Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guest Post: Telling Everyone

I recently connected with Laura S., a San Francisco-based writer who created a confidential phone-counselling network for women dealing with infidelity. Like I with my site here, Laura is determined to use her painful experience to help others going through the same thing. Here's her first post.

Telling Everyone
by Laura S.

The week after my husband told me he thought he was in love with someone else, I e-mailed a group of close girlfriends with the news. The very next evening they stopped their busy-kids-husbands-making-dinner-supervising-homework-lives and I met them at a local café where we sat and drank tea and I wept and wept and wept. And they listened.
After that night, I decided that I simply had to tell people. Everyone. Anyone. My friends, my family, his family, a few co-workers, the woman in front of me at the supermarket, the moms of my daughter’s friends. I remember thinking that if I tell enough people, it won’t hurt so much. If I tell enough people, no one will blame me. If I tell enough people, they will nod knowingly when we get divorced (or when I kick him out, which I inevitably did, in my rage. He came back though. That’s for another blog post).
Soon after hearing the news, friends and family reacted in ways that told me more about them than about me and this infidelity experience. My closest girlfriends (all married) phoned to tell me they loved me, they were here for me. An invisible army out beyond the house where I couldn’t see them, rows and rows of people who supported me unconditionally, waiting there to hold me in their arms if I needed holding or walk with me to happiness when I was ready to walk. 
My mom, in an atypical expression of outward emotion, told me she would be there for whether we got divorced or stayed married. A few friends, both male and female, told me they’d happily get in line to kill, maim or strangle my husband (one of them sounded uncomfortably serious). A couple of girlfriends admitted they were so angry with him that they didn’t know how they were going to work through that (they are still struggling, I think, because their manner is different around him now). One friend never mentioned it, not for the entire five months of the affair nor the following two years of recovery; to this date she does not bring it up or ask me how I am.
I know that my story – and telling everyone so openly and forcefully – was terrifying to many of our friends.  If this could happen to her, could it happen to me? went the unstated refrain. Would my husband do this? Is he capable of such a choice? No one ever spoke those words but I knew they were there. My experience was a threat, something “other” that loomed on the edge of our nice middle-class world.
There was more. While this support was so beautiful, so unwavering, and so key to my eventual survival, there was something missing. No one said, “Hey I’ve been there.” No one ventured, “My sister has been through this.” I felt as if I was the only human on earth whose husband had betrayed her. Of course I’d heard about infidelity – in movies and books, with celebrities and politicians – but I did not know anyone else like me who had been through it. Anyone else like me: educated semi-suburban wife and mom, married 20+ years, seemingly happy (though the marriage bore cracks) and basically successful. Feeling so uniquely marked in this way was like a scarlet “I” (for infidelity) worn invisibly on my forehead for an entire year. It was only later, once we began to rebuild our relationship and I started sharing with people too about that effort, that three girlfriends came to me with their own infidelity stories. Finally I was not alone.





Laura S. is founder and director
of the Infidelity Counseling Network. Find it at www.infidelitycounselingnetwork.org or call the counselling line at (650) 521-5867 x 101 to speak with a trained counsellor. The service is free and all counsellors have experienced infidelity.

18 comments:

  1. what a great resource, thanks elle!

    i really regret my own decision to to tell EVERYONE about it. i know i did it because i wanted to counter my CS's spin that I was at fault for his behavior. i wanted to frame the argument on honesty. (can you tell i work in public relations?!) as if honesty mattered at all.

    in the end it would turn out that my own network would not be overly supportive. instead my network (i cant call them friends) treated my disclosure with fear or dread. as if it was a virus and they could catch it. i have heard people with cancer feel this way. people avoid them instead of having difficult conversations. and when i stopped talking about it i was punished. people said i was pulling away. i was like are you kidding me, i just dont want to talk about it anymore. first its you dont want to know but then all they want to know is the gory details. sorry but if they want gore and gossip go watch Snapped.

    so in my case i was ostracized. its lonely now in that i have that the CS back. most of this network does not support it. but what i can do. this works for my family right now. my kids are happy, and in the meantime my husband and i try each day to build on common civility to find the love we had before. its hard and i wish we didn't have to do it alone but it is what it is.

    bravo to these women for listening and sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Flaca,
      It can be so painful when people we hope will support us simply can't or won't. That's why this site exists! We get it!
      Laura's counselling does seem like a great resource. I wish it had existed when I first found out.

      Elle

      Delete
  2. So few talk about this yet so many marriages encounter infidelity. Why? Shame & humiliation, naive ignorance about the causes & what marriages 'it' happens to, and a lot of firmly-held convictions about 'what I'd do if my husband ever cheated on me'... I know all of this because I felt the same way too... until it happened to me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Flaca, I am so sorry to hear that people were not supportive of your pain. You are right: their own fear and their own issues got in the way of their being able to support YOU. I wonder if they watch you now, as you recover and rebuild with your husband, and wish they'd acted differently. In any case, you are giving them (and your kids!) a wonderful role model for how to survive adversity and how to be resilient in the face of pain. :) -Laura

    Hi Erica, you are sooo right, that people don't understand the causes of infidelity (and we as the betrayed spouse blame ourselves). Do you know the work of Peggy Vaughn? Her site www.dearpeggy.com has some great, short articles on "Why affairs happen" ie the causes of infidelity. I sent one to a friend, once, who kept asking "but WHY did your husband do this? but why?" Don't know if she read it, though.... - Laura

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura, you are very sweet! Yes I am disappointed in how my friends/network reacted to my situation but I now see it as a challenge. Not that I am going to prove people wrong - 'Oh look at me I saved our marriage & look we're better than ever!' but instead that with perseverance, some long sought forgiveness and kindness that we can find our path back to redemption, friendship and love. Its not easy. I would rather side with the haters when I think of the pain my CS has caused. The last few days dealt me some really big triggers... but I'm still trying to move forward. My daughters are the reason I keep going. Yes he made a very POOR choice. And yes I am still heart broken. I am trying to understand it but NOT to let it change me. If others are changed by how they view us then they are shallow and short sighted. And then when all else fails, I buy myself another pair of shoes... or get a manicure! ;)

      Delete
  4. My telling was inadvertent. Some out-of-town friends were coming to stay with us for the weekend and walked in on it the day things blew up. They were my rocks that weekend and still check in on me. I did not go out deliberately telling people, but it came out...rumors of divorce, people would ask. You find out quickly who your friends are. People I thought would support me turned away with "I don't want to know." Others that were acquaintances held me up with loving arms.

    I was surprised at the number of people who came up to me and quietly said "that happened to me/us, too." Comforting on one hand (that there's someone who understands!) and frightening on the other (that it's so very prevalent). My friend commented that he didn't always like his wife, but that he made a choice to love her every day and to make it work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too had a similar experience - folks who sought me out to tell me their stories. Folks who I would have never expected infidelity to be part of their marriage. Some whose marriage survived. Some whose did not. All in all they were able to make peace and be happy. It makes me feel a lot better.

      Delete
  5. I told Elle, on 7th November 6 months in- I've never told another soul- I can't I think the shame might kill me. We stated together it's hard sometimes I want to give up, head in the oven give up, and sometimes it's so good I remember why I'm still here. We talk, I'm in a different timezone we don't do counselling, couples or otherwise we just muddle through... My therapy is this- knowing someone on the other side of the world who doesn't even know my name, knows enough to wrap her arm around me when I need it most with her words - thank you, sometimes telling someone is enough
    Bee (who up to now has not even added her name!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bee,
      I'm so glad you found us and that you can feel the compassion and kindness we extend. There is no shame in being betrayed. You can't control another's actions. And his actions say nothing about your value as a human being.
      And please don't ever give up. When you're going through hell...keep going.
      Feel free to share your story on this site. It's a safe way to get it out and slowly the secrecy will lose its power over you. There are many on this site who know your pain.

      Elle

      Delete
  6. This is a whole different topic but I need help!! I am on the crazy train and I can't get off! I constantly want and dream of getting revenge on the OW! I constantly sabatoge myself -I may be having a decent day and I look up the tramp on FB and I am in a rage! My husband is truly doing whatever -ANYTHING and EVERYTHING he can to try to make our marriage better and stronger. I get angry at him for basically for the fact that the OW exists. I am scared I will push my husband away with my comets and total insanity. I know I need to let "it" go. Intellectually I know that I am allowing her way to much power over my life and I know that I am only hurting myself. Yet I still can't keep myself from riding the crazy train! Please help me! I found out -full details- of the affair 5 months ago (from the OW -she was only to happy to tell me). I am destroyed. I am angry, scared, and feel as if I will never feel normal again. I will never feel sane again. Please -any advice on how to get past obsessing over the OW will be welcome. I just see her going on with her happy little life as if she didn't destroy a whole family and it infuriates me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous: You don't need to "let IT go" but you gotta "let HER go".
      I was the poster child for bad behavior after DDay! I ended up with a restraining order against me! It took me over a year to learn that every moment I waste on her is more she has taken from me. It took a long time, but I was able to switch my focus to my WH. Very wise women that had been down the road before me taught me this...it ain't about the OW...not at all...it's all about your WH. To heal, you have to go through him.
      I thought I had to know it all and I believed in my gut OW was the only one that would tell me the truth. WHAT?? How dumb was that?? Why would she help me?
      I wanted to make her suffer, hurt like I did. The truth was this: There was nothing I could do to her that could make her hurt like she hurt me. NOTHING! So why waste my precious energy?
      I have always been the strong woman everyone else looks to for support. I didn't do despair, not me. Learning to face my grief, deal with the losses that infidelity bring to the marriage was so hard. Anger was easy. Revenge seemed normal. Fury fit me so much better than sorrow. It took many hours of IC to find the strength to deal with the pain, but once I did, I began walking on the Road back to Happy.
      You can do it, too. It's hard as hell and takes a long time, but you can come out of this with a stronger marriage than before. Hard to believe, I know, but it happened to me.

      When the OW invades your brain, try my mantra.
      "I don't need to think about this now. It will not help me to thin about this now. I will not think about this NOW!"
      Takes practice and it Sounds dumb, but it worked for me.
      Take back your brain, Babe!!

      Delete
    2. Anonymous,
      This is such a great (and unfortunately common) question that I'm going to address it in a blog post...which will give me more space and, hopefully, allow more people to read about your (and possibly their own) situation and hear my thoughts about it.
      The short answer is...you're not alone. The longer answer you can read is that there are steps you can (and must!) take.
      Stay tuned.

      Elle

      Delete
    3. Shawn,

      You are So. Awesome.

      Elle

      Delete
    4. Elle: Thanks. Right back at cha!
      Perhaps we can form a little mutual admiration society! ;-)

      Delete
  7. You are both awesome! This blog and yours Shawn have been are continue to be my life saver at times! I hurt so badly and I so full of rage! I hardly recognize myself. I will try your mantra Shawn. I will try anything! Thank you both! I will try to keep hoping everything will get better. Right now it is so hard to imagine me ever feeling better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We know how badly you hurt. Nothing that had happened in my life (and plenty had happened) prepared for the pain I felt from my husband's cheating.
      And you will continue to hurt for a while. This might seem interminable but, in healing time, is quite fresh. The day will come, sooner than you realize, when you realize the hurting is less. And then lesser still.
      You'll always carry the scar but it's up to you to determine if it's a reminder of the pain or a reminder of your strength. I hope you'll choose the latter.
      And thanks for the question. I've posted a longer answer. Please feel free to chime in with your own ideas/thoughts. My guess is you know exactly what you need to do for yourself...even if you can't quite do it yet.

      Elle

      Delete
  8. Hi ladies
    I have recently connected with the network and I am speaking to a peer councilor It is such a relief to speak to someone who has been there. I love reading and posting but speaking to this peer counselor is really helpin to. I had a really rough day and was reading the blog(ok I read daily but especially on rough days lol) and came across this post. I actually called and hung up. They called me back and I was really thankful considering I was chickening out. I would recommend that anyone who needs a little more support added to whatever you are already doing should check it out. The added bonus for me is that I am speaking to someone who has reconciled with her husband and that is what I am trying to do. It gives me hope and grounds me. I recently checked out another blog CL and started feeling really afraid that I was making a mistake with reconciling and that I was on the path to be hurt again. With going back to this blog and speaking to my peer counselor I am back on track. I think I will steer clear of that blog as I could feel the negativity in the posts and being new to reconciliation I feel that's the last thing I need.
    Take care all
    T

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails