Thursday, May 21, 2015

He's a smart guy!


  1. Love this ,) those words are true. The Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth say something very similar also. AKA the "BIBLE" ;) wisdom in the words given to us. Run with this! We can't control other we can only control ourselves. Choose not to fear or be filled with anxiety. Choose to make choices that make change happen. Love you girls - Ann from Texas

  2. This video on TED talks is worth watching. Esther Perel: Rethinking infidelity

    1. She's really great. Very reasonable and insightful but doesn't minimize in the least just how devastating infidelity is. She has also said that the shame of women staying in a relationship with someone who cheated is similar to the shame experienced by women divorcing in the 50s.

  3. Why can't it be both? While some people (not you I mean, but the straight up hardasses here) may find this too complex I think it's entirely possible to harden your shell without becoming an asshole.

    1. BH,
      I agree. I'm much harder in terms of my own boundaries. I won't say "yes" to things that I think will make me resentful or that I don't think are good for me. It's when that "hard shell" makes us cynical and bitter that it becomes a problem.

  4. Thank you for this great site, Elle. My D-day #1 was late December and D-day #2 (where I found out the true extent of my husband's activities and addiction) was late March.

    I have been thinking about my own baggage and its relationship to my ability to love and trust. I see my heart as having two main parts – the outer larger part which includes the things and activities and friends and family that I love. I have an inner part, a small sacred part, that I learned to protect and seal off when growing up in my childhood home. My father was/is an alcoholic and I found it best to lock that inner part of my heart away for safe keeping – to keep it safe from the things I could not control.

    When I fell in love with my husband I chose to open not just my outer heart, but my inner heart too, my sacred heart, to him. I had decided I could trust him, and didn’t bother to re-examine that trust when his behavior started to change a few years into our marriage. When I found out about the full range of infidelities and deceits that he had committed in these recent years, I felt that he had torn out and trampled on my heart. That it was somehow irreparably broken.

    After some of the work we are doing in an infidelity recovery program, and with the individual work that my H is doing to better understand his actions and to heal from his own pain and personal traumas, I can imagine re-opening a part of my heart to him again, over time. But what about that most precious inner part? That sacred part? I realize that maybe that part of me was never meant to be shared with him, or with any one person. Perhaps that inner heart, sacred heart, is my connection with god. It is and has always been with god, and therefore safe with god. If that is true, then why keep that part of myself locked up? Why seal it away? Why not let it beat? Why not let it sing? Why not let it open to life with glory?

    And what I find amazing is that I am not particularly religious... but these thoughts provide me with some peace and wholeness....

    1. Meredith,

      Beautiful. Thank you for that beautiful post.


    2. Meredith,
      I think it is our life's work to open our whole heart to the world, even with the risk that we will be hurt. It would be like hiding away the Mona Lisa if you were to keep it hidden. Not everyone will appreciate the Mona Lisa..but to those who can recognize its beauty, it is life-changing. And even those who dismiss it don't change its inherent value and beauty.
      Life without any masks is a much richer, deeper experience. It's a full life when we are able to share our whole selves. I know exactly how you feel -- I felt the same. But keeping that part of yourself isolated in order to keep yourself safe is really just keeping you smaller than you need to be. You are strong enough to weather pain. You're showing that every day. Trust that you can do this.

  5. Thank you Anon for the TED talk - so grateful to have someone of such knowledge and insight speak on this "shameful" topic. It's a topic we don't learn about ... until we have to. I hope this type of public platform changes that. It brought me to tears ... thanks so for sharing. And I certainly wish my husband and I had had a therapist of her caliber and wisdom ...

  6. I'm also very grateful for ANY discussion on Infidelity and cheating. This is interesting because I watched Esther Perel and felt something in my body react to pieces of the puzzle that were missing and can't articulate but will try. I'm dyslexic so if it sounds like a rant I'm struggling with putting ideas into words. Perel said "Betrayal in a relationship comes in many forms. contempt, neglect, indifference, violence. That sexual betrayal is only one way. That the victim of the affair is not always the victim of the marriage. I would challenge that. Infidelity and Betrayal is all the above, contempt, neglect, indifference, violence.

    Violence? It is a fact that MOST infidels do NOT practice safe sex. Even those spouses who claim that they "Never meant to hurt their partners." Don't.

    Perel says that the victim of the affair is not always the victim of the marriage? When my husband made a unilateral decision to have a "parallel sexual life." without my knowledge very early in our marriage and while I was bearing children.... I began to feel and demonstrate symptoms from his CHOICE and impact of "his thinking If she doesn't know it won't hurt her"...that decision. Which comes first? the chicken or the egg?

    History of marriage is fascinating and adultery can always be glorified.

    Sexual or emotional the unilateral one sided decision made by one partner over another with the spouse left "unaware," so the real "Core," of infidelity is that you get off from being "One Up," on someone else. At the heart it is narcissism.

    Your better than

    It's clearly a power imbalance

    Not fair play but cowardice

    If you want to have sex with other people that's great but let your partner do the same
    Stop holding others hostage while you act out some secret sexual privilege.

    I'm remembering Wendy Plum who cheated repeatedly on her husband for years. Then she found out her husband had cheated on her! and she sang like a stuck pig...."As if I were the "truest soul Alive,". You can cheat and you can believe that you won't be cheated on."

    It seems too compelling and easy to leave the complex stories of betrayal out of discussion where the betrayed remain invisible.

    Sorry, because I really do appreciate the discussion....just struggling with it. P&L

    1. Well said, thank you! I would like to add a thought on Differentiation (Murray Bowen) and his theory of family systems that was popular in the 1970s. Long before co- dependency was in vogue, his idea that a problem that affect one person in the family or relationship affected everyone. An interesting example is to picture a herd of cows in a pasture. What happens when one cow touches an electric fence. She gets spooked, jumps all around, and the rest of the herd soon follows. So it may be a stretch, but infidelity is a reaction that touches everyone in the family just not the parents. Hence you may see children acting out in school, bed wetting, fighting, anxious in response to the father's not talked about betrayal.So let's add children to the list of victims of an affair.

    2. Valkyre said: Sexual or emotional the unilateral one sided decision made by one partner over another with the spouse left "unaware," so the real "Core," of infidelity is that you get off from being "One Up," on someone else. At the heart it is narcissism.

      Agree. The emotional affair the hubs has with a long time employee has been as destructive as the fuck buddy. I call her his 'cuntfidential'. To his face. There are three people in my marriage. He knows how I feel but as you say, he enjoys being 'one up'. She equally enjoys the power play. 18-months of therapy later, he will not cut the emotional chord.

    3. Valkyrie,
      I really appreciate the nuances you bring to this. There isn't a one-size-fits-all re. betrayal -- not the emotions behind it, nor the responses to it.
      PW, that's absolutely true. I often wonder about the impact on my children about my choice to keep my husband's betrayal of me "secret" from them. They were very young. But I do wonder...
      And Anonymous? Why are you still in a marriage with someone who won't end an emotional affair? I'm honestly not asking as judgement but curiosity. Clearly he's making a choice.

  7. Sam here. I haven't written in a while I guess because I have been feeling good. I am now almost 2 years past d day #1.

    First along the lines of some of the ladies in the previous blog, my husband is the king of trickle truth, minimizing, & only admitting to what I already know. At this point I feel that I know what I have to and although I am curious about certain details he cannot &/or will not tell me. To the woman who just found out that they had feelings for each other I say this. Of course he did, even if he doesn't tell you. With my husband too he insists it was just for the sex; his experience before me was limited & he felt like he had missed out on something. But he didn't sleep with just anyone; the women were friends with him first. He even told me he went to a conference first and met a woman who wanted to sleep with him but he didn't because he's not that type. So he got to know his affair partners first. Of course there were feelings. Most men can't have a five year affair as yours did with someone they can't stand. But you won't ever know what came first the chicken or the egg. He may not either. Maybe he just developed feelings because of all the time they spent together maybe just to help him justify what he was doing wasn't so bad. But I tell myself over and over I am the constant in this equation; the affair partners were the variables. Maybe that is easier for me to see because my husband ha more than 1 affair but from everything I have read even the men who leave their wives for the affair partner are almost always leaving for a fantasy and the relationship doesn't last. Trickle truth, having experienced it myself, doesn't have to be a deal breaker. Assuming the worst, even if it ends up not being true, will then allow you to get over it no matter what u find out later. Don't hold on to the hope that he didn't buy her presents or he didn't text her he loves her or they didn't have a special song or they didn't go to dinner or he didn't buy her flowers because they probably did all those things. But often the men do those things because most women will not sleep with them otherwise.

    Second, a few weeks ago my son was involved in an incident in school and the parallels to my husband's affair/my recovery were striking. I received an email from my sons 4th grade teacher as well as a phone call from another boys mom that my son told some other boys that her son was "mental" (he is a special needs child). I was devastated. How could my son, who I believe is a good moral person & who is not just against bullying but also against vein a bystander have done this? Didn't I teach him not to test or call people names ESP those less fortunate than us.

    So I went on line and typed in when ur child is a bully. It said talk to ur child. Listen to the circumstances. Tell them what they did was wrong and give them alternatives for how to handle the situation in the future. Also, it said you are not a bad parent because ur child did this. Sometimes the same child can be bully or the one being bullied on different occasions. You cannot control ur child's behavior. Children like adults are messy.

    (It is not my fault my husband cheated and it doesn't make me a bad wife. I cannot control his behavior. He can be a good person and still make poor choices


  8. We spoke to our son. He described the situation. A bunch I his friends were teasing him so to get back at them he said something mean about this boy who wasn't even there because they are friends of this boy. Pretty stupid justification. He thought the boy wouldn't be hurt bc he wouldn't find out. He started crying because he knew it was wrong. One of his other friends was doing it too but didnt get into trouble. We said sometimes some people get away with it but it stinks when ur the one who does get into trouble. Just because ur friend is doing it too is no excuse.

    (My husband didn't think I'd be hurt because I wouldn't find out. Although he never said it I know a lot has to do with the fact that so many of the male doctors around him were cheating too).

    The next morning my son woke up sad and crying because he was afraid none of his friends would talk to him. I told him of course they will although some might take longer to forgive. I told him to say he was sorry. He shouldn't have said that about the boy. He did what I said and by the end of the day it was back to normal. He never apologized to the boy because he didn't know about it but I apologized to his mother myself. I probably should have made my son apologize to her but I didnt. I did tell my son when we make mistakes we are truly sorry, we tell people we are sorry, and we go out of our way to prove it (be nice to other kids, be helpful to other kids, & be extra careful what we say). I told him its up to them to forgive us & their choice if they choose not to but most people won't hold a grudge that long if we try to prove ourselves after.

    Have a forgiven my husband? I don't know but it's close to back to "normal" or at least our new normal. He can't erase what he did. He probably can't really make up for it either but he is certainly trying and I acknowledge that by saying thank u and reciprocating.

    For the next several days I was on top of my son, reminding him every morning to be nice, kind, helpful, respectful of others. Every afternoon I called from work and asked did anything happen, how are things with his teacher, with his schoolmates. One night when I put him to bed he said mom I need to talk to u about something. Can u stop bringing up the incident because it makes me cry. I said ur right. I won't bring it up anymore. So far so good. He's been on his best behavior and so have I.

    It's a little easier with my son because his actions didn't feel like a personal attack against me, but I couldn't help but imagine my husband feeling this way magnified about a thousand times because I pretty much always bring up what he did. I have cut back a lot in the last year, esp so in the last month or two (maybe I'm in better spirits with the warm weather). I remember when we were several months past d day one nite he asked me so in 12 years are we still Going to be discussing this? I can't even remember my answer.

    But I hope not.


    1. Sam you are a genius :) that is a direct parallel to different scenarios but both creating the feelings in the person that had hurt someone. We cannot control people's actions. We only have control over our own. We could've the best everything and it would not change the fact that the people around us would have to choose on their own the actions that could lead them down any path. So what do we do then? Communicate!! Let them know they are loved, needed and important. When it's decision time we can only pray they are strong enough to make a stand for what is right. Since nobody is perfect..... Ever.... Sometimes they disappoint but "what defines you is not your mistake, but all the steps you do to correct the mistake. That's your legacy." I'm a little over two years out and I sometimes give him the sideways glance when he is not looking. Not because I haven't forgiven. It's because the hurt has never been forgotten. I love him, but the wound left a huge scar. Well like any scar it's stinger.... Tougher to protect from future damage. I'm ok with that, but he says from time to time he misses my tender heart. The one that was always smiling full of joy and compassionate. Now he says I have my moments of silence with no smiles and he doesn't like to see me that way. He likes me happy. He is asking like Anon'd son to quit bringing up the incident in not so many words. I love you girls. I found Elle in the middle of one of my sleepless nights about a 16 months ago. When I read the stories my shattered heart felt hope. Not because of all our misery but because people like I am now, spoke of joy. Steam has when she talks of hanging out with her husband. Elle has because her husband is trying hard to keep his word. I will now because I'm sure my husband, as wayward as he had been, now loves me for me. Probably because he learned through this that is how I loved him all along. Please don't try to live up to a non existent expectation. Whatever happens you make choices to make change happen. With or without you find your joy. Love you girls - Ann from Texas

    2. Sam,
      You have such insight. I think the way you've handled this incident with your son (which is something that so many kids go through) really well. And I applaud your son for being able to tell you that it's time to let it go...and to you for being able to hear that from him.
      I also think you're right in that it's a reminder that there are many things we can't control, that really great people sometimes do mean things and that life offers up opportunities in all sorts of guises to learn to be better people.

  9. Ann from Texas, my husband has said similar things to me- he wants to see the smile on my face again. Unfortunately, it was him that wiped it off and what I have now is mostly fake smiles to mask the pain so that no one knows what I am feeling. My husband has always said he loved my smile and that it lit up a room and my eyes. I am hoping that in the near future, the smile returns to its former self.....not sure it will but I have hope. I want to be happy again. I am hoping that by concentrating on healing myself that it will return. There will always be suspicion and my heart will always have a protective coating around it I fear but I am hoping that the smile returns and i can look forward to a happy future someday.

    1. Anne,
      I think it's a choice to keep your heart under wraps...or expose it to, potentially, be battered again. I suspect, though, that you're not someone who can harden her heart for too long. I hope that, whatever path you choose going forward, the light will return to your heart and your eyes.

  10. "That the victim of the affair is not always the victim of the marriage."

    I think it is easy, in our triggered state to see this as an accusation or minimizing of our partner's deep and horrific transgression. But in many, though not all, but many marriages, there are many transgressions--contempt, neglect, indifference, violence--that are committed by both, exclusive of an affair. The affair, of course, is an extreme act of violence, like a bomb to the relationship.
    However, if we are to heal our marriages not just heal from the affair, and build one that is less likely to fall apart, one that will be valued the next time that temptations are put in its path--we must consider our role in these slower emotional "betrayals" that are committed by both partners. If we are honest with ourselves, then we need to own that part without shame.
    This is something I see in marriages across the board. Contempt, vindictiveness, neglect does not allow for a strong marriage. In someways, his explosion of our relationship is what has allowed us to work on ending this system we were in. We would not have gotten started on this road without it. Though, with the added cruelty of my having to heal from a bomb blast.
    It doesn't mean that our spouses are in any way justified. And I suspect in most cases, as it is the case in my marriage, the fact that my spouse thought our marraige wasn't giving him what he needed/wanted had to do with the fact that he wasn't giving our relationship what it needed. It took him sinking to rock bottom, to recognize that.
    Our pre affair relationship was not good. His immaturity and self absorption was a major factor in my increasing distance from him. But I also had angst and insecurity, like him, that kept me from always being the best partner. I guess if I was an impulsive person with thrill-seeking tendencies, I could have had an affair too. Instead, I am a problem solver, fixer, overly responsible type (they usually hook up with types like us) and attempted to do my best to resolve my frustrations with him---trying to have conversation, signing us up for therapy. But with it came alot of anger, resentment, and contempt. And he continued to be in denial about his failure to live up to his responsibilities as a partner. So he decided that my dissatisfaction was evidence that I didn't love or value him so he decided he "deserved" to take up the offer from a seasoned adultress.
    My point is that we both felt like victims in the marriage. I am sure my contempt and resentment made him feel like a victim, as much as his neglect, avoidance, and stonewalling made me feel like one. Yes, he chose to low road rather than face what he needed to face about himself.
    But I think that Esther Perel is not painting all marriages and affairs with this brush, though I suspect some part of it is true of most.

    1. MBS,
      A resounding "yes!" But I think it's a tough message for some relatively new-to-betrayal spouses to hear. And I don't think it fits all marriages. Some spouses are truly dedicated and wonderful and in what seem to be warm, loving marriages. But, and I fall into the same camp as you, others absolutely have two partners who are committing various betrayals. Like you, I tended to become cold and judgemental and distant when I experienced disappointment in my husband for not being who I wanted him to be. I played the martyr but beneath it was somewhat contemptuous of him. Owning that (with a small measure of shame, but I'm working on that) helped me give my husband a second chance because I knew I needed one as well.
      None of that, however, gave my husband licence to cheat. It just made it easier for him to tell the stories he needed to in order to give himself permission.

  11. My thoughts exactly MBS. Thank you for sharing :-)

  12. MBS perfect summary. I was impatient and dismissive. My h was always kind if sometimes indifferent and distant emotionally. I was the hothead he was the calm one. Funny how I sort of thought that was working. We were the yin to each other's yang. Our difference in the end was that he strayed for comfort while I bitched to girlfriends. We should have been talking to each other.
    "The explosion of our relationship". Wow. You have to abandon or rebuild. Sometimes you don't know which for a while.
    And Sam...your son. Yes. the subject that made him cry. He got it He told you. That's pretty amazing. Of course he was easier to accommodate than your husband.
    But in the long looong run I don't want to batter my husband with that piece of truth daily. I sometimes hate that I have it so easily accessible and in my back pocket and can use it at will. I have to remind myself to stop and usually I do. In fact it been moved from that pocket and is now in a place more difficult to access. It's still there if I need it but I don't often need it. Whew.
    Sometimes I remind myself today's troubles are actually rooted in today and not something that happened two years ago The brains and hearts on this board blow me away. And some days. Still carry me aways.

  13. Sam, your story was such a lesson. Having compassion for other's shortcomings, goes a long way. But it begins with having both honesty about and compassion for yours. Our kids are such a great lesson. If we can love them when they are in pain or not perfect, we can love ourselves. And we can atleast see our spouses for who they are and maybe even keep loving them--even if we might have to not be with them.
    I am trying to remember that as I still hold up boundaries to protect myself from the behaviors and attitudes that are unloving and hurtful.

    1. I remember reading something when my kids were very small that I actually called upon when my husband hit rock bottom. It said, "It's when our children are at their worst that they need us to love them best." It's easy to love people who are being their best selves. It's far tougher to love them when they're at their worst. Love isn't to be confused with allowing bad behaviour. It isn't to be confused with allowing disrespect. It's always about clear boundaries and mutual respect. But being able to love them at their worst is radical compassion...and can be transformative. And, as you point out MBS, it gives us permission to love ourselves when we're not our best selves.

  14. Elle,

    I keep rolling over some of these ideas "That the victim of the affair is not always the victim of the marriage. Pilot's wife beautiful reference to family systems and MBS passionate insight into a couples twin transgressions to each other through, neglect, indifference, contempt the list goes on. And I agree completely with how each partner may transgress in heart and spirit in any marriage. But what really happens when one person in that mate-ship decides they are "Stepping out" over the invisible marriage vow when their partner isn't looking? Those deciding to lie and cheat without their partners knowledge? Ester Perel's interest in looking at what's really going on under those sheets? and tips her hat to the fact that "we live in an era where we feel we are entitled to pursue our desires, because this is a culture where we deserve to be happy" and that millions of people (because adultery is as old as time, here to stay and isn't going away) can't all be pathological. But when someone jumps the line doesn't everything hang in some weird one sided narcissistic space? That cultural my betrayal my rules?

    These people will be kings of the ashes
    of their families (and children if they have them)

    I keep thinking of my marriage before the "Discovery" as an IceBerg. (On D-day We crashed into that iceberg and discovered it's massive labyrinth of cold-hearted decisions and lies beneath the surface of what we could never see).

    I use this image for my friends of what I experienced.

    I am a young mother standing on the corner of a busy street. I have three little girls clinging to my legs and an infant son strapped to my chest. I wait patiently for the light to change and when it finally does I step out onto the street with my little army looking both ways. No sooner are we out past the curb but my self important husband (in a Truck or Mercedes Benz) comes barreling down the street and mows us down. When I awake I desperately tend to my children and no one is there to help us. The ambulance has chased after him and attention once again. Is on him.

    I have never found a group of people so willing to look inward so critically and take ownership of "their part" in a marriage as betrayed spouses. It's remarkably noble and genuine.

    I have never seen a group of betraying spouses eagerly disclose or take accountability without tremendous help and struggle.

    I have never seen paramours (Ow/OM) be anything other than cowardly or psychotic.

    So what comes first the chicken or the egg?

    Val Halla.......

  15. I too feel that the women on this site are searching for answers. I can feel their emotions and distress but I can also say that never have I met more intelligent, gifted writers. It is a amazing to me how each one of you can articulate your thoughts and feelings with the written word. I think that is why we come back to this site again and again. I came here because I hadn't told anyone and felt so alone. I wanted to hear other women's stories but now I am here because I feel you are guiding me to a different way of thinking. I am opening up to spirituality for the first time in my life. I am examining my relationship not just the affair. I am trying to not let his selfish, vain, actions define me. I just sometimes wonder why it is always us women who start the quest for answers and some kind of enlightenment. Shouldn't our h been doing the work too? Maybe, some of them are. I don't know. I read the books and the blogs, trying to find my way out of this war zone. He doesnt do the work . Oh, he listens and finds truth in what I say but I do not feel like he could begin a spiritual journey. I don't think he has the emotional or intellectual capacity! He has always been so positive and upbeat. "We will get through this. I love you. Time will heal" ha ha. He really has no idea that I am terrified that the last thought I will have on my death bed is his betrayal. Oh well off to bed after another explosive fight ! Hard to feel spiritual when I still want to kill them both! Working on it :)

    1. Yeah, thoughts of homicide interfere with my inner Dalai Lama too!
      I'll have to think about what you've written re. men and women and their desire to seek truth. Certainly some men (many men!) do, though our culture doesn't really embrace those more emotionally literate men. And I do think it's the crisis of betrayal, the being broken open, that makes many of us more willing to do some of the deeper work that leads us out.



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