Friday, September 9, 2011

"Aren't you over that yet?": How to deal with those who think betrayal should be healed with a pedicure and a night on the town

There comes a time in most betrayed wives' lives when someone gently or not-so asks "aren't you over that yet?"
Which is about the time many of us compound our emotional maelstrom by adding shame for not healing faster. 
Sometimes these others don't put it quite so forthrightly. Instead, they might say, "are you still having trouble with that?" Or "don't you think it's time to put that behind you?" Or, in the case of our spouses, that perennial fave, "We can't move forward if you keep bringing up the past."
However it's phrased, the point is the same: Get over it, already. You're making me uncomfortable.
And that, of course, is the thing. You need to heal on your own timeline, which is likely a whole lot longer than anyone, including us, ever imagined it would be. But healing isn't a straight upward trajectory from total collapse to bright-eyed recovery. Sometimes you gallop along, sometimes you slide backward, sometimes you just sit and stew in your own pain.
But it's all valuable and part of the process. (Well, unless the stewing is becoming some sort of self-serving masochism. How can you tell? Time...that old healer. And the help of a good therapist/counsellor/friend.)
But it will make others uncomfortable. For some, it's the discomfort of seeing a friend in distress and not being able to "fix" things.
For others, it brings up uncomfortable feelings about their own relationship. If you're clearly dealing with the fallout of infidelity, it might conjure up anxiety about their own spouse. Or even guilt if they've committed adultery themselves. I had a friend, who'd left an unfaithful spouse, dismiss my healing because I chose to stay. If I wasn't going to take her advice and leave, went her thinking, well then I deserved what I got.
And, of course, for our spouses – or ex-spouses, as the case may be – it's a lot more complicated. Seeing in you the consequences of their actions can make even the scummiest adulterer feel at least pangs of guilt. And these guys hate to feel guilty. Quickest solution? Tell you to buck up and get over it, already.
Your challenge and it's a tough one given how fragile we are in the wake of betrayal is to stand up for yourself and your healing. You didn't invite this into your life. You're having a normal reaction to an extreme trust violation. And you will heal at your own pace.
It's not fun feeling like crap. You're not doing it to make a point (and if you are, stop!). You'd love, as much as anyone else, to just "get over it." But grieving doesn't work that way. The only way out of this misery is through it. And these others could help you a whole lot more by letting you process your pain surrounded by love and support. The quickest way out of pain is through it. Cramming it down simply makes it seep out of the cracks in your heart, which is a whole lot slower.
So next time someone asks "aren't you over that yet?", look them in the eye and tell them No. You're not.
But someday you will be and you'll be a whole lot more careful about who you let into your heart.


  1. Long-time lurker here. Thank you so much for this timely post. I'm 8 1/2 months from Dday. My husband is doing everything right. We're reading all the books together. We're talking. But last night I had a minor nutty and it set us back AGAIN. This is all so frustrating. You're right: I didn't invite this into my life. I didn't have a choice. But as I told him, "We are reinventing our marriage. We're not recreating it (we had serious problems). It's better to work on this project whole-heartedly together."

  2. I read this Saturday morning and instantly thought you were a fly on my wall Friday night as my husband and I got into a huge fight (or perhaps the two of us have some kind of crazy ESP connection) and he accused me of "wallowing in my own self pity." Ha! -- as if. Then I simply realized that these truths that you write so eloquently about are just so . . . true. And, universal -- to all of us who are suffering from the ultimate betrayal and trying to heal our broken selves. Thanks for providing just what I needed to read and for, once again, your uncanny timing.

  3. Hi Lurker,

    Glad you came out from the shadows! And glad the post resonated. It continues to for me – five YEARS past D-Day #1.
    Whenever our marriage suffers a setback...and it has been lately thanks to home renovations that are threatening my sanity...we tend to circle back to what happened. We need to focus on rebuilding (or reinventing, as you say) a really strong foundation in order that I don't keep coming back to such a feeling of fragility/vulnerability. Factor in other issues -- perimenopause, an aging father, challenging kids -- and our marriage should feel like a safe haven. But doesn't. Still working on it... Sigh.

  4. Hi Pippi,

    Not a fly on your wall. Just, sadly, one of the club... :) It's so important, I think, to NOT cave in the pressure to "get over it" on anyone else's schedule but your own. Equally important, of course, not to fall into a pattern of self-pity. But the occasional wallow?? Not only inevitable but necessary. It helps for me to think of it as grieving...which it really is. I still am coming to terms with the fact that my marriage, the one I thought I had, is gone. I had a moment today when – thanks to our renos – I found myself digging out old coloring books and remembering time spent with my kids when they were really young. For a minute, I felt that familiar stab of pain because at that stage of my life, I didn't know what my husband was up to. But I caught myself and thought that, yes, he was lying to me then...but that was then and this is now. So today was not a wallow type of day. Small victories!

  5. It's amazing to me how these post always seem to hit close to home....hmmmm...wonder why? I, too, had my WH say to me last week "he tries not to think about it (the past). Hinting (in my opinion), but not saying, why don't I just put it behind me. GRRR. I am only 2.5 months past DDay. Some days I can function, other days it's downright awful. Once I get in one of those's so %$&^ hard to get out of the mood. Does that happen to anyone else?

    Anyhoo...I can't think of another word to describe this sucks. Somedays I feel like I don't care anymore. If he cheats again (which is a def dealbreaker for me - I can't do this again)...anyway, if he cheats again, I feel myself saying "I don't give a damn". If HE makes that choice, then I am making my choice.

    I think angry smurf has made her presence...but I HATE feeling like this. sigh. But, if you guys can make it, so can I?


  6. Shelli,
    I think it's critical – and pretty much every marriage "expert" will back me up, not to mention any betrayed wives who've managed to create marriages worth keeping – that you DO sift through the past. It's the old "those who don't learn from the past are bound to repeat it" kinda thinking.
    But what's more, you need to process your feelings with him bearing witness to your pain. It is a HUGE part of healing from the pain he inflicted to have him be there for you while you rage and cry and lament. You need to see that he will be there for that and that he will allow you to vent all those overwhelming emotions – the HE invoked with the betryal – in order to trust that he truly recognizes what he's done and that he'll earn back your loyalty.
    It strikes most men as counter-intuitive. They fear that, by not stopping your mining of the past, they're encouraging it and it will never end. But without fail, any time I was able to talk over how I felt with my husband, I felt closer to him and better able to let go of that particular piece of my pain. And most trauma survivors will tell you the same. By talking about it, it loses its power over them and they're better able to move past it.
    See if he can at least give it a try...even set a timer so that he can be assured that it won't go on forever and agree to stop if, at any time, it turns into screaming and blaming and utterly non-constructive.
    And yes, you can make it. Day by day.



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