Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Words of Wisdom

From Tara Sophia Mohr:

"...I see women whose faces have been made soft by tears and tiredness and trying to change things they had to eventually realize they could not change.  Because of all of that, you can see in their faces that they are ready to listen, and empathize, and love. And they do. We are far better to each other because of what we’ve all been through. Life carves us into warriors, and life kneads us into softness."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Inside the Mind of An Other Woman

Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) recently penned a piece for the Mental Health Issue of the New York Times Magazine confessing her "seduction addiction". 
In it, she lays bare her need to draw men's attention to her, away from their significant other. Unattached men, it seems, were less appealing than those for whom she had an adversary, a competitor. Seduction was sweeter, apparently, when it was harder won. 
She was rarely satisfied with her conquests. The incessant hunger for attention was not so easily tamed. She would grow tired and bored with someone whose gaze for her no longer burned as brightly and be attracted by the next shiny new man for whom she could do her crazy dance of "look at me! Love me!"
It's a candid look inside the mind of women who prey on attached men. I'm unsure why she wrote it, frankly. She had nothing really to gain and plenty to lose. But she's shown us something we rarely see so honestly: the truth about the Other Woman. Or at least some of them.
One of the points that particularly struck me was this: There was nothing special about the men she sought. It wasn't about love or soul-mates or star-crossed lovers. These men were merely different. 
And different can be intoxicating. Until it isn't anymore. Until it's revealed to simply narcissism dressed in sexy clothing.
It's true also for our unfaithful spouses. These women they cheat with aren't special. But they are different. And so our husbands construct a story based on what they imagine they see in that person's eyes. Interest. Desire. Escape. A parallel universe.
It's difficult for we betrayeds to understand, unless we too have been tempted by the allure of possibility. To us, these women are so obvious. They're manipulative. They're morally bankrupt. They're self-centered. They're crazy. They need a good therapist not a new boyfriend. 
And it can be tough for our spouses to realized they've been had. That they were nothing special themselves. That they were being used. They'll sometimes resist admitting that. It's humiliating, after all. 
Gilbert recognized the menace she'd become and created the conditions for change. For that, I applaud her. But I ache for the women who were devastated by her seduction campaign. We know their pain. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Donating to BWC: Push my button!

You've likely noticed that, a few months ago, I added a Donate button on this site. It was not a decision I made lightly and it came from my realization that this site was growing (and growing) and that I was spending considerable time on it at the expense of my "real" work. I'm a writer and the only way writers get paid is when they're producing work.
So...I talked it over with Steam (who, incidentally, is a marketing genius) and considered selling mugs ("My heartbreak, my rules!" courtesy of Steam's pithy wisdom). I considered t-shirts and tchotchkes. But, frankly, I'm not sure how many of us want to wear our broken hearts literally on our sleeves. Besides, I'm not so interested in becoming a retailer.
What I want to do, what I really love to do, is to continue to grow this space that has become such a haven for those of us who've experienced betrayal and to allow myself the time to read each and every post (which I do – I filter everything or else you'd all be contacting spell casters who promise to return your repentant husbands to you, for a fee, of course). I take time to reflect on what's being asked or described, sometimes sleeping on it. And then I often write a considered response. There are many times that you all step in and offer up such compassion and wisdom that I'm redundant, which is lovely. And many of you simply need a space to tell your story, or to rant, and a reminder that you're among many many friends.
All this is to say that I am incredibly grateful to those of you who have trusted me with your stories and with your donations to the site. The donations go through PayPal – it's Web standard and trust-worthy way to send money. I promise to never reveal the names of those who have donated. In many cases if it comes through a company name, I don't even see the "real" name.
I don't want anybody to feel that they need to pay their way onto this site. Every single one of you contributes to this site in many different ways. You are all welcome (except the spell casters and the haters). And please don't ever compromise yourself financially to donate. My lights will stay on.
But to those who've made a donation, please know how much I appreciate it. I've toyed with the idea of sending a thank-you to each of you but am unsure how to do it without violating both your and my privacy. While I figure it out, please accept my bloggy thanks.
And stay tuned. I am working on an e-book that will be for sale via this site. And considering a journal that will offer up some BWC wisdom, while providing plenty of space for you to write your way to healing.
I've wondered if I'll outgrow this site. I'm long past my own D-Day. But the support I get from the "club", and the reminders that we continue to grow and learn from what happened, and that we can apply the lessons we learn through this to so many other aspects of our lives, keeps me coming back. And you, dear BWC members. Especially you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Healing Manifesto: Transforming Trauma

I don't abuse my children. I exercise. Floss. Do volunteer work.
All of which, I hoped, would inoculate me from tragedy.
Having grown up with alcoholic parents, I needed that sense of safety. I needed to believe that the chaos was over and that the rest of my life would be smooth sailing.
I kept score in my head: bad life events on one side, good life events on the other. If ever the "good" side seemed to tip too far, which it did often, I started to worry. The karmic balance, I figured, was out of whack. I'd better keep my head down because something bad was coming my way.
Of course, I was only mildly aware of my mental scorekeeping. And I was bothered by evidence of people who clearly had experienced a far greater hell than I ever had. Those who'd suffered genocide, debilitating disabilities, the loss of a child. I could barely imagine such grief.
Nonetheless, I felt I'd had my share. And I believed that my pain during childhood had been mine alone. There was nothing to "learn" from it, beyond some pretty unhealthy coping skills and the knowledge that I was a helluva an actress, able to convince the world that everything was absolutely fine...when it most definitely was not.
If there was any lesson I brought from my childhood it was that good things happened for other people, not for me.
The best I could hope for was to avoid more pain.
And so I tread softly into adulthood. Hoping fate wouldn't find me. That I could simply live my life out quietly with no more pain.
So when, after a disastrous seven-year relationship that ended badly, I met my husband and he was so kind, so smart, so fun so...safe, I let myself imagine that maybe I wasn't destined to misery. Maybe I could expect good things to happen for me too.
I dodged a few bullets. Scary results from a pregnancy test result turned out to be false and I gave birth to a healthy girl, followed by two more healthy babies. A cancer diagnosis for my long-sober mom that turned out to be a mistake.
But mostly, life was more than I'd allowed myself to dream. Career success. Financial security. Good friends.
I started feeling bolder, like perhaps I wasn't doomed. Like, just maybe, I was as entitled to live a happy life as anyone else.
I finally exhaled. I even confided in a friend that I'd been afraid to enjoy my life for fear that I'd get blindsided.
She, the survivor of childhood sex abuse and a scorekeeper herself, assured me that I'd had my share of pain. You're due some happiness, she told me.
I believed her.
And that's when it happened. My "perfect" marriage was revealed to be...not.
Deep down, of course, I had been expecting it. It confirmed my belief that I simply wasn't worthy of good things. That no matter how much I'd tried to earn my way into karmic peace by being kind and donating money to good causes and voluteering to help AIDS orphans (really!), it just wasn't enough to keep me safe.
I wallowed in that state for a good year or so. Paralyzed by despair. Desperately wanting my life to be just over – I couldn't imagine coping with anything more and I was sure more was on its way.
But in my moments of clarity, I had to admit that, though this really, really sucked, it wasn't a Holocaust, literally or figuratively. I still had my wonderful kids. My recovered-alcoholic parents. Good friends. Work I loved.
And a question started forming.
What if, instead of spending my life dodging pain, which clearly I seemed incapable of doing, I accepted some of it as inevitable.
I began to ask myself: How can I use this experience to value life more deeply – the good and the bad? To become  a better person? Not a more dutiful person, or a more selfless person but someone who transformed her pain into greater compassion for self and others, less judgement for self and others.
What if I stopped viewing myself as a victim and started seeing myself as having a fully human experience, which includes the full range of experiences?
Questioning my long-held view of myself as a victim of circumstance changed everything for me. It shifted my self-perception as powerless to powerful. It gave me agency. A belief that though I couldn't change what happened to me, I could absolutely determine how I responded to it. It was my life. It was my choice.
No matter that our husbands cheated on us, we are not victims. We are hurt by it, absolutely. Our lives are wracked by it for sure. We need to allow ourselves time to process the grief, feel the pain and let healing begin. But that simply makes us human.
We are not victims, which means we can respond to trauma in our lives with a grace and integrity and a seemingly endless well of strength. We will collapse in tears. We will have dark days and darker nights. But we will survive this and we will come to a place where we can recognize that it was through our wounds that growth took place.
My life will undoubtedly hold more pain. At 51, I have (hopefully) many years left. My kids will experience disappointment and, at times, feel their own hearts break.
And when they do, I will hold them while they weep and rage at life's cruelty. And then, I will watch the transformation that takes place as they recognize their own strength, as they find it within themselves to open their hearts again. As they remember that in every life there will be pleasure and there will be pain. And that they can handle it all.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Art to Heal Your Soul

I recently discovered Terri St. Cloud, who seems to have a direct line to my heart. Her work is beautiful and her words perfectly articulate the pain of betrayal, of struggle, of life.
Check her out here:

Monday, June 8, 2015

Your Trauma Pilgrimage: How a brisk daily walk will change your life

I'm a strong believer in the value of telling our story. Not only do we gain a sense of solidarity from this community of other betrayed wives but telling our story is a crucial part of our healing. Thanks to all the brain science research of the past couple of decades, experts now understand that telling our story helps heal trauma.
And though I love the support and compassion I see on this site when we rally around a woman brave enough to share the deep pain of her story, it's also really valuable to write your story down on paper. If you haven't already done so, buy yourself a pad of paper and sit down each morning and write three pages – long-hand – without thinking. Nobody but you is ever going to read this so don't censor yourself. Don't worry about spelling or neatness or proper grammar. You can burn the pages later. Just let your troubled brain spill your thoughts. Three pages. Every. Single. Morning. (You can do this at other times, but morning tends to be best because our brains are still a bit fuzzy. You don't want carefully thought analyses. You want raw emotion unguarded by ego.)
It doesn't even have to be about betrayal. Maybe you want to write about how hungry you are. How bored you are. How much you love getting on the scale now that you've lost 10 pounds on the Infidelity Diet. Whatever it is, just let it flow out of your brain and onto the page.
But I want you to do something else too. There's been so many stories lately on this site (which is wonderful! Keep 'em coming!!) that reveal the depth of trauma you're feeling.
And there's a surprisingly straightforward thing you can do to begin to process that trauma besides sharing your story (and Morning Pages).
Take a walk. Let's call it your Trauma Pilgrimage.
Not a meandering stroll but a brisk walk. Walking help our brains process trauma – it is bilateral stimulation, which forms the backbone of EMDR trauma therapy. Neuroscience and its discovery of neuroplasticity shows our brains are capable of healing from trauma...but only if those affected parts of our brains are active.
Telling our story activates the parts of our brain where trauma is stored. And a brisk walk, with our  eyes frequently scanning side to side as we scan the sidewalk or path, stimulates the connections between the hippocampus and the cortex as we experience the changing environment. We are essentially exercising the memory muscles of our brain, making them stronger and better able to "solve the problem" of trauma.
It's no coincidence that I experienced my first glimpse of healing when I was walking my days just weeks after D-Day #1. It was a sunny winter day with fresh snowfall on the lawns. I don't know where I got the energy to get outside and walk but there I was, squinting against the blinding sunlight making the snow sparkle.
And in that moment, my darkness parted ever so slightly. But I'd had a glimpse. And in that glimpse I somehow recognized that I could get through this.
My story is hardly rare. We are walking creatures. It is in our nature. Across cultures, we often undertake pilgrimages to transform within as we transition without. We move physically, which shifts us emotionally and spiritually.

Your homework:
I want each of you to take a brisk 20-minute "trauma pilgrimage" today and every day for the next 10 days. We can all commit to anything for 10 days. Put on sunglasses if your eyes are puffy from crying. Put on comfortable clothes and solid shoes. No iPod, though you can use headphones if you want to send a "Do Not Disturb" message to those around you. Find a safe and, if possible, quiet place to walk. Twenty minutes. To change your life.
And then come back and share the story of your pilgrimage.


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