I shut him out just when I'm starting to feel better he finds away to contact he has changed his mobile number 2 times at her request and then txt or phoned me its not unlisted so then I have the number!, the last time was yesterday and I got mad at him I said use email it is what my councillor has said is best, he says why can't I just talk and be nice to him, he does my head in I know that she has just headed away out of town so he is ringing, we have 2 girls at home the youngest has just tuned 10, I don't want to do this with him anymore, Ive had enough of the games, but he has rights to have access to the girls which means he will always be there reminding me, this last time just tore me, Im still coping with treatment and having had a mastectomy and reconstruction my body image has changed, the OW he tells me has had breast implants and a tummy tuck and really looks after herself, to be honest he's always been a bit shallow so its no surprise. I really wish I had walked away 6 years ago, so many things have come out, dating sites, Facebook is just the worst place for men like this to start emotional cheating, this last OW is from Facebook.
      I realise this is not about me its about him, he is chasing something that I don't believe exists. I just want to hurry it up and get to the time when I don't give a stuff about him, but I feel the anger rise in me and then hope and hope is the worst because its false and he plays on it, and I hate myself for softening even a little when I should be telling him to get lost. He keeps telling me that we will be friends and he just wants to move forward with his life, but I don't want to be his friend!

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    3. You know when he said, "I'm just selfish and on a journey"? He's right. And that's what you need to hang on to. He's given you absolutely no indication other than he will do what he chooses to do, NOT what's best for you, for your children or for your marriage.
      You're right that you'll be required to have some contact with him because of your kids, but you can certainly limit that contact drastically. Be civil to him. But don't talk about ANYTHING other than details about visitation with the kids. What time he'll pick them up, drop them off, etc. NO chit chat, no asking how he is. If he tries to speak with you, repeat -- as often as needed -- that you are not his friend. Friends don't treat each other the way he's treated you. So..."I am not your friend. Now what time will you be dropping the kids off. " "I am not your friend. Now please don't forget that Suzie needs to be back by 7 for piano lessons." Etc. Etc.
      This guy wants it all. A warm-hearted wife and kids at home, a mistress with fake boobs somewhere else, and the freedom to saunter back and forth when he chooses. Stop playing the game and start taking care of yourself.
      You've been through enough. Your body and soul need healing, not his nonsense.
      You'll get to a place where your feelings will match your actions (treating him with civility but nothing else). In the meantime, don't let him see your anger or your hurt. Vent to friends, your therapist, or your dog. But to him, be cool, distant and civil. You are NOT his friend, his doormat or a warm place to lay his head. You are a woman who's been through hell and deserves to be treated with love and respect. He clearly can't do that.
      Stick to your guns, take care of yourself and your kids, and cut him loose to his breast-enhanced Barbie doll. I suspect they have a lot in common.

      Elle

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  10. It's true that all those times I put himself before my own needs, didn't matter! So now I'm doing things for myself. It's very liberating. He is responsible for his own happiness, just like I am.

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  11. Wow! So ironicall,y I am an accountant and my D-day was tax deadline day, April 15, 2014. It has been 3 months as of tomorrow and I am still dealing with so much anger and rage and pain ~ true, physical heart ache. Now after reading this the floodgates have opened. Reading your paragraph about being "enough" so hit home. That has been the toughest part for me. When he began this affair I had just finished my last exam to become a CPA (my professional aspiration), I had just lost 35 pounds (weighed a weight I hadn't weighed in nearly 10 years). Our oldest son had graduated high school and we had just celebrated in the beautiful Mexican Riviera & within half a month after that, he reached out to a girl he had dated in high school 20 years ago. She is fatter than me, her hair doesn't look as good as mine, she looks like the type of woman he would actually make fun of, yet that was who he reached out to. That was who he chose over me & all the hard work I had put into us and our family. Worst part of it for me is he said he never had plans to leave. He has always loved me, doesn't know why he did & is begging to stay together. I think it would be easier if he said he no longer loved me and would just leave.

    Then, reading your "enough" paragraph & seeing that there may be some hope that I will recover from this just made me cry my eyes out. I have felt so hopeless these past 3 months. I have felt like life is not worth living, that I am not worthy of love, that I don't deserve happiness, that in this life I just don't matter.

    I am so lost right now but reading this gives me hope. People have always commented on my strength & to be devastated by something like this makes me feel ridiculous.

    I want to thank you for writing and sharing this. It was an "aha" moment for me. Something I knew but just wouldn't validate for myself.

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    1. Anyone who thinks it's ridiculous to be devastated by a partner's infidelity hasn't gone through a partner's infidelity. It's absolutely devastating. It threatens our sense of safety in this world, our trust in ourselves. It changes everything.
      The good news, however, is some of what is changed is ourselves...for the better. Betrayal can force us to examine some long-held beliefs (I'm not enough; I'm not loveable; I'm not worthy of love unless I'm thin, young, beautiful, successful, etc) that are holding us back from a life of joy and peace and compassion for our selves and others. This is your wake-up call. You are enough. You are deserving of love. So is your husband. And if he truly believed that, he wouldn't have risked his marriage for someone he doesn't care for.
      There is hope. It's hard to heal from betrayal -- whether you stay with your spouse or don't. But it's possible. And what's more, it's possible to create a more meaningful relationship, with yourself and your spouse.

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    2. Thank you for the kind words, Elle. Your blog has become my anchor to sanity when I feel the crazy bubbling up inside. To know that I am not alone in this & others have felt these emotions as well has truly been a life saver. Thank you!

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