Sunday, April 16, 2017

The cost of staying silent

"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard."
~Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions

I had the pleasure, on Saturday morning, of speaking with Christina Ferguson, a betrayed wife and creator of an event to help betrayed wives heal. And one of the things we both lamented was the silencing of our stories. 

It's a big part of why she created this upcoming event and, of course, a big part of why I created this site. I absolutely am convinced that by telling our stories, we begin to heal. By claiming our experience as real, as important, as ours to tell, it begins a powershift, in which our story no longer controls us but rather, the other way around. 
The world does not make it easy. There are plenty of barriers in the way. Whether it's our own desire to protect our partner from others' judgement, our own fear of judgement, a determination to protect our children or simply a lifetime of believing that we shouldn't air our dirty laundry, staying silent often becomes our default response.
 But what Rebecca Solnit reminds us with her quote is that there's a price we pay for our silence. Indeed, silence IS the price. Silence is repression, it is an eraser of our experience (though it magnifies our pain), it is the cry that goes unheard and therefore, unresponded to. Making our cry audible says that we exist, that we matter. It insists on a response.
And that, too, can be troublesome. By making our cry audible and calling out for a response, we risk blame, judgment, rejection.
And yet, can anything the world says to us be worse than what we're saying to ourselves? As my brilliant therapist used to remind me, it isn't what others are saying that's the problem, it's that I'm agreeing with them, it's what I'm saying.
What's more, despite our fears, if we choose whom to trust with our stories, we're far more likely to be greeted with compassion, warmth, and a genuine appreciation for being trusted with our pain. As I am lucky enough to see every single day on this site, sharing our stories creates community. It lets us lay down our pain, even just for a few minutes while others pick it up and carry it for us. "Me too," they say. Or "I've  been thinking about you and hoping you're okay." 
And in that moment, with our story trusted to those who know better than anyone just how badly we're hurting, we exhale. The vise around our hearts loosens just a bit. And, for a moment, we sense the power of our stories to help us heal, and to help others heal too.

If you want to share your story, there's no "right" way to do it. Post it in the comments, or find one of the threads that suits and post there. I read every single story and hold it in my heart, even if I don't have time to respond to every one. And the others will pull you close. You are welcome here. You have found a safe space. You are among friends.


  1. I just remebered Today is two years since betrayal #2, and it immediately pulled me back to a place of feeling so rejected, so unworthy, so alone. Life is so different than it was two years ago, and yet the fear that I will be rejected again is just as strong. I hate that I have this wound that can be ripped open with no notice. I wish so much that it did mot exist, while knowing that wish is a waste of my time and energy. I do not wish to spend today, or any day, luving in pain and regret...but to pretend it is not there, pulling at me just compounds the pain. Thank you for the reminder that speaking my truth, even this uncomfortable painful truth, will help to alleviate some of that pain....

    A Hopeful Mending Heart

    1. AHMH, Two years feels like forever. But it wasn't until closer to three that I even began to feel as though I was leaving this behind and not until about 5 years that I felt well and truly through it. As long as you can focus on the progress you're making, that's good. As long as you remind yourself that you're not where you were, that's good. And as long as you're doing what you need to respect yourself and value yourself, the fear of rejection will lose some of its sting. You'll begin to realize that another's rejection of you isn't about your worth. Just because someone else doesn't recognize a diamond doesn't make it not a diamond.

  2. All so true. I think staying silent in many ways is easy to do. Even through the recovery phase. I grow resentful when I have to be the one to speak up. But in the end I am responsible for my happiness. If I need to speak up then I should. As far as telling our stories I am so grateful for this site since this is the only place I share besides with my husband and therapist.

    I have gone back and forth over the 2+ years about sharing with someone else. One positive to not being more public is that my husband has had to step up and be what I needed. Of course this has varied depending on the day and the point in recovery. I will say it has made us closer than ever. I do think this is good. I think for my husband it would have been easy for him to allow me to find comfort in a friend. Instead he had to walk side by side with me. That has made him face the true reality of what he has done.

  3. It's amazing how you put things into perspective. I have been writing our story in my computer. At first it was for therapy. I would erase it and continue to start over. I had this pull in my stomach that our story needs to be told. So I started writing and this time I couldn't stop. The OW played the ultimate victim and made me out to be the bad person in this whole mess. When I confronted her, she went and hid behind her friends. The OW's best friend tried to silence me by trying to embarrass me on social media. I didn't back down. When I started putting the missing pieces together they are the ones that got silenced. They all have this image of themselves and don't want it shattered. The OW's best friend risks losing her daughter over her affair and this would give her ex husband leverage against her. I don't want to get involved in her mess because that part is none of my business. What I care about is telling our story the way I see it, and the pain that I have felt and how I have healed as well as my h's healing. I don't want anyone else to ever go through what we did because someone had a delusional fantasy about my h and went and took extreme measures to carry out a plan that could have taken my h's life. I think when we tell our story we become stronger. And this is a strength that I never thought I had but, I am sure glad I found it.

    1. "I think when we tell our story we become stronger." Yes, exactly. By claiming our stories, we claim our power.

  4. Hi Elle,
    That link doesn't work, but this one does.

    I love this:
    "It isn't what others are saying that's the problem, it's that I'm agreeing with them, it's what I'm saying"
    Bar none, the must hurtful part of this experience has been that I felt gaslighted and ignored by so many people. Then I realized, I have been spending alot of time needing other people to tell MY truth. It was never going to happen. My therapist did alot to call attention to my shutting my own inner voice down and letting other people's perspectives determine my own. I was so afraid to be wrong or to be judged. The best thing I have learned is to use my own voice, speak my truth to ME, listen deeply and trust MYSELF first. Sometimes I am wrong or mistaken but it is better than looking for truth from others rather than myself. Writing things, sharing things here, talking to myself, talking honestly to people who ask---those are all things that have helped.

    1. MBS--I tried that link. Got a message the page is no longer available

    2. Whoops. Fixed the link in the story. Thanks for letting me know.

      And yes, that was a big problem for me too. One was one of those "wow" moments when my therapist pointed out to me that I take others' opinions as truth and don't trust my own eyes/heart. Incredible when you turn that around and trust your own experience while being a bit more skeptical of others' opinions. I'm a work in progress...

  5. Actually I found the site. Thanks for posting this.

    1. I hope you'll participate. Christina has some smart people lined up and she and I had a great chat about so many things that are relevant to this experience.

  6. This piece speaks to me and my situation and compels me to write as I feel that I probably am not the only one who feels this way..."Whether it's our own desire to protect our partner from others' judgement...a determination to protect our children".

    I lie for my husband, I lie to my kids, I lie to our friends and family. My husband has made me a liar. I try to hide what he is doing so it doesn't hurt him. I know want he does!! I beg him to stop. I plead, I cry, I threaten..he says he loves me and he doesn't do anything its all in my head. I cover for him and I say to myself put trust in your husband and in your marriage. Do it for you as a couple and for the children. So I wipe the tears away. Go to events alone, take the boys to their sports practices, take the boys out to eat and be the best I can be. I tell the boys daddy would be here because he loves us but is working or is helping a friend. I tell our friends my husband can't make it because he is on call for work so I came alone. I tell the outside world we are a loving family with a very hard working dad and husband who can't get away so the hard working mom has to take over.

    But on the inside my heart is breaking and I am a liar or am I??

    1. Anonymous,
      I think there's a difference between being selective in who we share our stories with and lying to protect a grown man from the consequences of his choices.
      Please, if you don't already have a therapist, find one who can help you through this. You don't need to do his dirty work. Don't lie to your kids who likely know that something's not right, even if you're telling them everything's fine. I grew up in an alcoholic home and was constantly being told it was "fine". Which only made me mistrust myself because things did not seem "fine" at all.
      I hope you'll reach out for support as you deal with your broken heart. You deserve to be able to be honest with yourself and with those who love you.

    2. Anonymous, First off, I'm so very sorry for what you are going through. We totally understand your breaking heart and know that we are by your side. It hurts to know we've been lied to when everything is unveiled. Gaining the trust back after the constant lies weighs heavy on us all.

      I'm certain that every one of us feels like a liar because of the betrayal and how we chose to deal with it. You lie after d day to protect yourself, kids, family, husband, etc. You may or may not confide in a therapist or close friend, but unless you inform the entire world, it's a lie. You may confide in another to hold a secret close and to help you deal with things and it feels like a dirty secret and lie. You sometimes tell part of the story, but deep down inside you can't tell the entire story. I have told the partial story, because I cannot bear to tell the whole story to anyone.

      I totally agree with the lie after d day. If the d day is just discovery day #1 of infinity... then the lying has to stop. The discovery happened and if the betrayal has not stopped or the behavior is not corrected, then the lying most certainly cannot continue. The constant betrayal will kill you.

      My kids are teens. I had a hunch of the affair in December of 2014 and questioned him, in Feb of 2015 I had a bigger hunch and questioned MORE and then eventually an email in April of 2015 that I stumbled on revealed it was d day. Due to his betrayal and shame, he became angered at all of us (myself and 2 kids). It was evident something was going on for months and all of us felt it. I just had to become a very good investigator to get to the bottom of things and get past the constant gaslighting. If you don't know about the gaslighting look it up. It wasn't until I read it on here that my craziness finally made sense and I wasn't at ALL crazy.

      My H and I spoke in length, we argued in private while my kids slept and we worked through it and still are. It took d day 1 (discovery of the affair), d day 2 (discovery they connected on another social media acct - 6 months later) and d day 3 (discovery 18 months out, that he's finding comfort in talking to many women online). The affair stopped, but the behavior and need to get validation from any and all women via messages did not.

      Behind the scenes unbeknownst to me, my 15 year old daughter figured it out all on her own hunches, started cutting and had a ton of stuggles. I had NO idea! We hid it well my H and I, and I mean WELL. I covered up all the pain and my struggles to protect my two innocent kids, but I didn't have control of all the clues or was not aware of what she saw off my watch. Kids know like Elle mentioned. No matter how old, they sense that there is conflict by body language alone. They get confused, hold it in and learn to deal with the struggle on their own because they have no idea how to explain how they somehow feel threatened. The family unit is not what it was. Eventually I had to take her to therapy to get through things. As a mom you want the best for your children and want to remove pain. How can you remove pain that you aren't causing though.

      As Elle also mentioned, get a therapist or some sort of support as soon as possible. The lie you live today does not have to be the lie or story you tell tomorrow. You are worthy and you owe yourself honesty and truthfulness for your own peace. Hugs! Take care of yourself and your boys...YOU are priority.

    3. Anonymoys April 19, I totally get your feeling like you are 'lying' for your H. My kids, H's father, siblings, our church community, friends (all but my BF & his BF) all think H is only the good man the see. They have no clue about his addictions or cheating. But if I tell them and stay they will more likely negatively judge me than H. Sad & wrong, but cultural reality.

  7. "I've been thinking about you and hoping you're okay." To quote Elle :) I've been thinking of you Brown Eyed Girl. <3

    1. Thank you Heartfelt! We were on family vacation for a week so I didn't have any privacy to go on the blog. If there had never been an A I would say it was a nice vacation. But because there was an A I feel like H has to do everything perfect, romantic, etc. or I am disappointed. IDK. Glad to be back to chat with our virtual support group!

  8. The truth was always a very big deal for me, I had an almost naive idea that we should always be up front. I even confided in my mother when I'd first had intercourse with a boyfriend!

    But there have been a number of terrible secrets I have also had to keep. As you say, Elle, with regard to the affair, there is a difference between being selective with the truth and hiding things and I do regret some people knowing about the affair. However all the time I've been struggling to get through this, I find it difficult not to be able to declare to the world how devastating affairs are, what it does to the people involved and why I am struggling. When I was ten years old and my sister was 8 our 16/17 year old cousin 'interfered' with us sexually. My mother in particular went through a really tough time over the years and I could never bring myself to come out in the open about what had happened and bring hurt upon her. I have told my husband and a previous boyfriend but no-one else. Several years ago when my first two children were babies the police turned up to our house in a dawn porn raid because my husband's credit card details had come up on some site. They told me to ask my husband why they were there. They did not find enough evidence to charge him with anything but I now know that he kept on going (and paying for) porn sites for a couple of years after that (2004). I only found out recently when going through old bills. I have never told anyone about that police visit. Then the affair, my family know, some of whom I regret but I will never tell his dear parents as they are suffering with ill health. My son with Aspergers has had aggressive meltdowns, some of which resulted in injury to my husband and myself. We did call the police at one time but my family and friends know next to nothing about what we've experienced. Some of my family around the time of the affair criticized me for having been withdrawn and uninterested (not making many phone calls) over the years. They have no idea what we had to cope with in the house. The other children frightened and terrorized as a violent outburst got out of hand. I have had to experience it and swallow it so that I didn't dob my son in (his condition caused so much of the problem. Now my son has been involved supplying drugs to his friends and we are trying to deal with it but don't want him to get a record, and I don't want to reveal this to family and friends. So we are going through sh*t again but I can't tell family. There is one friend I might be able to confide in but I can't yet. Also I must go for counselling or something when we get some money (husband's job is gone at the moment)or ask the doctor for antidepressents. This situation is intolerable and these secrets too much to bear.

    1. FOH you need support. You are shouldering so much. And you've always shouldered so much. No child should have to protect their mother from the truth that she's been molested. You were the child, not the adult. You deserved protection. And even now that you are the adult, you need support as you deal with everything that's going on in your life. Can you get involved with a support group of parents of kids with Aspergers? And I understand that you don't want your son to get a criminal record but I also think you can't protect him from the consequences of his choices. You're taking on so much responsibility for everyone else. Who's taking care of you? It needs to be you, Fragments. It needs to be you who takes care of you, first and foremost. Find a place where you can share what you're going through without judgement. See if there are support groups, even an Al-Anon type group. I'm worried about you.

  9. Please do not continue to lie. It will come back to cause anger and resentment at some point.

    You don't say if you go to these events alone b/c your H is out with OW or cheating or what. If that is the case then I feel bad for you if you know that.

    Please know your H is gaslighting you. Shame on him. That is just mean.

    I think a counselor coukd help you get through this. Whether you choose to stay or not, do it for you, not your kids. It is wrong to let them live a lie. You don't have to tell them the truth (dad is a cheater) BUT you can be more honest in saying he is out, not at work. You don't have to tell the world but you don't have to cover for him either.

    When I finally had enough if my H's cheating ways I told my teen age sons we were having problems and trying to work it out. I didn't say what the issue was and my one son did ask if it involved cheating. I said I would not involve them in our issues or details. But if I divorced him I would make sure they knew it was b/c he Cheated. No other details matter. Just the facts.

    I am not taking the rap for his poor choices.

    I hope you can find some support. You need it for your sake and for strength.

    1. BeenThere,
      I agree that the kids need to be told something. I suspect they know something is up anyway. Like you, I told my kids (ages 3, 5 and 8) that we were having problems but that we were working hard to figure them out. I think it's important to confirm what the kids already know -- you can even ask them to tell you what they're experiencing -- but keep things age-appropriate.

  10. Hi Anon,
    I don't know if my previous post got lost in the ether but I will recap what I said. I really hope you take Elle's advice. My heart breaks for you. But I hope you realize soon that your children are more harmed by lies than by knowing that a parent is broken. And the lying and covering up is destroying you. That is also the last thing they need--a broken mother. So you will do justice to them and yourself by looking after your own healing first. Don't imprison yourself in his web.
    It sounds like you expect your husband, the relationship, the marriage, or your love for your children to make things right. But only you can make it right for yourself. Have faith in yourself, your truth, your own goodness first. Your children will be better for it and your life will be better for it. Have faith in that.... please.

  11. BeenThere, when you say "I'm not taking the rap for his bad choices", it strikes such a chord. We spent Easter with a couple who are good friends, and she and I were talking. She knows we're in counseling but not why. Then she shared something deeply personal, which to me meant that she trusts me with that. And she can, I would not reject or abandon her. But I haven't trusted her with my secret. And I felt bad, because it's not because I don't trust her, it's because I don't know how they will feel about my husband if they find out.

    So she is only getting half my story, and I feel bad. Her husband's family was rocked by scandal over Christmas when they found out that his sister had been cheating on her husband for 2.5 years. They're pretty stunned by the whole thing, and surprised that the husband wants to work it out. I can only imagine that it would be hard for them to see my husband the same way once they knew. So I withhold. And it really is only to protect him from his bad choices. The guy is one of his closer friends where we live now.

    Never an easy decision. Only four people, aside from the counselor and us know. One of those people I told b/c I knew her husband had had an affair. And she said be careful who you tell, because you might encounter unexpected reactions among friends and family. Such as friends rejecting you b/c you don't leave.

    No easy answers.

    I know our daughter knows something is up. She's 14, almost 15. I don't know what she knows but she definitely sense something. Our son, who's 9, seems oblivious. I don't really want them to know, either. But I'd like to figure out what my daughter is thinking and talk it over with her.


    1. Hi Periwinkle,
      Can I offer some suggestions for talking to your kids? I think it is okay to acknowledge that things are rough between you two. And to make it clear that if they have any questions or fears, that you will be honest and forthcoming. That you are available to answer them and they shouldn't be afraid to talk to you about what they heard, believe or know. Kids are really good at hiding things, especially if they worry that it will harm their parents. Often times, they hide it is because they worry that if they bring it up, their parents will split up or one of your feelings will get hurt. Kids keeping secrets can be very damaging. Your kids are old enough to feel the tension, internalize it, and they really need to have the tension acknowledged and an opportunity to unburden themselves. You don't have to tell them details, but I really believe that allowing them to ask and being open to that is important for their well-being. No matter what they know, even if they know about the cheating, you can help them feel safe by offering acknowledgment and reassurances (as long as they are true).

      Maybe you can find some help with a counselor to talk about it with them and to work with the fears you have about how to talk to them about it.

      My 9 year old knew something uncomfortable was happening between her father and the OW before I did and kept it hidden because she was afraid. When the affair came out, she was fully aware and heard all the fights and crying. My 5 year old never knew about the affair (though he was a playmate with the OWs son) but he knew that everyone was sad and upset. Having age appropriate conversations was really liberating for them and for our family.
      Both kids were told:
      -things are really hard for our family right now
      -I am feeling really sad and hurt but I am taking care of myself so that I can feel better
      -we will be there for them even while we are not getting along
      -Daddy is getting help from a therapist to talk about his feelings and help him be a better dad and husband
      -mom and dad want to work out their differences and we are getting help from a therapist
      -mom and dad will always look out for you.
      -acknowledging how they felt about the situation--angry, sad, worried, disappointed, indifferent, confused

      My 9 year old was told:
      - daddy really messed up and what he did was really hurtful to me.
      -you don't have to chose sides even if daddy is making really big mistakes
      -what dad did wasn't her fault or her responsibility to protect me or to fix him
      - what dad did doesn't make him bad and she can still love him
      -she can ask me about it anytime--even now that she is a preteen, I still ocassionally ask her if she has any questions or whether she thinks about what happened because sex, relationships and affairs are something she is even more aware of. She always says "No" but atleast she knows that there are no dark secrets to hide.

    2. Yes! Everything MBS says!!

    3. Good advice, MBS, but oh so hard. Once again, we have to be the adult in the room. You're right, I know you are. It still doesn't make it any easier to broach the subject with them 😞 Thanks for sharing your experience.

  12. Just wanted to add an important piece to consider and remember. You don't have to tell everybody everything. I found it helpful to really take time to consider who, what, why and how much was appropriate. If telling the truth is about saving his face, getting back at him, or making others or your kids hate him, then not a good reason. But if it served me, if telling someone my truth was about helping me feel supported or understood, then it was worth it. Being honest with my 9 year old daughter who knew what happened was important for her well being too. Certainly, I think lying to others might even be ok if it ultimately serves your healing. But putting yourself in a position where you have to pile lies upon lies to protect him or because of your shame doesn't serve your healing.
    Whether I told people or not, most important of all has been telling my truth to myself, honoring it and recognizing it.

    1. MBS, I think that's a really important point. Before opening your mouth, check your motives. But also, ask yourself why you're staying silent. Both choices should be because it's best for you, doesn't harm you. It's your story -- you get to determine who knows it. But know that not everybody will be able to hear it and respond in the way that you need.



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