Friday, April 24, 2015

We can do the impossible...

"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.” But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see."~From an essay by The Reverend Victoria Safford in The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times 
Hope. It's a word with promise. A word that inspires. But hope it also a word that can keep us stuck in a place that's all wrong for us. A place in which we've abandoned ourselves for someone or something else. A place that isn't even close to where we want to be, to where we should be. But no matter. We hope that things will change. We hope that he'll recognize what he stands to lose. We hope that somehow we'll wake up from this nightmare and everything will be as it was. As it should be.
Hope. It can build movements, it can liberate the oppressed, it can assure our survival in the worst conditions. But it can also keep us stuck.
The "Hope" that Reverend Stafford refers to is the hope of rolled-up sleeves and gritty determination. Her Hope isn't made of fantasy and innocence. As she writes, "It's a difficult, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your soul first of all..."
Does that sound like the place you're in? Cause it sure as hell sounds like the place I was in. And sometimes find myself again.
Read her lines again carefully. Hope, she says, is truth-telling. It's not wishful thinking. It's about asking yourself, honestly, where you want to be. It's about asking yourself, honestly, what about my husband makes me believe he deserves the second chance he's asking for. What in his past makes me think he could be a better man in his future. Is he a good guy who made a mammoth mistake? Or is he showing me who he is?
Hope, she says, is a place of "resistance and defiance." It's about resisting our cultural prescription to throw him out and start over with someone else, unless that decision comes from conviction that it's the right path for you. It's about resisting our cultural narrative that men cheat because their wives get old, or they nag, or they don't put out enough. It's about defying that deep-down fear that he cheated because we're not [insert-adjective-here] enough. Not pretty enough. Not nice enough. Not smart enough. Not skinny enough. Not sexy enough. This is truth-telling, remember? We're absolutely enough. It's his moral compass that's defective, not us.
And, as Stafford writes, hope is about seeing the world as it is, how it could be, how it will be. It's about allowing ourselves to open to possibility. To understand that growth happens even in the tiniest cracks in pavement.
Finally, and I know this is a HUGE stretch for those of you who are new to this site and to the devastation of betrayal, it's about glimpsing the joy in the struggle. Joy? Am I crazy? Yeah, a little bit. But yes, joy.
There's joy in overcoming. There's incredible joy for me in all of you who come here to lay down your pain, for just a minute or two or twenty, who trust me and my incredible guest bloggers (Steam! Laura S! The volunteers at the Infidelity Counselling Network!) with your stories. There's joy in seeing that my husband has kept his promises – to me and to our kids, but more importantly to himself.
There's joy in having survived.
And now I stand here, able to see what I can see. To see that it's possible to survive this and feel joy again. To see that it's possible to use the experience of being cracked open with pain to begin to plant seeds of healing from not only this but long-ago wounds. To see that it's possible for marriages to become stronger and more resilient. To see that it's also possible for marriages to crumble but for the betrayed wife to nonetheless become stronger. To not crumble along with it.
It's a helluva view. I hope you'll join me here soon.

22 comments:

  1. Thank you Elle. How do you read my mind? How do you know what I need to hear?
    And now an update for all the ladies…my husband and I have been separated now since Monday, April 13th. Since I suffer from anxious attachment style and fear of abandonment, I have to say I'm doing better than I thought I would…having said that, this is extremely difficult. Last week we actually texted and saw each other quite a bit… And to the best of my ability I am allowing him to be the one who reaches out. we had one date night (this past Tuesday night) which started out very strange to be honest ... (Suddenly after 21 years together it is difficult to be comfortable around each other)… And in the end was very nice. At the beginning of the good part of the date, I made certain that he heard something that had been on my mind… I realized that he needed me to tell him how much I appreciated him and all that he did around the house and how well he did it… I was raised simply without praise and to be honest don't think to give it verbally … But all of this has made me really notice how important it is to him… In any case, I made sure that he knew that and before I could even finish the sentence he was crying… In a public place… And he said to me if you keep making me cry on these dates, I don't know if I want to go out with you... of course he was kidding. A few days prior to date night, last Sunday, I could not get in touch with him… I promised myself I would not freak out I only sent him one text and in a couple hours later a voice message. I was convinced he was with the OW. He called me back later and we spoke and the next day I had another, terrible feeling…as I saw the charges on the credit card from the day before, and again I thought perhaps he had been with her. He was in my area on Monday, I called him and asked him to come to the house. He readily came… And at that point I felt very empowered; I was very assertive and strict and clear in my boundaries. I told him the separation is to be about clearing his head and deciding about our marriage not deciding between two women, or should say one woman, and one fantasy. I told him I will not do that… If he has any intention of pursuing her then tell me because I am through. He was extremely receptive and said that no he did not want to be with anyone he wanted to clear his head and be alone and then he reached for me and gave me a very vulnerable and sincere hug and said except you… I do want to see you. My marriage counselor has been kind enough to call me on a couple of occasions and give me her insight… She continues to say not to pursue him however it is okay for an occasional texting first yet don't pursue him all of her training has said that that in fact could drive someone who is ambivalent away. I know it has only been a week and a half but in my head I feel very clear now that I wish for him to come home and for us to work on this marriage… Previous to the separation I would say I had some ambivalence myself, wondering if I wanted to try to work out our relationship given the length the affair. So the support I'm looking for ladies? I get very anxious… I feel it very physically… In my chest in my neck and my head and my heart. I have tried yoga, Zumba, talking to friends, chanting, meditating… Drinking LOL and sometimes it's just so difficult to shake. Does anyone have any thoughts? How do I release and except that the control I have is limited in this situation...

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  2. Second part of the post…
    Is there any particular thoughts, or mantras, has anyone else been through this before? What am I thinking when I am most anxious? That I just want to pick up the phone and call him, tell him to come over here, I want to hug him and kiss him and tell him to come home. Although I have had two psychologists tell me that if I can no longer manage the separation that I would need to express that to my husband and tell him what I want… But both of them also said that the six weeks that we agreed to would be ideal ... Since it was the agreement. So again, any thoughts on what to do with the extreme anxiety and any thoughts with what or how to control my extreme desire to reach out to him. Please help, thank you.

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    1. Hi Melissa,
      The anxiety is truly awful, isn't it? In my case, I more often want to lash out at him, but here are a few things that help me most:
      * Writing about it. I have filled several thick spiral notebooks! Writing helps the anxiety go somewhere, and it also helps organize your own thinking.
      * Deep breathing and very basic meditation, like focusing on taking 100 breaths. Your mind will wander a million times, but just tell yourself to bring it back. (And thank you, Elle, for mentioning Susan Piver's book "How Not To Be Afraid of Your Own LIfe" on here.)
      * Herbal calming remedies from the health food store. The one I use is a combination of hops, valerian, and passionflower. Although I hate the idea of medicating emotions, sometimes I hate the emotions more. It just quiets my thoughts a little.
      * Coming here! I randomly click on an archived post, reading the comments as well. It always helps me to at least know I'm not alone. (Thank you, Elle and everyone else here!)
      * Binge-watching Netflix. Takes me out of my own life for a while.

      Hang in there!

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    2. Thanks so Jennifer. I have always been a big writer ... journaling in times of strife, yet for this I have done very little of it ... I'm not sure why? I have blogged a lot on this site though ... yet I recognize the cathartic nature of pen to paper. Thank you for all the great suggestions ... it's 3:30 am ... I can't sleep and I wish he would just come home ... and work on our beautiful life... that some how his mid-life-crisis-affair- confusion-I-don't-know-if-I-want-to-be-married-anymore-I-don't-love-you-the-way-I-used-to-but-living-without-you-in-my-life-would-be-crippling-crazy-ass-state-of-mind .... has put our marriage in danger. My greatest fear? That he will tell me he wants a divorce ... and the man I love, deeply, oddly enough even more so since the affair, given what we've gone through ... will be out of my life forever. I simply cannot fathom that and I DO NOT WANT THAT. And now, I'm going to close my eyes and meditatively count ... and hopefully embrace sleep. Xoxo

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    3. Melissa,
      I second Jennifer's recommendations. My daughter has generalized anxiety disorder and what has been incredibly helpful for her is detaching from herself -- trying to almost stand outside and watch herself and then notice that the anxiety follows a consistent trajectory: starts off small, triggered by something barely perceptible, then builds, builds, builds. It's in that stage that it's hardest not to do something (text, call, panic, eat, whatever your soothing behaviour of choice is). But if you don't give in and just watch it...it will subside. Sometimes it takes 20, even 30 minutes. But it will subside. It's a feeling. That's all. And no feeling lasts forever.
      Another thing that helps her is lying down and alternately tensing and then relaxing each of her muscles -- toes, foot, calf, thigh, butt, etc. That often helps her fall asleep when she's anxious.
      Melissa, you're doing great. You're setting clear boundaries that are respectful to yourself. Whether or not your husband will ultimately choose to rebuild a marriage with you, you will have gained so much strength and clarity yourself.

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  3. This is exactly where I am today. Thank you for everything you do. There's a tremendous sense of relief when you hear or read the truth.

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  4. can you tell me where i should go to post my story?

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    1. Anonymous, you can post it in "finding out-part 4" in the drop down list above, or here in one of the topics being discussed. I think more members check the recent topic posts like this one so maybe you'll get more replies here... welcome, join us, tell us your story, you're not alone.

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    2. Yes, you can post pretty much anywhere. Go to the menu at the top and click on the topic that most reflects your experience. Or post on any of the blog posts.

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  5. Hi all...this. Dana. I posted my story in Feeling Stuck Part 6.

    I'm just a few days over 8 wks past d-day and, while I know it's early days, I'm just wondering when I'll stop randomly feeling like I've been hit by a bus.

    I'll just be trucking along, living my life.:.at work, out shopping, spending time with H, watching tv,...and It will just punch me in the face seemingly out of nowhere:

    My husband cheated on me. He had sex with another woman. He felt enough for her (or loved the way she made him feel so much) that he was able to betray our marriage to keep feeling that way.

    How do I make that something I can live with? How do I "hope" to ever feel safe with this man again? It's not even that I think he's likely to be a repeat offender. This whole thing has nearly destroyed him emotionally and the OW certainly didn't turn out to be even the friend he thought she was. He's learned a valuable lesson about the kind of women who pursue married men. But, how do I ever feel safe in his love for me? Yes, he ended the physical affair because he felt so ashamed of himself for doing that to me...but it was a little too little, a little too late, in my estimation!

    Now I have to live with this for the rest of my life...knowing that he invited someone else to come between us...that our marriage didn't hold enough value at the time to give him pause for those 3 weeks. He says he felt guilty and awfu about what he was doing to me lthe entire time, but it still took him that long to end it? I try to put his severe depressive state into perspective when attempting to make any kind of sense of all of this...but it really was no excuse for his chives.

    After 25 years together, he's not the same man to me anymore and our marriage doesn't mean what I thought it did. It wasn't a perfect marriage, heck, sometimes it wasn't even particularly "good", but we were a team. H and I against the world. Now what? :(

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    1. Dana,
      I'm sure nothing he did was any excuse for his chives...or his choices.
      We all feel exactly as you do right now. How in the world will any of this ever feel okay again. I couldn't imagine that I would ever feel joy again. I was convinced that the rest of my life was about endurance, not enjoyment.
      You have been metaphorically hit by a bus and you need time to heal from that. You will get blindsided by the realization, you'll have triggers. Your emotions will be all over the place. Getting past such a deep primal wound as betrayal takes so much longer than any of could have ever imagined. Our world feels unsafe. Our marriage, a place where we thought we were protected, feels unsafe.
      The only way to rebuild that safety is to go back to the foundation. To talk about your feelings, to check in when you're unsure, to have a husband who comes to recognize what he was telling himself that made cheating okay...and to understand how to respond differently in the future. I don't know any other way through this that brings any of us to a place we want to be. Plenty of people "forgive" and move on. And many of them are here, years later, dealing with it all over again. There are no guarantees. But there are absolutely lessons in this that will help us heal and become strong and, yes, feel joy and happiness again.
      You and he can still be a team in rebuilding this. In fact, that's the only way it will work. He's not the enemy.

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  6. hi i am approaching fifty and met my ex husband when i was 18 we dated and then married for 17 years when he announced he loved someone else and had been loving her for 2 years both me and our 12 yr old were devastated but i fought to remain friends was heartbroken but built a new life for me and my son that was 2002 then in 2008 i met a wonderful man again we dated moved into together and last year we planned a secret wedding however whilst on holiday in june i found out he had been seeing someone from work the usual emails texts etc she was engaged and wait for it twenty weeks pregnant with her fiancees baby anyway i was devastated again i had counselling my other half wouldnt go i only got in touch with her once via a text warning her to stay out of my life or i would tell her fiance i never heard anything!! so i moved on with my fiance we had our secret wedding and its coming up to a year since it happened but i am so obsessed with the OW i am driving myself insane!! feel like i have been through this once in my life i should be able to do it again but i am so pathetic and weepy at the min and nothing is worse than that any advice would be helpful tried to keep the story short hope it makes sense x

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    1. I think we often displace our anger with our spouse onto a "safer" target, which is the OW. Because you've chosen to stay with your husband and he, as you said, refused to do any counselling, my guess is that you're feeling on somewhat unstable ground.
      I honestly think your issue needs to be with him, not the OW. She sounds like one messed up person. But by distracting yourself thinking and obsessing with her, it allows you to ignore your disappointment/anger/anxiety with your husband.
      Are you still in counselling? If not, I would urge you to go back and talk about this more. And, frankly, I would insist that he join you. He created this mess...he can certainly help you heal from it.

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    2. i dont feel i have disappointment / anger with my husband but i do feel i have two ways of looking at this particularly as i have been thru this before, its as if i stand on the outside looking i can see my husband and all the reasons / excuses ( actually he didnt make that many excuses he was very honest why he did what he did ) and then i see this OW who i dont know only from what i have found out and she continues to live a lovely life no hurt or pain and then i see myself and whilst i know i didnt deserve this i know i am not totally blamless i am grown up enough to know i had a role to play too. i am extremly angry dissappointed with my husbandhe knows this but that will not help us heal and so my anger withthe OW continues thats what i need to handle thats the bit that i seem to struggle with but i know from previous experience that the day will come when she doesnt play as a thought in my mind like at present heck i dont give my first husnds OW a single thought and what happened there was way worse on the scheme of things and thats what i was looking for i guess a way to get some perspective somewhere not to be judged myself or my husband for any choices because believe me in this big wide world people do judge and throw in their opinions quite happily when really all you want is a hug, i know what he did i know how wrong it was and believe me he knows that too and we both have to try and walk this path back to us somehow one step at a time because thats the choice i made

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    3. I think a lot of us feel that the OW somehow gets off without any consequences. And in some cases, maybe that's true. Frankly, I wouldn't want to be her. They must understand, on some level, that they didn't matter much. If they have any empathy at all, they must know they've participating in hurting another person. And if they don't have any empathy, then I feel even sorrier for them.
      But yes, I know how hard it is to get past that sense that it's just not FAIR that she walks away into her life. And there's really no way around that other than to try, and I know this sounds a bit crazy, to feel compassion for her. To recognize that only someone who has little self-respect would get involved with a married man. Only someone who's pretty messed up would get involved in such a messed up situation. So while it might look, on the surface, like she's doing great...I suspect if you scratch that surface, you'd find a lot of pain. No matter. That's her problem. But you might find that by feeling some compassion for her, it actually helps you to put her back where she belongs. In the past.

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  7. No excuse for his "chives"??? Oh my goodness, autocorrect! I obviously meant "no excuse for his choices"!

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  8. Dana here again:

    In reading my post, I think I may have come off more ambiguous about my H and our marriage than I intended.

    I do love my husband...no less than I did prior to d-day. I just see him and our marriage through a different lense now. And i don't know how to accept that.

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  9. I've been there with the exact same feelings as you.... To be honest it's not really that he didn't value the marriage it's he compartmentalized it. At that time something in him felt inadequate, and rather than let his guard down, the pride inside him went hunting for something that would feel that inadequate void. People do this all the time.... It sucks that they don't have the capability at the time to see that all actions create reactions....... I struggle too sometimes. After almost 20 years of marriage and 2 years one month past Dday. I have finally come to terms with the fact that I only have control over myself. I can't make someone happy with joy. They have to choose to have happiness and joy inside them. One day I told my husband, "what you did made me feel like you didn't love me and you need to ask God to help you find joy inside yourself. I could never make you happy, and I am done trying because I am exhausted from the fight." was both extremely hard and liberating. He was in shock. His eyes looked so different. I knew that I was letting go of trying to control a situation and allow change to happen. Whatever came next was o.k. The worst thing in the world ( to me) had happened.... Somebody else was allowed to have my space and my time in his life during the time period he betrayed me. I wasn't allowing that to happen again. He had already chosen "physically" where he wanted to be, but I let him know that day "emotionally" better come for the ride or I'm done. It was a shocker for me inside, because I had strength I didn't know was there. I was about 15 months after Dday. Know I'm learning to apply the same rule to myself. He can't make my joy... It comes from inside....... He is just a person.... I can't dump all my emotional needs on him and let the weight of all my life job and all be his job to sift through. It's a constant growth inside us both that will help us through all this. Love you guys - Ann from Texas

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    1. Ann from Texas, you're absolutely right. "He can't make my joy." Yep. Coming to realize that we can only ever control ourselves was huge for me. I was such an orchestrator, which I thought would keep me safe. Letting go of that was tough but ultimately liberating. And so much less work. As my therapist often reminds me, I am not responsible FOR my husband, nor him me. I am responsible TO him -- to be honest and fair and kind. But his actions are HIS responsibility...and mine are my own.

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    2. Ann from Texas...you're absolutely right. He is a master at compartmentalizing...it's a great tool he picked up in order to live with the abuse he suffered as a child. It's not so great for a marriage, as you know. Even after he ended things, he stuck that part of their "friendship" in a box and made himself believe it would just disappear....never to rear its ugly head. Unfortunately for him, the OW is basically a sociopath whose friendship was all a ruse to "get" him and who continued to manipulate him afterward in the worst possible way.

      He acknowledges that the affair was about his inadequacies....both real and imagined...and maintains that it was pure selfishness that allowed him to behave in a way that had always been reprehensible to him. He felt unwanted, unattractive, and worthless...and she made him feel special and desirable. And he didn't want that to stop. She was giving him something he felt desperate for and he felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel of depression he'd been lost in for months.

      Dana

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  10. It's so nice to know I'm not alone. I'm approaching 2 yrs post D-day. Somedays I can't believe how far I've come since that soul crushing day. And other days I feel that deep sadness and betrayal all over again. But the bad days are fewer and less painful. I remind myself that if he had died no one would fault me for still having hard days. I'm thankful that my husband has changed so much. And I have learned that I am not responsible for his happiness and vice versa. I've lived my life feeling not good enough. I still have days when I give the affair the power to prove that. But in my heart I know that's a lie.

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    1. Nicole,
      So SO many of us suffer from the " not enough" syndrome. And an affair can painfully confirm that faulty belief of ours. It's been one of the weird gifts in my husband's betrayal -- it forced me to really examine what I believed about myself and to challenge that. I don't know that I would be where I am now (so much easier on myself) if I hadn't gone through that. Consequently it has made me so much more gentle on others, able to recognize that we all fall victim to old scripts that speak lies.

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