Friday, January 29, 2016
"Anonymous" posted this awhile back on the Feeling Stuck forum and I asked for her permission to re-post it. Her experience is similar to many others on this site. As we often say, the exact details might be different but the feelings created by the betrayal tend to be universal. I think Anonymous has some really good advice here. She's careful to stress that her husband's affair was absolutely not her fault. That was his choice. But she outlines how she re-evaluated her whole marriage. Affairs do not have to be the death knell for a marriage. If both partners are willing to work hard to rebuild, it's possible. That's not the right path for everyone and we each get to decide how to move forward after betrayal. For some, reconciliation isn't on the table and that's absolutely okay. But no matter how we respond, healing is our ultimate goal:
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
"Anonymous" posted her story on another part of this site in response to what she noticed was a lot of talk and concern and obsession with the Other Woman. Her words are poignant and painful but it's clear she's taken a clear-eyed look at her marriage and the role she played in the breakdown of it. As we make very very clear on this site, nobody is to blame for their husband's cheating. That's on him. And not all marriages that experience infidelity are "bad". But some are. And Anonymous took a forensic accounting of her own marriage and what had happened in it and then used that knowledge to understand her husband's affair and how the two of them could rebuild a marriage from the rubble. ~Elle
Thursday, January 14, 2016
"You cannot be a hero without also being a coward." ~George Bernard Shaw
Over on the Feeling Stuck? forum, there's been enthusiastic discussion about men who see themselves as white knights, rescuing what we've dubbed "dumsels" in distress.
Aelia blew us all away with this:
I feel like so much of this is about the men chasing a self worth high. Not just basic self worth but HERO level self image. They want someone to look at them and treat them like they are THE MAN so they can feel alive and valuable because they haven't learned to feel that way without the outside help.Those, my dears, are tough questions. They're the questions that put some of us on the path to rebuilding a marriage and others on the path to the divorce lawyer.
And they get this high soo easily from the dumsels. The rescue missions tend to be pretty low hanging fruit and they are richly rewarded with adoration and admiration. But wives expect SOO much more! Being our heroes means climbing to the top of the damn tree for the fruit and maybe even dealing with thorny branches and falls and when you get down we may still treat you like you're just doing what you're supposed to be doing. At least, I know that was the way I used to be. I wasn't about to kiss his feet for the crappy job of husbanding that he was doing.
But I wonder that continuing to live with them happily requires that we bridge that gap? Yup, he's a double villain now like Phoenix says. But he's still desperate to feel like a HERO! How do you rebuild a man when you feel like kicking him in the balls? How do you do it with your own integrity intact?
H asked me at one point post-shitfest whether I thought he was a good person and the best I could answer at the time was that I could tell he was trying to be a good person. Is there any way we can find to show them that they CAN earn our respect back? To make it feel possible that he can be our HERO..... someday.... with lots of work... and copious integrity.... and many hours of taking the emotional beatings which he has coming to him.... but when he gets there it will be because we know the real him and not because he play acted a hero for her.
Because if he can't ever get what he needs from us, then we're wasting our time with him. If he can't feel like that's a possibility then he'll feel like he's wasting his time with us. Can we respect him for the effort he's putting into to becoming a better man for us? Can we be grateful for the loving gestures we receive from him?
They're also why some marriages can be so much better after an affair, which still strikes me as crazy but I also know to be true.
It's also true that plenty of marriages without infidelity are horrible, marked by a lack of courtesy and respect, characterized by two people miserable about their situation and entirely sure their partner is to blame.
Cheating, of course, raises the misery ten-fold. And in marriages where the betrayed actually thought her partnership was pretty good, it's shocking and destabilizing to learn that her spouse viewed it so differently.
Aelia asked, "Is there any way we can show them that they CAN earn our respect back?" My answer? I don't know. When we're in the midst of our own agony, it can be hard to brush our teeth let alone help rebuild the esteem of the man responsible for our pain. What's more, trying to save people from themselves is a thankless and fruitless job. Change comes when we're fed up with ourselves and determined to do better. If he sees no hope for change in himself, then cheerleading on our part won't make one bit of difference. His transformation is an inside job. And with someone who's been outsourcing their sense of worth to an affair partner, we're asking for a wholesale change in his life view.
In my husband's case, it was the day that he told me he was going to do better for himself whether or not I was staying or leaving that I really felt hopeful. He wasn't play-acting his change of heart, it was real. Whether or not I liked who he was, HE wanted to like who he was. And though, at that moment, he loathed himself, he was able to imagine a day when he felt differently. He's was willing to do the work necessarily to find his way to that day. And that's the difference between someone susceptible to flattery and ego-stroking and the escape of an affair and someone whose eyes are wide open and whose sleeves are rolled up. It's the moment, to use George Barnard Shaw's point, when the coward realizes he has it within himself to be a true hero.
It's a pivotal moment.
It's the same for us when we realize that we, too, can be the heroes of our own lives, no matter whether our spouses beg us for forgiveness or serve us with divorce papers. The moment when we realize that we're at our lowest...but that we don't have to stay there. The moment when we look inside ourselves for our value instead of outsourcing it. When we truly and absolutely get that his affair wasn't about us. That our value is not dependent and has never been dependent on someone else seeing it.
Can we rebuild a man who feels vilified wherever he looks? To us, he's a villain. To his affair partner, if he breaks it off, he's a villain. To our culture at large, he's a villain (though our culture saves enough blame for the betrayed spouse too, who surely deserved this in some way).
I don't think it's up to us to rebuild him, nor can we. Personal transformation is an inside job. It's a hero's job.
I think what we can do is stand firm in our own integrity and live by example. I think we can insist upon a relationship that allows each partner to feel respected and valued. I think we can do our part to treat our spouse with dignity and kindness, to be honest but kind when asked those tough questions about whether we love them or respect them.
I watched my husband earn back my trust. In fact, I have more respect for him now than ever because I've seen him work so hard to slay his own demons. I've watched him go into incredibly uncomfortable territory when the easier thing would have been to refuse. To blame me. To blame his parents.
We can't save them but we can certainly applaud them for being willing to save themselves.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
In my twenties I loved a guy who was, to put it charitably, confused. He loved me, he said. I was an "addiction", he said. He wrote me poetry. He sent me long, loving letters when I was at school overseas. Especially when he had been drinking, he regaled me with words of devotion and love.
I loved him madly. Despite his infidelities. Despite his consistent backing away from me when our relationship seemed heading toward more intimacy. Despite the ex-girlfriends he kept hanging around like groupies.
After seven ridiculously long years of this, we finally and eternally broke up, which surprised nobody but me.
As my friends no doubt put it with me out of earshot, "Thank the bloody hell THAT is over because I can't listen to another minute of their star-crossed bullshit."
I know I would have said that if I'd had to endure a friend's seven-year "but we love each other" saga.
My friends and I laugh about it now. At the time, however, I swear I could feel my heart break. Actually break.
In hindsight, we were ridiculous. We paid lip service to loving each other while we behaved in ways that completely undermined our relationship. He cheated on me. As soon as we broke up (which we did routinely, every few months or so), I would date somebody else. We moved in together and fought about things like who was supposed to buy orange juice. We moved out because maybe our relationship just needed "space". We weren't married. We were young. Frankly, we were doing exactly what we should have been doing at that stage in our lives. But our actions made it abundantly clear that our priorities were ourselves, not each other. We should have walked away from the relationship years before we did. But we stupidly convinced ourselves that our "love" was enough.
Love is a feeling that ebbs and flows. One day, our face is buried in our beloved's t-shirt because he's on a business trip and we can't stand not having him beside us. The next, we're gritting our teeth and mentally filing divorce papers because he got up from the dinner table, turned on the TV and left us with the mess. We might "love" our spouse and he us but what do our actions say?
Before D-Day, I was so filled with resentment at my husband's long absences and emotional detachment that I would literally stiffen when he tried to hug me. I didn't talk to him because it fell on deaf ears and made me feel worse.
He claimed to love me but had spent our entire relationship cheating. He had convinced himself that nobody was getting hurt. He had deluded himself into believing that his sexual desires were different than mine and that he was doing me some kind of favor by not subjecting me to them. He was so far down that rabbit hole that he compulsively turned to online chat rooms when he was feeling lonely or neglected or like a failure, which was often. And yet...he loved me.
Lots of good that did us.
It was only when we had a choice to make – either rebuild our marriage or walk away from it – that we really began to understand that loving someone isn't enough. We needed to behave in a loving way. We needed to make choices in our lives that put each other's needs and wants on the same level as ours. That doesn't mean we were each responsible for meeting each other's needs and wants, simply that we needed to make room for them in the relationship. We needed to love each other enough to do things that made us really uncomfortable – like listen to each other's feelings without judgement. We needed to honor each other. We needed to love each other with our actions, not just our words.
What a world of difference.
We all have that choice, every single day but especially when we're dealing with a partner's betrayal. Are we going to stay and rebuild our marriage or are we going to walk away?
To figure that out, we need to get clear on what our spouse's actions are telling us. The betrayal is part of that, of course. But, as crazy as it sounds, putting that aside, what is he doing about it? Is he accepting full responsibility for the pain he's caused us? If he loves us, then he will accept No Contact and stick to it. If he loves us, then he will accept our offer of a second chance as the incredible gift it is and he will cherish it and determine to spend his life deserving it. If he loves us, then he will include us in every part of his life. We will know where he is, who he's with and when he'll return. His word will be worth something.
Most people who cheat have unhealthy ideas around love and relationships. They'll moan about "loving both of you." They'll whine about being "confused."
It's up to you, of course, whether you give them time to seek treatment and begin to understand why they betrayed the person they claim and vowed to "love". We each bring our own baggage into any relationship and it can take time to unpack it all. But ultimately we're looking for someone who treats us as valuable. Who sees our worth.
Healing from betrayal gives us all the chance to revisit how we love other. Betrayal doesn't have to be the end, it can be a beginning. But only if each partner is willing to stop paying lip service to love and start living it.
Saturday, January 2, 2016
Friday, January 1, 2016
Tens of thousands of you found your way to my Open Letter to the Other Woman, which led many to my Second Letter to the Other Woman (they're oldies but goodies. Frankly, I don't give the Other Woman any thought these days).
The absolutely most-read post is my Seven Lies We Believe After A Spouse's Affair. I ache for the women who come to this site full of pain and a deep conviction that if they were somehow...better...their spouse would have remained faithful. My main purpose with this site is to convince each and every one of you that you are enough. He did not cheat because there's something wrong with you, he cheated because there's something wrong with him. Steam reminded all of us that you did nothing to deserve this.
It has been nine years since the Christmas from Hell when I learned of my husband's affair. Though I never imagined I'd ever feel anyone but grief and misery, here I am almost a decade later with a life that I love. Dare I say that my husband's affair led me on a path that has deepened my joy? Being so far out from those excruciating feelings, however, I began to wonder this past year if it was time to give up this blog. I worried that I was becoming detached from those wretched early days. I worried that I had less to offer. What's more, reading each comment and, often, responding takes a lot of time and energy and I have three children, a husband (the same one but new! And improved! And whore-free!), and a freelance career and volunteer activities and...and...and.... But when I imagined walking away, I didn't feel relief, I felt sadness. Thing is, I love you BWC warrior-sisters who come here. I love your kindness and your wisdom. I love your vulnerability and your honesty. I love your awesomeness and compassion. We rarely have the vitriol or the unkindness or the dismissal that I see on other sites. Almost without fail, the women on this site, even in the midst of their own worst pain, extend such warmth and compassion and support to each other that it makes me smile (sometimes through tears). You BWC warrior-sisters inspire me, every time I log on, to bring my absolute best self to this site. To continue to share what I'm learning. To revisit the ways in which I haven't been my best self in the hopes that I can spare you the same mistakes. To try and inspire you back. To remind each of you, as often as you need to be told, that you will survive this. And that it's possible to triumph over it and emerge with a stronger sense of your own worth. To use this horrible experience as the launch pad for a different way of showing up in this world, one that insists on respect and decency and honesty. To unlearn so much of the unhealthy stuff and gain some new lessons that will serve us better.
In June, after some consideration and consultation (thanks Steam!), I decided to add a Donate button. I don't ever want anyone to think they need to donate in order to feel welcome here. But please know that I'm incredibly grateful for and humbled by the women who've contributed. This site, of course, benefits hugely from those who've contributed with their comments, their support and their loyalty too.
However you found this site, please know you've discovered a place of support. I hate that so many of us need to be here. But I'm so incredibly grateful that we've found each other.