|Take flight, my friends.|
It’s happened. D-Day. We’ve somehow or other discovered the excruciating truth that our spouse has been having an affair. Like many of you, I immediately took the blame. Something must have been entirely wrong with me or he would not have strayed. We believe all his complaints about not being giving enough, not being sexually available, not being a better something, or whatever blame-shifting he engaged with. We now know that’s all bull but at the time we were desperate for any clues, any hint as to why this might happen and what we could do to fix it. We wanted some way, no matter how painful, of taking control of the situation. Sadly, accepting blame is a way to take control because if it is our fault, then we can change; we can be better, do more, be perfect and it will be fixed and we won’t hurt anymore. This often leads us to the “Pick Me Cha-Cha” (aka the Pick Me Dance).
During the Pick Me Dance we do things that seem to make sense at the time but in hindsight make us shake our heads, cringe, wonder and feel some regret. How could I have been so crazy? Why did I want sex all the time? Why did I buy that outfit? I want to flip that script and show you how the Pick Me Dance is part of the healing process and can put you on the road to the realization that the only person who needs to pick you is you.
As I look back at my Pick Me Dance, I don’t feel regret. Rather, I look with a great deal of compassion and see that I was taking tentative steps toward self-care in those “him focused” actions. As I list some of the funny and sad things I did and reframe them as learning opportunities or ways to carve a new self out of the rubble, I hope you’ll see yourself too. I can look back at myself in those early difficult days with compassion, humor and amazement at how far I’ve come.
1. Piles of sexy new underwear and bras
Zero regrets. I had felt unsexy forever and had not bought new underwear in what seems like a decade. If I did, it was all about comfort. As I lost weight, I needed to buy new pairs or they would have ended up around my ankles. And guess what, a thong makes your ass look great in jeans. Now I have a nice mix of comfy for every day or working out and sexy for dates or just when I need to give myself an ego boost. I’ve claimed what started out as an attempt to be sexy enough to compete with the OW and turned it into claiming sexy for myself. It feels pretty good.
2. Bikinis and nicer clothes, dresses
Ditto here. My clothes had all been about covering up, disguising my body and generally making myself disappear. Now I bought clothes that I looked and felt good in. I even got a couple of pairs of booty shorts for running. And bikinis were a big step. (Yes, I have cellulite and no matter how thin I get, I have a curvy, zaftig tum). But while the clothes started out as a response to him complaining that I made no effort to look good, they ended as an act of defiance and treating myself as if I matter. Now I enjoy dressing to highlight my best features. I’ve got great arms and collar bones. Decent legs too. Sun dresses all the way! Taking pride in your appearance is not about vanity. It is about showing that you value yourself.
3. Wearing makeup, dressing nicer, showering every day
Again, his complaint was that I had “let myself go” and I made no effort over my appearance. Thing is, he wasn’t wrong. It was shitty of him to bring it up in the context of why HE felt neglected in the relationship. But. I had let myself go. I felt too much shame about my appearance, my body, my perceived failure at everything to try very hard. I wanted to be invisible because I did not love who I was. Post D-Day, I recognized that I needed muster up the courage to shower and brush my teeth every day. This was the tiniest recognition that I needed to take care of myself for the coming weeks and months. Wearing makeup, while initially an effort to please him, also made me feel more confident when I left the house, at a time when my confidence was completely shattered. People responded positively to me, my smile and my energy. Over time, I claimed this as something I do for myself. And I don’t need to wear makeup every time I leave the house (conversation with my daughter woke me up about that). I can now choose when it I want to, and I promise, it is no longer about him.
4. Purchasing an online coaching program for women to “Be Irresistible”
This one is probably the most embarrassing but I look back at tender-hearted, sad me and recognize that I was casting about for something, anything that might let me save my marriage or increase the likelihood of him picking me. This was a series of videos and articles that help you become a man magnet, to become irresistible. Some of the marketing was questionable but as it turns out when you sift the “attracting men” part out of it, there was some quality instruction (that I turned into a post on here about working on you). I learned new ways to listen, reflect and engage in conversation that showed I was interested in paying attention. I use this new skill often with friends, with my business clients, as well as boys, and it pays off in better connections. It also gave me my first understanding of developing and focusing on my strengths and having a rich life, so I can confidently stand on my own because confidence is attractive. So despite the fact that I am now on a mailing list where they encourage me to purchase their secret string of texts that will have him melting with desire for me, I got some really useful life skills out of this package.
5. Fat reduction injections, Laser hair removal, Botox and collagen
Yes I really did all those things. I had been told I had given up, was not fighting aging (never mind that I didn’t see the inherent futility and problem of fighting what is inevitable for us all. These days I’m all about healthy and graceful aging and what feels right for me). I was already engaged with a weight-loss program pre-D-Day. (I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong, so in some ways I jumped into the Pick Me Dance early). The program involved HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin – same as you release when you are pregnant) injections. It also involves an extremely restricted diet. It cost a lot of money. But I was desperate after years of failed weight loss and knew I needed to lose weight to start to feel better about myself. Cue the ironic trumpet fanfare.
The weight loss has been good for me. My cholesterol numbers are way down. I feel better. I did have 50 lbs to lose. I do regret the waste of money but since we were still sharing income at the time, I don’t lose any sleep over it. Verdict is HCG has nothing to do with weight loss. Not eating (and PTSD) has everything to do with weight loss.
Laser hair removal. Zero Regrets. Not one. I did a series of sessions for my bikini zone and my underarms. I frequently had razor burn in those areas in the past. After about seven sessions, the hair is gone (it will be different for different hair types). I only shave my armpits once a month now and then it is very fine. Bikini zone? Gone forever. While I was doing this, I was absolutely thinking “dammit, I’m gonna be hot for you, jerkface, or I am going to be hot for some future guy who actually values me.” (Note the defiance creeping in.)
Collagen I did once. Very minimal amounts under my eyes in folds around the nose and mouth and a tiny bit in the lips (I did not want that Hollywood, “I’ve been making out with a hot curling iron” look.) I have to admit, I loved the results. But. The cost was prohibitive. I spent a pile on a couple of vials (his money). And you need so little, my dermatologist has a safe where your vials are kept and you can get more done for up to two years or until you use it up. My results were long-lasting, however, I know I can save up and do it again if I want to or not if I don’t.
Botox. I am a huge fan. I have been getting injections since my early 40s. I think it makes a difference in how your face ages. It is totally safe (been used to treat migraines for decades before cosmetic use) and reasonably priced. My trade off is that I don’t color my hair. Money, chemicals, stress, roots grow in in three weeks. Getting Botox once every six months costs significantly less than getting my hair colored every month. How does this fit in to the Pick Me Dance? It was part of trying to be younger than I am in response to his criticism. It shifted when I made a commitment to myself not to give this up if things went south. The idea that I deserved to do something nice for myself was revolutionary at the time.
6. Sex toys & initiating sex often
Ok, sad, but I know we’ve all done it in some form. We try to turn ourselves into a sex pot to win him back. Wore outfits that showed copious amounts of cleavage and leg. Extremely naughty panties (still in the package). I tried often to initiate sex and except for the immediate week after D-Day, he always turned me down. It was tough to take. But the vibrator turned out to be a path toward reclaiming my sexuality. I had felt unlovable and unsexy for so long. And again, defiance rears it’s head. I realized on some level that this was going to be a long haul and I needed to get comfortable taking care of my own needs if he wasn’t. I am so much more comfortable with my body, sex, what feels good for me and asking for it when I am with a partner. Health stuff.
I was working out to be in better shape, more attractive, compete with the other woman, be whatever enough for him to stay. But it also kept me sane. Getting out to classes was social and connected me with new people. Running on my own cleared my head. Solitary weight lifting cleared the pain and grief out of my body. Social hikes connected me with people. And now I know it is critical for my mental health. The more I move, the happier I am. I keep moving for me now.
8. Cooking elaborate meals, buying gifts, leaving flowers, little notes
I had read Love Languages. I was trying any and every thing I could to reach him. Acts of service by cooking elegant and delicious meals; buying him nice clothes or things he needed on business trips; and words of affirmation by leaving him little notes in his desk, wallet or suitcase when he traveled. I left him little flowers or sprigs of herbs from the garden. I sent him pictures of home when he was away for work. I tried so many ways to show him what he was risking losing. I won’t say none of it mattered. It mattered to me that I tried. It was also the beginning of me understanding that no matter what I did or didn’t do now or in the past, this was really about him, his issues, his acting out his pain and his fears and damage. Over time I shifted to doing these things for myself. Affirmations written on notes on my mirror where I can see them, cooking foods I like (or ordering sushi!), setting a little money aside each month to save up for something to gift myself ( a drone for photography – my big hobby, or a new grill, a nice piece of jewelry – currently obsessed with rings).
9. Music/art lessons
One of the things I had read about recovering from trauma in the many helpful and sometimes ridiculous articles and books I read about saving a marriage, was to just start doing things differently, start deciding, start doing things, pursue a new hobby, do something out of character and out of your comfort zone, make a different choice and change your brain (I normally take this route home. Today I a going to take a different route. Today I am going to stop and take pictures. Next week I will drive into the city for a flea market). I took up painting classes. At first it was about showing him that I was growing, investing in myself and “interesting” i.e worth keeping. It quickly became an important creative and emotional outlet for me. It was social and got me out to meet new people. I also took up piano lessons. Music has always been his thing; singing and playing guitar. I took piano lessons with the instructor who already came to the house for my daughter. I wanted to show an interest in his interests and maybe give us an opportunity to play together at some distant point. Sweet but so wasted on him. I loved learning and got some basics pretty quickly. Thought I can’t afford regular lessons, I do barter with the instructor in exchange for working on her website. Now I practice when I need a mental break from my desk. I know it is something I can come back to for the rest of my life.
10. A tattoo
This was another face of doing something new and out of character. There was a huge element of “look how edgy and sexy I am.” But it was also about me, my spiritual journey and reclaiming my body from past and present trauma. I had identified birds as my messengers in grim times. I used to meditate on the different winged visitors to see what they had to teach me. And one day I lined up a bird in flight as my heart breaking up out of my chest and free. For the first time ever, I thought “that would make a cool tattoo.” I found art I admired, did an adaptation, sat with it for a month, made an appointment, waited another month and finally when the day for the tattoo appointment rolled around, felt excited and ready. Getting a tattoo on the ribs is pretty painful. It’s high up, so most people never see it. It is a little sparrow (my symbol of hope) flying up out from my ribs under my left arm. By the time I got the tattoo, it was 100% about me and my journey.
Most of us do some form of the Pick Me Dance. I hope you can look back at your own actions during that painful time with love and compassion. Mentally wrap that version of you in a warm hug. Then see if you can reframe any of those things as I have. What did you learn? How did it evolve for you? How are you now Picking You instead of waiting for him to do so?