"...when I got to the point where I really thought I had lost my mind, another voice inside me stepped in, grown-up and gentle. This one said, "Well? Who knows. Maybe not..." ~Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace
In the days after learning of my husband's affair, I felt I was going mad. The world seemed insane. My life seemed insane. But I, most of all, seemed insane.
I screamed. I sobbed. I was inexplicably calm. I threw a pizza at my husband. I pulled a television set off its perch. I smiled benignly at moms when dropping my children off at school then returned to my car to unleash huge racking sobs when a sad song came on the radio.
Who is this person I've become? I wondered in rare lucid moments. I began to wonder if the saner, former me had been an illusion. If I'd always been this crazy and if that's why my husband cheated. It didn't help, of course, that he called me "crazy".
It also didn't help that I'd spent much of my youth being accused of being crazy. As in, "Of course everything's fine. Don't be crazy." This, despite my nine-year-old self listening in my bed to my parents hurling accusations at each other, the sounds of smashing dishes, slamming doors. It took me well into adulthood to understand that calling me "crazy" was code for "don't tell me what I don't want to hear".
Which brings me to the voices in our head we experience post-betrayal. Those of us blessed with loving, healthy families of origin are often better equipped to recognize those voices as belonging to a crazy person. We might hear, "he wouldn't have cheated if you were a better wife" but are able to see those words as the rantings of a lunatic and respond with "he wouldn't have cheated if HE was a better husband."
Those of us, however, who grew up being told that black is white and up is down might struggle a bit more with crazy. When we hear those voices in our head suggesting that he cheated because we're not skinny enough, or he cheated because we nag, or he cheated because we're lousy in bed, we're far too likely to listen and nod our heads in agreement. Not only do we not recognize crazy, we take it as truth.
Betrayal is undoubtedly a crazy-trigger. Even the most sane of us pre-D-Day can fall victim to the seductive lure of inner dialogue that confirms what our culture encourages: men cheat because their wives get old and frumpy and they fall victim to the irresistible sex appeal of an Other Woman who's a porn star in bed. That narrative can be a hard one to ignore. Even when there's ample evidence that it's a cliché rooted more in romance novels than reality.
When crazy comes calling, however, it's time to marshall your inner sane person as defence. Call out crazy into the light of day.
Remind yourself that you did nothing NOTHING that made his cheating okay. That this is on HIM to recognize and make amends for. That it's on HIM to deserve that second chance he's asking for and it's YOUR choice whether you give it to him or not.
Next time those voices in your head are berating you for not being enough, or battering you for not knowing what was going on, or warning you that you're going to get hurt again, I want you to try and listen for that tiny still voice that's so much harder to hear but sounds a lot more like truth. The voice that says, "Well? I don't know about that. But what I do know is that you're in pain. And that you need support and kindness and compassion. And I'm just the person who can give it to you..."