Thursday, August 30, 2018

Introducing my book: Encyclopedia for the Betrayed

Those of you who visit here often know that I've been working on a book version of this blog for years. I kept trying to put something together but, despite that fact that I have 15 books to my credit, I couldn't figure out how to create something that felt like me, was full of useful information and didn't duplicate what's already out there.
And then – eureka – I remembered one of my favorite books: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by the inimitable Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who devastated so many of us when she passed away recently. Amy and I shared a literary agent, which felt, to me, like a brush with greatness. But more than that, I loved Amy's approach to writing about her life in all its messy, joyful, fearful glory. And so I took that approach to create Encyclopedia for the Betrayed: Your Essential A - Z Guide for Anyone Who's Ever Been Lied To, Cheated On and Left for Dead.
It felt like magic. The words poured out of me as if I'd turned on a tap. I added some reworked passages from the site. I included advice offered up by many of you, for which I'm so grateful, such as Iris, StillStanding1, Steam, Phoenix.... And then, I edited. And edited. And edited.
This book reflects all that this site is and all that everyone here is: Compassionate. Wise. Supportive. Funny.
I self-published because, as my agent told me, traditional publishers wouldn't agree to let me write under a pseudonym (mostly because I can't then promote the book, which will, of course, affect sales).
And that's where you all come in, I hope.
I am incredibly proud of this book. I believe it holds everything women need to begin to heal from a partner's affair. But it's weird to have this book I'm so proud of but that I cannot shout about from the rooftops. I'm hoping some of you will do the shouting for me.
It's available both an as e-book or in print. The cover is beautiful and reflects the hope and humour that's on every page. If you order it (and I hope you will), please then write a review so that other betrayed wives can find the book too. As we all know, there are too many of us secret sisters suffering in silence and obscurity. This book is their handbook of hope and healing. I would be so grateful for you if you help light the way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Just One Thing

"When we're under the weight of anxiety and shame and depression, it's so difficult to act. So it is a challenge to do one new thing...."
~Harriet Lerner, from Dear Sugars: Moving On Part II 

So many of you are stuck. You're torn between leaving a marriage to a man unwilling to humble himself and seek help and protecting your children from heartbreak. You're torn about whether to believe in this better man and his promises, even though he's broken plenty before.  You're paralyzed by the changes that leaving will bring – less income, moving, loneliness.
I was there. I've been stuck. On the one hand, I wanted to flee and never look back. On the other, I didn't have the energy to pack a suitcase let alone settle three children into a new home and, possibly, new school.
And, of course, on this site, we always give each other permission to rest. To just sit with things. To digest this new reality before making any big decisions. We don't always have to do. Sometimes we need to just be.
But when we feel as though we're stuck in concrete and it's hardening with every second, then action is a wise course. It's life-affirming.
It's also daunting.
Because we're so bloody afraid. What if we change our minds? What if we can't get a job? What if we die, destitute and living in a refrigerator box and he goes on to win the lottery? What if... What if... What if...
What if you just focused on your next right step. Or as Lerner puts it, "one new thing."
It can take the pressure off while still moving you forward. It's like reconnaissance. Gathering information, gaining momentum.
"One new thing" could be joining a running club. It could be browsing some course calendars at your local college. It might be seeing a therapist and admitting how depressed you are.
Whatever it is, it doesn't have to be having a college degree, having a new job, running a marathon. We get away ahead of ourselves. Think of it this way, we can't climb a mountain without first getting off the damn couch. And maybe getting off the couch is your "one new thing".
Set them up for success not failure, is something a parenting expert told me once when I was writing a story on potty-training your kids (my life is nothing but glamour!). And that's what I'm telling you here. You don't need to know how your story is going to turn. In fact, you can't know because none of us has a crystal ball.
But you can take a single step, a "next right thing", "a one new thing" toward creating a life that's better than the one you have right now. You cannot control whether he becomes a better man but you can insist that he seek counselling. You cannot determine whether divorce will mean selling the house and downsizing but you can have a consultation with a lawyer to find out. You cannot wish away the depression you're feeling but you can call a therapist, begin medication, make a pact with a neighbour to get out and walk each day for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour.
You can do this.
Just one thing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Everything you wanted to know about the BWC Retreat (but were afraid to ask)

Hey secret sisters,

I recently announced the upcoming My Heartbreak, My Rules, My Healing weekend, in North Carolina, Sept. 28 - 30. There is still some room, though space is limited. I'm hoping I can entice a few more of you to join in.
Here's what you can expect:
Take off the mask: You know. The one you have to wear to go to work, to drive carpool, to grocery shop. It's a weekend with other secret sisters who know what you're going through. It's the chance to ask those questions, to lay yourself bare, to seek answers you can't imagine finding elsewhere, to whisper the fears that won't let go.
Be pampered: You won't have to cook, clean, make your bed. You can go for a long walk on the beach, if that's what you want. You can swim. You can nap. You can read a good book (may I recommend the just-released Encyclopedia for the Betrayed?). You can enjoy on-site massage for however long you'd like from a woman who's worked with domestic abuse survivors and knows a lot about the healing power of touch.
Work on healing: Chris Lindner from Help For Betrayal will be on-site all weekend to guide us through exercises gained from her training in facilitating recovery from infidelity. You can join in if you'd like, or take a break if you'd prefer.
Changes since I first announced the retreat: At this point, you will have your own room so no shared accommodation. As well, we've replaced some of the water sports (ie. paddle boards, etc.) with Chris's exercises to help us heal.
I'm really looking forward to meeting those who've registered and I encourage anyone else who's interested to let me know. I'm happy to answer questions or otherwise help make this retreat possible for you.
Click on the retreat link to let me know you're interested. This weekend is going to change lives, including my own. I can't wait.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Subtle Art of Healing From Betrayal

"Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame." ~Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

He speaks the truth. I wish I could tell you that if you do x, y or z, your pain will vanish, your dreams will come true and all will be right in the world.
Actually, let me begin again.
He speaks the truth. And he's telling you exactly how to make your pain, well, not vanish but dissipate more quickly, and how to, slowly, make things right in your world.
The problem is that what he's telling us to do are things most of us don't want to do. He's telling us that the only way to come out the other side of the shitcircus that is betrayal is to feel the pain, to suffer, to engage in the struggle, to pull our shame and humiliation and profound sadness from the shadows and stare it down.
And none of that sounds fun.
Far better, we think, to embrace the lost weight, buy nice clothes, put on a smile and tell anyone who asks that things are jim-dandy, thanks for asking. Far better, we think, to pour ourselves an extra-large glass of Chardonnay before dinner. To do anything that keeps the pain at bay just a bit longer.
Cause admitting we're in pain, even to ourselves, sucks. It feels like victimhood. Vulnerability feels like a loss of power.
Besides, crying makes our eyes all puffy.
I've spent much of the past year avoiding my own pain. In the past few weeks, it has caught up to me. My pain likes to wake me up at 2 a.m. "Hey," it says, and begins cataloguing all the ways in which I've been sucker punched:
Frequently, my pain list works backwards. It begins with a professional disappointment that feels less like an oversight than a deliberate exclusion. And then there's all the ways in which I feel like a terrible mother because I have three wonderful kids who genuinely love spending time with me and all I can do is wish away the days until they're in school and I can have my quiet, solitary days back to write. And then I'm afraid that because I'm not appreciating these days with my children that the universe will snatch them from me. There will be a drowning. An automobile accident. A suicide.
Ah yes, a suicide. I get there after 30 minutes of stewing in my own anxiety. When my daughter was struggling in the fall, still not clearly diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, calling me in the middle of the night to tell me she "can't do this anymore." "This" was "life."
I never panicked. I talked with her for hours until she would fall asleep. And then I would drive like a bat out of hell for two hours to the city where she lived and I would talk to doctors and nurses and social workers and school psychologists and plead with them to help her.
She got help. She got a diagnosis after she told a psychiatrist that she couldn't keep herself safe, which is hospital code for "suicide risk".
And I carried on. I had two big assignments due so I worked on those in between visiting my daughter in the hospital.
I cried once and only briefly before chastising myself to stop it.
Stupidly, I took pride in that.
Even with everything I've learned about the value of tears, of feeling the pain, I couldn't let myself feel how much pain I was in.
It felt selfish to experience my own pain when my daughter's seemed worse. Those old scripts, learned from a childhood of living with addicts, took over. Be strong. Don't tell people what's going on because you'll be judged. Don't cry because you won't be able to stop. Take care of others, that's your job.
And so here I am. Months later. Awake through the night because my pain won't be ignored any longer. "The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering," Mark Manson tells us.
I have suffered the past months as I dodged my pain. I have felt edgy, bitter, judgemental, critical. My anxiety gets easily ignited by others' anxiety. I have felt anything but the profound sadness of learning that my daughter has a chronic illness with a high suicide rate that will likely require her to be medicated for much of her life. There's plenty we don't know. Whether her illness will get in the way of career aspirations, or travel plans, or her desire to have children of her own (it has a genetic component).
And I have busied myself too often with wondering about her future because it distracts me from my present pain.
And so pain wakes me at 2 a.m.
"Hello," it says. "I'm still here."

Monday, August 13, 2018

What You Must Know About Getting Past Betrayal?

A newcomer recently commented that though she appreciates all the information she's reading on the site, she's concerned that so many people seem to be mired in the pain. "Does anybody get past this?" she wonders. Or is she doomed to a life of joylessness?
It's understandable that she might worry. I was convinced that I would never feel anything but misery. I felt sentenced to a life of sadness, all because of something I had no control over.
Looking around, there wasn't anyone to tell me otherwise. My father's betrayal had led my mother to a decade of alcohol abuse. When she got sober, she recreated a joyful life. But that seemed more a consequence of sobriety than healing.
On this site, of course, there are many many posts about the pain of betrayal, the frustration of triggers, the long road to healing. Far fewer are the posts about the delight of a life beyond the betrayal, past the healing.
I pointed out to this commenter that, over the years, there have been many many others who've come to the site, found healing and then, when the betrayal began to recede into the past, moved on to other things. Those women, I told our commenter, are likely right now on some home decor site figuring out what color to paint their kitchen. Or maybe binge watching Netflix. Or, maybe, glued to CNN watching the drama of a president descending into madness and continuing to gaslight a nation. Wherever they are, betrayal for them has, like it has for me, become something that happened. If it wasn't for this site and my reluctance to relinquish my role as a shepherd of broken hearts, I can promise you, I wouldn't be here. Which is good news for all of you! Because it's proof that betrayal will not define your entire life, no matter how large it's looming right now.
And that's what I'd like everyone to know, no matter where you are post-betrayal. You will get past this. You can heal from this. It will never disappear, of course. There will be triggers. There will be anxieties. But they can be few and very far between.
The responsibility, however, is yours. Healing doesn't magically happen. Time helps, of course. But the real healing comes from the hard work of repairing your broken heart. Establishing clear and healthy boundaries. Learning to practice daily self-care.
And, if you choose, rebuilding a marriage. A second marriage with your first husband, as Esther Perel puts it.
But always know it's possible. Reach for it. The women who have moved past betrayal have also, often, moved past this website. There's nothing for them here. No d├ęcor tips. No celebrity gossip. No political news. No beauty advice (except, sleep. Always always get your sleep).
But I'm still here. And so are you. We're shepherding those broken hearts into a future where those hearts are healed. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Guest Post: Unbroken

by StillStanding1

True healing is not the fixing of the broken, but the rediscovery of the Unbroken. 
~Jeff Foster

We can all be incredibly judgmental of ourselves, of our habits, behaviors, ability to handle situations, believing that we are too emotional or should just somehow be more healed, heal faster, be able to forgive. As if healing or forgiveness is a destination we can arrive at. Where suddenly, all that we perceive as broken, will be fixed, that we will finally be fixed for good and all. Or we believe that others are somehow doing better than we are. Many of us carry the belief that we cannot be whole unless we are perfect, so we always have to fix ourselves in some way.
What we don’t realize is that if we believe we have to fix something about ourselves, the message we are sending is that we are fundamentally broken. Embedded in that message is the idea that if only we were not broken, our lives would somehow be magically transformed, that we’d arrive at a place that felt like healing, or we’d suddenly experience some transformation and be able to forgive. We carry the idea that there is something that if we could just get over, or if we could be more or less of, we would be fixed. This feeling, if it already lay within us, becomes magnified many times over after experiencing our partner’s infidelity.
Maybe we are holding on to this idea that if we are fully healed, sooner or later, we will somehow feel complete, past this, or back to some pre-traumatic state where life was (looking back with rose-colored glasses) better. If this is our belief then we are missing something important – the truth that we are good enough as we are, right now. This can be a difficult idea. It means acceptance. It means letting go of the idea that there’s something we need to fix about ourselves or our situation.
It can be tempting, in the wake of discovery, to look for something to fix. It’s a job that masks our pain. It can look like the “pick me” dance (be more sexy, be less demanding). Or it can sound like “if only he…,” “if I could just forgive…” all of which distracts us from the grief and pain we need to feel and accept.
Acceptance of ourselves, where we are, of our reality paired with compassion, is the place where true change begins. You are not broken. You don’t need to be fixed. You are whole. You are complete exactly as you are. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, we’ve all had what we needed all along. If you can begin to believe this about yourself, think about how powerful you can be. And then, instead of trying to “fix” yourself, you can focus on being the you that you are.
The next time you start thinking about something you need to fix, replace those thoughts with, “I am unbroken. I am good enough as I am. I am worthy. I am unbroken.”

Monday, August 6, 2018

Beginning Again

There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one.
~Hilary Mantel

There are a lot of you mourning the "end" of something right now. I've read posts about children who are no longer (young) children. Husbands who will no longer be husbands. And you, who will no longer be wives to those husbands. Homes left. Friendships severed. Jobs lost.
It's easy to focus on the empty space where something was. The empty chair at the dinner table. The empty spot on the calendar. The empty bedroom where a teen used to sleep to noon. 
It's important to mourn those endings, those losses. It's necessary, always, to grieve. 
Our culture often ignores this and, too often, we succumb to pressure to get past something we're just not ready to get past. I don't think grieving can be rushed, nor should it be. 
But grief isn't just about endings. Endings aren't just about endings. The end of anything always always means the beginning of something else. And even if that beginning isn't something you might have chosen – life as a single mom, for instance – that doesn't mean that within that beginning isn't still the possibility of adventure. 
I've been thinking about this lately as my daughter begins an internship at a theatre company in the costume department. It has meant giving up a month of do-nothing summer time. And she's an introvert by nature so it has also meant giving up the comfort of days alone.
So it has been with some angst that she has embarked on this opportunity. But from my perch, four decades her senior, I can see the adventure, the possibility, the promise. She sees only the anxiety, the discomfort, the lost time. 
And that's the thing, isn't it? When we're mourning the end of something, it's hard to see any promise in the beginning of something else. We believe the stories we tell ourselves. We'll always be alone. We failed. We gave up our chance to have the "perfect life", as one commenter put it.
Nonsense, I say. If we could be so wrong about how our lives were going to turn out thus far, isn't it possible that we're completely wrong in all these predictions of doom? Why do we assume we're right in our assumptions of misery but wrong in any expectation of joy? 
Whatever your new beginning is, I wish for you the chance to see it as holding promise. Promise of a better marriage, perhaps. Promise of new boundaries. Promise of rediscovering  yourself. 
There are no endings, says author Hilary Mantel. I don't entirely agree. Of course there are endings. But what I think she's really reminding us is that within every ending is a beginning if we can only shift our gaze to notice it. 


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