Monday, July 9, 2018

Rebuild yourself after betrayal

"There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself." ~Hannah Gadsby, stand-up comedian

I have some bad news for those of you who long for nothing more than the you you used to be. The "Before" you. Before your heart was shattered by news of your husband's infidelity. Before you fell to your knees and sobbed. Before you stared vacant-eyed at the ceiling, wondering how you could have missed the clues because surely there were clues. Before you threw his clothes on the lawn. Before you brushed away your tears and assured your children that "no, sweetie, mommy isn't sad. Mommy just has something in her eye."
The bad news is this: That woman is gone.
But it's not all bad news. Because when everything is gone, when you're stripped bare and you're looking around and wondering how you ever thought it mattered whether you painted the kitchen chairs yellow or red or whether your kids were actually eating from all the food groups each day, when you don't have much left to lose is when the rebuilding can begin. And anyone who's lost everything in a fire will tell you that when the time comes to rebuild, you don't scrimp, you don't cut corners, you don't overlook. Instead, starting from the foundation, you make damn sure that you're building the strongest possible thing you can, able to withstand fire, hurricane and flood.
Which is why older women are, statistically, at their happiest. We've stopped caring whether people think we're fat, or whether we said the wrong thing at the meeting. As the saying goes, we have zero fucks left to give.
Which is not to say we don't care. Those of us who've been broken and rebuilt ourselves are among the most compassionate people. We care deeply. We just don't care about the superfluous, the shallow. We use our precious time and energy to focus on the things we can change, on the things that matter.
For me, that means my family. It means work that I find meaningful. It means my friends. And it means releasing myself of that longing for Before.
I know how hard it is. I spent way too much time wishing I could magically restore myself to life Before. And yes, there were casualties. It took me a few years at least until I laughed with the same abandon as Before. It took me even longer until I could approach anyone's news of engagement or wedding without cynicism. I had to work to regain my sense of humour and I still tend toward cynicism.
There's little doubt, though, that my shoulders are better able to carry my friends in their sorrow. I know that my heart is wide enough and deep enough to hold pain and still have room for joy. We women who have rebuilt ourselves are superheroes.
It sucks that it sometimes takes suffering to remind us of our strength. But all the women I truly admire – every single one – has felt broken. One lost two children to suicide/mental illness. Another battled anxiety and addiction. Another parents a child with special needs. Too many have known betrayal. So much grief. And so much strength.
I know it probably doesn't help much when you're in a heap on the floor. And I'm a firm believer in letting yourself stay there and cry. Not forever but today.
But know that the rebuilding is underway, whether you can feel it yet or not. Your strength is being stirred and preparing to rise. Look around at the women who you truly admire. Not the ones with the shiny veneer. We all know that's carefully crafted to cover the cracks. But the ones who model strength and conviction. The ones who've rebuilt themselves. Forget Before. That's your After.

29 comments:

  1. What a great piece. I truly never knew how much strength I had dealing with all of this. Looking back now I kicked ass and so has every woman on here. It's still a struggle sometimes dealing with the aftermath of thoughts that haunt me even after 2 1/2 years. But it gets better everyday.

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  2. Thank you for this today. It arrived just as I was hitting the wall, wondering whether I have it in me to continue with attempting reconciliation and life with my WH. Through a lifetime of parental emotional abuse, losses, health crises I have persevered and stretched, but the experience of infidelity has made me realize that those challenges were a cakewalk. Thanks for helping me in this journey, and telling me I can do it.

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    1. loner - on my drive to work today I was thinking how unfair it is that the burden of this sits solely on our shoulders. Sure our WH spouses have to get their shit together too ... but the burden of staying together and moving on truly does sit unfairly on us.

      It's us who has to keep putting 1 foot in front of the other and a smile on our lips even if our heads are ready to explode.

      If people truly had even a small clue as to what goes through my head every single day ... they'd know my true strength.

      Stay strong sister ... we've weathered so many other storms, we can weather this one too ... regardless of how it turns out!

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  3. I'm struggling with this right now. I spent 2 years losing 200 pounds, I'd spent the next 2 years building myself up and accepting my new deflated body - I'd made so MANY life changes - and had finally started to feel confident in myself again after putting on a lot of weight after having our daughter in 2015. Then this. And suddenly not only was I no longer myself - I was lower than I'd ever been and I so desperately want the confident woman I'd scrapped to become.

    I keep telling myself that today is the day I start the rebuild. Today is the day that I stop feeding my emotions. Today is the day that I ride my fucking tiger!

    One of these days ... very soon ... I'll actually listen to myself. :)

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    1. Still Standing 1July 9, 2018 at 3:13 PM

      Kimberly, I just wanted to tell you that you are a complete BOSS! Keep on loving yourself.

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    2. Kimberly,

      YOU LOST 200 lbs??? I could never do that!!! That is amazing! I am such a wimp about just getting back into shape....just lucky with genetics that I never really put on weight.

      If you can do that - you can do ANYTHING! Your words and advice to me have been so strong- you have it in you to get through this!

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    3. Ann - 203 to be exact ... but my lowest weight was NOT healthy and was something I knew I'd never be able to maintain.

      I really wish I could say that I'd maintained that loss ... but I'm sitting at about 60 pounds above my ideal weight and am desperately trying to get my head back in the game to get back to it. I've spent a lot of time reflecting this past year. I started slowly putting weight back on after my affair ended in 2013. I think that it became a safety mechanism - if I wasn't thin anymore then men wouldn't find me desirable ... and of course I put on 81 pounds during my pregnancy in 2015 and had not lost all of it before we got pregnant again last year.

      Weight loss plays a HUGE part in both mine and my WH's affairs. My old classmate would NEVER have looked at me twice if I weighed over 300 pounds and mine would not have happened. My WH's confidence was shot because he felt like I didn't desire him even after he lost weight ... ironically, the OW was actually bigger than me (we probably weighed about the same but she's 5 inches shorter than me). I had felt like he didn't find me desirable after my weight gain from the pregnancy.

      I'm working on returning to the F-you attitude I developed in 2012 and putting myself back up my own pedestal ... 1 day at a time.

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    4. Hi, Kimberly. You are amazing. I hope you don’t feel like you’re not making progress. Recovery is such a step-by-step process, and it involves a lot of backsliding. But that truly does not mean that you are starting from scratch each time.
      I’ve learned to look at each failure as a milestone. Each time I learn something, and I’m a little bit further down the road. I accept that, even at this stage. I’m still going to have setbacks. Just had one this past weekend. But eventually, you realize that you’re coping a little better now, you’re recovering a little more quickly. Your progress is not wasted when you fall down. You get up stronger and wiser each time.
      Give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made. As Ann said, you’ve already fought battles and overcome obstacles that would seem insurmountable to many other people.
      Hugs!

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  4. I'm writing this while sitting in my ob/gyn's office waiting for my yearly. The same office I came to right after D day to have the full STD testing over 2 years ago. I'm doing well. I'm not consumed with worry about what these people must think of me. I did not feel strong then, but I do feel strong now. I also feel a lot of gratitude about my life. I figured that feeling was gone forever when I found out what my H had been up to, but I was wrong.

    I recently went on a long cruise with my family. I did a lot of planning and wanted things to run smoothly of course. One thing that was super important was almond milk for my coffee. (Dairy sensitive). I was prepared to bring my own onboard, but after asking a representative on the phone, I was assured that almond milk would definitely be available onboard all ships. I walked down to the coffee bar on the first morning and ordered an almond milk latte. I was really looking forward to this calm moment after all the hustling and planning. The bartender said, "sorry. No almond milk on board." I figured he was just misinformed. This couldn't be true. I called to check!! Then I was mad. How could this be happening to me? I did everything I was supposed to do! Could they stop and get some for me for tomorrow? What was I going to do for coffee for NINE WHOLE DAYS!! (Rage, rage, rage all inside my head). The NINE DAY thought shook me into reality. I was on a 9 day cruise. Hello. My almond milk problem made me laugh. I let go of what I felt entitled to, laughed at myself a little, and set off to find a solution that was available. I found a wonderful green tea and some sort of European coffee machine that was non dairy, and I had myself a fantastic 9 day cruise with plenty of warm drinks and calm moments. I watched people around me. Some others got hung up on their small disappointments and it hung like a cloud over their whole trip. They couldn't let it go and look around. It's like they spent the whole day at the bar arguing about almond milk and missed all the beautiful scenery.

    I wish healing from betrayal were that simple, but there are some parallels. First of all, discovering infidelity is WAY worse than living without almond milk (so don't misunderstand). I did notice there was no way to let go of my outrage over the almond milk without feeling really mistreated first. It's not like I could skip any step. It's just that the quicker I could accept and look for a solution, the quicker I could have my peace and see all the beauty. I wish I'd known that a bunch of wonderful feelings were waiting for me on the other side of the affair discovery. If I could have felt that, I might have let go of my outrage sooner. Things don't have to be what you thought to be beautiful. There is peace and beauty beyond the struggle. My reaction to the almond milk went faster than some because of the strength I've gained and my focus on priorities too.

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    1. Ann, I loved reading what you had to say! Fantastic insight!
      SS, I’m glad you’re reclaiming and making new memories. Rock that two-piece!

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  5. Still Standing 1July 9, 2018 at 3:11 PM

    ann, I love reading your posts. So relate-able. I just got to the beach and watched a couple in line at the grocery store melt down about what grade of TP to purchase. She thought they needed to get very thin for the septic and he wanted soft and comfy. Thing was, they had not idea if the house was even on a septic (this came out in the argument). They were also obviously very well to do, just based on attire and a general sleekness of being that you get from the very rich down here. I felt bot annoyed by them and their argument (I was hangry and resentful about being "alone" and they at least had their miserable each other) but also a great deal of compassion for her, in her need to control which represents something missing for her and him, for his long suffering and feeling of ill usage. It was all so recognizable. And I hoped for them that they got home and got a drink and were able to enjoy each other.
    I, meanwhile, am trying not to fixate on feeling lonely and instead connect with the peace of this place. Thing is, this is my first trip here post divorce. Last time I was here, I was with my ex, on a family vacation. We knew we were separating, but hadn't told the kids yet. And he was a complete ass. So I am here trying to reclaim my family history. I've been coming here since I was 2, so fuck him. And to a large extent I am trying to make peace with being single and just staying that way for a little bit.
    So its, for me, part of the long rebuild of myself. Had a conversation with a friend recently about some of my tough history, but said, truthfully, that I wouldn't change any of my story, because I wouldn't know who'd I'd be and I really like who I am. :)
    The other thing. Bikinis. I am forcing myself to wear them. I do have two safety suits, but dammit. I am going out every day in a two piece. I am self conscious about my midesction. which is loose after weight loss and a bit cellulitish, but dammit. I am strong and I've worked hard to get here. and I am making myself be with the discomfort as a step toward self acceptance. Because if you've picked up anything about me, its that I like to do things the hard way. :)

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    1. Good for you, SS1! Wear your bikini and take your beach place back. You are not alone, of course. All of us warriors are with you in spirit. You've got this.

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  6. Ss1 yay you! My H took the ow to my special place away too ... my family area that i grew up vacationing at thru my childhood and introduced him too. Ive yet to return and have mixed emotions about it ... we own gear and equip to enjoy there that he and the whore used! Im on fence about selling dumb right thats my place! He told me he got equip stuck in ditch and she was clueless how to help it too him hours and he was frustrated ... good i said! Serves him right. Just venting your story made me think of this. Btw he didnt go to the exact town but one town over ... well wasnt that thoughtfuls llots..still geners area and activities. Urghhh

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    1. Wounded - I see both sides - returning and regaining YOUR history ... or selling it and letting go of the memory. I keep saying that this is my FUCKING town and I should stop letting the various locations trigger me (I've lived here basically my entire life ... both WH and OW moved here more recently). But it's still hard to disconnect.

      We just spent an entire week in Florida (his "home" state) and it was honestly so nice not to have the triggers of locations. I would seriously entertain the idea of moving away from here if I could ... but then I wonder if I'd just be triggered by other things even in a new location.

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    2. I hear ya .. i wanted to sell my truck at first too ... fuckers took my truck on the trip!!! Thats my heart speaking my mind was like start a fresh car note. Whatever for now i keep it ... i think change can be good but your home surrounding are familiar maybe to a degree even comforting not sure how far out you are ... sut idle take time and figure it out.

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    3. I am triggered by going places and memories all the time. I have a very good memory and it is hard since people reminisce all the time around us and it drags me down. I know exactly what was going on. I also struggle when friends bring up vacation ideas. I would prefer to go to all new places.

      The flip side for me is it was an ah ha moment. At those times in my past I felt confused why he was acting the way he was and why I felt the way I did. It was a low point but I did not understand. After dday there was some relief that I was not crazy, he was a liar, cheat and gaslighting me. Still not easy but the spin I put on it to get through these days.

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    4. I truly don’t understand these women who don’t mind co-opting entire sections of another woman’s life behind her back. Are their hearts and consciences just...dead? As for the men, the depth of the betrayal is just crazy. And the ridiculous thing is, I think more often than not they are just unoriginal. Creatures of habit. They do what they did with us. Mine actually used some of the same catchphrases and jokes we had used for years, used them with her. Lame. He as good as admitted to me that he was just imitating the way he talked to me. Of course, he told her that it was - all so new!!

      For me, the worst thing was a musical. We had seen it together twice during the past 8 years - I INTRODUCED him to it. And we had been planning for a year to take our daughters to it the next time it came to town. Well, we separated, but decided we were still going to do this with our daughters, because we’d been planning it for so long.
      Come to find out - the very same time he ordered tickets for the 4 of us, he ordered another set of 4 tickets - for him and her and the kids. At that point, the kids didn’t even know yet that she existed, but he excitedly texted her about the four of them going together, and she excitedly agreed.
      Lord have mercy, that was a punch in the stomach.
      I still don’t know how he thought he was going to pull it off. Of course, it didn’t happen. They didn’t meet her until almost a year later. We went as a family, They went the next week. He lost money, as far as I know, on two tickets. And I got the joy of being triggered, for a while, by one of my favorite musicals.
      God save us from stupid, terminally selfish, mind-blowingly insensitive, affair-foggy brained numbskulls.

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  7. My ex h went to Cyprus with his own ., he went in the may and myself and my boys went in the July. There were the odd times when I thought that he may have been here or there but on the whole I was too busy having a good time : ) .. honestly I don’t know the man I was married too he is an absolute ass hole.. clearly hating the fact that he had no control over me so tries to stop giving me money for his kids .. I mean what an absolute knighting shining armour he is.. I believe he will get his comeback and when he does I want to stand and watch. Xx

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  8. After betrayal you go through such a narrow tunnel of self exceptance. The tunnel is narrow and you struggle to fit it. It’s pure hell as many of you can confirm. After a bit the walls loosen and you hear your voice guide you. It often says “fuck them” and you move on.
    Ladies you regain yourself and although you are never the same you are better. Remember that! You come out with a miner’s light attached to your forehead shouting and demanding WTF.

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    1. Ha! My miners light might just be blinding some days took me 3 years yo feel that ... love your words heartfelt. I can see it in my head a vision of warriors... wounded not broken i still chant

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  9. Had a mild meltdown this morning! I was going to my urologist appointment with my h driving but he entered the parking lot on the wrong side of the building and I didn’t have a clue where to park so I called the reception desk and learned we were on the wrong side of the building, that said he had already triggered me because he showed me the entrance to Costco and said see how easy to get to this time of morning! I said I still don’t plan to shop there by myself and he said just add that to the long list of things you’ll never do and I went off on him because I already have to plan our meals shop for everything all three of us and then there’s the medicine that I keep straight for three people and it was just all so petty but I screamed please stop making me feel inadequate! I already feel enough of that from dealing with mother! Then I went in and had my procedure and she handed me a clean bill of health! No sign of cancer or stones! I felt a bit ashamed of how I reacted but he doesn’t understand ptsd and how he triggers mine because I still have more stress from my care giver role than he will ever understand! We did both apologize and we kissed and made up so now he’s at work and I plan to be lazy the rest of today! Thanks for listening to me rant!

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    1. Sorry for that experience - but congratulations on your good health news!! :-)

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    2. Sorry for that experience - but congratulations on your good health news!! :-)

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    3. So happy you received a clean bill of health. You have so much on your plate. There are a few places I can't visit too. Target, because that is her big box of choice and the outlet mall because he gave her money and she bought new outfits for herself. We actually tried Target because they had something he wanted and at least he understood when the panic started and got me out. I can't even shop Target online.

      Glad you made up (they really don't get ptsd) and took care of yourself!

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  10. Glad you kissed and made up Theresa, thumbs up to the clean bill of health too : ) xxx

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  11. Thanks for the the love y’all share!

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  12. I never thought I’d be in this situation..I am now. And I don’t know how to get back up. 😫

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  13. Unknown
    None of us wanted to be in this situation but here we are. Give you yourself time and take care of you first. This site can be your saving grace because you get support and nobody judges. All of us have our own stories that need to be told and this is the place to do it. I'm sorry that this has happened to you but it does get better. It takes time and a lot of self care. Hugs

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  14. I think I love you, Elle! ;-)

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