Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Which Direction is Good for You? Head that way...

"I did what anyone who's ever had to rebuild their life has to do – very slowly, one step at a time, find a way to walk back in the direction that's going to be good for you. That isn't about your sorrow and your suffering but is about your strength and your light. And it's about healing your wounds instead of circling around them neverendingly."
– Cheryl Strayed, Dear Sugar Radio, "The Wounded Child Within"

I ask your forgiveness of me and of what might seem like my relentless insistence that you will heal from this. So often your comments read like my own thoughts in the early days post-betrayal, when I was absolutely certain I would never ever feel anything but agony again. When I might accept that the day would come when I could function but I simply could not accept that this shattered mess where my heart used to be would once again be whole. And so I recognize your agony as my own. I remember as well my inability to recognize my strength, so crippled did I feel by my husband's infidelity. Your insistence that I'm wrong, that you simply can't heal from this, sounds so familiar.
And I'm guilty, I know, of sometimes forgetting the sharp edges of that pain. And so I respond, perhaps unfeelingly, offering up platitudes that healing will come, insisting that whether he introduced his OW to his friends is immaterial and that whether they slept together twice or two hundred times hardly matters. He cheated. That's what matters. It's, really, all you need to know.
Except this. You need to know this also even if it makes you want to punch me in the face: Your healing is possible. No matter how devastating his betrayal. No matter the depths of his depravity. You can heal from this. It will take a whole lot longer than any of us ever imagined it would. It will be really really hard. But, as the two Sugars on Dear Sugar radio told "Wounded Child Within", healing is always possible when we shift our gaze from what happened to what we will do about what happened. Or, as Strayed puts it, when we walk back in a direction that's going to be good for us.
Strayed is talking about her own self-destructive choices in the wake of her mother's death. Wracked by grief, she numbed herself with sex, with drugs, with aimlessness. Her choices felt like no choice at all. No matter which direction she went, her mother was dead. There was no changing that.
Which is a big part of what trips us up, I think. Our choices don't include a good one. Instead, we're given the choice between shitty and shittier. We can stay and keep our children's world relatively intact and not have to tell our dying mother that her son-in-law is a snake and cross our fingers that our "I'll-never-do-this-to-you-again" husband is speaking the truth. Or we can leave a marriage that seems irreparable and unhealthy, model resilience and fortitude to our heartbroken children, and cross our fingers that we can survive every second Christmas by volunteering at the food bank. I used to wail to my husband that my only choices were to sacrifice my happiness or my children's. Shitty. And shittier.
But a funny thing happened when I gave up on happiness. Once I'd resolved that I'd never again ever feel joy but decided that I would at least fight for feeling less horrible, I began to experience slivers of, let's call them, hope. In my pursuit of less horrible, I stopped focussing on my husband and all the ways in which he'd ruined my life and turned instead to what I could do to rebuild it. I still had no idea whether this rebuilding would incorporate my husband or not. I was leaning heavily toward not but was waiting until I felt less emotionally fragile before springing that news on my blissfully ignorant children. And so I shored up myself. With therapy. With long walks alongside my beloved dogs. With meditation. With an intention to notice those slivers of hope and stockpile them. I was, to again borrow Strayed's metaphor, walking in the direction of what was good for me. I was intentionally shifting my gaze from what my husband had done to what I was going to do with that. I had felt my sorrow and suffering – and I think it's crucial to feel your sorrow and suffering. You don't get to skip that step – but I was ready to recast it as strength and light.
I know it's not easy. It will probably be the hardest thing you've ever done. But it will save your life. It will ensure that the life you save is full and rich. There are no guarantees that you will be spared further pain. In fact, I can assure you there will be more heartache, in one form or another, to come. But that heartache will happen to a different you. One that is able to walk in the direction of strength and light. One that can feel her sorrow and suffering without letting it define her. And one that is more compassionate and more open-hearted for having suffered. One that savours every drop of joy that life offers, and I promise you, joy will come.

59 comments:

  1. Masterpiece Elle, bravo ... i dont want to punch you ... i want to catch your hopefulness, breath in your know how and apply your wisdom to find my/our healing and .... hopfully, succeed and maybe even help another along the way. Wounded but not broken ... thats a start.

    Bravo again ... geez i so needed this today!

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    1. I love your motto, Wounded-but-not-broken! Your "head is bloody but unbowed." Such a wonderful spirit, my friend!

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    2. Helping each other is the best way of healing. It's the best way of living.

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  2. Such a beautiful post, thank you so much. It puts clearly into words what I'm trying to work towards and clears so much confusion at not knowing how we can live with the things that happened. This is the only way.

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    1. Fragments,
      We live with it by living with it...and refusing to, as Strayed says, endlessly circling our wounds. Glad it helped.

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  3. You have helped me, over the last two years, to see that the impossible can happen. that I cannot ever change what he did, or for that matter, what I did, and i can't change him now, as he too has walked, a bit hobbled in the direction good for him and made his own wiser choices. Whew.
    . But I can change myself, help myself, nurture myself and be myself. I was always enough. I just wasn't aware.
    I remember the flash of time and exactly where we were standing and exactly how much i was crying when I said/sobbed to him on the balcony on NYE (one day and a few hours post d-day) "you have ruined EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING"
    I honestly thought i would never take another step, another breath without pain. These blogs you write, like the one above are what TOLD me that there was a light out there somewhere, a possibility that I could be happy again, that I could even be happy +with+ him and not want to kill him every day. There would be a time when I would Not weep. every. single. day. Thanks for reminders like this. And for a place to dump all of my anger, pain, insecurities and healing. Only two friends know--only two friends, and YOU friends, so it's a blessing to be able to shout it from this rooftop. A totally different balcony, where I am no longer weeping.

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    1. Awwwww Steam. Thank-you for this. Love that you're on a different balcony/rooftop now. One from which you can spread your wings and take off.

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  4. You have a real gift, Elle. I let anxiety take me over during the last couple of days. I am really trying to move on from that. Thank you for your words.

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    1. Phoenix,
      We ALL cave in to the anxiety. It won't be the last time and that's okay. You'll rise, each time, and move forward. This is so tough. It's such a primal wound. Be gentle with yourself.

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  5. This is just so beautiful. Do you mind if I share it on my blog?

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    1. Absolutely. But please link to this site, if you would. Thank-you!

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  6. Elle,

    Absolutely brilliant, point of view is everything. Almost 28 yrs ago this weekend my husband began his 2 Ned affair with a flight attendant. Have we lived happily ever after that minefield? No, but I have had found strength, happiness in unexpected moments, and at my age a greater appreciation for life. My fathers mental illness, my husbands affairs, and the aggressive head and neck cancer- all of them interrupted my life in staggering ways. Who can say that one pain is greater than another. This is life. Look at how you survived and feel proud that you're still standing and putting one foot in front of the other until one day you see the beautiful sunrise. Slivers of happiness, love it!

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    1. PW,
      :)
      Hugs to you for all the strength you've shown in so many ways. May many many slivers of joy come your way.

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  7. Thank you Elle, this is such a great message and I appreciate that you light the path of hope for the rest of us.

    I have had 3 days of anxiety, pain shopping, and acting like the CIA towards my H. While I have known in my mind that these actions were not helpful, I found it so hard (hmmm possible to stop). This morning though I really felt in my heart - I don't want to do those things anymore!!! I want to walk in a direction that is good for me. Towards hope and healing for the future. Hopefully with my H because I think he really does want our lives together.

    I am trusting you Elle, Steam, and others here that it is possible and I can do it. Thank you. Love and support to all here.

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  8. Thanks Elle. This post came at the tail end of several days of wallowing, no, drowning in my own self induced pain. Though nothing new has happened and we contiinue to move forward, I have found myself questioining my choice to stay. I've been so saddened by this label, this new category into which our marriage has fallen and the idea that it is tainted forever. Like a spoiled child who can't take no for an answer I, at times, want, demand that this not be happening to us...... But, it has happened and I am more angry now, over a year later, than I was in the beginning. I'm fairly certain that part of that is attributable to the fact that I feel safer in my marriage now and can finally breathe and explore those thoughts and feelings without fear of losing him. But, the doubt has been relentless this past week. He is out of town visiting elderly parents and I can't help but be reminded that when I was tending my elderly parents he was destroying everything good about our lives together. My thoughts even briefly strayed toward revenge.... Briefly. But, here I am, at the tail end of this self imposed trip backward through my pain and I once again see possibilities and hope for happiness and a continued future with him. This is such a long walk, picking our way through minefields, hitting detours and doubling back. Sometimes one step in this walk feels like an eternity. But, we continue on.

    Thanks again, Elle.

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    1. RT,
      Don't underestimate those triggers because they really can throw us for a loop, especially when we don't recognize them as such. I'm sure a big part of your recent "recycling" is because you've been transported back to that horrible time in your life. Glad you can remind yourself that was then. You're in a different marriage now. One in which it is safe to be angry, knowing that your anger is an expression of your deep hurt and your fear of being blindsided again.
      It is a long walk, but each step gets us closer.

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    2. and RT, you're being too hard on yourself. You're not wallowing (are you a hippo?) it's quite normal to review your situation again and again - after all this pain is not 'self-induced'. In fact, it may be necessary to sit with the pain again, to realise that it will not kill you. When you go back there instead of rebuking yourself think of all the rest of us who are in there with you. In solidarity. A hand on your back or on your shoulder. You are human.

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    3. Elle and Iris.....thank you.

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  9. Elle
    You may never know how much your words of wisdom have helped! You post these words on my 37 wedding anniversary and several months ago I was afraid of this day and how to celebrate with my husband after the choice he made! You words this year have given me hope strength and I thank you for your words! I read some of them over and over again until I get the meaning deep in my heart and mind! You and the other ladies have helped me so much! I'm so grateful that you used your pain and strength to create this blog and that you continue to help others back from the brink of insanity to a better place! You have helped me realize that past transgressions do not have to define the future! I admire you for all you do!

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    1. Theresa,
      That's so great to hear. So did you celebrate? Or mark the day in any way? Perhaps with a target on your husband's back? ;)

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  10. Elle
    I'm pleased to share this was one of the best anniversaries we have shared in many years! My h had always tried very hard to make our day special! The healing you have helped me achieve gave me confidence to shop for a drop jaw sexy dress for our evening out on the town to celebrate us! In years past we usually stayed home with h cooking dinner for us but this time I chose to go out and show the world how happy we are to be together! Our cards to each other are full of gratitude to the other for the support we feel we are getting from each other! We can't believe how much better we are this year from last anniversary! I'm ever so grateful for you and your compassion for all of the ladies on the blog now and especially for the ones I know will come in the future. Your words are so wise! I only hope I can help others the way you have helped me!

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    1. Theresa,
      That's so great to hear. I bet you looked absolutely gorgeous.
      And please know that your words here do help. To have others who know our pain offer up support creates healing in all of us.

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  11. I am feeling so blessed/happy to have found your blog. D-Day happened a little under two months ago - it was an Ashley Madison situation. Literally heartbreaking.. and we are in therapy(marital and individual) but currently separated and have been trying to spend more time together recently. Sometimes, it is great. Others, I am so overcome with devastation and the realization that this actually happened that I feel I am literally hanging on by a string. On a particularly emotional day two days ago, I began googling out of desperation for something to comfort me. I had found the Infidelity website/forums but it triggered rather than helped me. Hearing all the stories of devastation and attempts to heal and then betrayal again only made me feel crazier. Ever since I found your blog, it has been my saving grace. Whenever I am having a moment of "should I do this? what am I doing? can I do this?" I come back on here and read an old post. Your posts are uplifting to both those who try to stay and those who leave. I feel no pressure in either direction and don't feel ashamed at my attempt to try and work on my marriage when I read your posts. I am different than most as we are married two years with no children. I feel like it almost makes it feel worse that I'm trying because I have no children to stay for.. but I am trying for us. At the end of the day, deep in my heart, I feel that he is a good person who made a horrible mistake. Your posts make it easier for me to work on healing myself. Anyway, so sorry for the long post. I just wanted to let you know that you are so very helpful and these posts get me through the seconds, minutes, and hours, when I feel this is unbearable. I am forever grateful.

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    1. Eunified,
      That voice, the one that tells you it's "worse to be trying because I have no children to stay for", is a critic. Listen instead for the voice that urges you in the direction that feels right for YOU. Not for anyone else but you. There are no guarantees. Some women have chosen to rebuild their marriage and been shattered again. But there are many who have rebuilt strong, wonderful marriages. However your situation turns out, trust that YOU will be okay. That you'll move forward in life, whether with your husband or not, in a way that's confident and open-hearted and with dignity. So glad you found us.

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  12. WOW! Your post is so timely for me. I go to sleep every day hoping tomorrow will be the day that I don't think about her or what my husband and she did. Ironically it's our 31st anniversary on Tuesday. It is also two weeks short of the day a year ago that forever changed my life and my marriage to the man I have loved and trusted unconditionally. My husband's EA lasted 2 years and I had no idea-totally blindsided. after 30 years of marriage I thought I knew him well enough to never be in a situation that this would happen to me- After all, he knew how I felt about Prince Charles, Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant and Bill Clinton, etc., etc... However he didn't resist the temptation that came his way from someone who worked where he did-- he rationalized it, by convincing himself I didn't "care" as much as I used to-- really??!! UGH!!!
    I am working every day to get to that point where I don't dwell on the "what if's" I know the EA is over, he has not seen or communicated with her in 10 months, but there is this nagging feeling of being tripped up again and knowing I don't ever want to have to suffer through this heartache again. So I will take your advise and look for the light and try to stop re-opening that wound- but it's just SO.DAMN.HARD. Maybe tomorrow will be my day ....

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    1. Honey, tomorrow probably won't be "the day"...but that doesn't mean it won't be a bit better. We generally get through this inch by inch rather than mile by mile. Make note of the days that are better, even if marginally. And celebrate those little steps forward. "The day" will come. And it will come more quickly without the pressure to make it happen.
      Celebrate that, while your anniversary isn't exactly to the man you thought he was, you've made it further than a great many people. And there isn't a single marriage of more than three decades that hasn't seen its share of heartache. Celebrate your renewed commitment to rebuilding.

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    2. I noticed I had more of the good days when I stopped putting pressure on myself to have them. I would realize it more in retrospect, when, after getting some stuff done, suddenly realize, hey, I hadn't even thought about it for a few hours. In the first days (weeks, and months) after D-day, I kid you not, it was like a voice in my mind would yell at me every minute, "Hey, don't forget, your husband cheated on you!!!" I couldn't forget it for even a second or two before I'd hear that mocking voice in my head again.

      I thought it would never go away. But the time finally started to lengthen until it was less frequent than every minute, then it was maybe every hour, then sometimes I could go a few hours without hearing it, then sometimes most of a day. And now when I do hear that voice, I no longer feel as sucker-punched as I used to. I'll hear that voice saying, "Your husband cheated on you," and I'll think. "Yes, he did. And it does not define me."

      Also, anti-versaries suck big-time. I was feeling like maybe I was doing okay around 10-11 months, but the month that it had happened really hit me hard. Not to say that it was perfect after the date passed, but it was much better. I'm at almost 16 months out now, and it does get better.

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  13. Allowing yourself to feel the pain. It's so simple, yet so difficult to actually do it. One of the main reasons my husband cheated? He was addicted to porn and using it to numb himself from feeling any other emotional pain. Trying to avoid pain is what landed him (and consequently me) in this mess in the first place.

    I am someone who dissociates when I can't take it any more. Post D-day I spent months in a fog. It hurt so bad. My husband would come into the room to find me staring at the wall. It was like I was asleep with my eyes open. It was either that, or be sobbing, or screaming and hitting. I couldn't let myself feel it all at once. And when I did let myself feel it, it hurt so bad I really did think I was going to die or have a complete mental break. If I could have willed myself to die without having to actually do something to make it happen, I think I would have. Somehow I kept going, looking back, I'm not sure how. The one good thing I will take from this is that I finally know just how strong I am. I had no idea I had it in me to make it through something like this. It's a gift I've given myself in all of this.

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    1. Gee,
      I was similar in that I had to almost mete out the pain -- experience it in doses. Having three kids who required mothering was part of it. I simply couldn't let myself fall apart. But I ended up numbing myself a little too well...and lost access to that part of me that could feel something. Anything. It's a danger, I think. Which is why I think it's important to carve out that space to just feel the pain. Acknowledge how agonizing it is. Stop pretending we've got it all under control.

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  14. Holding on by my finger nails today, so Thankyou for giving me this boost.

    A friend found out her husband has been having an affair for six months and she has left him and shut the door, possibly forever.

    It's left me feeling like a fool for still being here, still uncertain about my future and still living with the person that made me question everything about myself.

    Thankyou for this.

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    1. Clover,
      For some people, it's a deal-breaker -- no second chances. I thought I was one of those people. I was SURE I was one of those people. Turns out...not so much. We each walk our own path. Doesn't make anyone better than/smarter than/braver than. Just makes us different.

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    2. For almost a year, I told nobody apart from one very close friend that I knew would understand. I didn't want the humiliation of, "You're not kicking his ass to the curb???" on top of it. One ladies night I was feeling extremely vulnerable and I finally told two of my friends. Both had seen that I'd been really struggling with depression over that last year. To my surprise, neither of them acted like I was an idiot for staying. I had really struggled with it, because like most people, I had also said that cheating was it. He cheats, he's gone with my boot print on his arse.

      That's not to say I haven't had times when I struggled with my decision. But I think if I had left him without even trying to save our marriage I would have regretted it. He may have chosen to cheat and taken that decision out my hands, but the decision whether to stay or go is mine to make. I've worked hard to see it as a way of taking back my power in this situation, if that makes any sense.

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    3. Gee,
      I've had a couple of good friends respond like yours. While I'd anticipated their confusion or their pity, I got their respect and their compassion. Good friends give us the space to make our own decisions.

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  15. Elle,

    I always relate to each and every post and comment here. And people like Elle, Steam and others....have saved lives. Talk about souls touching.

    Yesterday was our 26 anniversary and we met in 1977 known each other for 38 years. We are going on 5 years out from D-Day. I knew who I married and loved and was blindsided. I thought he was not only my lover but best friend. RT mentioned the word "Minefield." As Iris beautifully said be kind to yourself it's human (to fall into the infidelity rabbit hole). And don't we as betrayed naturally pick through the 'minefield' of what happened? Years of it and bits of a puzzle we try to comprehend (because we cannot possibly comprehend) and slowly build ourselves up from ashes (and we do)

    May we have compassion for ourselves as the betrayed partners and it reminds me of a quote (from Paul Theroux and used by Wendy Plum) So let's keep this image in mind when we drag ourselves across the floor......

    "It is very easy to plant a bomb in a peaceful place."

    And THAT is what the cheating spouse has done. Then detonated it.

    What ever decisions we make (and we all walk in different paths but) that leveling at our ground zero is the same and only people (betrayed) know what it feels like.

    Thank you Elle again and again for your beautiful powerful post that are a balm for broken hearts....lifting us up to mouth the words Coraggio! Courage...keep moving forward....lets listen and hold each other up on this journey



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    1. Elle,
      You have pulled me from the the depths of despair so many times. I thoughtfully applied the advice from your replies. This outlet for truth, real truth, gut wrenching truth is the only place I could vent my pain, frustrations, hurt and sadness. You are the one left standing, you are faithful to us, you understand us, you are honest with us. You are everything we just lost. I'm forever grateful. (This includes Steam too).

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    2. Post 2 from Anonymous
      H responded back to me as follows:
      I’m sure I don’t fully understand what you are going through. And yes, I knew it was “bad” the last 3 days. I know that you have struggled with many aspects of your life, and in some things you have been very successful and I respect you for that. And it hurts me to hear you say you don’t have anyone to turn to now when you need them, but I know I brought that on myself with my stupid choices.

      I do think you are trying to move in the right direction, and I hope it includes me. I know you don’t see my struggle or pain, but believe me it is there. Days like the past 3 are like salt on an open wound for me. And I don’t know what to say or do to help you understand. It’s not that I don’t want to let you in, but yes, I do feel guilty (every day), and yes, it was MY choices that led us here. But no, I don’t “want” it to be about you and not me. I admit my guilt in this, just as you admitted we (both of us) didn’t do what we should have to prevent this.

      I know you don’t understand my “logic”, or lack thereof, that led me to do what I did, and you probably never will since you are a woman and I am a man. We have discussed this with (therapist) on a few occasions (the differences in thinking/feeling of the 2 sexes). I don’t know why I did it other than I was frustrated and horny and watching my life go by with no signs of change happening in that department. I wish we had the knowledge we have now…then.

      I truly, truly love you. I am excited for our future learning our new hobby, spending alone time with each other on a regular basis, planning for a possible retirement relocation to a pleasant climate in a wonderful location. But I know you are struggling, I’m sure more than I am. The past 3 days has had my stomach in knots when you give me the cold shoulder. And I think about this throughout each day, and not just the last three. You may not see it, but it is there. I worry about saying or doing (or not saying or doing) something that will set you off, and that makes it difficult to enjoy life with you. But I think we have been making some forward progress most of the time. And I want to keep that forward momentum going.

      I'm sorry for the length of this comment but I wanted to share this with you to give you hope. Healing can happen! Walking in a good direction can be done. Take baby steps and you will get there. I turned a corner with this blog and I know now that I am going the right way. I pray that all of you find the strength and courage to find your way - whatever is best for you. Love to all of you.

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    3. Kinda sounds like he gets it, doesn't it? :)

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    4. Anonymous, I feel your pain just as I do with so many of the other women posting on this site. I'm 8+ months out and can immediately recall every detail of the moment I found out and since like it just happened this morning. The pain is there even though I'm finally starting to feel hope that there is more to my life than this pain.

      I see similarities with where we are and even a lot of similarities with our H's responses. Yes, I think your H (and my H) do "get it" even if not completely. I think they get it enough. However, this is my sticking point with something our therapist has said and I see your husband has said. I'm curious about your insight and Elle's on this statement:

      "I admit my guilt in this, just as you admitted we (both of us) didn’t do what we should have to prevent this."

      I admit that we were having marriage trouble. I admit my communication and responsiveness was not helping our marriage. I, too, was feeling neglected, lonely, unwanted, etc. I don't believe an affair is a logical progression of events in a marriage. I don't believe a wife should live in fear that if she doesn't behave in a certain way, then betrayal will happen. To me, an affair is an extension of a person integrity. Integrity doesn't differ between genders. I was not in a good place and I did not have an affair. If a man chooses to betray his wife, that is a result of his integrity. It's not a symptom of a bad marriage. Should I really have been living my life and my marriage to knowingly prevent an affair? Is that what marriage has come to? That we should all be on alert that anyone we trust with our hearts will eventually betray us? I've learned the hard way that it apparently is what happens, but I don't think anyone should have to live that way. I feel the extension of blame to the wife for not having acted to "prevent" an affair is a cop out and a way for the betrayer to not take full accountability. What am I missing here? I'd like to understand this to help my own recovery.

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    5. Anonymous,
      I'm with you. It isn't our job to "prevent" our husbands from cheating. That's THEIR job. They had many other choices to deal with their own frustration/pain/whatever. We are not responsible FOR our partners, we are responsible TO them. To treat them with honesty and kindness.
      I think your husband is getting tripped up in something that I think any couple attempting to rebuild a marriage after betrayal needs to do, and that is to figure out what was going on in the marriage that allowed one partner to check out emotionally. That's not taking responsibility for it, it's examining what happened. Not unlike reconstructing a car accident: was I distracted? Were road conditions treacherous? Was my car in good condition? When we know better, we do better.
      Even with that, there will be affairs. All we can do is behave with integrity ourselves. Your husband sounds as if he's still refusing to take total responsibility for the affair. That's on him. And he needs to be fully accountable. Sometimes the shame and guilt means that these guys look for someone to share it.

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    6. Thanks for your perspective, Elle. My husband is actually NOT the person that said this... our Christian based couple's THERAPIST was! Needless to say, I refused to go back to this therapist. I'm not going to be counseled to believe I did this to myself. My husband has accepted that this was his choice and he caused this pain. I just wish I could understand why he made this choice when a million others were available.

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    7. That's a therapist who's intent on skipping past the process and getting straight to forgiveness. But there can't be true forgiveness, or acceptance, until we've processed all the grief inherent in this. It's crucial that your feelings are validated and not sacrificed on the alter of forgiveness. Glad you dumped the therapist.
      The understanding might come with time. Or it might not. I think I understand why my husband made the choices he did. It helped me to realize that I'm a different person with an entirely different history and psyche. So while I might not make the same choice, IF I WAS HIM, I might have.

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    8. Re-reading your response - I need to take responsibility for my actions. I was not kind. But, if I was not kind, does that mean I deserved to be cheated on? I just can't seem to wrap my head around this logic. This has been my struggle. This isn't all just one big issue to me. Our marriage struggling is one issue. His choice to have an affair is another. I don't see them as being one big issue. If my husband was unhappy with me then he should have said he wanted to get out of the marriage. I read a post of yours about exit affairs. That's exactly what his confession felt like. It felt like he just didn't care and wanted out of our marriage, so he chose the way he knew I would despise the most. I say this since he knew my opinions on cheating. We had 2 separate friends going through betrayal and divorce and he STILL chose to betray me. He can't explain it. He says now that he wants me, he wants to regain my trust, and he wants to regain me. But, my heart is still stuck on what he knew at the time - he knew the implications of what could happen with the people right in front of our faces and he chose it. But, now I'm supposed to believe that he's on the straight and narrow path. And, so far he's been trying very hard. But, the circumstances surrounding us at the time his choice and his choice to walk that same path leave me feeling so lost.

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    9. I'm absolutely NOT saying that your actions mean, in any way, that you deserved to be cheated on. And I agree with you that struggles within the marriage are separate from one partner's choice to cheat. He had many options. What I am saying is that cheating is not a logical choice. It is fantasy. There is a belief that nobody is getting hurt as long as it remains a secret. Lots of people absolutely believe that it is making their marriage better by making them a better partner. It's crazy-making. I suspect your husband can't tell you why he did it because he genuinely doesn't know. It likely flies in the face of who he thought he was. With time and therapy, he might figure it out. It often comes down to the stories he was telling himself -- that he "deserved" to feel good, that you didn't appreciate him, blah blah blah. None of which make his choice right...they just make his choice easier to understand. Even the idea of "everyone's doing it" somehow opens the door.
      But that's for HIM to figure out. Your job is to get clear on what you want going forward...and whether you're willing to wait for him to be able to offer you that.

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    10. Original Anonymous here to provide my insight.

      I don't think my h meant by saying "I admit my guilt in this, just as you admitted we (both of us) didn’t do what we should have to prevent this" that there was something I could have done differently to prevent him from betraying me. I think what he meant was that neither of us communicated to the other how we were feeling about our relationship and ourselves. This isn't an excuse to justify his choice, but it did contribute to us being in a negative place. In the beginning, I think he tried to "blame" my responses to and treatment of him on why he did what he did. Let's face it, no one really wants to admit that they are a total fuck up and they will look for anything that they think will justify their decisions. But I was not going to let him get away with that! I could have made the same choice as he did, but I did not and it does boil down to integrity. Integrity is something our therapist has focused on. H had to own his responsibility for what he did before I could move on and he does. But even though I am not to blame, I am part of the picture and I had to be able to see myself as he saw me at that time and I'll admit that I didn't like what I saw. But that is not saying it was my fault. It is not.

      No one deserves to be cheated on and it is almost impossible to wrap your head around that the one who you thought loved you and would protect you forever would do that to you. Elle is right that cheating is not a logical choice and that our husbands probably don't know why they chose to. I don't think my h or likely yours either wanted to get out of their marriage. They just wanted to feel better and somehow thought that screwing some whore with no self respect would get them there. It is just a fantasy but they are blind to that. It makes no sense to me but I don't think my h was emotionally or mentally equipped to think that way at the time. Now, I don't think it makes any sense to him either and he lives with his despicable choices everyday and he doesn't feel good about it..

      We will always wonder why and we will continue to beat ourselves up trying to figure it out. But the fact is we cannot change what happened, we can only move forward and make the choices that are right for us. This is the wisdom that Elle has passed on to us. We are strong and brave and we can heal,.

      We all have gained an incredible amount of wisdom through our horrible ordeals. I love the wisdom but despise what we have had to go through to gain it.

      Hugs and peace to you.

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    11. Thank you, Elle and Anonymous....

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  16. So today I found a pay as you go mobile phone pinlocked in my husbands bag. He swears it is an old one and he had "forgotten" all about it. I asked him the PIN number and he gave me one that didn't work.

    Ladies, I think I am at the end of the road. I cannot see a way back from his constant lies and gas lighting. He promises me is not in contact with the OW and then I find this.

    I am just exhausted. I am done. I want to step off this roller coaster. And although I would have given anything for this to not be the case, tonight I am ending this farce.

    I don't know if I will come back here any more, because it is too hard seeing those who have succeeded in repairing what I have failed to do, but I wanted to thank Elle and all of you for the support you have given me over the past six months. Thankyou all x

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    1. Clover,
      I'm so so sorry. I know we all want to think we're going to be a "success" story but I hope you know that even those of us whose marriages survive have a long road to hoe. And whatever you decide to do, please also know that you have friends here who can support you and remind you, as often as you need reminding, that you're going to triumph over this. YOU will be just fine. I do hope you'll check in now and again and update us. We're rooting for you, Clover. Whatever path you're on, we're right there beside you.

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    2. I'm so sorry to hear that, Clover. I know that must be devastating. You don't deserve to be lied to and treated like that. Know that you have our full support in whatever decision to make. And please know that the failure to save this relationship is NOT yours. It's his. One person cannot do all the work. It just doesn't work that way. (If it did, I wouldn't be here.)

      Have you seen the surviving infidelity website? There's a section of the forums there for people who have chosen to end their relationship, that might be a good place for you to find support. Lots of love and hugs to you.

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    3. Thankyou for your kind words. To be honest, I am paralysed. I have no idea how I go about getting out. I have kids and run a business with him...it is so much more complicated than I'd ever thought.

      I can't bear to tell the children. They will be heartbroken, and it feels like because I am the one who wants out, it is me who is wrecking their lives.

      He has no idea either...he has slotted right back into normal. I am functioning just fine but I am hollow inside.

      I cannot face talking to him. He will be angry and he will be hurtful and he will make me feel like this is all my fault. He is incredibly good at turning tables and making it about me.

      When I found the phone (which he still insists is an old one) he told me that it is my fault for snooping. That I shouldn't go looking for things if I can't handle it. This is what I am dealing with.

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    4. Clover,
      You surround yourself with people who can help you through this. Start with a lawyer. You need to protect yourself personally as well as the business. If you don't already have a therapist, please find a good one who will give you a place to process all this and help you parent your kids with strength and conviction. You are not the bad guy. Your responsibility is to live your life with integrity. That is what you are doing. Choices don't have to be popular to be right.
      Clover, you can do this. It will suck but then it won't.

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  17. Lovely words, Elle. Don't apologize for saying what we all need to hear: that there is healing and hope. I had a great evening with two dear friends last night, both of whom know all about my husband's infidelities, and the state of our marriage. They have been invaluable through their support and honesty. When the discussion turned to me and how I was doing, I mentioned that I was doing what so many of you are doing: making a choice, every day. Sometimes, I do it several times a day. I know that they wonder how I could make that choice considering the extent of his cheating and the ease with which he continued to lie and avoid the truth even after D-Day. I wonder that myself. Every day is a fight against pain that I don't want, and that-prior to this-I would have been unable to even consider feeling. That was part of my own baggage before this happened. I created walls to block out any chance of feeling pain. I avoided physical and emotional intimacy, and fled from anything that made me feel vulnerable. I buried pain and my opinions deep and left them there to rot. What ended up rotting, though, was me. Being closed off and guarded did not help me. It contributed to my broken marriage and nearly drove me to suicide. I punished myself through rigid food restrictions and compulsive exercise. I rejected my emotional and physical needs. I hid myself under unflattering clothes and dismissed my intelligence and worthiness as a human being. I was broken. The road to being able to feel again didn't start with D-Day though, it started about 5 years ago when I realized that I could wait for my husband to not be miserable anymore (though I consistently dismissed my contribution to his misery), or I could get a life (AKA avoiding the emotional black hole in my marriage). I found friends, went back to school, and eventually earned a degree that nearly killed me physically and mentally. I learned that I was capable and resilient. It wasn't enough to make this last 15 months easy, but it was enough to give me a foundation upon which I could stand. Anyway...I have become a stronger, more confident, and less apologetic woman this year. I am able to recognize when I am insecure and desperate for validation, and I refuse to let it define me. I am DONE denying my physical and emotional needs, and I am DONE with running from being vulnerable. I am absolutely terrified of being hurt. I resent the pain I feel, and I resent the prospect of more pain coming. But the payoff is that I finally feel LOVE, JOY, and HOPE, through my marriage and through my own growth. H has given me so much love and joy since D-Day, and I think I have done the same in return. It is wonderful and scary, and I will take it for as long as it lasts. If it all goes to shit I will be devastated, but I will not die. I will not hate myself or wonder if I did enough because I am all-in. I will be okay. Short of illness or death, it can't get much worse than it was this year. So yeah, I'm feeling the pain that I don't want, and making the choice that I resent having to make so that instead of shutting down and rotting some more, I am growing. I am trying to choose joy, and mostly succeeding. I think my friends respected that, and I hope that it gave them some clarity about why I'm making my choice. I don't need their approval, but it's important to me that I can share my thoughts without fear of judgement, as I can here. Keep the good messages and positive affirmations coming. They are our defense against running from the pain and never moving forward.

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    1. Oh Cactus Flower,
      "It is wonderful and scary, and I will take it for as long as it lasts." I think that pretty much sums up life, doesn't it? It is wonderful and scary. But feeling that wonder and that fear won't kill us. It will open us up to soak up every second. It sounds like you've come an incredibly long way. We applaud you, CF.

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  18. Elle, How do you know exactly what to say at the exact moment I need to hear it? Your words and the words from all of the rest of you wonderful women on this blog have truly saved me. At our last counseling session, our therapist said that it might be time for me to cut my self off "cold turkey" from this blog because it maybe was causing unnecessary triggers. I immediately and passionately told him and my h that this blog is what has saved me through this whole ordeal and that I need this in order to survive, After I was done, they both believed me!

    After I read this particular blog, I sent it to h (I often send him or have him read your posts) with the following message:
    And this is why I continue to read this blog. The right words at the right time. I want you to read it and then reread again and again until you truly understand what I have gone through and have struggled with since Dday. I think that you think you do know what I'm going through, but I'm not sure you really do. Every single day has been a struggle in some way. 8 months of pain and sorrow and confusion. Some worse than others. No secret - the last 3 days have been worse - not sure why.

    But this morning I came to what seemed to be a very clear conclusion that everything in my life has ended in disappointment. Everything good has turned to disappointment and doubt and hurt in some way. That doesn't feel good at all and it can really destroy one's spirit. I feel like all my life I have tried very hard to be what everyone else wanted me to be - a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend, a good wife, a good mother, a good co-worker, a good person. While I do feel fairly successful in accomplishing this, I know that I'm not perfect or anywhere close to that. I have made MANY mistakes along the way. My quest to be there for others might seem admirable to some, but what it has left me with now is a feeling of 'have I become what I wanted me to be?' And do I even know what I want me to be? I feel like I've lost myself along the way. So now, because of these confusing thoughts, I'm feeling that in some ways all those I have tried hard to please and be there for, have let me down in some way - through death, through absence, through betrayal - and that they haven't been there for me. I don't even have anyone to turn to now when I need them. I'm left to wallow in my own self pity and I hate it. It is making me so sad and so cynical and unhappy.

    This blog does give me hope however and I need that hope. I need a direction and assurance and a purpose. I need to find peace and a will to continue on. I need to "walk in the direction of strength and light."

    Once again I have exposed my rawness and my heart. You see what I am going through. But I still feel like I don't know your heart at all. I know you are sorry. I know you love me. I know you want to move past all of this. But I don't see your struggle and your pain. I'm guessing you have them but you don't really let me in there. Maybe you feel guilty about exposing and talking about them since you know it was your choices that lead us here and you want it to be about me and not about you. But I do need to know you in that way. I need to know what struggles and pain led you to where you were to make such a despicable choice.
    This blog gave me the insight to describe my last 3 days. I'm sure you were wondering.

    I will send a second post with h's response.

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  19. It is good to hear that there is hope of healing from women that have been through this same road before me. Thank you all for sharing. I know, I really know, the only way to heal is to stop looking at the past, at what H did, and move foward by finding out what I want to do from here. I really really know that. But I find myself going over and over the past because of two reasons:
    1. Letting go of the past makes me feel as if my feelings are worthless. I am saying to my H and worst, to myself, that my feelings can be trashed and it is OK. I can be extremely hurt by the person I love and just let it go as if it meant nothing to me. I know H is remorseful and he feels really guilty, never thought I would find out and be so devastated. But that doesn´t make it any better. Letting go feels like I am saying to myself, oh well, you got hurt, so what, your feelings are not important.
    2. I feel like H is getting it all. He had his affair, he had the fun, the sex, he felt alive again. And then he got caught. And yes, now he is feeling remorseful and guilty and all, but the minute I stop talking about it he will inmediately move on. He will forget, he will have his family back, maybe even a better relationship with me, a better marriage. He will have it all back again. In the end he gets it all. All I got was a lot of pain and probably with time the feeling that I am a strong woman that can handle all that pain.
    But I know Elle that your words are right. The only way to heal is to stop concentrating on what H did and figure out what I am going to do with it from now.
    Decide what I will do in the present and the future, because the past, no matter how much we wish, will not change.

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    1. Butterfly,
      I hear every word you're saying. I FELT every word you're saying. I had such a hard time letting go because I thought my agony was the only thing ensuring that my husband would never do that to me again.
      But one day, when I asked what guarantee he could give me to ensure that I wasn't an idiot for giving him a second chance and he told me, honestly, that he couldn't give me a guarantee. But he told me that he would spend the rest of his life trying to deserve that second chance. And he told me that he would never forget the pain in my eyes when I found out what he'd done...knowing that he had caused that pain. He told me he would never be able to forget that.
      And...almost a decade later, that's true. It doesn't matter that I'm fine. It doesn't matter that I'm happy, that life is good. He still remembers that look in my eyes and doesn't want to ever cause anyone that pain again. Which brings me to another point: While it seems as if these guys "get away with it", I would not want to be them. I simply wouldn't want to live with the shame of knowing I was capable of such deceit, of inflicting such pain on someone I promised to protect and cherish. So, if he's a decent guy, what, exactly, is he "getting away with"?

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    2. I struggled with a lot of the same thoughts. I felt like if I get over this, he gets away with it. As if I was saying that it's okay what he did to me. I felt in a catch-22. Like the only way to make him really pay for it would be to divorce his ass and take him for everything he's worth. But I don't want that, I want to save my marriage. So I felt like he isn't ever going to be punished enough for what he did. That, unfortunately, is something I've had to come to terms with. It's not fair, and it never will be. But there's no point in leaving him if that's not what I want to do. That would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

      I realized, I don't want a husband who is only staying faithful because of guilt. If that's the only way I can keep him around, then I'd be better off without him. I've finally realized that if my husband is remorseful, then he is never going to forget what he's done or stop being sorry he did it. And if he wasn't remorseful in the first place, my staying sad to keep it in the forefront wouldn't change that.

      In the end, he really isn't getting away with it, even if sometimes it feels that way to me. He has to live with self-loathing. I no longer do. (I did in the beginning, but I don't anymore.) Even when I have good days, there are some times he is down, and when I ask him why, he will say, "I just can't believe what I did." So even without my sad face reminding him, he isn't anywhere near forgetting, and I don't think he ever will.

      He deals with triggers, just like I do. Heck, we were watching a tv show, and afterwards he seemed down. When I asked him why, he said that seeing the main character getting caught in a lie just reminded him of what he'd done. I hadn't even thought of it, I hadn't point it out to him. He said it just hit him like a sucker punch again, thinking to himself, "How could you be such a selfish idiot?!"

      Like Elle says, as much as it sucks to be betrayed, I know I would not want to be the betrayer. I think my husband's punishment is that he has to live with that. He always despised cheaters, now he has to live with the fact that he became one.

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  20. What a great post. It's really helpful to come to this blog and read the things you write. I do have a question but I haven't found an answer to, maybe you can help.

    How are you able to distinguish fear from a gut feeling? Fear that the infidelity is continuing or will happen again or a gut feeling that it is.

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    1. Such a great question. So great, in fact, that I'm going to write a blog post about it. Stay tuned!

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