Monday, March 27, 2017

How to have a tough conversation

Our trip had not started off well. My husband was overworked and grumpy. I was overtired and resentful. I had a laundry list of things that had been building up that I wanted to talk to him about but hadn't found the time.
Neither of us had been doing any self-care and our attitudes showed it.
We snarked at each other in the airport. He snapped at the kids. I chastised him for snapping at the kids.
We might have been heading to a tropical paradise but none of us seemed very happy about it.
Two days in, we finally found ourselves alone on the beach. It would have been easy to tell myself that now wasn't the time. That I should just enjoy the breeze and the sunshine.
I swallowed hard. "I need you to listen to me," I said.

So often on this site, I read your stories of being triggered. You suddenly find yourself in a situation that takes you right back to a terrible moment. You hear a song. You spot a certain make of car. You pass a restaurant or a motel or a massage parlour. And it feels like a kick in the gut. You have trouble breathing. Your throat constricts. Your heart, literally, aches.
There's not much we can do about triggers but wait them out. But what we can do is have those tough conversations with our partners about them.
It's tempting to not bring them up. Our partners, especially if they're still new to this "tough conversation" stuff, will almost inevitably disappoint us with their response. They'll get defensive. They'll try and shut us down. They'll ask us if we're ever going to "get over this". They'll get silent. They might get angry.
All of those are countermoves and are the response of someone feeling deep shame. Someone who just wants this to go away.
We know that doesn't work.
Have the tough conversation anyway.
Even if you're the only one talking, have the tough conversation.
"I need you to listen to me."
"I want you to know something."
"It matters to me that you know this because I need support."
"I'm hurting and I need to share that with you."
However you phrase it, give words to your pain.
Not to make him feel bad (though that might be an inevitable part of this) but because he's your partner and you're going through this together.
Not to cast blame but to seek support and compassion.
It takes practice. If he responds in a way that's disappointing or hurtful, talk about it. Tell him you don't want to hear excuses. That you don't want to be talked out of your feelings. Tell him he doesn't even need to say a thing. Tell him that this was tough for you and that you need a friend right now. That's it. A friend. Not a therapist and certainly not a defence attorney.
It's fraught, of course. The person you most want to help you through is the person responsible for the pain you're in.
But that's the reality of it. And you can both use these tough conversations to pull closer to each other. Or you can avoid them and leave the wall up between your hearts.
But you cannot rebuild a healthy marriage without, eventually, learning how to have these tough conversations. Without learning to really hear each other's pain.

Fighting back tears, I proceeded to tell my husband how his attitude sometimes hurts me and the kids. I stuck to "me" statements. "I feel hurt when..." "The kids feel frustrated when..."
I pointed out that he seemed so annoyed with me. That I feel small and stupid.
He listened. He simply didn't realize how his stress came out as annoyance with me. That wasn't at all how he felt.
He shared some of his own frustrations with work, with our kids, with me. I listened to him.
By the time he got up to get us a couple of margaritas a half-hour later, I felt 20 pounds lighter.
Pain is heavy.
It doesn't always work out quickly easily. Sometimes we need to take a break and walk away and come back to the conversation a day or two later. Sometimes it takes each of us some time to really digest what the other is saying. Old habits die hard and we get defensive. Simple truth is we don't want to hear about the other's pain, especially when it triggers our own shame in creating it.

But...marriage is tough. Marriage after betrayal is especially tough. And having these tough conversations can create a foundation beneath you that will hold you both up as you move forward. Being able to listen and say little more than "I'm so sorry you had to go through that" or "If I could go back in time and un-do this, I would" or "Thank you for sharing that with me. What do you need from me?" goes a long way toward shoring up that foundation.
It takes courage on your part to start that tough conversation. You will feel unbearably vulnerable. You will feel naked. Your heart will be exposed.
But the alternative is a cop out that only disguises your pain but does nothing to validate it.



38 comments:

  1. I was triggered this weekend too and shied away from a two tough conversations that I wish I'd had, but didn't. I feel awful that I didn't.

    My H and I had childcare so we got a weekend away. Saturday we were sitting by the pool, under the palm trees, being treated like first class. The family of 5 sitting next to us left and a good looking couple took the empty chairs. He looked about 50, fit, salt & pepper hair, a worn simple platinum wedding band on his left ring finger. She looked about 40, petite, slim, gorgeous black one piece bathing suit, great hat, designer sunglasses. They were affectionate but not over the top PDA. He got in the pool and I noticed her left ring finger had a fashion ring on it, it was clearly NOT a wedding ring. Then I heard him tell her how he had just got a text that "we" got a new refridgerator delivered and the 'she' (who sent the text to him) 'thought it was comical that they damaged it right as they were unloading it but the driver refused to put it back on the truck'. He asked the woman he was with how much she thought that kind of refrigerator would cost. The woman said about $7-8k. He went on to say "we have double ovens that match the refrigerator". Then the woman started to get tears in her eyes and put her hat & sunglasses back on. He said 'please don't be sad, don't cover up your face, you have such a beautiful face, don't be sad, my wife and I did "unconscious coupling" - one day I said do you want to get married and she said sure why not.'

    So there I was directly observing a CH and his OW. I wanted to cry for his BW. I wanted to tell the OW that she deserved every bit of sadness she felt and so much more pain. I wanted to tell the CH that if/when his BW finds out there will be years of therapy, thousands in costs, antidepressants, and most importantly human suffering beyond imagination -- all the consequences of his selfish choices. I wanted to tell my H (who is 7 years out from ending his PA) what I overheard. I felt relieved that my H only did it once and it was classless - in the backseat of a car and my H never spent a dime on the OCW (is that awful I thought that?). I wanted H to be the one to tell that CH to take the advice from someone who has been in your shoes: you will regret this for the rest of your life. Instead I panicked. I didn't say a word to anyone. I told my H I was ready to go and I packed my bag and walked out of there faster than I have ever left a pool. The rest of the weekend that should have been bliss, I couldn't stop thinking about the hurt that was being inflicted on his BW. BW probably thought H was on a business trip or a golf trip with the guys - instead he was wining and dining the OW at a high end hotel.

    The next day my H found me crying on our balcony. He just held me and then he kissed me so sweetly. He knew I was triggered, but he never asked why and I never volunteered. My heat broke that there is 1 more BW in the world. I feel awful that I didn't help her by speaking to the CH or OW. I wish I had been brave.

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    1. This is a great post for where I am right now. When things are going well, it is so tempting to hide my negative emotions so as to not "spoil the mood." While it is true that I no longer need to discuss everything that triggers me (because that happens all the time) or rehash the same arguments over and over again, I do need a friend sometimes and I do need support. I have every right to it if I'm in a marriage! Part of claiming that is putting myself out there so he knows who I really am and what I really need. Being vulnerable is so hard for me anyway, but downright excruciating after Dday especially with my H. I have accepted that it's something I have to do if there's any hope of a real relationship. In the beginning, I needed to blurt out what I was going through in a stream-of-consciousness style and I couldn't concern myself with sparing my H's feelings. I wanted to, it's just that I was going through so much intensity it was my only way through. I tell myself that that is perfectly OK. I was not always rational or responsible in what I brought up, but we all know here what a newly betrayed wife is experiencing emotionally. I did just fine considering. Now, however, I am feelings things that are not quite so intense, but they are important to address. I ask myself a few questions before I start the conversation: 1. What do I need? (I lead with that usually so that my H knows going in what I'm ultimately asking for from him.) 2. When is the best time for this conversation? (In the beginning I was unable to time conversations well, but hey, the affairs were not at a good time for me either! Now I try to pick a time when we can both take the time to hear each other with minimal distractions). 3. What will I do/say if my H responds like an Ahole? (He hasn't so far, but I tend to get paralyzed by the "what if" fears. It helps me to plan how I would respond so I don't feel frozen in a moment of despair. I chickened out of a few conversations before with my H, but it always comes around again in some other way. If I miss one opportunity to deal with something, life will give me a second chance soon. Best to take the first opportunity most of the time and get it out of the way. Our best tough conversations end with us both admitting vulnerability somehow and sharing our pain/anxiety/concerns.

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    2. Browneyedgirl,
      Please don't feel like you are responsible for putting a stop to all the affairs in the world. I have had a couple of similar situations post Dday and both left me feeling helpless. One time I saw a married man and an unmarried woman being very affectionate at a hotel bar. I just glared at them both and they probably wondered who the crazy woman was across the bar and went about their infidelity business. I honestly don't know what I could have done that would have made a bit of difference, besides... what if I had it wrong? What if there were big parts of the story I was missing? Maybe I only thought that's what I was seeing. We also have an acquaintance that openly brings OW to social events. I've never been in the same room with him, but I've just heard that he does this. My plan is that if I do run into him face-to-face, I will call him out on it in public. That will be uncomfortable for everyone around I'm sure. I don't really care. My words will sound crazy to him, and the girl with him obviously doesn't mind. Nothing will change except people will perceive me as slightly crazier than they thought. One good interaction I did have was a male acquaintance showed me a picture of his ex girlfriend (very attractive model) who asked to friend him on Facebook. He asked me what he should do with a smirk of satisfaction on his face. I just asked him if he loved his wife and waited. He was stunned. Silent for a minute. Then he said, "Of course I do. I married my best friend!" So then I asked him, "why are you even considering it then?" He said good point and declined the invitation right in front of me. He said, "I don't know what I was even thinking." I said, "I do. If you think about it, so do you. Maybe think a little harder next time." I did feel good about that exchange, but that's because it wasn't an affair... Just a man with some momentary bad judgement at a critical point where I could make a dent.

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    3. BEG, That is heartbreaking. I have not experienced this as directly. I have been around for many conversations about people who have cheated, just acquaintances or conversation about others which is hard for me. I want to blurt out my commentary and share my feelings and knowledge. I notice it most with pop culture, tv, movies...

      What is so hard is I understand this will always be part of our marriage but it is so hard when situation like this triggers us. And my husband I know does not like it either. He feels it too. I feel though it is a deeper pain for me. I try to express myself to him and he says me too which is nice but I feel like he is undercutting me some. I feel like it discounts the fact that he did have a choice in all of this and he made these decisions where I did not have a choice. I have said that directly to him and he says fair enough. I think for me too it is hardest for me to put my thoughts into words that truly express how I feel. Early on it was easier since in a way it was more raw and simple now it is more complex and deeper issues.

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    4. browneyedgirl,
      I'm so sorry that you had to experience that. I have never seen it and recognized it firsthand since having it personally affect me, but I know it's out there. And now, like you and all our sisters here, I know the devastating fallout.
      Your heart and your kindness shine through. Even in the midst of that painful trigger, your compassion for the betrayed wife was there in your desire to protect her. Not saying anything doesn't make you any less brave.
      Hugs! ❤

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    5. Thanks ladies. I wish I would have publically shamed them. They deserved to be humiliated, even if I looked like a nosey town-crier. Our society values 'minds your own business', yet our culture is suffering because of the high rate of break-down of marriage & families. 51% divorce rate and how many of the other 49% have experienced (known or unknown) adultery. I am disappointed in myself for maintaining the status-quo. I know I can't stop every affair but I might have been able to do some damage to one.

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    6. I went to my IC last night and she said maybe the CH's W knew about it and was ok with someone else providing the sex as long as she had the name, house, kids, money, etc. IDK about that, I think that must be pretty rare, but anyway IC made me feel less upset about not speaking up.

      We also plan to talk about triggers with H in the next MC. IC said it would have been good for me to tell him what triggered me so he can see how frequently those things happen and how they affect me.

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    7. We don't ever really know, do we? I guess there are some people out there who would choose to turn a blind eye to their spouse's cheating. Having experienced the pain that accompanies finding out, I can't imagine how you could ignore it.
      I find it interesting that in my situation, the OW (also married) has a sister who was cheated on. They are very close so it's virtually impossible to believe the OW didn't know about it and see her sister's pain. The sister and brother in law ended up divorcing. So how do you watch someone endurec this and then inflict that same pain on someone else? The sister also attacked me (via e-mail to my husband) for texting the OW and telling her what I thought of her.
      And I promise you, it was a very matter of fact email with no name calling. I'm not sure how a person could go through this and not have a bit of sympathy for someone else experiencing it. Maybe there are people out there who choose not to deal with it. I wonder if she just divorced him and moved on, never really processed the pain and that made it a whole lot easier to just label my husband as just like her ex, turn a blind eye to what her sister did, and ignore what I was going through. I suppose there are many ways to deal or not deal with it. And ultimately, people will justify their actions if it's something they've made up their mind to do. Early on, our therapist suggested the OW might be emotionally immature based upon my interactions with her. She's probably right.

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    8. BEG, Please don't beat yourself up for not single-handedly saving the world from cheating bastards. There aren't enough hours in the day or days in the year.
      And what you perceive as a failure of a weekend, I see as something entirely different. I see a woman who was clearly triggered (and who among us wouldn't have been in the same situation!!) and a husband who responded to your pain in the best way he knew how. I see a couple who've come through incredible pain and have used it to create an intimacy and friendship. I see...success.
      Even if you had said something, you likely would have been dismissed as hysterical. However, rescript the situation in your head. Pretend your scripting a scene in a movie. What do you wish you had said? How do you wish you had said it? Try actually saying it out loud. Imagine having done exactly that. Then, should you ever (god forbid) find yourself in a similar situation, you'll have your lines ready to be delivered. That's empowerment. That's learning.
      We can't blame ourselves for being who we are and knowing what we know. But we can examine our behaviour and learn from it. You are completely forgiven for not saying anything and, frankly, for not ever saying anything, if you don't want to. But, if you do, you can be ready. And on behalf of betrayed wives everywhere, we're right behind you!
      (As for karma, I suspect that bus is idling somewhere out of sight at the moment. It's coming for them.)

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  2. I am "triggered"constantly. I was watching Dallas buyers club with my husband and when Jerad Leto's character( dressed and made up as a woman)showed up in a scene.. I said that he really looked familiar. My husband said that he reminded him of a loose drugged out girl we knew from high school, but I said, no it looks like Heather,(one of his affairs).. He actually agreed! Guess that shows how beautiful he admits she was. Then we just glossed over it and changed the subject as usual. I don't talk about the many, many triggers that I have because of the reasons listed above. If I do, I always feel worse after. Most of the triggers I have are during foreplay and sex. I feel like that kind of release has been ruined for me, but not him

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    1. Anonymous,
      I'd really encourage you to talk about those triggers. As you noted with the movie, your husband's reaction might just give you pause and lessen the impact of the triggers.
      And yes, it can hurt in the short term because you're actually pulling these feelings from the shadows. But, longer term, they lose their power over you.

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  3. This article is me. I totally believe in bringing up triggers or topics that I need to discuss. It is hard to know when and there is no perfect time. What upsets me the most is I let my husbands stress and work dictate when I bring it up. It is a disservice to both of us. I am not myself with something hanging over me and he has no idea why (well he has more of a clue now). However it is this habit we have created. It really is a pattern that he needs to be taken care of, his stress ranks higher, his work ranks higher....

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    1. Hopeful30,
      Yes, I think it's hard when we have something hanging over us; however, I don't think it's weak or wrong to wait until the time feels more right. You want him to be able to hear you. You don't want to be competing with internal stress. Sometimes even saying, "I have something I want to share with you later when you've had some time to unwind" can work.

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  4. We've had so many conversations I feel like I can't bring it up anymore. Is that stupid or what?! I just feel like I can't. He always says sorry, but underneath that I feel his frustration that I'm not over it. He has said he just wants to forget about it and he feels deeply ashamed, and I won't let us move past it. How do I know it won't happen again if he can't answer the why. He says he was stupid, an idiot, but that doesn't seem like he's dug all that deep.

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    1. Anonymous,
      It's a really familiar dynamic -- silencing yourself to make him more comfortable. And while it works in the shorter term -- ie. you're less likely to fight, for instance -- in the long term, you're disrespecting yourself and your feelings. I wonder if this has been a longterm habit in your marriage: for you to put your feelings aside so as not to "frustrate" or upset him.
      Talking about what's on your mind is treating yourself with respect. It isn't up to you to protect him from feeling shitty about what he did to you.

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  5. Regarding triggers, I had to take a "time out" from counseling about 10 years ago. I became too close to the subject when adultery came up in sessions. I also found talking to an OW impossible and ended up asking what exactly did she expect would happen when the H she was seeing ran back to his wife when they were discovered. I'm in a much better place now and look forward to volunteering again as soon as I'm free of my breast cancer regime. I only talked to about 7 OW but I noticed a common trait in each of them = they were all exceptionally selfish, greedy women with no feeling of guilt at all. Not a large number to base a study on but I found it interesting.
    Love to all my sisters,
    Carol the first

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    1. Carol the First,
      I'm curious what you're talking about. Did you speak with OW as part of project? Were you a counsellor yourself? Do tell!

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    2. I probably didn't explain myself correctly. Yes, I was a counselor but I no longer practice. No, it wasn't a project, just the luck of the draw of me being chosen as their counselor, as there were approx. 6 of us sharing an office on a part-time rotation basis. People are screened prior to being assigned a counselor, usually depending on our strengths, who is available when they are, or through a referral. We each had the freedom to refuse. However, some people are either unable or unwilling to disclose the real reason they are seeking a counselor. No one knew about my betrayal since it happened before I went to collage after my H's affair. (Yes, I was the oldest student in my class!) I thought I had everything under control. (Not!) I found I had a built in prejudice which,following my training,I knew I wasn't doing my best work. Adultery and OW were a trigger for me, I learned. I had previously had 7 random OW needing counseling and I noticed the common traits. I recorded every session and when I was reviewing, I noticed that they almost always used the same words. I felt I was taking their participation in adultery too personally and lost my objectivity, so I gave myself a time out. On reflection, I learned a lot from them - as they spoke candidly not knowing I was a BW!
      Carol the First

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    3. Ah, I see. Thanks for clarifying. I'm sorry you had to go through that, though I imagine having a front-row seat (along with being triggering) for the way these women's minds worked gave you helpful insight into just how twisted their thinking can be. A generalization to be sure, but so many that I've known over the years are hyper-focussed on themselves, always see themselves as victims, and struggle to empathize with anyone else.
      Glad you found us. I'm sure you have a lot of insight that could help us here.

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  6. Elle, I feel like this is the answer to my last question of you. Wow, it is perfect and hits home. I actually asked my husband to read it this morning even though I knew it would be hard for him. I told him I wanted to be better at this and that it would be helpful if we could both be better at this so there is not so much pain in our lives when I trigger. He agreed but it has been a quiet day and I know he is thinking about it all. It makes him feel awful when he is reminded about what he did for so many years and he has to look at and live with me. Oh, and Hopeful 30 I also find myself considering his feeling way more than is healthy because I now know how emotionally fragile he is. He has stopped going to counseling and I did ask this morning if he thought we should go back to couples counseling to learn how to better talk with each other. We are still on Maui until Easter so we shall see. I make so many resolutions that I am not going to trigger, I am going to talk myself through it and be OK but the fact is, my body keeps score and it screams at me sometimes. I can't even watch the local news here because it often shows the areas in Waikiki where he paid for sex. Ugh, on our anniversary vacation. Two years in a row. Ugh, ugh, ugh. He has a hard time watching it too. The night before last there was a piece about the police looking for a prostitute who bit the cop who tried to arrest her. Ugh, ugh, ugh. That sent me down, down, down. I'm so tire of this. It exhausts me. I don't want to hurt my husband consciously but unconsciously, maybe I sometimes think he has not paid enough even though I know he will pay for the rest of his life. Love to all

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    1. Beach Girl,
      Your comment on the other post was the impetus for this post. I'm curious what happened after your husband thought about this post. Yes, it's uncomfortable. But avoiding discomfort is often what gets these guys in trouble in the first place!

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  7. Thanks for this I'm 3 years post finding out about a 2 maybe 3 year affair with a 30 year difference co worker . The triggers are there everyday it's easing off but some days I just feel incredibly sad . We don't discuss it anymore he thinks it's an excuse for me to have a moan at him and put him down but I just need to talk about with him sometimes , ask questions still after all this time I don't know the full story but now it's not worth the pain . The wound is still there there but slightly scabbing over ! There's so much I want to say to him that I can't I know that's wrong and eventually it will finish us but I'm being selfish and living Day by day . The sex thing I agree with it's so not the same for me I'm just not there anymore , I'm guessing that's protection . I've been having counselling since I just tell her everything instead of him ! I'm helped immensely by this blog and the comments as I sometimes I can't quite believe what I'm feeling is for real ! It is because everyone else is going through it ! Thank you all !

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    1. Jean,
      Your pain is an excuse to "moan at him"? That makes my blood boil but he's certainly not alone in trying to silence the person he hurt from expressing that pain. So often these guys are so filled with shame and self-loathing (which is frequently why they cheated in the first place) that they can't bear to deal with the consequences of the choice they made because it makes them feel worse. Well boo hoo. He doesn't want to deal with the situation he created. He wants you to pretend that everything is fine so that he doesn't have to feel bad.
      Seriously? That's enormously self-centred and only makes it even harder for you to heal from this. It's the reason that HE should be in counselling too so that he can process his own shame and learn how to be a good partner to you.
      I'm glad you've found this site helpful, Jean. Really really glad. But a marriage can't really heal until both partners are able to show up for each other. And that can be really uncomfortable at first because it means he needs to see your pain and respond to it with empathy instead of self-defence.
      Can you tell him this? That you aren't talking about this to make HIM feel bad but because he's your partner and you want to be able to share everything with him, the good and the bad? Can you ask him to just listen to you, to maybe hold you? To respond to your pain with empathy and the reassurance that he will never put you through this again?
      It's amazing how powerful that can be.

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    2. Thanks Jean for sharing, and Elle, thanks so much for your analysis of this - it's what I'm experiencing at the moment, and have done so since D Days.
      Hugs
      Gabby xo

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  8. Fragments of HopeMarch 28, 2017 at 2:40 AM

    Thanks for your response on the other post Hopeful. As I was saying there two incidents of disrespect and another huge trigger event (we visited the OWs favourite mall and I began to feel really anxious and as if I would meet here there) happened but because of a massive work problem (possible imminent closure) and his continuing panic about us wasting time on issues and 'ruining weekends' and defensiveness me mentioning these issues was useless for me and didn't help. It made me feel even more hopeless that post affair reality was being taken seriously. Yet, I had a talk with him last night and said i will have to step back for now until his work thing is resolved but that at some time soon the reparation for these violations and repair of the relationship will have to take priority. They have come behind some real major work crises, then the daily work stuff that is always more important, then the very difficult time of meltdowns and school refusal with my son with aspergers. These are all real things, they have all interfered with my husband's (and my own) ability to repair. He has done plenty good stuff but is quite often too stressed to accept what I need. I am making it clear that the relationship must soon be the priority, or I will have to make myself safe in whatever way I need to. Brown Eyed girl what an awful situation, I feel so angry about the injustices of this type of thing when I see them, and also society's attitude. I recently saw an article about the great love affair of a (well known) astronomer and another person working on the Voyager project where they sent recordings of human endeavour into space, including the brain waves of this woman thinking about the new love between her and the astronomer. This love story is on the NASA website. It turns out though that the astronomer was still married when these two "fell in love" his wife was also on the project and has been written out of the whole thing. I could scream!

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  9. Triggers YUCK as I went upstairs to sleep. I was exhausted. Infidelity is like always right behind me. I run away from it. I'm constantly trying to out-run it. I'm busy. I do this and that. But with all that running away I get tired. It catches up to me, I trigger and exhausted. I did tell him what I was thinking which I ended up saying, "You scare the hell out me." He understood. He knows, he sees me running. He says tell me what I can do? I don't know what he can do. He says, I love you so much, I can live like this. I say, ok You said you loved me the whole time you were with her do you mean that kind of love or another kind of love. I'm confused. Is it cheater love or no cheater love? He said I do everything I can to show you how much I love you. I said yes you do. But how do I know you have changed on the inside to not cross that vaginal line again? He said, he realizes now he doesn't ever want to be that man again and do things that go against his core beliefs. I say can I sit on your lap? He takes out his phone and rocks me like child. I say can you lay in the bed with me and just hold me until I feel better. There we lay, my head is buried in his chest fully clothed and he holds me. Triggers gone but then I get up and start running. I tell him, I was able to get to a good place with my bitch of a mom, I pulled my life together after being abused but this, this I can't get seem to get myself together. He said, its like you want me to give you some magic answer but I don't have one. Neither do I just keeping running so infidelity doesn't catch me again. I felt that cloud of gloom and doom leave tonight. He laid his head on my chest and fell asleep. I'm ok now for a few months.

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  10. I hate tough conversations. I have always avoided them at all costs because I was so afraid of the backlash or outcome that would potentially happen. Not even with just my H but with friends, family, employees, etc. unfortunately sweeping things under the rug helps nothing. So now I have to actively try to have the tough conversations, at times i literally have to force myself to have them. Triggers are something I struggle talking about. I feel like I can deal with them by myself, but when I eventually come clean to my H about what is going on I feel like it's a huge relief. My counselor said something that really stuck-- talking about the feelings and emotions ( especially the tough ones) takes away their power.

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    1. KatieP,
      I'm with you. I HATE them. I have spent my life avoiding them. And that has got me exactly nowhere. Just left with a lot of resentment and frustration and like I'm silencing and disrespecting myself. My mom was the exact opposite. She had this incredible way to just dealing with things head on. No drama. Just matter-of-fact. I wish I'd inherited some of that.
      But...I'm learning. I'm learning that avoiding those conversations actually keeps relationships shallow. That living to please others just makes me wishy-washy and inauthentic. And yes, pulling those uncomfortable feelings from the shadows strips them of their power. They're never as scary as I think they're going to be.

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  11. Elle, I don't know how you do it, but you always seem be to writing directly to me. I know a lot of us feel that way. Every time I read one of your posts, it always feels like perfect timing. I'm a year out from d-day and for me, there are still SO many days that feel like that vacation you described... built tension and resentment, and being nervous as hell to speak up and have the difficult conversations. Sometimes I think it would have been easier to just cut my husband out of my life altogether and never speak to him again after what he did. However, we also have a now 3-year-old son. So, no matter what we decided to do with our marriage, we HAD to face each other and start communicating in the beginning of all this. I remember sitting at his kitchen table in the townhouse he ended up living in for awhile and writing a schedule for the week, outlining how we would share time and responsibilities with our son. The first time we had to do that, it was surreal. I sat there and sobbed. It was so hard to believe this is where we ended up. To be honest, it's one of the first times I realized that I didn't want to live without him. My already-broken heart hurt even more sitting in that home that wasn't ours as we separated time with our son. Those conversations were the first of many really, really tough conversations that we've had over the last year. My husband moved back into our home after about 2 months of being away and we've been working like hell to navigate this recovery together since. We go to therapy often, where we seem to do our best communicating. It's applying the tools that we're learning there to our life outside of that office that is most challenging. It can definitely get overwhelming at times. I have been known to close-off easily when I'm triggered or upset. My rather traumatic childhood has sort of trained me to be this way. I have really struggled with being open about my feelings and communicating to my husband when I am having bad moments/days. To be honest, I've really been struggling with obsessing over the other woman and it's really hard for me to talk to him about it. I feel a lot of shame and embarrassment over the struggles I've gone through in trying to break bad habits of looking her up online, especially. (That's a whole other topic of conversation for me.) For me, these have been some of the most difficult conversations. I hate talking about it, so I often close-off and try to work things out on my own. My husband actually says that I frustrate him at times because it drives him crazy when I say "I'm fine" and it's clear I'm not. He reminds me that being closed-off and not communicating is one of (the many) contributing factors that led us to all of this in the first place. He's not the greatest communicator either, but we are both getting better at these difficult conversations as we continue to practice them. It has definitely been a process and it's an ongoing one. I have to remind myself that we are building a new marriage now and if it's going to work this time, then we need to make changes. And I like how you put it Elle... we have to do this as friends first. I can honestly say that my husband has been my best friend for the past 12 years. We have been there for each other through so much over the years and right now, we need each other more than ever. Thanks again for these words Elle. My husband and I just went through a few rough days in which we had to try several times to get though some difficult topics. I like how you suggested taking breaks from conversations, even if it means stretching over days. This seems to happen to us. It can be a very stressful few days, as we had this week. But I can honestly say that I always walk away feeling better and feel like we accomplished something together. I guess we'll just keep moving forward, tackling one difficult conversation at a time. Really, that's all we can do.

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    1. Call me Kate, I can relate to this SO MUCH. I too avoid expressing myself and my feelings. I have always done that so it is really hard to force myself to do this, especially with my H. He can see right through me when I say "I'm fine". And also points out that avoiding the hard stuff, and the easy stuff, is one of the reasons we are here. He's right.... but it does not make it any easier. Hugs to you.

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    2. I found that writing out my comments/thoughts and questions helps a lot. If there is a lot to go through then setting aside multiple times to talk is good. At a certain point no one is any good to keep going on and on. I find I feel too weighed down even if we are making progress. I take notes over days and weeks. It helps me to see patterns and what is bothering me or what I need answered or need to talk about. Then I organize my issues/ thoughts by priority. I can then decide what to bring up first. It helps so much to be more organized and in the end I usually feel I have gotten a better quality answer that way.

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    3. CallMeKate, It's still hard for me. I still wish I could avoid those uncomfortable conversations. But it never works. I just feel my resentment build and it inevitably comes out in a way that's not healthy for any of us. I snap at the kids. Or I eat an entire chocolate cake. Or I just find myself loathing my husband. Amazing how quickly that vanishes when I just talk with him, even if I'm not crazy about what he says.
      You mention your traumatic childhood. That's a huge factor in this, of course. His betrayal has undoubtedly retriggered that trauma, which makes the difficult conversations even harder because you're dragging all sorts of old stuff into this new situation. Counselling will help you process the old pain and new pain so that you can proceed from a more solid place.

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  12. Love this post, Elle. Thank you. Your h is a lucky man. I wrestle daily with how much to share as I witness my h's pain. His depression and shame made for a very heavy winter. He is in a better place this week, thanks to new medication and a little sunshine. I'm better with triggers most of the time, now 2.5 years out. Al-Anon has been a lifesaver for me, along with BWC. Thank you and stay strong, my warrior friends.

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    1. Snowbird,
      Yes, he is a lucky man. ;)

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  13. Elle, your post probably helped me more than my husband because as others have written here it has always been difficult for me to have difficult conversations because I like to please and I don't like to upset people, especially my family and look where that got me. I know now that had I had the courage to step out and speak up years ago we might not be where we are today although my marriage today is much more honest than it has ever been. My husband is conflict avoidant and we both know that. We have talked about the importance of having hard conversations a couple of times now and I think (hope) he will also risk talking about things. Your post was like a major therapy breakthrough for us and it gave us actual tools to use to open up those feelings. I was able to talk about my triggers and he was able to say, "yes, I want to know but I usually know by your body language and affect" but talking about them is probably the better route. He continues to affirm that he is in a very good space and that he likes living an honest life. I think I am falling in love again and I know I am working daily as is he to honor the contract of "Forgiveness is a contract between two people. One promises not to repeat their behavior and the other promises to leave it in the past."

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    1. That "falling in love again" is a wonderful feeling. I had that too. But it was watching my husband face down his demons, and really work so hard to become a better partner that helped me get there. It was really knowing him at his absolute worst that allowed me to realize that I loved him, all of him, even the dark side as long as he was willing to deal with that. It's a deeper love, a richer one. And worth the battle it took to get here.

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  14. IN addition to your writing Elle, what blows me away the most is honestly how thoughtful and aware our company of women is. God knows its easier to simply bitch and point fingers (and I've done my share of that too, I am fully aware) But the fact is through and even with all this pain, we are so open and forthcoming with each other. We blow me away.

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    1. We blow me away too. I'm always ALWAYS so heartened by the kindness I see here. Without fail, people rush to another's pain with support and compassion and a "you've got this" cheerleading that can't fail but heal.

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