Monday, October 30, 2017

You hold more power than you know

"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 soufflĂ© 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.


  1. Power is sometimes tricky to wield. I feel strong (much stronger than my floundering h, who moved out (definitively?) this weekend)... but I don't know what I want to happen next.

    None of the options currently facing me would have been my choice. It's as though I have a plug for a powerful appliance (me? my approach to life?) but all the sockets in front of me take different plug pins. It's so frustrating.

    I don't want to cut off my own plug to wire up one that suits the stupid sockets presented to me. But where do I find an adaptor?

  2. Oh Elle. I love this. I love it cause it's true. Fuck this shit Tuesday was the day I let go of the fear of the what if's and really tapped into my power. It was such a defining moment for me. I was no longer afraid of what he would do and gathered great strength in the fact that I am able to do what I want with my life regardless if he is in it or not. It was my rebirth. Yea I still deal with the sadness of the shit storm, I still have triggery days, but they don't make me bed ridden, the swelling in my eyes goes away with an ice pack, and I have more happy days than sad. Dealing with a new reality gives me the power of pause. To take in what I want to do with my life first and not worry about if he will like it or not. I am grateful in so many ways. The joy and peace I feel within my power is my walking stick now. My power lifted me to my feet so that I could saunter through life, head held high.

    Thank you all for being part of my journey...Michelle

  3. Tomorrow is my 2 year DDay anniversary. I’m definitely in a more grounded, self-loving place. I have taken control back of my own happiness, and am gaining a new outlook on life. I have this website and all the amazing women sharing their stories on here to thank. A small prayer for peace and strength tomorrow would be so appreciated.

    1. Flag,
      Just said a prayer for you.
      Tomorrow the sun will rise on a new day, a new month, and a new year, of sorts.
      Thinking of you. Hugs!

  4. An update of what is happening in our house. I’d recently discovered not an affair but what looked like dangerous practices of one to one talks about problems with single women (and some texts from one lady who sounded like she was getting too intense). This was obviously a violation of what was appropriate for healing our relationship and not acceptable so just over two weeks ago he ended up on the couch. We’ve had some good heart to hearts about why he overconfided marriage details etc with lots of people, including these women and looked at ways to safeguard the marriage in this interim period where we decide if we have a future and in the future if we are together. However I realised that one area we hadn’t focused on properly was the actual deception. I had said that meeting these women and not telling me was directly violated what I’d asked for. And here is where the power comes in. I’d asked for certain things and they were disregarded. Much of the time, after the initial dismay, shock, horror, I’d then tried to understand why my husband did such things, then we’d try to move forward.
    But I’m realising that the deception was never truly dealt with and that it’s at the heart of everything and central to whether we can have a relationship at all. It’s almost four years after D-day and he’s still hiding things, these relationships, some porn use etc. Up to now – apart from the initial telling me about the emotional affair woman’s existence (when he had a foot out of the door) and answering questions as to the extent of their relationship – everything I know is because I have found it out myself. And he has gone about deleting texts, facebook messages, hiding or failing to mention email accounts (related to porn sites). In this case where he knew he ‘shouldn’t have female friendships’ his immediate reaction was to delete all the material and never ever say.
    There are reasons for him deceiving. He was the golden boy at home and had to maintain that image. I’m an anxious type who can get emotional and ‘angry/overwhelmed/shouty’ when I find out things and he came from a conflict free household. He has low self-esteem and thinks he’s not worthy and I’ve said things that would make him feel romantically unworthy (in comparison to others). But I’ve told him that if he doesn’t lay everything out then I’m not accepting him for who he is, just what he’s presenting to me. He had some counselling just after D-day but it was far from enough. I feel so sad that we’ve wasted 20 years of not having an authentic relationship. Even when I didn’t consciously know things were being hidden, it must have had an effect, it put me on guard. Since D-day I haven’t been able to relax into the relationship. I realise that the transparency that was supposed to be a criteria of healing was worth little. (I could check his phone and computer and phone certain things but much was deleted). I feel very worn out with this and right now quite hopeless even though the real issues are finally on the table. It still seems a very uncertain and very long road even if he faces into it (gets counselling etc) and even though he hopes that he will embrace the authentic life, even he doesn’t know if he will be able to and how on earth can I put my trust in that again? Is it too late? Yes I now have the power to make this a make or break time and to have a real relationship or none. I have the power to walk away but in that case to break up a home for my four children. As it stands I’ve suffered mentally from the state of uncertainty in the last four years. There are no winners here.

    1. FOH, This is all so familiar to me/us. What I found is my husband went about his life all focused on himself for his entire life. Which like you meant 20+ years of marriage and more in a relationship together. He was not horrible even during the affair years, of course not great but it was not like he was this terrible person. I could not find any evidence he was doing what he was until I dug really deep and he slipped up and left his iPad sitting around when he went out of town. What I feel like at least in our case is my husband was so used to operating/thinking/behaving in a certain way. And most of that focused around himself and his needs only and also as you say deception. In general I feel like at least in his world and how he was raised it was a what is in for me mentality. He also always believed to do something now and ask for forgiveness later vs ever asking for permission. This is how he went about life. He also has surrounded himself with what I would say are less that transparent friends. These people are not off doing horrible things but they push boundaries in their marriages with lying, they push boundaries at work etc. We have had some major discussion since he would always cut them slack. And I think he did since it made him feel better to be around them since he was not the only one being deceptive. And maybe he wants to be cut slack so he does not feel worse than he already does about his actions. I think the deception is at the core and when someone acts this way for 40 years it is hard to change. So I do think there is hope. It is just a matter of how much work he is willing to do since you cannot change him as we always say on here. My husband has a lot of flaws and he wanted to do things his way. With his mental health background he did have unique insights. He has told me he told himself he would give himself 6 months to make changes. And not that he would mess up along the way. But that he would change and even if it was hard he committed to 6 months before reconsidering staying and working on our marriage. He finds that most people need six months to make major life changes. What he found was that it felt better than he thought. So he was motivated to keep changing. We have had bumps, some major but in the end he has continued to be motivated. Some things I have had to push on him and others he has come up on his own. I think he is still who he is but his actions, words and behaviors reveal a totally different person. If I were you I would think about what you need to keep moving forward in the short term. What makes it okay for you to remain in the house with him and start moving forward. Decide that not if you want to stay with him or not. Then maybe it needs to break down into smaller increments. I am right there with you that the kids factored into it big time for me. I did not want to break up our marriage mostly for them. So as of now I think I would say what would make it mentally less stressful and hard for you. Or is it too far gone.

    2. Thanks so much, once again Hopeful 30. I am just very worn out and cynical right now. It does seem that he is very interested in finding out why and going to counselling himself and together and writing stuff out to explore things he's never asked himself before. I'm upset because I'd just completed an online course to help with anxiety and depression and had just started to feel the benefits (and I guess I probably took this stand from feeling stronger) but yes, what do I need now, is it too late? Today I feel the pull of depression and inertia again and don't want to have to wait until he sees if he can sort himself out (and I do agree it would take months of work to even see.) I guess for now, just go back to basics, rest, self-care, keep in touch with friends etc. I don't want chats with him but I hate this limbo. I'm just tired of everything being so hard. Your experience has helped to clarify certain things though, so thanks.

    3. Fragments of Hope— if you want to see what he’s typing in the computer get a key logger. There’s also lots of software you can install that grabs everything he’s doing and with whom. Runs undetectable in the background. Just a suggestion if you really want to know just what he’s up to

    4. FOH - I can relate. Can you sell him on transparency? Can you ask for a day he be transparent? If he can get to a day and feel like truth is better than covering it all up, then maybe he can see the benefits for a week, a month, 6 months. You deserve the truth on a daily basis so you feel good, first and foremost! Being in limbo and being depressed is so hard. I’ve been ther also. When there is no ownership on the H’s part, that’s where you land. It’s hard to revisit what they need to do, but I just reminded my h again tonight. He said, “this is never going to go away! My response was - This is never going to go away period, if you don’t face it. This happened and you treat it like it’s my problem. My only problem is I’ve been grappling with how to move on from Dday with utterly no participation from you. This is our problem so step up, own your part and have the desire to see the the light.

    5. FOH, I hear you! These feelings are so strong. It remains a challenge even when focusing on myself. You sound like you are doing the right things. I totally hear the worn down, exhausted frustrated way you are feeling. I have been there. On the hardest days this was the best place for me. Everyone here helped me through it. The other part was I stuck with what I wanted to do and needed for me. I focused on me and my kids. And I laid it on the line with my husband. It has taken him so much longer than I thought to work through this and I am sure he needs to keep working probably for life. Not that I am perfect I have areas to improve but I don't take others down with me. For some reason on dday since my husband broke up with both ow 15 months before dday I thought he must of thought through this. Well no. He was over the women for sure which helped us a lot. But he took zero effort or time or energy into why he did what he did. He is much more into action vs looking inward. Interesting for someone in mental health who helps others deal with these same issues daily. My husband is into making real changes. I know I have suggested this article a lot and I might have already to you. But this was one my husband found and it hit home with him. He is not one to sit and read a book. The article was in The Atlantic and called Masters of Love. Look it up. It is a good one. My husband brought it home in the first three weeks after dday.

    6. Heartfelt
      I'm responding to that little phrase in the middle of your comment 'It's hard to revisit what they need to do'. That's exactly where I have found myself camping out lately. Feeling like an ant at the base of Mt. Everest. Frightening! Impossible! This needs done but, however? My mouth won't open.
      I am more then pleased with my progress loving, caring, and respecting myself in other areas. I have accomplished physical, relational, spiritual goals.
      But 'revisiting what he needs to do' stands in my way like a mountainous boulder.
      Good for you for speaking up. I am proud of you! Keep it up!

  5. This type of post has helped me through so many dark days! I'm so thankful for you Elle!

  6. I feel like I have had to be strong, put together, with a smile on my face for the past 10 mo since DDay.. and now I feel like its catching up to me. I regret how I handled the first few days because I was still putting everyone else above myself.. including H.. (he had a work christmas party the next night and honestly I should've told him we weren't going, but instead we did. almost made him go by himself with the kids but honestly I was afraid of what I might do if left we all went, with a fake smile plastered on my face..) He slept on the couch until christmas eve, kids knew nothing and frankly the only reason I allowed him back in our bed was because I didn't want the kids to wake up christmas morning with their daddy on the couch.. Again, thinking of everyone else. We had a non-refundable cruise scheduled 2 mo later with friends, so we went, made the best of it I guess.. but again, more fake smiles, distractions etc from what was going on inside of me.. Then the next few months flew by with work, kids, school, sports etc. I find myself volunteering and helping anywhere I can just to busy myself so my mind can't wander.. I now think I may have just been prolonging my grief and hiding under my schedule so that I don't have to deal.. But then another part of me thinks that is my therapy.. to help others. to keep busy with kids and school activities etc. H doesn't understand that I am still grieving. He is the type of person that if he is stressed or had a bad day, he HAS to talk about it. I am more of a "suffer in silence" type until its boiled over and I lose it over a small trigger. I am trying to tell myself to not let myself lose it over something small because of bottling everything up yet when I do try to talk to him, he doesn't say much. Maybe an I am sorry and then he changes the subject. Is it not normal to want to constantly want validation that the way I feel is normal? He thinks I am wallowing in my pain and refusing to let go. But for the same reason he wants to talk about his bad day, is the same way for me, its just redundant to him because its the same thing. You wanted her and not me. period. I haven't told him I have forgiven him or even that I love him. I lost a huge part of myself and that included the love I felt for him prior. I am just so tired. SO TIRED. I feel like he forgets and then we just live these normal f-ing lives. That in itself infuriates me. How dare you act normal when I feel dead inside. That can't be normal.. I can't expect him to act like a sad little puppy walking on egg shells but yet that is EXACTLY what I want. I am so thankful for this blog. It allows be to be completely honest without sugarcoating anything.

    1. Twins Twice when I was reading I wondered if he had a clue. I was listening to this song this morning ...

      I agree that staying busy does keep the grief away ... but like you said, it doesn't really heal.

      Just know that you are not alone with the feeling of wanting HIM to walk on eggshells. I think it's perfectly natural (at least that's what I keep telling myself) to want them to BEG us to choose them ... why can't they do the pick me dance?

      Here's hoping that both of us can come out from behind the fake smiles and put on our Wonder Woman capes and demand the answers/respect that we need.

    2. Twins Twice, I think of you often and so glad you post. You may not feel like it but I think you are amazing and a very strong woman. It sounds like there is one-way communication. Him to you but he also needs to respect the way you communicate as well. He kind of sound like he is the one telling you to stuff it by taking it off the table, deflecting by changing the subject. That is not fair to you. He doesn't want to hear what you have to say because it makes him feel bad and makes him face what destruction his actions has caused. I think H know the consequence of an affair. What surprises them is how much hurt, devastation and gut wrenching pain they see in us. That part they didn't expect. After a year, I did the same thing. Kept it to myself, then exploded. I talked to him and we agreed that when I had a thought or question I would ask right then and unload whatever I felt right way instead of keeping it bottled in. It helped because I asked in a calm manner, not accusing or on the attack. Tell your H what you need at the time. I'm feeling anxious because..... please hug me and don't let me go until I tell you. I'm feeling not very good about myself can you bring me some flowers? I'm feeling angry, I need to you not be in the same room with me right now. I'm feeling alone, can I sit on your lap? You don't have to tell him you love him or forgive him. See if he can step up to your plate and give you what you need. He is avoiding you. My H and I had to go to therapy to learn how to communicate. There is so much fear and mistrust it is hard. Are you sure he is feeling normal inside or is he avoiding? Tell him you need for him to tell you when he feels guilty about the affair. Tell him you need to know when he triggers. Tell him you need to know when he is hit with regret. My husband sometimes just looks at me and he his by guilt. You want him to hurt as bad as you do, you want justice, you want him to pay for his actions and he is acting normal. It pissed me off too. I don't have any advice to get over that feeling - he got away with it. It is just about impossible to see anything positive he is doing. I had an emotion filter in went the positive actions and I would always filter it as negative. I had to learn to watch for the positive in him. I was so pissed I just couldn't see it but that was in year 2. You are doing the best you can right now with what you are going through. You just saying you are so tired is the beginning of some type of change. I'm sorry you have to go through all this. It is not fair to you or your children and it is not your fault. Just getting by each day is a miracle.

    3. Ahhh Anon, one of my fave songs right now. Speaks all the feels..
      "Little do you know
      How I’m breaking while you fall asleep
      Little do you know
      I’m still haunted by the memory
      Little do you know
      I’m trying to pick myself from piece by piece
      Little do you know
      I need a little more time
      Underneath it all I’m held captive by the hole inside
      I’ve been holding back
      For the fear that you might change your mind
      I’m ready to forgive you but forgetting is a harder fight
      Little do you know
      I need a little more time"

      Hugs to you Anon.

    4. Lyn, thank you so much for your kind words. I certainly don't feel amazing or strong, even though deep down, I think its so much harder to stay and work on a marriage than it is to leave.. I really like the thought of him being more open about when he feels guilt or sadness over his betrayal. Maybe that will be a step in the right direction for us because I really feel like I don't see him hurting like I would be had I done what he did. So maybe him letting me know once in awhile that hey, I am so sorry for what I did, would feel more sincere than just saying sorry after I unload on him... And you are so right. Just getting by each day is a miracle. I need to keep telling myself that I am doing the best that I can.

    5. Twins Twice, I agree with so much of what Lyn Painless said. I was shocked when at 1 year past dday I started to feel better and boom that is when it all hit my husband. He knew before he started these affairs that it would be devastating but after dday he went into damage control mode with me. That was good he was attentive but he really did not deal with anything himself. I was under the impression since he broke up with both ow 15 months before dday he was somewhat over it all. Well he was over them but not over what he did. That is when I started to see him really assess internally what he had done and who he was as a person. There is a major part of the betrayal that is information gathering and working through the actual deceit. But I agree so much with Lyn that when it came down to it communication was the most critical issue. If he had felt like he could tell me how he was feeling vs how he did act we would be in a different situation. And honestly at a certain point I thought if we are staying together what kind of marriage do I want. I cannot change what he did or who he was. I can tell him what I need. And again I agree. I will say I need you to make me dinner, do the laundry, go to the grocery store, listen to me, deal with my parents, clean the house, really whatever. I used to just take on everything and not "bother" him. Well no more he has to listen to me and make every effort to support me no matter what I ask. I have found since we talk more about things and share more I am less attacking and he is less defensive. He also has learned to take the initiative more. He used to feel he was entitled as the bread winner to not do certain things. This has been a process though. For both of us we had fallen into habits and our roles within our marriage of 20+ years. But I just decided this is the time to reshape this and get what I want and need. We do not always move in the right direction and it is not perfect. Some days it feels like we are moving backwards. But overall it is working. There is such a strong team feeling with the two of us. It is us against the world. For us it started with little things and brief conversations. It has transformed though into a really high quality relationship.

      I think it takes time to get over the looking at them and feeling like they got away with this. At a certain point in year two I sat and realized he did not get away with anything. He tells me he thinks about it every day. And he still breaks down crying sometimes. He feels good every day about how he is living his life now but he will always regret what he did. I see in him his effort to make the most out of the second chance I am giving him. But this all took time. I have recommended this article in the past but it is a good one my husband brought home. It was in The Atlantic and called the Masters of Love. My husband pulled a lot from there that helped him and he still talks about it over two years later. It speaks to finding the positive in each other.

      One other thing that worked for us was to talk once a week about the betrayal. This helped so we were not so focused on it. I was able to gather myself and feel more productive. On the other days I would journal. I found for me talking about it every day made me focus on it so much and almost obsess even when I was busy. I also found when I looked back through my journal I could see my progress even though I felt like there was none. And it helped me to see what issues kept reoccurring that I needed to address more with my husband.

  7. I really like the statement that you wrote "power frightens people, especially power fueled by self respect". After reading this post over and over I went and looked at the Facebook pages of the women who planned everything to destroy my marriage. I also thought about the text messages and emails that I had between the OW and myself. I realized how powerful I had been from the very beginning, even thought I was that heap on the floor crying and my daughter found me that way. I know that I didn't scare these women at first, they thought they had power over me and him until my husband tried to end his life, then they went running scared to protect themselves. Even after these women lied and said that I had threatened them and had a letter of restraint sent to me in the mail. I never lost that power. Granted at that time it was devastating and humiliating but, I framed that letter to prove to myself that I was the one with self respect and a little bad ass. Now looking back over the last 2 years I realize that I was the one who always had the power and the self respect and these women had nothing. No brains, no looks, and definitely no self respect. I had blocked these women's phone numbers on his phone while he was in the hospital and the OW went and got a calling card to get past that block because she still thought that she had power over me and that she was going to have my husband. In the end their little plan backfired and people see them now for what they really are, and I am the one who can hold my head up high knowing that it was never me that caused this mess but, people who have real negative issues about themselves.



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