Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Responding to the Other Woman: Elle Unleashed

Definitely not smiling!
A woman recently posted a comment on my blog post Open Letter to the Other Woman. Here it is:

Does anyone (like me) ever wondered why the other woman always gets the blame, and the husband gets welcomed back with open arms??

Does the Wife forget;
He tooks the Vows
Hes the one betraying his family
Hes the one telling the lies

In my case..He initiated the cheating and the chase. Lied about getting a divorce. 
And actually im educated..with a degree..; a single parent of two children.

I was the other women, and a month ago i decided to end it with him finally after two years. 
Only this week his Wife has been trying to call me on a witheld number and i refused to answer to her. Beacuse I know if i did answer..she would not like what i had to say.

As far as i see it. This is their issue, not mine. 

This also highlights to me, the major issue in cheating marriages. Why is the wife is calling the other woman?? Does she not trust her husband to tell her the truth??
Does she not trust him at all??
Do they have an issue with communication??

All he did in the two years was complain about her.
However I finally caught onto it, that things were never going to change. After asking him many times...if its so bad, why are you still there?? therefore something must be going right.

But Yeah i acknowledge my part. its My Bad. 

And as far as im concerned..the issues in the marriage are prevalent long before he has the affair/s. Im pretty sure, im not the first and wont be the last. 
You see...what he wants in the other woman, is what he doesnt have in his wife. The only reason he doesnt leave the wife, is either;

because of guilt
beacuse its easier to go back to the comfort of what you have
because he knows after confessing and worming his way back she is going to take him back eventually
because of kids (he had none)

but they do not stay for the right reasons. So the wife can blame the other woman all she wants. It still doesnt change who he is, and what he did.

Cheating husbands risk losing their marriage all the time. 
If they really honoured their committment, loved their wives,and family so much, do you really think they would take that risk??

Until the next time that is.

I felt compelled to respond:

You're a brave woman wading into these waters. But you ask a number of questions so I'm going to assume you genuinely want answers. Let me enlighten you.
You're right about many things. Chances are there were issues in the marriage long before you came along. And clearly the husband in your case wasn't emotionally capable of dealing with them so chose to distract himself with you. Happens all the time, right?
And then the wife finds out, all hell breaks lose and you start getting phone calls begging for info.
Let me put you into the wife's shoes for a minute.
She's probably aware that something hasn't been right. That her husband isn't around so much. That when he is, he's distracted or uninterested. Short-tempered. Perhaps outright hostile. That's pretty standard for cheaters with a shred of conscience. They feel crappy about what they're doing but don't want to stop doing it. So they look for reasons why what they're doing is okay. They convince themselves that the wife "nags", she doesn't like sex, she doesn't "support" him, blah blah cliché blah.
Sometimes it's even true. As mom of two kids, you likely know that there are nights you're just too damn tired for sex. There are times when you need to talk to your husband about helping out around the house. You need to discuss bills. Home maintenance. Let's be honest, grown-up life is sometimes incredibly dull.
Nonetheless, the wife loves her husband. And, frequently, he loves her too. They've known each other for years. They've looked into their newborns' eyes and been rendered speechless. They've sat beside elderly parents taking their last breath. They've shared birthdays and anniversaries and held feverish kids who can't sleep.
So when she finds out that this person she's opened her heart to is cheating on her, she's thrown completely off her feet. She trusted this guy. With her future, her children. Who the hell is he, anyway? She begs him to tell her why he did this. Sometimes he'll blame her, sometimes he'll blame his life, his boss, his drinking, his weakness. Sometimes he'll accept blame for just making a whopping mistake. Sometimes he'll believe he's in love with the Other Woman and leave. Most of the time, though, he hasn't a god-damn clue why he did it. And now that he truly realizes what he stands to lose, he's even more clueless why he did it. There's generally one reason: it felt good. Not the sex, but the escape. The banality of life was temporarily suspended. It's the reason people gamble. Or shop. Or eat too much. Or drink. Or take drugs. Escape. It's intoxicating.
Out of fear, in an effort to minimize damage, these guys often offer what's called "trickle truth". They minimize what happened ("we just kissed" "it was just one night" "she means nothing") or they outright lie ("I swear nothing happened" "she's just a work colleague"). In the meantime, the wife is frantically trying to piece together her life ("was he with her when I took the kids to my mother's? were they together when I was beside my dying father in the hospital? were they together when I was up all night with our son's ear infection?") in order to shine a light on where things went off the rails, on how much of her life is fact and how much is fiction. I can't explain to you, unless you've been there, just how terrifying it is to believe your life has been a lie. You wonder if anything is true, if you can trust anyone.
So, out of desperation, you call the Other Woman. Not for any other reason than you've got some missing pieces and you're hoping she can help you complete the puzzle. You know it's a risk. You know this person has the potential to tell you things that can destroy any shred of self-esteem you might have left. That she could take your broken heart and piss on it. And sometimes she does. But sometimes she recognizes that this wife likely isn't the monster her husband pretended she was to ease his own guilt and get her into bed.
Sometimes the OW is able to see that this is a flawed guy who made a colossal mistake. Sometimes, let's be clear, the guy is just a total asshole who feels entitled to whatever and whomever he wants. But you're referring to the couples who stay together, assuming, as you say, that none do it "for the right reasons".
I'll tell you one thing. Going back to the "comfort of what you have" sounds NOTHING like what marriage is like after an affair. It is HELL ON EARTH. 
It is excruciating for any guy with a conscience to see the pain they've caused their wives and know that they did it. Some guys simply can't face it. They're the ones who blame their wives for "never getting over it" and take the first exit. Some wives don't want to give them the chance to do it again. Each of us walks her own path.
Those of us who let them "worm their way back"? The smart ones among us demand that they face what they did and work hard to figure out why they risked their marriage for what so many of them insist meant nothing. There's many reasons, which often had little to with the OW herself. A sense of failure in life, fear of aging, job loss, inability to handle life's stresses, addiction...the list goes on. Again, it generally boils down to escape. An affair is a distraction. Men (and women) fall in love with what they see in their affair partner's eyes – that they're sexy and interesting and fun. There are no mortgages, not built-up resentments, no rude teenage kids, no "headaches". That's why they take the risk. Because they want adoration without the hard work of creating that within their marriage, over years and years.
You're right that some of these guys will never learn. They will cheat again. And they're not worth a second chance. They probably weren't worth the first one.
But not all of them.
And not all women blame the OW. We know it was ultimately our husbands who violated their commitment to us. But we also know that, when we were hit on by married guys (and we were), there was a wife at home who didn't deserve this pain. We know that if a guy is worth it, he'll do the right thing, get out of his marriage, and find a woman he respects enough to not hide.
We know that so many of these OW want what we have and are willing to be complicit in our pain to get it.
So yeah...we're not too crazy about you. 
In my case, the OW sat in my house, ate at my table, played with my kids...while screwing my  husband. Absolutely that's indication that my husband was one fucked-up dude. But, clearly, so was she.
I'm sad that you're so cynical. Please know there are decent guys out there. They're the ones who hit on you and don't have a wife at home. Please be a woman who deserves them.


Friday, September 13, 2013

The Other Woman: Revealed

This post was written by a reader in response to my post, Second Letter to the Other Woman. It's likely a familiar timeline to many Other Women. But to we betrayed wives, the affair can look magical from the outside. My reader, who's experienced her own betrayal, also wrote this:
Through my pain I can feel some sort of satisfaction knowing that at the back of the OW minds, they really must know deep down how gullible and stupid they are. My husband's failure is what I will deal with, hers, well, who cares. 

She writes:
A little insight into how the other woman feels. This was from a friend who doesn't know that I've been betrayed. I knew about her affair partner but I'm ashamed to say I only took an interest once it had happened to me and the fact that we didn't catch up much as we were thousands of miles away.

Week one of her affair: They met at a convention. Drinks after the meeting, mutual attraction. She was single he was married, which she knew. Ended up in bed by the end of the week. She told me of the flattery: He'd "never had sex like it", she was "the most beautiful woman" he had ever seen, she " got him".

Weeks 2 and 3. He went to her apartment for dinner and more sex. Took her some flowers and champagne. He opened up more about his wife, how the marriage was dead, and he was only staying for the kids.

Months 2 and 3. They meet at least three or four times a week. He has now told her he loves her. He can't stand being without her. She is having the time of her life. Dressing up, being admired, little gifts. I tell her to watch out. Her heart will be broken. And doesn't she think of his wife and kids? Yes, she did, says she felt terrible at first but now she realises they " were meant to be" and besides, the wife is a real ogre, moans all the time, they sleep in separate rooms.

Months 4 and 5. Still going well and she still adores him. Bit upset he couldn't spend her birthday with her and she was hoping to take a little holiday with him. She gives him the key in case he can turn up or if the old bag of a wife gives him too much grief he can spend some time at her apartment. After all, he will probably be moving in one day.

Months 6 and 7. She tells me she's getting a bit pissed about the situation. She really thought by now he would be putting some plans into place about leaving, you know, stashing some money in a different account for when he moves. She finds out the family are going on holiday together. Why would he do that when he can't stand her? Well, you know, united front for the kids and all that.

Months 8 and 9. He has started cancelling a few times. Still says he loves her and they will be together one day. She's had to keep him secret from her friends, so she's missing out on her social life.

Months 9 and 10. She decides to do a drive-by past his house. WTF, there he is in the front garden with the ogre of a wife, who quite frankly would give Julia Roberts a run for her money. How can he be laughing with her? She doesn't tell him she went by the house. Actually, he never told her exactly where he lived but she found out one day from his wallet. He always told her his wife never had Facebook. Oh dear, big mistake, especially when the photos are public. That holiday that was only for the kids, well, there was an awful lot of affection going on, and what was that picture taken at Christmas of the whole family on the bed opening presents looking like the Partridge family? Then a close up picture of the gorgeous eternity ring he bought her. She had never seen him look so happy.

Cut to the present day. She confronted him. Told him he had to make his mind up. That she wasn't going to wait. He apologised and said sorry, she was lovely but he did love his wife and his head was turned. Begged her not to tell his wife.

It cut like a knife hearing her story, I wanted to shout " You bitch, how could you?" But when she cried on my shoulder and said she felt such a fool, used and abused, he was stringing me along all the time. She said that she felt inferior to the wife and the compliments meant nothing as she knew they were just words to get her into bed.

The final piece of her humiliation: My friend, the OW, went to a book club organised by a friend of a friend. And yes, his wife was one of the members. After a few weeks of being in the same room, she hears one evening after a few glasses of wine what a great sex life this woman has with her husband. She seems a happy woman. My friend said she wanted to destroy her happiness that evening by blurting out the truth. She hasn't so far. 

I don't think she would benefit from apologising. She's humiliated enough already, she would feel even more like trash. She phoned the other day, but I felt I didn't need a friend like this in my life. I cut her short, said I would phone back. Haven't yet. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Healing From Betrayal: Why We Must Tell Our Story

Penelope Trunk, who was in the World Trade Center when the towers fell, knows a thing or two about trauma. 
We women, who've been betrayed by exactly the people we trusted with our hearts and bodies, also know a thing or two about trauma. 
[Before there's a pile-on about how being cheated on doesn't even rate on the same scale as 9/11, let me say that this isn't a pain race. Pain and loss is pain and loss. And all pain and loss deserves to be acknowledged and grieved.]

Here's what Trunk has to (brilliantly) say about trauma:
The way to deal with post-traumatic stress is to tell your story over and over again. The theory is that when you are in the moment of trauma, you have to turn off all your emotions to get yourself through it. After the fact, in order to stop having nightmares and panic attacks, you have to experience the emotions you missed.
And this is the step that cheaters, including reformed cheaters, just can't get.
We need to talk about what happened to us. We are desperate to talk about it.
It doesn't prolong our pain. It does exactly the opposite. It doesn't deepen our pain. It does just the opposite. 
By talking about our trauma, we are processing all those emotions that were stifled when we were going through the experience. 
How many of you describe your response to D-Day as "shock"? Or say, "I felt numb"?
I know that I somehow got myself dressed, out of the house and managed to make chit-chat with the other moms while picking up my kids. It was like some weird out-of-body experience. I could watch myself making small talk and smiling at the teachers and pretending with my kids that everything was A-okay. 
That, my friends, is a trauma response. That is survival instinct kicking in. And it's helpful. It's helpful to ensure that children get picked up from school, that dinner gets put on the table, that jobs get done, that life goes on. But, over the long term, it's not helpful, it's harmful. 
It produces post-trauma. It might show up as a numbness that simply doesn't go away even when it becomes safe to process feelings. It might show up as depression, or self-loathing (which is anger turned inward). It might be nightmares. It might be anxiety. It might be an out-of-proportion response to something seemingly benign. Like completely panicking when your husband is five minutes late coming home from work. 
I once went berserk when I couldn't reach my husband on the phone and he was at the grocery store. I went ballistic on him. To him, what was the big deal? To me, not being able to reach him was EXACTLY what had happened the morning I found out. This wasn't about him being unreachable at the grocery store. This was about me being totally transported back to that awful, horrible morning when my world fell apart. To that consistent 33-second wait while I listened to his phone ring until it went to voice mail. 33 seconds. I watched the clock. Over and over as my brain caught up to what my body had known for weeks.
This was about post-trauma.
And, as Trunk points out, the way to turn post-trauma into PAST trauma is to talk about it.
The key here is talk. This isn't about raging and screaming and dredging up every last unkind thing your spouse has ever done. In fact, that won't get you anywhere. It's about telling your story. It's about someone bearing witness to your fear and your confusion. It's about someone confirming that this happened. And it was horrible. It's about reminding yourself over and over again, that this happened...but it's not happening now
You survived. 
You survived to tell your story.
It can be really tough, however, to convince your husband of this.
You tell your story and he hears, over and over again, I'm a total asshole who did this. I'm a cheating, lying scumbag. No matter that you're not exactly saying that (though you might be thinking it), that's what he hears. And he doesn't WANT to hear that. He doesn't WANT to be reminded of what he did. Who would?
Though a therapist or good friend can also listen to your story, it's often those who created our trauma who we want to listen to our story. We want our husbands to listen to our pain and reassure us that we will never have to go through that again. That it's over. That they are doing everything they can to make sure they never walk down that same path. That they never want to hurt us like that again.
That's it. Most of us don't want our husbands to beat themselves up. We don't want the focus to be on them at all. This is about us
And the opportunity to tell our story, or part of it, each time we're triggered moves us forward. It helps us heal. And each time our husband is able to be with us in that pain, to listen without defending himself, or minimizing our experience, or telling us why we shouldn't feel that way, our marriage is strengthened. We're on the same team, trying to beat back trauma. 
But each time we're silenced, told we're "living in the past", told we're hurting ourselves, that we need to "let it go" and "move on", our trauma goes deeper underground and our marriage fractures a bit more. We're on opposing teams, each trying to nurse his/her own wound at the expense of the other.
The story of our betrayal is a key part of who we are, whether our husbands or we like it or not (and most of us...not so much). But sharing that story carries with it the power to heal, not only ourselves but our marriages.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Feeling Stuck: How to Deal with Triggers

My husband came home a few weeks ago from work and, like most days, gives me an overview of his day. A funny story, perhaps. A meeting that went well or not so well. This particular day he mentioned that he'd had lunch with a salesperson, noting that he'd offered up, what he thought, was a smart way this person's company could improve their business.
In the telling of this story, something was, to me, notable. He mentioned he'd had lunch with A salesperson. Singular. But as the story went on, he didn't refer to this salesperson as a "him" or a "her" but as "they".
Red flag!!!!
My body tensed. My heart beat faster. My mind raced.
I knew, without asking, that this was because this salesperson with whom he'd had lunch was a she. And I feared that there was something about this she that made my husband avoid any discussion of it.
So I asked him whether this "they" was a male or female. He told me what I already knew.
And then I screeched something about how I couldn't believe he'd lied to me and was this ever going to end and on and on (I hardly remember) about how I can't trust him.
He panicked and doubled down in attempts to placate me. That he hadn't "lied" (Bullshit, I said!), didn't want me to draw the wrong conclusion, that there was nothing. (Heard that before, I said.)
In short, we both blew it.
Our counsellor offered us a far better approach.
She said my response was normal and made it clear to my husband that when he seems to be hiding ANYTHING, that's a huge trigger for me. It takes me right back to where I was six years ago when I found out. That it's the deceit that's the trigger, not necessarily the lunch with a female.
And then she told me to ask my husband what I really wanted to know.
It's so hard for me to open myself up to vulnerability. It has been a lifelong struggle and though I'm better, it's really, really hard.
Nonetheless, heart pounding, I asked: "Are you attracted to this woman?" No. "Is there anything going on that you would not want me to know about?" No.
He insisted, got defensive, said all sorts of unhelpful things about how she's older and more mother-like to him and how he's never sure if he's allowed to be attracted to anyone but me ever again even if he never intends to act on it and on and on until our counsellor stopped him. She told him, pointedly, that this wasn't helpful.
And then she guided him through what was helpful. Reminding me that he's working hard on his issues so that he never again betrays me. Reminding me that he doesn't want to be that guy ever again. Reminding me that he loves me and values our marriage and family. That he won't jeopardize that.
I cried. But then I practically floated out of that session. It empowered both of us. Me to realize that allowing myself to ask for what I needed and opening myself to vulnerability isn't going to always mean hurt. Him to realize that by reminding me that he's NOT that guy anymore is also reminding himself that he's come a long way. That it's a source of pride about who he is now instead of a source of shame about what he did.
Triggers can appear no matter how far we are along the path of healing. And when they appear, they transport us right back to that horrible moment when our world spiralled out of control and we felt alone and scared. Trusting ourselves to ask for what we need in that moment, and our spouse to offer it to us binds us closer together. Triggers can be teachers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

He is I, I am He: Part II

Just came across this great post by the inimitable Danielle Laporte. Here's her take, which riffs on my post on "othering":

If you want the freedom that forgiveness promises, if you want to be liberated, then acknowledge the divine in the other person — it’s in there somewhere, even in cases of extreme darkness, it’s in there somewhere. Acknowledging the divine in someone who has hurt you, no matter how severely, doesn’t mean that you condone bad behaviour. You are not making a wrong a right, and you’re not engaging under false spiritual pretence to “play nice”. You’re seeing a spark of truth, and you’re making intelligent choices about how to proceed — all things considered. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

He is I, and I am He

Okay, so my title is a bit oblique.
But bear with me as I explain.
I'm writing this post in response to something I've noticed among many commenters, indeed in many betrayed wives (including this one).
It's the practice of "othering". By "othering", I'm referring to the very human (but not always humane) tendency to distance ourselves from those whose behaviour we judge as bad. We "other" drug addicts. We "other" homeless people. We even "other" rape victims ("did you see what she was wearing?") and obese people and mothers who breastfeed their kids until kindergarten. And, oh yes, we "other" the Other Woman.
But, in the wake of betrayal, we also "other" our spouses. We describe our husbands' betrayals as "selfish". We insist that we could never be so "cruel".
Our husbands are bastards who have ruined us. Their selfish acts jeopardized our physical health, our families, our emotional stability.
They're weak. They're self-centred. They're self-absorbed with the discipline of a toddler.
They're, let's be honest, not as good as us.
Because we would never do such a thing. We would never cheat.
Or would we?
What if we had lived our husband's lives? What if we had walked their path? What if our brains were wired differently? What if we had a Y chromosome? What if?
My point isn't that men are more likely to cheat (though there is some evidence that's true) or that certain life experiences lead inevitably to cheating.
And – please – I am not being an apologist for cheating. It's wrong. It's dishonest. And it's so excruciatingly painful for the betrayed.
But I've noticed something within my own healing and from listening to so many stories from betrayed wives: Seeing our husbands (or exes) as the "other" stands in the way. Looking at their actions as utterly abhorrent prevents us from seeing ourselves in them.
Which brings me to my title. It's only when we can see ourselves in others and them in us that we can truly begin to heal. I'll go even further. It's only when we can see ourselves in others and them in us that we can truly begin to live a life with compassion. And isn't that the whole point?
I didn't make the same choices as my husband but I haven't lived his life.
Nor has he lived mine.
My healing truly began the day I finally understood that while I might not have been the one who cheated, I could understand why he did.
None of this is to say you should stay with someone who cheated. Or who won't acknowledge the pain they've caused. You get to decide where you go from here.
But whether you stay or go, you're going to need to walk through some pretty dark places. Places that expose so many of our own wounds, around our worthiness, our ability to trust, our sense of who we are. By refusing to look deeply into those wounds – and into what behaviour we might engage in to avoid seeing them – we close ourselves off from compassion. For him, but also for ourselves.
Compassion isn't about saying it's okay that he hurt you. It isn't about saying you're going to stick around to see if he wages war with his demons. It's understanding that his choices were based on HIS life experience. That his betrayal wasn't about you. Not at all.
Compassion does the exact opposite of "othering". It opens our hearts instead of nailing them shut.


Related Posts with Thumbnails