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."
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.