Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Woman and The Child: Which Am I?

The truth is I'm both.
I'm a woman when I'm able to trust myself and my ability to handle whatever comes my way.
I'm a child when I feel frightened and small and threatened.
And only recently have I become really aware that I can control which "me" arrives to face whatever situation has arisen.
This past week, for example, I've been cranky. The holidays have been long and, since I work from home (a generally silent home), I've been getting little done. I missed working. I missed quiet. I missed my own company, which felt drowned out by my husband's larger-than-life personality.
I resented him and began counting the days before he would return to work.
But in the process of recognizing that I was looking forward to him NOT being here 24/7 was the recognition that he might feel the same way. And that is terrifying. It's one thing for me to admit that I've had enough of him…but quite another to acknowledge that maybe, sometimes, he's had enough of me. My "child" is triggered, fearful and anxious. Abandonment seems imminent.
In the past, I might have been aware on some level that my fears around abandonment loom large. I've long known that I hate being left…I far prefer to do the leaving, even for something as innocuous as a trip to see a friend.
This time, however, I understood on a deeper level just how much my "child" distorts my thinking. Something as normal as a husband getting on my nerves gets blown out of proportion and I convince myself that our marriage is doomed. Or more to the point, that I will be left.
I've learned, albeit slowly, that this is old stuff. This is my "child" curled in a ball, feeling powerless and scared.
So I tried something different. I imagined myself being left. I imagined that, even though there was absolutely no evidence that my husband was planning to file for divorce rather than simply returning to work after a long holiday, I was being abandoned. I imagined that he was having another affair and I would be blind-sided.
My heart beat faster. My breathing became shallow.
And then…I realized that I was not a child. I was a woman with all the resources available to me that women have. I could contact a lawyer. I could lean on friends. I could access whatever I needed to get myself through a challenging time.
I've done it before…and I can do it again.
And in that moment, I realized how often I relinquish the floor to the child I was instead of the woman I am.
I hear it sometimes in the letters you send me. I hear the fear of abandonment. I hear the anguish of those who feel small and powerless. I hear how betrayal triggers our deepest fears -- that we're unlovable, that we're not enough, that we will be alone.
But within those letters, I often also hear something great. Strength. Determination. An ability to rise to the occasion. Some will say they take heart in others' stories of survival because that means that they, too, can survive.
Acknowledge that scared part of yourself that is triggered by betrayal. But be sure to remember too that we women are a force.


  1. Beautifully written. Is it crazy to oscillate between both from one day to the next...hell, minute to minute! I'm two years into reconcilliation and things were going great until a truckload of rage came out of no where the other night. My husband just sat and listened until he didn't want to anymore, but the child in me wouldn't let up with the tantrum.Today I feel like I have an emotional hangover and I'm worried that I have set us back. This is hard...I wish the woman I was would make an appearance soon...still feeling like the scared kid.

    1. That feeling of begin right back at square one because of an outburst or meltdown or whatever is common…but not accurate. Don't let it cause you to spiral down. The difference is you can recognize that your tantrum didn't move you forward. You can acknowledge that you've clearly got anger and fear but that there are healthier ways of expressing them. In other words, you can learn. And isn't that what you're asking your spouse to do? To learn from the colossal mistake he made?
      Betrayal is so devastating because it's a primal wound. It goes to the heart of our sense of worth in the world -- as a woman and sexual partner but also as a trusting friend. I would argue that scared is the number one feeling we experience in the wake of betrayal (anger, of course, but anger is generally masking hurt and fear). Recognize that. But recognize also that you're strong -- no matter how this turns out, you will survive it. With work and intention, you'll thrive.


  2. Elle you had mentioned a contact for counseling do u have that info?

    1. Yes. It's the Infidelity Counselling Network, the brainchild of betrayed wife Laura S., who occasionally blogs on this site. They are incredibly busy with limited resources so please be patient with them. They're working to train more peer counsellors but that won't happen for a few months. In the meantime, though, you can give them a call and they'll certainly do their best. Here's the link; the phone number is listed on the site.
      And if anyone is inclined to donate to them, I know they'll use the funds wisely to train more counsellors to help women like us.

  3. Amen!

    This is exactly what I'm learning at the moment. The thing my counselor has tried to explain to me. It is liberating in a way.

    Even though my husband had an affair, my parents (several months later) decided that (because of us leaving their church) contact with us wasn't a possibility anymore and our best friends decided the same, I've learned so much.

    I am a strong enough woman to have my own life, if necessary without them.

    I don't need my dad to rely on, or my husband, or my best friend.

    It's tragic that they made the choices they have made, I did feel rejected (sometimes still do). But as you say, I'm not a child anymore. I'm a grown up. And I'm strong enough.

    (Of course I'm beyond happy that my husband chose me and our kids over his AP. I think if he hadn't, this journey (taking good care of myself and finding myself) would have been an even longer one)

    Mara x

    1. Mara,
      I'm so sorry for all you've had to deal with. But I'm glad you've learned just how strong and capable you are.
      I lost my mother shortly after D-Day #2 and I had thought I couldn't live without her. She was my rock. And then I lost a very close friend who turned on me for reasons that still baffle me. But a strange thing happened. I rose to the occasion. I took my cues from the strength my mother had always shown me and learned that I had it within me to handle it. Not without crying. Not without days curled in a ball wondering why I couldn't just be dead. But I managed to uncurl myself, dry my tears…and get on with it.
      It's a crucial life lesson, I think. To learn that we're far stronger than we realize and that we really need to learn to trust ourselves before anyone else. To not hand over they keys to our happiness to anyone but ourselves. You're right to use the word liberating. It frees us to include only those people in our lives who value us and are worthy of our love. We get to choose.


  4. LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Thank you, Elle. Thank you for putting into words what I've been struggling with (esp. over Christmas, and I work from home too!). I've felt everything you expressed here as this journey continues. Like Anonymous, good days and then suddenly why am I sabotaging all the progress we've made?? "Primal wound" is so true. Never been so deeply hurt but especially because I trusted in his love so much. It's been an eye opening experience to say the least. Forced to face up to some old stuff is all part of it, but that's a good thing. I'm taking back control, and the "child" me is not so anxious and scared anymore. With time and lots of effort, we may get through this and, I hope, be better for it. But I also know that if it doesn't work out, I will survive and be that much stronger for it. The New Year is such a relief to me, and as far as I'm concerned, only good things ahead!

  5. Only last night my 24 year old daughter said to me ' I want my old mum back'. She means the strong woman that put together a business, that has always been strong and enterprising.
    Since my business failed, giving my husband the unhappiness to seek an affair, I realise now after reading this that its exactly what I have done! I have retreated and become a child again. I'm afraid to go back to being a woman I was because that women failed. Its easier to stay in child mode and living the affair every day. That way its all my husbands fault. He's wronged me. But really I'm grieving for not only my marriage but also my previous life. My house has gone, we live in rented with only a small amount of money left with no credit history to rebuild our life. So yes its easy to stay in bed all day while my husband is out to work and just curl up and be a child. I don't want to be the decision maker any more, I don't want to be the 'grown up' any more.
    My husband has always been hard working and has left everything else to me and then when it failed I got the blame.

    1. Jane,
      Being strong doesn't mean being infallible. Sometimes things just go wrong. We make a wrong decision, we ignore good advice, we don't have a plan B. But that's okay. You ARE still that woman. While it's okay to take some time to lick your wounds, at some point you need to determine if this is going to be your new reality or if it's time to let go of the old storyline and start creating a new one.
      You've had a lot to deal with. A failed business undoubtedly feels like a personal failure. And your husband's affair, no matter how often we hear the truth that it's about HIM not YOU, undoubtedly feels personal. You've had a lot of loss and grief to process. But you do need to process it...not let it consume you.
      I also sense that there's still a lot of resentment toward him for leaving you to handle everything...and then blaming you when it didn't work out perfectly.
      Do you have a counsellor to help you sort through all this? Are the two of you in counselling? I think what you're going through is what all of us go through...with the added complication of job loss (though I hear a lot of that, too. Failed business seems to be a precursor to a lot of cheating).
      Your business failed...but YOU didn't fail. This stuff happens every day. I'm not minimizing the impact. I just want you to see that it's not what happens to us but how we respond to what happens that makes up our lives. You are strong enough to handle this. Take steps as small as you need to. But find some way to tap into the strength and courage you know is there...and that your daughter knows is there. Show her how you respond to life's curveballs. She'll be the better for it...and so will you.


    2. Thank you Elle
      I think the pressure of 2014 being the new start for me has taken its toll this week. For the past few months I couldn't wait for 2013 to end. 2014 I would start to get myself sorted. In reality I have just crumbled.
      Life is very scary right now and full of people that have let me down or disappeared.
      I'm ready for new beginnings and a new chapter in my life, just a little wobbly on my feet at the moment. Once I get my balance, like my 10 month old Grandson I will be able to run.

      Yes I have 1 more counselling and then my husband has said he will start a couples therapy with me.

      Thank you for this site. Both you and the members are a life line.

    3. Jane, I've been thinking about your posts and how alone and sad you must feel. This experience shows us who our true friends are. If you need to curl up and be a child again for a while you may have to do so. But it may well be that this is the lowest point of your story and from now on it will get better as you gradually recover and grow stronger. Rest for a little. You have a great deal to look forward to, especially watching that toddler as he takes his first steps. Plus, lots of businesses have failed in these difficult times, it doesn't mean you can't have success in the future. You will be wiser.

      Anyway, although the failure of the business has made life for both of you very difficult, this doesn't justify your husband's choices. There were other paths he could have taken. He is responsible for his betrayal. Be kind to yourself, be compassionate. Nurture yourself. The capable, creative woman you are is just taking a breather - she'll be back soon. A warm hug for you from me. x

  6. The Woman and the Child, which one am I? Since d day I've become the child again. After the hurt and devastation, finding out the one you loved betrayed you, you trust nothing and nobody, except, if you are still lucky to have them, your parents. I ran to my mother like a 5yr old first day at school, I could trust her, I wanted to be in the presence of someone and something true.

    I have become an adult with doubt and some insecurity at times. The affair is something which has changed my personality, made me despondent and depressed at times, almost like teenage years. irritability, anger and sometimes the most awful " attitude" towards my husband. However, like the teenager I once was, slowly and gradually I'm beginning to enter my adult life again. I didn't want this journey, I don't deserve it, but I will make the best of it.

    1. I too ran to my mother. She was my rock, reminding me that I could handle this. Insisting that I take a stand.
      It's important to recognize just how primal a wound betrayal is. It cuts deeply, especially to those of us with wounds left from childhood. We do regress in many ways.


  7. I'm both, sometimes within the same hour. My husband decided to take a day off work last week to drive me to therapy, I'd been so upset the night before. He was there waiting for me when I came out, I was still weeping. He understood that for a while I might be unable to be anything but a child, having struggled to keep family and self (also sanity) together for months. Crisis over, I am sort of exhausted and collapsing. But if I'm allowed to be so vulnerable it helps - the adult reappears.

    I survived, I could have survived alone if I'd had to. It would have been OK. Some of my friends were magnificent - lots of support from unexpected places. Infidelity has left me wounded but more aware of how others may be suffering, I hope I'm more compassionate and a better friend, to myself as well as to others. I'm strong. I'm just tired.

    1. Tired. Yep. This is exhausting stuff. We often don't realize just how much we've been doing while our husbands are having their affairs. I often think we know on some level...we just haven't grasped it intellectually.
      Like you, I realized in the early days post D-Day that it had taught me something valuable. That none of us ever really knows what's going on in another's life/marriage. I don't ever assume anymore that I know and I'm far more likely to give people the benefit for the doubt, all too aware that the woman who's acting like a total jerk might have just discovered her spouse's affair.


    2. And there are no perfect marriages, to which we don't measure up. All are flawed. People are suffering silently with all sorts of demons. We knew this, but we may have to remind ourselves.

  8. Iris
    Thank you for thinking of me and thank you for putting pen to paper (so to speak)
    Its the reason this site is invaluable for women going through this We need to hear from people who have the same experiences in their lives.

  9. I too feel as if I could switch back and forth between the woman and the child, depending on the moment. Currently, I am about 4.5 months out from my D-Day. Very little of it has been easy, although I find that these days that I am better able to not dwell upon the hurtful affair itself. I DO find myself worrying about a lot more about my present and my future, however, and most particularly my husband who is experiencing deep depression and self-loathing. Despite the hurt that he brought into our relationship, he is still my best friend, and I feel nearly helpless as I watch him withdraw into himself, still living within the affair fog, and only occasionally snapping back to the person he once used to be. He is trying, but I think that he needs more professional help; I just hope that he is brave enough to ask for it. I cannot do more except let him know that I am here; his healing is his responsibility.

    So my personal growth moves forward and ebbs, moves forward and ebbs, depending to some degree on my husband's own steps forward and back. There was a time when I would have been thrown completely into a panic at his change in mood. Now, I can see it for what it is, and be there for him, a stronger person, as I watch him come to terms with himself. I hope it lasts. Today I am feeling strong, tomorrow-- who knows?

    Like Iris, I have found that I have become a more empathetic person to those around me who have come to me with their problems. If there is a silver lining to any of my situation, it is this.

    Thanks to the many, many women out there, Elle especially, who are sharing their thoughts and experiences. I don't think that I would be where I am today without this website. Wishing all of you some days of peace.


    1. Jen, I have had a tough week and have gone back and forth with Elle and others on this blog. I just thought I'd reread some of her old blogs and came across your comment. Wow, I feel like I'm talking to myself. We are 8 weeks past DDay and the affair fog is still thick. He hasn't talked to her since DD but he's tormented and depressed. He knows where he should be but longs for his fantasy. He wants to open his skull and remove his memory of her so he can recommit to us. I am tied to his craziness and am going crazy myself. I see us in your story. My lofty goals of rebuilding are dashed on a daily basis, now I just want to maintain and try to recover who I am and let him be. He will either move towards us or he won't. I have little control. I am trying to sooth my inner child and become the strong woman I was before. Elle's article hits home right now and your story rings familiar. I hope things are better for you now that a month has gone by. Selfishly, I hope it for you and for my future. Hugs!

  10. Im almost 10 moths past d-day and still hurts I just wish my husband can understand my pain. Sometimes I feel like he doesn't get it. He gets upset when I get triggers saying I make them up in my head so I am to a point where I feel im not allowed to ask or feel this way without him getting upset and frustrated. Our marriage wasn't the best of all we did mean things to each other however I still don't think I deserve this. I chose to stay because I love him. Sometimes I feel like I cant go on anymore is to exhausting im happy then im sad I am even on medication lexapro 20mg the highest dose I dont feel is enough. Help!

  11. I can't believe that u just came a crossed this. It is unbelievable timing. I was that child all day today. My husband is out if town this week and my child is sick so I was home today and I was a mess in my own head. My fears were literally taking over any rational thought I have. I had honestly ended our relationship, imagined him back with OW who he has not heard a peep from since the response to the no contact letter, and decided that certain aspects if his affair were deal breakers. Not the whole thing lol. I decided not to talk to him at all today even though he made several attempts. This was the child in me terrified that he was not missing me and taking this opportunity to speak with her and would come home not wanting me. All of which I have to say had no evidence in reality only my head. I literally exhaled when I read your post Elle. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I spoke to him after I read it and he said he missed me and loved me and was so confused as to why I wouldn't take his calls today. Then the funniest part of the conversation was him saying why don't you read your blog that you like to read. She always says things will get better if I'm trying. Lol. I guess getting him to read my posts on here and your responses has sunk in;). Thank you so much.



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