Friday, June 15, 2018

How Others Turn Away from Our Pain

My dad has a catheter. We're hoping it's a temporary thing but, in the meantime, he carts around a bag of urine wherever he goes. And though some people in his community know he was in the hospital, know he's home but is still dealing with a catheter, they're...busy. Though they might have found time to visit him a few months ago, these days, they tell me, they'd prefer to wait until he's "better".
My mother-in-law wouldn't visit friends in the hospital. Hospitals, she said, made her uncomfortable. They reminded her of her husband's long illness.
Many of us know those types of people, don't we? The ones who don't want to get too close to suffering or broken-ness. The ones who turn away from pain.
The ones who don't see strength but frailty.
It hurts to be marginalized, especially when we already feel isolated by infidelity.
Maybe you discovered your husband's affair, confided in a close friend, only to have her seem less available to you. Already vulnerable, you lack the energy or the strength to pursue her and ask for answers. Already wounded, you retreat.
Suffering makes people uncomfortable.
But we, in our sadness, take their distance as further evidence that we are unwanted. Unworthy. Unlovable.
I recently read a Twitter thread on suffering. When we come across suffering, this Tweeter said, our response mustn't be to lament the abstract evil in the world ("men are cads!"), it must be to first reach out a hand. "How can I help?" must be the immediate response.
Instead, going as far back as the days of the biblical Job, our response is frequently to ask what this person did to invite suffering. After all, we're absolved from helping the sufferer if he/she somehow deserved it. And so the betrayed wife gets cast as "frigid" or "nagging". She let herself get old. She let herself get fat. She let herself be human. How dare she? And how are we to protect ourselves from such suffering? Well...for plenty, it's by avoiding it in others.
It's by waiting until the catheter is gone before visiting. It's by averting our eyes when someone confides their pain. It's by refusing to sit with someone in their vulnerability. It's by lamenting an abstract evil rather than reaching for another's hand and asking "How can I help you?"
My own experience in the days and weeks following D-Day reminded me, again, that those who can sit with us in our pain are rare and as valuable as gems. Surprisingly, it wasn't the friend who'd been betrayed herself who could be with me in my pain. Rather it was the friend who hadn't. The friend who I didn't even know that well but who had suspected something going on at my husband's work and who refused to turn a blind eye.
The friend who did nothing more than tell me she had my back. Whose own eyes welled up when I told her what had happened in my marriage. Who sat with me as I cried and who, because of that, has the pleasure of my friendship now that I'm laughing again.
Suffering frightens people. But don't let it frighten you. Feel your own suffering. Don't back away from it. You're strong enough to bear it. And you're strong enough to sit with others as they bear their own.
It happens every day on this site. Someone brings their pain to our shores and you gather around her. You tell her your own story. You make room for her to share her own. You help her realize her own strength. You do not avert your eyes.


  1. And this post, my friend, is typically why we stay silent. The pain of solitude exceeds the pain of betrayal plus rejection and the turning away from the most vulnerable time in our lives. I am so much better at this now. I rarely turn away.

  2. This is so perfect.

    I have been noticing a lot of posts lately on social media from friends who feel brave enough to expose their pain surrounding anxiety and depression. I also follow a few women’s blogs who posted yesterday about feeling lonely and down, and that some days are so hard. All of these posts were met with women reaching out to say, it’s ok. I’m here. I hear you. And thank you for sharing.

    Something is definitely in the air. There’s an uprising it seems; one where women can express their voices and cast light on the messiness. I’m three years out from my DDay. At first, I told no one, save for my parents, brother and one or two close friends. But as I kept it inside, it was destroying me. I eventually told many more people, almost anyone who would listen. It’s how I heal. I need to let it out, even now.
    Many of those people I told kept their distance afterwards. I think it was too ugly for them to face. It made them uncomfortable. It was as if they thought it was catching, this reality that a regular family man could carry in an affair with a friend who lived next door. They couldn’t handle it. And why should they?
    I did find some people who could sit with me and my pain. One was the OW’s husband via texts. Only he knew the exact pain I was going through; the exact evil and betrayal that I faced. We both felt anger and hurt. I think it was harder for him as a man somehow. I can’t explain that, really. I’m guessing having a whore wife (repeat offender I’m told) is more humiliating? That men really are just cads, so we expect it? But not from women. Especially not those who are our FRIENDS. If your tribe doesn’t have your back, then who does? Men aren’t like that. Her husband confided in no one. Except me. I’m so happy that I could be there for him at that time.
    So, back to this post. It makes me think about others in pain for different reasons. I think I might check in with a few today. 💕 Thanks for this!

  3. The day after d-day when my friend and her husband came to check on me my husband and returned home after I kicked him out and was sleeping upstairs. It was getting to be around the time for him to go to work and he was going to be up soon. My friends husband made the comment how he wanted to leave because he couldn't look at my husband right now and I thought that was weird because he had cheated on my friend. I remember being in shock all week. I was just numb and then I found out she had slept with her again and this was when she bought him a new cell phone so that she had control over him. And after finding this out he took off in his truck that had no brakes and wanted to end his life. He had just bought a brand new truck three days before Dday.

    These friends again came to my rescue. Helped me look for him. When I found him at the hospital they made me come have dinner with them because they knew I wasn't eating. My husband's friend made sure that this old truck was towed to our house. While we were eating dinner these women from the restaurant were texting him and the manager who my husband was doing her job started calling our friend, the hospital, and my h state job. They got nowhere with anyone. Our friends that I dinner with said he knew nothing. But it was my h's coworkers at his state job, one woman in particular that gave these women an earful and they blocked any calls from them protecting us. These people also knew that something wasn't right with my husband and tried to get him to get help.

    Once he was out of the hospital our friendship with this one couple started to fade. We barely talk anymore and probably living in another state has something to do with it too. But it makes me sad. We were all so close like an extended family. My friend was reliving what happened to her and couldn't be there for me. I had no idea that she had gone through this too until it happened to me. She kept it very hush hush. All these people we used to hang around having BBQ's and other celebrations turned their backs on us and said that they were surprised we made it. My h's former coworkers stood behind us. People I only meet a couple of times were glad to see us staying together and make it work. And they always post on Facebook how glad they are to see us so happy. It's funny who stays with you and who you loose throughout this journey.

  4. I told only a few long time( 20+ years) friends and was at first shocked and hurt by how fast they disappeared.. but I realize I had the same choice of friends as spouse..fair weather hooray for me the hell with you type of people. I help everyone but can't ask for help so I attract users..i am working on learning to value myself. As a nurse I just thought sacrifice was what life was about.. do the right things because it is just the right thing to do..not for reward or praise or to gain something in return. Now I think maybe that was just my way of thinking and not the made it okay somehow for me when people in my life shit all over me.. I just brushed it off and kept going. I ignored the fact I was being abused because I felt I deserved it..i could take it when no one else could.. I was wrong. I hate be wrong. So horribly wrong. I still want to rescue the world only my world is much smaller now.. me and my 2 children are all the world I need for now. But I will always lend a helping hand. I won't let anyone take that from me. I can't explain how the fear and mistrust has caused me to close down. I just don't trust the world anymore and I hate being afraid.. I struggle to see things with the open trusting heart I used to have just a year ago. I hope I don't stay this way but it's hard if not impossible to go back.

  5. This is my experience as well elle.

    I finally told someone... When I was overcome with harmful thoughts and in complete and utter dispare. It was a little while after i had learned the full extent of the affair and i was just dead inside. I told a woman who I knew had been through an affair herself. Someone I didn't really know very closely but knew well enough. I told her because i thought if anyone could understand it would be her. She was understanding and helpful at first but she got the scoop of the affair and ran with it. I didn't say "dont tell anyone" but thought it was implied. At the time we had filed divorce papers. So now many in my circle know... and it's very sad for my children that they could possibly find out from their friends if one of these ladies talks to their kids. Which I'm sure has happened. It's SO TRUE about blaming the wife just to rationalize it and then it helps you to feel safe from it. I suspected everyone would think his affair was my fault for having three kids... that I had let myself go, that I was over bearing to him or too demanding. And my insecurities at the time were overwhelming I just thought I couldn't handle that judgement. Word spread pretty quick and I DID have to handle it. The stares came. The hugs and "I'm so sorry I heard...". I juat wanted a friend. Anyone who wouldn't make me feel like I brought it on myself for wanting my babies. I was the "crazy girl" that kept getting pregnant. "Look where it got her" I knew they would think. So sad.

    I'm over it tho. I dont care. I hold my head high and take it in strides. I know they meant well mostly... even the news spreader... she thought she was just trying to rally support for me. Silly. Then why not send me some random text messages asking how i was doing today? Drop in for a coffee while i cared for my three babies alone. They just have no idea. No clue.

    You ladies here on the other hand certainly know how to help someone just get through another day, week, month and get stronger and stronger. Thank You for that. I did councilling here and there but nothing very consistant. it was just too tricky to juggle with child care to go regularly. Plus the councilors knew my husband as well... And asked questions like "well what do you think was missing that he would go to another woman?" Ouch. I wanted to explode because I faught that question in my head every day. It tourchered me. It told me I was not enough dispite my best efforts. There was something missing in ME that I did not fulfil. Aka I brought this on myself.

    This site was really it for me. The uplifting and positive messages on here, made me reflect on things I never would have by myself or with others who were clueless to this kind of life trial. I didn't find support anywhere else. I get why he did it now... And it wasn't me. I struggle with the "better" factor the most (She was better looking, Skinner, bigger boobs, better cook, more interesting, etc) which i have yet to find a total cure for. But I know that I am enough, and it was his insecurities and self hate that fueled his desire to have acceptance somewhere else other then with me and his family.

    So back to your post I think I was probably one of those people who ran from suffering so I can relate. I have no ill feelings towards these women who did not reach out to me after they learned. They prob assumed all was good because my husband stayed.

    I do think however, that people who hide from seeing suffering are not immune to it and they will also experience something themselves at some point in their life. I hope they can grow and find the support I have found in reading and writing these messages.


  6. I think the most important lesson I learned from this tragedy is to check in on people. Send a card, give a call, shoot a text or drag them out for a walk. In the days and weeks after Dday I was at a loss, wanted to die and was so sad. Never ever experiencing this EVER I told one friend in my neighborhood and one childhood friend. The listened and were awesome and not judgemental. They didn’t check in daily. I needed that! Each day was a new unraveling and compounded the pain. Looking back I have no idea how I survived. I was rock bottom. I know that people are unaware unless they’ve lived it.
    If you are in the early stages, please ask that the people you’ve confided in check in on you. It’s a needed touch point and is appreciated more than they know. More or less they don’t want to leave you stranded, but they refrain from bringing it up unless you do and they are afraid talking about it is going to cause you more pain. Little do they understand the hell you are enduring (and thank god that they haven’t witnessed first hand).
    Let people know they are needed. If only for a “hey”. One hey goes a long way and keeps you sane!

  7. I needed this today. I am 2 months from D-Day. My husband and I are in therapy and have been making so much progress. While it is a daily struggle, I do feel we are more connected today than we have ever been – therapy is so helpful. It's hard though because while we are making progress and moving forward, it seems like the majority of our friends have left him (and then me, as a result) in exile. I am the type of person who needs to feel the support of others - on d-day i told my closest 5 girl friends and they rallied with me for basically 2 days straight. Then once I decided to work on my marriage, they faded – I have only seen two of them since d-day and have not once been invited to do anything with the other 3. They checked in on me in the beginning, but once I told them about my decision to not give up on my marriage they took a step back and have even gone as far to actively tell me they cannot/will not be around my husband until they "see a change". I know it is soon and they need "time" and they feel "awkward" and "don’t know what to say" but I can't help but feel that it is extremely selfish of them. I am the one having to go through this, not them. How can they see a change in someone they are unwilling to communicate with? Our therapist says we should focus on the relationships with friends who have been supportive – of which there are a few. It is still hard though to feel like your world was turned upside down by your husband and then your friends are all making it harder on you. I'm trying to remind myself that the silver lining in this is that I know what to do if someone I love experiences any kind of trauma – show up and don't stop showing up, even when it's uncomfortable. This blog and all of these comments make me feel so much less alone. Thank you, all.

  8. Molly
    I have not told a single person outside this blog! We’ve been married 40 years come this October and I told my h when the dust settled from dday was that the this the bad that we promised in our vows that we would stick together through! I also referred to it as his ‘sickness’ and health referred to the past good times before his sickness derailed our marriage! It’s a tough row to hoe, but when you have a h that truly feels remorse and then endured the crazy fallout for a few years, and on top of that he’s working hard to be that better man, then the daily struggle becomes worth it! I couldn’t have survived without the love and advice from Elle and her army of compassionate warriors! Hugs!

    1. Theresa - you are spot on about sickness and in health. sickness derailed things but that does not mean you give up. others not in our situation have a hard time understanding that. it is so comforting to hear you and others say the daily struggle has become worth it for you. i trust that it will for me too. i've really learned that i am a hell of a lot stronger than i ever gave myself credit for. i appreciate this blog and everyone who comments so much!

    2. Theresa, we will hit 40 years in January. This blog saved my life. I forget how long it has been for you but I just hit the 3 year post D-day on June 14. It was mostly uneventful but I did have a couple of moments of sadness that quickly turned positive when I realized that was the second beginning and everyone deserves a second chance.

    3. Beach Girl
      It’s about 3 and a half since the first text she sent me. I no longer focus on the exact days of the first year because finally we no longer have her constantly intruding our lives. She about drove both of us crazy until the judge told her she would get real jail time if she reached out again. That said, we are living one day at a time with my mother and trying to find time for ourselves and not be neglectful of her needs. Not always an easy balance but we’re doing the best we can! Hugs!

  9. Elle- You have, as always, expressed this abandonment/friends turning away from pain so perfectly! I was literally grasping for help from women that I thought I had been close friends with for 15+ years. And sadly, they weren't there to help. In any way at all. They have judged me for staying with my husband and really only wanted scoop to gossip about the affair. (It has been 18 months since D-Day and our marriage is getting stronger every day.) But I do feel a bit like it is our family, and my husband and me, against the world. We are our own little nucleus. It has made us closer. But we do mourn the friendships that have fallen away/pulled away from us. I have told people...its not like affairs are contagious!!

    Two women who previously I would have considered to be my closest friends haven't spoken to me in 18 months! It has been hard, hard work on my part to recover from the pain of his affair. I was barely able to function the first few months. The women who stepped up and stood by me have become my tribe. Some I would not have even considered to be close friends but they listened. And didn't judge. And loved me when I felt un-loveable. Why don't we women support and empower each other always?! This blog was a godsend. Reading your stories has given me strength when I was still slogging through the agonizing pain. Thank you all for your compassionate kind and sage advice! Love to all of you!!

    1. Anonymous in Texas - any tips for dealing with the judgmental friends? I am only 2.5 months from D-Day and while I know it is early, I have many friends that seem to have turned their backs on me once I told them I was not leaving my Husband. Trying to invest energy in those who support me (who also seem to be friends that, prior to this, I was not that close with). It's hard to feel like the friendships issue is another mountain to climb in all of this.

  10. I had to heavily edit this to fit! :)
    I get BWC emails but haven't come to the site since shortly after DDay almost 7 months ago. I found you from a google search asking who do I tell? Your advice to take time & care felt right. I chose a friend who loved both me & my husband. The long walk we took 2 days after DDay was a life-raft. I'll always be grateful for the wise things she said, the name of our therapist, & for being in supportive awe that I was trying to be mindful & compassionate w/my h while drowning in devastation, humiliation, terror. She was my champion w/out trashing him which was important to me. She & her husband weren't BFFs but we'd vacationed together & had a history of light & intimate times. After our walk, she said she'd check in often & that we'd have more walks & talks.
    There were a couple of text check-ins.
    About a month after our walk, I asked if we could get together because my h was on a trip which triggered PTSD since his year+ affair had been intertwined with relentless business travel. The affair was w/a colleague & although she worked at a diff organization in a diff state, they had meetings & conferences & that's when they had opportunities for the sex part of their affair. I said that even though my h and I were experiencing a beautiful intimacy like never before, I also lived in a state of threat & panic 24/7. It was so hard for me to write "I need you." It took her a few days to respond & about a month later she apologized for not being available & invited me to tea. I ended up having to cancel & we talked on the phone instead. Again, a very supportive talk...& then that was it. I reached out 3 1/2 months ago & she hasn't replied.

    Your post made me realize how hard her disappearance was in my most broken state. In my husband's abandonment & violation, he had treated me & our marriage like a piece of garbage & I was desperately trying to find my value. My friend had gone through a betrayal long ago w/ a fiancé so she knew how hideously damaging an affair is to self-worth. In our 2 talks, she helped me glimpse that I was extraordinary but the reality was I got through hellish days&nights by repeating in my mind: "I am somebody." Not, "I'm a Goddess" or "I'm Way More than Enough". Just...I AM here. It felt like I had been made invisible & turned into someone I actually wasn't for so long by my h that all I had left to cling to was a reminder that I actually existed. And then that friend acted like I didn't.

    The affair anguish is far from over but I know I'm more than just a lifeform in the universe. I still find myself saying "I am somebody" but more often it's with a capital S & I try to remember to follow with "I'm a fucking goddess" or "I am magic." I know my h loves me fiercely & is committed to repairing the damage & creating a fully conscious, impenetrable marriage w/me. I guess I'm one of the "lucky" ones who didn't have to deal with him pining for the affair P.O.S. (her vile behavior since DDay is another story). Her significance pretty much splattered on the floor like vomit for him once the affair bubble burst. And, he's one of the lucky ones in that I had the massive love & courage to stay. We've been working hard for almost 7 months-in solo & couples' therapy, w/books, workshops, WHATEVER it takes. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable but we're trying to honestly feel all the feelings -profound love, sorrow, doubt, remorse, fear, hope, anger, joy -in a tender space. Even though I struggle to feel safe & remove every drop of their poison, I/we also experience a joyful aliveness that feels miraculous. I am *seen* by him more & more & vice versa. If that weren't the case, the loss of my friend might hurt more.
    I'm so grateful for the BWC. My heart is with you all. Love, Somebody

    1. Somebody,
      I'm so sorry that your friend wasn't able to show up for you in the way that you needed (and asked!). It sounds as though you're managing to dig deep into your own strength and resilience but I'm sorry that you have to. We all need that life-raft, don't we?
      I'm glad BWC is able to be that, to some extent. As you know, the women here know your pain. And they always show up to offer their support (though you'll likely get more people noticing/reading your comment when they're on the most recent blog post).
      You clearly recognize the strength and courage and, yes, love, you're showing him by giving him a second chance. And it sounds as though he's doing what he can to deserve that second chance. But it's a lonely place, isn't it?
      Please remember that we're here. Don't hesitate to share a thought or two, or write a whole chapter of what's happening. Dip in and dip out, depending on what you need at the moment.
      In the meantime, Somebody, you most certainly are a fucking goddess. You are magic. The ability to transform such pain into forgiveness and compassion is nothing short of mystical alchemy. And you're seeing what it produces -- that aliveness you describe.

    2. Elle, thank you so much. Tears filled my eyes as soon as I started reading your reply. This site has been my consistent lift-raft. My husband actually loves BWC for how it's helped me. I've started to give him some of the blog posts to read in order to help him better understand what I'm going through. I'm thankful he's open to that.

  11. Somebody
    You don’t know this yet but you’re a very special ‘somebody’! I too recognize the BWC with lifting me out of a very bad place! I sometimes can offer a bit of comfort to the new ladies who find themselves in the same desperate situation. I’m glad y’all are in therapy it will get you through the dark days that will come and go and someday you will know how special you are! Sending you hugs!

    1. Thank you so much, Theresa. There are moments when the only way I know I'll truly get through (not "over") this is because of all of your courageous experiences. Our therapist validates that it's absoltuley natural for me to regularly feel despair and unsafety even though my husband and I are doing such beautiful healing work and even though we love each other deeply. I KNOW I'm not milking some trauma or intentionally opening up a wound and this site validates that my myriad feelings are normal. Hugs back...

  12. Sweetheart like Elle has said to each and everyone of us, it’s going to take time and him being consistent with doing that hard repair work together! My h and I cling to ‘we can do this better together but only if we take it one day at a time!



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