Monday, May 28, 2018

From the Vault: When You Feel Powerless

I'm finishing up my BWC survival guide (stay tuned!) and am completely tapped for time these days. With that in mind, I'm be re-posting some of my more popular posts. 


"Arrange whatever pieces come your way."
~Virginia Woolf

Most of us live in a sort of delusion that we have far more control over our lives than we do. It's an easy delusion. There's often not so much evidence that we're wrong. At least until the lump turns out to be malignant. Or our "good" kid starts stealing money to buy drugs. Or a fender bender leaves us with chronic pain that no amount of physio can fix.
Or until our spouse, the person we counted on to predictably keep the vows he took five, 10, 20 years earlier turns out to have been lying to us for five months, 10 months, 10 years.
Our delusion of control becomes clear. And it's terrifying.
But here's what we know: We haven't changed. And what we could always control – ourselves – is still what we can control. And what we couldn't ever control – everybody else – is still what we can't ever control.
And that, my dear soul-warriors, is good news.
It might not feel like that at first. At first, it might feel like horrible news. The worst news. How the hell are we supposed to move forward in a world where anybody can do anything at any time? Who knows what chaos will ensue? Who knows if he'll stop seeing her? Who knows if she'll respect "no contact"? Who knows if this will happen again?
Nobody. That's who knows. Nobody.
And nobody ever did know.
We were deluding ourselves.
Life, for the most part, is a game of weighing the odds. Do I think this person is trustworthy? Does this person have a track record of keeping promises? Of being fair? Of being reasonable? The emotionally healthy among us weigh this carefully. The less healthy among us (ahem, myself included) were taught to ignore those calculations. To give second and third and fourth chances. To pay attention to the apologies and ignore the original injury. To see the smile, not the lie.
A lot of us responded to a chaotic childhood with what the psychologists call "magical thinking", which is to say that we believed we had far more power than we did. We thought we could control things that we couldn't.
But even those with idyllic childhoods suffer the delusion of control. It's a way of surviving in a chaotic world where, frankly, anything can happen at any time. A bus can come careening around the corner and flatten us. Our child can develop debilitating mental health issues.
To put it in the vernacular, shit happens.
But...we can always control our response to what life throws our way.
And, let me say it again, this is good news.
We have power though it might feel as though we don't.
We have the power to decide what it is that we will tolerate in our marriage after betrayal. We have power to carefully consider the consequences of a partner's deception, or continuing deception after we've agreed to give them a second chance.
We can make calculations, perhaps with the help of a therapist who's more clear-eyed than we are. We can determine what we want the rest of our life to look like if our partner cannot or will not become someone who deserves a second chance. And we get to decide what that looks like. We get to determine what our second chance consists of. Do we insist they get therapy? Do we insist that they attend a 12-step group? Do we insist upon treatment for their depression/addiction/anxiety/ADHD/impulse control/whatever? Do we insist that they steer clear of "friends" who enabled the cheating? As Steam puts it so perfectly, "My heartbreak, my rules."
It won't be easy. The right decision isn't always the easy one, though a lot of us also buy into the delusion that if it's the right decision, it will "feel" right. Nope. Not if we're accustomed to a lifetime (or even a few years) of not paying attention to our instincts. It takes practice to trust ourselves. It's a muscle that needs developing.
But that, my fierce soul-warriors, is where your power rests. In the knowledge that you have what it takes to keep yourself safe. In the recognition that you control you and nobody else.
And, one more time, that is good news. 


  1. Oh Elle, I needed this today.

    He is doing all of the right things, but things still don't feel right and I've been struggling. I hope it will feel right, in time.

    Thank you xo

    1. Spouse of a SA - I feel you. I’ve been trying myself to figure out if my gut is really telling me something is off or if it’s my head telling me that something is off ... because my gut has not been wrong thus far ... but my head never shuts up.

      Elle - I don’t actually feel like I have much control over myself. I have to fight most days to bring myself back into a normal state of mind. The triggers are endless right now and I cannot shut off the mind activities.

      I’ve forced myself the past few weeks to step out of my comfort zone a little more in relation to staying and I think that’s been a huge part of my discomfort. By keeping both feet in running shoes ready to bolt, I felt semi in control. That if I was planning my exit and not allowing anything to change my strategy the. I was safe. But I’m seeing how that’s hard on my kids ... and hard on myself too. I can’t let fear control me and prevent me from living.

    2. Kimberly, this is such a confusing time. I too have had one foot in, one foot out, making sure my walls are high enough so I'm protected and safe...but you know what? I change my mind a few times a second, and I'm still suffering.

      When I said things still don't feel right, it's not in what he's doing, it's that my feelings for HIM are still not right, not how they were. And I don't know if they will ever go back. I really hope they do, I loved how I loved him.

      Your gut should never be ignored. If you had past experiences of him having sleepless nights due to contact with her, and he is having sleepless nights - address it immediately. I think some of our trauma is the betrayal of ourselves; we didn't listen to our instincts in the past and we need to forgive ourselves, we trusted someone who we should be able to trust - and they fucked up, not us. You will never ignore your instincts again - regardless if he thinks it's hyper-vigilance.

      We have made a choice to stay (for now, based on their current behaviors and not violating any boundaries) I hope someday soon, we will be able to have both feet on the same side of the fence, and not have any walls up except the walls around us and our spouses that don't allow anyone else in.

      Hugs darling, second by second sometimes, breathe... You are not alone xo

  2. Still Standing 1May 29, 2018 at 6:53 AM

    I am the queen of magical thinking. It comes from growing up with a mom who had PTSD and alcholism. :( It definitely contributed to my decision to stay longer and put up with shitty treatment in the hopes that my ex would choose me. Funny thing was that eventually, maybe over time, I began to see that I deserved better. And when he finally did ask to come back, on a couple of occasions, I made the incredibly hard choice to say no or on one occasion to say " I need to see what you do." And by putting my needs ahead of his, I ended up making a better choice for myself, as things played out.
    But I still need to be mindful of magical thinking, as I am prone to it. It is a form of escapism and a way to avoid dealing with reality as it is.

  3. Today is our 15th wedding anniversary. I've spent the past 2 weeks fighting the fight that I did NOT want to celebrate it. He refused and has been hurt that I don't want to celebrate.

    This morning as I was nursing my lil man the thought popped into my head "because I stayed, I have you." So from the ashes came life.

    Doesn't mean I feel any differently about this day ... or about the survival of my marriage ... but for a split moment I was able to see the good in the world. It felt nice.

    1. Kimberly, I just wanted to say that I, too, stayed and got a little blessing. He's 18 months old now, and in the toughest of times I see his chubby little hands, and his innocent eyes and I, too, remember that "because I stayed, I have you." Like you, it doesn't change how I feel entirely, but it is a good reminder that sometimes we get a little reward for doing the hard work. I'm glad you could feel the good in the world for a minute. Hugs to you and yours, and thanks for the reminder.

  4. Healing in progressMay 31, 2018 at 12:47 PM

    I discovered this blog shortly after my D-Day (a year and a half ago). This is the first time I comment...and I want to thank you Elle for this blog! You have helped me so much in my journey thus far. Thank you also to all the strong women who share your stories and vent and support one another through such a horrible experience. I want you all to know you have been helping me as well, but I was just silently reading and always looking forward to the next post. I have been married 16 years, and have two children ages 4 and 5 (one with special needs). My husband and I are both professionals and I always trusted him 200%. I thought we had a fairy tale romance...then reality hit! A year and a half ago, I discovered his affair with a friend of his. Again, I trusted him fully and believed our relationship was solid, and I was never threatened by his female friends. The day I found life was turned upside down, and not only my heart, but my soul was shattered. I won't preach to the've all been there. Following the discovery, I must say my husband has done the textbook things a husband should do to be forgiven and to try to regain trust in the relationship. I had called a divorce lawyer and was done...but my husband has been speaking with actions that are showing me he loves me (always has), she meant nothing to him, and he genuinely is sorry. So, he stopped all contact with her on D-Day, we started couples therapy and individual therapy (which helped tremendously) and he became completely transparent. Til this day, he sends me pics of where he is without me asking. Having said all that, this is definitely still a work in progress. I am nowhere close to forgiving or trusting him, but we are a step closer everyday. He is an amazing father and we are closer now than we have ever been...and by that I mean that our relationship is real, we communicate our needs clearly, we no longer take each other for granted, we make time for "us" and have a great physical bond. These are all things we had unintentionally lost because we got caught up in the busyness of life. Through therapy, I learned things I did not know about his childhood that put things a little more in perspective, and I also opened my eyes and saw my role (or lack of) in the breakdown of our relationship. I am not justifying his actions at all, but this allowed me to stop having the crazy spirals that got me nowhere (he must have loved her, he must have not loved me, if only I would have done x,y and z...). In addition, the therapist told my husband his actions caused my pain and only his actions would be able to heal my pain. So, that was key in our recovery path. In addition, I have been doing things that I love and keep my mind in a busy and positive place. I am starting a blog for parenting a child with special needs, writing a book (same topic) and I am doing yoga, getting facials and just taking care of myself. I realize I depended too much on him to be happy. I am now learning to be a happy person, whether he is in my life or not. I love him and appreciate all he's doing now, and there are many reasons to stay together as long as I see he is fully committed to us. It's unfortunate something so horrible happened to open both our eyes, but we can always grow and become better from life's harsh lessons. Thank you Elle and all you strong warriors for your help. Now that I feel stronger and have learned a few things, I want to join the conversation and hope my story helps others.

    1. HIP,
      I'm so glad you found us 1 1/2 years ago and that you've continued to find the site useful. And very glad you added your voice. Your story sounds a lot like my own...and like a lot of others here. Not many of us will say the affair was a good thing but that doesn't mean we can't see that it somehow brought gifts to our lives that have made them richer.
      And kudos to you for using your experience and your compassion to help other parents of children with special needs. I too am working on a book based on this blog that I expect to have ready by September. It feels good to be able to take what once felt inconceivable to ever get over and turn it into something that can guide other people toward their own healing.
      I hope you will continue to share your story. We all benefit from that sense of "me too" and from sharing our experience. The circumstances might be different but the feelings we go through are generally the same.

    2. HIP, I love your name. We are all doing our best to heal ourselves and your story is a great addition. My three year D-Day anniversary is mid June. Working hard to not get triggered so badly I implode. Nothing good ever comes of imploding, ever. So glad you have positive outlets for your energy. Yours will be a much needed book.

  5. Healing in progress I’m so pleased you’ve joined us, we’re a family here as you well know and everyone is welcome with warm open arms. You sound like you have grasped the whole looking after yourself and putting your needs first whilst working on a marriage that is honest and healthy. We live and we learn. your h is helping you with your healing by being transparent and open to change this makes a huge difference in recovery of a marriage.
    Thank you for sharing your story I’m sure you have lots of wisdom for the new btw.

  6. Healing, what a beautiful story about rising above and become a new person. I get what you are saying and this post help me. Thank you

  7. Hi guys...

    I want to do something crazy. I want to go on this other woman's Facebook and comment about her husband fucking ways.

    She has some post about how you have to keep trying something until you get it right.

    I want to say "So does that mean the other half of town has to have you sleep with their husbands too? Save some heartache you are a whore and no one is going to ever marry you."

    Fake account of course. I think I'm self exploding. I hate pretty big right now.

    A few lies were JUST discovered about the affair which was nice.. cus u know when something doesn't make sense... they are on repeat in your head then when the truth comes out it's like a relief!! Fewf! RIP thought I knew you were true all along!!!

    I think my husband intends to drive me crazy mad. I think I'm going to a lawyer tomorrow. Will I care about this affair when He is finally out of my life as a life partner?

    1. Blindsided, don't do it. You know you will regret it. She went low so you go high. She is not worth your precious time. Regardless of the lies, regardless of the anger, do not put yourself in the position of aggressor so she can file something against you. Please. Just breathe and breathe again until this urge passes.

    2. Blindsided,
      The short answer is yes, you will care about this affair even if this guy is out of your life. Which isn't to say he shouldn't be out of your life. It is, however, to say that the suffering will not disappear when he does.
      And here's the thing about suffering. It's not the same as pain. The pain of the affair is something we've all experienced. It stings like a mofo. It shatters our hearts.
      The suffering, however, well...we often create that ourselves. We create it when we focus our rage on things we can't control, like the OW. We create it when we stay in relationships in which we aren't respected and in which our boundaries are routinely violated. That rage? It's less about the way in which you feel betrayed by others than it is about the ways in which you've betrayed yourself. This is NOT blaming you for your husband's cheating. It is about noticing that you aren't keeping yourself emotionally safe right now. There's something going on -- I don't know what it is -- in which you are not keeping yourself emotionally safe. Maybe it's just the FB watching of the OW. That's not keeping you emotionally safe. She doesn't deserve your attention. She doesn't deserve your presence in her life.
      She deserves to be cut out of your life like a cancerous tumour.
      And you do that by NOT going onto her FB. NOT taking note of her hypocrisy. NOT using your energy to take her down.
      Cause I think it will backfire Blindsided. I think, even if you humiliate her and get momentary satisfaction, it won't last. I think you will regret it.
      I understand the rage, I honestly do. I trashed a television and a $1,000 watch (oh yeah...and a diamond necklace). I was the QUEEN of rage. It got me nowhere. It made me miserable.
      Focus on what you can actually do something about: you and your healing. Show this woman what integrity looks like by living a life defined by it. She will never be you. She knows that, on some level. She is spinning her bullshit but calling her out will just make you look unhinged and bitter, even if people don't know it's you. Leave her to stew in her toxicity and move forward. Heal YOU.
      Beach Girl is right. Breathe your way out of the rage. In and out. In. Out.

    3. Blindsided,
      Please think on this before deciding to do anything. I have had the same thoughts you describe. Many times I have wanted to slam the ow on social media and in person...MANY times. I agree with Beach Girl, Elle, and Kimberly -- don't give that ow the satisfaction of having your attention. Let her wonder what you think and what you might do. Let her sit with that anxiety and (hopefully) discomfort.

      I know it's difficult. Some days I just want to scream how unfair it is that she goes on with her life experiencing little to no ramifications of her actions. Then I breath. I refocus. I remind myself she is not worth my energy. She is not my focus; I am!

      Stay strong. Stay true to yourself. You got this, Blindsided.

  8. Blindsided - I'm all about lashing out at the OW ... especially if it will make you feel better ... BUT I caution you to sit on it a few days to decide if it's REALLY what you want to do. :)

    I was hell bent on ruining the OW. She deserved it. Her husband deserved to know. Hell, everyone deserved to know what type of woman she was (picking up married men off of Craigslist casual encounters ... inviting strange men to your house where your young daughter also lived ...) ...

    But in the end - reality set in. A sweet faced blonde little girl staring back at me in FB pictures squelched my desire to lash out at her mother. I couldn't be the one who inflicted that upon her small little world. Because then - I'd be no better than her whore of a mother.

    I pray that gaining control of your situation by visiting with an attorney will help bring you peace. At the end of the day, isn't that what we're all truly searching for?

  9. I didn't do it. I didn't comment... I ended up writing an email. (Not sent yet)

    She sent him a children's board book. It's about loving someone no matter the distance between them. Gag gag gag. I hate it. I HATE it. This is My email to her:

    Why are you sending children's books to My husband at work? This is beyond stupid.

    I suggest you get help. Anyone who hides a relationship with you does not value you or the relationship. You were so clearly used, for the sake of fantasy, boredom, loneliness for his family and an odd meal. I believe he has told me everything and I can see how you may have gotten lust and love confused but either way it is very very much over. He never loved you. He used you and completely entended to use you and nothing else. I think that is obvious with the no contact. I'm not sure why you are still going after this man. As a woman I'm just shocked... and feel sad you can't see it for what it was after all this time. And it's not like you didn't know... you knew the whole time you were being used. He TOLD you it was temporay and he would never leave me. I'm just amazed by people sometimes.

    After multiple affairs leaving you to be sad and miserable why dont you find yourself a single guy this time. One that will treat you good and be 100% yours. Choose one that will put you 1st rather then last. Set healthy relationship examples for your girls instead of self gratifying yourself with these affrais you keep getting into. Seriously, your poor girls. Your relationship with men is the model they have for theirs... Learn from the heartache you put yourself through not to mention the families you have helped set a bomb off in.

    Good luck living the rest if your life as you if you can't figure this all out.


    Please tear this apart and convince me it is shit cus I really want to send it i thinknit does a good job with truth to hurt her but not in a mean way. I think its absolutely true advice. Background is that she tired to council me when i found out... be my besty and tell me how sad she was, i played along to fact check stories but clearly she is a narsasit if she thinks i give a f%$# about her feelings.

    thr email is prob not a good idea. I agree she should not take up my energy. But it's hard. He was speaking to her AFTER I forgave him. I HATE IT. He says it was just to ask if she actually was pregnant... I call BULLSHIT! It was an I miss you too conversation. I HATE it. I dont know why she can't feel stupid for being so careless and selfish.

    Elle your right. I hate myself for not seeing all the signs. My.husband is a player.. He has ALWAYS been a player and I did t see it. I was so so so blind to it. Like it's unbelievable to me how stupid I am. But he was my first and only... I think I just wanted so bad for it to work.

    I am really sad. Because he lied about getting that book... another secret he shared with her.


  10. Blindsided- hope you are doing good today. I understand your rage, obsession with tracking her moves and words on social media. It’s part of the process. I responded to the OW in a post she made about judging others and making mistakes. I put one sentence. “you will never understand how much pain you caused.” I got blocked. So did it work to rattle her? No clue. Even tho it was short and sweet did I feel good? No, I felt shut down.
    The thing is, she’s so broken and lost inside, common sense and morals don’t resonate with her. My H was just as lost and broken. This has nothing to do with you personally. We are a casualty of the situation.
    Sorry you are feeling rage and at the end of your rope. Try your best to turn that rage around into something that will catapult into a good place. Through some good self care find yourself so passionate about being the best you! You are so worth it. Your mindset, body and other relationships deserve to thrive!
    It’s such a waste of time obsessing about the OW. Take it from me...I did it 2+ years. Ugh it’s hard to move out from that icky place and move on! As Elle has said in many other posts, refrain from pain shopping. Be the best you today Blindsided! Hope your visit with the lawyer gave you some clarity.((Hugs))

    1. Yeah... I would feel shut down too. Good advice. Great insight. Thank you.

    2. I'm glad I didn't send the email and even happier I didn't FB that message. It's tough right. All this anger. Never really goes but kind works in waves. I was so good for so long. I dont want to live in turmoil again.

    3. Blindsided, It is so hard. I try to think in these circumstances what I will get out of it. I had so many thoughts about the OW. And none of them good. In the end I decided they already took enough from my life. What I have tried to focus on is what I can control. My husband and I have a plan regarding if the ow contact him. He is to tell me right away and together we decide if we do anything. He cannot undo his past poor decisions but can only prove to me now what he is about. This is not easy but it is the only path I know.

  11. Blindsided, it does help to write it out. Write a letter to your H. Not saying you have to hand deliver but writing it out and looking back on it helps you see progress. What bothered you one day, dismisses with ease and another wave hits. Totally agree with your wave thought process. Writing it out actually makes you focus on why you are in a tailspin. Helped me anyway.



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