Monday, October 17, 2016

What is your source of information?

"I'm afraid I'm going to flunk out of university," my daughter confessed to me, her face masked by the darkness but her voice shaking. She lay in her bed and I sat beside her. She's home for her fall reading week, sick with strep throat, sick with worry.
Her grades have been great so far, even with her clinical anxiety acting up, even with her doctor weaning her off her anti-anxiety meds because they're not doing the job. Even with moving to a huge new city, two hours from home, from family, from friends, from everything that's familiar.
"What is your source of information," a friend used to ask the newly sober poet and memoirist Mary Karr, whenever she confided some fear that she was a failure, a fraud, not worth anyone's love or affection.
How many of us ask ourselves that question when we're awake in bed at 3 a.m. telling ourselves stories about how superior the Other Woman was sexually, or how much prettier she was, or smarter. Do we ask ourselves that when we imagine our husband and the Other Woman/Women laughing at our ignorance of the affair? Do we ask ourselves that when we freeze socially, convinced that everyone around us is secretly rolling their eyes at us?
I didn't. I believed every soul-destroying lie I told myself.
What is your source of information?
It's tricky ground. Betrayal creates enormous doubt in ourselves, in our ability to judge for ourselves what's safe, who can be trusted. But even as we begin to doubt our judgement, we nonetheless believe every conspiracy theory we tell ourselves.
What is your source of information?
If it's you and it casts you in an unforgiving light, then don't believe a word of it.
If it's you and it's based on the midnight wanderings of a battle-weary brain, don't believe a word of it.
If it's you and it leads only to self-doubt, self-blame and shame, then don't believe a word of it.
If your friends would look at you as if you were crazy for believing it, don't. If you're afraid to say it out loud because you know it would sound crazy, then don't believe it.
What is your source of information?
If your response is, "I thought it up", well...you know what to do with it.


33 comments:

  1. I do feel like I am my own worst enemy. I have been struggling with the thoughts and words in my head. It is such a hit and it just keeps coming.

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    1. H30, Challenge those words. What are they saying? Who do they sound like? Are they true? Would friends of yours believe them about you? Try and get curious about them rather than judgemental about yourself and see where that takes you.

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    2. Interesting you say that Elle. I have been trying to do this since reading this post. All I can connect it to is my lack of ability to feel truly happy with my husband and why is that? The only thing I can think is that it is due to the entire trickle truth he continued on for 6+ months after dday or the fact that I basically at some point backed down on wanting to know details. This is the only thing I can think of. At a certain point I basically decided if I learned anymore details it would not make things better. Which I agree with intellectually. But then my thoughts and feelings get the better of me. And I go back and forth in my mind. The majority of my insecurities are related to intimacy. I would say that I just can't shake feeling bad about myself due to what he did. And I think it is causing me to pull back. Initially I was like yeah he wants me he chose me. But now I am like great he chose me but for 10 years he was checked out and choosing other women. Maybe the severity of what he did is sinking in. I feel dumb even saying that. It is almost like my hang over from the betrayal has worn off and I am like this is what I am stuck with forever. And yes plenty of time I see the good but it definitely feels more of an issue with intimacy which I have had issues allowing myself to be vulnerable and I know it is all connected.

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  2. Excellent reminder. The things I have dreamed up are far worse than the reported reality by my husband.

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  3. Yes, Elle. This is the way to treat those middle-of-the-night thoughts. Thank you.

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  4. I swear Elle if I could make you a saint I would! Thank you for speaking sense, truth and insanity time and time again! I would be so lost in this ocean of hell within you anchoring me with your words! Thank you so much!

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    1. Trust me, I'm no saint. But thank you.

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  5. I think for me those voices originally were instilled by my mother. She really didn't know what she was doing even though she thought she was encouraging us girls with her constant reminders that we could do better. But if she was angry with you, she reminded you that no matter what you would never be good enough. So it was easy to believe the cow when she said he really wants me he's just too scared to stand up for what he wants and needs. Sure did take my h a long time to convince me that I was the only one he wants and what a mistake he made questioning our marriage to begin with... But I am good enough and we're working on this every day '

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    1. I think most of us can trace them back to some pretty basic childhood messages we got from parents, or siblings, or relatives, or teachers, etc. You are not fill-in-the-blank enough: pretty, smart, kind, generous, selfless, charming, outgoing, supportive, athletic....

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  6. Hopeful 30, Elle, thank you. This was me last night. I have so many questions of my husband and his experiences with prostitutes because I "imagine" what happened. It enrages me, disgusts me and makes me want to die. He says it was terrible, disgusting and that he always hated himself afterwards. Well, after the first few times asshole, why didn't you just stop. Twice he was in Colorado. Did you know that if you get arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Colorado you can get convicted and labeled as a sex offender? Really asshole? You jeopardized your relationship with your grandchildren for a f-ing prostitute? WTF? My sources of information are unreliable but they grab me like quicksand and down I go. Ugh. One step forward and three back. Peace and Love. (Oh look at me posting with my Beach Girl name! Thanks for the tutorial!)

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    1. Beach Girl,
      It took me a long time to get past the idea that somehow my husband's "encounters" were sexy and exciting. But the more I truly know (rather than imagine), the more I understand that they were the result of compulsion rather than desire. Like scratching an itch that refuses to stop. It's not anything we'd want to be a part of. And by realizing that -- the shame, the self-loathing, the disgust -- I was able to feel compassion for my husband. Addiction is ugly, no matter the substance or behaviour.

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    2. Beach Girl, Exactly! It is just hard for me to understand how something you hated doing you kept doing for 10 years. What I have learned is that we are so fundamentally different. We are so similar in so many ways. But wow this sets us apart. I have told him that as a kindergartner I would have never thought or dealt with things this way. I mean I just do not get it. And sometimes I wonder if that is an issue. I sit and think yes he is trying so hard and doing great but deep down he is the person who did this for so long. I mean your wiring has to be really off. And even now nothing major but I look at him and wonder about his judgement. I have said from the beginning our kids who are preteen/teen have better judgement. No one is perfect and I am not for sure but some days I feel like we are apples and oranges.

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  7. I am really glad you posted this!!

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  8. Once again Elle, you have read (or at least geo located where my head gas been). I'm reading Rising Strong. And thinking a lot about the stories I'm telling myself. And trying to challenge them. One of the things I have noticed is that my inner critic is now the OW. When I'm doing things around my house and the kitchen isn't very clean and I feel like I should some how have it under control, I can picture her curling her lip at me snide. And I think "bitch please, you have your life torn apart by the person you trusted the most and some selfish whore and let me know how clean your kitchen is?" Or I'm working out and the skin on my stomach isn't tight and and perfect or I zero in on the copious stretch marks and I think about her young, 29 year old skin and see her smirking thinking she'd somehow be less middle aged. And I think "you have two giant babies, get your pelvic floor cut in half and have three reconstructive surgeries and find out your h has been banging some selfish bitch from work, turn 47 and get back to me." The point bring, she's in my head as a watcher, voicing my own criticisms. And I get mad. I call bullshit. She doesn't deserve my headspace. I think this sense of being watched by a critical "other" grew in Catholic school. We were taught that God always had an eye on us. And became the voice that told me "shame!". And now I work to quiet that voice. To say, you aren't real, the ow can't really see me, probably doesn't even think of me (except maybe to resent my existence or to make up stories about how i don't deserve my h etc etc). And to remind myself that I am in the arena slogging it out and that I'm doing fucking amazingly all things considered.

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    1. Oh SS, You sound so much like me. It took me years to quiet that voice. My house was never clean enough, never organized enough, never well decorated enough, my kids never charming enough, my pets never well behaved enough, my body never thin enough and the list goes on and on and on. It's all total bullshit. Nobody cared. Well, not true. Some people were judging me. But seriously?? Imagine how small-minded you need to be to feel superior to someone because your house is cleaner. Imagine how insecure you need to be to believe yourself more worthy because your butt is tighter. The people I love are messy, figuratively speaking. They're open and honest and funny and smart. And that's why I love them. Not because they keep their kitchen clean. Not because their kids just earned a scholarship. Not because their husband never cheated on them. But because they're wonderful. Just like you. Don't you EVER take criticism from an imaginary someone who cheated with a married man. Ever. Tell her that if her own house was tidy, metaphorically speaking, she wouldn't be complicit in the betrayal of another person. Tell her, out loud. Then throw a imaginary sponge at her. Then celebrate your stretch marks, which means that your body was home to incredible new life, with a bowl of ice cream.

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    2. Still standing
      Selfish whore is just what they are and as we all know nothing we care to be!
      The cow in our world 'settled' for being his fuck buddy, her words even when he was trying to break it off with her but sex is sex and he just couldn't pass it up. The skin on my 57 year old body will never be tight again either but it is a reminder of my two beautiful children and my h has learned to appreciate the lines and wrinkles that I've earned by being willing to give us the most precious part of our life together. He's finally looking in the mirror and seeing his own age lines and sagging skin! I'm with Elle, she chose to be the whore, she knew that there was a wife that had a name she couldn't bear to type (I became 'T' in her text to my h when she was begging him to meet her and didn't care what lie he had to tell T to make it happen). I was a non-person that she didn't give a shit about because of her own selfish wants! I'm still raging about parts of her attempts to destroy our marriage but I'm using that rage to spit it back at her in my mind and it's helping me get rid of the parts that trigger the rage! Circles around it until I get rid of it! Hugs!

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  9. Wow! I woke up this morning and again started searching the internet for stuff to validate the garbage in my head. I never find anything. The only source of information is me. I was thinking that maybe I should ask my DH for more information so that I can stop the merry go round that happens in my head. Then I realized that I still don't trust him so the information he gives me could be false. It is a crappy circle yet I am obsessed with it and don't seem to step out. My mother gave me a visual when I was a child of putting whatever and whoever bothers you in a hot air ballon and watch it float away and send it with love. I keep trying that. Maybe someday it will work.

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    1. Denai H,

      I'm still healing (dday was 12/20/15) so you can take my comments however you'd like, but I used to do the same thing (sometimes I still do!!!). Right now I'm in a fairly good place but this site has helped me realize so many things!! You're right in that the information he may give you is false. My h still holds out on some information and will stay with his same lie even though I know it to be untrue. But then I ask myself, what would be gained if he suddenly told me the truth on that one question I know is a lie? I think he holds onto the lie because he swears he never wants to hurt me like he did ever again. It's like if he confesses the lie then I would hurt all over again.

      As far as searching, I realized (on most days:) that I had better things to do with my time - read, walk the dog, do my nails, stuff "I" want to do that will benefit me. Especially if I know that what I'm looking for I had thought up in my mind.

      This whole thing sucks. It is getting better but with dday coming up I'm honestly a little bit afraid. This is the time that my h was hot n heavy in the affair so I'm worried about what my mind will be telling me versus what really is.

      Hang in there. I hope that someday your efforts of sending whatever is bothering you away will work and you'll find yourself in a better place.

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    2. Denai H
      Yes it is a crappy circle! The best thing I can offer is be careful what you learn about the affair because once you know it you can never unknow it. You do have a right to hear the answer to any questions you have. My h has had to do total disclosure since his cow chose to continue 'telling me the truth'...Trouble with her truths is they were delusional mixed up with facts. I spent the first year having to hear my h tell me the parts she had in her truths text with his reality of the affair. Then when I thought I had his story straight, I would have to ask him again just to make sure that his story was the same. Trust him to be honest after learning what an easy liar he was. Hell once he said if it makes you feel better, I lied to her more than you. No that doesn't make it better! There should have never been the lies in the first place asshole! That was pretty much my response to him. Since then he is doing life completely different from our past! We are finally finding the right balance of together time and time shared with family and friends. It's not been easy and all I can say is we're still getting through one day at a time. Hugs!

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    3. This post is something I keep coming back to also. These comments are so helpful too. I find I have a battle internally. Intellectually I know a lot to be true but then my feelings and emotions come into play. I continue to tell myself what if I get one more question answered will that help me? Well there are never going to be enough answers to make me feel satisfied or okay with what my husband did. I need to focus on what has happened since dday and each day forward.

      Another point that is important for me. My husband is in such a different place right now. We are 19 months past dday. For him to reflect back on his two simultaneous 10 year affairs is not only hard because of shame etc but because he is in a different frame of mind. He was a totally different person. Even things he said to me on dday and the following weeks. Some of what he said stung but he was not who he is now. So if I ask him a question today he is going to see it totally differently and give me a different answer than on dday. I figured this stuff was cut and dry and there was a black and white answer. But I have learned that even though his actions are in the past he sees them very differently now than when especially he was in the affairs. I try my hardest to focus on us in the present and future. I have been trying to focus on what I need from him and us to make me feel happier.

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  10. I had to reread this post this morning because I concocted a whopper of a story in my head last night about what happened between H and one of the OW. I did remember to ask myself what the source of the information was, but then ordered the phone bill from three years ago so that I could do some more "checking" with a better source. (The checking is driving me crazy). Rereading this post has helped me feel more peace. Afterall, not one of the stories in my head has been true so far. Before Dday, my story was that nothing like this would ever happen (not true). After that I've had a string of stories I've made up and asked my H about. There were painful answers, but none of them ever matched the story I made up at all. While it's true we will all have to find a way to trust some "gut feelings" and communicate our concerns, we cannot really count on these late night "lightbulb" moments anymore. It would be nice to feel that powerful though. That you could just figure everything out by being psychic. That no one would ever be able to get something past you because you can just "see" things like that. I think that's where it comes from for me. Wanting to be in control. That is resisting one of the main lessons of this entire experience though... I need to learn how to not be in control and still feel smart, beautiful, worthy, and at peace. That is my goal for today. More peace, less panic. What an absolute roller coaster!!

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    1. I did that too, not only with the phone bill but also asking him over and over to see if the story changed. It never did. I've watched her on social media because she had a post that someone saw claiming my h was her new boyfriend and to tell you the truth don't ever go that far. It's shit that stays in your head for a long time and you become obsessed. But I kept thinking that her life was better then mine. That somehow she was better then me in some way. I was wrong again. I guess by the next day it was off again because she ran back to the guy she left to go after my h. She's had her friend come after me to tell me that my h was lying about his sleep deprivation and the stimulant that was put in his coffee. That everything he, the Dr's and Counselors were all liars. That she knew what the truth really was. What part of trying to commit suicide makes them think that his head was on straight. When I blocked the OW's phone number on his cell phone they put a restraining order on me. It ensured that she could still go after my husband and I could do nothing about it. And she did through other peoples phones and emails. I knew that this group of women were the liars but it didn't ease the voices in my head. One day this past week I finally understood why these women hated me so much. Which that was something that bothered me for a year too. What did I do to them? We all worked together and I always was nice, polite, and treated them with respect we all got along very well. It had nothing to do with me personally. They hated me because my h chose me and his family over a group of people who live there lives by manipulation, lies and deceit. This is a way a life for these people in this small community and I was suppose to just step aside because the OW wanted my husband. This wasn't the first time the OW had done this to people either. And after she destroyed this other person's marriage and family she left him and moved on. I am just now starting to feel peace where she is concerned. And I haven't checked her social media in days. Small steps. I hope I can keep the voices out of my head where she is concerned from now on. It's a struggle but I am going to beat it.

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  11. I've re-read this post several times. It's what I needed to hear at the time I needed to hear it. Now at a year and a half out, I'm realizing how damaging those stories you tell yourself can be. I'm at the point in my healing that I still sometimes listen to that bad source of information, but pretty quickly come back around to the truth. Lately, I find myself challenging the stories I tell myself about the OW. Here's the truth... she was someone so broken that she sought attention from another woman's husband. She was so insecure that she willingly accepted an arrangement for parking lot sex in his truck on lunch breaks. She did this with the full knowledge that he never intended to leave his family and at the risk of her own husband and children. She continued to do it when her desperate ultimatums to stop fucking him until they were "both single" went ignored. And when the full truth came out, she was cast aside. It's not so flattering when you remove all the fantasy and lies.
    I find myself wondering if there is a tiny bit of compassion or forgiveness for her buried under the anger I still carry. God knows I've prayed often enough to find it.

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    1. I'm sure I've said this before Dandelion. Compassion maybe I can find, I certainly tried to see things from her perspective when I answered her self-centred mail to me. I told her I could see how she was in a bad place so had reached out. However none of the subsequent exchanges she had with me or my husband showed that she had any remorse or guilt whatsoever. She felt entitled and hard done by, the victim of my husband's lies and the angelic single mum (she had been going through the legal side of a separation when my husband became a shoulder to cry on.) Just as Elizabeth Gilbert does not seem to have genuinely faced up to the real impact of her actions on others, so the OW remained self-centred, cushioning herself in that bumper sticker philosophy about strength and finding yourself and so on, with never an acknowledgment of the detrimental impact of their selfishness. You can't forgive if they've done nothing wrong (in their eyes!)

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    2. I have 2 framed sayings in my office. One reads "Forgiveness doesn't excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart". The second, my personal favorite, reads "I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn't sorry and accept an apology I never received."
      I have been fighting breast cancer for almost 11 months and my H of 55 years has proven his love & devotion, as he was/is my primary caregiver this whole time. I have never looked so awful, felt so terrible but been shown so much love. For me, forgiveness is so very important because the hatred I have been harboring for the OW for 35 years must be removed, swept away, for me to have a complete recovery, as hatred hinders healing of the soul and body.
      Keep praying, Dandelion,it sure helps. Love you all, you brave, wonderful women are my inspiration!
      Carol, the first

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    3. Fragments, I completely see where you are coming from. I don't know if the OW in my case feels any remorse. She did give me an apology the day after d-day but her actions since then are contrary to it. I don't know if she is, at this point, capable of acknowledging the damage she played a role in. In some ways, I think she has always seen herself as a victim in this situation. But for me, the need to extend some type of compassion or forgiveness is part of my healing. I have since day one, and sometimes still, harbored a lot of anger toward her. That anger unresolved then turns inward. And that's the part for me that has to stop. It's almost as if have to find a level of forgiveness for her to save myself. Some days I fight that because why the hell should I forgive someone who unapologetically attempted to destroy my life? Other days I realize that even if she is never truly sorry or held accountable for her actions, that my anger only hurts me. My motives may be selfish but ultimately forgiving her is more about me than her in the end. And maybe the term forgiveness is a poor choice of words. I don't like acceptance all that much either. Maybe it's more just coming to terms with her brokenness, recognizing that she may never change and moving on.
      Geez, I've rambled. No matter how we get there, the road to healing is a tough one. I'm grateful that I have this place to discuss all this stuff with people who get it.

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    4. Carol, those quotes ring true for me right now. Thinking of you!

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  12. Today I had a good conversation with my husband. It started out just going over upcoming schedules etc but then turned toward serious stuff. Our conversations have been more productive lately which is good. One thing that hit me as I was telling him what I hear in my head since I finally decided he needed to know this after thinking about this. Well what was interesting was what he tells himself. It sank in that we are all dealing with it. He tells me how he thinks that he is not good enough for me. I deserve better. I am too good for him. I should be with someone that respects me more and is more honest and who would not do these things to me. He said he feels like that a lot. He wonders if I would be happier and better off not going through all this pain and trying to make it work. It was good to hear I am not the only one with a different narrative than what is going on in reality.

    In the end it was good to hear he has and feels these negative untrue thoughts. And I feel better than I opened up about what I tell myself. We had a good laugh at the end since based on some of what I tell myself he should have a job in Hollywood. Since it would be the best acting job ever.

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  13. I think it's so tricky because there is often a grain of truth in the types of things that our WS complained about us to the OW. And sometimes these might be things that we're not too proud of ourselves. If we shine a spotlight on what was said about us, we might find that yes, (in my case) we are not the most clean and tidy individuals or that we can get a bit overwhelmed and angsty at times. One of my characteristics that is not helpful is that I hope for a certain level of behaviour, consideration and kindness from others and I also expect a lot from myself. I was working through a self-help manual based on ACT theory. It's premise is tremendously helpful is that we can't wait for us to be right or the situation to be right, we have to find a way to boost ourselves and believe in ourselves amidst the messiness of life and the continuing challenges we face from within ourselves and from others. One of the exercises was to list things that made life difficult. Sure, the aftermath of the affair was in there, but I identified a self-loathing going back years - a lack of confidence and a harshness in my own assessment of myself. This is merely a matter of - like a product tester - always being attuned to the wrong rather than noticing the right. Steven Stosney's Living and Loving after Betrayal gets us to rewire our minds, by thinking about the worst elements of the betrayal but coupling them with thoughts of how we've been, loving, heroic, kind, competent etc in our lives over the years. It's to stop the automatic slide from the shame of the betrayal and how it shone the spotlights on our (perceived) faults and to emphasise our strengths. For me its not merely questioning where the information comes from (it often comes from my own anxiety or comparisons with others) but recognising that what I am is a combination of weaknesses but also many matching strengths. And I suppose it does require a forgiveness of ourselves as well as others in our daily lives who through their own blind spots, prejudices, backgrounds or just plain tiredness and fallibility sometimes slip up a little.

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  14. Very well stated and referenced Fragments. Thank you.

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  15. The more I find out about the OW the more i KNOW she does not have anything I'm missing. She is a sad broken train wreck and my h is leaving me to be with her because he "has to know what could happen". I can tell you. She will make you "happy" for about two seconds and then you will realize what a total JOKE you are and I will be gone. Once he moves out it is OVER. We will not be speaking about ANYTHING other than house or divorce stuff and I will for all intents and purposes be dead to him. He is NOT coming back EVER. We are NOT being friends EVER. I am NOT a back up choice. I am the WIFE. If he makes the choice to be with her then he can be with her FOREVER and I am GONE forever. However, I wish someone that wasn't me could tell him how stupid and pathetic he is. She was raped by her fiancé ten years ago and that's where she got her kid from. Her currently divorcing husband stole her ENTIRE 401k. One of her boyfriends stole her SSN and got a mortgage and bank accounts in her name and bankrupted her. And THIS is who he is choosing over me! When we talked before he told me he KNOWS they will never have what we have and that he never expects to find it with anyone else. So why would you leave? What an idiot. My new mantra has become he doesn't care about me, he only cares about himself. I cannot change him I can only control myself. If she wants him he cannot be a good person. I have to tell myself otherwise I become too overwhelmed and wish I was dead or I spend my time sobbing until I'm sick. I've lost 16 pounds in the 9 weeks since d-day. I desperately want him back because I love him so much but he even said he has something wrong with him he doesn't think he can fix. So there's nothing I can do. I hate him because he tells me that I am everything good, beautiful, funny, sexy, smart, loving, loyal sensitive and kind but he wants that broken whore instead of me. I know it isn't me, but it sure feels like I'm not good enough if he can't even choose his best friend for the sake of "finding out"

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