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. 


  1. Elle
    Yes! You matter to so many people that you will never meet! Your words comfort those of us who continue to have self esteem issues even though we are in therapy! You help us understand that there is no quick fix and we each have to find our own way through! Please keep doing what you do! I'd love a tattoo both my kids have them but I'm such a wuss! However, you've got me thinking about it!

  2. I totally agree with this and feel that I am the same person I have always been. The betrayal has caused me to reflect and think a lot. And honestly at the core I am the same person I was as a young child. I have learned from life and matured with the years but I am still the same person. I guess I got lucky with who I am and my parents since I have always been someone that remains true to myself and is not persuaded or obligated to others. And what is interesting is this is how my husband acted. Well I have learned a lot about him and he was hiding a lot. At his core he obviously had flaws and insecurities that allowed him to do what he knew was wrong all along.

    I am proud of myself or sticking with who I am and still learning from all of this. I have learned to still be myself but most importantly I am more assertive than ever. I still struggle with allowing myself to be vulnerable and trust my husband, but it is moving along slowly. And even with all of his training I feel like I have taught my husband so much about who he is and he is changing more and more each day. My youngest the other week said I should become a therapist since I could help so many people and have such good insights. Not sure I am up for that but it was a nice compliment.

    In the end all of the advice and information on this site has been so helpful. It has allowed me to realize and feel that I am validated and justified in my feelings. This is a hard journey with all of the perceptions in society and the secrecy that is involved even in our recovery, but this is such a treasured spot for me. Thank you Elle and everyone.

    1. Good on you, Hopeful30! I recognise that situation (and only now am I realising that my h was hiding a lot of hurt from a less lucky childhood than mine). I have always been myself,although the shyness of my younger self must now give way to assertiveness. My goal is to show my daughter that truth and love are stronger than fear and fogginess- even if we might not see ultimate victory happen in our lifetime. Pins trump Trump!

  3. Elle, your words are so timely. I am so much stronger than I was in the early days, but I also find myself far more sensitive than I was before learning of my husband's affair. Pre-affair, I tried to be superwoman. I was so caught up in trying to be perfect. I don't know if I was just closed off or if I was oblivious to other people and their actions. I feel like since finding out about his affair, my eyes are wide open to what goes on around me. I'm more sensitive when people are hurtful. I'm more aware of how unkind people can be. I told my husband I feel like a turtle that's had its shell taken away. That hard armor I had is no longer there. I feel everything. But i won't allow myself to feel like a fool even when that critical voice inside keeps telling me I should have (insert all the things I "should have" done here). I'll stay true to the morals and values I've always had. And I won't allow myself to believe that being true to that is anything other than ok.

  4. I am struggling with this stuff today actually. Before this, I was one of those constantly emotionally stable people. Hardly anything rattled me. Now I'm a basket case over nothing sometimes. At first, I was a basket case all day long, but as I've stabilized, I let my guard down thinking I'm "over" that part and then... boom. It happens out of the blue. Last night I had one too many glasses of wine and totally lost it with self-esteem stuff. I feel very badly for reacting so emotionally and making a big deal over nothing. We've come so far and my statements were not fair to my H who is now doing everything right. It feels terrible to apologize for something I never would have done before, but that's really all I can do (that and take better care of myself!) I know from reading here that it's not reasonable to expect myself to handle these tough emotions flawlessly. I am hopefully only a temporary basket case, and I can go back to being my usual self eventually without these periodic episodes that seem like someone else! Those of you with more time in than me, did you find that to be true? Do these emotional outbursts continue to occur forever? (I hope not!)

    1. Ann
      I can't speak to any emotion lasting forever but for me and my emotional outbursts they have subsided very slowly and I'm not sure when I had the last one but it has been many months ago. Mine usually involved some trigger like you say out of the blue and a few too many drinks that loosened my tongue. I only had three major meltdowns but they were doozies! I finally got all my ugly words out and made my h listen to my pain. Those times were hard on both of us! However, once I began to listen to my h and watched the changes he made, it's gotten much easier to deal with my triggers sorry but yes even two plus years and I still have a few, but we're learning how to deal with them together. And yet there are times I choose to deal with the triggers all inside my head and my h just has to be patient and wait my mood out! Hugs!

    2. Yes, I agree with Theresa. They subside, but from my experience it's important that they do happen. You feel ridiculous and sometimes they are little triggers that start it, but it's part of the process. Don't feel bad and beat yourself up. You are normal. I'm right there with you!

    3. Ann, This sounds so familiar to me. I have a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity. And I think at least for me it is that vigilance where I let no emotion or feeling slide. In the past I would have been like you where nothing phased me. But now I speak up. And sometimes it is not always calm and collected. I do not wait either. In the past I would have thought about timing and bringing up or reacting to a situation, but not anymore. It sounds like you are in a good place that your husband is doing the right things. But I think at least for me I have realized it will take time. And I also feel like in some areas I will always be changed. My husband is in the mental health field and he has been understanding about this. He has learned to listen and be empathetic which many times is what I need most. These feelings cannot just be "fixed". I wish they could be but it will take time. He has talked about how what he has done is the biggest injury to a relationship and luckily he gets why I am alert and sensitive. For me I try to explain myself as calmly as I can. I find he can hear me better if I am less emotional in the moment. And to answer your question I think they do decrease both in frequency and intensity. I think having clear boundaries in place has helped. We both know where each other stands and the expectations. It has eliminated a lot of what I would call guessing how someone feels or wants you to act. I have learned to handle them better too. The one thing I have even told my husband is if I have any question or feeling I will express it. He knows I am doing it in a proactive fashion not in any way to be destructive or hurtful. He has been very supportive which has helped decrease the frequency and intensity.

    4. Ann,
      No, they don't last forever. But it takes work to process all the pain in order to get yourself back on solid ground. To be honest, I'm MORE emotionally stable now. I'm able to shrug off the small stuff. I'm far more aware that "this too shall pass". I'm far more convinced of my own strength and ability to work through whatever comes my way. I'm also so much more appreciative of the good in my life.
      The key, I think, is creating a life where you're surrounded by people who help you be your best self, who live their own lives with integrity. The marriages in which each partner has worked through a lot of their own issues becomes so much stronger because you're each bringing a healthier version of yourself to the relationship.
      And, as Hopeful30 notes, clear boundaries really helps. They help keep you grounded.
      Time. It's that four-letter word we all hate...but a lot of healing comes down to time.

    5. "Forgiveness is the choice to see people as they are now. When we're mad at people, we're angry because of something they said or did before this moment. By letting go of the past, we make room for miracles to replace our grievances."
      — Marianne Williamson

      Ann, I agree with everyone here. Although my husband is well on his way to becoming the man he always wanted to be, we suffer/work through my wildly swinging emotions that only happen when I get a trigger out of nowhere. Hopeful 30 described my experience perfectly about being vigilent. My husband and I are pretty good at heading things off at the pass if we even suspect something might be in the headlights that might cause me to melt down but those "out of the blue" quicksand moments still get me and my heart races, I want to flee and my breathing gets shallow. The quote I put at the top of this response is something I read a few days ago and I cut and pasted it into my Grateful journal. My husband desperately wants forgiveness and I'm not sure when that will happen. He is really living as the guy I thought I married. He embraces honesty and openness and we have never had this level of emotional/physical intimacy in our 38 years together. Boundaries have not been a problem. It is his past that I allow to hurt me when I am triggered. He has not done a single thing really since disclosure to hurt me. He sold a car at a great loss because of the circumstances around its purchase. (most expensive BJ ever) He stopped traveling out of state alone to visit a friend. He deleted Facebook. He took up exercise and playing an instrument. He is more engaged with the family. He is attentive, loving, kind and considerate with me. Despite all this I melt at times. I am still just so shocked and saddened by his actions even while beginning to truly understand and accept that his early life and family of origin stuff is likely at the core of his faulty thinking and acting out actions. (Um, toddlers act out and adults cheat but I digress) Boundaries are good and we talk about everything and anything that he or I need to talk about and I am never silent. I will never hold my comments again. Even little things might elicit, "I'm not sure how I feel or think about that" which quickly prompts a healthy discussion. Like Elle says, "Time", helps. There is just no way to speed it up and we focus on enjoying every day, in the moment, and being present for NOW. Not yesterday or tomorrow. Just NOW. Much love and hugs to all. Still in Maui and making wonderful new memories together.

    6. Ann - I can relate to this I am the same. And I am more prone to it after a couple of drinks too. Sometimes I just go quiet and thing to myself "play nice blowing up now wont help" other times I just let it out. It does get better with time. The thing that gets me is that I am the one with the consequences but I did not have the affair. My H says he feels bad now and he is acting better - being more involved with the kids and helping out more but really is that enough? That is what gets me going. The unfairness of it all.
      Time really does help though and being gentle on yourself. And not having that second glass :)

    7. Beach Girl, Love that quote. Great find! Me too with everything you have said. Even things non affair related will still trigger me and set me off. I realize it afterwards. He gets it. We were having company over the other day. I always hated it since it was all on me pre dday. He said he did not care and I was too picky about everything. Well now I know why. And now he agrees to take it on. He does a great job and sees how exhausting it is. I still get tense. It is hard to break 20+ years of behavior, feelings and habits. Luckily he gets it and he does not get defensive or combative about it. I feel like he has learned to absorb it if that makes sense. And it is helping. I totally agree with you I will never not speak up and time helps a ton! Enjoy Maui!

  5. Yes, It's important to do for yourself and do things to give you that gentle reminder that you survived and are strong. Not all days do we have it together, so a small reminder is needed - even a tattoo!
    I'm going to take a whole Saturday and spend with a very dear friend that helped me though d-day and beyond. A great listener and friend that I'm thankful for. We are going to make it an annual Friendsgiving day. A day to give back just time and do something fun to appreciate one another even more.

    Thanks for doing what you do Elle. Your writing has really helped me. This blog has helped me feel less alone in my mind when I know others can't possibly relate in my circle.

  6. Ann, what you are going through is normal in a crazy way. I hate to tell you that you will never go back. You don't really want to go back to normal do you? I'm three years out and until 3 months ago, I gave it to my husband both barrels verbally. I don't care. He is the husband I always wanted. We both work super hard everyday. I'm still in pain but not so much anger. I'm just now strong enough to try to wean myself off my second anti-depressant. We got a knock out punch and upper cut to our lives. I never went back to my usual self. After controlling my rages through PTSD therapy, then I worked on triggers a desensitized therapy, then came flatness and emptiness, then self esteem therapy, then self compassion, then learning how to be happy again. It is a long road and I'm still on it. You sound stuck one foot in trying to go back and one foot trying to move forward. Just keep moving forward. I kept way too much inside to myself then just like a pot with water I eventually boiled over. I'm rambling but I'm with you Ann and you will get better.

  7. Ann,
    I read this a few weeks ago and saved it because it struck a chord with me. It's a good reminder for me when I have hard moments (or days).

    "Accept that this experience taught you something you didn't want to know. Accept that sorrow and strife are part of even a joyful life. Accept that it's going to take a long time for you to get that monster out of your chest. Accept that someday what pains you now will surely pain you less."
    ― Cheryl Strayed


    1. I love this quote. Very well said. I will save that too!

  8. Thank you so much, Lynn, Elle, Hopeful, Heartfelt and Theresa! I was doing and feeling so well until I suddenly wasn't. I have done a fairly good job accepting that I am not in control of others or the world, but this felt like I wasn't in control of myself and my own emotions. I didn't like that feeling at all. There wasn't really a trigger, just a few doubts about my worth and some stress from several sources. Add too much wine to that, and it equaled an emotional disaster. Really there wasn't anything related to the affairs in my mind at all (at least not directly). Since I've put so much effort into myself and my marriage lately (forsaking lots of other stuff) it has felt really awful to have "failed" in those areas by blowing up/losing control. I think a goal might be to put some effort elsewhere too. I have worth beyond my marriage and even beyond my own self control that I may be forgetting about. It is so helpful to know and hear from you that I am not crazy. I certainly felt that way! My H left for a business trip the next morning after this, so I will have to wait a week to see how he feels about it all really. Not a fun wait, but will be using that time to take care of myself. Thank you all for the tips and insights!

    1. Ann, I have found I feel like it is a roller coaster ride. Things seem to be going great then I end up going off in another direction. And same here usually nothing to do with the affairs exactly. I would say more of my issues are to ensuring our marriage/relationship is in a good spot. But lots of reminders for me come up non affair related yet I think his behaviors over the years were due to his affairs since he was detached etc.

      I do think stress makes it more likely for me to not feel great about us. My husband has felt the same way. And I too agree we have spend a lot of time focused on us and when we don't it can almost feel confusing. One thing we have tried to do is say no to things more and really pick and choose what will make us happy. We do less independently and make couples opportunities a priority. We have a lot of similar interests so that helps. But have made an effort to do things for us. We both workout a lot but at different gyms. We both put a lot of effort into cooking. And work is a big priority for both of us. I had not worked much at all for years due to raising our kids and for me working again has been a balancing act but really helpful for me to be more confident, feel less dependent on him, contribute financially, take pride in my work and get a lot of praise for my work.

    2. Definitely! In the week that he is gone, do something special for yourself. It is very important to work on the insides and they will radiate to the outside. You will feel more confident, less likely to question your worth. Emotions are a way that your body is telling you that you are at a tipping point. I've been there too where you put it all into your marriage and making it work and you forget about you and your health/mindset are half the equation.

  9. Well. I had a long post and then I lost it LOL.

    I haven't been on in a while b/c life has been crazy busy. My oldest moved to FL and is getting her life together, however, my husband has had a fifth relapse into porn on an unprotected phone.

    We've been separated in the home for over two years now. I've let him go pretty much and his recover is his own. He was supposed to go to Celebrate Recovery and get a sponsor for life, but he's only gone a few times.

    Oh well. I'm busy making a life for me, my 16 year old son and my 14 year old daughter.

    Thanks for a place to vent my frustrations Elle.


  10. I need a way to speed up the recovery. Don't tell me it takes years. I was an abused child. Recovered. Married for 4 yiears and 2 weeks after the birth of our first child I find emails from a coworker he was about to start a physical affair with. Dday #1. Fast forward a second child and decade and while on a family trip to the place we met he starts multiple online affairs, talks negative about me, offers these strangers anything they want and treats me like shit on our trip. After Dday #2 we go to MC. Supposedly he tells me everything. Then 3 weeks ago the H of his AP spills the beans that between our kids he had an 18 month emotional affair and sex 2 times. Dday #3. All the while I was working my butt off 2 jobs raising our daughter and thought everything was fine, not perfect, but good. We are back in MC. He is doing everything right. Good attitude, helpful, IC, planning dates. But for him it was 12 years ago. He is already moved past it. For me it is fresh. And chronic. I can't sleep. I am in so much pain. I have been given more pain than one person can handle. I have an IC - has not helped fast e. So greatful to have a place where so many women share their stories. It is not fair that H made the mess and I get a 3rd round of "years of recovery". Please help me stop thinking about the pain of what he did. I am desperate to feel loved. I hurt so much. I don't think I have ever been truly loved at any point in my life except from my kids (and one is a teenager now so enough said). I want to be loved by someone other than myself. And a peaceful night sleep.

    1. Browneyedgirl, So sorry you are having to deal with all of this all over again. I agree the time is just so hard to endure. It is not fair and is exhausting! I would suggest seeking out another therapist. This website and my therapist have helped me so much. It helps that my husband is in the mental health field. It is messed up in some ways but it has I think accelerated the process for us. I worked really hard to find a therapist that was a good fit and I got lucky. I found someone who was licensed, pro marriage if it is a good situation, infidelity/marriage expert with over 30 years experience. I do travel to see my therapist 1 1/2 hours away each way. But it is totally worth it. I did not want to see anyone locally due to my husband's career, but this has worked out really well. I have had the best sounding board. Between my therapist and Elle's suggestions the boundaries I have put in place have helped me accelerate my recovery and for our marriage/relationship to move forward in a positive way. Hang in there and just take one day at a time.

    2. Browneyedgirl,
      I'm so sorry for what you are going through. It is so painful to have more than one d-day (I had three over a four month span) but I imagine having large gaps in between adds to the feeling of being hurt all over again. I think one of the really awful realities of being in this club is the amount of time the healing can take. Our stories are different but I relate to a number of things you said. I had resentment for the way I kept things at home running while my H was in his porn/affair fantasy world. I have struggled with the unfairness of the whole situation. Why couldn't my H come completely clean on d-day 1 and end the lying and deceit then? We are rapidly approaching the 2 year anniversary of d-day 1 and my pain isn't so strong. The reminders aren't so frequent. And I am more able to accept the realities of our story. My husband developed and addiction to porn and that opened the doorway for the affair. I have a lot of thoughts about the porn addiction and the more I read, the more lightbulbs go off. This is no way minimizes what he did nor is it an excuse. But I can see how unhealthy he was and am more aware that it had nothing to do with me.
      I understand that desire to be truly loved. I find myself realizing that I've always associated love with conditions, with the exception of my kids (they're still young). I'm still working to figure out why... partially my childhood (loving parents with high expectations), partially previous relationships... This probably requires some more therapy on my part.
      But the thing is, we've always been worthy of that kind of love. We married men who had issues (whether we knew it or not) and chose to cheat rather than address them. The issues weren't with us, they were within themselves. I hope that even in your pain, you're able to see that. It's taken me a long time to get here. I'm still a work in progress.
      A lot of ladies on this site recommended meditation and I find that it has helped me, too. Therapy helped. We did joint and individual. My therapist also did some EMDR. I just listened to an interview on another site about infidelity and PTSD, which I found interesting. It talks about the benefit of EMDR, which I think I'm wondering if I should revisit to address some remaining things where I am stuck. The therapist who was interviewed also talke about bilateral meditation. I downloaded one of her guided meditations and have only listened to it once so far.
      Below is a link to the article. (I hope.)
      Please take good care of yourself. You're likely reeling from this latest information. I hope some of the other ladies are able to give you their insight too. Hugs!

  11. I'm so sorry BEG for your pain and I'm sending ya a cyber hug. I don't know how you've made it through that all these years.

    I first caught my hubby doing porn in 06 ten years ago and that's his mistress, porn.

    I have to take Klonipin/Hydroxizine to sleep and b/c of panic attacks so I have to see a psychiatrist. I can't find a really good therapist who understand sex addiction. I've also had fibromyalgia/arthritis in my jaws since I dislocated it in my teens. Of course, this stress doesn't help the night grinding which causes more pain and headaches. His addiction has bled into my oldest who has an eating disorder and is now living homeless in FL b/c I had to kick her out b/c he was using drugs and drinking and violent.

    She's now getting her life together and apologized for what she did.

    We've been separated for 2 years in the home and he still doesn't get it. He wants to go back to Celebrate Recovery and so do I, but I've told him I don't give a f*** if our marriage works out.

    He's ruined so many holidays and even my birthday, that's when we separated.

    Again, I so sorry for the pain he's caused. I've read it does take years for the wife to recover. They've broken a sacred vow and our trust and it'll never be the same for me.

    I told him the other day I overcame a shitty childhood and warned him not to hurt me. And regained my self confidence and was a joyful fun person who had a lot of energy and now all I want to do is hide in bed and watch NF.

    Perhaps seeing a doctor for the insomnia would help? I've read and re-read Marsha Means, "Your Sexually Addicted Spouse", and that helped me a lot.

    Take care.

    1. Thank you ladies so much. I am glad to be able to talk to you! I know you know how much that helps not feeling alone.

  12. Dandelion that was a great link!! Brown eyed girl I wish, we all with would could give you a magic pill and take it ourselves. The living hell calms down. It does. It changes into something you can manage. It changes with time. Thank god for time, it does not heal all wounds but it does work some magic. Know you are never alone, even when things truly suck. And we all know they do. Hugs to you.

  13. Hello Elle! I have really enjoyed reading the post and comments on this site. Feels good to know I'm not the only one who feels these emotions! I am 7 years post dday and I am still struggling! I found out after his 2nd attempt to hook up with his 3rd affair partner. I have unfortunately been changed by this ordeal with my h and I can not fathom what is wrong with me! I always felt so confident, loved, with decent self esteem. I thought I had finally found someone who would NOT cheat on me which is part of why I married him. (All my previous bfs had) And come to find out he did it within our 1st year of marriage, about 3 years into our marriage and when I was pregnant with our 1st child, about 4 years into the marriage. We have now been married 11 years. Honestly I stayed for my daughter. I didn't want her to grow up in a broken home, so I sucked it up and stayed for her. I won't lie. It's so dumb. But I hate what this has done to my heart, my head, my self esteem, my view on marriage, and love. I have no kind words for new lovers. I simply say, I know I've been married awhile but I know NOTHING! I don't think he is cheating anymore, and on dday he shelled out all those boo hoos and I'm sorrys, but like I told him, why would you be sorry for something you wanted to do? I hate I'm sorry. So now he has went to work on the road, and I've been so lonely. I went to a club and had a drunken make out session with a guy I've ran into there a few times. It felt so good. At first I freaked out, like how could I do that I'm the last person to cheat or play around. But I officially don't care anymore. He tarnished my marriage and was able to have his fun, still keep me and my daughter, and what do I get? Nothing!!! It's not like I'm not human and don't feel attraction to other men! Now I wouldnt even care if he cheated,because he has already ruined us. I wish I could see it the way some of you do, I really do. I just feel like nothing I say or do, or think, or forgive will change that fact that IT HAPPENED!!! SEVERAL TIMES! My heart is so cold, he hates when I talk cold. But I can't help it. I just needed to say that to someone. I have never told anyone I know. I'm sorry if I sound harsh. I realize I have sunken to his level. But I feeel like so many people around me are on that level, who would even notice or care. I really am a good person, the people in my life would be shocked to hear me talking this way or to even know about his a. NO ONE KNOWS. I think that's what upsets me a lot too. Everyone thinks he is perfect. I'm tired of being the good girl, we finish last, and have no fun. I just don't know what to do .....



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