Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: A Year of Cheating Dangerously

2009 was a heckuva year for adultery watchers (and aren't we all, these days?).
Just to recount, the year's cheat sheet includes John Edwards (well, okay, he admitted it in 2008 but his wife's book about it was released in 09), Jon Gosselin, John Ensign (who he?), Mark Sanford, David Letterman, Josh Duhamel, and, of course, Tiger Woods. And those are just the ones who haven't faded too quickly from the headlines. It's enough to turn my rose-colored glasses blue.
My own D-Day was more than three years ago and, I'm delighted to report, the pain is nowhere near as acute as it was. I get the occasional pang of sadness when I recall what I now call our "lost years", but time (and a whole lotta therapy) has brought me to a place where I believe my happiness is far more genuine now. It's rooted in reality; the knowledge that life can deliver me a knockout punch...but my feet are firmly enough on solid ground to keep me standing.
Which is a long way of saying that I can read about these affairs without taking it personally. Without making sweeping generalizations that, clearly, every man is a cheating scumbag and it's simply a matter of opportunity before they reveal themselves (literally and metaphorically). Without thinking that every marriage is doomed to failure and that every woman is simply setting themselves up for heartbreak. Yep, I was there. But thankfully no longer.
What about you, BWC readers? Do you find all the constant news about Tiger et al contributing to greater angst? Does misery love company? Or is it simply unnecessary gossip that has nothing to do with your life? 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Survival Guide to your Heartbroken Holidays

Let me share with you how I spent the holiday season 2006, which – oh how the gods spite me! – took place within days of DDay #1.
I woke up early. Had I even slept? My parents were here to share the holiday my family, including our three young children.
After opening presents and trying to smile nice for the camera, I can only recall that I somehow lost my mind.
I became obsessed with finding the Other Woman (OW) and letting her know that she had ruined my Christmas. I got into my husband's car and began driving to her part of town. I didn't know her address, only an intersection. So I cruised. And sobbed. And cruised and sobbed.
Eventually, I gave up and came home. Where I sobbed some more.
My husband and parents had been, of course, frantic.
My kids were confused.
And I? Well, I was sobbing. And reeling from the shock of my life.
So I'm hardly in any position to be offering up advice on how to handle the holidays...when your heart is breaking.
Except that I can at least offer up lessons. You know those things we learn from extreme suffering:
Lesson #1: Give up on traditions. Maybe the holidays in your house involve an elaborate gingerbread decorating event, followed by a family skate and hot chocolate. If you can pull it off, go for it. But many BWC members remember that any attempt to do "what we always did" simply magnified the one BIG difference this time around. Perhaps it's time to create some new traditions, like make voo-doo daddy dolls. Or beat the daddy-shaped piñata. Maybe a gingerbread home-wrecker? Seriously, this might be the year to implement the holiday movie marathon (Black Christmas, perhaps?). Give it some serious thought – and only commit to events and activities that you can handle. Give yourself the gift of peace.
Lesson #2: Peace is not to be found at the bottom of the punch bowl. Trust me on that one. A happy drunk can make merry. A sloppy bitter drunk just makes Mary, Larry and Harry cringe. (And remember, too, if you're hardly eating a thing, have lost weight and aren't sleeping, alcohol will hit you hard.)
Lesson #3: Look forward, not back. Sure it's tradition to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the one to come. But nostalgia is often dishonest.
Take stock of where you are right now – even if that happens to be in a smelly bathrobe rummaging through the drawers for a sleep aid. This is NOT where you'll be in a year. It might not even be where you'll be in a month (fingers crossed). So face forward and march into your future – whatever it is – with a trust in yourself that you will handle this the best you can.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Guest Blog: T is for Trauma

by Merri

I remember well my first flashback. I vividly “saw” my husband standing beside our house months after we had separated. It was terrifying. The only problem was, in reality, he was about thirty miles away. But tell that to my sweaty palms and racing heart.
Betrayals of the heart often induce trauma (which is, after all, a very strong stress reaction). If you consider that betrayal feels like it comes out of nowhere, that our response is emotionally reactive, and that we perceive fear through loss of control – we’re ripe for the picking. What's more, our brain automatically filters memories from our relationship history and throws in childhood experiences. 

For some of us bouncing between detachment and hyper-vigilance felt completely normal. It was far from it – but my childhood experiences conditioned me believe this state was reasonable day-to-day functioning. Chronic low-level stress (lasting for more than 90 days) can also induce a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd).
My concentrated efforts in trauma therapy helped me more than anything else ever had. I finally found the simple tools to cope that I had been looking for my whole life. 
Grounding strategies were key for me. I asked someone I trusted to be my "grounder" for awhile. The feelings you experience can be extreme (panic attacks, anxiety, hypervigilance) and these emotions block logic so it’s necessary to calm them in order to think logically. The one thing I needed to hear repeatedly was that I was “safe", that most people were good, and that I would be okay in the long term.

•Doing a cognitive behave workbook was another simple exercise (simple in that it’s available at any bookstore. I suggest 
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook For Dummies by Rhena Branch and Rob Willson). I still occasionally use the exercises.

•And EMDR helped the most. I found something similar online I could do on my own called emotional freedom technique – for me it wasn't as good but it still worked.

It’s a good idea to seek professional help if a betrayal has left you:
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Suffering through moments of severe fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Overly cautious/suspicious of people when you weren’t before
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma or gave you pleasure before
  • Feeling emotionally numb and/or disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guest Blog: Endless Questions...

by Meg

I've been coping with the fallout of betrayal for about a year. I keep asking myself "When do I get to be happy again?" I ask myself hundreds if not thousands of questions a day. Probably not healthy – maybe a bit obsessive. I've got to work on that negative self-talk problem.
There are the usual questions: "Why wasn't I enough?", "How didn't I know?", "Will I always be alone?", "Will I be able to trust again?"
It's hard to feel hopeful with those questions constantly running through my head. They are filled with doubt about my future and my ability to be me again. What if I find love again, will I be able to believe in it?
 For me, and for many of us, my life changed in an instant. The day before my D-Day my husband sent me a lovely note: "10 reasons why I'm so lucky you're my wife." How many women have a husband who says stuff like that out of the blue? I read that and
felt so lucky, so loved, so safe. Now I think back to that list and think maybe he was was making a pros vs. cons list about me...and just decided to share the pros with me. 
Today I got an e-mail from him asking why our divorce is taking so long. My how times have changed! Yesterday, I spent a lot of time asking the question I ask the most: "What happened to the man I loved?"  Can I just ask all of you – when do the questions end?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Arguing Over Addiction

I recently spoke with a reporter for The Daily Beast about sex addiction. Since the number of Tiger Woods' conquests seems to grow daily, many are speculating about whether he's a sex addict...or just a scumbag player.
The comments are scathing, with most falling on the "scumbag" side of the debate. And, frankly, I can understand why some dismiss the possibility of sex addiction.
For one thing, sex addiction has only recently become the celebrity curse-du-jour, with David Duchovny's admission and Dr. Drew creating a show around it. And sure, it can seem like a convenient excuse. "Gee, I would have liked to have said 'no' to the porn star, but I couldn't help myself because I'm a sex addict."
At least that's what those who dismiss sex addiction as a fad, or an excuse might suspect.
But the reality is hardly convenient. Or an excuse.
What a sex addict does is no less embarrassing to them if they admit to sex addiction. If anything, it's worse. Imagine the humiliation of going through a 12-step program for sex addiction (some of which don't allow all. Ever.). Imagine having to take a personal inventory of those you've hurt and make reparations. Think of how excruciating it must be to recount every encounter to your spouse (and yourself!) when you've spent most of your time convincing yourself that what you're doing isn't really hurting anyone.
Whether or not Tiger Woods is a sex addict, whether or not sex addiction makes it into the DSM-IV is of no consequence to those who use sex (or porn) in an unhealthy way. And most of the comments around sex addiction reveal not only a lack of compassion but a lack of understanding about addiction in general and sex addiction in particular.
Adultery sucks. Doesn't matter much why our spouses cheated on the end we expect them to take responsibility for what they did. And sex addiction offers up nothing to hide behind, but rather a label that they will carry with them forward.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time Is a Four-Letter Word

I just spent the weekend with a BWC member. But rather than weep and wring our hands about our respective betrayals, we laughed – heartily.
We giggled over what we did when we found out (I insisted that my husband put the OW on the phone...and to my utter amazement, she actually took it!); we chuckled over how delighted we were – in the midst of heartbreak – to step on the scales and discover that, while our lives might feel shattered, we were really wonderfully skinny.
In short, we were able to reflect on the most painful chapter of our lives...and, with the benefit of time, recognize that while it sucked...we weren't on that page anymore. Hallelujah.
Sadly, when your heart is breaking, it's almost impossible to believe it will ever feel whole again. And when those around you suggest that time will heal, you might nod...but inside you think they can't possibly know how all-consuming your pain is. Time, for me, became a bitter four-letter word.
My own pain grew to eclipse all else, including the love of my three children. I wanted desperately to escape it, desperately enough to wish I could die. Never have I been so low.
Which is why sharing some laughs three years later with a good friend who has also experienced betrayal is as surprising as it is healing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Face Your Pain? A Radical Therapy for a Broken Heart

We're a society that hates pain, of any kind. We reach for Tylenol, or a glass of wine, or a shopping expedition...anything to make our uncomfortable feelings go away, even for just a short time.
When your heart has been shattered through betrayal, those same escapes beckon...but rarely work. Or certainly don't work for long.
What does work?
The answer is as surprising as it is simple. Feel your feelings. That's right. Stop wishing things were different. Or distracting yourself with food, alcohol, men or any other poison of choice.
Accept that this is excruciating. But know that it won't cripple you. You are stronger than this. You will survive. It will take time. But that time can be dramatically shortened by going through the pain, rather than trying to get around it.
Consider all those actions that always seemed too flakey (or was that just me?): meditation, silence, journaling... Anything that encourages you to face your feelings. They're just feelings, as one wise soul (okay, she's my therapist) often reminds me, not facts. And feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are.

If you're going through heartbreak, what are you doing for yourself?
If you've survived betrayal, what helped you through?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury: Is Violence Justified Against a Cheating Spouse?

“Swing it again, Elin!” wrote Jan Helin, editor-in-chief of Aftonbladet, Sweden’s biggest newspaper.

While we BWC members have undoubtedly felt the rage, the unbridled fury that Elin Nordegren felt when she learned of husband Tiger Woods' cheating, we are dismayed by the popular support of the alleged golf-club attack.
Media has been ripe with jokes, jeers and cheers, lending an air of endorsement to least against someone who's cheated.
Sure, we joke about wanting to murder our philandering spouses (or ex-spouses). We might even fantasize about carefully exacted revenge. The thing is...we don't act on it.
It's kinda like cheating itself. It's okay to have...errrr...impure thoughts about the neighbor...or his 17-year-old son, for that matter.
We might even acknowledge that it's similarly okay for our husbands to have fantasies about another woman (or women!). But – and it's a big but – it's the actual doing of it that's the problem.
And the fact that she's a woman is no excuse.
Imagine, if Elin had been caught cheating. Would there be the same public support if he had taken a golf club to her? Of course not. That would be considered domestic violence.
I ache for Elin Nordegren and the pain and humiliation she's enduring...whether she divorces or not.
But at no point am I proud to be part of a group that encourages violence against anyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Your Marriage Can Survive an Affair...Say the Stats

A great article posted here offers up three couples who are doing the hard work of piecing their marriage together after betrayal. The emotions are so raw that it's hard to read...their pain is palpable. Still, it offers up some good resources (with the notable exception of Betrayed Wives Club) and depicts the devastation wrought by affairs.
What are your thoughts? Can a marriage be better after betrayal? Or will it always bear the scars?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiger's OW offers up definition of "ironic"

Though I try (really, really I do!) to take the high road when it comes to matters of the OW (Other Woman for those unfamiliar with my acronyms), sometimes I just can't help myself.
Yes, I know that not all OW are nasty or stupid or morally challenged. But it's just that some...are. So, since this OW walked right into this particular exchange with nary a thought to the irony of her words, I can't help but poke just a little bit of fun.
So...with that pseudo-apology out of the way:
According to a recent article in some sleazy tabloid, Jamie Junger (has anyone else been a bit weirded out by the number of Jamie/Jamee/etc. that Tiger allegedly slept with?? Easier to keep their names straight?) commented on Tiger's...errrr...tightness with cash. According to this paragon of virtue...

"When we'd go out for dinner, he never left a tip or he'd ask for the meal to be complimentary because he was 'Tiger Woods'. I just thought that was cheap and it always embarrassed me."

Apparently "dating"/sleeping with a married man isn't the least bit cheap or embarrassing...

"My Husband Cheated on Me!" Meet Three Women Who Made Different Choices

I recently told my story to a writer for BettyConfidential, an online women's site. Check it out here.

And please share your story. Did you stay? Leave? Have an affair yourself? Is there a "right" way to deal with a spouse's infidelity?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Endorse Ashley Madison? Tiger's life is a train wreck!

Recent allegations that Tiger Woods has been invited to become the new face of married-cheaters Web site ashleymadison aren't surprising.
And, though my initial reaction was one of disgust and dismissal, I'm beginning to think it's actually a great idea.
Who better to endorse a site dedicated to adultery and determined to promote it as harmless fun than someone whose "harmless fun" has resulted in devastation, a shattered family, humiliation and lost income? Better that married people see exactly how their ostensibly discreet liaisons could ultimately turn out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Funny – A new weekly feature to give you a giggle

Why men shouldn't write advice columns...

"What type of underpants does she wear?": How much info is too much?

The news is full of details of Tiger Wood's exploits. The women, the sex, the locations, the status of each "relationship"... It's all there for the whole world to discover.
For those of us involved in less public pain, discovering the details about our spouse's affairs often requires some sleuthing...or endless questions. But how much info about our spouse's extracurriculars should we know. And is there ever too much?
I wanted all the details...right down to...well...the dirty stuff. Annie was the same, asking over and over for details about the Other Woman's (OW) vital stats.
A lot of betrayed wives find themselves obsessing about the details of the affair: From where they had coffee (and whether the OW took sugar or a sugar substitute) to where they had sex, for how long and whether they talked before, during or after. Many of us also ask the same questions repeatedly, as if we simply can't absorb the answers.
"Experts" offer up plenty of opinions about what you should know, if you should know and why you should know.
As a recovered obsessive interrogator (ROI), let me clarify a few things:
1. If your spouse wants to remain married to you, he needs to answer any and all of your questions honestly. I've heard it said that when your spouse was engaged in the affair, the OW had the window into your marriage. Now it's time to switch and give you the window into the affair. It can go a long way toward restoring trust and helping you realize it wasn't the romantic sexcapade you might imagine. Then again...
2. Be sure you really want the information. There is such a thing as TMI, in terms of affairs. When I realized that much of the information I was getting was only feeding my obsession with what SHE had that I did not, I put the brakes on. My questions were no longer about trying to understand the affair, they were psychological self-flagellation. I implemented the 24-hour rule. If I felt the need to know something and I wasn't sure if I really needed to know, I forced myself to wait 24 hours. If I still wanted to ask, I did. However, almost every time, I couldn't even remember the question. It was some minor detail that fed my masochism...not my healing.
3. You're not crazy! Your need to hear the details over and over again is not evidence of your declining mental state, but rather your post-traumatic state. Betrayal is traumatizing and anyone who minimizes its effect doesn't truly understand it. People who've been through trauma (whether betrayal, accident or disaster) often need to tell their story over and over as that's how they process it themselves. You can't tell the story when you don't really know the story. Hence the need to create the whole picture.

In short, the BWC says that getting the answers to your questions is part of the healing process. Your spouse's willingness to answer your questions honestly – as painful as the experience is for both of you – helps restore trust and allow you to move forward with transparency and honesty, vital for a healthy marriage. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guest Blog: Betray Bond

by Merri

There’s a test I wish every person would take before starting longer relationships – the betrayal bond quiz. If I had taken the quiz early in my life, I believe it would have spared me years of grief, improved my marriage or made therapy efforts more focused.

To get through minor trauma (or emotional humiliation), our brain acts automatically to defend our ego and minimize the pain we feel. Beginning in childhood, these small moments begin to accumulate and stored in your memory. If there are consistent patterns of hurt/neglect, the built-up defenses may cause incredible anxiety as we move forward – and we may not be completely aware of why we feel the way we do in the present moment. The over- or under-reaction you have after hearing your spouse raise their voice, may in fact be a subconscious response based on years of being yelled at by a parent. I certainly never figured out the depth or extent of how this affected me, not for many years.

Stress brings all our defenses out in full force and oddly enough we may even be attracted to people or situations that bring this to a head. Repetition compulsion is a subconscious attempt to place yourself back into an uncomfortable circumstance – not to be tormented again but to resolve the fear or personal attack and to do now what you may not have had the power to do long ago. It’s often an unconscious method of self-help for your battle-weary defenses.

Take the quiz and find out if past betrayal is holding you back from reaching your full, intimate potential:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Surviving Infidelity: Anti-versaries

December 11 will mark three years since I discovered my husband's affair. And though the date doesn't create the kick-in-the-stomach thud it has in years past, I'm acutely aware on many levels that the anti-versary is coming.
Anti-versaries can trigger all sorts of emotions, even if, on the surface, you seem barely aware of what the calendar says. Janie reports that she suddenly found herself angry with her husband about little things, even though their reconciliation was going well. When she realized that the one-year anti-versary was coming, her anger made more sense.
I made sure that my husband and I had plans for the one-year anti-versary. I knew that being alone would be hard. So he took the day off work and the two of us spent the day Christmas shopping. We had a nice, long lunch and though we were both aware of the date, we didn't talk too much about it. Instead, we enjoyed knowing how different things were from the year earlier. We did the same thing on the two-year anti-versary. This year, I haven't quite decided what to do.
This notion, however, of "reclaiming" the date is an important one. It's a way of taking back emotional power and, rather than having the calendar define how you feel, creating circumstances that encourage you too feel safe, positive and healthy.
Those who ignore the date tend to find themselves blind-sided by negative emotions. Those who determine what they need to get through the date often report that it wasn't as bad as they'd thought.
Figure out what you need to do. And please share your coping strategy here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What to Do With The Wedding Ring...

I posted awhile back on my wedding ring. I took mine off shortly after learning of my husband's infidelity...and it remains in my jewellery box.
Another blogger, the fabulous Tabatha, linked to my post and blogged about her own conflicted feelings regarding her ring. Her words were so heartfelt and she so beautifully summed up the feelings of so many betrayed wives that, with her permission, I've copied them here:

But that ring ... it's like it burns when I put it on. It's almost as if it belongs to someone else, like I'm borrowing it to play dress-up, or more that I found it and no one's laying claim to it so I might as well keep it. It's the ring of a girl who had everything she wanted, who got her fairytale romance and wedding and family is now living in a modest castle somewhere in HappilyEverAfterVille, just north ofNeverNeverLand. It's the ring of a girl who believed in a lot of things, however naively, and just knew in her heart that this was the way things were supposed to be. It's a ring of hope and promise and trust and vindication and love and respect and ...

And a lot of things my marriage didn't end up being or containing.

I hope Tabatha is able to come to terms with her feelings about her ring and make a decision that feels right for her. Please...let me know how you felt about your wedding ring in the wake of D-Day. Symbol of love? Or reminder of pain...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

That Ain't Mommy Kissing Santa!: Spy Gadgets to Stuff His Stocking...

Though I was so clueless I never imagined my husband was cheating, there are plenty BWC members who caught their men red-handed, thanks to technology: keyloggers, voice-activated recorders, GPS devices...
So while I'm no expert on spy tech, fortunately others are. Check out this round-up of the best tech available.
Cheaters beware.

Oh No...He Wouldn't. Wood he??

More details about Tiger Wood's alleged affairs.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Is Tiger chasing tail? When even good guys cheat...

Things are not looking good for Tiger Woods. Following his bizarre car accident, bloody lip, and alleged mistress(es), he's awfully silent. And, as far too many betrayed wives know, "no comment" is entirely too clear a comment.
I'm not yet branding Tiger an adulterer. And I hope, for his family's sake, the allegations are false. Unfortunately, experience has revealed too often that smoke means fire. And a smokescreen can't hide guilt forever.
Still, my rose-colored glasses lose a little lustre when yet another "good guy" falls. Though I know – ohhhhh, how I know!!!! – that being a "good guy" doesn't ensure good behavior in all (ahem) circumstances, I'd still like to believe in some pure goodness. And yes, I'm aware how incredibly naive that sounds.
The days that follow will undoubtedly reveal more...or at least a lot more speculation. In the meantime, my heart goes out to Tiger's wife Elin. If there's anything more humiliating than discovering your husband's affair, it's discovering that the National Enquirer actually knew the truth before you did.

Monday, November 30, 2009

How to stop the affair: Respect yourself...and demand others do, too

I don't know what it feels like to hear the words, "I'm not in love with you anymore," though Diana does. Nor do I know what it feels like to send your child off every second weekend to live with an ex and his former-affair-partner-turned-girlfriend. But Anne knows. And I certainly don't know how it feels to live with a man who won't give up his "extracurriculars" even at the risk of losing his marriage. But many women do.
The thing about betrayal, though, is that the details rarely matter. They're eclipsed by the overwhelming feelings of loss, shock, rejection, abandonment that all betrayed wives share. All those primal emotions that strip us of our defenses and reduce us to feeling like infants.
That, however, is where we lose sight of our own power.
No we can't control another's feelings or actions. But – and here's the important part – we can control our own. We can refuse to participate in another's manipulation of us. Abuse of us. We can state our needs clearly. Then, if they're not met, we can decide to walk away. If you haven't figured out what your needs are yet, having spent a lifetime denying you have any, start with this: You need to feel safe.
We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our children. To insist on being treated respectfully.
It's not easy, especially if we've never behaved that way before. It can be terrifying. But, in the end, all we have is ourselves. And if we let ourselves down, how can we expect others not to do the same?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Forgive and forget? Why forgiveness is not always necessary

There's so much talk about forgiveness these days, with some suggesting that, without forgiveness, a relationship doesn't have a future.
I beg to differ.
Forgiveness means different things to different people. What it doesn't suggest on any level is that the betrayal was "okay". Janis Abrams Spring, author of How Can I Forgive, calls that "cheap forgiveness."
For me, forgiveness means letting go of resentment...but it also means a little bit more than that. Something I just can't quite define, but perhaps resembles a lifting of the spirit.
I have days – most days, in fact – when I'm sure that I've let go of all resentment. But now and again, something will happen – say, my husband forgets to pick up my favorite ice cream flavor, but remembers to buy his own fave. In an instant, my eyes narrow, my lips purse and a nasty little voice hisses something along the lines of "it's not enough that he cheated, exposed you to god-knows-what diseases and lied about it but HE CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER TO BUY YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM, that bastard!" And I wonder if I know anything about forgiveness.
For now, I'll settle for acceptance. That my past is immutable, though I can learn from it. That my present is unfolding minute by minute. And that I can create a future in which I just might grasp what genuine forgiveness truly is.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Now and Zen: Finding moments of gratitude

Holidays can be tough when your family feels fractured. So for our readers in the U.S., I hope you survived Thanksgiving able to swallow a bite or two of turkey and not washing it down with too much wine. Or bitterness.
Though I'm Canadian, the emphasis on gratitude – thanks to the myriad U.S.-based sites/Twitter feeds I subscribe to – has me counting my own blessings...and remembering back to when I wondered just how many I had.

Herewith my guide to gratitude...when the last thing you're feeling is lucky:
Gratitude is something that feeds on itself. The more you notice it, you'll more you'll find. So...when you're really scratching the bottom, here are some ideas to get your started:
•My children are healthy: I know many families struggling with sick kids – cancer, autism, muscular dystrophy... I hope you're not one of them. On days when I found little in my life to be thankful for, I could be grateful that was one burden I didn't have to bear.
•My parents are alive and healthy: Though I've since lost my mom, who was my biggest cheerleader and wisest mentor, when I was at my worst, she was my rock.
•I'm financially solvent: With the recent financial meltdown, I'm grateful that, though I may have problems, money isn't one of them.
•I love my work. I'm a journalist and author who feels enormously grateful that I have work that feeds my soul...and sometimes my ego.
•I'm skinny! Yes, I know it's twisted and part of society's obsession with weight, but the 10 pounds I lost on the "infidelity diet" made me feel skinny and sexy. And stepping on the scales each morning was one of the few things that cheered me up.

That was generally it. And it was enough that – on a good day – I could really see that I did have things in my life to feel grateful for.

Try it. You can even do it online here. And please share with us.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pushing through paralysis: When the pain of betrayal seems insurmountable

Emotional pain can be crippling, especially when we're blindsided by it. It takes us out at the knees, rendering us baffled and bewildered, wondering whom we can trust and what we should do.
The short answer to the latter question is...nothing. At least not right now.
Conventional wisdom has it that betrayed wives shouldn't make any quick decisions, in large part because the part of our brains capable of sensible decisions is AWOL. We're likely to make a decision out of exhaustion. Or anger. Or thoughts of revenge. More often than not, it won't be a decision borne of clarity of mind and pureness of heart.

But what about when the thought of taking any action seems like too much?
When we experience betrayal, our minds process it as trauma. It took me long time to acknowledge this. It seemed too dramatic. Or too self-pitying. And I was determined that this was something I could handle.
Except that I couldn't.
I was having panic attacks. I felt utterly without value. I couldn't stop crying. Or couldn't feel anything. Even with my children, I felt oddly detached. As if I was watching life from the other side of a glass wall – I could see, but not participate.
A friend who worked with survivors of sex abuse suggested that my situation sounded a lot like the post-trauma response she saw in SA survivors. And once she said that, my response became clear. And with that acknowledgement came the ability to give myself a break. To stop expecting myself to bounce back from this. To give up my belief that I could just "get over it".
Most of us won't get over this without a lot of work on our parts – counselling, self-discovery and life changes.
To get us started, visit this blog post aimed at writers...but with advice that works for any of us stuck in a bad place.
It won't be easy. But it will become easier.
And the time will come when you'll be able to make a decision based on rational thought and a clear view of how you want your future to look. For now, your future is the next five minutes...or ten.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Guest Blog: B is for Boundaries

by Merri

Growing up, boundaries in my family were usually expressed as something applied through objects.  "That's my cookie! Give it back," or "Don't wear those pants," were typical of the kinds of boundaries we expressed.

When it came to family intimacy, boundaries were commands with some personal message thrown in, usually barked-out by a more powerful parent. "Be nice to you sister or I'll send you to your room. I've got a headache."

The choice was to either buy into the boundary or be tossed out of the game. Parental needs were considered first and a child's specific need was not seen as important unless it served the parent. There was little room for discussion.

Which is why marrying a man with even fewer personal boundaries than I had was not a stretch for fact it felt pretty comfortable. We both hated the rigid do-as-I-say thing and the feeling we were both invisible and/or powerless in a relationship. I longed for equal status and a voice in my own life, he longed for peace and an evening without getting clobbered.  We believed that having no real boundaries would get us there.

A relationship without boundaries brings lots of emotional flexibility into the dynamic – not to mention ambiguity. This quiet collusion we built felt like trust...because heck, we never challenged the thinking going on...we just trusted it. This loose framework helped both of us believe everything was always fine, and allowed us to build a big fantasy world where life was always good. Quietly sucking up any pain (or maybe drowning it with Scotch) was a private, individual activity to be done in brief moments of personal freedom. Finding "self" moments became a frantic game of cat-and-mouse – with a touch of guilt thrown in if discovered. Personal doubts festered and grew alongside negative behaviour we usually disclosed to outsiders.

Living a fantasy is not sustainable. I often felt like I was driving down the highway backwards, pretending the joy ride was fun, swallowing my fear.  When the crisis came to a head, I first  tried to use boundaries as my concrete line drawn in the sand in an attempt to prevent disaster from happening and keep myself safe. 

As time went on, I learned boundaries were more empowering when used daily to help me define who I was, especially to myself. It was a way to show self-respect. With few boundaries ever stated in my marriage, I realized how much I  floundered and second guessed every decision, or passively accepted my fate. In the end, I felt invisible to myself and enmeshed with my mate. The end of the marriage meant having to kill off at least half, if not most of me...and then try to rebuild.

I learned slowly it's okay to express needs and state limits but to remain flexible in changing or evaluating. Real intimacy and personal growth are validated through the boundaries we set. I wish I had discovered this news-to-me fact years ago...but hey, it's never too late to learn. I’m still a work in progress.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sex Addiction: Is that why your husband cheated?

It took six months, following the initial discovery of my husband's affair, for him to confess the truth. It wasn't just one was dozens. He was, he confessed, a sex addict.
The night my husband told me, he curled up on the floor in the fetal position, sobbing. He told me that I was disgusted with him and that he'd leave.
The truth is I was relieved. Relieved because the missing piece was finally there to complete the puzzle I'd been agonizing over. "Why, why, why...?". I suddenly got it. While I wasn't exactly happy with this revelation, it gave me something I could understand. His affair had always baffled me. He'd chosen someone nasty, troubled and unattractive, inside and out. When I learned that their relationship wasn't really a relationship at all but a transaction...well, I could begin to let go of the questions that had plagued me.
But that was only the start.
My husband had already been working with a counsellor that specialized in sex addiction. Though he wasn't a CSAT (certified sex addiction therapist), he was responsible for setting up a number of sex addiction treatment centers and was a recovered sex addict himself.
We spoke with him immediately and he gave me a quick Sex Addiction 101 chat. "Don't ask yourself what those women have that you don't," he advised me. "What they have, you don't want. They're very troubled people."
He explained to me that sex addiction is perhaps better termed an "intimacy disorder." The emphasis isn't on sex at all, really, but on the sex act as self-medicating. Most addicts use it to numb emotional pain, loneliness, anxiety. They turn to it the same way an alcoholic turns to a drink. But when the act is over, the addict can be overwhelmed with feelings of shame, guilt, self-loathing...which often leads to promises of abstinence, further acting out...and the cycle repeats.
I am, by no means, an expert. I am, however, someone with a front-row seat as this addiction is being wrestled with.
Today, Oprah, together with Dr. Drew Pinsky (he of Celebrity Rehab fame), are tackling the issue of sex addiction. Dr. Drew's new VH1 Show is Sex Rehab...and my fingers are tightly crossed that it doesn't become voyeuristic, but rather shows the gritty, sad side of an issue that too often becomes joked about.
I continue to learn. It has been extraordinarily painful. It's even tougher, I believe, to heal from an affair when your spouse is often so busy beating back his own demons that he has little time for your own angst.
However, I remain hopeful that the day will come when we will be able to talk about sex addiction in the same manner as other addictions – that the cloak of shame will be lifted.

Friday, November 20, 2009

He wants to save the marriage? Show him the new rule book

So he's admitted his affair. And is assuring you it's over. And that, he's telling you, is all you need to know. Doesn't matter that you're asking for more information. Doesn't matter that he's clearly lied to you in the past. That's all behind him now. And it's for your own good, he insists. It'll hurt you to know more, he says.
Problem is, the rules have changed. And he needs to know that. He's no longer the one determining what will hurt you, or what you need to know. I clearly recall my then-5-year-old daughter telling her little brother, "I'm the one in charge here." And guess what! You're now the one in charge here.

You decide what affair details you need
Not to suggest you be dictatorial...well, actually, that's exactly what I'm suggesting. We trusted our spouses and they let us down. Blind trust is gone, never to be seen again in these parts. Mature trust – trust that is earned through your spouse repeatedly doing and saying what he honestly did and said – can bloom. But not until you get the answers you need and he starts giving them to you.
The thing is, cheaters feel lousy. Unless they're psychopaths, they know what they did was hurtful and selfish. And by giving you the details of that, they're forced to acknowledge that not only to you (who kinda already knows) but to themselves. It's a lot easier to stay mum, and pretend it's because they don't want to hurt you. They already have! But to face that hurt in your eyes again and again feels crappy.
Unfortunately, I don't know of any couples who have successfully put their marriage back together without this brutally painful step. As one wise soul said, during her husband's affair, the door was shut to her. She didn't know about it, couldn't ask about it. Now's the time, she said, to open the windows to her and shut the door to the affair partner.

Don't go "pain shopping"
I'll add in a caveat, however. There is such a thing as too much information. Some call it "pain shopping" and it's a compulsive need for more and more detail. I was certainly guilty of it in the early days following disclosure.
The danger is you can't "un-know" something, no matter how painful. After a while (I'm a slow learner!), I came up with my 24-hour rule. If I wanted to ask my husband something about his infidelity, I made myself wait 24 hours (give or take...). If I STILL wanted to know a day later, or could even remember what the question was, I proceeded and he answered honestly.
Most times, the question had faded from my mind...indicating to me that it wasn't something I needed to know but rather "pain shopping."
To my husband's credit (I do give him some, now and again :) ), he recognized that I deserved to decide what information I wanted.

The new rules?
You decide what information you want.
You demand total transparency going forward. (More to come on this in an upcoming post.)
His job is to support you as much as possible in your healing. And, believe me, it's not a job for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No safe place: Where to turn when dealing with his affair

My husband was my "safe place" – the person I thought I could most count on when the world knocked me down. I thought he'd be my soft place to land.
When I discovered his infidelity, that sense of safety evaporated and I was left frantically looking around for somewhere – anywhere – I could retreat to lick my wounds.
The world felt very unsafe to me. I found myself wondering who I could trust. Clearly, I figured, my judgement was flawed. 
So, until I thought I could make smart choices about who to trust, I trusted no-one. Least of all myself.
This decision, to keep everyone around me in the dark about what I was dealing with, forced me to wear a variety of masks. Particularly difficult for someone like me who tends to live life honestly and, as my mother often remarked, wear my heart on my sleeve.
I had my "mommy" mask, which I put on with my three children, aged at that time 3, 5 and 8. They knew something was up and I did admit that "Mommy and Daddy were working on making our marriage better and it was nothing they needed to worry about." Ha!
I had my work mask. When I found out, I was in the final stages of writing a book, which my publisher expected the following week. They received their manuscript, none the wiser for what was going on in my personal life.
I had my "parenting" mask, which I put on to get kids from school, attend my children's activities and when I was around other parents.
I also had my "daughter-in-law" mask for visiting my husband's mother, my "sister" mask for when I saw my brother and so on. 
To say I felt schizophrenic is an understatement. What's more, I felt like a total fraud.
Which is what makes this site such a sanity saver for me. Here, the mask comes off. I speak candidly and freely. I don't censor myself. 
But what's really amazing to me is that, with this outlet, I'm feeling less fractured and more whole than I have in years. The world doesn't need to know all about my private life...but I do need to have various outlets where I can express all the parts of me. Trying to silence one part simply leaves me screaming on the inside.
I hope you, too, can find solace and a voice here. Let yourself be heard.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Betrayed wife: Victim or Co-conspirator

Ruth Bettelheim wrote in The Huffington Post that referring to betrayed wives as "victims" of infidelity is dishonest, specifically noting Hillary Clinton, Jenny Sanford, Silda Spitzer and Elizabeth Edwards. She notes that any time a spouse is feeling abandoned, lonely or sexually ungratified, the chances are high that the other spouse feels the same way. In that way, she writes, both spouses have betrayed their marriage vows to "love, honor and cherish."
While I appreciate her point – that there are inevitably problems in a marriage that can leave a spouse (or both) vulnerable to an affair AND I, too, object to the term "victim"– I nonetheless disagree that betrayal doesn't render the betrayed spouse completely blindsided and crippled. Sure, in hindsight, I can see that there was plenty of writing on the wall. And sure, we'd both been ignoring marital issues for too long. But infidelity is a game-changer, and frequently, a deal-breaker. It takes a problem and turns it into a crisis. A hurdle becomes a brick wall, which must then be taken down a brick at a time.
So while I loathe the term "victim", the last thing a betrayed spouse needs is to feel complicit in her spouse's infidelity. We'll get to the point where we can accept responsibility for our role in the marriage breakdown. But never should a betrayed spouse feel as if she drove anyone to cheat...or that her behavior left her spouse little choice.
Victim? No. Co-conspirator? Definitely not. I'll settle for survivor...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hysterical bonding or Why do I want sex with my unfaithful husband?

It's called "hysterical bonding" though there's nothing particularly funny about it. It refers to the surprisingly common phenomenon following discovery of a spouse's adultery to suddenly crave sex with that person morning, noon and night. I confess (TMI coming...this is your warning), I gave my husband a blow-job within a half-hour of learning he'd cheated on me.
WTF?? At the time, it seemed I was like a dog staking out my territory. We then proceeded to put Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's honeymoon shenanigans to shame with the sheer quantity and variety of our love-making.
Then, as quickly as it appeared, it vanished, leaving a shaking, incoherent, grief-stricken me...wondering what the hell that was all about. And, by the way, ewwwww...
According to the experts, many couples dealing with infidelity engage in hysterical bonding, in part as a path toward intimacy and reconciliation. While there's still a LOT of work to be done, it does get the ball rolling – so to speak. :)
It can leave the betrayed spouse feeling bewildered and perhaps betrayed by her own body. "How can I want him?" we ask ourselves.
Part of it, of course, is about taking back what we feel is ours. It's a primal thing, kinda like clubbing him on the head and dragging him back to our cave (the clubbing on the head part is very tempting. Refrain.). At the same time, it can also be our way of soothing ourselves. Betrayal is traumatizing by anyone's estimation. And with trauma comes a primal way of seeking comfort. It can seem very disconcerting to be seeking comfort in the arms of the very person who betrayed us. But, if reconciliation is even on your radar, it makes sense to turn to that person.
Whatever the reason, it's a reality for many couples. There seems no harm in it with one caveat:
Use protection, i.e. a condom. This guy might swear he always used them during his affair(s). Or that they only kissed. Whatever, as my 11-year-old might say. Your husband isn't exactly the Dalai Lama at this point in time so I wouldn't trust a whole lot of what he says. The only way to be sure he's "clean" is testing. In the meantime, protect yourself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

6 Signs Noel Biderman is an idiot: The founder of Ashley Madison shares his..uhhh...deep thoughts

Noel Biderman considers himself simply a businessman...and, perhaps, one unfairly persecuted for his particular business. But whether you think he deserves persecution would likely depend on whether or not you've ever been betrayed. Biderman runs, a Web site for married people seeking affairs. Its slogan, "Life's short. Have an affair" offers up an indication of just how cavalierly Biderman takes this particular transgression.

He wants us, similarly, to view affairs not as devastating or soul-destroying, but rather as fairly some cases, he believes, even helpful. In fact, he's written a book "Cheaters Prosper: How Infidelity Will Save the Modern Marriage" to guide us through his thoughts and recently spoke with a Globe & Mail reporter to share his wisdom. And while I know women who believe that their spouse's affair ultimately led to some wonderful changes in their own lives, I know not one who would ever suggest having an affair is a path toward personal growth or marital happiness. So...6 signs Noel Biderman is an idiot?? Read on...

1. Biderman asserts that polygamy is a more natural state than monogamy and that "many cultures are still happy to condone that kind of approach." While I'm no anthropologist and I know of at least a few studies that suggest humans are not naturally monogamous, I nonetheless know of no cultures in which women are polygamous. In other words, polygamy is essentially gender inequality – a state of matrimony in which women are little more than baby-making machines. Hardly something we women aspire to.

2. His subtitle, indicating that he believes infidelity will save the modern marriage, is based on his belief that "postinfidelity, you find that it's a real opportunity for you to take a reflection." I would suggest that this reflection should ideally take place before one invites another into the marriage. However, upon further reading of the article, I realize that...

3. Biderman suggests that this reflection occur in the betrayed spouse! How naive of me to assume that it was the cheating spouse who might  want to spend a little time "reflecting." The "you" And he suggests that, once I learned about my husband's infidelity it was my chance to "come to the logical conclusion that [I] was contributing to this affair..." How? Apparently, by not giving my husband enough sex. Which brings us to:

4. Biderman, like many, many people, believes that affairs are about sex. Yet there's ample evidence, anecdotally and in books, articles, journals by marriage counsellors who've dealt with the fallout of thousands of et al casualties revealing that affairs are rarely just about the sex. According to Gary Neuman, a marriage counsellor who wrote The Truth About Cheating, ninety-two percent of men say it wasn't primarily about the sex. "The majority said it was an emotional disconnection, specifically a sense of feeling underappreciated. A lack of thoughtful gestures," Neuman says. Which still amounts to another man blaming wives for their husbands cheating...but at least he isn't blaming it on lack or variety of sex.

5. Biderman's evidence that infidelity will improve our marriages? A lot of men, he says, are "angry and taking things out on their family." Why? Sexual frustration, of course. "They start having an affair and all of a sudden, that stress if removed." As a result, he suggests that "it might be easier not to be frustrated with your partner. The conversation could take a different directional tone and that could lead to intimacy." Conversational tone such as "did you get a blowjob over the lunch hour, honey?" or perhaps "will I need to be tested for STDs or did you use a condom?" Is this guy for real?

6. And finally, Biderman notes that he'd be devastated if his wife cheated on him. Surprising, since her cheating would, by his estimation, lead him to incredible soul-searching and marital bliss once he comes to terms with what he did to make his wife cheat. In other words, I don't think even he believes his own bullshit. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guest Blog: Betrayal Geometry Basics – Triangulation

I like math and hate shopping – obviously, as a female I was betrayed by my genes long before my husband happened by. I remember vividly, the first time protractors were handed out in grade six math class…discovering all those angles and shapes that came along with geometry lessons made my heart beat a little bit faster. Who needed catalogue shopping anyway?

Oddly enough, early-on triangle concepts made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t so much about the sharp corners – but yes, ouch – they could hurt. Discovering strange relationship dynamics and skewed time parameters occurring within triangles caused me greater grief.

Three people in any intimate primary relationship is probably one person too many. I often wished someone had dared to share this insight with my parents early-on and then further explained how feelings and communication are best directed at the specific person involved.

Sometimes, especially if there is past history of withholding feelings and/or poor conflict resolution, a third person is introduced to reduce anxiety and/or decrease the intensity of feelings within a core relationship. Hey, we all need friends, buffers and social outlets. And for sure children or elderly parents make things complicated. But – note-to-self – if those extra outlets are a little too handy for avoiding conflict or halting growth …red flags need to start waving.

Triangulation in essence is two against one. It took me years to figure out this added third party could also be an addiction, a hobby or a sport. Husband and I drifted into spending more time talking about “the partner” or avoiding “the partner” to minimize our uncomfortable feelings and get through the day.

Trust and intimacy are the real building blocks in a healthy relationship – avoidance through triangulation merely feels safer.  My motto these days?  Cut the corners out and play it straight.

Recommended reading:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sex addiction is a genuine problem...not just titillating headlines

A Playboy playmate recently revealed on television that she's a recovering sex addict, according to a piece in Huffington Post. I read this with trepidation, betrayal having led me to learn more about sex addiction than I ever dreamed. In fact, I, like many people, assumed sex addiction and sex fanatic were pretty much the same thing – someone who loved sex. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, I figured. Sex was good. It was healthy. Between consenting adults, what the heck was the problem?
The comments section of the HuffPo post confirmed this view, including one from a guy suggesting that he could take care of her problem. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Jeez, guys can be such sophomoric asses sometimes...but, oops, I digress.
The problem, as it turns out, is that sex addiction is nothing remotely fun or free-spirited or healthy. It's a life of shame, self-loathing and such detachment from intimacy that relationships become reduced to transactions. While there's no definitive path (some sex addicts indulge in porn, others engage in physical sex acts, some masturbate compulsively alone, others become voyeurs), most share similar backgrounds and a lack of healthy coping mechanisms.
So why be uncomfortable with the playmate's disclosure? My fear is that it feeds society's fascination with sex – addiction simply being one more branch on the tree. It becomes something that's viewed as "liberated" or "free-thinking". It's in keeping with people's assumption that it's about gorgeous playmates, wild orgies... The truth is far less titillating. Like any addiction, it destroys lives, marriages, families, careers.
But, like any addiction, it can be wrestled to the ground...with insight, commitment and hard work.
If you suspect your husband's infidelity is the result of sex addiction, please take a look at the Web site of Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in the field of sex addiction research and treatment. It's excruciating to face -- for both the addict and his family – but even more excruciating is to live the life of an addict.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Betrayed wife as collateral damage: Why his affair had nothing to do with you

In the days following discovery of a partner’s infidelity, we betrayed wives often read from the same script. We weep, we beg, we scream.  “How could you do this to me?” we wail. “I’ve been a good wife,” we protest. “What does she have that I don’t have?” we demand. Etcetera, etcetera.
We contemplate our options, but rarely with a clear head. (On the advice of my lawyer, I’m leaving out the part where I plotted running my husband over with my car…but homicide, too, is a common thought! For now, though, let’s keep revenge fantasies just that – fantasies. I don’t want to have to post bail for any of you.)
Suicide can also be a far-too-common consideration. If you’re in such pain that you can’t possibly see a way out, please call a crisis line, family member or good friend. You will find your way into the sunlight again. I promise.
Our emotions tend to center on feeling like this horrible miscarriage was done TO us. But the bizarre thing about infidelity is that it likely – honestly! – had nothing to do with us. We’re just collateral damage. And if you start from that point – accepting that the affair was HIS choice (regardless of how good or bad your marriage was) and that HE needs to take responsibility for his choice, you’ll save yourself a lot of agonizing and self-flagellation.
When I was scrutinizing myself for what possibly I was lacking (too old? Too thin? Too fat? Too blonde? Too smart? Too dumb? You get the idea…), I took solace in the fact that Elizabeth Hurley was cheated on (sorry, Elizabeth). So was Sienna Miller. And Téa Leoni. And a zillion other gorgeous, accomplished, smart women. Now, honestly, if Elizabeth Hurley gets cheated on, do you really think it has anything to do with looks or success or sophistication or whatever else you think you lack?
Clearly not. Cheaters have cheated because…well…because they clearly have boundary issues and, sadly, because the’re missing something that they think they can get from an affair partner…or at least distract themselves from its lack by the ego-stroking that an affair provides. But, while you can sympathize that they’re missing something – a good job? Good health? A perfect childhood? A red sportscar? – the problem is theirs.
And – guess what? – if they’re unhappy with the marriage, it’s up to them to tell us so. And for the two of us, if we so choose, to fix it. Or separate. If affairs were a reasonable solution, they wouldn’t have to be secret. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crazy-making: When lies seem truth and truth seem lies

I was lucky -- if you can call it that. When I confronted my husband, I got the truth. Sorta. It took a long, protracted phone call and increasing threats ("If you want this marriage, you will tell me EVERYTHING!"). It took a therapist insisting to him that he come completely clean. But, because even he was sick of his double life, he was ready to tell me the truth.
One BWC member, Sandra, spent years feeling something was up between her husband and his business partner. The two were close. Travelled together for business. Acted flirty when together. But her concerns were dismissed as "crazy". She was "jealous" of "too suspicious." Six months after her son was born, her husband returned home late one night and announced he wanted out of the marriage. But still no disclosure. It took another year before he could admit they were living together and utter an apology, directed at the floor. Turns out she wasn't crazy at all.
If you suspect your husband is cheating but he's insisting he's not, you're either right...or delusional. And most of us know exactly where we are on that continuum. I'm often asked what I've learned from this whole experience and I say, without hesitation, "I've learned to trust my instincts."
So often as women we dismiss our gut feelings. And others are often complicit in it. I confided in a few friends about my suspicions and was assured that my husband "would never do that." I'm sure their intentions were good. Finally, another friend asked me simply, "what do you know?" upon which I laid out all my "evidence" -- which didn't amount to much more than a gut feeling. Her response? "I think you're right."
That was all I needed to confront.
My advice to you if you're wondering if you know what you think you know? Trust your gut, but gather as much evidence as you can because many men act like cornered cats. They'll deny, hiss, fight back, accuse you. Get cell phone records, hide a voice activated recorder if possible, ask around at work, with friends... Find the weak link and use it.
Then, buckle up. You're in for a rough ride.

Monday, November 2, 2009

You found out he cheated: How to survive the first weeks

My heart beats faster when I remember back – almost three years ago – to the day when I confronted my husband with my suspicions that he was having an affair. I can feel my pulse race, my breathing get shallow. His answer – 'yes' – was the biggest shock of my life.
If you're just finding out, you too are likely in shock. Many women report feeling bizarrely calm in the hours and days after first finding out. They wonder why they don't feel angry. Or why they're not crying. Your mind is trying to protect you from the shock. Believe me, the tears and rage will come. And when they come, you'll wonder if they'll ever stop. I assure you, they do.
Not all women are shocked. Some women immediately collapse in a heap. Others show their husbands the door. There is no right way to react to betrayal (though I generally advise betrayed wives to resist anything that will land them in jail. You've got enough on your plate without trying to post bail).
There are a few fast-and-true remedies to keep you functioning as you struggle to cope with your new reality.
Eat: It's the last thing you'll be thinking of and often it's the last thing you want to do. But find something that your stomach will tolerate and try to choke it down (tequila isn't recommended, but an alcohol-free smoothie might work!).
Sleep: Ha! I know it's laughable that you'll be able to sleep while your world falls apart. But your poor body and soul needs rest. If sleep eludes you, try caffeine-free teas, melatonin (often used by flight attendants and shift workers to help them sleep) or, if necessary, get your doctor to prescribe something short-term. You're likely messy enough without adding sleep deprivation to the mix. 
Call in favors: If you've got kids, perhaps a friend can help you out with childcare or school pick-up and drop-off. 
Get counselling: I know HE's the problem, but having someone to confide in and help you figure out where you go from here can be invaluable. In the first few weeks (months!), you'll often feel conflicted about what you want. An objective therapist can help you navigate through the confusion.
In the first days, you'll survive minute-by-minute, then hour-by-hour. After a month or two, you'll realize that you've gone a few hours without that knot in your stomach. 
You'll hear it often -- that four-letter word t-i-m-e. But it truly does work its magic.

If you've healed from betrayal, how did you cope? What advice would you offer someone just finding out? Post here and share...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Guest blog: Betrayal comes in many forms

Discovering blondes are more fun

I vividly remember the first time I felt somewhat like an artifact in my own marriage – an object, a fragment, perhaps a spurious result.

Years ago, on the first cold day in October, I pulled my packed-away winter coat out of the storage closet in an attempt to walk the kids to school and not turn blue.

As I yanked, a bottle escaped out of one sleeve and bonked me on the shin. I stood for a moment watching the tiny amount of amber liquid slosh from side to side. You see I rarely drink and when I do, I’m pretty confident it’s not Scotch (yuck). It slowly hit me. He’s cheating on me – the love of his life is this blonde in the bottle.

For years, my husband battled demons from a tumultuous childhood, always with a trusted therapist at his side. I learned late that physical abuse, especially with boys, can have an effect as devastating as childhood sexual abuse. With abuse comes trauma and with trauma comes anxiety. Alcohol is the readily-available, socially-accepted, self-medication cure-all for anxiety – until addiction sets in.  Adding anti-depressants into the mix can cause disastrous results. Honestly, he hadn’t had a drink in front of me for years.

The secrecy, the hours spent in the basement, the never coming to bed and falling asleep in front of the TV instead was just now making sense. I knew he wasn’t being honest with me – I just didn’t know how or why.

Apparently betrayal comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. To this day, I still shiver when ice hits the sides of a glass.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Myth of the Ugly Wife: Why even gorgeous women get cheated on

Stereotypes often exist for a reason. Such as, because they're an accurate assessment of what most (or at least many) believe.
Consider this: There's a good-looking guy who works in your office. He's friendly but not lecherous; intelligent; funny. Then -- thanks to that always-reliable office gossip, you find out he's cheating on his wife, whom you have never met.
What do you imagine? Well, if you're like a large number of people, you assume she's let her looks go. She's bitchy. Or a pathetic doormat. Or too focused on the kids. And you might be right.
But more likely, you're wrong.
That's the thrust of a Globe & Mail article that ran today, in which columnist Sarah Hampson takes society to task for the persistent assumption that if a man cheats, it's because his wife somehow drove him to it.
Yet there's little scientific evidence to back this up.
And certainly little anecdotal evidence. Yet that conviction can lead even further to the shame and pain that betrayed wives feel.
I picked obsessively over what she had that I didn't. In the end, the only conclusion I could reach was that the "slutty" look appealed to my spouse and I took to dressing like some cross between rehab-era Amy Winehouse and breakdown-era Britney Spears. Not exactly my best look.
In the end, I realized that my husband's cheating has nothing to do with me and everything to do with his own insecurities, anxieties and lack of boundaries. Which is what he had been saying to me all along.
But when the world implies that cheating men are upgrading, it's hard to fight the stereotype.
I took some solace in the fact that Elizabeth Hurley was cheated on. Halle Berry was cheated on. Princess Diana was cheated on. Women, arguably, who are gorgeous, accomplished and smart. They did nothing wrong but love men who betrayed them. Hardly reason to be vilified.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ad airs on MSNBC for one-night-stands: How pop culture convinces men they deserve to cheat

Ashley Madison wants your husband to cheat. In fact, Ashley Madison believes that your husband (and you, for that matter) deserve to cheat. "Life's short. Have an affair," is the company's slogan, and it's in the business of helping you do exactly that.
I'm not making this up, though, if you're as naive as I was, you're likely shocked. The company, incidentally one of many, acts as pimp or affair broker, if you will, hooking up those looking for affairs with those offering affairs.
The company tries to look upscale, implying that your affair won't be with some toothless hooker, but with an elegant, gorgeous, brilliant partner who will thrill you in bed...and out. The ads deftly ignore the destruction wrought by affairs – the potential STDs, the dishonesty, the lack of respect for another's feelings.
You don't see the sobbing wife. The confused children. The divorce lawyers drawing up papers. No, Ashley Madison peddles in the currency of entitlement and no regrets.
Sure, cheating would happen without ads on MSNBC encouraging it. But somehow making money off helping married men deceive their spouses seems utterly grotesque.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Law of the Sisterhood: "Don't sleep with my husband and I won't sleep with yours."

I've always subscribed to the "law of the sisterhood" as I called it. Though I had a friend (I use the term loosely) who slept with a boyfriend of mine, I never wanted to be complicit in the suffering of another woman, whether I knew her or not.
In the course of healing from my husband's cheating, I've learned that there are many women like me – but obviously, many are not. The woman my husband cheated with knew me. She had eaten dinner with my family, been to our parties. But even if she hadn't, would that have made sleeping with a married man (he never made it a secret!) any less wrong?
Or am I being moralistic by implying that sex among two consenting adults can be wrong?
Frankly, I'm uninterested in getting into a debate about social mores and cultural wrongs. Infidelity hurts -- and it generally hurts everyone. I've yet to see a case where the end justified the means and I've long asserted that if you want out of your marriage, then get out. "Exit affairs" are often just a coward's way of forcing his own hand.
That said, I've had enough time and distance from the infidelity bomb that fell into my life to be able to muster some level of empathy for Other Women.
I don't think they're necessarily scheming, deviant whores; but usually lacking in something – esteem, attention – that they think they can achieve through a relationship with a married man. Sure some convince themselves that it's just sex. That they're just using each other and no-one is getting hurt.
A newly released book takes aim at how women compete with each other and how this undermines feminism. Cheating on the Sisterhood takes the stance that society convinces us there is no sisterhood; that women are in competition with each other. The author, an "other woman" who makes no apologies for the role she took though she's loathe to assume it again, recognizes that no-one wins when women compete with each other for men. She acknowledges that, even if she didn't know the other woman, she owed her some respect for the role she had.
Which is essentially how I feel.
We do owe each other respect, whether or husbands are showing it to us or not. There might not be a law of the sisterhood, but what about The Golden Rule (don't snicker; it's a good rule!!).
I applaud the author for her candor and for bringing to the table an important part of infidelity -- the role feminism plays or does not play. The more voices discussing this common but commonly overlooked issue, the better.


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