Monday, June 19, 2017

Is Hope Lying to You?

Most mornings, you'll find me in the woods, hiking through the underbrush with a friend. As we trek, we talk – about kids, about spouses, about work and friends and life.
Over the years, I've heard often about a friend of my hiking friend. This friend of my hiking friend has had a heap of health problems, she's medically obese, her finances are a mess. And her husband has had a long string of affairs and visits to prostitutes and people on Craigslist.
She says she's finally ready to leave but has a long list of reasons why not quite yet. And it has been years of this. Years that have impacted her health. Years that have drained her finances. Years in which she has felt miserable and invisible and utterly devalued.
Her list for not leaving is long. Her religious faith dictates, at least in her mind, that marriage, even to a philanderer, is sacred, that lying (about, for instance, setting up her phone bank account, which he didn't allow) is wrong. But mostly, she's been held in place by hope.
Anyone who comes to this site knows that I'm fully supportive of staying in a marriage after betrayal when both partners are willing to do the work to rebuild. Or staying while you figure out your next right step. Or staying until you gather the money, education or whatever it is you need to leave.
What I struggle with is hearing about people who stay because they hope he's going to change. They hope things are going to be different. They hope that he will wake up, become a new man and they'll have their "old" life back.
Hope is "the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all," writes Emily Dickinson. "Where there's hope, there's life," wrote Anne Frank. "It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again."
Well, yes.
But not always.
Sometimes hope keeps us where we don't belong. Sometimes hope tells us lies. That things will be different. That he'll change.
The problem is when hope is passive. When we cling to it like a life raft instead of swimming like hell.
Hope, as the saying goes, is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.
What this means is that hope makes demands on us. You're hoping he'll change? What evidence is there that this hope is well placed? You hope that your marriage will be stronger? What are each of you doing to make that happen? You hope that your kids won't be devastated by the impact of his affair? How are you supporting them or finding them support outside your home?
In other words, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don't let hope do all the heavy lifting. Let hope inspire you to do some of the lifting yourself.
I'm all for hope. Especially when the word feels dark and hopeless. But pay attention to what hope is telling you. Is it making promises that depend on others to change? Is it keeping you small? Or is it reminding you that, no matter what, you are going to be okay? Cultivate hope that is active, that sings your song, that gives strength. That other hope? The type that keeps you rooted in place? That's just fear telling you a fairy tale. Use real hope to write your own happily ever after.

31 comments:

  1. I struggle with this as well. Am I hoping for something that will never happen? Even though my husband says he wants to stay and loves me more than ever, how can I trust that? I don't trust anything he says anymore since I know he is capable of lying about everything. So, how do I know if I'm stupid to keep hoping? If your friend was telling you my story would you think I should wake up and leave too? Because I am in the end hoping he will change!

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    1. Hurt in Ohio,
      You don't believe until he gives you evidence. What is he doing to show you that he wants to stay and love you more than ever? He has shown you that his words are meaningless without action to back them up.
      People do change. It happens all the time. But lots don't. I don't know which category your husband falls into but I think you do. Look for evidence. Look for specific things he's doing to show you that he's working on not only making amends but taking steps to make sure he never goes down that road again.

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    2. Hurt in Ohio, Elle is so right. My H is not emotionally verbal. He has made so many changes it is almost like he had a lobotomy. Let me be clear, I still don't trust him. I lost - he has my back type of trust. I don't think I will get it back and that maybe part of my growth. Something's my husband does is - he communicates better his vulnerabilities. He also empties the dishwasher, washes the clothes, opens my car door, brings me flowers every week. If I express a need he stops whatever he is doing to meet my need. I love jewelry and he cashed out part of his retirement to buy iy it. He took money out of his retirement which leaves him vulnerable to financial instability to pay off the house. This is a guy who had his glass out and rattled it when he wanted more to drink. This guy was a casual sex guy. This guy had a two year affair. This guy never cleaned anything. My therapist said, "You married an asshole." He didn't read any books on infidelity but never missed a therapy appointment. If you H doesn't show positive signs that you expect to show he deserves a chance after he gets out of the affair fog, maybe you just married an asshole too. I caution you on gauging change by your ability to trust him. That maybe gone forever.

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  2. I believe that hope lets you know there is a way out, that there is a way past our despair, that all is not lost. It just may not come in the form you want. We need hope when we think we can't survive. It lets us know that there is another path we can take, but hope offers no promises about what that path is. It is up to you to open yourself up to unfamiliar possibilities and outcomes that are different from what you had planned.

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  3. Reading this and reflecting makes me realize this is what I felt for the affair years and even maybe our entire marriage or entire relationship. I never saw it this way. But I held on hope and was the optimist. I still stand by the fact it is hard to know what someone is doing when they hide it and lie to your face. And even with my husband's sporadic behavior it was next to impossible to piece together. Looking back though as his behavior would shift I held on to hope. And maybe falsely but I try not to be too hard on myself since I honestly tried but could not figure it out. Dday was that ah ha moment in both a good and a bad way. No wants their world shattered but it made sense of everything. And with time I realized it was not me after all. Some days it is still hard or even some weeks are hard. I would have never thought I could make it. Thanks to this site for the support, kind thoughts and even some days just somewhere to come and read even if I don't comment. I will always be hopeful and optimistic that is who I am and I promised myself on dday I would work hard to repair my marriage if possible and I would be true to myself and never compromise who I am. I think about every day what can I do for myself, what do I want to do, not what should I do which was how I used to live my life. And I sit and watch my husband and how he acts and the decisions he makes. He reveals himself by these things. Thanks for another great post!

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    1. Hopeful30,
      I'm an optimist too. And I remain convinced that people change. I see it all the time. Huge changes. Changes even when everyone else has even up. Addicts who get clean, drunks who get sober, cheaters who stop. The problem is when we hold on to hope when it's unwarranted, when the evidence shows us more the same and we don't want to see it.

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  4. There's an entire thought on why hope stayed in Pandora's box, and another version where it escaped. If it escaped, is it too one of the evils of humanity? When hopes are dashed it truly feels that way. I do think that my h is changing. It feels that way, but I HOPE that my feelings are right.

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    1. Your hope is tempered by a certain skepticism, I think. Sure, you hope that he's creating positive change that will stick. But you're wary and watching. Willing to give him a chance but certainly not blind.

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  5. I've come a long way since my D-Day. I'm now separated and will soon be starting the process of divorce. All of us on this site knows what an emotional roller coaster all this is. We become so drained from the betrayal, shock, pain, confusion, and the constant conflicting emotions. We've been traumatized and still keep pushing somehow. The list of ways we suffer goes on and on, but I'm finally learning one of the most important lessons in all of this. After years of trying to learn and understand, research, seeking help, etc, I finally learned how to know if there is any hope to be had. You're wondering if there is any hope left. Well, you already have the answer. The two absolute most important things both saved and failed marriages have in common is remorse and commitment to effort. True remorse equals a changed heart, which produces changed behavior. One does not and cannot occur without the other! The marriages that were able to survive infidelity, did so because the spouse showed true remorse with both words and actions. These marriages were able to thrive later because the offending spouse consistently and persistently put the effort into getting the help they needed and included their spouse in the process. They walked the walk and talked the talk. With the marriages that failed, the offending spouse may have said the right words to show remorse. They may have seemed convincing by using the appropriate emotion behind the words, but at the end of the day it was all talk. There was no commitment to action. They may have been on their best behavior for a short period of time, but it's only out of selfish intent. A way of placating you only to get their way in the end. A way of keeping you around to smooth their insecurities. It's much easier to have hope when there are real signs of hope. When there isn't, the situation becomes hopeless. I learned to stop hoping and expectation get my husband to be committed to me and our marriage because he couldn't even be committed to himself or his word. A spouse committed to change is committed to their own self growth as well as the growth of the marriage. The answer is in front of you. If there is still confusion, maybe sometime apart will clear things up. It definitely helped me see things much clear! Hindsight an all. I'm learning to be flexible with my expectations of hope and adapt them to my needs of becoming mentally and emotionally healthy again. Don't put all your hope into your husband or any one person for that matter. Don't expect him to give you hope if your at the end. Don't have too many expectations of him at all. Change your focus. Place your expectations and hope and put it into yourself and your own well being. Hope and commit to your own healing regardless of whether or not your marriage works out. Value yourself and your needs. If hope can be found in your marriage, a healthier you will help your marriage to heal and grow. If there is no hope for the marriage, you still need to be a healthier person to heal and move on. So yes, there is hope! It just might be in different ways. Don't live in hopelessness any longer. Fight for you! Be your best advocate! Hope in a healthier sense of self because you deserve it and more importantly, you need it.

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    1. Christine, you're a smart woman! You're absolutely right that the remorse has show up in words AND action. Mostly action. When I hear about guys who don't "believe" in therapy or who have excuses about why they won't give up their guy's night out, or their complicit friends, or their after-work beer or whatever it is that their wife is begging them to stop, then it seems clear to me that they're not really backing up their words with action.
      True change is uncomfortable, even painful. It's about taking a hard look in the mirror and holding oneself to account. But it's the only way to healing, individually and the marriage.

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    2. This is really helpful, Christine. My h is now doing meditation, helpful household tasks and sometimes we manage real communication. However he is still "getting over" his break-up with the ow and is not emotionally available or affectionate to me. His words are few- except for talking about work or non-relationship matters. My hope is frittering away, but it's still there a bit. I'm leaving the apartment in 2 weeks with our daughter who is 2 years old. We're going to have 6 weeks (summer) to reflect. He may or may not come to see his child (I HOPE for her sake that he does). I do not know what will happen after the summer, but hope to nurture myself enough during that time to help myself see more clearly.

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  6. That was the best perspective of hope I've ever read regarding infidelity. You're right...hope can't be based on his changing, hope can't leave me powerless. Hope must be based in my active participation in making my situation better. Thank you.

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    1. That's it exactly. And it's liberating. We create our own hope when we take the steps necessary to create the life we want rather than passively wait for someone to give it to us.

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  7. I just read something on Yahoo just now on why men cheat. The number one reason was because the woman was hot. Not in our case, she was bucktoothed, fat and ugly. Some of the comments on there from people were amazingly stupid. They put the wife at the reason why they cheated. It wasn't the man's choice and he shouldn't feel bad. The wife had headaches, nail aches what ever the hell that is, backaches, the kids are awake. On and On about our excuses. I was dumbfounded that this paper actually published this. It was like glorifying cheating on a spouse. It's okay because your wife is cold and doesn't want to get laid when you do. And people and their opinions of it was just flabbergasting. It made me mad after reading it.
    Cathy

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    1. Cathy,
      That's absolutely true if by "hot", they mean "available." Or if "hot" means "willing". Or if "hot" means "desperate". Or if it means "morally compromised".
      Give me a break, Yahoo. Men cheat for many reasons but to say they cheat because a woman was so "hot" they couldn't control themselves? That's not saying a whole lot for the male gender, is it.
      There's a lot of garbage out there about cheating. Don't pay it any attention. It's sensationalistic nonsense written by people who haven't a clue. Stick to the opinions of those who actually know what they're talking about.
      Men cheat because opportunity meets moral failing.

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    2. You're right there Elle. But, how many women will read this and believe what it said. They lose hope because they don't feel pretty enough, good enough or what ever. I hope that they find this blog and others to help them realize that this isn't about us it's about them.
      Cathy

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    3. I know. It makes me crazy. And it makes it all the more important for those of us on sites like this to set the record straight. He didn't cheat because there's anything wrong with you. He cheated because there's something wrong with him. It's that simple.

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  8. Ok ladies. I need advice. I found a receipt from a coffee shop 2 minutes walk from the OW place of work. It was from 18 months ago but he swears he didn't see her. I know he is lying...you were literslly 2 mins from her work and you didn't meet her? Even though you were supposedly at a place 2.5 hours drive a way?? It was 18 months ago but I only found it 2 days ago and he is denying it. Still lying!!

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    1. Hi Hazel
      I like you, have found things (photos, receipts etc) that my H swears never happened - but HERE'S THE PROOF!! The lies are continuous with my h, as with yours. It's that gut feeling isn't it, that we try to suppress? I'm just sending you loving support, as I don't have any answers as no matter what I say to my h, he won't tell me all the truths. He is just a body full of disgusting lies.
      Hugs to you Hazel
      Gabby xo

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    2. Of course he is. While I don't hold out a lot of hope for my relationship, I can believe him when he says he isn't seeing her. My security cameras show him getting home on time, unbeknownst to him, I have access to his email, phone records and social media. I too found something from his past affair and he "couldn't remember " when he got the bday card from her or why he kept it. Went to my therapist and she asked can I live without knowing the truth? I decided to let him keep this lie, but did put him on notice, no more lies, insults or he is out. I discovered his affair, told her boyfriend, her Dad and broke them up. He is either afraid of me going bat crap crazy again or he wants to feel like he gets to keep one lie. Not excusing his lie, but explaining it. It is probably the same with your husband. I'm sorry for you.

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    3. Hi Hazel, When did the A end? Can you get any other data from 18 mos ago - cell phone records, bank/credit card statements, personal/work emails? You may find information that makes it more or less likely that he is telling the truth or lying.

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    4. Hazel,
      Not to make excuses for cheaters but he might be telling the truth when he says he forgets. These guys become masters at compartmentalizing.
      And here's the thing: What would it change if it he admitted to it? Would you throw him out? File for divorce? If it's really important, ask him to submit to a lie detector. There are lots of companies that administer them and they're quite familiar with infidelity.
      But consider what difference it would make. If he's doing what he can to make amends, then it might be something to file under "affair fog" and move forward. I'm not saying it's okay. None of this is okay. But at a certain point, if we're interested in rebuilding a marriage, we need to decide which hill we're willing to die on and which we're not.
      I like Beagle Mom's approach. He should know that any dishonesty from him going forward is unacceptable. And you should have clear boundaries in place to make it clear that there are consequences to any lies. This isn't about uncovering lies from before (of which there are likely plenty) but about lies now. You're giving him the chance to be better. If he can't/won't do it, then he's telling you what your future will be.

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    5. Hazel, I was amazed at how many things I found and my husband totally "forgot". I felt like how could he forget a secret fake email, a fake FB page, IM'ing at least a dozen women??? For him the affairs were the biggest offense of all and the others were no big deal to him. Also there were things he said on dday and the months following. If I bring them up now stating exactly what he said he says no I did not say that and I know he did. Even though my husband ended his affairs 15 months before dday on his own he was still in that affair fog or minimize damage/compartmentalize everything mode. It is hard but as Elle said I had to sit down and say do all the details matter? It is something I had to think long and hard about. Sometimes things still get to me. What I did was say now moving forward this is what I need. I do not want to be a police detective and will not be in a relationship that requires that. I expect transparency, authenticity and no contact among a long list of other boundaries. It is still a work in progress but it can help.

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  9. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Dday2. The day before was Father's Day and I had lost my father earlier this year. Was not in a happy place, and as I was journaling, I realized the man who is supposed to love me the most is not there emotionally. I traveled back and forth between my house and the hospital almost every day (50 miles one way)alone ,went to his funeral by myself,because he was concerned my friends or family might say something. The list of selfish actions was staggering. He is good at doing things,not providing emotional support. I wanted to talk about it, but he refused. I wanted him to understand how I was tired of the heavy lifting and feeling alone and unloved in my own house. I finally said my peace later in the day on Father's Day and told him no more. If he makes one more selfish, mean action or comment, it's over. He knows I am serious because I was crying, not yelling or demanding.

    Then yesterday as I was driving to work thinking about last year and haVing hateful thoughts about that horrid affair and how much I hate that whore, my car was rear ended. Nothing serious, just typical muscle aches, but it made me realize....do I want my last thoughts to be focused on some slutty former friend and neighbor who I still hate, or do I want to focus on my blessings?

    Realistically, he will fail in our relationship and it will end. But my hope is not in the relationship, but all the other beautiful people and places in my life. If he can change, he is welcome to enjoy a wonderful life with me. If not, I won't fall apart, but will never be held hostage again to the gaslighting and grooming.

    I have significant trust issues as we all do and that includes trusting God. In many ways I feel He let me down too. But I can walk my dog and be thankful for a beautiful day, or just list my blessings. Baby steps, but finding ways big and small to restore sanity and calm in my life.

    His affair has changed me, but I can no longer let it ruin me. Will we stumble, will I be unexpectedly triggered by something?
    Yes, of course. I am now choosing to live as happy and joyful a life as possible and not allow hatred to consume me.

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    1. Beagle Mom,
      Where you are is a really good place. Once you realize that you can create the life you want -- and he's welcome to join you as long as he's contributing to making life better -- there's no turning back. He's got a lot of shame to work through before he can be there for you emotionally. I suspect that's what's getting the way of being able to show up in front of friends and family. And while I feel sorry for him, it's on him to deal with that or accept that his shame will ultimately lead to losing you.
      That's the thing with healing from betrayal. It's not enough to just stop cheating. The cheater needs to do the incredibly hard work of figuring out why he did what he did and how he's going to never do it again. He needs to dig deep into his beliefs about himself. And that's painful work. But it's the only way to a deeper, richer marriage (or a deeper, richer life).

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  10. Sorry...last night I was raw and mad. How do I explain that I don't care about the details from 18 months ago. I know he was thick in the middle of the affair at this time, but thought it was texting. It is more the fact that he is STILL lying now. It is like he hasn't learnt ANYTHING. He honestly expects me to believe that he went to her city because he fancied it and...from all the 100s of coffee shops in that city he just happened to choose one 2 minutes walk from her work. Honestly...does he think I completely stupid?

    I am struggling to hold me temper. He won't admit to it...I have to let it go and move on, so does that mean that my marriage is done over one receipt?

    I am sick of this. Sick of the false hope. Sick of believing he has changed only for this type of thing to happen. He hasn't changed at all.

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    1. Hazel,
      He's like a cornered dog right now. If he does remember, then he's terrified that all the work you two have done to get to where you are now will completely blow up because of a visit to a coffee shop 18 months ago. If he doesn't remember, then he's still terrified that everything will blow up for an event that he can't recall.
      Either way, he feels utterly screwed.
      This is why I don't subscribe to the "if you ever do [blank] again, it's over" school of thought. I'm all for setting clear boundaries. But couples need to create space for each other to admit screwing up. It needs to feel somewhat "safe" to admit things. Otherwise, the stakes are too high and it's preferable to lie or dodge.
      Are you two in counselling? This might be something to bring up with a counsellor who can keep things from going completely off the rails. I know our counsellor wanted a "disclosure" session where everything was put on the table so that there wouldn't be any secrets/lies/etc. going forward. I opted out. I knew everything I needed to know. But I can see how it's helpful to start again with something of clean slate.
      However, if you truly believe he hasn't changed at all, then it sounds as if you're ready to separate. Giving someone that amount of time, if absolutely nothing has changed and he is simply incapable of honesty, then it's a losing battle. If, however, you think, as I do, that he's terrified and doesn't know how to deal with his fear, then try and talk about it.

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  11. My apologies in advance to Elle. You are wonderful and what you do here is is truly, mind-bogglingly amazing. But I hate this post. I hate this post because that word, repeated over and over, the word that speaks of the thing most of you search for to keep going forward, stings like the jabbing of tiny daggers. It pierces and it hurts. "Is Hope Lying to You?" the post asks. Why, yes, in fact, she was. Hope is the other woman, that is her name. So I try to exorcise that terrible word from my vocabulary, twisting myself into linguistic contortions so as not to have to say her name.

    Optimism. That's what I try to find. Hope is indeed an evil let loose in the world by Pandora. Out of the box came this horrible, wounding creature called expectation. So, Hope--both the literal and the figurative--is to blame for my pain. The expectation that my husband would honor our vows, honor me, honor our family. And literally Hope, the pathetic married woman who needed to feel powerful or wanted or whatever it was she got from starting an affair with my husband without a care of what it would do to her husband and family or our family.

    I don't want hope. I want a better word. I want to trust. I want to relax. I want to feel whole. All of that, without hope and all she means. I want to believe again, and if I can believe again, then really, who needs the evil Hope?

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    1. Periwinkle
      I think I understand how that word is a trigger word for you. The cow in my world has the most common first name in the nation and I too tried to cut it out of my head but every commercial on tv seemed to have a person with that name so I did some fast clicking off for a while and I began to listen to the sounds of nature instead! I can agree that I too want to believe in my h again! It's taken a long time and I'm still working on it but he is truly doing the best he can so the rest is up to me! Sending you hugs because trust comes back slowly!

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    2. Hugs, Periwinkle! ❤️
      I'm with you on wanting to trust and feel whole again. I'm still fighting my own battles but I feel myself getting better. For a long time I worried about whether or not to trust my husband again. Over the past two years his actions have shown me how hard he's working. But for a long time, there was that little voice inside reminding me of what he was capable of. That voice has quieted down and there's a calmness inside me and I remember that nothing he could do would say a damn thing about me.
      I have more work to do on my own. I still struggle with boundaries outside of my marriage, with learning to say no without feeling guilty and with self compassion. It's baby steps but I'm getting there.

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