Friday, March 29, 2019

Beware the Easy Answers

More than a dozen years ago, in shock from D-Day #1, I began rooting around for someone – anyone – who could tell me what to do. Thing is, I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear. There were plenty of voices urging me to leave my husband. The "once a cheater..." crowd can be deafening. 
Quieter, and therefore harder to find, is the "it's possible to remain married...and happy" group. Though I have a faith, I'm uncomfortable with the "God's plan" approach to marriage/infidelity. What I really wanted is what you're reading here: A site that would share a betrayed wife's truth. That there's a whole lot of uncertainty, at least at first. That the fear can be debilitating at times. That the pain can feel excruciating. That it's normal to feel lost and confused and filled with doubt. 
What I wanted to hear is what I'm saying to you now: Infidelity raises questions to which there aren't (usually) easy answers. I offer up the parenthesis because sometimes the answer is easy. Sometimes the abuse is clear. Sometimes his dismissal of your pain is clear. So that even while it might hurt like a motherf@#&er to go, it's still the obvious choice.
But for the rest of us – the vast silent majority who aren't married to a clinical narcissist or an abuser – the path forward is less clear. In a lot of cases, there isn't a path at all, until we create one.
So what I want to say now, and what I wish I had heard loud and clear 12 years ago is this: There is only one person who knows what's right for you right now. And that person is you.
Not what you wanted to hear, is it? So much more appealing to imagine that there's someone out there with the experience and the wisdom and insight to prescribe the path forward. Take two steps and call me in the morning. Yeah, I wanted that too. We all do.
But here's the thing. I don't know your husband. I don't know your children. I don't have a crystal ball that can conjure up your future. I don't know your heart.
I did know my own.
And I knew that, even as I pointed to excuses – I couldn't leave because it would be too disruptive to my children,  I couldn't leave because I could barely get dinner on the table, I couldn't leave because I had work commitments that didn't allow at that time for chaos – the truth is, I didn't want to leave. Not then. Maybe later. But not then.
And so what I wanted was someone to tell me that was the right response.
I didn't want to hear it was what God wanted for me. I didn't want to hear that my husband would undoubtedly cheat again ("once a cheater..."). What I wanted was permission to stay. To listen to my heart.
It was hard to find. And when I did find it, mostly in my therapist's office where she kept redirecting my answer-seeking to my own heart, it was hard to hear over the noise of the "he's a narcissist" mob.
And so, when I created Betrayed Wives Club in order to find others like me who'd chosen to stay and rebuild a marriage, I was adamant that I couldn't know what was right for you. I couldn't possibly predict whether your husband would cheat again, whether he would learn and grow from this or whether he would break your heart, whether he was worthy of the second chance you wanted to give him or whether he was not. But I did know this: You know. 
A couple of weeks past D-Day, having confessed to a woman who, at that point was a casual friend but who worked in my husband's office and therefore knew the OW, she gave me a bracelet with these words by Goethe stamped on it:
Just trust yourself. Then you will know how to live.
I wear that bracelet daily. For twelve years I have lived by that philosophy.
And I promise you, it works.
Just trust yourself. 
You know what you want. And while we can sometimes urge you to open your eyes to things you might rather not see, or remind you of things you've forgotten, you are the one who best knows your heart. If you and your heart aren't so familiar with each other, consider this an invitation to refamiliarize yourself
And beware those who promise you easy answers. Beware of anyone who tells you there is one – and only one – response to infidelity. Beware of those who elicit your worst impulses. Who mistake anger for power. Who confuse certainty with growth.
Just trust yourself. Then you will know how to live. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

How to Start Your Own Infidelity Support Group

At the BWC retreat in September, I had the great fortune of meeting LilyLove in person. And I was delighted to learn from her that she was planning a Betrayed Wives Club support group in her city. She bought a whole bunch of Encyclopedia for the Betrayed books to use as a resource, put out word and organized.
It's a work in progress, she reported not long ago. A couple of women showed up the first meeting and again the second. LilyLove dispensed hard-won advice, which she told me was really helpful to one of the women, which made her feel good. She plans to continue, anticipating a group that will grow with time and continued outreach.
I I love the idea of local support groups and really admire what LilyLove is doing. If a support group had existed in my city, I would have gone (I might also have never created BWC though so...). I attended a Partners of Sex Addicts group but it felt disorganized and lacking in leadership and fell apart shortly after.
So as I cheer on LilyLove from afar, I reached out for advice from a Twitter friend who's been running a support group for a while. I invited her to share her advice here for anyone else who'd like to create one. 


Starting a Support Group
by Hil Barry

Where two or more are gathered you can create support. My first Hope and Healing meeting began with myself, my co-leader and one participant. We met every week with the belief that if we kept showing up, women would find us. We were a small group of three to four women for two months. Then ladies started to find us. Some women stayed for years and others came for weeks or months to get through the early pain and loneliness. 
Our meetings are focused on God’s healing power, but it is the community of women combined with a good book that helps move the ladies toward acceptance and healing. Although I needed God to heal, being in community with women who understood my pain, was key. 
One of the most important things in our meetings is that we do not get stuck in negative discussions about our husbands. We each write a single anger letter that we share with the group once and then we move on. The books help us focus on the important aspects of healing. 

My husband also leads a group for the men. We talked our church into letting us do it there. I told the women about it. Met them at Celebrate Recovery. Our church put flyers in the lobby. Getting the word out is the hardest part. It's been 2 1/2 years. Since my husband needs his group to stay sober, I'll probably be in it for a good while. I lead most of the time but I also have co-leaders. I try to move women up into leadership. 
No coffee yuck. But that would work as a job. I have had ladies bring music to start the meeting, greeter, bible sharing. Did have to report a husband using child porn to the police. We use a timer for our three-minute check in (so that no one person can monopolize the conversation). We don't necessarily stop when the timer goes off but we are more aware of the time.


Me again: If you're interested in starting a support group, please let me know if there's any way I can help. I'm happy to help or even do a Skype call with the group of whatever else might work. If I learn about enough groups, I'll begin listing them on this site so that women coming here might find something close to them.
Kudos to the work that you women do to lift others up. Every single day, I'm humbled by the kindness here. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Keep Marching On

by StillStanding1

Hiraeth – Welsh; a longing for a place you’ve never been, nostalgia for a place you can’t go back to.

It’s March. Here in the northern hemisphere, in the temperate zone where I live, March is generally a crappy, moody month. Not quite winter, not quite spring, it can’t make up its mind who it is or what it wants. And all of us who live here just want it to be over. So done with winter. So ready for change, for spring, for something not this. We are longing for something to shift, to get to another place, for it to be warm, easy, to feel the sun on our face and not have our feet freezing at the same time.

How much is this a metaphor for our journey post infidelity? For me, timing wise, it is the exact same journey, both close up and zoomed out. Starting with January 1. Just survive these cold bleak months. We bless February for being so short. But March, well, it marches. We want to jump straight to warm May breezes but still March marches. And, I recognize, so should I. It’s the only month that comes with instructions. March: keep marching. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will, eventually, get somewhere else. Just keep going.

When you are recovering from infidelity, March is the middle, the long stretch of “meh” that you can’t skip. The only way out of March is through. The only way out of the middle is through. But while you are there, it seems so long. It leaves you kind of restless. Will I always feel this way? Why do I feel so numb sometimes? What is it that I am missing? Why, when I think about moving forward does my mind take me back to what is lost? Which brings us back to the middle. March on.

Long ago my mother taught me the Welsh word hiraeth, which she told me means a longing, a nostalgia for places you’ve never been. It’s a deep soul feeling, and I recognized it in the pull I felt to Scotland, a place I miss, though I have never been. More recently, it came up in my meditation practice, where it was framed a little differently. It was defined as a place you can’t go back to. As those words hit my ears, tears came to my eyes. I recognized in the deep restlessness of March that I am feeling right now is the vague but persistent discomfort that something is missing, that some old feeling, I can’t quite call up, should be here.

Hiraeth, for me, right now, is about grieving the past. The past is both a place that never existed (at least to my post-infidelity self, what I thought was true and real, perhaps wasn’t) and a place I can’t go back to. And today, I am allowing myself to grieve this.

Perhaps that’s what the long slow March is for; to take the time to grieve what is being left behind, so we can let it go, make space for the present and for what is to come. “Life is an exercise of constant change… Open to the present as best you can and step forward.” – Tamara Levitt

Monday, March 18, 2019

"Vengeance is a lazy form of grief"

I am away on holiday and won't be responding to comments. A good friend of the site, however, will be moderating comments and ensuring that yours get posted so please don't hesitate to respond. I have scheduled some posts. I'll be back, with hopefully a spring in my step, by March 22. 


Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge on someone, on God if they can’t find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There’s an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He’s taken out on the water and he’s dropped. He’s bound so that he can’t swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they’ll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn’t always just… that very act can take away their sorrow.
~Nicole Kidman in The Interpreter

We sometimes talk in code. A few other infidelity bloggers and writers and therapists and betrayed partners say things like "they're so...angry" and "they kinda scare me". We're referring to a portion of the infidelity Internet that traffics in rage, that insists on one response to betrayal, that dismisses anyone who pleads for nuance. We don't want to name names but...
"Vengeance is a lazy form of grief."
I knew I objected to the black-and-white approach to cheating. It's a blessing and curse of mine to always ALWAYS be able to see the other's point of view. And I know how infuriating that can be when what so many of us want is to be told that we're right. We're right to think he's not worth our time. We're right to throw him out. We're right to file for divorce immediately.
And, thing is, sometimes we are. Sometimes.
But "sometimes" doesn't cut it. People want absolutes, especially when we're reeling from news of our partner's betrayal. We want certainty. We want a community that will assure us that he'll cheat on us again so it's better to dump him now. We want a mob that will call for his head. Only a fool would give him a second chance. 
We want his head on a stick.
I know. I did too.
Except that I also didn't. Yes, he had betrayed me in the worst possible way, for years. And yes, there were many people who thought me a complete fool to even consider rebuilding a marriage with him. How much proof did I need that he was a cheater, destined to continue cheating? 
He was the father of my three small children. He was my friend. He was my husband. 
All of that remained true, even as I wanted to strangle him with my bare hands. 
It wasn't until I cleansed myself of that desire for revenge that I believe I began to heal. And healing began with grieving. 
We'll do almost anything to avoid grief, won't we? We'll busy ourselves. We'll stoke our own rage. It feels so much more productive, so much more empowering to plan a takedown of a villain than to grieve a loss. Grieving feels passive. It feels pathetic. 
And yet, I know of no other path toward wholeness and healing. 
Those who let themselves grieve eventually discover that it guides them to an exit door. Those who don't remain stuck. Ever talked to a friend whose divorce was finalized six years ago and she's still cataloguing her ex's faults? Or the person fired from a job whose hatred of his manager burns as hot as ever? That anger that feels like empowerment is an illusion. Rage doesn't fuel us, it eventually consumes us. 
None of this is to say that anger isn't warranted. Being cheated on can trigger the deepest fury. I don't think I've ever felt so angry. And, trust me, if a genie had arrived offering me vengeance, I wouldn't have hesitated.
Time, however, has tempered that fury. And, assuming you're not feeding your own rage, it will temper yours too.
Also...know this: Behind anger is usually a deep well of grief. But we're so afraid of grief that we never pull off its mask. 
Go ahead. Trust that you will not drown in grief but you might strangle yourself with anger. Beyond that anger, that masquerading grief, is peace. Reach for it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday Word Hug: What do you answer to?

I am away on holiday and won't be responding to comments. A good friend of the site, however, will be moderating comments and ensuring that yours get posted so please don't hesitate to respond. I have scheduled some posts. I'll be back, with hopefully a spring in my step, by March 22. 


It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.  
~W. C. Fields

Monday, March 11, 2019

We Hurt, We Wait, We Rise

~Otto Scharmer

If there's one thing we're certain of on D-Day, it's that we'll never be happy again. Ever. Our life is over. Our marriage is over. Our family is broken. Our choices are between shitty and shittier. We want to run. We want to stay. Mostly, we just want to turn back to clock and get a do-over where we either don't marry this guy, or if we do marry him, he doesn't cheat on us.
Cause there's no way we're going to get through this with our heart intact.
Which is, in many ways, true. Our heart is changed. Our life is changed.
But I can promise you that you will feel happiness again. When? Wish I could give you an exact date and you could just tick the days off, like a prisoner awaiting release.
I can't, of course. But it will happen. In your future.
You probably don't believe me. Right now, you can't imagine a future that doesn't feature this pain, front and center. A future that puts you in the center of it, happy and productive and living your best life. That feels more like fantasy, doesn't it?
You've been waiting on this promise for six weeks. Six months. Three years. And still you feel a sadness. A heavy blanket that dulls any pleasure. Surely, if you were going to find joy again, it would have happened by now. Is this as good as it gets?
Most of us are poor judges of our future selves, a career counsellor once told me. It requires imagination that is in short supply right now to picture ourselves rising from this ash heap. (Though our imagination seems to work overtime to supply us with plenty of mind movies about our spouse and the Other Woman.) Far easier on our minds and our hearts to assume that this misery is our new reality. Today and tomorrow.
But "the future arrives first as a feeling."
Which is a beautiful way of saying, if we can imagine it, we can create it.
It requires clear eyes. A sober assessment of your marriage. What's worth saving. What needs to go. There's opportunity in a marriage in which everything has fallen to hell. Opportunity to leave, if it has long stopped being healthy for you. Opportunity to rebuild if it's worth it.
If D-Day is recent, then this is something you can come to once you've stopped the bleeding. I don't recommend any major decisions in the first few months unless he refuses to stop seeing the Other Woman and unless the marriage is abusive and dangerous. For those further out, consider the control you have over the future.
After betrayal, so many of us are obsessed over the past. We mine our history for evidence that we didn't see at the time. We reconsider every choice. We analyze every interaction. It's not surprising, of course. We desperately trying to make sense of a non-sensical situation. But it's also disempowering. There is nothing – nothing! – we can change to un-do his cheating.
Where we have power is in the now. And that power in the now will shape our future.
"The future arrives first as a feeling."
How do you imagine feeling?
Safe? Loved? Liberated?
How will you create that in your life, based on what you can control? What can you do now to lead you into a life that reflects how you want to feel?
Glennon Doyle describes heartbreak like this: First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.
You're in the waiting stage. But it's not a passive one.
Remember? "The future arrives first as a feeling."
Those feelings are signposts, pointing you toward the life you want.
Notice them. Interrogate them. Let them lead you.
We hurt. We wait. We rise.

Monday, March 4, 2019

What's Your Impact Statement?

A Twitter conversation made reference to an impact letter (credit goes to Vicki Tidwell Palmer). It's a sort of betrayed partner's version of a victim impact statement given in court, so that judge and/or jury can not only hear how the defendant's actions caused pain and suffering but also to help determine the sentence.
We aren't anticipating handcuffs and a cell (though we can dream!) but it's an interesting concept for us.
And I think it can help us in a few ways. For one, it can make it really clear to us just why healing from infidelity is so difficult. Writing down the many ways betrayal has changed our lives – from difficulty watching a television show that we used to love (if it features any sort of infidelity) to trouble sleeping – makes clear that, of course, we're struggling. Of course, this is taking longer than we ever thought.
What's more, written honestly and without intention to inflict pain but rather catalogue it, an impact statement can help our husband's understand just how devastating betrayal is. There will be those, of course, who minimize our pain, including brushing aside our "impact statement" as drama or manipulation. (Which should make clear that this guy just doesn't get it.) But for those who genuinely want to make amends, to understand why he made such a choice and how he can help support you, a thoughtful, candid impact statement can lay bare your heart.
And finally, as you heal (and you will, I promise!), you can revisit your letter and make note of the ways in which things are better. Maybe you cry less. Maybe you can drive past certain locations without your heart pounding and your stomach in knots.
I recently suggested we each write our own manifesto – our intentions regarding the life we are creating. While a manifesto is about looking around and looking forward, an impact statement is about looking past, however briefly, to assess the damage.
We need to acknowledge and understand the damage before we can begin to repair it.


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