Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Guest Post: When You're Avoiding the Pain

by StillStanding1

Obsession gives you something to do besides having your heart shattered by heart-shattering events. 
~Geneen Roth, Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything

Lately, I've been under a lot of stress. Health issues, digging into new challenges with my business and taking on new and scary things are all forcing me to stare my deeply rooted feelings of inadequacy in the face and attempt to dig them out. Before I got here, however, I had been slowly watching my old compulsive behaviors around food begin to spiral out of my control. And it’s been confusing. I thought after weight loss and successfully tracking my food and being “good” about my exercise that I had “figured it out” That I had reached a place where I knew what to do and could do it. Turns out I was not quite right about that.
And the reason that food tracking and weight loss after D-Day was so successful was because it was an all-consuming obsession that took me away from the heartbreaking reality that I was living; that my husband had been having an affair and now was carrying on with it, flagrantly throwing it in my face. It also converged with all the things I had always told myself about what would make me worthy of love and belonging. That if I was thinner, fitter, prettier, if only I lost those relentless last few pounds, then I would be lovable. And since I was in fight or flight mode, I threw all of my energy into this thing I thought would keep me safe. Add in that, for the first time in my life, I did not want to eat. At All. And I lost a lot of weight. 
The food tracking kept my mind busy, so I would not have to feel the pain of betrayal, the loss of safety. If I made myself thinner, perfect, it would fix everything. Tracking food gave me a job, so it acted as an escape. It was a way to check out. It was about fixing me in order to make the pain and problem go away. Turns out this was not what I needed to be fixing.
And this is why, as I am discovering, the food tracking and weight loss worked then and why it is not working now.  Now I am in deep discomfort of a different kind. I am doing work that forces me to face my feelings of inadequacy (“my work is not good enough, I’m not a REAL artist” etc ad nauseum), forces me to be visible (you can’t get customers if you can’t be seen and if you don’t show up) and being vulnerable (putting your own art work out for judgement is very vulnerable, being available in a new relationship is terrifyingly vulnerable) and my brain and body are screaming “run away! You can’t do it! You are not good enough.” All of which are lies that keep me small and safe. 
And so now I am using old compulsive eating behaviors to check out from the discomfort, to numb the pain. And frankly, I just don’t want to do this any more. So I am reading the book by Geneen Roth from where I pulled the quote. It is about sooooo much more than food. Really it is about all the ways we check out from the pain of not loving ourselves. I’m working on loving myself through these feelings of inadequacy and learning to trust my judgement as a creator, designer and human being. 
There are so many unexpected ways obsession can let us feel like we are escaping. Obsessing about the OW keeps our mind off the fact that someone we trusted hurt us. Food, even “clean eating” can be numbing or be a fix-ourselves obsession that is about a deep-rooted belief that we are not enough. Same with drinking. Spending. Fixing ourselves, self-help obsessions, detective work. Relentlessly working at a job or career with no rest, sacrificing all our time to our kids, being angry. All these can evolve into obsessions that feel like a fast train out of the vast metropolis of our pain.
Now when the pain comes up, I am trying to make room for it. It’s not so big when you do, when you write it down or say it out loud. When you touch it and let it exist alongside you, you don’t have to become it. You don’t have to be that wounded child again, you just need to give her room to step into the light. 
I don’t know where this work is taking me, but it feels right. Not overwhelmingly right and clear, just like the next right step into an unknown land.  I feel lighter and brighter. It’s a little scary, but a good scary.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Opening to the Questions

If you're like me, you've likely spent a lot of time moaning into your pillow. I will never get over this, you wail. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. I can't live like this. I don't know how to get through this.
And so on.
Your words might be slightly different but the sentiment is probably the same: I will never get over this pain.
Words are powerful. They define our reality. They frame our experience.
And telling ourselves that we will never get over this pain is kinda like Krazy Gluing us in place. It keeps us stuck. It keeps us hopeless. We don't bother to look for a way out of the pain because we've already told ourselves that there's no point. So we don't bother making that appointment with a therapist. We don't bother doing the journalling she recommends we do, or read the book he suggests.
We don't make an appointment with a lawyer. We don't take a hard look at our finances.
Why bother? We've already declared that misery is our home. Today and forever.
But what if, rather than statements, we chose questions? What if, instead of something like, I will never get over this pain, we asked ourselves, how can I get over this pain? What if, instead of words like never or impossible, we instead chose today or maybe.
What could you do today that might move you, even just the teensiest bit, through the pain?
If you're coming up empty, how about these suggestions:
•block the OW on social media and stop yourself – today – from looking at her social media
•make an appointment with a therapist
•go for a walk
•begin to journal
Those things aren't magic. The pain won't vanish like poof! But each one of those things is a small healthy thing you can do, a next right step.
But it starts with opening yourself with a question rather than closing yourself with a statement.
No more never or impossible. Instead, today and maybe.
Cause maybe today, you could sit for 10 minutes in meditation and discover that all that pain and fear you've been holding at bay can creep so close, you can feel its breath in your ear but that it won't swallow you. When you refuse to flinch, it shrinks back. A teeny bit. You are bigger than it is. You are stronger.
Ease into the question: What can I do today to move myself a bit further through the pain toward healing? And then, take that tiny step. Maybe it will help. Maybe you won't notice a change. But will tomorrow be different? Maybe.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

When We Shift, When We Become: Infidelity Through the Lens of Trauma

We experience a subtle spiritual awakening the moment we see that life goes on, even after our life has been ripped apart by loss. However unimaginable, life goes on even when we don’t recognize it as our life. It’s absent of the familiar people, places, or things we previously used to navigate it, and it’s without the tenuous threads we used to bind it together. When a relationship so central to our life proves unreliable, we might wonder what is real.

It's a feeling familiar to anyone who's experienced trauma. "We might wonder what is real." Is this really happening? Will I wake up from this nightmare? Can I step out of this back into my life?
We're jolted from our comfortable lives (or even from our uncomfortable but familiar lives) into something that feels unreal. Wrong. Like we've been cast in the wrong role in the wrong play. This isn't where we're supposed to be. This wasn't supposed to happen.
And then, compounding our incredulity, the sun comes up again the next day. And the day after that. The earth continues to tilt on its axis. The tides rise and fall. The bills come due. The fridge empties. The laundry piles up. Life, even if it's a life we no longer recognize, goes on. 
And that realization creates a barely perceptible shift, an understanding that though nothing feels the same and reality itself feels like an illusion, the laws still apply and, wonder of wonders, we're still here.
How is this possible? We look in the mirror. Except for some dark circles and, perhaps, a skinnier frame, we look the same. But we're not the same. We're not the same at all. Everything has changed. Why doesn't the world see that?
A lot of struggle with seeing infidelity through the lens of trauma. I did. A friend of mine, recently struggling with her husband's emotional affair, is beginning to recognize that what she's experiencing now is trauma, but it has taken her two years. Part of it is that the word trauma feels so...dramatic. Like we're making a big deal. We weren't raped, we think. We haven't returned from a war zone.
But let's consider what trauma does. It leads us to wonder what is real. It creates hyper-vigilance. The world feels unsafe. We don't trust anyone. 
Sound familiar?
Thought so.
It was when I began to allow myself to use that word – trauma – to describe my own experience that things began to make more sense. My responses didn't seem crazy, they seemed to fit right in with what therapists expect with post-trauma. 
I gave myself permission to sit with the pain. I took tentative steps toward healing. I rested when necessary. And slowly, I rose
You will too. 
I promise.
But first, you hurt.
And that hurt goes deep. That hurt is, often, traumatic.
That's not drama, that's truth.
Seek help. Let others hold you. Let the light of those further ahead on the path to healing guide you.
Learn to trust yourself again.
You are shifting inside. No matter that the world seems the same, you will never be. And that's okay. You are becoming...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Our Mother: Still Standing Despite It All

Like many of you, I watched in horror as flames engulfed Notre Dame. I lived in France in my 20s and it was clear that Notre Dame, "our mother", presides over Paris and the French. It had survived world wars, rebellions, toppled monarchies. It stood as solid as a mountain, built by humans in honour of the divine.
And so when it was revealed as vulnerable and in imminent peril, it inspired shock and grief in millions around the world. No matter if you were Catholic or atheist, French or not. Notre Dame, "Our Mother", represented something that we craved. Permanence. Trustworthiness. Reliability. Evidence that humans are capable of creating beauty and sanctuary, even when there's so much evidence of cruelty and betrayal.
Our marriages felt similarly solid for many of us. We took those vows, perhaps in a church though likely not as grand as Notre Dame. We created a life with someone we chose as trustworthy, and though we knew the risks – it's hard to ignore a divorce rate of 50% – we believed that our marriage was different. Ours would survive. It had already withstood challenges. But it was solid. Built by humans in hope of touching the divine.
So when we find our marriage engulfed in flames, what do we do? When the spires topple, do we cover our eyes and turn the channel? Or do we root for the firefighters, bravely and strategically tackling the fire that threatens to swallow the building whole?
Our marriages are not 800-year-old structures. But Notre Dame wasn't just a building. It was a testament to faith of all kinds. To commitment. To restoring what holds value to us. To history.
Notre Dame, like a marriage, is as fragile as our belief in it.

Monday, April 15, 2019

On trust and vulnerability and why it's still so damn hard

Trust is choosing to make something that is important to you, vulnerable to someone else's actions.
~Brené Brown, Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations

My heart beats quicker even writing those words. Because I know that, for all that I profess to have moved on from my husband's betrayal, for all that I claim to be through that pain, trust is still really hard for me. Still. 
Perhaps, always.
Cause I don't really remember a time when I fully trusted. Well, except one. I fully trusted my husband. For perhaps the first time in my life, I had absolute faith that this person would not betray me. That he, above all others, was worthy of my trust.
It had taken me a long road to get to that point. When you grow up in a home where trust is routinely betrayed, where promises are consistently broken, where what you see with your own eyes is called into question, then trust is impossible. You learn that not only others are untrustworthy but that you are. When gaslighting is a daily occurrence, when you're told that you're the crazy one for pointing out what's there – right there! see it? – you stop believing anything and anyone. You hold your breath and when the people you surround yourself inevitably reveal themselves as untrustworthy, then you blame yourself. Because there is clearly something about you that makes you undeserving of commitment and loyalty. The occasional times when someone entered my orbit who was trustworthy? Well, I betrayed their trust because what sort of loser wants to be with me? There was clearly something wrong with them. Better to dispense with them now.
The sisterhood? That was the stuff of fiction. Girls were the worst, as far as I was concerned. I expected men to disappoint me. But occasionally I allowed myself to believe that my girlfriends were true blue. Indoctrinated by sitcoms and teen novels, I imagined a world where a friend would never betray me, where my secrets would be safe, where I could be vulnerable. 
The reality was gossip and backstabbing and, in my early 20s, a devastating betrayal by a friend. 
But all along, I clung to some deep belief that maybe, with help, I could trust myself. Despite consistent gaslighting by a family who insisted that I made things up, I held on to the truth like a life raft. I wasn't crazy, they were. I wasn't making things up, they were. After all, I would say to myself, who's a more reliable narrator: the sober kid watching or the parent who's six drinks in? 
But D-Day robbed me of even that tenuous hold I had on self-trust. I had been so wrong. And if I was wrong about him then, surely, I was wrong about everything. About everyone. 
Healing from my husband's betrayal became an exercise in learning to trust myself. Him? Forget that. Wasn't going to happen. But I knew that my only path toward healing had to be through learning how to trust myself.
I began with a thorough excavation of a whole lot of painful experiences – times when others challenged what I knew to be true. Times when I betrayed myself by choosing their version of events over my own. 
And then I started trying to discern that same small still voice – the one who had been right all those times and that I had ignored. It's there. I promise it's there. Dormant perhaps because, after all, nobody was listening. But nudge it awake. Tell it that you're listening now. 
It's still hard for me. Too often, I prioritize others' versions over my own. It still requires intention to nudge that voice awake because I ignore it too often.
But I'm getting better at it. There's work to be done, clearly. Otherwise my heart wouldn't ache slightly when I typed Brené Brown's words. I suspect it will be the work of my lifetime. Those old messages make deep tracks in our hearts. 
But I can look around now and notice all the people that surround me now. Family and friends that inspire trust. People with whom I can – sometimes! if I try really really hard! – make myself vulnerable. And, almost, trust that I will be safe. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Why I Love Betrayed Wives Club

I've been busy. Which means that I haven't been responding to comments with quite the speed that you're probably accustomed to. By the time I post my once- or twice-weekly blogs, as well as select my Wednesday Word Hug, it's time to close the window on my computer and move on to other work. But I think of you all so often. "Haven't heard from Dandelion in a while. Wonder how she is," I'll think to my. "LilyLove hasn't been posting so often, nor has LLP. Hope everything's okay with them." And, as you all know, the list of BWC members goes off. Sometimes, searching for an old post to link, I'll notice a comment from a name I haven't seen in years. I'll smile because they don't need us anymore. That's cause for joy. 
What's also cause for a deep joy in me is something else that happened this morning. I was clicking publish on the comments that didn't involve trying to scam you all into hiring hackers or spellcasters and I noticed a response to some comments I'd missed responding to on one of our Just Finding Out threads. I often miss those comments, tending to, most often, respond to comments on recent posts. The others, unfortunately, tend to get lost to time.
But Heartfelt was compelled to respond to Emily with a story of her own trauma and an assurance that everything Emily (and her spouse) were feeling was perfectly normal and also assurance that these feelings would pass. That time (and therapy) would work its magic and life would once again feel more stable. That wounds heal. That our hearts can remain open to love.
And watching this simple gesture – one heartbroken woman reaching out to a stranger via a computer screen reminding me why I continue to run this site, even as life tries to crowd it out. It's because of all of you who, over the years, helped each other heal. Lots of women who came here won't read this post because they're long gone. They're like me. Life has crowded out Betrayed Wives Club. And that's a wonderful thing. We should all hope for that day.
But that Heartfelt, who hadn't herself been here in a while, took the time to wrap another in a word hug, made me feel, yet again, so lucky to be among you. 
We all get busy. And reaching out can sometimes feel scary. Sharing our stories can make us feel vulnerable and raw. None of us is under any obligation to write anything. This site is like a buffet -- take what appeals, leave what doesn't and don't feel as though you need to bring a dish. There's plenty to go around.
But for those who have made this site part of their conversation, please know how grateful I am for the role you play. Betrayed Wives Club wouldn't work without you. There would be no buffet if, to butcher this metaphor further, there was only my single casserole sitting there growing cold. 
You all remind me, every single day, of the good that came out of my heartbreak. I confess I wasn't a huge fan of the sisterhood. Too many betrayals by too many sisters.
But you've restored my faith. You've taught me the power inherent in women helping women. We often say this is the club we never wanted to join. I can't say that anymore. Cause this club is one of the best things that's happened for me. 
As Viola Davis says above, I didn't set out to save you guys. I set out to save myself. And it was you guys who saved me. Thank-you. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Can You Ever Trust Him Again? It's a Trick Question

"I will never trust him again," I wrote in my journal. Over and over. In blue ink and black. "I will never trust him again."
You've probably said it too. Written it in your own journal. Said it to your therapist, your friends, yourself. To him.
A woman was recently asked on Twitter whether she believed she would ever trust her husband again after he'd been unfaithful. Her response? "I intend to spend the next 50 years finding out."
It sounds flip.
But what she's saying in the absolute uncomfortable truth.
You trusted him before and it turns out he was untrustworthy. So whether we trust him or not doesn't change his behaviour at all. It only changes us.
There are nuances, of course. I'm not advocating for total and absolute trust of a man who's revealed himself unworthy of trust. But I am pointing out that we don't really know who's trustworthy or not until they either betray us, or they don't.
And I'm making the case too that whether or not he is to be trusted is the wrong question. The right question isn't about him at all. It's personal:
Can I trust myself?
Because whether or not we feel safe in the world has far more to do with that question than whether others are trustworthy or not.
And learning to trust ourselves is something we have far more control over than others' actions. Trusting ourselves is about paying attention to what feels right or wrong, safe or unsafe, true or untrue.
Trusting ourselves is about personal integrity. And when we live our own lives with personal integrity, we'll be far more selective about those we share our lives with. We'll become impatient with the friend who gossips about other friends. We'll stop simmering in resentment with those who are consistently late and instead prioritize our own time. We'll notice when our guts or our hearts or our brains – our motherboards – set off alarms (whether barely perceptible or blinding red lights) in certain situations.
Trusting ourselves isn't like some sort of emotional armour that shields us from any cons, grifters, gaslights or garden-variety cheaters. But it does, nonetheless, offer protection. When we trust ourselves, we notice things. We pay attention to our inner pilot lights. We know who we are and what we stand for. And we know what we won't stand for. Trusting ourselves isn't hyper-vigilance. That's rooted in fear. Trusting ourselves is rooted in self-respect and the clarity that comes with knowing where the line is drawn and what we will do when that boundary is violated.
I don't know whether or not your husband will cheat on you again. I don't even know whether my husband will cheat on me again.
But I know this.
If anyone betrays me – whether the betrayal is large or small – I trust myself to respond in a way that honors and respects me.
And approaching my life – my marriage, my relationships, my work – from that place is far more predictive of joy than whether or not I can trust him. Whether or not he's trustworthy remains to be seen. So far, so good. And I have the rest of my life to find out.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Our lives are not just "befores" and "afters"

"Through her therapy she was learning that though it was agony remembering, it was a much better quality of agony than not remembering."
From The Guardian, "The tsunami survivor who lost her whole family"

I wanted a lobotomy. I wanted someone to cut out the part of my brain where the painful knowledge sat. Or give me amnesia, like a soap opera character, that erased the worst memories, the ones that pinned me to my bed like a still-living corpse. 
The woman in the story, Sonali Deraniyagala, lot her family in, literally, one wave. Remembering for her is undoubtedly worse than it ever was for me. But, as I've written before, there isn't a painlympics. My pain counts. Yours too. (And yes, even his.) And so we learn from each other, including from a woman who, having lost every person she loved most in the world in one horrific tragedy, how to pick ourselves up and move forward.
For Sonali, and for me, healing came with remembering. 
Not right away. At first, it was too painful to remember the births of my children, the holidays together, the laughter. Those memories felt like they belonged to someone else, to another life. To a life that I was wondering if I'd imagined. 
But slowly, with time, I could let them in. The wedding album I'd relegated to the basement found its way upstairs again, ostensibly so my children could look at it but also because I could look at it too, without my stomach clenching. Or not clenching too much.
The photos I'd put in drawers, the jewellery I'd stopped wearing, the clothes that held memories, also made their way back into regular rotation. Not all of them. The chain of a diamond necklace remains, literally, in pieces somewhere at the back of my drawer. Certain clothes were bagged and dropped at a charity box. 
And I brought my memories here.
As I shared my story, over months and years, I exorcised those memories of "before" and knit them seamlessly with "after". I had never imagined that my life would ever again feel like it flowed. Always, always I figured that "the news" as Glennon Doyle refers to it, would remain an interruption, a dividing line between "before" and "after". And I suppose, to some extent it does. But not nearly the way it did. It has become something akin to the "before" we had kids, the "before" we moved to our house. A marker of time rather than a marker of trauma.
I've often said that I have two wishes for this site. The first is to create community around the experience of betrayal so that nobody feels as though they're going through this alone. And the second is to assure everyone, whether you're hours from D-Day or years, that you will get through this. 
Both are the absolute truth.
But the second requires a bit of heavy lifting on our part. It requires us to look square at our life and, with time, remember. To remember the good stuff and, yes, to remember the awful. To sit with the pain of remember that phone call, that text, that sudden knowing. To rest in the memory of your own strength through this. You're still here, right? That's courage and guts that you maybe didn't know you had. It's there. I promise.
Sonali Deraniyagala wrote her story and on those pages, she found healing. I too wrote my story, on this site and in my book. I've long advocated for the power of owning our stories, of reclaiming our memories and our truth. Betrayal challenges our perception of what's real and what's not. When we reclaim that – when we refuse to let others write our stories, when we insist on telling them with ourselves at the center – then our hearts again become whole.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Shame of Secrecy. The Secrecy of Shame

If your family kept secrets and never talked about hard things, you grow up feeling a lot of shame and loneliness about struggling. 
Healing comes in relationships with people who don't live like there's shame in talking about hard things. 
And don't pretend not to struggle.
~notesfromyourtherapist, Instagram

The first person I called was my mother. And like good mothers throughout history she immediately and completely was in my corner. She expressed empathy, support and a rock-solid faith in me. She didn't vilify my husband but held him accountable. She held me, she listened to me and she was always, always on the other end of that phone when I needed her.
I was lucky.
Others, not so much.
I hear often from you about how abandoned you feel. Your mothers won't talk about it or you're afraid to tell them. Your siblings take sides or cast judgement. Your friends, in the interest of supporting you, insist that the only way to respond is to file for divorce. 
And that's if you tell anyone at all. Far more often, we don't. We hold our secret close. And it poisons us. 
It poisons us because secrets carry shame. Even if we know, in our heads, that we are not the reason he cheated. Even if we understand that people don't cheat because there's something wrong with their spouse, they cheat because there's something wrong with them. Because they're lost or afraid or lonely and they don't know how to feel those feelings and so they avoid and they distract and they lie to themselves and others. 
Their secrets have poisoned them. 
My family kept the secret of my parents' addictions. And because I was young, I learned that I should be ashamed. Why else would I not being able to talk about what was really going on at home. It must be shameful. It must be kept hidden. Nobody had to tell me that, of course. It was understood. And that silence, that secrets poisoned me for a lot of years.
When my mother got sober and began telling her story (she took her 12 steps seriously and wrote letters of apology and shared her story far and wide), I slowly began sharing mine. I was leery. In my twenties, at a time when there wasn't nearly the cultural conversation around addiction that there is now, I knew I was opening myself up to judgement. But what I've learned since is that no-one's judgement was harsher than my own. Nothing anyone ever said to me matched my own feelings of shame, that I still needed to wrestle with.
It has been a similar experience with my husband's infidelity.
I told my mother but very very few others. One of those others cast judgement, which sent me scurrying back into my silence. 
And that's mostly where I stayed. Silent. And filled with shame.
Until I began telling my story here. And, over years, began opening up to friends. I was (am!) still careful about who I tell. Trust is earned, not assumed. And though I no longer feel shame about my husband's infidelity, there are parts of my life I keep private. And there's a difference between secret and private.
For instance, I don't widely share (except on this blog, in which I remain relatively anonymous) about my daughters' mental health challenges. There are people in my life with whom I'm close who don't know my eldest was hospitalized. I don't hide that. But I respect my eldest's wish to keep it, mostly, private. That's a choice rooted in healthy decision making. Not shame.
Similarly, though plenty know about my husband's infidelity in our city, many more do not. It was long ago. He has done much work. It isn't what defines him or our marriage. And so we, mostly, keep it private.
We haven't told our children, not out of shame but for many other reasons. We keep it private, something some experts such as Caroline Madden, a family therapist, supports and encourages. Others do not. Our choice.
I share my story when I think it can do some good. Either for me or for the person on the other end of it.
And that's where I hope you can all get to. I wish you an army of people in your life who can love you through this pain. Who can listen to you, without judgement. Who can see your pain and run toward it, not away. Those people are, sadly, rare. But their fear of your pain is rooted in their own shame and secrecy. It's a consequence of their own inability to talk about hard things. 
Life is a marathon of hard things. If we never learn how to talk about them, we fail to learn how to really life. Authentically. Deeply. And too often, we don't heal from those hard things. We don't grow from them.
You get to choose what's private and what's not. But secrets? Exorcise those. Be honest about them, at least with yourself. Cultivate relationships with people who don't operate from fear but who are honest about their own struggles. 
Find your family, built on honesty and a willingness to hold each other up. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Betrayed Wives Club: Here's What I Know

I was recently invited by Samuel (find him on Twitter) to speak with him for his Overcoming Infidelity podcast, which you can listen to here – I'm on episode 3.
Samuel pointed out that my site is "safe space" for those who come, which is something I intended but something that I sometimes forget about. Until someone else notices and points it out.
So let me explain:
Like so many of you, after D-Day I turned to Google for...what exactly? I wanted someone to make sense of my messed-up life. I was desperate for answers, just like those of you who come to me via an Internet search for "why did my husband cheat?" and "how can I make the pain of my husband's affair end?" (Those key word searches break my heart, you guys.)
More than anything – and though I likely couldn't have articulated it back then – I sought community, a safe place where I could lay down my pain and trust that it would be held so that I could take a deep breath. I couldn't find it. Too often, I'd read something that triggered my shame, made me feel stupid, told me I was searching for unicorns.
So I created my own, which is where are you right now.
I wanted to create a safe space. I knew how terrifying it was to share my pain. With strangers! Maybe I'd be outed. Could I trust these people?
I decided to not include advertising, even though it would have been nice to subsidize the time I worked on the blog. But I didn't want a soul to come here and then find an ad for escorts or lube or anything else that might be trigger-y. I crafted each blog post to best share my own experience, noting that this was just my path. We are each free to choose our own, I wrote.
(Eventually, when I was considering whether to continue with my site or shut it down – the time required was impacting the time I had to pursue paid work – I decided on the Donate button, leaving it up to anyone who wanted to contribute. I absolutely value every cent that's been donated over the past few years since I added it. It makes my work feel...legitimate.)
But for all my writing over the past 12 years, for all the work of Esther Perel and Brené Brown and others who have worked hard to shift our conversation around infidelity to one of nuance and critical thinking, there remains this pervasive myth around cheating. Namely, that anyone who cheats on you will continue to cheat on you. Something that is patently untrue. And also, that anyone who stays with a cheater is basically asking for more of the same.
My anger flares just by typing those statements out. They're absurd. But they persist, largely because they trigger our deepest fears about our partners and ourselves. And fear, we all know far too well, is powerful. But these statements remain dominant in infidelity discourse because there's just enough truth in them that we can't dismiss them outright. Some cheaters do continue to cheat. And some women who stay with cheaters – those who haven't set boundaries or who don't insist on change – are, potentially, accepting more of the same.
And so we wonder: Is that us? Are we the idiots who'll be cheated on again? Will there be a chorus of "I told you so's" when we discover his second affair. His third?
It's just enough to keep us frightened, isn't it? Just enough to keep us silent.
But what's most surprising about those sentiments is that they often spring from the lips of other who've been betrayed. Others who've been hurt and, rather than process that pain, inflict it on others. But that, my secret sisters, is not support. We must never value being "right" over being compassionate. Our role isn't to tell another how to respond to her pain but rather to bear witness to it.
Betrayed Wives Club isn't about answers, it's about sitting with the questions. It's about giving you – me, all of us – permission to figure out what's right for us. Without blame. Without shame.
I haven't a clue what you should do (except, and yes I know I'm a broken record, set boundaries. And also love yourself. You are so so awesome. Really.)
The rest? Search me. I don't know. I can barely muddle through my own life.
And it's not my place, or anyone else's to tell you what's right or what's wrong or to predict your future. I wrote last week about being skeptical of easy answers.
Nothing about healing from infidelity is easy, whether you stay or go. But it can be simple. By that I mean:
•prioritize self-respect
•set boundaries
•trust yourself
Betrayal can destabilize everything we believe. But our worth – and our right to determine our own path through the pain – shouldn't be called into question by anyone.


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