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."


  1. Omgosh Elle you are amazing! Such wonderful words! Thank you!!!!

  2. What an incredible gift, to open up the site and see that picture, with its beautiful message underneath. For those who don’t know, the words came originally from Still Standing 1, who told me that I would escape from the circus my ex was creating, hopefully riding a tiger. We liked that powerful imagery, didn’t we, friends?
    Thank you, Elle, for that visual encouragement, and for the message. It’s for all of us, and yet it feels personal too.

    Your words really strike home. I am aware of a potential hardening. As I walk through these dark periods, it is difficult to believe that this has not damaged me, irrevocably, forever. I thank God for you and for my sisters, who provide me with positive, life-affirming images to counter the negativity that sometimes overwhelms. I would like to hold on to the idea of softening, rather than hardening.

  3. Phoenix
    I’m as in awe of you now just as I have been from the first post I read of yours! Like you, I feel like every post Elle or Still Standing 1 post are written for me personally! I think it’s because I know that what is being said is validating what I have survived through to this point! I was always taught that it takes a village to raise a child but I know that the village Elle has created has truly helped us all get to a better place for us! Doesn’t matter if our marriage survives or not, this group of women are becoming softer together! Hugs!

  4. I love that tiger!

    Just before my h told me of his infidelity, I had been feeling a hardening of my heart (due to months of avoidance and withdrawal from him). I even spoke of that to him, saying I was afraid of becoming like a stone. When the bombshell dropped (a week after that conversation), I actually felt a weird kind of lightness. I was not the one with a closed heart- just a hurt one.

    The most challenging thing is to stay 'alive' and not turn into a zombie, when it is so painful to feel. No matter how bad the hurt is, I believe it has to be better than numbness.

    Spring is here. Wishing all the tiger warriors life, dignity and bounciness!

    1. I had that feeling a lot of relief almost. I too was not naive and worked hard to bring up topics to discuss to improve our marriage or if I felt anything I wanted to discuss. Of course I got a husband who was defensive and told me every excuse in the book and how I was the issue. I also had to hear why could I not be happy. I was either sick, tired or unhappy. When he told me all of this I think he found it odd and hard at times when I told him how it was the biggest relief ever. Finally I was not the crazy one or the problem he was! Also I did crate an elaborate suicide plan. I was close to going ahead with it. However he went away on a long 10 day trip. It was his longest ever. Well it was like a huge ah ha moment when he was gone. It was as if I was living a different life. It was amazing we were all so happy. My stomach aches and headaches went away. I realized he was not helping at all and actually causing more harm. He was so upset when I did not respond by expressing how bad I/we missed him. He would call and we were happy and having fun. That was when I decided screw him I am going to live my life for me, it is not me. I still knew something was off but could not figure it out. What is interesting a while after coming home from that trip he ended both affairs.

      All I keep telling myself is this is not about me. It is more obvious than ever he has issues and it is on him to figure those out.

  5. Thank you!! The pain is so very raw. I’m trying to be strong, being the best mum I can be to my 16mth and 4 year old, working, smiling but I feel so broken. This gives me hope.

    1. Thinking of you, Anonymous. My daughter was 17 months when D-Day happened for me. It is really hard to find the energy, but kids give so much love.

      Work can be therapeutic sometimes. Other times, a drain.

      Have you a chance to allow yourself 'me' time for your emotions? (Mine was crying in the car when commuting :( not ideal!)

      Be gentle and patient with yourself. Hope is real.

    2. You are an honest-to-God hero, Anon. I know it feels like you will be sad forever. But just keep taking it one small step at a time. One day your smile will be real again. Hugs.

    3. Thinking of you too. My kids were also as young as yours when it happened. I fell apart. Looking back I regret not being stronger for my kids. My 5 year old witnessed me cry so many times. I'm sure it was so confusing for him. It is a year today that i found out. What a year of pain it has been. It has eased a lot, I feel different but stronger. We are working through things, one day at a time. It's all we can do. Don't look too far ahead. Be present and throw yourself into being the best mum you can be in this painful experience. You will receive great joy from seeing them happy even if your own heart is breaking. Time moves on and the farther you move away from the betrayal, the rawness subsides and you will build yourself up again, this time as a stronger woman. Love and hugs to you at this difficult time. You are not alone x

  6. It will be two years in June and as I reflect on everything I see changes both good and bad. I am emerging more confident and career opportunities are opening for me. I actually have a second interview for my dream job. I now reach out and truly embrace my friends and find joy knowing I am blessed for such support. I started crafting again. I'm starting to enjoy time with H and we are taking care of my house in ways that we hadn't after DDay. I have much to be thankful for. Every morning I walk one of my dogs and enjoy the outdoors. As I drive to work, I try to think about something I'm thankful for as I see cows and horses. I laugh with and love my family and friends. Have even been praising my husband for what he is doing for me. My home is now my safe place I want to make and keep beautiful and relaxing.

    Then there is a hardening. I genuinely hate her and her children. And I only hate her children because she is raising them and they will learn her evil ways. I saw a post on a social website she is not part of, but a friend of hers is helping them try to find their lost dog. I love dogs, I hope some nice people found it and keep it and that her and her kids are devastated. And I hate myself for hating. I think a lot of it stems from all his gaslighting and emotional abuse toward me to protect her. I want her to feel as devastated as I was and to some degree still am. Does this abject hatred go away? I told a friend that if she showed up on my front porch with her hair on fire I would call 911 to have her arrested for trespassing.

    Intellectually I know hatred is nonproductive, harmful to myself and to just let it go. But it isn't that easy.

    1. Beagle mom
      I know how you hate her because I too had raw hatred for his cow! My hatred grew over a year because of her harassment and then my hatred turned to pity for her because I realized that the hatred was eating me alive! I pitied her for clinging onto her fantasies when my h was clearly telling her to leave us alone. Even with a restraining order in place she reached out twice more! How pathetic are you is what I wondered at the time. Now I feel nothing for her. She rarely crosses my mind as I continue to heal my heart and as I see my h and the change in our relationship for the better.! You can get past your hatred of her but you have to work real hard to get her out of your mind. You’re right tho it isn’t easy! Hugs!

    2. Beagle Mom, that is real, brutal honesty. I think most of us understand it very well. It’s not the way we are supposed to feel. Anywhere but here, we get judgment and useless advice when we express those feelings. In this space, people understand.

      I’ve spoken of my ex’s Child with the skank. She has four other children. My children have become attached to them, and called them “siblings” even though Ex and the skank aren’t married. Logically, I know that they love small children, and that they are looking for new definitions of family, to replace the whole one they lost. But emotionally, it hurts so much, and makes my blood boil. She has a lovely toddler daughter who looks JUST like her. As far as I can tell, the affair started shortly after this daughter’s birth, so I can backdate the trauma in my life by the poor child’s age.

      Sometimes I think I can measure my progress by gauging the intensity of the bitterness I feel when I look at pictures of her and of the children, especially the two youngest. I know I am doing a little better, and will eventually overcome it, with the kids. With her, I don’t know. It seems pretty impossible right now.

      I don’t want to hate. But it is a long journey to be free of it. “Does this abject hatred go away?” I don’t know. I hope so. Objectively, I know it hurts me more than it hurts her. But it is not a logical thing.

      Good luck on your job interview! It sounds like you are flourishing in so many beautiful ways.

    3. Hi Beagle Mom
      I think once you have been betrayed, it will always be there in some form. Never leaving. Perhaps buried deep in your husbands remorse, in his proof of change - or, his unwillingness to change - but just below the surface of truth - the pain ready to resurface again when triggered.
      I totally get your hatred. That's me too. When I first found out about D Day1 - I really did not like my husband for doing this. Now into our second and final separation with other D Days in between, the dislike has turned to hatred toward him. I hate him, his toxic parents and all the willing skanks who have destroyed my marriage, my family for me and my children.
      I know people say it's not healthy for you to have this hatred, but. It is a natural feeling too, and one you have every right to feel! If it rules your life and you are not comfortable feeling like this -then it's time to seek IC.
      I'm really ok sitting with this feeling of hate. It doesn't consume me. It only rises when I'm triggered or think about him - which as the days go by becomes less. For me, my hatred is mixed with utter disgust at my husband for all his lies, betrayals and putting others ahead of me and our kids. It has helped me not get drawn back into his bullshit and no longer try to fix anything associate with him. It has helped me see him for what he is - not a nice person.
      So Beagle Mom. I can only say how I am feeling, but whilst the hate is there, the pain is lessening as I can see what an absolute bastard he is as my husband was not willing to change.

      Good luck with your interview. Your new confidence is a wonderful tool to have in the world of post betrayal.

      Gabby xo

    4. Beagle Mom, I hear you. The only thing I can offer as far as letting the hatred unspool against the OW, is that she did nothing worse than your H did. Every time I start down that road toward wishing bad things on her, I always end up in a place of realizing that if I focus my hate on her, my husband is deserving of the same, if not more. Once I get there, I have to drop the thoughts of ill will toward her. She really didn’t do anything worse to me than what my h did. What he did was far worse. Her husband can work out what he feels about her and if he wants to forgive her. She is not the one who hurt me. Every time I let my thoughts wander toward wanting all of our mutual friends to hate her, I realize that in fairness, they’d have to hate my H as well. She did nothing worse than what he did. I’m not sure if this helps. For me it seems to short circuit that desire to run with the hatred. Hugs to you ❤️

    5. Theresa,Phoenix and Gabby....thank you so much for your kind words. I needed to know that this is normal in an abnormal, crazy world. Ya'll helped me calm down and focus again on what makes me smile. I'm so thankful for this group.

      Thank you again!

    6. Hey Beagle mom, the rage, hatred, and intense bitterness make us human. I realized that I had to care for myself when I found myself thinking the most vindictive thoughts. 6 months after the end of the affair, the OW's child rode his bike into a huge truck (likely because the OW is a clueless, irresponsible parent who let a 4 year cross 4 lanes of traffic with multiple turning lanes by himself). The child ended up brain damaged. A beautiful child who is now disabled though has recovered much more than was initially expected. But amidst the pity I felt for her and her children, I also secretly felt like she deserved to suffer and she brought it on herself. I hated that I felt that way but I knew it was because I was struggling. And I let go of trying to force myself to be anything but how I was in that moment. I have made it my business to purse my own joy and peace, even while simultaneously thinking the darkest and most vengeful thoughts. They are just thoughts and feelings. It is what you do that is important. So 4 years later, I can see how much better I am for doing things that nourish me--yoga, books, dance, work. Whether or not she suffers isn't my problem, atleast 99% of the time ;)

    7. Beagle Mom,

      There is nothing wrong with your feelings of hate. I too feel so much hate and I hate that I hate! I don't know how to get rid of it or let it go. My H has had had so many OW - not just one or two - dozens and dozens - I hate them all. I wish every harm on them. I hate his latest girlfriend and if I saw her I would grab her hair and slam her head on my knee like we pretend to do in Body Combat. I am hoping with time the hate goes away. You are doing the right things it seems, working on you - and I think this helps.

      You are not alone in feeling like this!

  7. I had such a smile when I saw the tiger on this post. We are fierce!
    I was thinking a lot about the discussion of softening and hardening above. I think sometimes life gets tough to soften us up for a message that is coming. It makes us ready to hear it or learn it. The challenge is to stay soft so we are ready when it comes.
    I think hatred and anger are a normal part of this thing we're all going through. I think for a while at least, it is functional, it allows us to distance ourselves from a situation or detach from a person. I I think the challenge is when hatred becomes a security blanket we wrap ourselves in. It feels safer to hate than to deal with some of the other painful feelings that might be lurking behind them. I am so fortunate in that I don't have the OW in my life directly and she and my ex are not actively in a relationship (at least not in my face anyway). It means that I can have the luxury of feeling sorry for her. She is not causing me fresh pain. I count that as a blessing.
    That's it. Just random thoughts.

    1. SS1 and Elle - how do we prevent the anger and hatred from becoming the security blanket?

      I am so tired of being sad all of the time that I find anger a welcome change. It’s easier to handle than the sadness.

      I can’t seem to have conversations with him. I have never had a problem with talking but suddenly I can’t do it. I’m constantly in my own head listening to the words that he said post DDay. How they had so much in common. How he never had the single life. How he would have just let me walk away. How it was just about sex. How they never talked about leaving their spouses but yet they were looking at real estate.

      He tells me all the time that he’s clueless and how I have to spell it out. It how do you say to someone that your heart is so wounded and I don’t know how to let go of his words?

    2. Kimberly,
      For me, it began with compassion. No kidding. I was sitting in church listening to the minister talk about how we are called to see the face of Christ in everyone. EVERYONE, he emphasized. Even the people we HATE. And though I have my own doubts with regards to my faith (faith without doubt is fundamentalism, my grandmother used to say), I maintain that it provides a blueprint for how to live life. So...that meant that I had to begin to the loosen the hatred I had for this woman. And so...compassion. I began by trying to imagine how she felt when she looked in the mirror in the morning. I tried to imagine how she felt walking into the office, knowing that others knew her reputation. I tried to imagine how she might have felt when her own husband cheated on her. And what I was able to conclude is that she'd made a mess of her life in lots of ways. And I was also able to conclude that any power she had over me was because I gave it to her. She was just a person with a whole lot of emotional immaturity who thought my husband was her ticket to...something better. And I was also able to conclude that if my husband had decided to be with her (it was never even a question...but if), then the two of them deserved each other. I make it sound easier than it was. It really took work. It took a lot of "extending compassion" meditation, where you start with people you love and eventually move to people you can't stand. But something actually happens in your heart. It really does soften. You unclench. You release. Not in a day or a week. But with time.
      Your husband's words are harder to release. But can you think of ANY time in your life when your words didn't match your feelings? When you got sorta swept up in something and it seemed to take on a life of its own? I know I can. As a teenager, I ended up dating a guy who I had zero interest in because I liked that he liked me. It made me feel important and grown up and interesting. I matured...but it's astounding how many people don't.
      Affairs are fantasy. A lot of time these people are acting out a script. It removes them from the boredom or monotony or anxiety or depression or whatever they're feeling in their own lives that likely has NOTHING to do with you.
      Talk to him. Tell him how hard you're struggling to let go of what he said. Ask him to walk you through his thought process at that point. The morning my husband, exasperated because of a long night of me asking, but why, but why...and finally asking him "What were you thinking about me when you drove to her house?" and he finally said, "I WASN'T THINKING OF YOU. NOT AT ALL." Harsh, yes. But I finally got it. I lived in a different compartment in his life. He had no plans to leave me. I existed in his "real" life. The cheating was all about him. The woman was incidental. Convenient. I finally got it.
      It's hard for those of us who have trouble imagining cheating to understand. And we may never understand. But we can take steps to release the hate and the anger, for our own sake.

  8. This post really resonates with me. Thank you, Elle. I am 3 years and 4 months from D-Day, which was when I confronted him and discovered two back-to-back, short-term affairs (one ongoing at the time) and one on-and-off emotional affair (with a "pen pal" to whom he eventually confided about his affair--I read the whole email exchange, and it was truly sickening), plus some "near misses." After two days of trickle truth and finally full disclosure, my husband emerged from the fog and began to show true remorse. In the intervening time our relationship has improved in many ways, and we have made great progress, both as individuals and as a couple. I do feel like I'm in a constant state of "becoming" that, in a way, has nothing to do with him. For me, that's a good thing. But the problem is, as much as I do truly love him, I am STILL not able to let go of my anger and bitterness. It has hardened, I'm afraid.

  9. I fear that I have so much pain from so many years of betrayal that it is lodged in my heart and my heart is cold and hard. I am constantly reminded that it's there. I am a person that is filled with anger and bitterness. I find it impossible to think that I will ever trust anyone again or have any tender feelings towards someone else.

    I see glimpses of what I am becoming. With the help of my IC and just focusing on me. Working Out, working, trying to venture out and join meet up groups to meet some friends.

    I have to not get near my WH. Not at all. I just tell myself, "He's Fucked up", Fuck him and Fuck her. That helps me detach and get back to the reality of me.

    I want to become something - someone - a better person - anyone other than the person that I was married to that asshole.

    1. Ann,
      Hang on to that desire to NOT them change you into someone you don't want to be. You can take back that power from them. Let THEM be the bitter assholes. Not you.
      Keep working with your IC. Be angry but don't let it consume you. What he did was cruel and devastating. But you aren't letting him do it to you anymore. That's cause for celebration. And remember, living well truly is the best revenge. Move forward in your life in a way that fills you up, knowing that unless he has a wild transformation, he will continue to hurt others and himself.

  10. I'm new here, just recently inducted into a club that I never ever dreamed I would join. I found the site while searching for help and using terms like "support for spouses of sex addiction" just didn't cut it.

    Let's call it what it is: BETRAYAL

    I was keenly aware very quickly after my discovery that it had changed me. That's a given, but the scariest part is not knowing how it will continue to impact me as it is now a part of me forevermore. I have wondered IF I make it through this,,,,,who is coming out on the other side? Anyway, this article planted a very small seed that I might emerge okay. Thank you for that!!!

    I love the name "Phoenix" and would have used it if it weren't already taken! But, my reason wasn't particularly grand or artistic or poetic. It's just that I was reading the Harry Potter series with my daughter and we were on the part about Dumbledore's pet in Book 2. :-)

    1. Welcome Just Me, Sorry you had to find us but glad you did.
      None of us really know how it will continue to impact us. We just know it will. Though if you continue to read here, you'll read so many stories of women who have not only survived the worst experience of their lives but have changed in ways that have made them so much stronger and wiser and more fierce and healthier in ways they never imagined. I just tweeted, "I will make you happy, " life said, "but first I will make you strong."
      Which pretty much sums this up. First comes the strength training. Then comes the happy.
      You'll get there, Just Me. And, for the record, I doubt you're "just" anything. I suspect you're a whole lot more than that.



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