Monday, January 19, 2015

Baptized in Tears: How your grief can reveal your truth

Grief is just so scary. Our grief and rage just terrify us. If we finally begin to cry all those suppressed tears, they will surely wash us away like the Mississippi River. That’s what our parents told us. We got sent to our rooms for having huge feelings. In my family, if you cried or got angry, you didn’t get dinner.
We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane. I think it is pretty universal, all this repression leading to violence and fundamentalism and self-loathing and addiction. All I know is that after 10 years of being sober, with huge support to express my pain and anger and shadow, the grief and tears didn’t wash me away. They gave me my life back! They cleansed me, baptized me, hydrated the earth at my feet. They brought me home, to me, to the truth of me.

~Anne Lamott in an interview with Salon

Wow huh?
She's right, of course. How often do we cry those tears and then feel ourselves cleansed? Our problem might still exist, the pain might still be there, but somehow it feels smaller. Somehow we feel as those we've paid respect to our pain. Acknowledged its legitimacy.
Unfortunately women's tears have had a bad rap. Men, having typically been told since they were toddlers that "boys don't cry" have long stuffed their sadness, expressing it instead in anger or addiction or affairs. We women were given a bit more time to get our emotions under control. It was acceptable for us to cry until our teens. And then, because it often made the males in our lives uncomfortable – our boyfriends, our bosses – we blinked the tears back. Otherwise we risked being called manipulative, "turning on the waterworks", too sensitive, emotional.
My mother, who cried booze-tears instead of the real kind, often looked at me, her hyper-sensitive child, like I was some sort of alien being. "Why are you crying?" she would ask me, genuinely curious. Why was I crying? Well...my mother didn't understand me, she drank too much, I felt lonely and, well, sad. But I got the message. Tears were weakness.
But those tears saved me. I couldn't have stopped them if I  tried, and frankly I never saw the point in trying. Consequently I felt my feelings instead of numbing them. My mom eventually unearthed her own pain but not before she'd stormed through a decade, cauterizing her sadness with alcohol.
Thanks but I'll take a cup of tears. A thousand cups.
The agony of D-Day and the subsequent weeks and months of anguish brought with it an ocean of tears.
My therapist, soaked to the knees in my tears, told me that some cultures believe that we have a finite number of tears to cry before we're cleansed. You, she told me, just haven't reached that number. In other words, let the tears flow and trust that the day will come when they will dry up.
That permission was crucial. Equally crucial was the understanding that, eventually, the tears would dry. Implicit in that is the recognition that the sadness will lift. But for now...cry.
The grief, as Lamott promises, won't wash you away. It will baptize you into this new world that holds pain but also love, sadness but also joy. Those tears will, if you let them, bring you home to the truth of you. That you are whole. That you are worthy. That you are sane and human and okay and sad. Right now, you are sad.


20 comments:

  1. I have to admit that it does feel good to cry. In fact, I have wallowed in my grief and pain. I have examined it, sat with it, dissected it, tried to disguise it, magnified it, and (I'm sorry to say) used it to hurt others. I look back at some of my posts and am astounded that some of them seem so UP, so confident. Early days found me thinking "I've got this!" My other posts told a very different story, as I have found myself on the floor more times than I can count. And then, there were the writings that were so filled with despair that I couldn't even find the strength to post them here.... I simply deleted them. Somehow just putting them on paper seemed to exorcise some of my demons.

    It's amazing how many times my perspective has changed over the past four months. I find myself weaving in and out of emotions so complex that I can't adequately describe them. I often still find myself in shock, disbelief, and deep depression. And then, the next minute, I look at him and am filled with an overwhelming love for him and the need to protect him and lift his spirits. Minutes later, I find myself questioning my own worth, and at times, wishing I had just died instead. But, I do know I am moving forward.

    Through the pain and the tears, I have come to the realization that though I may have inadvertently helped push him in that direction, his actions were an indication that something was broken in him, not me. He knows this and I know this. It breaks my heart that this happened to us and my tears are as much for him as they are for me. As many here have said, we are mourning the death of who we were. We died when our husbands made the decision to cheat. Sometimes, I feel like a ghost, drifting between worlds, not sure where I belong or want to be, but the thoughts, ideas, and details that have been shared here have made me see that there is hope. We can transform, we can recover, and we can be better. I see those possibilities in my marriage. I saw them only moments after dday when my husband looked me in the eye and told me everything. I have felt the possibilities every day since. I hear it in his words, feel it in his touch, and see it in the remorse and sadness in his eyes. Though I am constantly wrestling with the love I have for him vs. the complete and total shock of what he did, I know that he is the most honorable man I have ever known. I love him, I respect him in many ways, and he is a wonderful husband and father. He is strong, loving, and protective and I know I want to stay with him and fight for us (though I do still sometimes see a monster with three heads when I look at him).

    I've had a teary, emotional day and I do feel better. Tonight I find myself looking beyond my grief and I am wondering about his emotional health. Can a man fall so far from the bar he had set for himself and still get back up again and be that amazing man? How does he come to terms with what he has done? My husband truly seems appalled at what he did and the damage he has caused. He tells me that the man who did this is dead and buried. Can he trust himself to know that he will never do it again? How can he know if he never saw this coming? How do I dive back in and hope that he knows what the hell he feels, needs, wants? I asked him today, after another bout of tears and words that should have never been spoken, "why are you fighting for this? It would be so much easier to walk away." His response was "I love you." Though I'm not at all sure that I know what that means anymore I would like to build on it and explore it. How can I help him? Sometimes I believe he needs help more than I do. Would love to hear your thoughts.




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    1. RT,
      I have SOOOO been where you are right now. As horrible as it feels, sometimes we have to sit with the questions. Time will answer them. There's just no guarantee that our husbands will never cheat again. No guarantees of anything in life, really. All we can do is gauge our emotional safety, listen to that tiny voice inside that tells us when something feels wrong, and...wait.
      I absolutely believe that men can become better through this. I've seen it. Not all do, of course. But plenty are so disappointed in themselves, so disgusted at the pain they caused, that they won't go down that path again.
      In the meantime, your tears won't last forever. Grief subsides. We come to our new reality, which can actually be a deeper love, a deeper commitment. Storms make better sailors, said Shakespeare.

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  2. What a wonderful, heartfelt response. Thank you for sharing and offering hope for all of us trying to recover our marriages. I don't ever feel sympathy or empathy with what my husband did and I'm not sure if I ever will. My focus is on accepting what is and not rallying against it with anger and righteousness. Whatever my husband's feelings at the time that he couldn't resist the opportunity to be unfaithful, he was prepared to lie and betray me. I have to accept this. I hope that he will never be prepared to do that to me again. Only time will tell. It's a topsy turvy world, the world of adultery and all I can be sure of is that I am doing my best to keep my compass pointing north.

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    1. North indeed. Ultimately that's all any of us can ever do is ensure we're the people we want to be.

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  3. I feel the grief on so many levels. I finally went to my dr and got some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines but it pisses me off that he did this and I am the one needing drugs. Has anyone else felt that way? My husband is trying so hard every day and he says it will "never" happen again, but he also said it would never happen the first time. I guess his words don't hold much truth for me right now. Every time I get sad he gets even more sad and emotional and then I find myself comforting him. It's just a struggle but I'm so grateful for this blog and for the words that all of you share. It truly has helped me in some of my darkest moments.

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    1. I was furious that I wound up on ADs. I was firmly in the no-medication camp. In hindsight, however, I can see that they gave me the room to begin healing. They allow you to unclench your heart just enough that you can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
      However, I don't think you should comfort him when he struggles with your pain. Not to be cruel...but let him be with it. It's not your job to make him feel better. It's your job to make YOU feel better. And it's HIS job to help create a safe space in your marriage again where you can express that pain. He needs to find somewhere else -- ideally therapy but a good wise friend will do -- where he can share how your pain is affecting him.

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    2. Thank you Elie! So much of the time I don't know if my feelings are normal or just way out in left field. I am hopeful these medications will help me to find myself in a much better place. I did tell him just tonight I'm tired of holding back my feelings so he won't feel bad. I'm hopeful that will perhaps be the beginning of setting some new ground rules for us. Thanks again!!

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    3. I know I'm replying to this late, but I completely understand. I'd been on antidepressants for years and was finally getting off them successfully when D-day happened. I had to go back on my meds. I was so furious with him--why, when I was finally getting better, did he have to choose that moment to destroy me? Okay, logically, I know he wasn't sneaking out that night thinking, "Ha ha! I'm going to make her sorry she ever married me!" but that didn't stop me from feeling that way.

      ~Gee

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  4. Anonymous,
    I feel the same way about our husbands' promises to never cheat again. You said
    "...he says it will "never" happen again, but he also said it would never happen the first time." and I COMPLETELY agree with you. I say the same thing to myself every time he says it. Similarly, when he says "I love you." My mind silently replies with "The same way you loved me while you cheated on me?" or, my all time favorite silent reply... "for now." I do understand that there is a GREAT chance that our husbands mean these words and that they are working toward repairing the damage they have done. I am hoping with all my heart that my husband truly means what he is saying. But, the little voice in my heart is not going to completely believe it again, not so soon. At this point, we would be crazy to take their words at face value. So, I think that its natural for us to feel this way. I do take comfort in the fact that my husband knows and understands that he is completely free to go. I wouldn't try to stop him and I would make the break as easy as possible for both of us. I am not holding him hostage in any way. So, I believe that he is here because he wants to be. At this point, only time will tell if he truly means it. In the meantime, I won't stop him from saying he loves me, and I won't discourage him from promising it will never happen again. Though I am not placing all of my trust in his words, it does help to know he is trying. Who knows, maybe one day I will feel so safe that that little voice will just the hell up.

    Regarding anti-depressants, etc. I have been tempted, believe me. But, throughout this process I feel like I have lost a lot of who I am and taking medication to dull the feelings and the pain somehow doesn't feel right FOR ME. I know it has helped others tremendously. I have never been one to take any sort of RX so I just can't go there. Now, that's not to say that I don't polish of a bottle of wine every now and again, and when my husband and I go dancing I find myself drinking a tad bit more than I used to. It just helps me relax in that environment as I am horrified that one day we will run into the OW there. So, I guess we all have different methods of coping. I have often remarked to my husband that I am amazed that I haven't become an alcoholic throughout this ordeal.

    Some things that HAVE helped me:

    1. I increased my vitamin intake. B Vitamins, magnesium, fish oils, thiamine, adrenals, and vitamin C have been really helpful to me. I do believe they keep me more balanced emotionally and they have also minimized some of the other issues women deal with at midlife.

    2. Working out: I started working out consistently about 6 months before my husband's crisis and though I still haven't gotten back to the same routine as before dday, I am trying and workout days always seem less emotional for me.

    3. Long walks with my husband and long talks with my husband

    4. A few days ago, I asked my husband to meet me at a restaurant for lunch. I'm not sure why, but it felt really different. I got there early, ordered drinks and waited. When he walked through the door and smiled at me, the look on his face melted my heart and the old butterflies were there. HA! I thought they had all died or gone somewhere else. Can't explain it, but it definitely picked me up.

    Maybe others will share what they have been doing to help throughout this nightmare?

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  5. Amen Elle, we do have a habit of helping those in pain--
    well let them live with their pain, face it, get to the bottom of it and DEAL WITH IT. It's NOT cruel, it's the best thing you can do for someone. You know what caused your pain (at least this round) he needs to discover what led him to medicating his pain and doint that by choosing to be with another woman.

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  6. I took my first antidepressant yesterday. And my last. Like you, Elle, I became furious that it has come to this - me on medication. The medicine through me into despair. It was truly one of the darkest nights Ive has since I found out about his affairs. In my case, he confessed everything after an incredible spiritual conversion. Had I found any of this out on my own, our marriage wouldn't have survived, no question about it. He lied and cheated for more than 20 years. I have a question I haven't see addressed anywhere, perhaps not relevant to this thread. It's been six weeks since he came clean, the most difficult six weeks of my life. I think I can trust him, but I don't want. to be stupid. Has anyone here played detective? It would be very easy (surprising easy - why didn't I think of this years ago?) to put him to the test. I work with computers and social media. I can easily create a fake account "from his past" to put his promises to the test. I can't make up my mind. I never snooped, never accused, never went delving into his emails or phone records. Now I regret that I didn't. I'm looking for thoughts from those who have been down this road.

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    1. Anonymous:
      In the beginning, I briefly thought about doing the same. My husband has been working so hard to put me back into a safe place that I can't do it. But, my husband cheated for only about three weeks and ended it before I knew. It wasn't long-term and it wasn't with multiple women. I believe the details matter when determining how much you should trust them right now. Just think it through, don't cause yourself more unnecessary pain.

      Having said that, I do sometimes wish I could somehow get a peak at the OW's Facebook page. I would like to know, once and for all, if she really is pregnant. First she was pregnant, then she said she miscarried, now she is saying she never miscarried. She is still with her husband so if she really is pregnant don't you think it would be on her fb page? I guess time will tell.... you can't lie about something like that indefinitely.

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    2. Anonymous,
      I'm not a fan of being deceitful and trying to "trap" somebody. I think if the plan is to rebuild a marriage with honesty and integrity as its pillars, then that applies to you too. You can absolutely check in with his various devices, you can install key loggers or whatever else you need, you can insist (and I definitely would!!) that he seek therapy to help him understand his compulsions and control them. But I just don't think being dishonest is the way to go.

      And RT, do your best to cut the OW out of your lives, which means not peaking at her FB page. She was a convenient distraction. Let her train wreck of a life run its course without you watching.

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    3. Elle, you are right. I need to stop opening the door for the ow to hurt me. My husband slammed that door and locked it in September. I need to do the same. Thank you for reminding me.....again. Can I just give you my email address and you can send me a daily reminder? Lol

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    4. H'mmm...daily reminder is a good idea. Wonder what I can figure out to deliver daily reminders...

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  7. Anon--I think it is totally FAIR that you have access to ALL of his accounts. I did and spent quite a few (ok, a LOT) of sleepless nights going through them all.. My H was half in the bag the whole year and I found things on the internet under his false name that not even HE remembered. Dating sites, craigs list, and on and on and on-- a lot of those things were time stamped and he wrote them at 3-4-5 in the morning. He honestly did not remember. I only believe THAT because after months of snooping (while sober) even I COULD NOT keep track of what I knew and what I did not. your husband should be as transparant as GLASS for as long as you need. Even a therapist would probably tell you that. I wanted to set up "lures" but I did not go that far. I wanted to contact the OW, but instead i destroyed her info, so i did not keep the game alive (she had an odd e-mail address full of numbers, not even my H knew it by heart as his e-mails were alwasy replies--so he did not write it over and ove and over). I felt the fool because every bit of info i needed was RIGHT on our phone bill--which i PAID. I just never LOOKED at it. Of course, i never thought i had a reason to either. So yes, wanting to be detective, totally normal. Just dont toruture yourself---you've had enough of that Six weeks is nothing. Being in pain right now is totally normal. That info may not be helpful--but maybe it is. You are a normal, loving and completly in shock woman right now. Its a shock we are not ALL on meds at this point and it's infuriating that YOU have to be when you did no wrong, but you are taking care of yourself and that is a DAMN GOOD STEP in the right direction.

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  8. To the anonymous woman considering setting up a fake account:

    I apologize for the length of this post.

    I spent about 10 years of my marriage playing detective. Multiple times I even considered hiring one. I snooped, looked through his pockets and drawers, carry on bags, etc. I never demanded his phone or email passwords because I was too afraid, and that would have given me my answers.

    About 2 years ago he switched from blackberry to iphone which is much easier to sneek a peak at someone's password. August 2013 I looked thru his phone and saw a bunch of texts of naked pix from different women and texts of I love you and I want to fuck you. With that hard evidence he admitted to sexting but said he would stop.

    About a week later I emailed him an article on sexting as an addiction. He didn't sign off on our computer, so I looked through his emails. I searched for emails to and from a woman that I had suspected a physical affair with (when snooping I had found multiple love letters from her. I never confronted him because I knew he would say it was one sided, he would never cross that line, he would never let anything happen, he would never jeopardize his family and marriage). Sure enough I found emails stating they slept together and loved each other (one was clearly an email exchange once the relationship fell apart). So then he was forced to admit to that physical affair, but again said that was the only one and partially blamed the poor state our marriage had been in.

    Then in May of 2014 I found a voice recording he had made of voicemails from his blackberry when he switched to an iphone because he thought he would lose them forever. The excuse he gave was a voicemail from our son who was 3 at the time saying he poo'd in the toilet. Of course when I heard the voicemails they were full of at least 3 women saying they loved him. Again, the only reason he admitted to yet another physical affair was because I told him one of the messages talked about them having sex, and one message talked about them swimming naked in OUR pool and lying outside OUR pool naked. He actually initially had the nerve to deny, saying it was a wrong message meant for someone else. Then when he saw I wasn't THAT stupid, he admitted to that physical affair about 10 years ago.

    That's when I practically gave up snooping. Because now that I see there was more than one physical affair, the first one being when we didn't have marital problems or children to take my attention away from him, I know that the affairs had to do with his feelings of self-worth or lack thereof rather than me. I don't care any more if there were 3 or 20.

    I've thought about buying another cell phone, pretending it was him, and texting some of these women, esp the ones he was sexting but claims he didn't sleep with, to try to get more info and prove that he slept with them too, since the only times he admits to anything is when it's irrefutable. But what's the point? To add 3 more to the list?

    Yes I see that you want to test him now to see if he is faithful now. As many tests as you make though he can still fake you out if he really wants to. Yes I check my husbands phone but he might just be deleting calls and texts right before he walks in the door every day. I have already wasted 10 years of my life obsessing over whether he was cheating and what was wrong with me to make him cheat. No more. He might be cheating now but I tell you if he is, at least I'm making it extremely difficult. With the number of times I ask him whom he was talking to, texting, and what charges were on his card, I think if something didn't make sense I would have found out by now. I no longer help him cover his tracks; I no longer accept half an answer just to keep the peace; I no longer accept a non-answer; I no longer stifle my questions and feelings because I am afraid he will leave.

    Sam

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    1. Thank you Sam. I have been torturing myself trying to figure out if somehow my husband had cheated more than once over 26 years. I think I know he hadn't because he's just so damn bad at it in general.... Clumsy and clueless really. But, that hasn't stopped me from searching my memory and questioning our whole marriage. Your post just put everything into perspective for me. We're moving forward so I'll stop trying to dig up something that may or may not have happened in the past. You are amazing.

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  9. Sam,

    "I no longer help him cover his tracks; I no longer accept half an answer just to keep the peace; I no longer accept a non-answer; I no longer stifle my questions and feelings because I am afraid he will leave."
    That's what will save YOU. We can never control another person. All we can do is control our own actions. Sam, you recognized, as you said, that you were accepting "half-answers". You realized that you were, in some capacity, agreeing to tolerate his infidelity out of fear of being left. Now that you know that you will always be able to stand on your feet, it's a choice to allow him the chance to redeem himself. If he blows it, well...his loss. We're all hoping he's smarter than that. You're certainly smart enough to know that now.

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  10. and you know, once you find out for sure, you no longer have to 2nd guess yourself. you are not crazy. that was huge for me. as i knew something was wrong, but I thought it was alcoholic escalation. I was so focused on THAT i never thought there was another woman in play. EVER. I knew something was up, but not what. finding the what was EXCRUCIATING but it was the truth and once you know the truth you can decide what to do with it. Great advice ladies. Bravo to all of you!

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