Monday, March 11, 2019

We Hurt, We Wait, We Rise

~Otto Scharmer

If there's one thing we're certain of on D-Day, it's that we'll never be happy again. Ever. Our life is over. Our marriage is over. Our family is broken. Our choices are between shitty and shittier. We want to run. We want to stay. Mostly, we just want to turn back to clock and get a do-over where we either don't marry this guy, or if we do marry him, he doesn't cheat on us.
Cause there's no way we're going to get through this with our heart intact.
Which is, in many ways, true. Our heart is changed. Our life is changed.
But I can promise you that you will feel happiness again. When? Wish I could give you an exact date and you could just tick the days off, like a prisoner awaiting release.
I can't, of course. But it will happen. In your future.
You probably don't believe me. Right now, you can't imagine a future that doesn't feature this pain, front and center. A future that puts you in the center of it, happy and productive and living your best life. That feels more like fantasy, doesn't it?
You've been waiting on this promise for six weeks. Six months. Three years. And still you feel a sadness. A heavy blanket that dulls any pleasure. Surely, if you were going to find joy again, it would have happened by now. Is this as good as it gets?
Most of us are poor judges of our future selves, a career counsellor once told me. It requires imagination that is in short supply right now to picture ourselves rising from this ash heap. (Though our imagination seems to work overtime to supply us with plenty of mind movies about our spouse and the Other Woman.) Far easier on our minds and our hearts to assume that this misery is our new reality. Today and tomorrow.
But "the future arrives first as a feeling."
Which is a beautiful way of saying, if we can imagine it, we can create it.
It requires clear eyes. A sober assessment of your marriage. What's worth saving. What needs to go. There's opportunity in a marriage in which everything has fallen to hell. Opportunity to leave, if it has long stopped being healthy for you. Opportunity to rebuild if it's worth it.
If D-Day is recent, then this is something you can come to once you've stopped the bleeding. I don't recommend any major decisions in the first few months unless he refuses to stop seeing the Other Woman and unless the marriage is abusive and dangerous. For those further out, consider the control you have over the future.
After betrayal, so many of us are obsessed over the past. We mine our history for evidence that we didn't see at the time. We reconsider every choice. We analyze every interaction. It's not surprising, of course. We desperately trying to make sense of a non-sensical situation. But it's also disempowering. There is nothing – nothing! – we can change to un-do his cheating.
Where we have power is in the now. And that power in the now will shape our future.
"The future arrives first as a feeling."
How do you imagine feeling?
Safe? Loved? Liberated?
How will you create that in your life, based on what you can control? What can you do now to lead you into a life that reflects how you want to feel?
Glennon Doyle describes heartbreak like this: First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.
You're in the waiting stage. But it's not a passive one.
Remember? "The future arrives first as a feeling."
Those feelings are signposts, pointing you toward the life you want.
Notice them. Interrogate them. Let them lead you.
We hurt. We wait. We rise.


  1. What a beautiful and poignant post this is. It reflects truth with every word. I am 8 months out from D-Day and about to enter the anti-versary times with their mile markers that started to set the revelations and eventual disclosure in motion. And I'm scared of those approaching dates, knowing what I know now, knowing what was happening when I didn't know. Even though we are healing, I'm know I'm about to enter a hell period. My birthday is this weekend. He was cheating on me, on my birthday, while I was away on a work trip this time last year. How to approach this birthday? I wish it would go away, just like the infidelity would go away. And that's it: the wishing it hadn't happened part is the hardest because it's a fruitless struggle. It's just like you said: there is nothing we can do to un-change his cheating. It happened. There it is. The shit all on the floor. Here's the broken mess. I wish it wasn't so. I so wish it wasn't so. And the wishing it wasn't so makes me the most miserable. You say joy will come again, and I trust you because your posts are full of hope and truth. I look forward to that day. Thank you for always leading us in the dark.

    1. Anonymous,
      Yes, those anti-versaries can be a minefield. Are you able to take some time to figure out how you might navigate them with the least amount of agony? What do you need in those moments? Do you want them acknowledged or ignored? Do you want him close or away from you? Do you want a day spent focusing on your healing (however that looks for you -- coffee with friends, hike in woods, spa day, movies, etc.)? Can you put together a support network -- friend, sister, mother, therapist?

    2. I need to think about this. I will be away again (unfortunately) for work on my birthday. There isn't anything I can do about that. But the upcoming dates ... I'm honestly not sure what I need because everything is so NEW, but I need to get a game plan so I'm not at the mercy of whatever emotion strikes me on those days. This was a good reminder that I need to do that, although it makes me feel fearful. I am really trying to learn to sit with the ugly monster in the room. Thank you.

    3. Anon, I remember those days like they were yesterday. This week marks 4 years since dday for us. There were so many factors that feed into it but I like you wanted it just to go away. It was a process and I know it is hard to believe based on where you are but now I see dday as a positive. It is a day that marks the beginning of us moving forward. There was a point for me where I just let go of the past. After going through the healing/grieving process at a certain point it was possible to move away from the past. I got to the point where my focus was on what type of marriage I wanted and could my husband be that person. So a shift from the past to the present. I even work hard not to look too far forward. Between therapy, this site and all the work my husband and I did together we have gotten to a really good place. It is not always easy. Even around the holidays we joked at time and laughed about the affairs. I spent a lot of time figuring out what I wanted but we also spent a lot of time with each other. My husband was a huge support through this and I think it has brought us much closer together. It is a long hard road but there is hope and light as you move along. We are here for you.

    4. Anon, this is so hard. My 4 year D-day disclosure is in June. The first couple of years were awful. My husband bought sex on our anniversary trips to Hawaii in 2014 and 2015. Nice guy. We have come a long way since then and just recently something in me shifted big time. Partly I think because my husband has changed his life, his attitude and his mind completely as far as I can see and tell. For the longest time I just could not wrap my mind around my spouse of 40 years throwing me under the bus for our entire marriage. Yes, our entire marriage. If I did not have a daughter who adores him and grand kids who adore him I might have left him then and there. But I did not. I gave him a year to get his shit together and he did. He has done a remarkable job. I no longer wear rose colored glasses and I will never trust him again however we are having a good time and living a happier life. He knows he has this one precious chance to be the man he said he always wanted to be. Up until a month or more ago I saw my life as the Truman Show but the shift that happened really changed that. Now I see my life as authentic and real and his as the Truman Show. He lived inside a disgusting bubble of sex, porn and debauchery and came out to join the family when it was forced or convenient. He has to live with that for the rest of his life. He has triggers and memories all the time but tells himself "I am not that person anymore. I don't do that anymore. I am the man I always wanted to be." So far, so good. Hang in there and if he is truly remorseful and wants to change he will move heaven and earth to make it happen. All you can do is take good care of you. Love and peace to all of us.

  2. Hopeful 30, 4 years? This week? Your post was very inspiring. I so want to see d-day as a positive, but I guess it's still just too early for me. And I LOVE that you pointed out not looking too far forward ... this overwhelms me. I'm frustrated I can't even manage the next 30 minutes, so when I try to think of the future, I get all muddle-headed. Right now I just want the pain to stop and hope for some kind of return of joy. And fun. Nothing feels fun anymore. I'm a real downer right now!! But thank you for sharing your story. It really does give me hope. Maybe that can be my story, too.

    1. Anonymous
      There’s lots of hope in the space Elle creates! It doesn’t matter if your marriage survives, mine is still stumbling one day at a time, or you have to have the peace that a divorce brings! I recently had my mother with hospice care for 10 months and I guess our marriage is still stumbling through the grief of her death. It’s scary to say out loud that I think it had a bigger impact on my h than me... I have had two years of realization that this was coming and there was nothing I could do to change it. We are happy with our current marriage but we are human and occasionally we still hurt each other’s feelings... we had to go back to the basics of marriage and find a piece of happiness when we can! This path is not easy but it can be a learning experience and there is hope for a better marriage than the one we had before betrayal. Sending hugs!

    2. Anon, Today is four years since dday! It is such a hard process. And one way or another you will find your way. I know for me I am a type A, make a to do list person, cross the tasks off. That made this recovery process hard. I really had to take my time and work through it like a death. There were many highs and lows.

      Here is what helped us. I will try to make it brief. Ask any questions please! I wrote in a journal every day. I did not always write anything meaningful. Sometimes it was just a list of words, just an outlet. This helped me when I looked back to see how far I had come. When you are in the thick if it I found it hard to see my progress. It all felt horrible. My husband and I only did what we absolutely had to and spent as much time together as possible. We said no to everything the first year post dday. It was full on immersion together. Saying that though we set one time a week when we would talk about everything. That way we were not consumed with it every day. I did not feel good doing that and he was defensive and never knew when he was going to get hit. I went to therapy which was amazing and the support I needed since I told no one about it. I read a ton. I love all John Gottman books. I also loved Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass. My husband brought home an article Masters of Love from The Atlantic. It was really great. I think it is very approachable but positive and a good option to share with the wayward. I know for my husband an entire book overwhelmed him. I could go on and on but will leave it at that. This helped us get through that 6-18 month time period. Hang in there, take care of yourself, post as much as you need to and ask any questions. We are all in this together!



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