Thursday, January 7, 2016

Yes does he treat you?

I recently read something in an old Oprah magazine (the holidays are a great time to finally FINALLY clean up my office) in which columnist Lisa Kogan pointed out that many men love women but treat them horribly. Forget their men's words, she suggested to the women, and look to their actions. Or, as others have put it, love is a verb.
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.
It's not.
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.


  1. "stop paying lip service to love and start living it." --perfect.

    If I am honest, I was living the same lie about love he was (except his sense of entitlement drove him to cheat). I didn't grow up seeing "how" to love, I just had fantasies about what true love/real love/love that wasn't like my parents--would be like. But it was based on "feelings" and "soulmate" thinking. It wasnt based on the how and doing of love--things I had no examples of in my life. I also didn't learn how to love myself---a cliche, I know--but my home life/growing up didn't do a good job of teaching me how to meet my emotional needs. So I didn't really know how to stand up to his BS with conviction and self worth. The more I was able to learn to value my own self and experience, the more I have been able to show up as the real me without fearing that he won't like it. I now require that he learn to see he real me and hear my needs rather than keep expecting the perfect wife/soulmate fantasy who exists to meets his emotional needs.

    1. MBS,
      I think our entire culture subscribes to the "soul-mate" mentality. It's in every movie, every book, every song. And yet, longtime love is about showing up day in and day out and acting lovingly even when we don't particularly feel it.
      And you're so right. Once we learn to value ourselves and honour our feelings, it's so much easier to call out another person's disrespectful behaviour in a way that's assertive without being aggressive. Sounds like you're well on your way.

  2. Elle great post and hard hitting. I agree with everything you have said. Actions speak louder than words that's so bloody true. This is gonna sound really strange but finding out about this second encounter my husband has admitted to ( the meal) with the other woman. Has made me yet again re evaluate my relationship with my husband. And if the truth be told we slipped down the path of taking asvantage of one another again. The last 4 weeks before this 2nd betrayal we were sleeping with our children in separate rooms, just to get a good nights sleep as many a times my youngest will want to be in bed with me and for a peaceful nights sleep I give in. 4 weeks later the same situation. It's not appropriate for any relationship but like any parent knows you'll do whatever to get done sleep. Anyhow how does this effect our relationship. Well we hadn't had sex for a month neither have we had time for any pillow talk. We let things slip in our relationship again we are both to blame only difference is I don't look to any other male to make it better.

    After only 3 sessions of counselling after last d day it wasn't enough and I'm hoping this time around we get to the root cause of our issues. We clearly care for each other and want to spend our lives together but we get stuck in situations. I'm optimistic about the future. He's willing as I am to get renew this marriage into one where we put each other's needs first. That's really important in any relationship.

    Here's to a new and improved relationship 😊 xxxxxx lots of love to you all xxx

    1. Sam A,
      Yes, it's absolutely important to put a relationship first but there also needs to be room for the relationship to sometimes take a backseat to the practicalities of raising a family. It just can't become a habit.
      I'm sure your counsellor will help you with that. And I think also that your husband needs to really recognize just how damaging the deception, secrecy or lies by omission can be. Without trust, neither partner feels safe and safety is crucial for true intimacy.

    2. Elle, my thoughts entirely. He does need to know how damaging his deception is to me, I can tell him, he can see how hurt and broken I am but I doubt he will ever feel it unless he experienced deception himself.

      I want to ask so many more questions, but I'm stopping myself and waiting for our counselling session, I figure this would be a better place to discuss it. This week has gone so fast feel like my feet havn't touched the ground and my head is in a spin. I hope I'm doing the right thing by giving him this chance xxx

    3. Many years ago, one of the sages at work (he was notorious for biting remarks and off color humor) had a sign in his office that stated a truism (his words): Women grant sex to gain affection. Men grant affection to gain sex. Neither party gets what they truly want.

      I think of this when people equate "sex" with "relationship" - My husband and I had sex frequently - almost daily - and he still cheated.

    4. Anonymous,
      I know of so many women whose sex lives were fulfilling and yet their husbands cheated. Affairs are rarely about sex. They're about fantasy, they're about escape. They're about avoiding uncomfortable feelings. They're about distraction.

  3. Elle
    Wow! Those words are very powerful! You remind each of us where we are in our healing and what we need to do to improve our chances for not just surviving this mess, but really thriving in the aftermath! I'm one of the ones who has a husband that truly took the path you pave with your advice. He made very bad choices in the past but his choices since the day our world turned upside down, he has gone over the moon trying to make better choices. He wasn't always able to do that but it seems to be getting easier for him. Every day is getting better even if we slip back into old habits, each of us pull ourselves up and move forward together one day at a time!

    1. Theresa,
      I remember reading years ago a story on couples who'd made it to their golden anniversaries. One couple said that their marriage had lasted so long "because one of us was always in love with the other and was able to pull the other along". It spoke to the truth that all marriages have moments when one of the partners isn't so sure he/she wants to be there. But with that sure, steady hand of the other to bring them back, it can survive. I'm not sure if I'm describing it very well, but it kinda sounds like what you're describing. Just that commitment to stick it out with each other because, ultimately, we know it's worth it.

    2. Elle
      We were with my grandparents for their golden anniversary at the beginning of our marriage and at the time we both were so 'in love' and wanted just what they had! I spent many years watching how they treated each other and theirs was not always easy either but at the end of the day each of them told the other 'I love you and will see you in the morning! Theirs was the sweetest relationship I was ever around! Thanks to your blog, I feel like we are back on track to find our 'happy ever after'! Still a lot of work to do but getting easier as each day passes with him making better choices for both of us!

    3. So great to hear, Theresa.

  4. Great post. So much if it was familiar and as if I had thought or written it. My husband was around a lot but not present. The worst was that I tolerated what he said to me. I did challenge him but always able to turn the table on me quickly. Now I know everything he said was to make himself feel better. I mean based on what he was doing if I was an awesome wife then he would have been either the biggest jerk or a sociopath. So he of course made it easier for himself. I even remember saying to him "why do you hate me so much, why am I at the bottom of your list." And it was work, parents need me, stress, tired. Or I was too bossy, too sick, too tired, not grateful enough. Yet he would often try to hug me and it did not feel good after he spoke to me the way he did. Looking back on it I feel like it was emotional abuse. Yet I made the best of each day and took care of my kids and myself. I will say all this coming out did make me feel better about myself in a twisted way. It all became clear what he was saying and why.

    Now my husband keeps saying love is a verb and it is the actions not just words that matter. So I hold onto that. we say often we are "redefining" our marriage. It is a work in progress and some days are so hard others feel amazing.

    1. Hopeful30,
      It really is a two steps forward, one step back kinda situation for a while until you both feel back on solid ground. And yes, I completely recognize what you're saying. I also remember asking my husband why he was with me because he seemed so unhappy with me. He would be perplexed by my question. But the thing I can see now is that he didn't like himself very much. And when we don't like ourselves, we aren't very nice to other people.

    2. Yes sometimes I feel like this is a different person in our lives. I mean he says he is the happiest he has ever been in his adult life and he is finally starting to like himself. So I think there is a lot of truth to your insight of how poorly he felt about himself. He said he would look in the mirror everyday and hate himself and live every day with regret. So I do know that is where all the detachment came from and negativity towards me and our kids even. He was around but not connected and very negative. Yet he said he could not bring himself to confess out of fear. He said all he ever wanted was it all to stop. Which everything pretty much had stopped except for a few stray emails. Again making this healing for him I think so much faster. He was done with these women already. I think one of your posts was on grace. I am still working on the idea of forgiveness but I can see what a damaged and hurt person he was and still is.

  5. Hopeful what you say rings so true to me too. Your h has traits very similar to mine. At times it felt like this man hated me, he blamed me I didn't d enough, care enough. And it hurt because I knew I was doing my damn best for my kids, maybe not for him. And like you I took care if myself and kids and let him do what he wanted to do. The difference with me and my husband is I'm very confident and happy in my own skin, he learnt isn't and this is the root of all evil in our marriage.

    Actions speak louder than words to me too And I'm not gonna lay down And let him or anyone take the piss. Do the hard work and reap the rewards and if you don't then you know where the door is.

    I'm not weak, I care I love him but I'm not an idiot and I am not prepared to take shit. It has to be a two way street. Times gonna tell. Xx

  6. We are always hopeful that our H will change, in a way we want them to change in our own eyes, believing that they will love us , adore us and everything will be the same. But we know the answer is NO, we know for a fact that they betrayed our trust and love. I'm only 34 years old, married for 15 yrs , he told me he did not love me in the first place, for real 15 years I wasted my youth and life with him. Now hes planning to move out and be with his OW but he's still denying the affair..

    But I will not stop him, I tried my best to save our marriage but we cant force them to stay with us if they don't want to , let it be, yes it will hurt the hell out of me, but what will be my future If I beg him to stay more misery.. Yes life is still beautiful , try to find your inner peace, little by little try to understand that is not on us , yes I'm scared but this will not define me for who I am, I maybe in pain right now , but time and faith in God will heal everything. My mom always told me, your are a good person, there's so much life ahead of you, try to explore things and live your dreams, no matter what don't stop and look back just keep your eyes straight and focus on what will be your life in the future- time to move on and be happy on your own.

    1. Anon, great advice from your mum, I wish you the very best in whatever you do. Xxx

    2. Anonymous,
      You've got a great attitude and I know it will serve you as move forward. Your husband's behaviour was cruel and I hope you know that it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with his own issues. His problems are not your problems and you're now free to move forward into a life of your own design.

  7. It's so hard to remember that it is not about us and ALL about their choices that I think it is always worth repeating. To be honest I am not very lovable right now yet instead of rushing off to deal with how uncomfortable my H is right now with me, by slipping into old and unhealthy and betraying patterns he actually TALKED to me about it. I know it was not easy and it took a few days for him to gather the courage, it did not solve everything (i have got to get my act together too) It is a huge thing that I do not take for granted.



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