Thursday, September 29, 2016

Therapy isn't always from a therapist

My friend Jamie found rebirth in the water. As her marriage fell apart in the wake of her husband's affair, she swam. And in the pool, with rhythmic strokes, she found herself again, along with the strength to walk away.
Scabs, who hosts the Love Rice podcasts, found it playing with her dogs. Tossing a ball, watching them leap and run, tails wagging, tongues hanging, she tapped into a dormant joy that gave her the strength to keep fighting for herself.
Others of you have written of running, of yoga, of shooting hoops, of writing and knitting. Of healing by rediscovering something that we love, that nourishes us, that reminds us that we are not what he did.
Longtime BWC sisters know that I'm a huge fan of therapy. I can't imagine how I would have walked out of the darkness without my therapist helping me navigate my way. But therapy isn't always what happens inside of office walls. And sometimes, walking away from a therapist who isn't helping us, who seems to have his or her own agenda, is the wisest choice we can make.
We know what's best for ourselves. Even when we think we don't. It's there, sometimes so deeply buried that we'll have to dig.
But it's there. And sometimes we can access it in the swimming pool. Or on the running path. Or with the click, click, click of knitting needles as background music.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday Word Hug

This was sent to me by my 18-year-old who recognized its truth. 
You are worthy. You are lovable. You are enough.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Becoming Beautiful Through Suffering

And when she at last came out, her eyes were dry. Her parents stared up from their silent breakfast at her. They both started to rise but she put a hand out, stopped them. ‘I can care for myself, please,’ and she set about getting some food. They watched her closely. 
In point of fact, she had never looked as well. She had entered her room as just an impossibly lovely girl. The woman who emerged was a trifle thinner, a great deal wiser, and an ocean sadder. This one understood the nature of pain, and beneath the glory of her features, there was character, and a sure knowledge of suffering.

~William Goldman, The Princess Bride

I've been listening to the Love Rice podcasts. Scabs, who hosts Love Rice, is a longtime BWC sister-warrior. The episode was about turning grief to beauty and at the end, Scabs recites the above passage from The Princess Bride.
I felt that ripple of recognition. Of knowing these words to be true. 
Because suffering changes us. And paradoxically it changes us into a deeper beauty. At those times when we feel most alone, there are millions suffering too. And when we reach out to those who are suffering, to say "me too", to say "I feel it too", to say "you are not alone", then we create a beauty that transcends. 
I remember looking in the mirror when I was in my deepest pain and my eyes held an ocean of sadness. There was no armour. There was only me. 
I hated my husband for turning me into this person with such raw pain in my eyes. Where was the light? Where was the laughter? The joy?
I want you to look in the mirror too. To look straight into your eyes. It might feel really difficult but do it anyway  You will see your sadness. You will see your stripped-of-armour vulnerability. Don't turn away. Keep looking into those eyes and you will see something else. You will see beauty. You will see the heart of someone who has felt suffering and is in the process of turning it into something else. A thing of strength. A thing of power and compassion. A thing of beauty.
Be patient with yourself and others. Be compassionate with yourself and others. Let the alchemy within your heart do its transformational work.
The laughter has returned to my eyes. The joy. But there is something else too. There is someone who has known suffering. There is a heart that recognizes your suffering, that feels it too. A heart that understands that our suffering is connected. 
And it has made me beautiful.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Having each other's backs

I was pulled aside at my son's preschool one day because of something he had said. His teacher wanted to talk with me about his language. I gulped.
Apparently he had called some boys in the schoolyard a "bunch of idiots". I asked for context. She told me that these boys refused to allow a friend of my son's to play soccer with them. While my son was included, this friend was not. And so my son threw an arm around his friend and told him that they didn't care about these other boys because they were just "a bunch of idiots."
I assured the teacher I would have a chat with him about his language but that I would also tell him how proud I was of him for standing by his friend, for being loyal and for having the courage to stand up to a "bunch of idiots".
Now 15 years old, he's still that kid.
I was that kid.
Which is why, I think, my husband's betrayal was such a shock. I thought he was that kid. I thought that, no matter what, he had my back. After all, I had his.
That, I figure, is what marriage is. After the crazy can't-live-without-you phase is over, after the why-can't-you-put-the-toilet-seat-down arguments are settled, after kids and mortgages and sick parents, marriage is about always having each other's backs. It's our safe place.
Or should have been. But wasn't.
Those of us choosing to try and rebuild our marriages are really trying to create that safe space. And it's hard when one of the partners doesn't feel safe. It's hard when one of the partners doesn't seem to have our back at all. When he's working so hard to protect his own back that he forgets he's the one who put the knife in ours.
But I'm wondering if the husbands who also want to rebuild their marriages might understand that we need them to have our backs, no matter what. Might they understand that better than rules of "no contact" or rules of disclosure? Can they commit to trying to always protect us from pain? Can they understand that we were hurt because they let their guard down. Because they didn't have our backs.
It might seem like semantics. Or it might seem like minimizing the devastation of betrayal.
But then again, it might work.
If they can wrap their minds around this idea that marriage is about watching each other's backs. Like guard dogs watching for threats and being conscious of any time they are the dangerous person in our lives. Then maybe they can feel less daunted by what's needed of them. Maybe they can step up and be the man they want to be. The one they should have been.
Back then.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

We're not who we were

Looked like a pig. But see all the change inside?
I don't remember much about reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. But it wasn't the first time that something I was supposed to consider life-changing elicited little more than a shrug from me.
And then Coelho released his novel Adultery a couple of years ago and I decided that I really didn't like him very much.
But this past weekend, I listened to a radio interview in which he spoke beautifully and sensitively about life and love and finding meaning in this world.
And then he mentioned something that we all know but most forget. When asked how he's managed to stay married to the same woman for 34 years, he said this: She's not the same woman.
His remark hit me in a way that The Alchemist did not.
Of course she's not the same woman. Neither am I the same woman I was 34 years ago. Or one year ago. We change all the time.
I hear it on this site: "What happened to the man I married?" "How could I not have seen this coming?" "I feel like I'm married to a stranger."
It feels terrifying. We collectively buy into this illusion that some things never change. How many love songs promise us unchanging commitment? How many greeting cards assure us that love doesn't change.
But it does. And so do we.
And while that can make the ground on which we've built our lives feel unstable, the beautiful truth of it is that change can make that ground fertile for growth. It can promise us that even as we change, we can grow in ways that allow us to love more deeply and honestly, especially ourselves.
I realized recently that I'd stopped really looking at my husband. Day in, day out, he's the same guy, right? Except he's not. So while I could have summed in a few sentences – he laughs embarrassingly loud at comedies, he's incredibly disorganized and forgetful, he stresses too much about money – the truth is that he's far more complicated than that. There's much about him I don't know. There's much about myself I don't know.
I've made it a priority to remain curious about him. To ask what he thinks about things even when I think I already know his opinion. To, and this might sound ridiculous, pay attention. How often do we stop paying attention because, well, bills and kids and sleep and laundry.
My husband is a complicated guy. We all are. And that can feel frightening. But it can also ensure that life is fascinating. Because we are fascinating.
Of course, it's excruciating when our partner betrays our trust. And it's normal and healthy to expect a level of commitment to a relationship. Change doesn't mean we each get to toss out our vows on a whim.
But knowing that each of us is constantly changing, letting go of old information, gaining new information, adjusting our view of the world, can remind us that connection is crucial. Paying attention is crucial. Each day, week, year we're continuing to get to know our partners. And ourselves.
And it means that the oft-repeated adage, "once a cheater, always a cheater" just isn't true. Some will cheat again, absolutely. But those who use this breaking open to better understand themselves are far less likely to cheat. We are not who we were. And neither is he.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fall forward

Wow. What a summer. Details to come and not all of them are pretty.

As I noted in an addendum to an earlier post, I wished I'd been more available on the site. There were so many newcomers and I wanted to be able to welcome each one of you with open arms and the promise that you'd found a safe place to heal. Instead, I was lucky if I could snatch a half-hour here and there to moderate the comments (to save you all from promises of spell casters and hackers) and ensure that comments and stories were visible to the rest of you. I felt like Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory.
Thank-you again to every single one of you who stepped up to open your arms and hearts to the newcomers and old-timers and all of us travellers of this path to healing.

I've been giving some thought to this site. September always feels like the new year for me so it seems a good time for new beginnings. Nothing major but I do plan to post more but comment less. It was clear to me that the rest of you are amazing at sharing your wisdom and your support. I'll focus on what I think I do best: sparking conversation about the many ways in which we heal from betrayal.

As always, I appreciate your support of this site. To those of you who donate, please know how privileged I feel to have your trust in what I'm doing here. It's a trust I work hard to earn. To those who, day after day, contribute to making this a safe place women can bring their broken hearts, I thank you too. As Brené Brown reminds us, "me too" are two of the most powerful words in the language.

Our "club" attracts roughly 2,000 visits a day. That's a lot of broken hearts. Let us continue to offer up the healing we each sought for our own hearts and the "me too" compassion that heals us all.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy labour day (and some words to get you through)

My kids go back to school tomorrow – I'm trying not to cheer too loud in case they can hear – and I promise I will be more present on this site. Thank you to so many of you incredible betrayed warriors who've stepped up and offered comfort and compassion and wisdom to each other, even as you still struggle through your own pain. Every single day I am grateful for this community of women (and the occasional man) who show me what real strength looks like: Just showing up for each other.


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