Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Five "Friends" to Avoid After the Affair

Buh-bye old "friend". I bearly remember your name.
My apocalypse came in December 2006. My closest friend and I had a serious falling out over a project we were working on together, followed days later by the discovery of my husband's affair, followed two short weeks later by my mother falling into a coma and our family being advised to think about end-of-life measures. Oh yeah...and my publisher needed the final chapter of the book I was writing. I was racked with pain and fear. I have no idea how I finished the book, how I sat beside my mother's bedside (whispering in her ear that she couldn't die right now because I really really needed her), how I got up each day to feed and care for three kids under 10.
I told very few friends about my husband's affair because I could barely process it. One friend I did confide in, largely because her own marriage had been marked by infidelity and I thought she'd understand, was dismissive, which only compounded my sense of aloneness and pain. Another friend, not then a close one but someone who worked with my husband and his assistant (with whom my husband was having an affair), kept probing me. She could sense something wasn't right. I finally caved and told her what I'd found out. She was stunned. She'd never expected that. She was also so compassionate and became a pillar of support for me. (Unfortunately, she discovered for herself two years ago just how devastating betrayal is). 
It's when we're on our knees that we discover just who in our lives will kneel their with us. It can add to our pain, to learn that someone we counted us simply can't or won't be there for us. The friend who dismissed my pain was eventually – years later – able to acknowledge that she had let me down. She was able to see that she was still so blinded by her own pain and her choice to leave her marriage that she wasn't able to accept my choice to not leave. 
Not all friends get to that point. Not all friends are, well, friends
However, it's one of the unforeseen benefits of infidelity that we often become much more discerning about who we allow into our lives and our hearts. Once we begin to heal, we can often recognize those around us who are true friends and those who are...not.
For instance...
•There's the "friend" who uses your husband's behaviour as an excuse to cut you off. "I just can't be around you right now. I think what he did was terrible." Suddenly YOUR pain is about HER discomfort.
•There's the "friend" who compounds your loneliness because infidelity terrifies her. "I just can't imagine my husband doing such a thing." She's right. She can't imagine. And won't let herself because it might mean facing some uncomfortable truths, such as, even good marriages can be affected by infidelity.
•There's the "friend" who knows better than you do what your right path is. "Once a cheater, always a cheater. You need to get rid of him." Her cynicism and bitterness and, perhaps, her fear that you'll get hurt again and she can't protect you, leads her to encourage you to do what she wants you to do, instead of allowing you to find your own path.
•There's the "friend" who minimizes what your husband has done because she's cheated on her spouse. "All marriages come up against this. You need to let it go. He picked you, didn't he?" Seeing the devastation of infidelity up close brings up a lot of guilt.
•There's the friend who encourages you to leave your husband because that's what she did. "I don't know why anyone would stay. I certainly didn't." Accepting that it's possible for a marriage to heal from betrayal can make those who chose to leave – and aren't 100% sure of their choice – wonder if they made the wrong choice. My friend ultimately copped to this, admitting that she left her ex because she thought that was her only choice. She had no examples of anyone who'd stayed and made it work because nobody ever talked about that choice. Our cultural narrative rarely supports the healing/rebuilding option. And admittedly, it's tough. Really really tough. 
It can help to have true friend who's willing to hold you up while you figure out which way to go. Someone who's there to hold your hand through the bad days and celebrate the good ones. Someone who is in your life because he or she deserves to be there. Even friends who don't know what you're going through can offer much support in the form of distraction or small kindnesses. Their presence is enough. 
I often think of my post-betrayal life as one that has been curated by me. It's less random than before. I'm more discerning about how I spend my time (I've added the word "no" to my vocabulary as in, "thanks so much for asking but 'no', I won't be available to bake 350 cookies for your bake sale on Thursday." Or simply "no". As my therapist used to remind me, "No" is a complete sentence.). I'm much more discerning about those who are in my life. Gone are the "friends" who made passive-aggressive comments. Gone are those who were suddenly absent when my life fell apart. Gone are the gossips. Gone are the fair-weather friends. And you know what? I don't miss them.

Not in the least. 


24 comments:

  1. We went out to dinner with my best friend and her husband before the affair tonight. She has avoided me since D day. She really didn't reach out to me. I can tell she is still having a hard time. My therapist says she just wants to stop my pain. When she looks at me I can't hide the pain and it makes me sad. She gives me this look and I know she is hurting for me without saying a word. During dinner they talk about remember when, I only remember my husband was with the psycho kindergarden teacher before me. None of those times have good memories for me. It just brings up all the hurt again. And when we say good bye I get that look of sorrow, pity and sadness which is more than I can bear. The empathy she emits is like radar signal to me. My sister is my only friend in this nightmare. I don't know what I would have done without her. She gives me strength. All friends have their own opinion but it is just their own opinion to help them, none of it is to help me.

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    1. I know, Lynn. It can feel so awful when people just can't be there for us. They're too wrapped up in their own stuff. I get so frustrated. My mother-in-law wouldn't visit friends in the hospital because hospitals made her "sad". She'd gone through a rough time when her husband died but...seriously? A true friend puts her own feelings aside (or works through them!) in order to be empathetic. Though I guess some people just haven't evolved emotionally enough to even recognize that they're letting a friend down. They're the ones who blame you for not being "over it" or for "dwelling in the past". It's really so simple: Just be there. Practice the words, "I am so sorry you're in so much pain. What do you need from me?" Or opt for comfort and silence. But be there. Your friend is showing you her own emotional immaturity. But, of course, it hurts you.

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  2. Again I lead with THANKS!! My good friend for more than 40+ years was right there for me - for about 4 weeks. Then the bomb dropped -- "He chose you. Remember he came home to you every night. He never stayed with her. You've got to get past this and move on." I did listen to her. For about 2-3 weeks I kept her comments in my head. Then I blew - what the hell?? Oh yeah, he came home to me for 5+ years after spending time, having sex and spending lots and lots of money on her. Then he added a prostitute to the mix. Then an old high school girlfriend was back on the scene again. (she was in and out over the years I found out later).

    I've not been "friendly" with anyone since the reveal because all of my so called "friends" did not want to listen anymore. I needed someone to just plain listen. I had patiently listened to most of them over the years. I had walked hand in hand with the "best" friend when her first husband divorced her sending her into deep deep depression resulting in hospitalization and years of psychotherapy. All of our other "friends" walked away because she was "crazy" -- but I stayed and listened. She has thanked me over the years for sticking with her but when I needed her she said -- "He came home to you!!" WTF??? BTW she is now 'happily' remarried. (Current husband only has emotional affairs.)

    Thanks for this post. It gave me permission to NOT have these types of friends in my life. I had already put them on 'ignore' but now I see it is OK to just not deal with them at all -ever again. There was lots of toxicity going on in my life and one thing I know now is:: TOXIC people are contagious!!

    NO is a sentence?? Yes, it certainly is!! I love that statement.

    HE goes to his second therapy session in few hours - or not - we shall see...

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    1. My experience was similar Terry. And yes, "ignore" is a good strategy in the short term. You can determine later whether they can earn their way back into your life or not. In my case, I kept my unsupportive friend in my life but she's in a different category of friend. I don't share so much with her. She's a sort of "friend because we've known each other a long-time friend", not a "friend who I can count on friend". We can use all kinds in our lives...but it serves us well to know who they really are to us.
      Keep us posted re. your husband. And thanks for all the support you offer others on this site. Your enthusiasm is contagious!

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    2. Thanks Elle! In about one (1) hour I go to meet with HIS therapist. The therapist asked for the opportunity to speak with me and HE approved the session and I will be speaking with HIS therapist alone - he will not even be in the room! Yikes!! I've written a short synopsis of things and hope to be given the opportunity to read it to his therapist. My therapist was really excited when I told her this meeting was happening. My telephone peer counselor is also rooting for me. I am to call both of these "life-lines" this evening after I meet with HIS therapist.

      I need courage and I get it here from Elle and all the members of BWC. One day each and every one of us will become whole again. It will be different for each one of us -but- IT WILL HAPPEN!!

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  3. This part has been especially painful for me. I struggle with this daily.
    When I first move to the city I am now living in, it took awhile to make friends and find a community. When I finally did, my H had an affair with someone from that community. "Boom"--there goes the support system and friendships I was trying to build. It was too much for me to stay connected with the community. Everyone in the community had their opinion on her, him and me. Only one person was there for me and only me. She stood up for me by reminding everyone that I was the one suffering the most. Not that anyone cared. They moved on and defended the OW.
    I am still struggling with how no one in my life gets it. There have been lots of insensitive comments and assumptions were thrown my way. At this point, everyone avoids asking me how I am doing. I kind of gave up because so many people didn't know what to say or do. My mom and sisters also have given me little support--they are too traumatized by their own lives/relationships, stressed out, and busy. My mom's advice is to let it go. She has never been one to just be with me where I am. In fact, I know she thinks that I am partially responsible for his affair--she doesn't know about his addictive personality, porn use, getting "massages" and overall selfish behavior.
    I really don't have anyone who can be with me where I am, a shoulder to cry on. The one person who had the skills, sensitivity and pure compassion, a dear friend from college, died from cancer in the middle of this. Two weeks a
    As a busy mom, it is hard to keep up a social life. And now I feel very alone.
    Losing someone in your life who was that person, taught me that being able to "be there" for someone is a rare quality. It is a very powerful gift that few of us have to give. So I forgive the many people in my life who can't "be there." Though I am sad and lonely. The only thing that I hope to be, is one who can be there for others in their pain.

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    1. MBS,
      Your sense of isolation comes through in every word. I'm so sorry that those around you couldn't see past their own "stuff" in order to support you, the injured party. It's like seeing someone hit by a car and rushing to console the driver.
      That's the hugest challenge in all of this (and in pretty much anything that life throws our way): How do we learn to show up for ourselves and feel whole? It's certainly my biggest struggle. It's so tempting to keep looking around us for someone to lean on, especially when our parents weren't able to "parent" us in a healthy way. We spend a lifetime looking for that parent to support us. We have to be that parent. I suspect you've got a lot of people in your life who can't be there for you...but for whom you're their pillar of strength because that's what you've learned to be. But it's time to begin insisting on relationships that are equal -- to seek out people (and they are out there) who are healthy enough to be able to have a relationship in which both of your needs are met. As my therapist explained it: in dysfunctional relationships, it's generally a "my needs are more important than your needs" or "your needs are more important than my needs" situation. In a healthy relationship (which feels weird for those of us who've never experienced one), it's "both our needs matter and we'll find a way to ensure they're met".

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    2. Elle thank you so much for your car crash analogy,it really helped me crystallise howive felt during the past few years.
      The mantra of ' a relationship has to meet the need of BOTH parties to have a chance is whats helped me stay strong so far during that time too.
      Thanks again.x

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    3. Felicity,
      Glad it's helping. And so glad you found us!

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  4. My sister went through a really bad divorce about 7 years ago. Her husband had multiple relationships and finally decided to leave her. She lost her mind. We were so afraid she was going to harm herself that we institutionalized her. I was her main support. I was the one who signed her out of the institution. I spent hours and hours talking to her. She is my sister and my best friend. Unfortunately, she has never been the same and she never will. Fast forward 6 years and I find out my husband has had an affair, but wants to stay with me and make it work. My sister has been supportive, but after about 6 months I stopped talking to her about it. I think my experience has set her back. I think it brings up too much pain for her. I have one other friend who I talk to, but now that it is past one year, I try not to bring it up too much. After being there for my sister, I know it is not always easy to listen to the same thing over and over. Even though I am feeling it doesn't mean I need to share that with her. Most of my friends don't know what happened and I am glad I chose not to tell them. My mother knows and that was the biggest mistake, because she is too connected to me and can't handle me being in pain, so now I act like everything is great in front of her (which is hard).
    I can't wait for the day that this is not on my mind at all times, and when people ask how I am I can honestly say that I am great. In the mean time, I am glad I have this site to go to.

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    1. Like you, I had to be careful about whom I told...and how much. I had a good friend with a new baby whose husband had just left her for another woman. I told her nothing. And my mother got sick and went into a coma a few weeks after D-Day and I blame myself a bit because she was so stressed with my situation, I suspect her immune system was compromised. She came out of it, thankfully, but still.
      So yes, I completely get how you have to be careful about whom to tell. And I think that those of us who are understanding recognize that not everybody is emotionally equipped to handle our problems. And rather than expect people to be what they're not (or can't be), we choose accordingly. Not fair, perhaps. But what is?

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  5. Great reminder Elle--be careful who you tell. I didn't lose any friends over my H's mistake, but I also told SO few people. basically it was self preservation! I didn't want the looks, I didn't want the unsolicited advice, I didn't want the judgment on whatever I chose to do. I immediately knew that unless someone had been RIGHT where I was, they could never understand what to do/or say. Enter Betrayed Wives Club!!
    . I also felt tremendous and unwarranted shame. Also worried about gossip. all it takes in one person to make your personal business the worlds sordid entertainment.

    I told along with out therapist, Just Two best friends, one who actually at one point, trying to be helpful told me (via e-mail) "well you CAN be a little" ____" I don't even remember the word. I deleted the e-mail so that I would never read it again or worse, respond in full fury.

    I don't think they were trying to be hurtful and truth is I probably WAS and AM a little of whatever was in the "blank" but that really doesn't matter. I didn't need to hear, at the lowest point in my LIFE to be reminded of my faults, thanks. and of course add, I did not push my H to do anything. His behavior was much worse than anything "blank" I could fill. but no one saw it, including me.

    I did not throw away that friendship after that, as I knew that sentence was muttered out of ignorance, not malice. Another friend just did listen and listen and listen whenever I needed it. That's what we need, not just from our friends, but from our partners. Ironically mine became by TRUE best friend, by more than default and simply using the term. HOW? by never ever ever judging me, blaming me or second guessing me. And I might add, not walking away or telling me what to do say or feel when I was at my absolute worst. That's a friend.

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    1. "Well you can be a little______" Wow. That shows an astonishing lack of recognition of just how painful infidelity is. As if we're going to say, "yeah, you're right. I kinda had it coming, didn't I?"
      But yes, we do really gain an appreciation for those people who are able to stand with us in the rain.

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  6. I have more old friends blocked on FB than I have friends on !!
    These blocked friends turned their backs

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    1. There is something kinda satisfying about un-friending those who deserve it, isn't there?? :)

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  7. My H and I are just over two months past D day. I can't say that things are going great and we may actually separate… But I do want to say that we've both been fairly forthright with telling our story. At last count I had told 10 people of the affair and he had told 8. As he puts it, he doesn't mind how many people I tell if I need them for support… As he says "I own what I did." Interestingly enough, in the beginning I told only one person ... more to protect him than I and he told only one person as he wanted to protect me. In some ways I wish everyone knew about us. And I wish everyone would speak openly about infidelity. With such openness, it would not be shrouded in secrecy, shame and guilt. Infidelity is obviously a lack of good mental health in the betrayer and the OW/OM. Unfortunately, our society chooses to treat mental health as less of a condition than physical health. I actually work in healthcare… And I can tell you, hands down, mental health is far more important in one's recovery, than physical health. I wish there were public service announcements about the incredible pain and the life altering circumstances surrounding infidelity. So, yes, our society should be talking about it more openly… Yet, we should talk about it in truth. Drugs are not glamorous ... Gambling is not glamorous… And infidelity is not glamorous. Let the truth be known.

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    1. So true Melissa.
      I wanted to be open about what happened. I thought people would want to help me out--look after my kids, bring me a casserole. It is facing death of oneself. I wasn't prepared for how unaware people are about the devastating impact of infidelity on the spouses. I don't think enough can be said about how much BS suffer and need understanding and support. Alas it is not available to many. Those with good friends and good support are lucky.
      I for one think it is so important to share our stories--without overly being preoccupied with the perpetrators--so that our culture gets how destructive it can be. And when it happens the ones who are suffering will get support they need and the shroud of shame is lifted. But so many of us are driven to keep our stories underwraps because of our own shame or because few people get it, and when they don't, it can be extra pain.

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    2. Amen indeed! It's so true. I think infidelity triggers so much fear and anxiety in people that it's far easier to blame the victim (ie. us) or ignore it than it is to recognize just how painful it is and support someone dealing with it.
      I've heard of similar situations with people who've lost a child or had a terminal diagnosis where people don't know what to say and so avoid saying anything. Our world isn't good at showing up for people without our own fears and issues getting in the way.

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  8. Hello Elle and everyone...I've posted here before, you may or may not remember me. I'm the one whos husband had an "almost ONS" he stopped before sex actually took place. I've posted before about friends, and this too is the most difficult for me. Its been two years and this is still the part thats bothering me. I've had two friends years ago confide in me about betrayl in their marriages and when something happens in mine *poof* i'm left alone. One friend I told cause I needed someone, the other found out via gossips (from a girl who really dislikes me so I have no idea what she was even told) and its been so hard on me. One I did tell, a few months ago, told me "we just wanted you two to be ok, we didn't know what to do so backing off was what we felt was right at the time" which I appreciate that, I do. The other "friend" has pretty much acted like I don't exist. Whats hard for me is I feel like they just don't approve of me staying (which doesn't make sense, given the betrayl in their own marriages). We have both put in an extreme amount of hard work (and we still are). We didn't rug sweep this at all. My husband never blamed me, even when I blamed myself he always stopped me and said "This wasn't about you or us or our marriage, this was about me and my self hatred and self sabotage" He told me the night it happened, no lies, no sneaking he came to me. I'm sharing all this for a little backstory, btw. We are in a great place, better than we have ever been honestly. Its just the friends thing that gets me down. Its a weird place to be in, I understand what he did was terrible, he understands that too. My question for you or anyone else is how do you deal with the back handed comments? My husband and I are a team, more so now than ever, so when they are doing a couples dinner and only invite me, that hurts. It hurts him too but he doesn't show it a lot (for my sake) Are you still friends with people who truly dislike your husband now? Who wash away all the good he's ever done for the one bad? This is all over the place and I'm sorry for that, I'm not very good at writing down what I want to say heh...any advice or encouring words. I'm glad I stayed, he is an amazing man who did a very stupid thing, so I never question that, this is the last hurdle really. Thank You. *also I wanna add both friends stayed with their husbands too*

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    1. I think what your friends are doing (ie. inviting you and not him) is incredibly hurtful and, frankly, childish. One of the things many couples have to do after infidelity is determine which friends are "friends of the marriage" -- ie. there to support you as a couple, sort of like everyone promised to do when you got married, help you through the rough spots, etc. To socially ostracize him is hurtful and extremely disrespectful to you (I can't help but also think something along the lines of "glass houses" and "stones"). If his behaviour is morally repugnant to them, then fair enough. But you say they've gone through the same thing? What, exactly, are they trying to say?
      In any case, it sounds as if you and your husband are faring well, not thanks to these "friends". And no, I don't think I could be good friends with anyone who was actively hostile to my husband. Whether or not they like him, I honestly don't really know. They're tactful enough to respect him as my husband for the simple reason that they respect me and, therefore, respect my choices, whether or not they would make the same one.

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  9. Elle I am so grateful for your website and all who contribute (my story 23 years married 4 1/2 years into infidelity - "Recovery.") Continue to feel mystified by some individuals, even i.e. "Friends" and General "Culture of Cheating" around me. Recently read David Brooks essay in New York Times, "The Moral Bucket List." Brought tears to my eyes because.......Frankly...It makes me think of this journey through heartache and deepest,"Betrayals." David Brooks said......

    "All the people I’ve ever deeply admired are profoundly honest about their own weaknesses. They have identified their core sin, whether it is selfishness, the desperate need for approval, cowardice, hardheartedness or whatever. They have traced how that core sin leads to the behavior that makes them feel ashamed. They have achieved a profound humility, which has best been defined as an intense self-awareness from a position of other-centeredness.

    Hope this tiny paragraph can bring hope to someone
    V

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    1. Wow. How did I miss that essay. I'll post it here for anyone interested. Thank-you for sharing it. How true.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html?_r=0

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    2. I love that Valkyrie,chimes lots.
      Wish Id found this site ages ago.

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