"This above all, to refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that I can do nothing. I have to recant, give up the old belief that I am powerless..." ~ from Surfacing, Margaret Atwood
D-Day often plunges us into a deep pool of self-pity. Every horrible thing we believed about ourselves seems true. Every horrible thing we believed about the world seems true. And though I think, for some of us at least, this pity pool is an inevitable part of betrayal, we must not let ourselves stay there. People drown in pools.
But pity can feel safe in some ways. Nobody expects anything of us if we're wallowing in pity, least of all ourselves. We are victims, we insist. Powerless to stop the pain washing over us, powerless to stop people from hurting us. Powerless.
We are hurting yes. We are powerless to control others' behaviour, yes. But completely powerless? No. Not at all.
While there's no way to un-do the betrayal, no way to turn back the clock and magically stop our partners from making their stupid, cruel choice, we have more power than we realize.
Paralyzed by the pain of betrayal, we forget this. Desperate to avoid further pain, we retreat into a submissive position. Don't reject me, we silently scream. Don't leave me alone. Choose me, we beg.
We hand our power over to the person who has just revealed to us that he doesn't deserve it, not that anyone ever deserves our power. Or we forget that we have any power at all. Perhaps we've spent decades behaving as if we have no power. We let decisions be made for us, we stayed silent when we wanted to scream, we accepted things that are unacceptable.
But power ignored is still there. We just need to remember it. To tap into it. To harness it.
Not easy, I know.
Especially when we're curled up in a ball, in filthy pajamas.
The thing with power though is that it feeds itself. You only need the strength it takes to remember you have it, to utter one simple "no" to a husband's desire to "see her one last time to say good-bye", to demand one single thing from him – the truth, to make it clear that no matter what bullshit soufflé he tries to serve up, you refuse to accept responsibility for his choice to cheat. That's on him. 100 percent.
Let's remember, though, that power frightens people, especially power fuelled by self-respect. And there will be pushback. We will be told, in many ways, that our power is better denied, better ignored, better buried. We might be blamed. We might be asked to "put this behind us", or "leave the past in the past". We might be told that he's withholding information from us because ""doesn't want to hurt" us.
Your power is in your insistence on what you need. Your power is in your refusal to allow him to dictate the terms of any reconciliation or, frankly, the terms of any separation. Your power is in treating yourself with respect.
Self-respect can feel almost laughable when we feel so humiliated, so devastated. And yet, when we begin our healing from a place in which we can see that his cheating is his to own, it grows easier. When we refuse to be held complicit in his choice to cheat, it grows easier.
Tap into the power that you hold. Not power to control him but power to control you, to ask for what matters to you and refuse to back down.