Friday, July 14, 2017

The Lie of the Sisterhood

"If we do not transform our pain, we will always transmit it – to our partner, our spouse, our children, our friends, our coworkers, our "enemies." Usually we project it outward and blame someone else for causing our pain."
Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

Some call it the "law of the sisterhood". Others refer to it as "girl code". What it stipulates is that we don't go after each other's husbands or boyfriends. What it stipulates is essentially a sort of moral high ground, in which we respect each other's relationships, no matter how cute we think their significant other is, or how much he flirts with us.
But sometimes this sisterhood feels like we're the only ones in it. I sometimes think it's the lie of the sisterhood.
My 19-year-old discovered that this week when she learned that a close friend had hooked up with an ex-boyfriend. Now the rules get a bit fuzzy with exes, at least for some people. And I've gently reminded my daughter that she was well and truly done with this guy. That, she tells me, is not the point. What hurts her more than the two of them hooking up, she insists, is that her friend did it behind her back.
And so, my dejected daughter insists, she's wiping her hands of this friend.
And I'm (mostly) keeping my mouth shut.
But here's the thing: While I don't condone her friend's behaviour (if we're being sneaky about something, that's generally our first clue that we know it's hurtful to someone and we don't want to deal with the consequences), I can empathize. This girl has had a miserable childhood with a truly appalling mother and her series of equally appalling boyfriends. This girl gets into relationships with guys who treat her badly. She craves attention, no matter where it comes from. And so, with this ex of my daughter's, she was willing to gamble her friendship for the short-term thrill of his attention.
Does that make it okay? No. And she's lost (at least for the time being) my daughter's friendship. As my heavy-hearted child noted, once someone has broken your trust, you never quite look at the them the same way again.
Tell me about it, I want to say. But I bite my tongue.
Hurt people hurt people, we often say on this site.
Father Richard Rohr says that if we don't transform our pain, we will transmit it. Those of us here were the collateral damage of that transmission.
But when we can recognize that, it helps us shake off any responsibility we might feel for how people treat us. It helps us realize that their pain is for them to deal with, that we cannot and should not be blamed, including by ourselves.
My daughter's black-and-white view of the world might soften as she ages – my own certainly did (though I remain an adherent to the law of the sisterhood). But she has reminded me what it looks like when we hold hurt people accountable for the pain they transmit. It looks like self-respect.

32 comments:

  1. Carol, the FirstJuly 14, 2017 at 5:51 PM

    How many of us, at one time or another after being betrayed, ask how a woman could do this (knowingly inflict such pain upon us) to another woman? I mentally throw up my hands!

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    1. I can't count how many times I've started a question to my husband with "What kind of woman...". At this point I alternate between recognizing how messed up the OW must be and thinking she's just a pathetic POS. I want to find compassion for her but, if the capacity for that is there, it's still buried under some other feeling or feelings. My therapist has been telling me since very early on that finding forgiveness for her is the "gold standard" and that she wants me to get to the point where the OW just doesn't matter to me. I get that her actions weren't about me, neither were my husbsnd's. I forgive my husband because of his desire to be forgiven and all the work he does to earn it. If the OW feels true remorse, I'll never know. If she is working hard to be a better person, I'll never know, if she's ever really held accountable for what she's done, I'll never know. For some reason the not knowing doesn't sit well with me. For some reason, the OW and the pain she caused me, do still matter to me. I wish I knew why.

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    2. Carol, the FirstJuly 16, 2017 at 8:57 AM

      Dear Dandelion, I WAS a therapist (No longer practicing) & I finally forgave her. I still hate what she knowingly did. I have 2 sayings hanging in my home office yet that helps me every day. "Forgiveness doesn't excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart" & this one directed to the OW "I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn't sorry and accept an apology I never received". Think of forgiveness like that and you will probably achieve it eventually. For you, not for her.
      Good luck & much love, Carol, the First

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    3. "What kind of woman..." indeed. A broken one, for sure.
      I don't know if I've "forgiven" the other woman but I've certainly, long ago, given up caring where she is, what she's doing and with whom. I just don't care.

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    4. Carol, the First - those quotes - WOW. Those touched at the core of what I was needing right now. Isn't amazing how sometimes you read exactly what you need at a certain time? I am just over a year out from DD - husband had long term EA with coworker and my situation is they still work together. Too long to go into here why that is still the case, but it's hard. I considered her a "family friend" - not like she and I were close, but I knew her for a lot of years and ran into her at many things, all while husband tried to convince me they were just friends, best friends. DDay was a long time coming. Anyway - after DDay, I was the one who sent the "end it" e-mail to her before they saw each other at work. Long story short, her note back to me was less than apologetic. A few days later after she "thought about things" and decided to tell her husband (what exactly she told him, I do not know) but she wanted to reach out to me and my husband told her not to. At the time, he felt he was protecting me and he told me right away that he told her not to reach out to me - but it has always bothered me. And now here we are one year later, they still work together, as far as I am told and as far as I can tell from how dh and I are doing (we've been in therapy) and from what I can see when "checking" - it appears to be all business. But it still hurts...it hurts they work together, but some days her lack of apology to me is what really hurts. I need to let that go - it's effecting so much of my life, me holding out for an apology from her that will likely never come.

      At this point, I am feeling like I am holding on to too much of the past that it's preventing me from moving forward. Everything my husband says I look at it as a lie, instead of looking at it as the truth. Does that make sense? Some days I am so worn out from trying to hard to keep us moving in the forward direction together that I think I am staying stuck. Hard to describe....but my best friend who went through this in her first marriage (and left it) but she has known me since age 13...she says (and my therapist, too) that while they can see I am hurt and trying to heal, if I am not careful I will sabotage everything I am trying to build and my self fulfilling prophecy of pushing my husband away (maybe back to her) will come true. It's so hard to manage it all sometimes!

      Thanks to all for sharing and for the support. (Hugs)

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    5. Thanks, Carol and Elle. I hope to get there one day.

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  2. Hi Elle
    Your daughter was right to cut off that friendship. That friendship is a one way friendship if this girl is troubled.

    I can go right down the line of women to whom I have wasted hours on with my friendship. It was all take and no give. Just one more thing I can add to my list of life's regrets These friendships took a lot of my time which took away from my primary relationship and relationships with my family. One of those friends was actually an AP of my husbands 35 years ago!!

    Indeed no. The point is not the guy. It is the friendship code and this girl showed your daughter she doesn't give a crap about your daughter by doing this. This girl will only get worse I dare say. You should be happy she is smart enough to cut that friendship right now. I hope she never looks back on her. She's poison. I'm with your daughter. Smart girl. Wish I'd have been that smart at 19.

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    1. TH,
      You're right. And my daughter sees it clearly. I admire that conviction. She's sad. She thought this girl was a true-blue friend. But she's really clear, too, that this girl made a choice. That, damaged or not, she had the information that what she was considering would damage a friendship. And she did it anyway. As my daughter said to me just last night, "I know she'll regret losing my friendship. And that makes me sad. But it was a choice she made."

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  3. Thank you for this....I am a huge fan of Richard Rohr and his message...I even sent him a letter after I first found out about my husbands affair and he wrote me back personally

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    1. That's amazing. I find that his words somehow manage to open my heart a little bit more, or make me look at things differently.

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  4. Dandelion-- I hear you. I wish I could have had a convo with the OW. And now it will never happen because she died last month. She's not even burried or cremated. Her family donated her body to science and now she's lying in a slab in some freezer being dissected but by bit. Seems apropos to me.

    Her family listed how appreciative they were of the docs who gave her 3 more years after diagnosis. Seems to me they should be thanking ME for not killing her 6 years ago!!

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  5. I'm sorry if my post offended anyone. I know it sounded harsh.

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    1. Carol, the FirstJuly 16, 2017 at 3:06 PM

      No offence here, TryingHard. You have merely written what most of us feel about the OW. Besides, they are your feelings and you are entitled to feel them. This might very well be the only place you are comfortable enough to express them. Luck and Love to you, Carol, the First

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    2. TH, no offense here. I think it's far better to get your feelings out in words than to hold them in. I know I've spent way too many years repressing mine. That could be why actually acknowledging my anger feels so foreign and uncomfortable to me.
      What Steam said below is so right. I have compassion for the OW in my case's family. I just can't extend it to her yet.

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    3. Not at all! I like it when the ladies on here can be honest. I would secretly cheer if something bad happened to COW. I won't be the one to harm her, but karma can have her and I won't feel bad for not feeling bad!

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    4. If we can't share our ugliest thoughts here, where can we? I was almost ashamed about the terrible things I thought and felt when the OW's child was run over by a truck and almost died (which I suspect partially due to her stupid, immaturity and self absorbed parenting). He is a beautiful child who now disabled and it is terribly sad. But the metaphor of being run over by a truck resonated for me and I thought about all kinds of terrible things to say to her in her pain. I struggled with that alot. But down deep, as a mother who still holds on to the mother code, I know her tragedy is far worse and am sad for her and her family. I just wish she was a believer in the code of protection that our community of parents shared and didn't try to chuck my family under the proverbial truck. And while all sympathy in our community rightly rushed to her, I am glad that there is a little corner of the world here that is on my side and cares more about my pain.

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  6. Thanks ladies. Lol yes they actually got six years and not 3 thanks to my self restraint!!!

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  7. Oh my gosh TH, not harsh at all. I don't wish the pain of her death on her family (i don't remember if they knew) but, Maybe in death she can eventually take away someone's pain instead of inflicting it.

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  8. I'm still working on this in regards to his cow! She was/is a very broken woman and she truly lost everything because of the choices she made 'to love a married man'! She apologized to me is what she told my h in a text, but she doesn't feel sorry about her love for him. I'm not sure what she meant by that but I could care less about her and the love that she's lost! I'm finally concentrating on the love I have found and plan on growing it deeper! I'm still a work in progress!

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  9. Steam--yes her family knew. They are all low life's. several marriages, addictions, children out of wedlock. They are like characters in that show Shameless!! A lot of them treated her terribly and now she's dead they all feel guilty as if mother Theresa had died. So weird. I really don't give a darn about any of them. I find creeps like this pretty amazing they survive at all. I guess they don't. OW was only 54!!!

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  10. Very wise daughter you have there Elle!

    The COW has a post on her pinterst how she is a 'girl's girl'. Oh yes, come to my house, let me feed you a lavish meal, let me take you out to dinner and pay for your meal then you invite my H to have sex with you when I'm pregnant with our 2nd child. Yes, poster child for 'girl's girl'. We really need a board called "Bull $h!t"!

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    1. My exact situation too! ��

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  11. The COW has a tattoo of my husband's name on her wrist supposedly her gesture of true love. She still has it!!! Doesn't hide or cover it up. Urghhh fucking psychotic whore!!! Guess I'm still a little aggravated about that. Elle said long ago it's not a gesture of love but now a reminder of her mistakes everyday true that.

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  12. This has nothing to do with this particular post but I came across this blog today and I am in desperate need of advice. Or someone to listen to me. Or...something. I found out Friday. Found things on his phone and confronted him. He admitted to lying to me our entire 13 year relationship (almost 11 years of marriage). If you had asked me on Thursday if this was something he would do, I would have bet the house that he would never, ever do anything of the sort.

    I was dead wrong.

    And now, I don't know what to do. The pain I feel is more than I could ever have imagined. I can barely breathe, eating is next to impossible, and I feel like I am drowning. Getting out of bed is hard, which is a problem since I have five young kids who need me. The thing is, I am not angry. Yet. I am fairly certain it will come, I think I am stuck in shock mode right now. Is that normal? And where do I go from here? I know nobody really knows the answer to that last question, but I have to ask.

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    1. Anonymous,
      We have all been there. I was in shock for weeks. The anger did come but at first, it was simply survival. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, could barely function. I had three young kids and they are the only reason I got out of bed.
      In the short term, think of this as triage. You need to focus on you, on keeping yourself safe and sane. Eat what you can (toast, smoothies, soup, whatever you can keep down). Sleep when you can. I relied on an over-the-counter sleep aid in the short term in order to fall asleep. Avoid alcohol, drugs or any behaviour that can get you into trouble (gambling, over-shopping, etc.) Be gentle with yourself. This is a huge shock and the pain can feel overwhelming. But I promise you, the day will come when this is a bad memory. You will get through this.
      In the meantime, I would encourage you to find a therapist who can help you process the pain of betrayal. It's excruciating, as you know.
      You can deal with whether or not you want to rebuild your marriage (it's possible, assuming both partners are willing to work hard and your husband is willing to do the incredibly hard work of figuring out why he's made such an awful choice) after you're through the shock. My husband had cheated for our entire relationship, completely unbeknownst to me. I felt like a fool. This summer, we celebrate our 21st anniversary and he's been "clean" for 11 years since I found out.
      The women on this site are incredible -- warm, compassionate and so supportive. Every one of us knows the pain of betrayal and is moving through it. We're here to help you too.

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    2. Hi Anon,
      I was you exactly 4 years ago. I can't believe it was that long ago. We are here for you. And I found everything Elle says, along with many wise voices her, as a life boat when I thought I would drown so I hope you use this site.
      I am here and stronger and better. Just remember that you have the capacity to get there too. Even when you think you won't make it, remember those of us who have and know that you will too. Just hang in there and look after yourself. Look after yourself as if you were nursing a sick child back to health. Be your own best friend right now.

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    3. anonymous,
      I could have written your post on the days after I found out too. I felt the exact same way. I lost so much weight and found it hard just to keep taking my next breath. With extreme self care (I let so many things go!), therapy, and time I am now feeling good. Really good. Like better than before I found out. The weight of what my H was doing affected me even when I didn't know about it! Now I'm more "me" than I've ever been. There is support here. The kind that tells you how to keep breathing and growing, not the kind that judges you for your choices about how to handle your marriage. That is so valuable!! Sending you hugs and hoping you stick around and follow Elle's excellent advice about taking care of yourself. One of the things that has helped me most as soon as I could sleep and breath was exercise. I started slow and did not look at is as punishment for myself at all. It was one of the ways to treat myself kindly and helped with the anxiety I felt (when my heart was racing, it felt better to hit the road running so my heartbeat seemed normal. I didn't like it racing when I was just sitting there.)

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  13. The girl code. Indeed. I love this post because it touches on my situation, which I've mentioned here before. The OW in my case was my next door neighbor and friend. The four of us hung out often with our kids and had a great time. I've chosen to stay in our community which makes run ins with her more likely. It's horrible. I ran into her at a store two months ago and was immediately filled with rage. I called her a stupid whore. And she unleashed. "It's been two years!" She spat at me. "Get a grip. See a shrink."

    I asked her then if the socks she was buying were for her husband or someone else's. She rolled her eyes at me. No shame.


    This showed me the true nature of her character, which then brought me full circle to the anger I have for my husband. How could he have gone anywhere near that disgusting whore? And she is a highly visable community member. Again, no shame. I get the psychology around it. She's trying to find worth in her worthless self. Accolades. Appreciation. Piece of shit.

    I don't have empathy for her. Her dad cheated and then returned to the family. Her brother is 20 years younger than her. She was obviously unhappy with her own marriage. And I heard she cheated on him before. All of this shows her damaged, trashy self. But that doesn't excuse her bringing her shit show into my life and house and family. I hope she suffers daily.

    I also love the part you mention here about remembering my own pain. Jesus, I could barely function when this hit. I had to live next to that bitch!! For 6 months until we moved. Excruciating. And again, it brought me full circle to anger at my husband. How, HOW, could he have put me through this? And her? How did she not think of her husband and kids, or me, while sneaking around to fuck in my basement?

    It's better now. Time has helped. Moving was necessary and helps with healing. I read Anonymous' post with sadness. And hope. She can find women here who will listen and offer words of advice and healing. Sometimes I comment. Sometimes I just read and know I'm not alone. Thanks, Elle!

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  14. I recently had a breakthrough about one of the OW that belongs here. I was continuing to be puzzled about why one of them in particular bothered me so much. Why I held on to so much anger toward her in particular. After much therapy and reflection, I came to realize that each OW had come to represent different traits for me. One was drunk, one was trashy, one was very young, and one was mean/shallow. In actuality, they were all likely trashy, drunk and mean (only one was in her 20's), but it was the one I attributed meanness/shallowness to that kept me mad the longest. That is because it's so much more closely tied to my values than the other traits. I'm mature,sophisticated and sober enough, but those aren't the really important things about me. The core of me is kind. Subscribes to the "sister code". Is a good friend always. Under anger is always pain. Under this anger was the pain that my H did not see or care about the core of me when he made his choice. He "traded me in" (in the moment) for her and therefore didn't value the main thing I have to offer the world. It simply stings more. Some of this pain is like tumor removal. Once it's cut out and examined from all sides, it's no longer part of your body at least. I don't feel as angry now about her.

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    1. Wow, Ann! Thank you for sharing that. It resonates. During many tear-filled conversations, I've told my husband that by choosing "her" he trampled all over the traits I thought he valued in me, the things I took pride in. Honesty, kindness, compassion, loyalty.., There are so many other things but those are at the core of who I am. She has shown herself to be none of those things, yet he chose her. And even though we've discussed the fact that she could have been anyone, it still hurts. So yes, under my anger is most definitely pain. I need to recognize that it's unlikely he would have found someone loyal and compassionate who was willing to destroy a family for cheap sex. I need fully separate their actions from my worth, but it's still a struggle.

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  15. To: Anonymous July 17, 2017...

    Good Morning, so very happy you found us to get advice and share your pain. I start most mornings with a cup of coffee and read on here. I did not find the site until probably 9 months after DDay, so I’m glad you found this so fast. You will find comfort here. At this point I’m sure you are trying to get any amount of information so that you can cope and feel connected to SOMETHING. I felt that same way. Nobody ever had a reason to do this google search to investigate prior to DDay.

    Yes, you definitely are in shock. I don’t think I even cried for days. I was in shock, shook like crazy (like I was cold) and was thrusted into my first of many panic attacks. Never ever had one in my life, so I had no clue what was happening to my body. I wanted to die. My heart hurt so bad, so very bad. For the most part, I never experienced much pain up until this day. The only equivalent I can think of would be a death and I haven’t lost my parents or sibling. I would not wish this pain on anyone.

    I’m so very sorry with what you are going through. Like Elle and MBS stated, we are here and proof that although painful and hard, you will survive. I’m now 28 months out and although each betrayed wife on here has a different timeline, our steps and stories along the way will help you. Do reach out to a therapist or someone to confide in. You are a wife with a broken heart, but you are also a mom and need to be there for them. Scoop them up and cuddle and hold them close to ease your pain daily. My H and I decided to work things out and we did 30 second hugs once a day. Not much talking during the hug. I found it to be a good method to release my stress and pain. There are no words for this pain. The simple hug enabled us to find each other on a daily basis and be unified.

    Besides the shock and loss of appetite that you are experiencing, I also lost sleep for a good year and went the bathroom all the time resulting in extreme weight loss. Many on here also lost hair. Stress and anxiety work in silent mode and at times you don’t see things happening. I went into a mode where I just needed to hear that I mattered. Why would he do this to me and break my heart. Why? I was kind hearted, honest, patient and took good care of myself and our entire family. I worked many hours, yet I was the rock for all. I was the shit! What the hell? All I could think of is what did I do wrong?

    I now know, this wasn’t about me. I did nothing wrong and neither did you. About the only thing I can say now is I did too much. I did too much for everyone for our 17 years of marriage and lost myself along the way. Dday was undoubtedly the worst day of my life, yet also a reset day for me to find myself again. I’ve learned so much about myself over the last 2+ years. I was strong before and even stronger now, but in a different way. I care more about me than ever before and I know that no matter what, I will be okay.. even if I'm alone.

    Exercise is helpful. Even if you don’t normally enjoy exercise, try and push yourself to get in the mode of caring for your body. I started yoga and also found a classical stretch tv program that relaxed my soul. Prior to Dday, when I was all about taking care of the kids and him, I never fit in the time to take care of myself. I was a runner in college, but due to a bad knee, now I walk. I walked and walked the dog with my ear buds the first summer. I counted steps and to me it was stepping out of my black hole. I fell into a deep dark hole and I was going to get out of it and see daylight.

    Take care, reach out again and know you are surrounded with love today. We got your back, your front and your fragile heart. xo

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