Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why You Need An Escape Plan...Even If You Don't Plan to Leave

©wfmillar and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

Discovering a partner's infidelity can sometimes feel as if you're drowning. In despair. Confusion. Shock. Pain. Most of us experience all of the above and, consequently, an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. This was done TO us...and now we're left dealing with the fallout.Which is why it's crucial to have an Escape Plan. And Escape Plan is a realistic step-by-step plan of what you'll do if...
a) your husband refuses to end his affair or you have reason to believe he's lying about ending the affair
b) he engages in the crazy-making behaviour common to cheating husbands including but not limited to calling you hysterical, out-of-control, jealous, manipulative, or he otherwise makes YOU the problem
c) he uses Divorce as his trump card, as in, "If you can't just leave the past in the past then we should just get a divorce."
An Escape Plan is your chance to take back your life and put yourself in control of your future. And though you may never act on it, it's paramount to your healing (which includes healing your own battered self-esteem) to have a plan that focuses entirely (though not exclusively) on your well-being.

How do you create an Escape Plan?
•Start by figuring out where you would go if you needed short-term accommodation (ie. your husband refuses to leave/sleep on the couch). It might be your parents' house, a best friend, a neighbour. We're simply thinking short-term here, somewhere you could go to escape for a few days or a week, taking kids if necessary, in order to get your head straight. And allow your spouse to get his head straight and, perhaps, recognize that the New You isn't going to tolerate his bullshit.
•Figure out what logistics need to be in place: For example, if your short-term accommodation involves leaving town, how will this affect getting to your job or getting kids to school? Can you commute for a few days or weeks? Is there somewhere else the kids would need to stay during the week? Would a nearby hotel be a better option?
What will you do for money? Do you have access to your own cash? A credit card that he can't put a stop on? What if your short-term turns into a month or so? Can you afford to pay for a hotel for that long?
Meet with a lawyer to determine what your life would look like if you left the marriage. Again, this is just a dress rehearsal. It's a chance for you to take back the reins of your life and know that you will be okay, no matter what happens. And by okay, I mean that you'll be entitled to what is yours financially.

"But why, if I don't want to separate/divorce?"
Your Escape Plan is as much an insurance policy as an actual plan. It's something to have in place in case things go even more to hell. In case he cheats again. In case his affair never ended. In case the Other Woman announces she's pregnant. It's to ensure you're not blind-sided again. And it's to offer you some security that even if you don't get blind-sided'd be prepared if you were.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Letter to a Newly Betrayed Wife

A woman recently commented on an old post. She shared her story of her husband, who's involved emotionally (and likely physically) with a woman from work. This woman is also a friend of the family. The wife is hurt, bewildered, confused. Like so many of us, she simply can't fathom why her husband, whom she loves, will continue to hurt her like this despite begging him to stop.
I wrote this to her in response and thought it might help other women who are just finding out. It's been almost five years since I found out, but hearing others' stories takes me back to that horrible time when simply breathing was painful. I wish I'd had someone to help me put one foot in front of another... 

Dear Newly Betrayed Wife,
I'm so, so sorry for what you're going through. It's hell, I know. 
Your husband is so far into the fog of an affair (whether emotional or physical) that he can barely register you except as an inconvenience. Affairs are selfish. They are about seeking something in another person that you can't find in yourself. But none of that is your concern, though you'll likely, after the dust has settled, want to determine what exactly your husband was seeking outside the marriage that he didn't think he could find within it.
You say this has been going on for 1 1/2 years? And though he's denying a physical affair, you've certainly got evidence of emotional betrayal. E-mailed "I love you"s certainly constitute betrayal and don't let him hide behind the "but we're not having sex" defense. Who cares! He's intimate with this woman, whether clothes are on or off. And you've asked him to stop because you perceive – correctly – that it threatens your marriage. That's all you need to know right now.
You've got to set some very clear boundaries and – this is key – THAT YOU WILL ENFORCE. You're handing over your power to two people who clearly don't much care if you're being hurt. It's time to take it back. If you want your marriage – and it certainly sounds as if you do – you need to insist that your husband cut ties with this woman immediately and start the hard work of earning back your trust and respect. That means NO CONTACT with this woman. 
He'll likely continue gaslighting: "But I'm helping out a friend," he'll say. "She needs me right now more than you..." etc. DO NOT GET INTO IT WITH HIM. 
And if he gets angry, don't engage. Anger is simply a countermove intended to get you to back down. Take a breath and restate your boundary: "You need to stop seeing her or you need to leave." Or whatever it is you determine is a consequence you will stick with. Decide: Does he leave? Will you leave? Does he sleep on the couch? Do you no longer give him the other privileges of having you in his life -- sex, comfort, companionship. It must be something you will follow through with or you're simply teaching him that you're making empty threats.
This is NOT about manipulating him, it's about taking care of yourself and ensuring that you are treated with respect and dignity and honesty. He won't treat you that way until you start treating yourself that way.
You do NOT deserve this. You are his wife and he made a commitment to you and he's violating that, whether there's sex involved or not (and brace yourself, because I'm guessing there is).

He might walk out of the door. And you might desperately want to call him back and beg for his forgiveness. DO NOT. The only way for him to realize what he's missing by walking out is to...miss you. To truly face the consequences of his choice. If he keeps walking, then it was simply a matter of time before he left anyway. He's already been living with one foot out the door for 1 1/2 years. You either want him IN the marriage or OUT. He can't have it both ways. 
You need to fight like hell for your own dignity and fight like hell for your marriage. And that doesn't mean putting up with being treated like you don't matter. 

I would also advise getting yourself over to and going into the "Just Found Out" section. You'll find lots of wonderful people who can give you advice and coach you in real time. 

You will get through this, I promise. I hope your husband smartens up before you realize you're better off without him.
You're stronger than you know. And we're here to tell you that whenever you need us.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Witness to the Pain of Infidelity

There's much debate raging on another site regarding a post by Wendy Strgar of Good Clean Love, whom I've quoted here before. Wendy offers up much wisdom in her approach to creating solid happy relationships but, from what I know and from what she's revealed, she's never experienced a spouse's sexual betrayal.
As a result, as many commenters have pointed out, her post seems somewhat cavalier. As if getting over betrayal is simply a matter of perspective, of viewing the infidelity through a different lens. She calls an affair a "wake-up call". Yet most of us who've experienced it see it less as a wake-up call than repeated kicks to the head by someone wearing steel-toe boots.
And the commenters clearly do, too.
It's painfully clear which of those commenting are still raw from the incredible sting of betrayal. You can almost hear their wavering voices, angry at what they deem a thoughtless post that dismisses their pain and desperate for someone to acknowledge it.
And having someone acknowledge that pain is, I believe, a critical part of healing.
Like any tragedy in life, we need a witness. Someone who nods their head and agrees with us that, indeed, it happened. And it was terrible. But who also stands as a reminder that from tragedy can come triumph. That tragedy can, sometimes, be a wake-up call. Albeit an excruciating one.
The evolution of tragedy to triumph can only occur if we're willing to loosen our grip on the pain. To no longer hold on to it like a security blanket but to let it go and open ourselves to what comes next. It's a bizarre bit of human nature that we'll often hold on to negative emotion that's familiar than risk another emotion that's not. Healing can feel absolutely out of control. It's not a straight trajectory but rather a slow spiral upwards with occasional slips back. And it can be terrifying.
I've been aware lately that I'm holding my husband's betrayal in front of me like a shield. And behind that is a fear that if I let go of it (which feels uncomfortably like letting him "off the hook"), it'll happen again. As a result, I feel the need to constantly keep it front of mind because then I can control it. Well...guess again, Elle. That control is a total illusion. And it's keeping me locked in a position of defining myself by the tragedy not the triumph.
I'm ready to let go of it. While I refuse to acknowledge that it's ever the cheated-upon spouse's responsibility to keep the other faithful, I'm taking responsibility for my own healing. A healing that's hampered by holding on to the betrayal like a fun-house mirror, constantly reflecting back at my husband what a bastard he was and how lucky he is that I haven't tossed his sorry ass on the streets. Though I haven't said those exact words (at least, not in a long while), the sentiment is there, clear to both of us.
Tragedy to triumph. That's where we headed. And with each of us acknowledging the others' pain and giving all of us the freedom to move forward.

While this site, I believe, can play a role in each of us feeling less alone, I'm increasingly aware that we also need flesh-and-blood people in our lives to witness our pain. Well-intentioned friends who respond with hard-nosed advice ("kick him out" or "it's time to get over it") are generally not too helpful. Try and find someone – anyone – who can witness your pain: therapist, friend, pastor, support group, spouse. And please post your story here. It can help you loosen your grasp on the pain to get it out and onto paper.


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