Thursday, February 2, 2012

Judgement Denied

Judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are.

How true. And how difficult to remember when you're the wife of a man who cheated. Even though it's your husband who made the choice, society judges the wife harshly.
Let's be honest: Society judges pretty much ALL of us harshly. But when we're reeling from the emotional devastation of betrayal, we're so much more vulnerable to that judgement.
It's important to recognize that we judge family members for another's actions as a way of self-defence. Consider the parents I know of a teenage heroin addict. The father is a psycho-analyst, the mother, a nutritionist. They provided their daughter with a stable home, two parents who neither smoked or dranked and describe themselves as happily married. And yet they struggled for years against the shame they felt around their daughter's choices. Of course they weren't perfect parents – none of us are. But society tends to want to blame as a way of saying, "well, of course that happened to them because they did X, Y or Z. But it won't happen to me..."
Were any of us guilty of that? I know I was. I would hear of another's infidelity. And though I may not have spoken the words aloud, I would draw conclusions based on what I thought I knew: the wife seemed miserable, the husband was charming. The wife was unattractive, the husband had kept himself in shape. What did I really know? Nothing. I knew nothing about the dynamics of their marriage. And yet...I thought that I was "safe" because I kept myself in shape. I enjoyed my life. I did everything I could to be...perfect, as if perfection is a shield against pain.
We all know now that we can't control another's choices.
And society at large has likely learned that the hard way, too.
And yet, we continue to judge.
It's critical to not judge yourself. You did NOT cause your spouse to cheat. He made a choice – one out of many different options (seek counselling, take up a hobby, talk to you, ask for a divorce...) – that was HIS choice alone.
You no doubt made mistakes in your marriage. We all have. None of us is perfect.
But we don't deserve to be judged – by ourselves and by others – for a choice that belongs to someone else.


  1. Knowing that now -- that drawing conclusions based on what I thought I knew -- is so totally wrong. But, I only know that now because of how much I've read and educated myself on infidelity. It is so hard to walk around with your head held high because you know all the people who are doing the judging don't know any better. And, they are still judging. And, I'm still reeling from the shame and embarassment of it all. It's one thing to know it in your head and another to accept it in your heart. Sorry for the downer -- having a rough day . . .

  2. Shame and embarrassment is the meal of the week here. I went to my medical provider for STD testing this week. My intake assessment for individual counseling was today. My medical provider was fabulous. She evidently is a member of this club as well, and couldn't have been kinder. But I am so down as all these realities set in. In our case, so few people know. But I can't help wondering what they think. I know I didn't do this. He did. He chose this for me. Thanks honey, but can I send it back. I am only 5 weeks out from discovery, but I do look at friends and others differently. Wondering who would understand vs. Judge. Who might have already walked this road. More like climbed this mountain.

  3. Not a downer at all, Pippi. We're all just figuring it out as we go along.
    Think of this, though (it's my therapist's favorite reminder -- and I need a LOT of reminding): If someone was judging you for, say, having green hair, you'd dismiss what they were saying about you because it was simply wrong. You know you don't have green hair (unless, of course, you do have green hair, in which case let's change it to purple). In other words, it's not what the others are saying about you either out loud or to themselves... IT'S WHAT YOU'RE SAYING TO YOURSELF. Judgement can only sting when we accept it as truth. Otherwise, we dismiss the judges as crazy...and wrong.
    I know it's not as easy as that. But that's a good place to start. Start paying attention to what you're saying to yourself. If you think the judgement is that you're a doormat, do YOU think that's true? If so, are you ready to do something about it? Or, though you might appear to be a doormat, do you know that in fact you're very strong and assertive in many ways? Are they wrong about you?
    It doesn't happen overnight...but slowly, with time and practice, you can get to a place where others judgement doesn't have the same effect. It will likely always sting a bit...but you can more quickly get yourself back to a place of balance. Where you trust your own assessment of yourself as truth over somebody else's.
    In the end, what someone else thinks or says about you only reflects back on them. I've been around enough gossips/judges to know that those most critical of others are terrified that it could happen in their own lives.
    Treat yourself with compassion, Pippi. And know that even those doing the judging are full of insecurity masquerading as bravado.

  4. Anonymous,
    I think the day of my STD testing was the lowest of the low points.
    I suspect that there are a great many of us in this's just not something we advertise. I do tend to be an optimist and the silver lining in all this is that, I think, it has made me much more compassionate to assholes (really!) because I can see that, generally, their nastiness comes straight from insecurity or shame or pain. We have the choice, when confronted with betrayal, to allow it to make us bitter...or make us better.
    It can take a long time...and in the short term, I would be very careful about whom you confide in. You don't want to have to deal with the judgement (even well-meaning, along the lines of, "dump the pig". I had a friend who had gone through the same thing and left her husband, who simply couldn't tolerate my choosing to stay...and routinely said to me, "Well, I wouldn't put up with it" as if that was somehow helpful to me). Choose carefully but be sure that you have a couple of people around you who know what you're going through and can prop you up when you just don't have the strength. A counsellor is great, a compassionate friend is great...and this group here is good, though I think we all need a flesh-and-blood person for support. Virtual hugs just aren't the same.
    Five weeks is still so raw. You'll slowly incorporate this new reality into your life and it will simply become part of it. No matter the choice you make about whether to stay or not, you still need to heal from the trust violation. And that takes time.

  5. Thanks, Elle. As always you know just what to say/write and it always helps so much. Guess that's why this is my favorite infidelity blog! I bet you never aspired to have that kudo on your resume.

    In my case so, so many people know. I can't go anywhere -- the grocery store, my kids' school, the gym -- without the fear of running into someone who knows. I have to steel myself every time I leave the house. It's a wretched way to exist. The first therapist tried to shame me with "why are you giving all those people your power?" We left her. But, for me the judgement/shame/embarrassment is almost more painful than the actual affair as it's (or the fear of it) still in my face daily.

    To Anonymous -- I'm so, so sorry. Five weeks in and your world is still spinning I'm sure. Both Elle and I have walked the long road into the STD clinic. I'm glad to hear you did it though as it allows you to have definitive answers about at least one thing you can control. It is so hard to know how people will react when you tell them. I've only told a small number of people and some are more supportive than others. My advice to anyone new to this is if in doubt at all just hold your tongue. Wait a few days and if you still want to tell someone then go for it. And, again, I'm so, so very sorry that you have joined the club.

  6. Nope, definitely never wanted it on my resumé. :)
    But thank-you. You help me as much I help. Without this virtual group, I would feel so, so alone. And alone is the worst place to be.
    I wish I could wipe the knowing looks off the faces of those in your life. Statistically speaking, at least a few of them know EXACTLY what you're going through. It's a shame they can't come forward to you and extend the "been there" compassion we all need.
    I wonder if some of the shame/fear of judgement is post-trauma stuff. That sense of always feeling off-balance, unsure of what's next, unsafe. That's classic post-trauma stuff. Has your counsellor talked with you about that?
    A trust violation (such a sterile term for such a messy thing) is one of the worst traumas we can experience. So it's no wonder it has such huge ramifications for us. I've written before about how valuable it was for a friend to mention to me that she thought I was going through some sort of Post-Traumatic Stress. It's worth considering for you, I think.
    And perhaps we should stage a "Take Back Our Lives" group – whereby posses of betrayed wives march through town chanting, "He may cheat, but I'm not beat!" Who's up for it!?!

  7. Thanks, ladies. I appreciate the supportive and perspective and the blog!

  8. Yes, Elle, it is PTS. I haven't been framing it as that in my mind but that is exactly what is going on. Thanks for the reminder. The new therapist I'm seeing is doing the Internal Family Systems therapy with me and she's a specialist in treating trauma. Unfortunately, we haven't worked too much on this particular aspect yet because when we do I get completely overwhelmed and she has to back off. That's how bad it is. Hopefully we can find a way around that soon and I can start to work on it as it rules my life in many horrible ways.

    1. Pippi,

      I'm so glad you've found someone who can recognize what you're going through...and guide you through it. You will cycle around and around...but even when it seems like you're sliding backward or down, you're simply "recycling" – going over old stuff that still needs processing.
      You'll get there. And you'll be incredibly strong when you do.

  9. I just found this blog. My husband is a sex addict and I started an emotional affair briefly after finding out. I cut it off but was thinking about contacting him again. That's when I ran into this blog. Fate? Maybe. I needed to read all of these posts.

    1. Andrea,

      It is soooo tempting, after such a shame-inducing, humiliating experience of discovering your spouse's sex addiction, to find comfort in another – whether physically or emotionally. The catch, of course, is that you're in no position to offer anything healthy to the relationship and someone is bound to be hurt, possibly you...again.
      I'm glad you found us too. My husband is also a sex addict and even now, five years later, I'm dealing with our intimacy issues and trust. Most of the time, we're doing pretty well...but those same issues tend to resurface during times of stress and we revert to our old (unhealthy) way of dealing with things. My husband has been "clean" for the five years...but he still knows that he has a temptation to act out that he needs to fight.
      Please feel free to post -- your story, your thoughts, your questions. There are quite a few of us on this site who've dealt with sex addiction. And survived...


  10. Thank you for your words of wisdom and invite to post.

    My story: last April, my husband's ex girlfriend's boyfriend (lol I know it's complicated) sent me a message on facebook exposing my husband. He told me that the affair between my husband and his ex ended her marriage and was about to end their relationship.
    The affair lasted our entire marriage of five years. We are both 29 years old the way. I was pregnant at the
    time I found out. He cheated with her while I was
    pregnant with both of our children. Heck, I also found
    out the reason we had a hard time trying to conceive was because if his infidelity. What makes it even worse is that we both attended her wedding and I even rubbed her pregnant belly when she was pregnant with her first baby. What a snake! *sigh* It wasn't until December
    when I gave in to my intuition that he wasn't telling the
    full story. I had to file for divorce for him to admit he had slept with tons of prostitutes and that his ex was only chosen because she was free. *sigh* He does see a sex therapist that he doesn't trust. So now i am in the midst of finding a new therapist. I feel I am a mess! Dealing with work, our 7 month old and 2 year old, plus this Failed marriage realization is draining!

    1. Draining?? I'm sure that's the understatement of the century! Raising kids those ages is draining under the best circumstances...not to mention juggling work as well. I'm so sorry for what you're going through.
      I'm still stunned at the duplicity some people are capable of – smiling at you at her wedding, etc. It's crazy-making. I don't know how people do it!
      In any case, I'm sure your mind is absolutely swimming in crazy right now. Which is why I strongly urge you to not get involved with anybody -- emotionally or physically. If you choose to proceed with your divorce, the time will come when you're ready to become involved with another...but as you know it takes two healthy people to create a healthy relationship. If one of them is barely functional (or a sex addict!!), then there's no way. What's more, you have a great statistical likelihood of choosing another dysfunctional partner. I, for example, wound up with my husband after leaving another boyfriend who I suspected had alcohol issues. My husband was "safe", I thought. Nope. His addiction was just better covered. thing to do is what you're doing: find a decent therapist that you can help you navigate through this mess and support you as you heal from it, create boundaries, etc. As time goes on, you'll be far clearer about whether you can make your marriage work (and whether you want to) and whether you don't.
      I don't buy the "don't trust my therapist" line from your husband. That's classic, I think. It's easier to blame the other person or find excuses than it is to do the hard work of figuring out why he jeopardized his marriage, his family, his dignity. It's critical for you to set up boundaries and requirements that he must meet. And then you must stick to them -- no game playing. If one of the deals of reconciliation is that he seek help or attend a 12-step group for sex addicts, then you give him a deadline and a consequence (ie. I'll proceed with the divorce, or I'll move the kids to my mom's or whatever...) and stick to it. In my experience, addicts of any kind are incredible at blame-shifting and excuses. They've become so good at convincing themselves that what they're doing is okay that they refuse to face the reality that it isn't.
      A great book re. dealing with a spouse's sex addiction is by Stephanie Carnes, daughter of sex addiction pioneer Patrick Carnes. It's called Mending a Shattered Heart and it's for partner's of sex addicts. Whether you stay or go, you've still been profoundly affected by his behaviour and dealing with it head-on is the only way through to a healthier life.
      Hang in there. It does get better.
      And don't hesitate to contact me with any questions. Been there...done that. :)

  11. So glad i found this blog! Im 29 years old, married for 7 years with a year old! My story is this: 4 days ago i discovered my husband was looking for a prostitute is not the first time, this would be the 3rd that i know of! Im so sad, depress, angry! See i moved to another country for him trying to support his studies and im the one working while he goes to school, i feel he is been taking advantage of me in every single way! Im lost, dont know what to do! If he says he loves me why did he do this? Now i think i should left the first time, i tough we were a happy family, that we had a great marriage! And the thing is that the first time i cought him cheating hurt, but this time is a million times worst, maybe becouse we have a son now, we are going to try counceling, i wish i had the balls to leave him, but i think of my baby! Im just so hurt right now i cant even think and my guts is telling me he is going to do it again :(

    1. Hi Nadia,
      I'm so sorry for what you're going through...and having to go through it again and again. Unfortunately, the greatest predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. So if he's done this (and been caught!!) before, he is quite likely going to do it again UNLESS he commits to change, which means being totally transparent with you (access to phone, computer, credit card statements, bank account, etc) and working with a counsellor to figure out what he's going outside of your marriage for sex. The fact that he's choosing prostitutes indicates he's not looking for an emotional connection but a physical one...but that's something for him to work on with his counsellor.
      In the meantime, you need to get yourself checked for sexually transmitted diseases (as horrible as that is, your health depends on it) and figure out what you need to stay in this marriage. It's definitely tougher when there's a child involved but that's not reason enough to stay unless your needs are also being taken into account and have some expectation of being met.
      It doesn't necessarily take balls to leave...sometimes it takes balls to stay and work things out, or at least get clear on how you want to move forward. Find yourself a counsellor (either with or without him) where you can express your feelings through all this and get focussed on how this marriage needs to also work for you.
      Hang in there, Nadia. You're clearly a tough person to already be doing what you're doing. You'll get through this, I promise.

  12. I was just thinking i used to have this nightmares where i was in this situation, i have the same feeling right now, i cry and cry, i have no family where i live right now so i called my mom and dad and i have all the support, theyr advice is to try to save my marriage, but im so scare that he will hurt me again. We are going to counselling, i already got myself checked for stds, makes me sick to my stomack that i was pregnant when he did it riscking my and our sons health! Anyways thaks so much for your advice and your time!

    1. It feels like a nightmare when it happens, doesn't it?? But slowly, over days and weeks and even months, it will seem less like a nightmare and you'll become stronger. But you must take care of yourself – eat, sleep as well as you can, exercise. Find support where you can – counselling is a great place. And perhaps tell your parents that you don't need advice right now so much as simply support. It's awful for parents to watch their child of any age go through such pain. But if they can simply let you know that they're there to listen to you as you work through this, that would be really helpful.
      And please feel free to post here and share your thoughts. We know how it feels and can offer up support and compassion and the reassurance that you will get through this. Your job is to keep yourself strong. Your husband's job is to figure out why he risked his marriage and how to ensure he doesn't do it again. And then it's up to you to determine if you can trust that he's a changed man.
      But for now...just be kind to yourself.

  13. Thanke you so much for the opportunity to express my feelings, it feels good just to let it out. One minute i feel optimistic and another not so much, but i will give it time and see how we work with the therspist. This is affecting every aspect of my life, at this point my son is my engine and motivation, makes me smile in this dark time!

    1. I, too, hung on to my children as a lifeline and took enjoyment in them. They reminded me why I had to get out of bed each day.

      Hang in there.

  14. Your green hair example is great. For myself, one of the biggest challenges was getting over the looks from other people and being judged for staying.
    But as time goes by (I'm 4 years in since D Day), its only gotten easier.
    My husband and I are committed to eachother and to making our marriage work.
    I enjoy this blog and look forward to reading more!

    1. Wendy,
      Society tends to judge wives who stay more harshly than those who leave. Not sure what that's about -- either route is tough as hell.
      Sounds as if you're doing a good job of living for yourself. :)



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