"The truth is we live in a world where we don’t listen to people anymore. So often we’re just waiting for the next opening to respond. What we need to realize is that sometimes people don’t need advice. Sometimes people just need to be heard. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is just to keep our mouths shut and let them empty themselves into our hands. When they’re finished, we don’t need to do anything with what they’ve given us. We just need to show them that we’re holding it for them till they can catch their breath."
~David Joy, novelist
It has been heartening lately for me to read some comments from betrayed wives who welcome newcomers here with the promise that this site has helped them more than anything else to heal. I take pride in this community that I created out of my own loneliness post-betrayal and that has grown into such a warm and compassionate place. It's rare that someone posts with anything other than a hearty "me too" and, perhaps, some advice borne of experience.
When I read the above quote, it struck me that listening is what this site offers. I've grown frustrated these past few months that I haven't had the time to respond as often as I'd like, or I haven't been able to easily find the words or advice to help those seeking it. And yet...healing continues. Others fill the gap. We listen.
And it is, perhaps, more than anything else, the listening that heals. It is the exquisite relief of finding a community where our story is invited, where our pain is validated, where we are heard. No matter the details of our particular story, the broad strokes are familiar to each. The shock. The bewilderment. The acute pain. The loneliness. The dark "what next?"
And then, the sigh of recognition that we aren't alone after all. There are others, wonderful, wise and warm-hearted others, who have been where we are. They are funny and smart. They are strong. And they are waiting for us to "empty themselves into [their] hands." It's a beautiful image, isn't it? To imagine emptying our broken hearts into another's warm hands, to be held, to be kept safe, to begin to be made whole again.
It has been a helluva year to be a woman. Each day brings a fresh outrage, new reminders of the ways in which women are harassed and devalued and silenced.
And yet, here we find our voice.
Within these communities of women – strong smart women – we are reminded of how fierce we are. We remember that we are warriors. We understand that our armour doesn't come from making ourselves hard but keeping ourselves soft.
One of our fierce-hearted warriors posted a few days ago of the shame she still feels about staying to rebuild her marriage. Others replied with those powerful words, "me too."
I ache to help them banish that shame. I ache to remind each of you of the strength it takes to give a partner a second chance when he's hurt us so profoundly. I wish I could help you see in yourselves the courage I see, no matter which path you're on as you heal, to continue to show up.
Which takes more courage? To allow our choices to be dictated to us by a culture that traffics in the fantasy that marriage is anything but a work in progress? Or to make our own choice, rooted in what we believe is best for us, for our family? Surely the latter.
When we strip away the expectations to be perfect, to be beautiful, to be desired, what remains?
What remains is our truth. Our story.
And what remains is a community of women who listen and who, within our stories, hear courage and resilience and strength.