Monday, May 30, 2016

Dealing with D-Day: Unleash the outrage

I recently gave this advice to my 17-year-old daughter:
"Tell them to go f*#k themselves. Not those words, necessarily. But instead of apologizing. Instead of wondering what's wrong with you that your "friends" are excluding you, or talking about you, get outraged. How dare they treat you like this? How dare they judge you? How dare they presume to determine your worth? How dare they! They can just go f*#k themselves."
While nowhere in any of the zillion parenting books I read when my kids were young did I find this advice to a teen daughter, I stand by it. I've watched as my formerly self-possessed eldest, the girl who routinely stands up for the downtrodden and maligned, has become the girl most likely to apologize for things she hasn't done. She has no trouble defending her friends. She just can't seem to muster that same sense of outrage for herself. Instead, she doubts herself. She shames herself. She beats herself up for imagined personality flaws.
She assumes that if someone is mad at her, she must have done something wrong. She accepts that it's her job to keep people happy. To not outshine or outperform anyone. To be...nice. To be...likeable.
Yeah? F*#k that!
Remind you of anyone you know? Because it sure sounds like me in my teens. And my twenties. And, well, my thirties.
It wasn't until my husband cheated on me that I found my own sense of outrage. Like my daughter, I'd long been able to champion anyone I felt unfairly treated. I easily found my voice on their behalf. But on my own? Crickets. After all, I didn't want to offend anyone. I didn't want to make a big deal of something. I didn't want to be rejected.
And so...I did nothing when a "friend" moved in on my barely-ex-boyfriend when I was 20. I did nothing when room-mates trashed the apartment I was financially on the hook for. I did nothing when my new mother-in-law started changing the seating arrangement at my wedding to favor her friends and family.
I swallowed my outrage.
And then...he cheated.
Suddenly, I found my voice.
How dare you, I screamed at him. How dare you do this to me? How dare you disrespect me like this? How dare you put my health at risk? How dare you put my children's happiness at risk? How? Dare? You?
Oh, and by the way: F*#k you!
I can't say it felt good. Absolutely nothing felt good for a very long time. But I can say it put me on a path that has, literally, changed my life. While I used to simmer in resentment as people mistook me for a welcome mat, I don't any longer.
And though it felt counter-intuitive to me – I assumed being a friend meant never expecting them to say "I'm sorry" – my relationships are so much better for me having a voice. I recently told a friend that I thought her comments about refugees were racist and misguided. I told another friend that I thought his ideas around spanking children were archaic and harmful. Neither friend has written me off. But if they do, I'm okay with that. Because having a voice and expressing myself respectfully (I only imply "f*#k you" rather than say it outright) has given me deeper relationships based on a mutual appreciation of who we are. I can handle someone disagreeing with me without assuming it's a wholesale rejection of me.
Not long past D-Day, I read a book in which a marriage counsellor wrote that it wasn't the angry betrayed wives he worried about, it was the ones who didn't get angry. The ones who turned their anger inward so that it showed up as depression or shame. While not everyone will express their anger with my particular enthusiasm for four-letter expletives, it's crucial toward our healing to feel it. We should be outraged that our partners – the people we trusted to NOT do this to us – were so cavalier with our hearts and our bodies and our families.
I'm not advocating for anything that will get you arrested. And I'm actively discouraging anything that will terrify your children. What I am encouraging is that you point your outrage toward the person responsible for your pain. That you recognize that, while the time will come to do a post-mortem on your marriage as it was and see where you do things differently going forward, the betrayal is on your partner's shoulders right now and he can darn well deal with it.


  1. Elle, I reckon your daughter has a great role model in you. 17 yrs old is def the time to start learning how to say 'fuck off' to people who don't appreciate you. I imagine by the time she is 20 she will be a pro!! I've started with my son at 12 yrs old and he's so much like me already. I have to say I've always been the one to say how I feel 'like it or lump it' was my motto my friends sometimes wonder why I have friends lol but they love me all the same. A good example was when I went to the std clinic last week I was met by the receptionist who blurted out ' have you got an appointment' I said ' no good afternoon' no 'hi' the receptionist wAs shocked and apologised for her behaviour prefusely claiming she'd had a bad day!! I replied by saying that it costs nothing to be nice. Anyway I came away with no std's thank god one saving grace in my present situation.

    I don't know where I get my brash personality from but I'm glad I have it I will certainly pass it down to my children and my grandchildren.

    Lots of love ladies xxx

  2. Thank you Elle. Yes, I struggled with this in my teens, twenties and yes thirties - in my personal life, yet in my professional - I appropriately expressed my anger as need be - as I reflect on what you say here - no doubt I was going to bat for those who needed protecting (I've worked with the elderly my whole life) - yet standing up to males has always been challenging for me. My dad maintained a rather "Godly" status in our family - the traditional man of the household.
    When my h and I married I welcomed his direction - in many matters, yet I soon realized he knew the right way to do everything! During our first year of marriage I recall sarcastically saying to him, "thank God you came along - apparently I've been doing laundry wrong my whole life (I was 35 at the time.). We grew as individuals, and I came to realize I didn't rely on him; I had completed my second college degree and my career was booming. Even still, there were too many times I did not stick up for myself because I truly did not know how. I grew up in a household which was fairly calm - any tension was related to silence, not yelling. My husband grew up in a household with so much yelling he did not even notice it! So, typically he yells - I grow silent and cry. We had struggled with this for years and had made progress. With the affair I found anger - albeit briefly and certainly not modulated - my IC recommended "The Dance of Anger" which I read, but honestly it is simply not easy for me. Actually, Elle's article on boundaries really helped, yet I still find myself frozen at times - when I want to share something with my h. He has gotten better at pulling it out of me, yet if it gets too deep, he pulls away. My new line, which has helped me when I feel upset, yet frozen is: I am processing- allowing time and we talk later. My IC once told me, "you don't have to express your anger, but get angry and use it for information, to enlighten you."
    Peace and light ladies.

  3. My four year old pretty much loses it, if I give her the wrong biscuits, or water in the wrong sipper. The shit that I am in is deeper.

    The sense of outrage hits me in waves. I feel horrid, and I am unable to unleash myself. I go through periods of silence, my anger is so deep.

    I don't know what is better - the yelling or the silence. But my silence is winning at this point of time.

    1. St. Elsewhere,
      The point I was making with the post is that your anger can remind you to respect yourself. However it's expressed, anger says "how dare you!!" And that's what I want my betrayed sister-warriors to tap into. That sense of outrage that can give us the strength to create strong boundaries. To be able to say, here's the line that I've very clearly drawn. If you cross it, here are the consequences. Do so at your peril.

  4. Sam A. I am quite the same. Someone doesn't say thank you when I told a door? I gently say "aaaand you are So very welcome"
    "How DARE you , how fu#>ing DARE you" was an almost mantra, or at least a loud broken record I muttered endlessly from moment one on D-day When does life ever ask us to apologize for being ourselves? I wish my mom had spoken to me as you did to your daughter, as I too was the "nice" one for far to long There is a huge difference between nice and kind. I aim
    For kindness now while standing up for myself, finally.

    1. Nice, I think, is gritted teeth behind the smile. Kindness comes from the heart and is genuine in its compassion. Nice is about being liked. Kind is about liking.
      I sometimes fear, however, that I've taught my kids kindness to others...but not kindness to themselves. Like me, they have no trouble standing up for others. But sticking up for themselves? Not so much....

  5. I don't have any idea where to begin. But I found this blog after endless searching for answers all over the Web for why things are happening the way they are. I found out a week ago Friday that my husband has been having at least an emotional affair with his new business partner. He had begun to be gone working all the time and when he was home, he wasn't really present with me or the our two girls. I had been wondering what was going on but never suspected what I would find out that day. Out of the blue it hit me to check our cell phone call and message log. It was hours after that moment that I was able to do it. When I did, I saw that for at least the last 3 months he had been texting her all day everyday. They would be texting until 3am, then it would start back up after I left to take the girls to school. It was constant all day except for when I knew they were together working. During family birthdays, events and activities .well of course I confronted him and he said they were just friends and bullshitting about work stuff, etc. That was the first day or two. Then finally he started to blame me and say they were discussing things in our marriage and his unhappy childhood. Long story short (this is my first post and just want to give an overview), he told me last night that he wants a little space to find himself. He wants temporarily out of our marriage to figure out who he is. But he doesn't want a divorce yet because he hopes that the time will lead him back to me. By the way, this woman started a house flipping business for him so she could have better retirement and he can live his dream. My gut tells me he wants to keep living that dream with the business and he knows I can't allow that. I'm lonely, desperate for peace and feel like I'm drowning!I can write more another time when I'm not on my phone and can really sit down at the computer to tell more background of the situation.

    1. Anon, I'm so sorry you're here, but glad you found the site. This site has helped me tremendously. One thing I have learned is GO WITH YOUR GUT FEELING. There was a time when I didn't and thought it was my imagination. And then I discovered my h texts to the OW. I always go with my gut feeling now - no matter what it is.

      Like others have said, now is the time to take care of YOU. Your h has to figure out what he wants. One thing I learned going through my process was that I couldn't make my h not feel for or miss the OW. I could place boundaries, no contact, etc., but I couldn't make him not miss her. But I gave him an ultimatum that first discovery - her or me. He couldn't have us both.

      Most important at this stage though is to take care of you. That was hard for me as I was used to putting others first. Please let us know how you're doing.

    2. Anonymous,
      They're called "cake-eaters" in the betrayal biz. Guys who want the excitement or ego strokes or fantasy or whatever of an affair but kinda sorta know that they're being idiots so they want to be sure their marriage is waiting for them when they pull their heads out of their asses.
      Your husband sounds like a cake-eater.
      You can let him eat cake...or you can make it abundantly clear that you're going to take care of yourself, financially and emotionally. Speak to a lawyer to be sure that you're financially protected (I'm not presuming that your husband will siphon off money for his "business" with this person but he wouldn't be the first person to do so) and then you can consider what you want going forward. Are you okay with this temporary "finding myself" situation? Or is a third person in your marriage one too many for you?
      There is no "right" way through this agony. But YOU get to decide what's next. You can give him (and yourself) some time to sort through it, or you can make it clear that he needs to make a choice. Or you can make the choice yourself and show him the door.
      But please please see a lawyer and get your financial situation clearly on paper so that you are protected.
      I would also urge you to get a therapist so that you have a safe supportive space to help you through this.
      You will get through this, Anon.

  6. Anon, sorry for what's going on right now but glad you came here we will support you any way we can. I would suggest looking after yourself right now, let your h make whatever decision he wants, if he wants to go open the door for him and kick his ass out, if he wants to stay and rebuild the marriage then you need to decide what you want from him. Sounds to me like he is in the affair fog and needs time to decide what he wants. However don't wait around for him you get clear on what you need to do to take care of yourself. Take this time to do what you like doing, putting your needs first for a change.
    I'm really interested in listening to more of what's happened post d day so when your ready to tell more were here to listen. Pls take care of yourself . Lots of love

  7. I LOVE this post. I hope every Mom who ever arrives or has been clinging to this site as I have will take this genius sentiment (interpret it to suit your rating on the trucker scale--I happen to be a solid 9/10) and then parent the hell out of your babies so they become self aware and have sound boundaries. Too many months elapsed for me where I would retreat to my troll hole of shame and try to reconcile "his" decisions with my solid self inventory of flaws. Then one day I saw my 19 year old daughter responding to a friends email in which she was being accused of being a lazy, self absorbed "chick" who was overly obsessed with her boyfriend. My daughter, who is working 40+ hours a week--often until 2 or 6 in the morning spends her precious little free time with her very loving, thoughtful, respectful boyfriend. She was going to apologise and attempt to rationalise to this "friend" how sorry she was when it hit me that she needed to claim her right to be tired, or to enjoy the company of someone who supports and encourages her rather than someone inclined to belittle her. I feel responsible that all four of our children are concerned about being "nice", but I am working tirelessly to stem the tide. When we scour the wreckage trying to figure out if anything constructive can arise from D-Day, I will be content to think that I got better at this part of being a Mom and if I can put something in the win column there I'll take it.

    1. OAPM,
      Yes, I often realize just how many "skills" I gained through healing from this shit-storm that I use in other areas of my life. Even things like asking for more money for the work I do. I no longer worry so much about being liked and concern myself with being treated with respect instead.

  8. Great post. I never knew how strong I was until I was betrayed. On my good days (it's still early in recovery for me) I've become able to voice my needs and wants, which I never did before. My h repeatedly admits he screwed up and never intends to ever hurt me again. I have let him know that under no circumstances can I handle another hurt like I experienced before. In my younger days I never would have said that. I would have just taken it. But now, I'm stronger and MC has helped us both to be able to express ourselves in a much better way. In the past, when there would be disagreements or conflicts, I usually gave in and the topic was never discussed again. Not now. I speak my mind if there's something on it - and we discuss it to reach a solution.

    Great words of advice, Elle. Thank you.

  9. This is so true. Growing up I came from a home with parents that were so honest and true to their words I was overly trusting of others. I assumed most other people were the same especially when they acted like they were. I knew there were other types out there but I never gave those people my time. And then once dday happened it really was all shattered. My husband and I talked recently and he always said I could tell anyone but he did thank me for not telling my parents. For me it would have been worse if they knew. I am not sure how they would have coped with it. I think it would have been even one more thing for me to cope with. And honestly I think it would have changed our entire family dynamic. So for me I just always avoided people that I thought were like what my husband ended up being, I kept myself safe or so I thought. I struggle now if my kids, friends or parents take advantage of me. I push back and stand up for myself immediately. It feels good and I am in such a better place.

    I work so hard talking to my kids about how to deal with friendships, relationships and all of that. In a way I am glad I went through this when I did. I still have lots of time to share my thoughts with my kids. I worry about them getting hurt but now at least I am in a better place to help them be strong from the start and to have more self worth so they do not get taken advantage of or let themselves down. It is powerful. I really have been enjoying Brene Brown's work. It mirrors a lot of my parenting style already. But I like some of her sayings and had applied it to much of what I already have been teaching my kids.

    1. Hopeful, which Brene Brown book would you recommend? I looked at the reviews on Amazon, yet I would like your opinion.
      Thanks Dear ❤️

    2. Melissa,

      I have not started her books yet. I have rising strong and plan to start it soon. I have listened to her on an interview with Tim Ferris on his podcast and her Ted talks. Also one other person on here mentioned she has different courses at courage works. Some are free others have a fee. I signed up for one and have not started it yet. I have really enjoyed starting on the podcasts. The Tim ferris one gives a great overview and is fairly recent. I find myself thinking about it a lot though. In that podcast they do mention all three of her books and they say they can be read together or as stand alone. I like the podcast since for me it gives a feel for the person hearing their voice and personality.

    3. Melissa,
      I'm reading Rising Strong but I actually think Daring Greatly is better. The Gifts of Imperfection, which she wrote before she was the phenomenon she is now, is also really good.

    4. Hopeful and Elle, thank you both.

  10. I recently discovered my husband in at least an emotional affair with his former boss. He's been mentally absent from his family for the last year and half. Always on his phone, always working, always traveling. I finally had the guts to look through his phone and there it was. Text messages from her begging him to shave his beard because he'd look hotter, him begging her to go out for drinks because he needed to talk, texts about getting matching tattoos, her joking about him getting served with divorce papers at work.

    For the last three years, I have sacrificed EVERYTHING in my life for him. My career, my home, my friends and my family. I thought he would love me more for making these decisions to put him first. We moved across the country with a three month old so he could start his dream career. And he's never been appreciative.

    In the past I would keep my mouth closed. I took the shit from his mother, I accepted his constant work happy hours, I let him have "alone time" on the weekends. Those days are gone.

    I'm discovering my own self-worth, one day at a time. Currently, I'm deep in the ANGER AND RAGE phase of finding out of his affair. I blew up the other woman's phone, her work email and I am considering sending a pile of shit to her home. The worst part of all this -- SHE wrote a RECOMMENDATION for my husband's promotion. They could both get fired for this.

    It feels good to get out the anger and finally take a stand for myself. It feels good to see fear in his eyes. It feels good to see that he is truly terrified of losing his family. He deserves to feel like a pile of shit.

    I'm not sure where we will end up long term. Currently in therapy...but I'm skeptical. He refuses to leave his job. He refuses to give me access to his work email. And he's laying on emotional guilt with his family again. If patterns don't change soon, I will be looking for my own place.

    1. Miranda,
      Follow your instincts, if he will not give you total access then he is hiding something. Cheaters lie. I'm 30 months out and caught my husband in a lie last week about the affair. Did you slip her extra money? He went ballistic. I thought you are protesting a bit too much. He said, No I didn't then; maybe I did. I called the bank to find out whose name was on the checks in even amounts from his business accounts. Yep it was the sex on-call OW. Then he said, Yes I remember now. It was more than $500. It was $2000 over a year! You got a dental bill of $687? No problem. My husband will pay $2000 for an STD from a psycho bitch kindergarten teacher. His cake he was eating was rotten. Your words "he is refusing" sounds like he not doing everything he can to make you feel safe. H do stay in the affair fog which my H explained this is a time when he tried to justify to himself that what he was doing was ok. Give it time but if he keeps refusing and blowing you off then your right to question his sincerity about his marriage. I just thought of two dumb things he said to post on the other tab.

    2. Miranda,
      Frankly, I would make the work/transparency thing a total deal-breaker. He either commits to the marriage fully or he's out.
      As satisfying as it likely is, I would encourage you to back off hounding the OW and stick to focussing on your husband. I hope they both know that you could report them to human resources/supervisor.
      You've got plenty of reason to be absolutely furious. And I'm glad your husband is terrified. But it's interesting to me that he's not terrified enough to agree to being transparent with his electronic devices. That doesn't sound like someone who really has your best interests at heart...but his own.

  11. Elle
    Yes I struggled with this with my mother who is a pretty miserable 78 year old that never found her true happiness until 15 years ago my stepdad died of cancer and broke her heart all over again just like my biological father did so many years ago with his multiple affairs and treating her like a piece of shit! Fast forward through the betrayal and my having to cope with her dementia and still try not to hurt her! No I committed the ultimate sin and in the heat of the moment when she was telling me I just needed to shut up I kinda of screamed maybe I'm not the one that needs to shut the f@c$ up! I had to pray about that for weeks before I could forgive myself for disrespecting my mother. I do think it's made her stop and realize that I'm doing the best I can with her care and I won't be treated as a child and our roles have reversed even if neither one of us wanted it to!

    1. Theresa,
      Any God that I believe in would be applauding you for treating yourself with the love and respect that She treats humankind with.

  12. This is such an important piece for me, Elle. My husband doesn't like people being mad at him, even if it it they say it nicely. He can't stand it. All of this comes from a very unhealthy upbringing around anger (dad blew up at everyone, mom couldn't express it) and keeping the peace (dad didn't allow him to be angry, mom's favorite phrase "sweetness and light."). His shame has meant that he has tried to shut down my anger at all costs, blaming my "reaction" as the problem. I think his affair was a direct result of not being able to deal with anger--mine or his own.
    What he wants from me is validation. He doesn't want me to reflect back his shortcomings. He doesn't want to see that part. He doesnt want to know that I am angry at him for not being a good partner. I was/am too angry and frustrated to validate and soothe him. Thats why he went to the OW in the first place. Atleast now he knows that he can't escape his shame or not face my anger (and underneath it--sadness, grief, disappointment, hurt, humiliation). He still can't deal well with anger, but atleast I know that he doesn't get to dictate how I should react to his violations. I have spent the last 2 years questioning my right to anger. With the help of my therapist, I finally can own it and not let him take it away. "How dare you" is right.

    1. MBS,
      Anger is a big issue for me too. I become paralyzed, not by my own but by others'. If I even sense that my husband is angry (a simple expletive when he stubs his toe, for instance) will make my blood run cold. But that's my problem, not my husband's. My task is learning to allow others to feel their anger and controlling my own response to that. To not take on others' anger (I immediately assume responsibility) and to remind myself that I can keep myself safe.
      So...clearly a big part of your husband's issues are around his difficulty feeling and expressing challenging emotions and giving you the freedom to express yours. Is that something he's working on in therapy?
      I'm glad you're recognizing your own right to feel and express your anger. Unfortunately, until his "personal work" catches up to yours, your anger will continue to trigger his fear/shame. But, again, that's his work, not yours.



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