Saturday, December 31, 2016

The most simple advice for healing: How do I want to live today?

Quick story: My yoga instructor has lost two children to suicide. I hesitated to take classes with her because I thought I'd spend my "me" yoga time feeling horrible for her. I simply couldn't imagine how anyone could move on with life after such pain. And yet...she's warm and lovely and incredibly grounded. She speaks occasionally about her grief but always in the context of meeting grief with grace.
Over the years that I've been downward dogging and head-standing, my admiration for her strength has grown. And I've wondered how she does it. The answer is deceptively simple. She's made a choice: To live today.
And it's a choice each of us has to make every single morning.
How do I want to live today?
I can already hear the resistance. But what about the fact that he lied to me last night about a text on his phone? What about him being 10 minutes late? What about him refusing to tell her to stop driving by our house?
Valid questions, every single one. And questions that can be addressed by establishing clear boundaries and then enforcing them.
We get in trouble when we try to control other people. We get in trouble when we lose sight of the only question we need to pay attention to: How do I want to live today?
Lots of you have shared how you found your way to this question. One of our betrayed warrior wives told us that she imagines looking back from the future and seeing a picture of herself. How does she want to look in that picture? Another noted the wise counsel of her therapist who urged her to ask herself each day how she wants to live – and then behaving accordingly.
None of this means brushing aside dishonesty or disrespect from a partner. There's nothing about asking yourself how you want to live today that is about ignoring your pain or pretending that things are fine when they are anything but fine. It's about paying attention. Honoring your feelings. It might mean making some really hard decisions. And today might include plenty of moments where you are decidedly not living exactly as you would like. But the goal is to work toward a life in which you are exactly where you want to be and surrounding yourself with people who value you.
With 2017 just looming over the horizon, what if your only goal is to approach life from that question: How do I want to live today?
It would usher in a zillion smaller shifts that can't help but make your life more full – more full of joy, more full of people who deserve you, more full of opportunity.
Happy new year, my wonderful betrayed warrior wives. I can't wait to watch you all heal and share all of your wisdom and strength and compassion. It's there. I promise.
How do you want to live today?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Woman's Search for Meaning After Betrayal

Suffering threatens to make life meaningless. That is its greatest danger, not the pain it inflicts. It is up to each of us to restore meaning. Doctors cannot do it for us with their medicine; friends cannot do it for us with their solace and comfort. You are healed when you can say to yourself, “I matter, I belong, I am worthy, I am safe, I can express myself, I am loved.
~Deepak Chopra

My friend is mourning the end of her marriage. Her husband of 12 years has moved on with another woman. She, more inclined to self-reflection than he, recently wondered aloud whether the marriage had meant anything to him. Though she by now recognizes his patterns – he needs the adoration of women like the rest of us need food and water – in her darker moments, the loss threatens to make her marriage seem meaningless. What, she wondered, was the point?

Plenty of us have been there. In the wake of another's tragedy, our lives seem small. Our concerns seem petty. In the wake of our own tragedy, our lives, for a moment seem epic. Our pain is momentous. But when the drama begins to shrink and our healing begins, it can all seem so...mundane. Meaningless. We sift through the memories and wonder if they're real. We pour over the photo album and try to discern the other's thoughts. Was this when he fell out of love with me? Was he really there or was his mind somewhere else?
It's crazy-making.

And pointless.
Meaning in our lives doesn't come from another deciding we mean something to him. It comes from knowing that we have a place in this world. It comes from our deeper knowing that we have value, no matter whether anyone else in the world sees it. I've said it before: A diamond is still a diamond even when another sees only a stone. Our every breath is sacred. 
Meaning doesn't come from drama. It isn't about feeling important. It isn't about feeling joy. Meaning is found in every moment, those of excruciating pain and those of bliss. It's about living with intention. It's about trusting ourselves. It's about loving ourselves.
It always come down to that: We must love ourselves no matter what. We must come to that deep knowing of our worth, of our belonging, of our meaning. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

BWC Flashback: Seven Lies We Believe After His Affair

This is the all-time most popular post on this site. It's from 2013 and it's worth revisiting because too often it's the lies we tell ourselves that hurt us the most. 

It's hard to overstate how much being cheated on messes with our heads. Marriage experts refer to betrayal as a "trust violation" and note that it's one of the most psychologically damaging experiences. It shakes our sense of safety in the world. It triggers our fears of abandonment, threatens our primal need for security and love.
But though all that is true, we often do the most damage to ourselves. In the wake of betrayal, we tell ourselves all sorts of untruths, based on a deep fear and a conviction that, if we've been betrayed by someone we trusted, there must be something wrong with us.
Not all of us do this, of course. Though among us with healthy self-esteem often go straight to outrage. I remember reading something, post-betrayal, where a marriage counsellor said that he didn't worry about the women who got angry. He worried about the ones who didn't. They, he said, were the ones more likely to blame themselves.
Blaming ourselves can be strangely appealing. If it was somehow our fault, we reason (fallaciously), then if we fix ourselves, our spouse won't cheat again.
It doesn't help, of course, that our culture piles on. If a guy cheats, it's because his wife was frigid. If a guy cheats, it's because his wife is frumpy. If a guy cheats, it's because his affair partner was hot and performed like a porn star. His wife was a nag. He fell out of love with her. And on and on. On some level, a lot of us believe those lies, even when our husbands are swearing that's not it at all. Harder still, of course, is when our husbands join in, blaming us for their choice to cheat.
Before long, the chorus of lies reaches a crescendo, making the truth almost impossible to hear.
With that in mind, I've compiled a list of the lies…along with the truth.
Which, a wise soul has said, will set us free.

1. The lie: "I'm a fool"
I hear this one a lot. "I'm such a fool for believing he loved me." "I'm a total fool for thinking he'd never cheat." "He made a fool of me."
The truth: You're a loyal wife and friend who trusted someone who betrayed that trust.

2. The lie: "I'll never get past this."
The truth: Yes, you will. It will take time. Far longer than you would expect (experts generally say three to five years…I was closer to five). But within that time, you'll inch your way closer to a better marriage (if you choose to stay) or a better life (if you choose to go). You'll work through the pain and get to a place where you recognize that this wasn't about you. You were collateral damage. You'll get past it to a place where being betrayed is something that happened. A memory. If you've truly healed, it won't even feel like a particularly painful memory.

 3. The lie: He cheated because she must be amazing in bed.
The truth: He cheated because he was seeking something outside himself that's missing inside himself. He cheated because he liked the reflection of himself he saw in her eyes. He cheated because it felt exciting and dangerous. He cheated because he was able to convince himself that it was somehow okay. That he deserved it. That nobody would get hurt. He cheated because he's capable of self-delusion. He cheated because he has addiction issues. Still think it's because of the sex? Read this.

4. The lie: "She must have had something I didn't."
The truth: What she had, you don't want. Being an other woman is rarely like in the movies. While there might be champagne and roses (at least at the start), there's also cancelled rendezvous, erectile dysfunction, arguments, lonely nights and holidays…and a future that's more about promises than plans. What's more, to participate as an OW, you need to convince yourself that you somehow have more claim on this guy than the person with whom he promised to love, honour and cherish. That life (or his wife) is complicating your future together, not him. That all that stuff he says to you is true, even though you know that, at some point, he said the same stuff to his wife. That lying about you and hiding you away is evidence of his love. You want that? Didn't think so.

5. The lie: "He cheated because I gained weight/got pregnant/got depressed/got sick…"
The truth: He cheated because he wasn't emotionally equipped to deal with his own issues. He cheated to escape. Any guy who cheats because his wife gains weight, gets pregnant, is dealing with a disabled child or an aging parent or whatever is a total dick who needs to shown the door anyway. Any guy who cheats is, frankly, someone incapable of having a healthy relationship, one that includes really tough conversations. Marriage has a steep learning curve. Sadly, few of us saw healthy marriages played out for us. So it's hard to know how to broach tough topics, like waning attraction due to weight gain or pregnancy, fear of fatherhood, feelings of abandonment. Many of us don't even really know what we're feeling…we just know we're feeling lonely and misunderstood. An affair can seem appealing. But the smart ones among us recognize that's a dangerous path to go down. That it will cause a whole lot more problems than it will solve. They're the ones who give their marriage a fighting chance before they blow it up. The others…well…we know what happens.

6. The lie: "My happiness depends on him."
The truth: Your happiness depends on you. It always did. Too many of us have bought into pop-song wisdom about finding our soul mates and living happily ever after. Happy comes, generally, with enough soul searching that we exorcise our own demons and discover a deep sense of worth in ourselves, no matter what the world says about us.

8. The lie: "My marriage will never the same (it will be worse)."
The truth: My marriage will never be the same (it can be better). I would have called total bullshit on that a few years ago. I would have scoffed, of course it can be better if he's not sleeping with other people. But really good? Nah.' But here I am, eating my words. It takes a lot of work. It takes a deep commitment on the part of your husband to recognize how badly he's hurt you and how he's damaged your relationship. And it takes a strong desire to want to be a better person. To deserve your love and trust. And you've got some work too. To take a good look at your marriage and take responsibility for your own shortcomings. (This is in no way to say you were to blame for his cheating. That's on him. But there isn't a marriage in the world in which just one partner is to blame for issues within it.) And then, slowly, you rebuild. A few years later, you just might be amazed at how strong that marriage feels. And how deep the love goes.
And that's the truth.

Monday, December 12, 2016

You were born worthy

I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.
Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen. ~ Brené Brown

I hike most mornings with a friend whose marriage is on shaky ground. No affairs. Just a husband who has long avoided childhood issues (sexual abuse, the refusal of his parents to acknowledge it) and who has made his wife the lightning rod for everything that's wrong in his life. The good news is she and her husband have both – finally – found a therapist they each like. The bad news, I told her, is that it's likely to get a lot worse before it gets better. Why? she asked. Well, I explained. It's like when you have a nagging headache but you're distracted by other things and not really paying attention. But when you finally acknowledge that your head is throbbing, suddenly you can think of nothing BUT your headache. It's excruciating. It's pounding. Why won't it go away.
Yep, that's what the beginning of therapy can feel like. You're finally acknowledging the pain. The emptiness. The throb of loneliness. And you can hardly think of anything else.
Like most of us, she wants to do something. She wants things better. Now. She wants him to stop being cruel to her. She wants him to realize how lucky he is to have her. She's afraid that he's going to fool this therapist into believing he's the good guy and she's the problem.
So I gave her something to do. Take care of yourself, I told her. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle.
She's a cancer survivor. Someone who still deals with issues around her medications, someone who looked death square in the eye and said 'not today, buddy'.
She's strong. And loyal. And kind.
It goes against her nature to stop trying to make things better. It goes against her nature to put herself first. It feels...wrong.
But it's not. There isn't a more right thing to do than to take care of ourselves. To be kind to ourselves. To be gentle. Because from that well of self-love and self-care, we find what we need to be our best selves out in the world.
It will feel awful, I told her. You will fail many times. But if you manage to focus on self-care just one in ten times, instead of trying to fix someone else, instead of trying to change other people, then that's one time more than usual. 
And, with practice, it will get easier. It will begin to feel...good. You will notice that the world feels more manageable. When we stop trying to control everything around us, it frees us to control the only thing we've ever been able to control. Us. 
When we stop, as Brené Brown says, worrying about what others think of us, we realize something we knew all along: That we are worthy of love and belonging. We always have been. There's nothing about a partner's betrayal that changes that. It never will.
Start where it matters: Within your own heart.
Get ready to be seen in your full glory.
Because, my dear betrayed warrior sisters, adventures await.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Happy Xmas shopping day to me. (And also...anti-versary).

Guess what today is? Yep...Ten years ago today I got that bitchslap that is D-Day. That kick in the gut. That mind-blowing agony. That horrible and devastating moment that then spans days and weeks and months...and years.
But here's the thing. When I was in that moment, and for the months and even year or two that followed, I never imagined that I could ever EVER be happy again. Ever. I resigned myself to the notion that the rest of my life would be a slow trudge toward the grave. Joyless. Grey.
Those of you who read here know that, somewhere around the five-year-mark, I realized that my prediction had been way off. Somewhere in those first five years, joy re-entered my life. The pain of D-Day slowly receded, like a fog, and when I looked around, I liked my life. It had the usual ups and downs but it was good.
Fast forward another five years and I only really thought of December 10 as my husband's and my annual Christmas shopping day. That's how I survived those early anti-versaries. We made it our annual shopping day for family and friends so that a day that would otherwise serve up reminders of pain and anger could be transformed into a day in which we thought about everyone we loved and sought out gifts to share with them. It worked. I began to look forward to that day. We would spend it together, we would enjoy a leisurely lunch, the kids would be taken care of by someone else so we could take our time.
And now...December 10 is shopping day. Not a day of reckoning but a day of recreation. Re-creation.
That's what we're doing, isn't it? We're re-creating our lives.
Happy December 10 to all of you. Think of me. Battling the crowds but with a full grateful heart.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Affair was a Fantasy. And Not a Very Good One.

I sometimes look at the search terms that bring women to my site. It's common to see such searches as "things women say during sex" or "is cheating sex better".
And my heart aches.
Because I know that there's a woman in pain at the keyboard, desperately seeking answers for why her husband has betrayed her. Wondering just what it is that's wrong about her, or at least what's better about the other woman, that made her husband hurt her so profoundly.
Almost ten years ago, I was that woman. Googling my heart out for answers.
They came. Eventually. Not nearly as quickly as I would have liked. But, no doubt, they came when I was ready to recognize them.
It's hard to be patient. And it's hard to understand that what our culture tells us about affairs – that they're exciting, that the sex is always outrageously good, that the other woman is enticing and empowered – is complete and utter bullshit.
For a start, make anything forbidden and it will suddenly consume every waking thought. If you don't believe me, you've never tried to give up sugar. Or caffeine. Or bread. THAT is what an affair is. The sudden conviction that this one thing is what you've been missing. That this one thing makes you more you than anything else. And the more forbidden it is, the more you want it. Need it. 
But an affair is more than that. An affair is a distorted mirror that only reflects back what we want to see. Gone are our flaws, replaced by an idealized image of ourselves as sexy and interesting and vibrant. It conveniently shrinks guilt or shame. It refuses to acknowledge the pain created for others. In fact, there's little room is this mirror for others. They're inconvenient. They get in the way of this intoxicating image we see reflected. Even the Other Woman isn't reflected so much as what she represents. A reflection of who we wish we were, instead of the real-life version we really are, one with insecurities and a bald spot. One with fears and disappointments. One that hides behind a mask for a relative stranger rather than show our true face to the person with whom we've committed to spend our life.
An affair is where cowards hide. It's a curtain that obscures deeply broken people.
Which is why I refuse to accept that the only response to a partner's cheating is to walk away. If they're unwilling to acknowledge their brokenness, then yes, it makes sense to mitigate your own future suffering by walking away now. And if they show no awareness or remorse for the pain they've caused, then yes, it makes sense to remove such a sociopath from your life.
But the others, the ones who feel deep guilt for the pain they've caused, who are willing to do the hard work of looking into a true mirror and seeing their mistakes in full, can be worth the time and the pain and the effort it takes to rekindle your love.
Because the other thing I've learned through this is that we only really grow through experiences that challenge us to look more deeply at ourselves. Our pain has lessons for us, about who we are, about what we stand for, about what we value and how we show that – or don't, as the case may be – in our lives.
He might have escaped into an affair to avoid his own pain. And yes, he betrayed you but, if he has any scruples at all, he also betrayed himself. And there's a mountain of pain in that hard truth.
I often say that there is no right way through the agony of betrayal. My response is no more "right" than another's choice to head straight to the divorce lawyer. I have friends who've been cheated on who've done exactly that. Even with a repentant spouse who begged for a second chance, one friend of mine said 'nope'. She's remarried (so is her ex to the OW who doesn't seem to mind that she was first runner-up) and they have an amicable relationship as co-parents to their son. She's mentioned that she thinks they could have rebuilt their marriage. That she doesn't think he would have cheated again, after the devastation he caused. But, she shrugs, doesn't matter now. Things have worked out just fine.
And that's the thing. If you make your healing your goal, it will matter far less whether your marriage survives. Because you will be okay. No matter what. 
And that gives you the freedom to really understand that your husband's affair will never define you. That nothing in that other woman is anything you really want. 
She was a fantasy. The real-life her is just a broken woman willing to settle for second runner-up. You, on the other hand, are in the process of becoming your own number one. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

What do we really know about why our husbands cheated?

we need to NOT know what the person meant,
so we can ask.
we need to NOT know why someone does something,
so we can ask.
we need to NOT know someone’s thoughts and
feelings, so we can ask.
we need to NOT know how to fix something so we can
work with others and include other ideas and come up
with things together.

~Terri St. Cloud

I knew exactly why my husband cheated. It was because she was a porn star in bed. It was because he was raised in a sexually repressive family that trafficked in shame. It was because he didn't love me. Or his kids. It was because he felt entitled. It was because of the alpha male "locker room" atmosphere in his stock-jocky office.
I knew. 
It was because I wasn't pretty enough. Or interesting enough. I nagged too much. I didn't cook the foods that he liked. He hated the color I painted our bedroom.
The list went on.
But I knew.
Nonetheless, I continued to ask him. Why would you do this? What's wrong with you? What's wrong with me? What does she have that I don't. Why? Why? Why?
He told me. It's not you, he said. There's nothing wrong with you. It's me, he said. There's something wrong with me.
But I wasn't listening to him. I was only listening to me and my long list of reasons. I was listening to our culture and its long list of reasons. Men cheat because they like sex more than wives do. Men cheat because they're dogs. Men cheat because they're hard-wired to spead their seed. Men cheat because sex isn't about love. 
I couldn't hear what my husband was saying over the noise of everybody else.
There's something wrong with me. 
The problem with "knowing" is it closes our ears to answers that don't line up with what we've already decided to be true. By "knowing", we can't learn. By "knowing", we aren't open to other thoughts, other truths, others' experiences.
It gets in the way of really understanding, or at least moving toward understanding. 
My husband tried to tell me his truth for months, even as he continued to hide the extent of his cheating. There's something wrong with me, he said. I hurt too, he said. 
But I was so busy telling him who he was and why he did what he did, oh! and reminding him daily (minute by minute!) of the price I was paying for his cheating. 
It was a normal response to the worst pain I've ever experienced. 
But it wasn't helpful. 
If I could go back and have a do-over, I would try and stop myself from knowing quite so much. I would urge myself to listen a bit more. To ask myself, when my mind was racing with the infinite reasons why my husband cheated on me, what was my source of information
Knowing can sometimes get in the way of finding a deeper truth that can move us toward healing. Knowing is the enemy of learning more, of allowing another to tell his story.
Not everyone can tell his story, for lots of different reasons. He doesn't understand himself why he made such a painful choice. Although, "I don't know..." is a valid part of his story too, at least until he's willing to learn more. Or maybe he accepts what our culture tells us: it's "normal" for guys to want sex all the time. Monogamy is unnatural. And on and on. 
Some prefer the fiction they've been telling themselves that absolves them of any real responsibility for what they've done. She nags all the time. She's not interested in sex. She doesn't love me anymore.
Sometimes, as I've said before, a dog is a dog. And they're not worth the heartbreak of trying to rebuild a relationship because they see nothing wrong with what they did (except they got caught) and have no plans to really change their behaviour. It's that old "locker room" defence. Guys will be guys, right? And, eyeroll, women...amirite?
Yeah but those aren't the guys we want to be with. They're not the guys willing to dig deep to discover what's driving their hurtful behaviour. They're not the guys worth gambling your future on.
But the others can be. The ones who, though it might take a little while, are willing to recognize that they alone are responsible for the damage they've caused. The ones who hate what they did and hate the pain they've caused us. The ones who want to understand who they are and how they can become a better person. Who want to like the guy they see in the mirror.
My husband was one of those guys. But I couldn't see it until I stopped "knowing" quite so much. It was only when I challenged my own "facts" that I was able to see my own fiction. 
I was right about a few things but wrong about plenty. 
And I continue to be wrong. Just ask my kids. 
Opening my mind to others' perspectives has changed how I interact with everyone in my life. I can no longer presume to understand what's driving anyone's behaviour. Truth is, I don't know. Sometimes they don't even know. But being willing to listen, to take the time to challenge not only my own version of events but others' versions too, gets us all to a place where we better understand ourselves and them.
It's tough. We hate not knowing. But not knowing gives us the opening into knowing better. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Don't Let His Affair Change Who You Are

A.J. Muste, a Dutch-born American clergyman and civil rights activist would stand in front of the White House each night during the Vietnam War holding a candle. A reporter asked him, "Mr. Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?"
To which Muste replied, "Oh, I don't do it to change the country, I do it so the country won't change me."

On the inside of my left wrist is new tattoo of a safety pin. You might know that this safety pin movement has gained steam in recent weeks after the election of Donald Trump as a way of signalling to frightened, vulnerable people that they have allies among us. That not all of us see them as "others".
It's my first tattoo and, likely, my last. It's not my only way of reaching out to the marginalized. I also roll up my sleeves to work. But my tattoo's purpose is to remind me, every single day, that kindness matters. That decency matters. That every single one of us matters. And it's to remind me not to let this bully culture change who I am. To hold tight to what I believe even when my beliefs seem drowned out by the angry mobs. 
I feel a vulnerability and anxiety that I haven't felt since the weeks and months and year following D-Day. This sense that the world is unsafe. That there is a darkness that goes deeper than I realized. 
It can be so hard to remember who we are in those moments. When we're confronted with the realization that we were lied to, that the person we trusted with our hearts didn't deserve that trust, it's especially hard to hold on to who we are. Fear lies to us. It tells us that we're a fool. It tells us that we're not good enough and that's why this is happening to us. Which is why it's crucial to stand in the truth of who we are. To remember that we don't deserve this or any betrayal. That, no matter what he or the OW or our "friends" or anyone else is saying, we are not fools. It can be hard to remember what's in our own hearts when those hearts are shattered.
But don't change. I'm not, of course, referring to changing the things that might make you happier, the things that are part of radical self-love and self-care. Develop an exercise program if that makes you feel better. Change your job if you're miserable and unappreciated. Change your drinking habits if they're contributing to problems in your life. Change your clothing if it's time to remind yourself that you're beautiful beneath those sweatpants and stained t-shirt. Change your husband is he continues to reveal himself as someone incapable of or unwilling to become a better person. 
But remember who you are. Remember that you are worthy. That you deserve love and kindness and respect and honesty from anyone you let into your life. 
I'm not suggesting you get a tattoo ( didn't hurt as much as I thought it would), but find some way of reminding yourself, all day, every day, who you are. 
It will matter far less what other people say you are if you know better. You can withstand hurtful words when you know those words are simply untrue. 
Healing from betrayal, if there is a silver lining to this coal-black cloud, can offer us a doorway into a deeper relationship with ourselves. It can help us find our way back to who we were before we lost ourselves in serving everyone else's needs.
My safety pin is a symbol to others that I'm an ally but it's also a reminder to be an ally to myself. That kindness doesn't only extend outwards. That we all matter. Including me. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016


For those of you who donate to this site, please know how grateful I am. Creating and curating Betrayed Wives Club has long been a labour of love but the support I receive is so affirming and appreciated. (And to those who often ask, the book is coming...)
Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. members. And happy Thursday to the rest of us. We're on the path toward healing, my wonderful warrior wives. 
thank you

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I Learned from Love Warrior

Image result for Love Warrior, imageI recently finished reading Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior, her account of rebuilding her marriage after her husband confessed to sex addiction. (And before the recent announcement that Melton has found love with soccer star Abby Wambach.)
H'mmm...where to begin. I didn't love Love Warrior and I really wanted to. I thought it started out strong but the second half devolved into a laundry list of coping strategies that, clearly, changed her life but that seemed almost perfunctory.
Yoga: check.
Therapy: check.
Meditation: check.
Positive church community: check.
Dare I suggest that it seemed as though her heart wasn't really in it? That she was telling her story because that's what she does but that she kinda sorta wished she wasn't? In hindsight, I wonder if she knew she was leaving the marriage even then and was hoping to write another ending in real life. Who knows. And, frankly, no matter.
Because, nonetheless, there is some sound advice in Love Warrior that I think we'd do well to look at more closely. She learned valuable lessons that changed how she viewed her place in the world and, consequently, how she showed up in her marriage and that, no doubt, also gave her the clarity and courage to ultimate make the choice to leave. And whether you stay or you leave, you want to do it with as much clarity as possible. You want, as much as possible, for your response to be a choice.

Let's start with
Giving your insides a voice: Melton learns, as she's trying to find her way back to her husband, that she has spent a lifetime silencing her insides (as she refers to her inner thoughts). And I don't know about you but, wow, me too. In fact, I still do it. Maybe not as much as I used to but still...time to pay attention to that.
Case in point: My husband and I are both in the market for new vehicles. Mine has recently adopted a death rattle to let me know that it's about to start costing me a lot more money at the repair shop.
This past weekend, we visited a dealership and my husband encouraged me to test-drive a car that, I figured, was out of the price range. He makes more money than I do and I've historically deferred to his budget setting. But I drove it. And loved it. Right size. Right fuel economy. Drove like a dream.
But...I found myself afraid to say so. Money remains a point of power in our relationship. And though, intellectually, I believe that my contribution to our family – not just what I earn but the hours I put in as primary caregiver, meal-preparer, homemaker, pet carer (the list goes on. And on) – puts us on equal footing, the fact that he largely pays the bills creates feelings of disempowerment in me.
However, reading about Melton's consciousness around giving voice to her insides reminded me that I must do the same.
So I did. And now we're negotiating with the car dealership. The sky didn't fall. I didn't stutter or die of shame. Instead, I said I would really like that car if we decide we can afford it. My insides were given voice. And you know what? It feels really good. You know what else? It reminded me that, when I'm afraid to give my insides voice, it rarely has anything to do with the right now and instead is about way back when. Way back when I was told my needs weren't important. Way back when I learned, from my alcoholic mother, that wanting nice things made me selfish.
Lesson learned: Give voice to your insides. Or at the very least, challenge your thoughts about silencing them. Is it really about now? Or are you still being the good girl who doesn't want to rock the boat?

"Maybe, for now, the only right decision is to stop making decisions." There are plenty of sites out there for betrayed wives that offer up a prescription for a marriage in crisis. Some insist the only option is to dump the guy. Others push a marriage-is-sacred agenda. As you all know, I don't presume to know what's right for anyone but me (and I'm often not so sure about me). But this idea that we need to immediately do something in the wake of betrayal forces so many of us who are paralyzed by anxiety, or reeling from the shock to wonder what's wrong with us. Surely this is a no-brainer, right? We should stay. Or go. Or...something. Anything but just sit with our pain and see if the right path reveals itself with time and consideration and a gentle tending to our own hearts.
Lesson Learned: As Doyle Melton writes, "I'm trying to fix my pain with certainty, as if I'm one right choice away from relief. I'm stuck in anxiety quicksand: The harder I try to climb my way out, the lower I sink. The only way to survive is to make no sudden movements, to get comfortable with discomfort, and to find peace without answers."

"We started out as ultrasensitive truth-tellers. We saw everyone around us smiling and repeating "I'm fine! I'm fine! I'm fine!" and we found ourselves unable to join them in all the pretending." This passage stopped me cold. I know there are plenty of emotionally healthy women on this site who's husbands are less so but I cast my lot in with the ultrasensitive truth-tellers who've spent a great deal of their lives being told they're "too sensitive", that they expect "too much", that they should just sit there and look pretty and not expect anyone to care about what's going on inside. My 20s were dedicated to numbing my own anxiety with booze and a crappy boyfriend because admitting my pain sounded self-indulgent. I was a white, middle-class, university-educated woman. What did I have to feel sorry for myself about? I went to therapy, which certainly helped but I buried so much of that pain that it didn't emerge until my husband's affair. And then, it emerged with the thunderous roar of a wounded animal. All that fear – that I wasn't worth loving, that there was something wrong with me, that I didn't deserve good things to happen, that I couldn't trust anyone, that I would always be left for something/someone better – refused to stay buried any longer.
Lesson Learned: And so my healing wasn't just about my husband's betrayal, but my mother's and my father's. And, most of us, the ways in which I'd betrayed myself.

And that's the best part of Love Warrior. It's a love story to ourselves. It's about learning to value our own voice. It's about paying attention to our own hearts. It's about all the things we talk about on this site – holding ourselves with the deepest compassion.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Reimagining: The Holidays

You can color in your holidays however you choose. 
D-Day blows up our world as we know it. Even if others don't see the damage, we do and it impacts every part of our lives, from whether we continue to display wedding photos on a bedside table to whether we start driving a different route to work to whether we put our house up for sale. Changes big and small become our new normal.
And though change can be tough, especially change that we didn't invite into our lives, it can also create renewal. It can spur growth. It can remind us to look around with fresh eyes and examine our lives, to do some metaphorical decluttering.
It's with that intention that I'll be writing some blog posts under the headline: Reimagining...
There's much we can reimagine following a partner's betrayal. Within the darkness, we can shine a light selectively on those parts of our lives that we want to change, whether wholesale reinventions or smaller tweaks that lead us back to our authentic selves.
Let's start with a time of year that's often the source of stress at the best of times, but that also tends to be rooted in deep traditions: The Holidays.

My D-Day was December 10, 1996 so you can probably imagine that Christmas. Merry, it was not. My parents, who were incredibly supportive of me in my agony, nonetheless bore the brunt of my pain. I screamed at my mother for her alcoholism in my childhood, casting my current pain as an extension of the pain I'd felt much of my life and for which I blamed others without self-control. Like her.
My kids, unaware of what was really going on, were on the receiving end of some of my wrath too. Early Boxing Day morning, as I tried to sleep, my year-old son began a fight with his little sister. I stomped downstairs, told him to stop and when did it again, I picked up a discarded box and bonked him on the head with it. He wailed with outrage more than any pain. And to this day, despite sincere apologies by me for losing my temper and "using my hands instead of my words", he reminds me of the "child abuse" he suffered early that morning.
I don't remember much else of that Christmas season beyond misery and anger and a profound disappointment that one of my favorite times of years was "ruined".
I hear that word a lot on this site, especially about the holidays. Birthdays are "ruined", Thanksgiving "ruined", Christmas or Hanukkah "ruined".
And yes, in the short term, there's so much pain and so much disappointment that a holiday pressuring us to put on a happy face and "celebrate" is inevitably going to feel "ruined."
But what if we gave ourselves permission to do things differently? What if, under the circumstances, we gave up this idea that things always had to look a certain way, or include a certain tradition, or involve certain people? Does that seem frightening? At a time when so much feels uncertain, we might want to cling even more tightly to rituals we can trust. But if those rituals are creating more pain, maybe it's time to reinvent them. To remind ourselves that human survival does not depend on whether the turkey includes homemade stuffing, or if our passive-aggressive mother-in-law is at the table, or if we celebrate on a certain calendar day or the day after.
You are in crisis mode. And when you're in crisis mode, old norms don't hold. When you're in crisis mode, you get to make the rules. You get to decide just how much you can handle and how your energy is best expended. Maybe, just maybe, it's more important for you to build in time for a long hike in the woods on Thanksgiving than it is to host your annual gathering of extended family. Maybe, if a separation is part of your post-D-Day world, you can sit down with your kids and redesign this year's holiday, holding on to what brings joy and tossing out what doesn't. If you're going to be alone, maybe this year's holiday includes a volunteer stint at a soup kitchen (don't underestimate the power of realizing that there are many kinds of pain and many opportunities to experience compassion) or maybe what the doctor ordered is a day of watching movies and crying into a bowl of Doritos.
Let me tell you, as someone who reinvented my own holidays in the years since D-Day, the sky is not going to fall. Trust me on this. The laws of nature will hold. One day will follow another. Nothing is worth hurting yourself further when you've already been so hurt.
But there are some rules I'll ask you to adhere to:
Be honest. Start with yourself and figure out what you honestly want given your situation. This isn't about wishful thinking and falling into an abyss of how you shouldn't even have to be dealing with this. You're right. You shouldn't. But you are dealing with it and you can deal with it from a place of honesty with yourself.
Then extend that honesty to everyone around you who will be affected by any changes. Be prepared for backlash because people are freaking crazy about tradition. Be prepared for tears. Be prepared for blame. Be prepared for passive-aggression, for all the countermoves we talk about on this site. Because you're likely doing something you don't often do, which is put yourself first. It's high time people discovered that you are entitled to your feelings too. And if it matters so much to them that the Thanksgiving dinner include your secret gravy, then tell them you'll happily pass that tradition along and that you'll be delighted to savor their version.
If all this seems daunting, then tweak it in ways that serve you. Carve out some alone time with a friend who knows what you're going through. Take that walk with the dog and let everyone else clean up. Or do whatever you can to create a tiny space of peace for you. Changes, big and small.
Check your motives. Don't wreak havoc as a way of expressing your pain. Don't throw out things that genuinely matter to you just to make someone else hurt.
Check your expectations. This year will be different. There's no way around that. Expecting it to feel like "good" years is destined to leave you deflated and disheartened.
Watch for moments of grace: Make it your task to mentally catalogue at least five moments of grace. Maybe it's someone squeezing your hand because they know how hard this is for you. Maybe it's your child or grandchild climbing into your lap and giving you a hug. Maybe it's an overcooked turkey that everyone eats anyway because what's on the plate doesn't matter so much after all and you all realize, more than ever, that hearts are fragile and we need to be gentle with each other. Maybe it's gratitude that you're not in jail for killing your husband. If you're watching for moments of grace, it will be easier to overlook the moments of disappointment, which will be there too.
At the risk of being a silver-linings thinker (though I'm guilty as charged!), the incredible pain of betrayal can also be an opening into another life, one in which we learn to be gentle with ourselves, to hold our hearts in high regard and to create space in our lives only for those who show us they deserve to be there, by treating us with honesty and dignity and respect.
And we can start reimagining that future today.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Donald Trump Can Teach Us About Ourselves

Well, it's official. The United States is now being led by a bully, a misogynist, a philanderer.
And while this election has been deeply painful to so many for so many reasons, Trump's victory can be particularly agonizing for those of us who know those behaviours well because we've seen them up close.
My divorced friend Jamie put it this way: "It's like living in my marriage all over again."
It might feel familiar to you too.
The gas-lighting for instance. The insistence that you didn't see what you say you did, that what you think is going on isn't. You're being hysterical. You're over-reacting. You're jealous. Men like this are masters at manipulation. At making you doubt yourself. Doubt is a reasonable response to such insistence that you are the one that has it wrong: well, did I see that? Did he actually say that? And before long, you've walked it back. Maybe I am over-reacting. I have been over-tired lately... What's more, we want to believe we're wrong. We want things to be okay. And so we silence our inner observer who knows damn well that something is going on.
If the gas-lighting doesn't work, the bully shows up. Shut up. Look at you, you're pathetic. I'll walk out that door and never look back. You don't deserve me. You're lucky I'm even here. 
Too often, those words have taken root in our heads and we agree with them. Thing is, none of us "deserves" a guy like this. On the contrary, we deserve respect and kindness and honesty. A bully is only effective is we agree with him, if the words he's flinging at us are words we're telling ourselves. Watch your self-talk. How kind are you to yourself or does your inner dialogue sound more like an abuse: You're such an idiot. How could you be so stupid. What's wrong with you? Pay attention to what you're saying and then talk back in words that speak the real truth. You are worthy. You are a person, like anyone else, who makes mistakes. You deserve love and compassion. 
The misogynist, of course, wants us to believe that objectifying women normal behaviour, "locker room" behaviour. Guys will be guys. That sexual assault – grabbing, groping, unwanted touching, is actually flattering, that we're attractive, we're desirable, he can't keep his hands off of us.
As for cheating, guys are wired this way. It's harmless. A little fun on the side.
It's agonizingly familiar. I don't know a single woman who hasn't been exposed to this type of twisted language and behaviour. If we resist it, we're frigid, bitches and worse. If we give in, we erode our humanity. We detach our bodies from our hearts. We lose our agency.
But just because this behaviour is so god-damned common, it's NOT normal. And it's certainly not harmless.
Part of what keeps us stuck in relationships with these guys is that the behaviour devolves over time. We might slowly become aware that we get a knot in our stomach if he's had a bad day because we're somehow going to be in the line of fire. We might notice that we avoid bringing up certain things because we can predict his response. The accusations, the anger.
We might find ourselves having sex out of a fear that he'll go elsewhere. That we "owe" it to him to make our bodies available. Guys have needs, right?
We might find ourselves wondering, abstractedly, where the "old" us has gone. What's happened to our hobbies? Our friends? Our joy? Our sense that we were okay just the way we were?
Why are we so skittish all the time? So anxious? Why does our mood depend so heavily on his mood? Sure it's natural to want the people we love to be happy but to need them to be happy? That's a sign that something is not right.
Trump is, clearly, a narcissist on a scale that would be comical if it wasn't so dangerous. He's managed to gaslight millions of people. To convince them that his worldview is the accurate one, despite clear factual evidence that he's wrong.
And it's deeply painful to see someone rewarded for such a con when we've lived our lives with the belief that good things happen to good people, that integrity matters. It's not unrelated to our desire to see the OW somehow punished for what she's done when, often, her life goes on pretty much undisturbed by the relationship that has devastated our own. That's not fair, we wail in vain.
But these people can be our teachers. They can make us acutely aware of where, in our relationships, we're not taking care of ourselves. Where we're denying what we know to be true in favor of another's alternate (and crazy) reality. It's not okay, for instance, for your husband to "stay friends" with the person he was cheating with. You being NOT okay with this isn't you being hysterical, it's you setting clear and healthy boundaries. It's you refusing to allow toxic behaviour into your life.
And that's the ultimate – and painful – lesson we can learn from the hell of betrayal and from watching a misogynistic bully on the world stage: We get to build our own lives. We get to parcel out pieces of our hearts only to those people who have shown themselves deserving of them and who value and respect our hearts.
Once you get there, the world becomes so much clearer. That muddy thinking, the but what if I'm over-reacting, what if I'm wrong turns into this is what I know and this is how I'll respond. We become much more self-focussed than other-focussed. We're coming at life from a place of self-respect rather than fear of the other's response.
If you're not there yet, you'll get there. Pay attention to how you've reacted to much of Trump's rhetoric. His "grab them by the pussy" talk, his doubling down on statements that have been easily proven to be lies, his discussion of women based on their faces, their bodies, their availability to him. And then ask yourself when you've felt like that in your marriage, when the knot in the stomach shows up, when the helpless rage begins to simmer, when you feel devalued, unheard, disrespected.
You are none of those things: Not helpless. Not worthless. Not hysterical or crazy or jealous.
You are a woman responding to a situation that is inherently emotionally abusive and arming herself with the tools that are going to help her heal.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Color Our World

My 18-year-old daughter, who's two hours away at university, called me on the weekend. She needed to talk, she said. There's this guy, she said. She likes him.
But? I said.
She's afraid, she said. Every time she likes someone, it ends in heartbreak. Even when she's breaking the other's heart, it hurts too much, she said.
Better, she told me, to just not take the chance.

I remember teen heartbreak. I remember being so shattered by a longtime boyfriend who took up with my best (ha!) friend. I remember realizing that heart+break was the perfect description, so sure was I that I had felt my heart literally shatter. The pain was physical as much as emotional. It hurt to breathe.
And it hurt for a long time.
Even years later, my stomach would twist at mention of either of their names, at a chance encounter with either though they had long since broken up.
And though I fell in love with another, my not-quite-healed heart left me vulnerable to choosing someone else who wasn't, in hindsight, the best choice. Relying on another to heal my broken heart was a mistake, I've learned. Heart healing is an inside job.
It's also part of life, I said to my daughter.
Sure she could simply avoid making herself vulnerable in any way and, therefore, avoid heartbreak, I said.
But at what cost? It's possible this boy isn't interested in her. But, after the sting of rejection fades, she'll be fine as long as she reminds herself that another's assessment of our worth is inherently untrustworthy. Like asking a coal miner to gauge the value of a diamond.
Of course, they might fall madly in love. They might experience that incredible feeling when someone you think is just awesome thinks the exact same thing about you. And together you experience that mad rush of new love that makes the world seem so beautiful that your heart can't contain it all.
And it might end, leaving them with shattered hearts.
But, I reminded her, she's been hurt before. And she survived it. People she felt deeply wounded by inspire little more than a "meh, whatever" from her now.
Hearts are resilient, I told her. Especially hearts as huge as hers is, hearts that make room for so much and so many. 
And the risk is so worth it.
But it starts with stripping ourselves of armour, of fear that we'll be hurt, of that deep shame that tells us we're unlovable. It starts with recognizing, as Brené Brown says, that being alive means being vulnerable. 
And it starts with understanding that the very thing we think makes us vulnerable, emotional exposure, is also what fuels a beautiful life. Being willing to stand exposed, to be seen with all our flaws and trust that we are lovable, is the whole point. 
Yes, it's scary but that's what courage is. Being scared and doing it anyway.
Yes, it's hard when we know the pain of heartbreak but that's what resilience is. Remembering the pain but being willing to try again. Trusting in our rusty old tool box, the one filled with self-compassion, with kindness, with self-respect, to tend to a heart that gets bruised or battered again.
And yes, it's worth it. Even this formerly shattered wife who, at one point, imagined death as preferable to another moment of the pain of betrayal, would risk it all again. Is risking it all again. There are no guarantees, save one: Closing ourselves off from connection ensures a smaller greyer life.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Our post-dragon lives

Anyone can slay a dragon
he told me, but try waking up
every morning & loving
the world all over again.

That's what takes a real hero

(From Traveling Light by Brian Andreas)

The crisis is over. The dragon is slain. You've got the details. The decision is made to either stay or go. You've told anyone you're going to tell and hidden your pain from anyone else. All that's left now is...the rest of your life.
Scary huh? The rest of your life. Carrying the knowledge of just how deeply you can be hurt. Understanding just how wrong you can be about your own life and the people in it. But knowing too that maybe you did sorta kinda did know. That maybe that dragon had been circling for a while and you didn't want to see it. Or maybe that damn dragon really was cagey and clever and cunning.
No matter. It's slain.
And now's the time for heroism because it turns out it's not enough to just slay the dragon. We need to carry on, careful to strip ourselves of armour so that our hearts are exposed, but knowing that dragons are real. And that one might show up again.
The rest of our life can seem like a long time when it's dark. When we can barely make out what's around the corner let alone what's far ahead on the road.
And yet, thinking we could see decades ahead was a lie. A delusion that made our world seem safer.
It's not just us whose future is uncertain. None of us really knows what's coming. And for those of us who've been blindsided by any pain, including betrayal, that's particularly terrifying.
And yet, we have our toolbox. The same one we've always had. The one that can hold what we need to get through the days and years ahead: Compassion for ourselves. Boundaries. Self-care. Self-respect.
If we lack those tools, then now is the time to discover them. If we've lost them, now is the time to recover them.
We need them. We've always needed them. If we weren't using them, it's probably because we were relying on somebody else's tools. But somebody else can't build our lives. Only we can do that.
And we do it by being the heroes poet Brian Andreas refers to. By slaying the dragon, sure. But then by waking up every morning afterward and walking forward into our life. By removing the armour that protected us short-term but shields us from open-hearted living. By loving the world even when we know the suffering it can hold. By trusting ourselves to hold that love and that suffering in the same wide-open heart.
Anyone can slay a dragon though I take issue with Andreas' suggestion that it's easy. I think we do it simply because we have little choice when a dragon picks a fight with us but to battle like hell. And it's tempting to reach for our armour rather than our toolbox. To close ourselves from pain rather than arm ourselves with boundaries and self-care and radical compassion.
But the hero isn't the one who slays the dragon so much as the one who lives with the knowledge of them in the world and loves anyway. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Your Kindness is No Small Thing

I just finished responding to Phoenix and Still Standing over on the Separating or Divorcing (Part 2) page. There's so much pain there as these incredible women come to terms with a loss they hadn't predicted. But there's hella resilience too. 
There's also much gratitude for this site as a place where women feel supported, no matter what they're going through and how things are unfolding. While I created this site to make me less lonely as I worked to rebuild my marriage (and to assure myself that I wasn't a complete doofus to believe that it was possible to rebuild a marriage after betrayal), I didn't intend it to be only for reconciliation. For one thing, I wasn't sure just where my marriage was going to end up. I had one foot out the door for a long time. Besides, however things turn out, we're not so different. It's the experience of betrayal that marks us. And the women on this site, without fail, have responded to that most painful of experiences by reaching out to others and lifting them up.
It's incredible, really. To think that, at our lowest point, we are still able to acknowledge pain in others and reach out. It speaks to the courage of all of you here. It speaks to the depth of your compassion, the reservoir of kindness that you each still have, even when life has served up betrayal and cruelty.
I'm convinced though that it's in that reaching out, that lifting up of others, that ability to take in another's pain and hold it for them, that opens the path to our own healing. In keeping our hearts open to others, we keep them open to our own lives.
In feeling each other's pain, we are able to process our own.
We heal together, bound by compassionate hearts.
Our healing won't take us all to the same place. Some of us will rebuild marriages, others will dissolve theirs. But as long as we're able to see in each other the beauty, the strength, the courage and the integrity with which we're responding to our hearts shattering, then we can acknowledge it in ourselves. And that mark of betrayal will become a badge of honor for having not only survived but having kept our hearts open to the suffering of others.
There are days that what I'm saying will seem impossible. Days when it's all we can do to breathe in, breathe out, when we need to put our hearts under glass. Those are the days when others can remind you that you will survive this. That there are days for giving and days for receiving.
That the grace we show each other isn't a zero sum game.
And that ability to offer or receive grace, to experience a life-changing kindness, is no small thing.

Friday, October 28, 2016

B is for...Boundaries

"We cannot simultaneously set a boundary and take care of another person's feelings."
~Melody Beattie, author 

Boundaries continue to confuse the hell out of us, don't they? If there's one thing on this site that seems to trip so many of us up, it's boundaries. (Though I'm not commenting so much, I still read your comments and you warrior women never fail to make me proud to be among you.) Boundaries seem selfish. They seem dictatorial. They seem unfair.
They're not. And Melody Beattie, best known for her books about co-dependency (that's another term that a lot of us instinctively recoil from), makes it clear when she says that boundaries are about self-care. Nothing more, nothing less. They are about keeping ourselves safe.
My daughter's friend was recently kicked out of her home. She's 18. She did nothing wrong, unless you count forgetting to make her bed now and again. It's the second time she's been kicked out – the first time she was put in foster care at 12 with her twin brother because they fought too much.
This girl's mother deserves my award for shittiest mother of the year, however, I'm conscious of the fact that we love others the best way we know how. I'm trying hard to practice compassion. I don't doubt that this mother loves her daughter. It's just that her love is toxic.
And so this girl has the monumental challenge of reconciling her love for her mother with her pain at being rejected.
That's where boundaries come in.
Somehow this girl needs to come to a place where she can acknowledge her love for her mom while still keeping herself emotionally safe. And she gets to decide what those boundaries look like. For instance, she might love her mother while at the same time deciding that she can't have her mother in her life right now. Or it might look like the occasional phone call. Who knows. But it's about this girl's self-care not her mother's feelings.
And that's your challenge too.
Your partner betrayed your trust. Setting boundaries isn't about penalizing him, it's about self-care. It's about deciding what you need to begin to feel safe in your marriage again. Maybe that looks like access to his phone and computer log. Maybe it looks like regular check-in calls. Maybe it includes his commitment to a 12-step program or weekly therapy. Maybe it's about physically separating.
Whatever it looks like, it's your decision. They're your boundaries. It's about your self-care, your safety, and your right to feel safe with the people you've allowed into your life.
It isn't about penalties, manipulation or selfishness.
He might not like it. He probably won't, especially if you've been someone who hasn't, historically, enforced (or even had) boundaries in the past. It can be hard for your partner to realize that things are going to be different.
But remember what Beattie says: you cannot set boundaries and worry about another's feelings at the same time.
It's not that his feelings don't matter. It's that they're not yours. His job is to take care of his feelings. Your job is to take care of yours.
A key part of boundary setting is letting go of the outcome. This isn't about controlling another, it's about ensuring your own safety. You might not like how the other person responds to your boundaries.
But that doesn't mean you should back down. It means that you're with someone who doesn't respect your boundaries, who prefers the old you who puts others feelings above your own.
Learning a new behaviour is tough, especially if you've been taught for years that self-care is selfish, that boundaries are manipulation.
But it gets easier with practice. And it's crucial to your emotional health, to your healing.
Safety. Self-respect. Self-care.


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