- Feeling Stuck, Page 22 (PAGE FULL)
- Sex and intimacy after betrayal
- Share Your Story: Finding Out, Part 5 (4 is full!!...
- Finding Out, Part 5 (Please post here. Part 4 is f...
- Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say
- Separating/Divorcing Page 9
- Finding Out, Part 6
- Books for the Betrayed
- Separating and Divorcing, Page 10
- Feeling Stuck, Part 23
- MORE Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say
- Share Your Story Part 6 (Part 5 is full)
- Sex & Intimacy After Betrayal Part 2 (Part 1 is full)
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
It was like I was drowning, I was so weighed down by my own heartbreak. Then one day I decided to just dive all the way down into it, sink into this unbearable ocean of grief, only to discover that I had gills. For weeks, it was like I lived at the bottom of my own soul, digging my feet into soft sand at the depth of an ocean, learning about the quietest, scariest parts of my soul. And, when I was ready, I kicked off and swam.
Surrendering to the pain feels terrifying. We are so sure we'll never recover. We are convinced that we will drown in our own "ocean of grief" created by our tears, that if we're not fighting to survive, we'll die of the heartbreak.
And then...the opposite happens. We learn, as the writer says, that we have gills. We learn that surrender isn't giving up at all, it's accepting. All the flailing and panicking and fighting and denying in the world isn't going to save us from the pain. What will? Accepting it. Inviting it in. "Diving all the way down into it."
I know it's terrifying. I also know it's necessary. In all my years of hearing your stories, listening to those of you who've healed from this, navigating my own path through heartbreak, I've come to the conclusion that there is no other way back to a fully-lived life. Sure you can survive this without diving into the grief. And, honestly, in those early days, surviving was my goal. I couldn't imagine anything on the other side of survival. It would be enough, I decided, to just not die from the pain.
But then, as it became clear that I would survive, it also became clear that survival wasn't enough. And that meant diving into my grief. That meant I had to stop pushing my pain away and invite it in. It meant sinking into this unbearable ocean of grief. I discovered not just the heartbreak of my husband's betrayal there but so much more. Heartbreak I hadn't allowed myself to acknowledge. All the ways in which I had been betrayed and all the ways in which I'd betrayed myself. It's a lot. Having a therapist handy with a life-ring helped. Having friends who could sit with me in my pain helped. Having my mother, the source of much of my long-buried pain, able to acknowledge it with me, to tell me again how sorry she was. Having a dog into whose furry neck I could sob until I felt empty also helped.
You also don't have to do this alone. But, if you want not only to survive this pain but to emerge with your heart still open to love and life, then you do have to do this. You have to surrender to the grief. You have to stop flailing and fighting to stay at the surface. You have to "dive all the way down into it, into the unbearable ocean."
But know this:
What happens when we reach that bottom is we learn we have gills. We can stay there, still breathing, as long as we need to. And then, I promise, we rise.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
I feel as though a sob is lodged in my throat and will emerge at, likely, the most inopportune moment. It has been there awhile, though it shrinks occasionally when I've had a particularly good day. It's my 2020 sob, a lump of sadness for all the pain felt by so many this awful, horrible year.
We're among the lucky ones. I live in Canada, where the virus has definitely wreaked havoc but nothing on the scale of our neighbors to the south. I only personally know one person who has had COVID – who died from it – and she lived in Florida. My husband and I have not lost our jobs. Our two older kids have had to do remote learning, which sucks but they have access to laptops and high-speed Internet and incredibly patient, hard-working teachers. Our youngest has had part-time in-person classes with equally hardworking teachers who have shown up in person and who have been a godsend. We have food, shelter, each other. Rarely have I felt so privileged on a daily basis to feel safe.
And yet...so much pain. So much sadness. So many alone. So many who've lost jobs. So many going to jobs where they feel unsafe. Where they are unsafe. So much anger. So much vitriol.
But also, so much gratitude. When the world feels dark, a whole lot of us find ourselves grateful for even the tiniest bit of light.
It's not unlike those early days and weeks and months following D-Day. When our lives have been upended but we aren't yet sure what shape our new lives will take. When we can't imagine that the day will come when we feel a sliver of joy or gratitude. How could we? And yet, we do. A child's laugh. A friend's smile over Zoom. A dog bolting across a yard to greet us. A cat's contented purr. A good book. A cup of tea. A starlit night. I promise you, those moments are there if you look for them. Looking for loveliness, a friend of mine calls it. And she makes it a daily practice.
The New York Times asked listeners to The Daily podcast to share good news stories. People called in with tales of new babies, falling in love, learning to play the trumpet, riding a bike, a boys' successful cancer treatments and so much more. Light within the darkness.
I had to pause and rewind it to hear those words again. In reaching out, we save ourselves. The sob in my throat grew and a few tears leaked out. It's what happens here on this site all the time. It's what I've witnessed for more than a decade, since I first created Betrayed Wives Club in 2009. You reach out, first with your own story. Others read it and see themselves in your pain. Me too, they write, though not always in those words. I know that pain. I know that loneliness. I know that fear. That loss. That grief.
Thank-you all for what you do to keep this space a bright spot. May you find your own light this season. May it remind you that always, always the light will return and grow stronger the more we tend to it. In the meantime, may we continue to reach out to each other and, in so doing, also save ourselves.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Healing from betrayal is very different than healing from other crises...because the self has to be rebuilt.
The self has to be rebuilt. That phrase brings tears to my eyes because, for me, it was the absolute truth. I was so shattered by my husband's betrayal that I had days when I felt like a ghost. A shell that contained only pain. I questioned my value. I considered suicide. I felt erased by him, as if everything I had done as his wife, as mother to his children, as his best friend didn't amount to anything.
What betrayal also exposed was just how fragile my "self" was. I wasn't made of stone but of glass. But though betrayal levelled me, it also created the space for transformation. As Dr. Silber puts it, "if your house is levelled, don't build the same house". Whether you apply that statement to yourself or your marriage (or both!), the idea is the same. This is your moment to rebuild in a way that's stronger.
In my case, it meant revisiting a whole lot of childhood trauma (which I had never considered "trauma" so much as just "shitty"). It meant paying attention to how things that I thought benign or ordinary had lain the groundwork for me to tolerate things that I shouldn't have. Consider this: My brother often beat me up. He was three years older, infinitely stronger and with a temper that frightened my parents too. They rarely stepped in. To me, it was garden-variety sibling stuff. Didn't everyone get the shit beat out of them by their siblings? Well, no, according to my horrified therapist who pointed out that my continued struggle with other people's anger likely had its roots in those early experiences where I learned that anger meant violence.
Rebuilding my shattered self meant reexamining things I'd long believed or accepted and deciding what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to toss. It was a sort of psychological/emotional Marie Kondo-ing of my inner clutter.
That's available to you too. "Trauma is the setup for transformation," says Dr. Silber. The key is moving out of the trauma. I know, I know. Not easy and might require the help of a professional. I finally turned to EMDR when I found it too difficult to move past the trauma. I felt stuck in trauma, like the cement was hardening around my feet. But, as we've all discovered, the only way out is through. Which means feeling all the feelings, crying all the tears, moving through the stages of grief.
I say that I discovered my self was built of glass, not stone. And yet...that self held seeds of this self. That self transported me to this place. Right here, right now. In which I consider myself worthy and lovable. In which I know myself to matter. It took strength, which must have already been there. Yours is there too.
Friday, December 18, 2020
One of the most difficult things about healing from being hurt by others is how to put wounds to rest when those who have hurt us will not give air to the wound, will not admit to their part in causing the pain. I have struggled with this deeply. Time and again, I find myself confusing the want for justice with the need for a witness of the wound.
One of the more common laments I hear on this site is how the OW isn't "paying" for what she did. If she was single, well, she just moves on. If she's married, we imagine that her husband either doesn't know (and most don't want to tell him) or that he's chosen to move past it. So really, what we're saying when we want the OW to pay for our pain is that we want to see her pay. We want it to be public. Oprah once said that the downside of the karma bus was that we rarely got to see it run over those who did us wrong.
And I get it. Justice. We just want justice, right? Except that focusing on justice – the price we think she should pay (and our husband should pay, for that matter) – often keeps us focused outwardly. Away from the pain. Away from the wound.
But what I've learned through healing from betrayal is that focussing outward keeps us a step removed from our wound but connected to the person who helped create it. It's like being in the middle of the road with a broken leg and trying to chase down the person who ran us over. What we need to do is fix the break first.
But a broken bone is one thing. It shows up on x-rays. A broken heart is another thing entirely. We don't know how to effectively treat a broken heart. And so we tell ourselves that we're being pathetic. We chastise ourselves for our tears. Why aren't we over this? What's wrong with us? We need a witness for our wound, as Mark Nepo says, and yet we can't even do that for ourselves. Far easier, it seems, to stalk her Facebook or Instagram for signs of her misery. Far easier to drive by her house and see the curtains pulled tight.
None of this is easy, my friends. Healing from infidelity just might be the hardest thing you'll ever do. But it starts with acknowledging your pain. Acknowledging just how deep the wound goes. And summoning other witnesses to it, who can assure us that they know it's there too.
It might not erase our desire for justice, our need to see those who hurt us somehow pay for the damage they caused. But it also might. By the time I began to feel healed from my own broken heart, I no longer cared about the OW. I knew by then she had remarried and had a baby. And I hoped, for the baby's sake, that she had done some healing of her own. I hoped for the sake of other women that she never wanted to cause such damage in another's marriage again. But that was nothing I could control. And so I let go.
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
How Hiring a Dog-Walker Taught me Valuable Lesson in Control (or "Why My Therapist Grew to Hate My Appointments")
How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself? ~
Many years ago, I watched Oprah at 4 p.m. on weekdays. One of her frequent guests was Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil had a question he routinely asked those who brought their problems to him. His question was this:
But she would listen. And then one day, she said to me, You can't see a solution to this?
Of course, I could see a solution. Duh. The solution was my husband needed to do what I wanted him to do.
She did a poor job of hiding her rolling eyes. No. A solution that doesn't involve you trying to control something you can't control. A solution that involves you controlling what you can control.
Nope. I came up blank. Seriously. I couldn't think of a damn thing. I was so sure that the only solution to my dog-walking woes was for my husband to take care of the dogs he insisted we get.
She sat back and sighed. Well, she said. I can think of a half-dozen solutions off the top of my head.
Seriously? What magic was this woman capable of?
Such as? I asked.
She sighed and, no doubt, calculated how much she was being paid to listen to me. Such as hiring a dog-walker, for a start.
But my husband doesn't want to pay someone to walk the dogs.
Yes, I actually said that. I thought that my husband's wants/needs were a barrier to me getting what I wanted/needed. He mattered. I didn't.
I think if she hadn't been a pacifist and professional, my therapist would have leaned over and smacked me in the head. God knows, I deserved it.
Well then, he has a choice. Either pay for the dog walker you hire or walk the dogs himself.
My mind was blown. This woman was a genius.
We had our dog walker until we had to pause because of COVID. My husband occasionally grumbled about the cost to which I responded, well, you're welcome to walk them yourself. But if you won't, then we're keeping the dog walker. Even when we walked our dogs ourselves, which became more frequent, our dogs still got their daily walk with their beloved dog-walker.
And we all lived happily ever after.
I see so many of you struggling with things that you can't control (ie. whether he goes to therapy, whether he discloses passwords, and so on) and ignoring what you can control (ie. what boundaries you set in place in order to stay in the marriage). I see so many of you waiting rather than demanding the best for yourself, as Epicetus cautions us not to do.
How long are you going to wait? he asks.
Where did you learn to live on crumbs? Esther Perel asks.
Why are you protecting him from the consequences of his choices? I ask. Why is his need to not be challenged, or to not feel uncomfortable, or to not examine his fucked up childhood more important than your need to feel safe in the marriage, or to have emotional intimacy, or to feel valued and respected and heard?
I know these issues can't be solved by hiring a dog-walker.
And I know that it hurts to hear How is that working out for you?
And I know that the consequences of you controlling what you can control (for instance, leaving a marriage in which your partner refuses to seek treatment for his addictions or anger issues or whatever) are more painful than shelling out a bit of money for someone to show up with dog leashes.
But if it's not working out for you, all the moaning in the world isn't going to change that. What will work? Prioritizing your needs. Thinking, as one brilliant secret sister put it, of me rather than we.
You can spend the rest of your life wishing he would metaphorically walk the goddamn dogs. Or you can hire a metaphorical dog-walker (or actual lawyer, or actual therapist, or...) And he can either get on board or stay behind, wondering where you're going without him.
Friday, December 11, 2020
~Xochitl Gonzalez, Turns Out It's Pretty Good Aging, from The Cut
I never aspired to be married. While my friends doodled Mrs. MacKay or Mrs. Stuart in the margins of their notebooks (depending on the surnames of their beloveds), I pictured my current name on the cover of books or at the top of magazine stories. No "Mrs" for me.
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Monday, December 7, 2020
Last week, Susan, one of our secret sisters, noted how much difficulty she's having looking herself in the eye. She feels ashamed at staying with her unfaithful husband. She feels pathetic and weak and like, if she had any dignity, she would be out the door.
It's a state I'm familiar with. I, too, spent many weeks/months beating myself up for staying. I told myself I was staying for the kids, at least for now. I told myself that I could leave any time (and I could!). I told myself I just needed to rest until I felt ready to leave.
And all of this was true. But it wasn't the whole story. Because underscoring all those things I was telling myself was this truth: I wanted to stay.
Wanting to stay in a marriage with someone who cheated on you is, shall we say, frowned on in our culture. We all know the tropes: Cheaters are assholes who must pay for what they did. Women who stay are those who agree to "look the other way", who "put up with it". Men who aren't left humiliated are undoubtedly going to do it again because they haven't paid a price for their sins. It's baked into our culture, our songs, our stories.
We see it here all the time. Incredible strong women who are willing to give their partners another chance but under the strict maxim, "My heartbreak, my rules."
💪 Strong women listen to their own hearts and voice. Its the hardest thing I have ever done.
❤️ There's no one answer. All the details matter. Healthy women deal with whatever life throws them. No one wants to be betrayed but it happens. Some can move on with, some not. Either is okay.
💪 Perfect. You have to get to know yourself, what you think you can do, and what your spouse is capable of in terms of change. It’s hard. But so is leaving.
❤️ I stayed and i am now one of the strongest women i know. Leaving would have made me strong too , single and strong. But married with my family in tact took just as much strength.
💪 It takes a strong woman not make a knee jerk decision to leave.
A mature adult lets the dust settle and makes a decision that is right for her (& her kids).
💪 Staying also takes a lot strength. It’s just focused differently then leaving. There is nothing weak in trying to figure out what is right for yourself after your world has been blown apart. Better clearer choices can be made as the dust settles.
Strong women are the ones who find & know their self worth, regardless of whether they stay or leave.
💪 Strong people face the truth and make the right decision for them.
I would tell her that having a big heart and deep love for her SO isn’t weakness. It takes strength to stay and face the pain, and work through it day after day. It takes strength to still try and see the good in this person. And It also takes strength to leave.
💪 My husband's AP's family and friends told me I was dumb. I stayed with a cheater. She tried everything to break up our family knowing how hard it was for me to stay. I had to forgive the ultimate sin and take everyone's crap and swallow it. That takes strength. It takes someone brave and bold to do the hardest thing. And I didn't settle. I made the choice. I didn't just go back because I didn't have any other options. I made the choice because it is what was right for me. And anyone who judges is a c@#t.
❤️ She definitely should not “put up with it”. To stay, she needs to go for recovery...and that’s not putting up with it. It’s staying with a plan. It takes strength & courage as you all know. Courage to face society’s & oneself’s judgement and to heal with the one who hurt her...
💪 I think it takes a very strong woman/man to stay and put in the work to try and repair their marriage and rebuild trust. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my 53 yrs. I hope she reads all of these because she is SUPER STRONG!!!
❤️She isn’t weak for staying. It takes a lot of strength to navigate this bs. However- the fact she’s having second thoughts about staying and sees herself as weak is something she should explore. If she’s staying out of fear of being alone, for example.
💪 1) She has to like her own reasons for staying 2)she has to have her own back on her decision 3) cultural myth is nothing. This is her life. She gets to make the rules
❤️ It’s her life; she should do what she wants to do.
💪 Staying and putting in the work for a new marriage is SO much harder for betrayer & betrayed. Walking away isn’t easy & still requires years of healing but deciding to stay & become different & better requires strength; willingness to learn & grow, daily forgiveness, & hard work.
❤️ I have faced many people who would not do what I have done. Shown some compassion to a man who is truly sorry for his actions.
💪 Put herself first whether that means staying or going.
❤️ Staying takes far more strength than leaving. You have to be able to look past the lying, the deceit, the anger, the hate, the devastation, the destruction of your confidence and certainty and rebuild yourself and your relationship. You have to forgive without bitterness. But stay because you believe that it is the right thing to do for you or your family. Don't stay to meet other people's expectations and beliefs. If you stay, know that you will be stronger than you were before. Finally love and hugs from us. We know how hard it is.
💪 This is something I struggle with immensely too. Ppl are complex. Lives are complex. Love can survive & grow through adversity. The strongest people are those who can hold pain in their hearts & STILL stay someone who caused it. That's radical acceptance & love. Fk what ppl think
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
I convinced myself that I was a logical woman who could consider this information about having been cheated on, about his not wearing a condom, and I could separate it from the current reality of our life together.
Why did I need to know that we’d been monogamous? Why did I need to have and discuss inconvenient feelings about this ancient history?
I would not be a woman who needed these things, I decided.
I would need less. And less.
I got very good at this.
One of our dear secret sisters sent me the link to The Crane Wife. I remember there was a flurry of interest when it first came out in the summer. No surprise. It's beautifully written. But also, I suspect, it resonates with so many of us, whether we've been cheated on by a romantic partner or not. Because though the writer tells her story from the chronological point of post-infidelity, the story speaks more to the ways in which she cheated herself all the way through the relationship. The ways in which she made herself small. The ways in which she tried to earn her place in a relationship, as so many of us do, by some sort of weird math that is all addition on his side and subtraction on her own. We take away our wants, we remove our needs, we censor our thoughts, we silence our dreams.
"There are ways to be wounded and ways to survive those wounds, but no one can survive denying their own needs," the writer tells us. But that doesn't stop us, does it? In fact, far too many of us convince ourselves that the survival of our marriage rests entirely on our ability to deny our needs. I certainly did. My needs ranged from the mundane to the existential, from needing my husband home in the evenings to relieve me from the mind-numbing exhaustion of life with a difficult baby to needing to feel seen. And when my husband seemed unwilling or unable to meet those needs, I didn't leave. I concluded that the problem wasn't him, the problem was my needs and my own inability to stifle them.
There was an interesting Twitter thread recently in which the tweeter noted that skills she'd gained growing up in an abusive/dysfunctional home have served her well during this pandemic. For instance, she felt always capable of hope, no matter how hopeless things seemed. She could fill long empty days. I could have written that Twitter thread because my experience was so similar. But the thing is, what helps us survive in unhealthy situations is so often about denying needs. Which is a survival skill but not a life skill. Or, as Esther Perel puts it, "where did you learn to live on crumbs?"
If infidelity offers us any gifts (and the rose-colored glasses I wear convinces me it does), it is the opportunity to reimagine how we're living our lives, to ask ourselves if we are getting what we need and, if not, to ensure that we do. Our marriage can survive when we deny our needs but we can't. And if, post-infidelity, we have decided that we are going to show up in our marriage in a way that honors who we are and insists on respect and honesty and integrity, then we cannot continue to deny our needs. For some of us, that means spending time figuring out what our needs actually are. Years of pretending we had none can leave us baffled at what our needs are. Taking the time to get to know ourselves again can be another gift we give ourselves after betrayal. What makes me light up? How have I sold myself short? What is and is not okay with me? Only by acknowledging and tending to our own needs can we begin to show up, whole, in a marriage.
"Who was I to want more?" the writer asks, in The Crane Wife. What we learn, post-betrayal, is that the real question is "Who am I to settle for less?"
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
So grateful for so many amazing resources, people, things that help me heal. It’s like going on the hardest hike of your life and picking up beautiful treasures along the way. ~@NobleLola
Though I'm Canadian, it's impossible to ignore all the talk about Thanksgiving right now, though our Thanksgiving was in early October. Which is fine. It's never a wrong time to consider one's blessings, to catalogue what we're grateful for, to take stock of what's right in our lives.
It can, however, be challenging. Especially during a pandemic when many of us will be celebrating without the comfort of extended family and friends. Especially when our hearts are shattered.
But it is during those particularly challenging times in our lives, when, for instance, our hearts are shattered, that seeking out and noticing the "beautiful treasures along the way" are all the more valuable. Cultivating an ability to acknowledge treasures when they feel particularly few and far between is key to helping us heal from betrayal. It's key to experiencing a rich, meaningful life.
I was struck, one freezing cold winter morning, just weeks after D-Day, by how beautiful the snow looked on a sunlit day. I was walking my dog, who'd become something of a security blanket to me as I sobbed into his neck on more nights than I could count. But that morning, with the sun's rays dancing on the fresh snow, I found space in my pain to notice. To pause and to pay attention to the beauty. To remember that not everything was horrible.
That moment inspired me to begin paying closer attention to other moments. The sound of my children laughing together, even if I couldn't yet join in their joy. My mother's daily calls to "just check in". The release I felt to stop comparing myself to others because, I suddenly realized, none of us really knew what another's life was like beyond the smiles. I even allowed myself to take pleasure in finally – FINALLY! – losing the last 10 pounds of post-pregnancy weight. Yeah, it sucked that it took my husband cheating on me to rob me of any ability to choke down food. But, yippee! All my favorite clothes fit again.
That spring, I sat outside by myself staring skyward. My husband was out and I noticed that anxiety building. Was he really at a work function? Was he cheating again?
I had no idea. But I could pay attention to just how spectacular the sky looked that night, the moon a fingernail suspended in a black sky, the stars sprinkled to eternity.
I hadn't yet created this site so didn't yet know just how many treasures I would find here. I've forgotten so many of the names but remember the stories. I remember the kindness. I remember the feeling when I got first one reader, then two, then a dozen. I was among people who understood how much pain I was still in. I was among people who responded with such compassion and decency. So unlike a few of the other sites where I felt stupid for remaining in my marriage, where cynicism passed for wisdom.
NobleLola is exactly right. There are so many resources, so many people to help us heal. And she's also right that it is the hardest hike of our lives. Straight uphill in blazing sunlight without a drop of water. But along the way are treasures. Notice them. Cherish them. And share them with others.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Working in conflict mediation I learned that time passes differently for different people. Someone who has perpetuated a trauma might think the trauma was way in the past, because it was a year ago, a decade ago, half a lifetime ago. Someone who has lived with the impact of that trauma may not see this as “past.” For them, the past might be now, and now, and now, and now. Unaddressed trauma is not packaged away, and is often occurring again and again.
~Pádraig Ó Tuama, from On Being's The Pause
Someone recently described these pandemic days as "an endless Tuesday". We were lamenting the sameness of our days. I see the same four family members every day. I see one friend who's my running partner. I see the occasional grocery store clerk. But a Saturday is pretty much like a Wednesday. Or an endless Tuesday. I have little sense of whether I sent that e-mail a week ago or a month ago. Or two months ago. Time is an untrusty elastic band.
It reminds me, a lot, of what it was like in the days following D-Day. Everything suddenly different. An expectation that I would just adjust. That I would pretend that nothing had changed while everything had.
And this weird sense of time. Had he told me a week ago? Or six weeks ago? How was that possible? What had I done in those intervening days? How could I not remember?
Personal or collective, it's much the same. A sense of foreboding. An endless now. No matter that, in the case of betrayal, that traumatic event, to him, is over. To us, it's now. It's happening now. And now. And now.
"When will you get over this?" he asks, genuinely aghast that we're still devastated a week, a month, a year later. We wish we knew. We don't understand it either. It happened...when exactly? Now. It's happening now.
Trauma is notoriously difficult to treat because the traumatic event has been filed in our brains differently than a non-traumatic memory. It has been filed in the eternal now. Hence the hyper-vigilance, the thudding heart, the shallow breath. Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no....
Pádraig Ó Tuama calls it "in the waiting" and reminds us that in the waiting, we don't need to be alone. The incredible women of Betrayed Wives Club are here. Professional support is available (which I strongly recommend -- particularly EMDR, which specifically deals with trauma). Books and podcasts are available. In fact, I'm in the process of compiling a list of resources to include on this site so please chime in with whatever has helped you.
But right now, in this endless Tuesday of trauma, call it what it is. Betrayal is trauma. And trust that you can move past this with courage and support and enormous self-compassion.
As Pádraig Ó Tuama puts it, "A new future will only be built on courageous moments, and those are happening now, and now and now."
Monday, November 16, 2020
To release this terror, we must stop pretending to be unafraid, and confront the terror from within. We need to first unmask the fear; we need to let go of pretending we have no fear. In my own experience, once I understood that it was okay to be afraid, the healing began. The wisdom in my bones came alive and I became aware in the midst of fear and anxiety that the mind and body were begging to purge the terror within. With this awareness, the waters of my mind stopped whirling and I could at last begin to see my reflection.
~Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, from Ten Percent Happier
It started with tingling hands. From the tips of my fingers to my arms to a flood throughout my body, I would be engulfed by it. Fear. Terror. What I was afraid of wasn't always clear to me. Just...an uncertain future. Just...a misunderstood past.
The fear fed on itself. I became afraid of being afraid. I carried around a bottle of anti-anxiety pills that I was afraid to take. I felt debilitated. Unfocused.
What Zenju Earthlyn Manuel learned, and what she tries to teach us, is that trying to outrun the fear only exacerbates it. Refusing to acknowledge it only increases its power over us. As most of us should have learned by now, only by looking the monster in its face can we overcome it.
Manuel learned to do this through meditation. "To release this terror, we must stop pretending to be unafraid, and confront the terror from within. We need to first unmask the fear; we need to let go of pretending we have no fear. "
We can't eliminate it all at once, she says. I'm reminded of the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz. She melts rather than vanishes. When gripped by fear, Manuel tells herself, "I am in the past." We might try the same. It's sometimes as accurate to say, "I am in the future." Where we are not is in the present. And that's where refuge, counter-intuitively, is found. In the now. "Right now, I am fine."
That became my mantra. "Right now, I am fine." Fine was open to interpretation. It didn't necessarily mean that my husband wasn't again cheating. It didn't necessarily mean that my marriage was okay. What it meant was small and simple and profound: Right now, I am fine. Alive. Breathing.
Perhaps you're afraid too. Betrayal is frightening because it reminds us that we control so much less than we thought we did.
What's more, at this moment in history, so much is frightening. Our vulnerability is laid bare, our need to take care of each other has likely never been so important in our lifetimes. I've been feeling that familiar fear begin to creep back. I notice it. I acknowledge it. And then I remind myself that fear catapults me back in time or forward. But right now, I am fine.
Friday, November 13, 2020
We talk lots on this site about learning to care for ourselves, to love ourselves, to reaquaint ourselves with who we were before we lost ourselves. But what does that mean? What would it look like to love ourselves? I came across this poem in the incredible Brainpickings newsletter and it sums it up perfectly. Read it, sit with it, marinate in it:
LOVE AFTER LOVE
by Derek Walcott
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Monday, November 9, 2020
Ignore the haters and the critics and the whisperers. They aren't living our lives. They'd do well to focus on their own. As my mother, a longtime 12-stepper used to put it, what others think of me is none of my business. So hard, I know. I often try to think of myself at my life's end. Will I really care what some mother of my kids' friend said about how I raised my children? Or what some person on the Internet said about staying with someone who cheated? Or what some woman cheating with my husband said about my marriage? Pretty sure I won't.
Friday, November 6, 2020
No more...but not yet.
I read that phrase in a tweet by Samuel from Overcoming Infidelity. And wow, right? "No more...but not yet."
It so beautifully sums up that place so many of us inhabit where, sure, things are better. He's not cheating for one thing (as far as we know), our marriage hasn't collapsed (not yet, anyway). But steps feel tentative, as if at any moment the floor just might fall from beneath us. We hold our breath.
If we've taken steps to create clear boundaries, then there are many "no mores". No more tolerating his unexplained absences. No more ignoring our own needs. No more telling ourselves that this is just what marriage is like after a few years, after a few kids. No more.
But not yet.
We're not where we want to be, are we? Where is the trust? We don't feel it yet. Where is connection? Not feeling it yet. Are we sure we made the right choice? Not yet. We're not yet able to trust that when he says there was traffic on the way home, that there was, truly, traffic on the way home. Not yet able to believe that "it meant nothing". Not yet able to forget him saying that he loved us but wasn't in love with us. What if he cheats again? What if he's still cheating? What if? No. Not yet.
And so our challenge is to figure out how to inhabit this space of transition, as Samuel calls it. He urges us to face this dark place but to bring backup. Like a superhero with sidekicks. A therapist. A trusted friend. A support group. Online programs. Even, perhaps, this blog.
It will feel horrible. Uncertainty will summon all of your fears. That's okay. Stay with it. You can handle it. It's temporary. We can endure just about anything when we know it won't last.
Inhabit the space of "but not yet". It's where we live most of our lives even as we pretend it's otherwise. And if we can make peace with that, if we can embrace that "today, I'm fine even if I'm not yet where I want to be", we will take ourselves a long way toward genuine joy.
Transitions are hard. That is the nut of it. So hard. Gather together your superhero sidekicks to support you as you carry on.
Thursday, November 5, 2020
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Aspects of this process keep getting referred to as a “reckoning” because it’s a lot easier to say reckoning than it is to say “having all your biases laid out on a table and correctly picked over because it’s time we addressed this shit head-on.”
He'll do just about anything to avoid that, won't he? Addressing this shit head on? He'll minimize. She meant nothing to me. He'll deflect. Our marriage was really bad. You know that. He'll blame-shift. You said yourself that you weren't happy. He'll reassure. I never stopped loving you. He'll defend. I was never going to leave you. Why won't you believe me?
He'll do just about anything except the one thing that he absolutely must do. Address his shit head on. Traistor, in the quote above, is referring to the reckoning taking place politically in the US. And I am, of course, referring to a more personal reckoning in the wake of infidelity. But the two aren't necessarily as separate as we might think. Even our cultural understanding of infidelity is through the lens of misogyny, entitlement, patriarchy. "Addressing this shit head on" is about examining what made cheating okay for him. "Addressing this shit head on" means turning the light on the stories he told himself, long-held beliefs, a value system that was malleable enough to make space for cheating (or that never excluded cheating as unacceptable in the first place). Because if he's asking you for a second chance, what exactly is he offering to make that second chance seem like a fair bet?
It will be painful. For him but likely for you too. It's hard to look deeply at our shadow selves, behind our polished exteriors. And it's something that will likely require a professional, not only to open the path toward a deeper understanding but to offer support when what's discovered is hard to look at. When it feels easier to turn away, to say that's enough, to figure that not cheating is as good as understanding why he cheated in the first place.
It's not. It never will be.
Addressing this shit head on is the admission price of a second chance. What? He thought there wouldn't be a price? He thought he could make promises and plead for mercy and wipe the slate clean? He thought the price was paid by being a witness to your tears, your pain, your shattering? Absolutely not. Observing the pain he created is never to be confused with reckoning with his own.
Besides, we're likely having our own reckoning. Addressing this shit head on. Because although we are never to blame for another's choice to cheat, there are often ways in which we betrayed ourselves. By ignoring our anger. By silencing our wants. By denying our needs. By allowing him to abandon us in ways we barely recognized but nonetheless felt deeply. We felt alone, didn't we? We were alone.
Infidelity is a nuclear bomb. And pretending it's not only reduces the likelihood that the necessary rebuilding will take place in its wake. If he can pretend that it wasn't so bad, that it was a small aberration, that the damage was contained then he can avoid his reckoning. But only if we go along with it. Only if we don't demand he commit to his reckoning.
Let's not. Let's make absolutely sure that he addresses this shit head on. Let's insist that the price of his second chance is his commitment to doing everything he can so that he never needs to ask for a third chance.
I'm convinced it's the only way to rebuild a marriage in a way that creates emotional safety. Only when we have seen his reckoning, only when he has examined his actions through the lens of how he got there, what he told himself, what he lied about – to us and to himself – can we begin to let down our guard. Only when he will make himself vulnerable can we begin to trust him with our own vulnerability. Only then.