Monday, April 30, 2018

Guest Post: How the "Pick Me Dance" Can Help You Pick You

Take flight, my friends.
by Still Standing 1

It’s happened. D-Day. We’ve somehow or other discovered the excruciating truth that our spouse has been having an affair. Like many of you, I immediately took the blame. Something must have been entirely wrong with me or he would not have strayed. We believe all his complaints about not being giving enough, not being sexually available, not being a better something, or whatever blame-shifting he engaged with. We now know that’s all bull but at the time we were desperate for any clues, any hint as to why this might happen and what we could do to fix it. We wanted some way, no matter how painful, of taking control of the situation. Sadly, accepting blame is a way to take control because if it is our fault, then we can change; we can be better, do more, be perfect and it will be fixed and we won’t hurt anymore. This often leads us to the “Pick Me Cha-Cha” (aka the Pick Me Dance).
During the Pick Me Dance we do things that seem to make sense at the time but in hindsight make us shake our heads, cringe, wonder and feel some regret. How could I have been so crazy? Why did I want sex all the time? Why did I buy that outfit? I want to flip that script and show you how the Pick Me Dance is part of the healing process and can put you on the road to the realization that the only person who needs to pick you is you.
As I look back at my Pick Me Dance, I don’t feel regret. Rather, I look with a great deal of compassion and see that I was taking tentative steps toward self-care in those “him focused” actions. As I list some of the funny and sad things I did and reframe them as learning opportunities or ways to carve a new self out of the rubble, I hope you’ll see yourself too. I can look back at myself in those early difficult days with compassion, humor and amazement at how far I’ve come.
1.     Piles of sexy new underwear and bras
Zero regrets. I had felt unsexy forever and had not bought new underwear in what seems like a decade. If I did, it was all about comfort. As I lost weight, I needed to buy new pairs or they would have ended up around my ankles. And guess what, a thong makes your ass look great in jeans. Now I have a nice mix of comfy for every day or working out and sexy for dates or just when I need to give myself an ego boost. I’ve claimed what started out as an attempt to be sexy enough to compete with the OW and turned it into claiming sexy for myself. It feels pretty good.
2.     Bikinis and nicer clothes, dresses
Ditto here. My clothes had all been about covering up, disguising my body and generally making myself disappear. Now I bought clothes that I looked and felt good in. I even got a couple of pairs of booty shorts for running. And bikinis were a big step. (Yes, I have cellulite and no matter how thin I get, I have a curvy, zaftig tum). But while the clothes started out as a response to him complaining that I made no effort to look good, they ended as an act of defiance and treating myself as if I matter. Now I enjoy dressing to highlight my best features. I’ve got great arms and collar bones. Decent legs too. Sun dresses all the way! Taking pride in your appearance is not about vanity. It is about showing that you value yourself.
3.     Wearing makeup, dressing nicer, showering every day
Again, his complaint was that I had “let myself go” and I made no effort over my appearance. Thing is, he wasn’t wrong. It was shitty of him to bring it up in the context of why HE felt neglected in the relationship. But. I had let myself go. I felt too much shame about my appearance, my body, my perceived failure at everything to try very hard. I wanted to be invisible because I did not love who I was. Post D-Day, I recognized that I needed muster up the courage to shower and brush my teeth every day. This was the tiniest recognition that I needed to take care of myself for the coming weeks and months. Wearing makeup, while initially an effort to please him, also made me feel more confident when I left the house, at a time when my confidence was completely shattered. People responded positively to me, my smile and my energy. Over time, I claimed this as something I do for myself. And I don’t need to wear makeup every time I leave the house (conversation with my daughter woke me up about that). I can now choose when it I want to, and I promise, it is no longer about him.
4.     Purchasing an online coaching program for women to “Be Irresistible”
This one is probably the most embarrassing but I look back at tender-hearted, sad me and recognize that I was casting about for something, anything that might let me save my marriage or increase the likelihood of him picking me. This was a series of videos and articles that help you become a man magnet, to become irresistible. Some of the marketing was questionable but as it turns out when you sift the “attracting men” part out of it, there was some quality instruction (that I turned into a post on here about working on you). I learned new ways to listen, reflect and engage in conversation that showed I was interested in paying attention. I use this new skill often with friends, with my business clients, as well as boys, and it pays off in better connections. It also gave me my first understanding of developing and focusing on my strengths and having a rich life, so I can confidently stand on my own because confidence is attractive. So despite the fact that I am now on a mailing list where they encourage me to purchase their secret string of texts that will have him melting with desire for me, I got some really useful life skills out of this package.
5.     Fat reduction injections, Laser hair removal, Botox and collagen
Yes I really did all those things. I had been told I had given up, was not fighting aging (never mind that I didn’t see the inherent futility and problem of fighting what is inevitable for us all. These days I’m all about healthy and graceful aging and what feels right for me). I was already engaged with a weight-loss program pre-D-Day. (I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong, so in some ways I jumped into the Pick Me Dance early). The program involved HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin – same as you release when you are pregnant) injections. It also involves an extremely restricted diet. It cost a lot of money. But I was desperate after years of failed weight loss and knew I needed to lose weight to start to feel better about myself. Cue the ironic trumpet fanfare.
The weight loss has been good for me. My cholesterol numbers are way down. I feel better. I did have 50 lbs to lose. I do regret the waste of money but since we were still sharing income at the time, I don’t lose any sleep over it. Verdict is HCG has nothing to do with weight loss. Not eating (and PTSD) has everything to do with weight loss.
Laser hair removal. Zero Regrets. Not one. I did a series of sessions for my bikini zone and my underarms. I frequently had razor burn in those areas in the past. After about seven sessions, the hair is gone (it will be different for different hair types). I only shave my armpits once a month now and then it is very fine. Bikini zone? Gone forever. While I was doing this, I was absolutely thinking “dammit, I’m gonna be hot for you, jerkface, or I am going to be hot for some future guy who actually values me.” (Note the defiance creeping in.)
Collagen I did once. Very minimal amounts under my eyes in folds around the nose and mouth and a tiny bit in the lips (I did not want that Hollywood, “I’ve been making out with a hot curling iron” look.) I have to admit, I loved the results. But. The cost was prohibitive. I spent a pile on a couple of vials (his money). And you need so little, my dermatologist has a safe where your vials are kept and you can get more done for up to two years or until you use it up. My results were long-lasting, however, I know I can save up and do it again if I want to or not if I don’t.
Botox. I am a huge fan. I have been getting injections since my early 40s. I think it makes a difference in how your face ages. It is totally safe (been used to treat migraines for decades before cosmetic use) and reasonably priced. My trade off is that I don’t color my hair. Money, chemicals, stress, roots grow in in three weeks.  Getting Botox once every six months costs significantly less than getting my hair colored every month. How does this fit in to the Pick Me Dance? It was part of trying to be younger than I am in response to his criticism. It shifted when I made a commitment to myself not to give this up if things went south. The idea that I deserved to do something nice for myself was revolutionary at the time.
6.     Sex toys & initiating sex often
Ok, sad, but I know we’ve all done it in some form. We try to turn ourselves into a sex pot to win him back. Wore outfits that showed copious amounts of cleavage and leg. Extremely naughty panties (still in the package). I tried often to initiate sex and except for the immediate week after D-Day, he always turned me down. It was tough to take. But the vibrator turned out to be a path toward reclaiming my sexuality. I had felt unlovable and unsexy for so long. And again, defiance rears it’s head. I realized on some level that this was going to be a long haul and I needed to get comfortable taking care of my own needs if he wasn’t. I am so much more comfortable with my body, sex, what feels good for me and asking for it when I am with a partner. Health stuff.
7.     Exercise
I was working out to be in better shape, more attractive, compete with the other woman, be whatever enough for him to stay. But it also kept me sane. Getting out to classes was social and connected me with new people. Running on my own cleared my head. Solitary weight lifting cleared the pain and grief out of my body. Social hikes connected me with people. And now I know it is critical for my mental health. The more I move, the happier I am. I keep moving for me now.
8.     Cooking elaborate meals, buying gifts, leaving flowers, little notes
I had read Love Languages. I was trying any and every thing I could to reach him. Acts of service by cooking elegant and delicious meals; buying him nice clothes or things he needed on business trips; and words of affirmation by leaving him little notes in his desk, wallet or suitcase when he traveled. I left him little flowers or sprigs of herbs from the garden. I sent him pictures of home when he was away for work. I tried so many ways to show him what he was risking losing. I won’t say none of it mattered. It mattered to me that I tried. It was also the beginning of me understanding that no matter what I did or didn’t do now or in the past, this was really about him, his issues, his acting out his pain and his fears and damage. Over time I shifted to doing these things for myself. Affirmations written on notes on my mirror where I can see them, cooking foods I like (or ordering sushi!), setting a little money aside each month to save up for something to gift myself ( a drone for photography – my big hobby, or a new grill, a nice piece of jewelry – currently obsessed with rings).
9.     Music/art lessons
One of the things I had read about recovering from trauma in the many helpful and sometimes ridiculous articles and books I read about saving a marriage, was to just start doing things differently, start deciding, start doing things, pursue a new hobby, do something out of character and out of your comfort zone, make a different choice and change your brain (I normally take this route home. Today I a going to take a different route. Today I am going to stop and take pictures. Next week I will drive into the city for a flea market). I took up painting classes. At first it was about showing him that I was growing, investing in myself and “interesting” i.e worth keeping.  It quickly became an important creative and emotional outlet for me. It was social and got me out to meet new people. I also took up piano lessons. Music has always been his thing; singing and playing guitar. I took piano lessons with the instructor who already came to the house for my daughter. I wanted to show an interest in his interests and maybe give us an opportunity to play together at some distant point. Sweet but so wasted on him. I loved learning and got some basics pretty quickly. Thought I can’t afford regular lessons, I do barter with the instructor in exchange for working on her website. Now I practice when I need a mental break from my desk. I know it is something I can come back to for the rest of my life.
10.  A tattoo
This was another face of doing something new and out of character. There was a huge element of “look how edgy and sexy I am.” But it was also about me, my spiritual journey and reclaiming my body from past and present trauma. I had identified birds as my messengers in grim times. I used to meditate on the different winged visitors to see what they had to teach me. And one day I lined up a bird in flight as my heart breaking up out of my chest and free. For the first time ever, I thought “that would make a cool tattoo.” I found art I admired, did an adaptation, sat with it for a month, made an appointment, waited another month and finally when the day for the tattoo appointment rolled around, felt excited and ready. Getting a tattoo on the ribs is pretty painful. It’s high up, so most people never see it. It is a little sparrow (my symbol of hope) flying up out from my ribs under my left arm.  By the time I got the tattoo, it was 100% about me and my journey.

Most of us do some form of the Pick Me Dance. I hope you can look back at your own actions during that painful time with love and compassion. Mentally wrap that version of you in a warm hug. Then see if you can reframe any of those things as I have. What did you learn? How did it evolve for you? How are you now Picking You instead of waiting for him to do so?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What are you becoming?

Ride your tiger, Phoenix!
In the middle of grief and loss and agony, you can be forgiven for not seeing that change is occurring. And not just change but radical change. A transformation. A becoming.
I couldn't see it. Curled up on my bathroom floor, sobs wracking my skinny frame, a bottle of pills in my hand, I couldn't see anything other than my wretchedness reflected back at me from the mirror. I certainly couldn't imagine the becoming taking place in my heart.
But that's the thing with becoming. It hurts. It's borne of pain. Through some emotional alchemy of suffering + time + faith, we are transformed. Our heart softens into something new. Whether our marriage survives or not, we survive. And we survive as something different than before. A bit world-weary at first, perhaps. A bit worn. But with a strength and a softening that we hadn't known was there.
It isn't just the suffering. It isn't just time. A key ingredient is the faith that you will emerge, the willingness to keep your heart open when every ounce of your being wants to slam the door against further pain.
I know, I know. I can hear you muttering the same words that were on my lips back then. "I like myself just fine the way I am. I don't want to change. I don't want to...become."
Thing is, you are changing because of circumstances beyond your control. Like most pain, we didn't choose this. But life doesn't ask us what we want. Instead, there are times – and this is one of them – when life needs us to simply step into this new reality and do our best to remain open, to not shut down.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting you remain open to your husband, if he doesn't deserve it. Reconciliation is something that certain men earn. It is, by no means, something we're obligated to offer, even if he's the most repentant, remorseful cheater ever. 
I am suggesting that you do everything you can to remain open to possibility. If there is one thing I hear over and over on this site it's some variation of this: I will never feel anything but pain again.
And that, my friends, is simply not true. 
Feelings are not fixed. They ebb and flow. They change with time. Left untreated, pain might lodge itself somewhere in your heart where it will occasionally sting or jab, reminding you that it's there, like a splinter in your soul. Pain, untreated, can harden into anger and bitterness. 
But pain that is excised, that is pulled into the light and lanced and treated, will soften into something else. Wisdom, most likely. Compassion. A becoming.
That is what I hope for you. That you will fight hard against the hardening of your pain and lean into it, trusting that it will not swallow you. There are legions of us here, further along the path, who can promise you that you are stronger than you know. That pain is not bigger than your ability to hold it. 
I have witnessed miracles on this site. Women arrive on these shores, certain that they will drown in their pain, only to find themselves embraced by those who thought that same thing but who now know differently. Women who've become what they never imagined, as I wrote it in the "About Us" column to the right of this post: "We're mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, wives. Wives who have overcome our husbands' betrayal. Never did we think we could be that last one. But here we are."

Monday, April 16, 2018

I need your input for the Betrayed Wives Club book, coming...soon


My dear wounded soul-warriors, I need your help. After literally years of struggling to put together a book for the betrayed based at least partly on this site, I've finally hit on an approach that is working beautifully.
It is part-memoir but mostly a resource book chock-full of everything a betrayed wife needs to know to survive the early days but also to heal long-term.
I'd love your thoughts/stories/comments/advice on the following topics:
What to eat in the early days post D-Day. How did you handle those mind-boggling days when you felt constantly sick. What did you eat? How did you survive?
Single best piece of advice you got/heard/took after D-Day?
Post-betrayal marriage contract: Have any of you tried this, either formally or otherwise?
Revenge affairs
Children of the affair (when the OW has a child that is your husband's too, or likely your husband's)
Biggest mistake you made on or after D-Day
Favourite nickname for the OW

That's it for now. I'm sure I'll be tapping you for more info in the days/weeks ahead.

Thank-you my wounded warriors. For everything.

Accepting Isn't the Same as Liking

I'm convinced we can't move forward from betrayal until we've accepted it. I can imagine you reading that line and having a visceral reaction. Accept it? your all likely shouting at your computer. I have to accept his lies? I have to accept his absences? I have to accept that this is okay?
No. That is not at all what I'm suggesting though I've little doubt that I would have heard it exactly that way back in my early days post-bomb-going-off-in-my-life.
I also know that I spent a whole lot of time cursing what had happened to me. I spent a whole lot of time rehearsing what I should have said or done differently to have created a different outcome. I spent a whole lot of time nursing my pain. Days. Weeks. Months. Maybe even a year or two.
And then, eventually, I realized that wasn't working. All the wishing that things were different, all the imagining that if I was different, if he was different, if we were different, if my parents were different – you get the idea – wasn't making a bit of difference in my life, except keeping me stuck in a state of wishful thinking. 
It wasn't helping me heal
What finally made a difference was accepting that there was no way, no how, that I was going to be able to undo my husband's cheating. This was my life and I'd darn well better figure out what I was going to do with it.
The whole nasty package had arrived at my door and it didn't matter that I didn't want to sign for it. 
It was mine.
But lord, it felt awful. Finally accepting that this was my life didn't feel good at all. It felt like defeat. It felt like failure. 
But that's what often gets in the way of acceptance. We think accepting what happened is the same as liking it. We hear those people who say "my husband's affair was the best thing that happened to me" and we think to ourselves, no way, no how. That's crazy talk. Best thing? You've got to be kidding me. It was hell. It knocked me on my ass. Nope. Not buying it. 
But acceptance isn't just "my husband's affair was the best thing that happened to me". Sometimes acceptance is a long deep sigh before signing up for a new class. It might be telling a close friend what's really going on in your marriage. It could include calling a lawyer and asking him to draw up a separation agreement. It might also be the resolve to finally stop looking at the Other Woman's social media accounts.
However acceptance looks in your life, I promise you it's a crucial step on your path to healing from betrayal. It might feel horrible. It might feel as though you're giving up, that you've abandoned any hope of having a better past. And to some extent, that's exactly what it is. It's about recognizing that there is nothing – nothing! – you can do or imagine or rehearse that will change what's happened to do. You might not want to sign for the package but it's there, at your door, and it's not going anywhere.
But here's where acceptance is a gift. It frees up all that energy that you've been using to try and rewrite your past for reimagining your future. It gives you the space and clarity you need to look at your life, right now, exactly the way it is, and take steps, your Next Right Step, toward a better future.  It reminds us that, as my friend says, all we can ever do is keep our side of the street clean. And that's all we ever need to do.
Acceptance doesn't at all mean that what happened to you was okay. It will never be okay. But it does mean that YOU will be okay. 
I recently heard Tim Storey on a podcast talking about how a comeback isn't the same as a go-back. A comeback, he explained, is the result of accepting where you are in life and developing a resilience, a way of moving forward. A go-back, conversely, is exactly what it sounds like: a backward look that keeps us mired in what happened.
We often need time to digest betrayal. Nobody needs to take immediate action. But when you realize that you've remained stuck, that you're living in some suspended state of wishfulness, then it's time to un-stuck yourself.
And acceptance just might be the solution. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Why Cheaters Cheat

by StillStanding1

I was thinking again about why. Why cheaters cheat. Why they plow forward with the awful choices that end up inflicting so much harm on people they profess to care about. You’ve read my theory about there being childhood trauma and/or family dysfunction, because hurt people, hurt people. It’s a neat and tidy theory, that for my own experience, pretty much explains everything. It’s comforting because theories that explain everything and pack experiences or problems into neat little boxes feel like answers. And if there is one thing we want after D-Day, it's answers.
But I kept thinking, because affairs happen in good marriages, as well as dysfunctional ones. People cheat even when there is no obvious or identifiable trauma. My “answer” became less neat and tidy. While my theory addresses a sizable portion of the why, it doesn’t address it all. There is probably no single unified theory of the why. Curious, I went back and started re-reading Peggy Vaughn’s The Monogamy Myth. She goes into some other factors that I think are worth revisiting, because it may help give some additional insight.
Environment. I’m thinking particularly of work environments in this case. I know it was a factor for both my ex and myself. His old company, the one where the cheating happened, was a hard-partying, self-gratifying, entitled and “look at our glamourous NY lifestyle” crowd. There was a ton of fooling around among coworkers regardless of marital status. When it is happening all around you and everyone is indulging in “what makes them happy” and you are not mindful about your own soft spots, you may end up making choices you later regret.
Power and wealth. My ex experienced some wild success at that terrible company and I am 100% sure that the power and prestige went to his head. I am 100% sure that he seemed infinitely more attractive in his power suit, his crazy ability to sell and his prominent position with that company and that the person he ultimately chose to have sex with was probably not the only person to make an attempt at mate poaching. (I also am 100% sure if they’d had to put up with his farting while watching the TV in his grotty sweatpants on a Saturday night, he would have seemed significantly less appealing). And power is not always about big NY money and an Executive VP title. It could be a smaller, out of the way place where someone experiences relatively big success or has a large sphere of public presence and influence. Being a recognizable figure in a small town can have just the same effect on someone who is looking to have their ego stroked.
Peers.The people you choose to spend time with, especially if you are still a person who cares a lot about what other people think of you, can influence your choices. If the people our spouses choose to spend time with encourage drinking and flirting and maintain a “what happens with the guys, stays with the guys” kind of attitude, they may find themselves having their values (if they think about them) compromised over time. This erosion eventually leaks into their own behavior and choices. And peers can often encourage this bad behavior because subconsciously it endorses their own. If you hang out with assholes, you turn into an asshole.
Society. Our western society encourages lies and sneaking when it comes to sex. We’re not supposed to have it or enjoy it as a teen but we know that statistically most do. They just sneak and hide it. That behavior sticks into adulthood. There is a lot of shame around sex and who’s having it. When a person is hiding an affair from a spouse, they are continuing behavior learned as a teen. Society also encourages problematic views of gender, roles and sexuality, all of which play into problematic behaviors when it comes to dealing with and making healthy choices about sex.
Family of origin. I must go back to family of origin. Even in otherwise functional families, if a child was not ever challenged to think about the impact of their choices on others; if a child was perhaps doted on and indulged rather than having to face the reality that you don’t always get what you want, the individual may grow up to be entitled and focused on his own entertainment and stimulation, rather than a true sense of happiness and fulfillment. Maybe there was a lot of love but also some terrible examples when it came to boundaries. Bad boundaries can lead to some unhealthy choices.
And finally – Opportunity. Some people, when faced with the opportunity to cheat, do so without really thinking too much about it. It’s there. They are used to thinking in an entitled way about sex or “happiness” or they like how the attention makes them feel and down the slope they go. Because of the fairy-tale ideals we are told about marriage, many have never thought through how they would handle such a situation and so they act on impulse. They were not aware they even had to be mindful of keeping certain kinds of people at an appropriate distance.
Ultimately, (and in a much more inclusive theory) cheating comes down to environment and opportunity. There is a remarkable number of influences in the environment that set the stage for infidelity. There is a tragically large amount of opportunity in the form of people mindlessly responding to impulse and those influences. And finally, there is a society that endorses it, by glamorizing affairs and being titillated by it. At the same time the public decries it and silences those most impacted.
What makes the difference for us, here, is that we now know, fully, how painful this is. We understand the impact of all those environmental influences, factors and choices. Hopefully, if your relationship is on the mend, your partner is becoming increasingly mindful of the factors that influenced their choices and you are both working on negotiating what your relationship looks like moving forward. And if your relationship has or is coming to an end, you are armed with this newfound knowledge. I am no longer making assumptions about monogamy. It will be negotiated and revisited; what is ok and not ok with me made clear. I encourage you to do the same.


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