Friday, July 20, 2018

Guest Post: Two Tricks to Teach Self-Love

by StillStanding1

I recently felt too tired and overwhelmed to do much of anything. I felt like I should be doing “better,” be farther along, but my therapist reminded me that although my D-day is more than two years ago, I’ve been through a lot in the intervening time. My divorce was only final eight months ago. Not long in terms of recovery, which can be anywhere from two to six years post-divorce. (Ugh. Please, lord, not six years…) but I was reminded that it is okay to be where I am and to recognize that I am in need of rest. So…
If you are working so hard, juggling so many tasks, but not making much progress, it might be time to rest.
If you have been working so hard at healing, but are surprised you aren’t further along, it might be time to rest.
If you've been driving all the difficult conversations and doing the heavy lifting in the relationship and not getting much in return, it might be time to rest.
If you can’t do it anymore, it might be time to rest.
If you are not keeping up and don’t like yourself so much at the moment, it might be time to rest.
If you are putting everyone else ahead of you and feeling exhausted ("but they are sick" or "they really need me" etc.), it might be time to rest.
If the next time you hear how strong you are, you are just going to lay down and not get up again, it might be time to rest.
If the word “should” has taken over your vocabulary lately, it might be time to rest.
If the voices that whisper “you are not enough” or “you are too much” are getting loud and insistent, it might be time to rest.
Go easy on yourself. Healing and recovery are on no schedule but yours. There is no timeline, no landmarks or epiphanies you must experience by a certain point in time. There’s no straight line to follow. There is only your own, roundabout path. We, none of us, know ourselves quite as well as we think we do. Surviving infidelity really shows us things we never knew, believed or understood about how amazing, worthy, how flawed and completely human we are. So, I repeat, go easy on yourself.
Love yourself fiercely.
Remind yourself that you are loved and worthy of love just because you exist. And if you are having a hard time believing that, find the people who believe in you until you can again. And if you feel like there’s no one to do that for you, to love and hold you, I have something for you:
Exercise 1: Imagine yourself as a young child. You are sitting in a sunny field of flowers. You – the adult you – approaches the younger you and says, “I’m here to love you. I’m not going away, ever.” See if that child will let you hold her. It may take a few tries. Maybe you just hold hands at first. But you – the adult you – keep on going back to visit the child in the field. “See? I’m still here. I love you and I will always be here for you.” And you keep coming back and giving yourself the love you deserve. Eventually, the child will believe you and you can hold her and she will feel safe.
Exercise 2: Find a spot with a mirror, where you can be reasonably private. I usually do this right after my shower. Look in the mirror and look yourself right in the eyes. Hold eye contact and say out loud, “I love you.” This is going to feel awkward and weird. If you can’t say that at first, try, “You are doing great. I’m proud of you.” If it feels weird to say out loud, try saying it in your head at first. Work up to saying it out loud, holding eye contact and, eventually, getting warmth and feeling into your voice. Really mean it. Do this often.
Why do these exercises work? Because the limbic system, which controls our emotions, responds to any kind of stimulus, even when that stimulus is imaginary, we are creating the positive feelings of love and belonging. It is one of the oldest parts of the brain, is pretty simple and this is why we can use intention and higher areas of our brain to “trick” ourselves into feeling better.  By inducing the feelings of love and belonging, we are creating an internal secure base, and can help a hyper-aroused limbic system to stand down and shift toward its basic default of being generally happy. 
Any time you are experiencing a positive feeling, try to notice it, label it and sit with the feeling to deepen your experience. The more you do this, or make these moments happen with exercises like the two examples above, the more you train your mind and heart for resilience. And when you are feeling tired and like you need a rest and like everything is too much, that’s the perfect time to sit down and give yourself some love.


  1. This truly a great post. Simple and a good place to start self compassion. Good advice. The "if you" were so true. I really liked that part.

  2. Every time I was thinking about IT, so was he. Every time we watched TV and an affair came up I was reminded, so was he. Every time something made me cringe or uncomfortable, so was he. How hard is it to reach over to me and apologize or let me know he was thinking about it too? Why do I have to ask? Why do I have to bring it up? All he says is "Are you OK?" I hate to be negative Nelly Kay on this positive post. How hard is it? My H said, I'm trying to learn empathy, I don't have any. Well he is honest there for sure. OMG is there one fking thing he can figure out for himself? I'm going to have a yard sale. His price tag will say $1.00 but will take .50 cents. Let's have one big ass BW yard sale. I put the OW in there for a penny, I will say she can give a STD so I really shouldn't charge extra for that, a penny will be fine. Put a leash on her and she likes Gravy Train. Got to go I'm itching mad right now.

    1. LLP,
      That is a brilliant idea. A BW yard sale in which we unload everything that's weighing us down!
      As for your husband, I suspect part of the answer at least is shame. He can't reach over to ask if you're okay because it triggers enormous shame in him. And shame can feel crippling.'s possible he's an asshole. Though the fact that you're still with him leads to believe it's shame.

  3. Thank you ss1, this is just perfect for me, 8 weeks post divorce I know I’m where I should be right now. I’m feeling tired right now too I’m ready for a rest, my head is tired of thinking and over thinking. I’m so pleased I’ve taken the route of healing with pure intentions, I have no distractions to interfere with my healing ( I’m talking about a man). I know my ex is in contact with the ow I think he’s away this weekend as we speak, that doesn’t hurt anymore I can stomach that but I wonder when he really does sit down and try to work out the mess he has caused how will he ever recover from it? So I guess for him it’s easier to bury his head in the sand and carry on doing what he has been doing the last 7 years.
    Anyway back to me and my healing I’m back in counselling and I break up for summer next week yipppppeeeeee. No early morning school drop of’s for 6 weeks.

    Thank you for reminding me that I need and must take care of me, I’m gonna try them exercises ss1..

    Love you lots xxx

    1. Sam A,
      Wow. Two months divorced. And look at you. Getting stronger all the time.
      I hope you can use that six weeks to truly rest. Your mind as well as your body. When you find yourself (over)thinking, I hope you can shift your attention to something that gives you joy. A flower. A bird. A blue sky. A great cup of coffee.

  4. Such good to put it in action!

  5. My husband and I both did this after dday. We scaled back and focused on ourselves individually first, marriage second and our kids third. We did this for a long time. I do notice when I am stressed or over scheduled my anxiety elevates. I doubt myself and us more when I am in that spot. It is a hard balance even 3 1/2 years out. We both have very intense time and emotionally consuming careers. And we both feel that these last years with our kids are so important. It is honestly a really hard time for me. I still say no to a lot but regular life pushes me.

    I have always been an introvert. This has caused me to be even more isolated. I try a little here and there but I just do not have it in me. And it seems whether with new or old friends topics always come up that turn my stomach. I just keep focusing on me and still at this point it is being alone or with my kids.

  6. Thank you, StillStanding1 - just what I needed.

  7. VENT I have been trying to limit my drinking 2 days a week. Doing great. Every time I drink too much I say things to my husband about the affair with words like why, how, lied, long time etc.... you know what I'm talking about. This morning he acts quiet. He proceeds to tell me "I did it again". I just sat thinking. Then I stood in front of him, looked him directly in the eye and said, "I don't like doing this, I feel bad when I do, this is one of the consequences of the affair so don't put this on me, when I drink too much my something slips off then I show you I'm still hurting, angry and realize you are a liar. This is how deep you hurt me. I don't want to do this each time. I can't help it. You trickle truthed me gave me the I lied because I loved you bullshit so all of this is going around in my head that I keep under control every day. All of this is on you. I can't wrap my head around it all, I don't know if you said is true or I make it up or didn't I didn't hear it at all? When you say, I like your boobs so what you said that before when you were fucking her and I was a fat angry frustrated bitch. I know you are ashamed and feel guilty to talk about it, you told me so. He said, why are you getting so angry? I said I'm angry and frustrated at myself because all of this is still driving me crazy. He said "come here and sit on my lap" I said no then I said yes. He said I can put up with whatever you throw at me, I love you and want to be with you". Does any other betrayed wife out there feel like you are tolerating this man, keeping it to yourself and just dealing with it. THERE. IS. NO. RESOLUTION. FOR. THIS. As Elle says, You can un-ring that bell. I know that. But it feels like I'm holding it all up for me, acting and looking like I'm not. I feel like a fake. I"m somewhere in between it all. Healed yet not really. I'm 4 years 7 months and 8 days from good old D Day. Is this making sense to anyone? I can't even articulate it. I'm not upset just trying to figure it out. Don't say forgiveness to me. Ain't ever going to happen, not in a million years. That is not MY solution. Acceptance yes, tolerance yes, lots of sex yes, forgiveness is never ever. I can forgive my sister in a minute for something but that is not a life changing thing. It is simple. But this is not simple, not redeemable in my eyes. I'll let God forgive him. I heard it all, just let it go, don't think about it, forgiveness is for you not him, I'm a doer there must be something else I can do to stop this in my mind that comes out venomously when I let my guard down. Yes, I have a therapist appointment too. My therapist tells me when my self esteem goes down so do I. But I don't feel like that. I'm going to stop rambling. Love you all. Thanks for letting me vent away. This is the only place I have to go.

    1. I so feel your pain. There is no resolution to this. Our choice is to live with him and what he did or not live with him. We lose with both choices. If you stay you live with the constant reminders of what he did (just looking at him sometimes ugh) and then if you feel like having a drink and then losing it (I do the same thing) and you feel fake to the whole world like everything looks ok on the outside but inside you are dying. If you leave then you face financial and family and changing everything in your life for the last 25 years anxiety. Empathy Is near impossible for my husband. I hate him asking me if I’m ok. Ask a real question. Ask if the prostitution in the movie bothers me. Ask me if I feel sick when we drive by the massage parlors. Ask me on the 28th of each month (DDay date) if I’m feeling sad. Man up and own it and ask a real question.
      His new thing now is that I should stop my trigger and empathize with him so he can continue to help me. When I explain I can’t do that be because of the trauma I’m feeling he tells me I’m not working on being a healing partner and he can’t be the only one working on it. I keep telling him he has to heal me first so I can become a healing partner. He says no it doesn’t work like that. So you can just imagine my rage in response. I won’t go into detail but I know you know where I Went with that BS.
      Does he forget how we got here?!!!
      I’m so sorry I ranted on your post. I feel your frustration. I don’t think we ever really heal do we.

    2. I do the same thing as far as trying to figure it all out. I try hard every day not think about it some days it doesn't work. Especially if I've had a couple of glasses of wine. You say that you can never forgive but you are hurting your self more. We all have acceptance, tolerance and yes sex. But forgiveness is key to your healing. Your therapist is right. Follow SS1 advice. Affirmations still play a big part in my healing. I still compare myself to this woman and I am way more attractive then she is but I am also 17 years older then she is. I had to hear from her and her friends what an old hag I am, that I'm fucking stupid among other horrible things. This one friend of hers went through my instagram pictures and put nasty little comments under each picture that showed my husband and I together. Their affair lasted 10 days at the most. I've learned to forgive them because it gave me my piece of mind back.

    3. LLP, (Part 1)I feel your pain and frustration. I am a little over a month past 3 year D-day and while things are incredibly "better" than before D-day I still have those triggers almost daily. They rarely upset me like they did in the past but the sad truth is that this is part of my life now. I chose to stay with my husband and give him one chance to change his life. He grabbed on to that lifeline like a drowning rat and has held on for dear life. I hate when I do what you did and sometimes it is because of alcohol but not so much now because if I am drinking now I actually "prepare" myself to feel deeply triggered because my mind runs rampant and wild. Fourteen years ago my then daughter in law broke my infant grandson's leg and blamed me. I am a mental health professional and everyone in my small community knows me. I sat on the review board for my county for reviewing child abuse cases with pediatricians, nurses, SW's and others so when this happened and I had to be "investigated" by the state it was awful. I never, ever thought I would forgive that woman for what she did. Of course the allegation was unfounded but it caused me so much stress and grief. My hatred for her dripped out of every pore in my body and I made a target out of a photo of her face to draw on or poke with a knife or hit or, you name it. I did that for a long, long time until finally one day I just realized that she had no idea what I was doing and that it only hurt me to keep reliving the trauma of those few years when their divorce dragged on and on.

    4. LLP, (Part 2) I also felt like I would never forgive my husband and for the longest time I really just wanted him to drop dead and free me from my pain but the truth is more complicated than all of this. My husband is a truly screwed up man thanks to his family of origin and poor coping skills. I never knew that and even though he did things over our married life that I thought were pretty stupid and immature responses to things I had no idea of his porn and sex habits. I still struggle with this although now that the ICD 9 lists sex addiction as a real "thing" I'm being a lot gentler with myself and my spouse. He will never be able to give me back the marriage I wanted and thought I had. I am just now getting to the place where I feel pretty good about myself. I have forgiven him for being who he is because nothing I can say or do that I haven't said or done before can hurt him more than my words of anger and contempt have already hurt him, not to mention how much he hates himself for doing all the things he did. It sometimes takes every bit of focus and determination I have to not lash out at him when triggers happen because he knows, without me saying a word, that I am reminded of his failures. That is hard for him and he lives with that every minute of every day and will for the rest of his life. He never blames me for anything he did anymore. We are at the point now where I know that he is grateful for this one precious chance to live with me and share my life and the lives of our kids and grand kids because without a doubt they would cut him off completely if they knew. I chose to believe that he has worked on himself and become a better man because he wants to be a better man rather than trying to save face and do image control and preserve his place in the extended family. I doubt he would be able to live this new life and pretend everything is OK if it wasn't. Of course it isn't "okay" 100% but overall, we communicate well, we have a closeness and intimacy that we never had and we strive to be happy and enjoy our lives and family. He makes much better choices overall about everything and when he does things (non infidelity related) that make me roll my eyes, we can now debrief and talk it through later to my satisfaction. I know he loves me. I love him too but there may always be something "missing" because of the 35 plus years of his sexual acting out and lies. I'm doing okay with living with whatever it is that is missing and if I ever feel "not okay" about that I will deal with it head on. I wish you healing and peace my friend but the truth is that you will not be free as long as you hold on to this anger, hate and resentment. My husband also said very hurtful things to me early on and later said it was to protect himself from my anger. When I think of the things he said to me they still hurt and I choose to put them into his "foggy" days before admitting to all he had done. I strive to love myself unconditionally and give myself a lot of grace.

    5. The trickle truth, aka gaslighting, is what caused so much damage for me. I really wish he has just ripped the bandage off rather than putting me through hell. I too drank too much, but needed something to make the pain go away. I did give up alcohol for lent this year (and sweets...what was I thinking?) Cutting down on alcohol has helpe my health both physically
      And mentally. Any us could have written your post. We are fortunate to have this safe place.

    6. Thank you so much LilyLove and Anom your responses helped me so much. You really get it. LilyLove you nailed it "we really do never heal do we". Not really to the extent we would like to. Thank you for taking the time to help me.

    7. LLP,
      Alcohol is a depressant. So while you say it lets the veil slip a bit and your true feelings come out, I don't entirely believe it. Yes, your pain is there and it's constant. I know. And you and I both know too that you brought a TON of pain into your marriage and have been completely re-traumatized by your husband's betrayal. But I also know that alcohol is a depressant. On a chemical level, it is altering your brain so that any feel-good chemicals give way to feel-shitty chemicals. I would start by putting aside any alcohol for now because it's exacerbating an already volatile situation.
      And you know I don't give your husband a pass. And you know that if you want to leave tomorrow, I will be virtually helping you pack your bags and cheering you on. But I also want you to know that I don't know what more your husband can do right now. He cannot un-cheat. I am pretty damn sure that if he could, he would. Instead, he is telling you that he loves you and is trying to be the man you deserve. If that's not enough for you (and there's no rule saying it has to be. YOU get to decide whether you stay or go), then it's not enough. Absolutely okay to feel that way. But what I see you doing, over and over and over LLP, is getting in your own way. Your pain is so raw and so tender that the slightest touch makes you scream in pain. I get it. You are a highly intelligent, deeply sensitive person who has been abused in some shape or form much of your life. And you expend so much of your strength just keeping your head above water. Which is why this post might be just what you need. Rest, LLP. Let yourself rest. What if you agreed to not talk about the affair for a period of time. What if you made a resolution with yourself to NOT bring it up every time you're triggered but to, instead, journal it or walk it off or write a letter then burn it? Not every feeling needs to be expressed. I know I sound like I'm contradicting my usual "we need to be free to share our pain" mantra but I think there comes a time when we're not saying anything new. When we're simply poking that same old wound and preventing it from scabbing over.
      I know triggers are everywhere for you right now. And I still find watching movies with cheating in it makes me squirm. But it doesn't feel raw. It just feels...gross. Like "how can anyone think that's exciting or sexy?"
      Yes, what your husband did to you is on him. But you need to take responsibility for what's happening now. I hope you can hear the compassion from me to you when I say this: it IS on you if, when you drink, you cause pain in your relationship. It's tough to hear that. It might trigger a lot of your own shame. But LLP, it's true. You can't hold this guy's feet to the fire forever. Or your own.
      The others here (including SS1) have noted that healing comes for them when they're able to extend mercy to themselves, to be kind to themselves. Your post begins with your own disappointment in yourself for lashing out when you've been drinking but quickly turns to but it's his fault that I'm in pain. Let yourself rest, LLP.

    8. LilyLove,
      You never need to apologize for ranting anywhere on this site.
      Have you told your husband exactly what you need from him? That you need him to be specific? Is he able to hear you when you explain what you need?
      And, honestly, you do heal. It takes a fuck of a long time. Way WAY too long, in my opinion. But it happens. It happens when we do what SS1 suggests here. When we nurture our own healing.

    9. LLP and others, I agree with Elle and her discussion regarding alcohol. It is a depressant. It can cloud judgement and also many people feel the effects of the depressant nature for multiple days after alcohol use. I found and even now find that even one glass drags me down. What is interesting is it has always been an issue with my husband. I brought it up from when we first met. It should have been a red flag. It is sporadic use just like his affairs were. I find that to be an interesting connection. He has always thought he was fine since he handled himself well while drinking. But I can see it and how it affects him beyond the next day. He is totally different. He has agreed with me that if he never drank he would have never had an affair. He drank every time he was with each ow. I could go on and on about that.

      I too have similar feelings LLP. I know intellectually that my husband is totally changed and devoted to us. However, I feel like I am changed and damaged from the trauma. I make every effort to focus on today. We cannot change the past. Focus on positive self talk. I work so hard on it all. And these almost physical reactions are hard to cope with. My husband is supportive but I feel like I would be bringing up something every day. And at the point we are at I don't want to be thinking about this all the time. I am just exhausted from it and daily life. It affects me daily. I am more worn down because of it. I am resentful at my husband since he said what matters most is that I am happy. I have talked with him explaining how he should not put that on me. I know it is coming from the fact then he will feel less shame and guilt if I am "happy". I just still do not know how to be happy. I just feel this dark cloud over me. Ugh.

    10. ELLE, Can I adopt you to be my mom? Tough talk but true. I can't believe how you remembered how really broken I was when I arrived at your door. You are so right. You know how someone tells you the truth then you feel like a shit. That's me and you. That is why I love you. Your arrow couldn't get any straighter. I'm going to copy this post you wrote because it is so very true. Thank you again for setting me straight for the millionth time. You make me cry those tears no one can see but they just run down one cheek than the other. Silent one at a time. When someone is really really really nice for me, it makes me do that and I'm doing it now. You have the special ability to change lives Elle.

    11. LLP - Thank you for posting this ... because it brought Elle out ... and oh how I needed to read what you wrote today Elle.

    12. LLP,
      My hope for you is that you get to the point where the truth doesn't make you feel like shit. Where you give yourself permission to screw up and learn from it, without beating yourself up. Not only would your life be easier but if you could extend that sort of compassion to yourself, that much grace, then I suspect you'd be able to extend it to your husband too. He screwed up. He screwed up HUGE. But here he is, still there with you, fighting as best he can (and sometimes our "best" still sucks). You might recall something my mother said to me when I was sobbing in the early days to her. I've written about it before. She told me that people love us the best they can. Sometimes their best is horrible -- sometimes they were never taught what love looked like. At the time, I remember saying something like "well, his best sucked." She agreed. And then pointed out that he's trying to learn to love me better. Not MORE. Better. Because he always loved me. Even when his actions were causing me pain. He loved me the best he could given his own battered heart. And now he loves me better.
      I suspect your husband is trying to do the same.
      And Kimberly...I'm sorry I've been so unavailable. Crazy busy summer. Elderly dad, three teens, AND I'M FINISHING UP ENCYCLOPEDIA FOR THE BETRAYED: YOUR A - Z SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR ANYONE WHO'S EVER BEEN CHEATED ON, LIED TO, AND LEFT FOR DEAD. Hoping to have it ready for the retreat and for sale on this site and elsewhere. A WHOLE lotta work!!

    13. Ha! Elle - unavailable is NOT a word I would ever associate with you. I am still in ahh at how long and how much you've dedicated your life to helping those of us in this place and time.

      I think I needed the tough love today like LLP ... someone to say what my mom might have said (after she got done loading the shot gun or sharpening the knives to inflict a little pain) ...

      I cannot wait to read the book!

    14. Love you Elle .. just putting it out there
      : ) .. and yes I want you as my mum too xxx

  8. LLP
    I hear you loud and clear! Those years that I kept triggering and he had no clue what or how it happened almost always was when I had too much alcohol and as my third grade teacher taught us, loose lips sink ships... I would have a meltdown and blast him for several hours until both of us were exhausted. I don’t know the last time that happened but I guess it’s because he finally got his shit together and he could tell what was causing the trigger and he learned how to diffuse it. I also cut way down on the drinking and I began to concentrate on his day to day actions. For me I believe it was when he began to ask me what I needed and how he could help us both work through them together. That said I have been very distracted from the us because of the day to day struggle of care taking my mother. He’s much better at entertaining her than me as I seem to be preoccupied with just what the day requires for food medicine and bathroom needs. I’m not sure if this is good for our marriage or if it’s stressing an already tense relationship because only time will tell. Just wanted you to know that I feel where you’re coming from! Hugs!

    1. Theresa,thank you for responding, it is just such a relief in a creepy way that drinking did this to you too. I just bought long term care so my daughter won't be in your situation. I'm thinking of myself. Didn't get it for him. He can get it for himself. I changed financial adviser's who look out just for me and my well being because I don't know if he will. Theresa thank you, as a nurse, knowing what a caretaker does you either had one hell of a mom or you are a saint.

    2. Theresa,
      I'm so sorry. Caregiving for parents is exhausting and moreso, I'm sure, because of the contentious relationship you've had with your mother.
      I think the dynamic you have right now with your husband/mother can be both stressful but also healing. That he will step up and help you is no small thing. And that you value what he contributes is wonderful -- it gives you a bit of space to focus on her other needs. I hope you're also able to give yourselves some time together to reconnect.

  9. "You never really heal" both a release from my expectations for myself and yet sad too. Certainly realistic, hard to fool yourself with that statement into seeing something that really isn't there.

    1. I think that belief that we "should" be at a certain point in our healing can trigger shame and disappointment. We each have a different timeline based on a zillion variables. But you are NOT where you were, even if you feel like you recycle back sometimes.



Related Posts with Thumbnails