Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Wanted: Man Seeking Transformation

If I had to point to one moment when I understood that my husband truly "got it" – really understood the pain he'd caused and felt genuine remorse about causing it – it was the day I told him that I would leave him and then, I practically spat the words, "you don't have to bother with therapy and 12-step groups." I knew he didn't like either the therapy or the 12-step groups. But what I didn't understand was that, even more than he detested those, he detested what he'd done. And so he responded to me that, whether or not I remained in the marriage, he nonetheless would continue to work on himself. "I don't want to be that guy anymore," he said.
Good news, of course, because I didn't want him to be "that guy anymore" either. I hated that guy. I wanted a new guy. One who also hated "that guy". 
So, I guess, that makes me kinda lucky.
Because I know a whole lot of you struggle with a husband who maybe hates what he did but who has a really hard time admitting that. Or who maybe hates what he did but still kinda also blames you for what he did. Or at least doesn't fully blame himself.
And that makes the choice of whether to stay and rebuild your marriage or cut your losses and leave even harder. 
But maybe Liz Gilbert puts it as clearly as we need to hear it: Your husband shows himself worthy of a second chance when he's as sick as you are of his own bullshit. 
That's not to say he doesn't have legitimate grievances. A marriage involves two people, of course, and one of those people might be justifiably frustrated or hurt. By bullshit, I mean cheating. By bullshit, I mean deception and gaslighting and rewriting history. By bullshit, I mean making excuses, silencing us our in our pain, refusing to do the hard work of becoming a better man.
It's become cliché but it remains true. We're each responsible for how we show up in our marriage. But it is the cheater who is solely responsible for that choice. 
And that choice, if he even wants us to consider giving him a second chance, must be acknowledged to be bullshit. And he must be sick of it. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Letting the Fire Reshape Our Lives: What Will You Create?

The difference between a good life and a bad life
is how well you walk through the fire.
~Carl Jung

I know how many of you are unhappy. The pain still weighs heavy. The days cast a shadow. Joy feels slippery. 

And though the flames might no longer encircle you, you can still feel their heat. You're not out of the fire yet.
Fire is nothing to be trifled with. It decimates centuries of old-growth trees, it razes entire cities, it kills.
But it also shapes. Fire, of course, forges steel. And so it's possible to use this time of walking through the fire to reshape our lives. 
I know. It's hard enough to get to work, keep the fridge full, and ensure you don't run out of tear-proof mascara. But stay with me for a minute. Cause the people I know who've come out of this fire with lives they love are those who've used it to create necessary but sometimes long-resisted change.
Cause when it's all burned to the ground, it's time for new growth. And that includes you.
Not all at once, of course. No need to tell off your boss, quit your job, sell your house, and finally give your mother-in-law a piece of your mind all in one day.
Instead, as the old adage about eating an elephant goes, you do it one bite at a time. Forget, for the moment, that your marriage feels like it's hanging by a thread: How's the rest of your life going for you? Even before D-Day, did you spring out of bed, excited about the day ahead? Or did life feel like a slog? Did days end with a sigh or relief or ease? 
Ask yourself: Whether or not my marriage survives, what do I want my life to look like? Who do I want to be? How do I want to live? We know you can't control him, right? But you can control you. And that, as we discover through this, is enough.
One friend of mine, whose husband left her for the OW, carved out a new career. She sounds like a warrior, doesn't she? She is. But she's also someone who sat on a park bench, not long after D-Day, considering how best to kill herself. She believed, in that darkness, that everyone would be better off without her. The fire was too much. Except that it wasn't. Not for her. Not for someone willing to walk through it. 
She began to wonder what her reshaped life would look like after surveying the ruins of her marriage – the one she thought would keep her safe, the one that she had trusted to support her as she raised their special-needs child – and realizing that nobody was coming to rescue her. She sent out loads of applications, told everyone she knew that she was looking for a new career, and now loves her job, her family is thriving, and her ex? Well, who cares how he's doing? 
Not all of the reshaping looks so dramatic. Sometimes it's about taking stock of your life and realizing your friends really suck. They make you feel bad about yourself, they gossip about others, and they are nowhere to be seen when you're hurting. Maybe the fire is about reshaping your friendships – spending less time with those people so there's more time for people who make you feel good.
Often (as in almost always), it's about learning how to set and enforce clear boundaries in our lives. No longer agreeing to host in-laws who routinely disrespect you. Refusing to reconcile with a guy who won't go to therapy
Sometimes the reshaping is literal. Realizing you've put your health on the back burner while you took care off everyone else. Maybe the fire is about reminding you to prioritize yourself. Three-times-a-week gym visits, a running partner, daily hikes. 
Maybe it's about breathing life into an old dream. Remember how you used to love sewing clothes for your dolls? Or making earrings from polished stones? Or doodling in notebooks? Or writing song lyrics? Or sailing? Or gardening? Or... Or... Or...? What happened to that girl? Oh right. She became so busy making sure everybody else was chasing their dreams that she forgot she had any. 
What if the fire helped shape those dreams? I'm not saying you have to create your own Etsy store (though, why not?). I'm just asking you to make space in your life for what you love too. No asking for permission. No I'll-do-it-when-the-kids-are-grown. Step at a time. 
My point is this: Betrayal surrounds us fire whether we choose it or not. And, as Jung points out, the difference between a good life and a bad one is what we do with that fire. It can consume us or it can burn down the old to inspire new growth. 
What will you create in its wake?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

There Will Be No Closure So Stop Expecting It

We're familiar with the five stages of grief and many of us can point to various stages as we recount our experience with D-Day. Shock. Anger. Depression. And a whole lot of us are, in some ways, holding our breath until we're done with this experience. We await the day that it's over, we're healed. We rhapsodize about closure. Closure looks different for some of us but it often includes giving the Other Woman a piece of our mind.
So a whole lot of us are dismayed to discover that, no matter what we try, no matter how far out we are from D-Day, closure seems to elude us. We're never quite there. We never feel "over" betrayal.
To which I say, of course not. Cause I've learned the hard way (is there an easy way through this? Cause I don't know of one...) that closure is a myth. Rather, thanks to the work of Pauline Boss, I've come to understand that, where betrayal is concerned (among other life challenges), it's what she calls "ambiguous loss". And there is rarely closure where ambiguous loss is concerned.
Ambiguous loss, a term Boss coined in the 1970s, refers to loss where what we're losing isn't clear-cut. It's death-like rather than death. A spouse lost to addiction. A refugee fleeing the war-ravaged country they love. A child born with special needs. 
We've lost the marriage we thought we had. We discover a spouse who's different than the one we thought we knew. We even, often, find ourselves capable of feelings we'd never imagined. Rage. Despair. Hatred. We've lost so much but we can't quite put our fingers on what it is.
Our grief is complicated. Our husbands aren't dead. In many cases, our marriages survive.
But everything's changed, hasn't it? We've lost...something. Complicating it further is the silence we frequently adopt. To the world, our lives are intact. There see no signs of loss, ambiguous or otherwise. 
Reality itself feels threatened.
And closure is little more than what we can expect from our front door, keeping the world at bay while we wrestle on the inside with our pain.
Part of moving through ambiguous loss – part of moving through life itself – is releasing ourselves of any expectation that things should be different. Ambiguous loss will not deliver closure any time soon. Or at all. Release any expectation of that. Grief is normal, no matter that your loss might not look like loss to anyone but you. 
Allow that grief. Invite it in. Move through it. Move through it again, because it will return, each time looking a bit different. 
Until the day comes when grief knocks, again, on your door and you recognize it. You again, you think. I know you. And I can handle you. You're not nearly so frightening. I can become your friend.
Grief has much to teach us, if we let it. And its teaching begins the day we accept that closure will continue to elude us because there is no such thing. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Healing From Betrayal: When He Won't Talk About It

To this day, my husband gets quiet when I bring up his affairs. Not always, but often. And by "often", I mean more than half the time. It's relatively rare that I bring up his cheating these days. It happened more than a decade ago. We've moved on. Still...
And I'll tell you: Every single time he goes quiet, it hurts. Every single time he chooses not to meet my pain with compassion but rather to prioritize his discomfort, it hurts.
Every single time.
I bet it hurts you too. And there are a lot of you struggling with this, judging by what you say when you come here. By what you say on Twitter. Even the "good" guys, the remorseful ones, the ones who hate what they did and are doing everything they can do ensure they don't do it again, even they go silent.
So what's up with that? Why is it so hard to talk about this gigantic thing that's happened? And what can we do when they won't?
Let's start with the shame. Cause that's something a lot of people, particularly the "once a cheater..." crowd won't acknowledge. A lot of guys who cheat – not all but many – stew in shame. Plenty feel it before they cheat. In fact, it's part of what makes them vulnerable to cheating. When you believe you're not much, you're susceptible to anyone who thinks otherwise. It's like a drug. 
But after you've cheated – and you've seen the damage your betrayal has caused, you've watched the light drain from your wife's smile – that shame is excruciating. You know you screwed up. You're an idiot, you admit it. But, seriously, do we really need to talk about it again? Are you ever going to get over this?
What he's thinking is that this stupid thing he did is going to hang over him like the sword of Damocles for all eternity. What we're thinking is, I need you to know that I'm hurting right now. I need to know you will never hurt me again. 
My husband was shocked when, sitting with our counsellor, I told him that I do NOT want him to feel shame every time I mention his betrayal. I'm open to him feeling a bit of guilt, sure. But not shame. Cause shame is crippling. Shame drives us into the shadows. Guilt, on the other hand, encourages better behaviour. Guilt is about behaviour. Shame is about character. What I want from you, I told my husband, is acknowledgement and assurance. When something has reminded me, or I'm feeling vulnerable and I say something like, "I found a photograph today of me at my mother's 70th birthday and I was so skinny. And it made me feel really sad for myself back then. I was so scared."
What I want to hear from him is this: "I'm sorry. I know how awful that time was for you. And I don't ever want to hurt you like that again."
My husband has responded like that, oh, once or twice. It was glorious. I swear I could hear the angels join together in a chorus of Hallelujah, with a few high-fives. This boy has got it, they rejoiced. He's figured it out.
Unfortunately, their celebration was premature. Because despite the fact that our conversation about his cheating was pretty much done at that point – no need to finger-point when he's pointing his own finger at himself – plenty of other times I've brought up what is euphemistically referred to as "that time" and he has simply gone mute. Cat's got his tongue. 
Do I respond like a mature adult who understands what's going on for him, and say something like "I'm sensing that you're feeling ashamed right now. Is that why you're quiet?"? Of course not. His silence pushes some deep button in me that says, in a voice that sounds like my critic, that my pain doesn't matter. And so I'm ignited with simmering fury. I might not erupt in the moment but it's coming. Mark my words, it's coming. 
When it does come, when I do eventually erupt, it's all but impossible to have a reasonable conversation. The molehill has become a mountain and I'm at the top of it hurling rocks. And so my husband learns, again, that "talking about it" involves him feeling horrible and abused. And I've learned that "taking about it" is all but impossible.
So I mostly don't.
But that's not okay, either.
There's a crucial middle ground, where I can have my feelings acknowledged and be assured that I am safe with him. Not then but now. 
We're working on it. But his shame runs deep. When I make any reference, no matter how oblique to "that time", what he all-too-often hears is "you horrible scumbag of a cheater". His words, not mine but they're not entirely wrong, are they? But he isn't a horrible scumbag of a cheater. What he did was horrible. But he isn't. Sounds like semantics but it's a necessary distinction. I can hate what he did while loving him.
And he can hate the reminder of what he did and hate that he can never un-do it and hate that I will occasionally bring it up while nonetheless loving me and loving that I gave him the chance to do better. And knowing that talking about it, openly, is part of healing. Part of supporting me. Part of loving me.
But so much of that gets lost in our respective pain. 
Our work continues.
I'm hopeful that the day will come when we can speak of "that time" casually. The same way we talk about that rainy summer vacation, or that cramped apartment we had, or that coach who yelled at our kid. Crappy memory but part of our life together. And, therefore, worthy of discussion.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Our Act of Extraordinary Faith

Nothing, of course, happens fast enough and we just want to be returned to that uncomplicated life we once had – we want stability restored – but it is not to be. Now we have a new life; unchartered, uncertain, beyond our control, and that we are on some level undertaking alone, even within the company of the ones we love. Our worlds are still raw and new. They hum with suffering, but there is immense power there too.
We are alone but we are also connected in a personhood of suffering. We have reached out to each other, with nothing to offer, but an acceptance of our mutual despair. We must understand that the depths of our anguish signal the heights we can, in time, attain. This is an act of extraordinary faith. It makes demands on the vast reserves of inner-strength that you may not even be aware of. But they are there. 
~Nick Cave, Musician

Raise your hand if you thought you'd be over your heartbreak within, say, three months of D-Day. Five months? Seven? And keep your hand up if the idea of three to five YEARS makes you want to scream and never stop. 
Yeah. That's what I thought.
Nothing, as Nick Cave writes, happens fast enough. And if I had a nickel for every time someone arrives at our club and laments that she just wants "my old life back" or "my old self back", well, I would be typing this from my beach-house on Martha's Vineyard
The bad news is that old life and old self are forever altered. There is no "old" left to return to. We have a new life: Unchartered. Uncertain. Raw and new.
And we hate it, don't we? We didn't ask for this. 
Who would? And yet, we can see how suffering can transform. Not always for good, of course. Sometimes the face of pain becomes contorted by hate. But sometimes, if we let it, suffering is like water over rock. Slowly smoothing out the sharp edges. 
"Mercurial," is how my mother used to describe me. Or, when I was really young, "like a tornado." When I was happy, the world knew it. But when I was sad or angry, well, the world knew that too. 
My edges are softer now. My joy feels richer rather than higher. My sadness feels thicker rather than deeper. Suffering and anguish have shaped me into a different me. One that trusts my own strength. One that has found a sisterhood to hold me up when I need it. "We are connected in a personhood of suffering," says Cave. We need to seek that connection. Sadness can isolate us if we don't reach out to others. But when we can share our softness, our "mutual despair", then we're also sharing those reserves of strength we didn't know we had. 
Believing we can heal from this is absolutely "an act of extraordinary faith". Most of never imagined how painful betrayal was. And, when we're face down in the mud of it, we can scarcely imagine emerging from it, not only okay but really okay. Really really okay. 
Here's what few realize about betrayal until they've navigated that grief and suffering. There is immense power in that change. It's there. Not the power to change him, of course. Or the world. But you. And that, I promise, is all the power you need. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Healing From Betrayal: When It's All Too Much

This darkness is not a dead end. It's a hallway. 
Keep going.

It can be easy for me to forget the darkness. It was a long time ago. And though there has been darkness since, different darkness involving children and disease, the other feels almost like another lifetime. A dream. A nightmare.
At the time, however, it felt like my life. My forever life. Darkness then didn't feel like a passage, it felt like my new reality. Though I was masterful at pretending I saw light, I didn't. 
For some of us, that darkness – and our inability to believe it's temporary – is evidence of depression. The clinical kind. The kind that could benefit from pharmaceuticals. I fought against that. My mother had spent much of my life popping pills and I'd be damned if I was going to be like her. But when my patient and saintly therapist, also a medical doctor, drew me a picture of my brain with Pacmen-type receptors and neutrons and I can't remember what else and explained to me that trauma and stress literally changes our brains, I agreed to give these hated pills a try.
Within 48 hours, it was like the clouds lifted slightly. A few more days and the heavy blanket of my pain felt less heavy.
These pills didn't work miracles. I still felt sad more often than not sad. I still fretted about what I was going to do regarding my marriage. But I could cope. What's more, I could spot a tiny bit of light up ahead. I was in a hallway, not a cell.
I bet it feels dark for you too right now. Betrayal turns out the lights for us. It leaves us isolated and terrified.
But please know too that this is a hallway. It is temporary. Keep going.
Focus on your next right step. Prioritize your healing. Practise radical self-care. Remind yourself (or teach yourself) that you are worthy of love and honesty and loyalty, no matter how untrue that feels right now
I often say that if this website assures readers of anything, I hope it is these two things: (1) You are not alone in your pain and (2) You will get through this. Both are things I know to be true. Both are things I didn't believe when I was in my own darkness.
But now, it's clear. That darkness was a hallway. I needed help finding my way out of that hallway. Not just anti-depressants but this blog. The books I read. My mother. The friends who sat with me in my pain offering not answers but acceptance.
Keep going, my secret sisters. The light awaits. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Guest Post: Choose Love

The last 8 months have been surreal. 
I felt like I was out of my body. I lost myself and felt like I was broken in a million pieces, like my soul was wandering...lost and beyond retrieval. I realized I had two choices: to live in fear, doubt and hate, or to choose love. I choose love and am trying to live moment by moment choosing love. 
What does it mean to choose love? When I want to scream at my husband for what he did, I think to myself, what will be the consequences? Will anything good come out of this? It is just more harmful, to me and to him. We have suffered enough. So I choose love. 
I am learning to be conscious. Hate in my heart is not going to solve anything. Love squashes all the feelings of revenge, of anger, of hate. I try to choose love every moment because I know if I don't we will just keep living in hell. My husband is also broken from what he did. He has quit his job and we have moved across the country. He is truly remorseful, understands why he did what he did, doesn't blame me. 
We both hit rock bottom. There came a point where he had done everything he could possibly do and I realized that now it was up to me. Up to me to stop punishing him and ultimately myself. It was up to me to love myself and allow him to love me too. It is a lot to ask someone to keep loving you when you keep hating them. It is a lot to ask someone to love you when you are hating yourself. 
We can hate what they did but if we truly want to spend the rest of our lives with them, we have to love them and make our way back to them (after we make our way back to ourselves). Even as I say it, I feel some resistance, the temptation of my grievances...but that's just the way it has to be. For me at least. Otherwise what’s the point? 
I feel that if I truly love him like I say and believe I do then I should act like it. I take no responsibility for his affair but I have to take responsibility for how I am reacting to it. I can still feel angry, still feel hurt, still feel all those things but nonetheless respond from a place of love. Otherwise I will truly die, spiritually, emotionally, and ultimately physically. 
It has felt like a painful slow death up until this point. I refuse to continue on that path. Life is too beautiful and the love we share too precious to throw away. 
Going forward I am sure I will falter but at least I have something to come back to over and over again, and that is me, the love I have found for myself. 
I closed myself off from love out of fear, but I feel it flowing again. It is what makes us who we are. Love. We can't deny ourselves the love we deserve. How can we truly love another if we don't love ourselves first? When we don't love ourselves we look elsewhere and do all kinds of other crazy shit. We just need to look within. All the answers are there. 
I am learning some much needed lessons through this and I know I will never be the same again...and I am glad for it because I am stronger, wiser and fearless. If I make it though this, I can make it through anything! I learned my worth, I own my worth. That's what I am getting from all of this mess. I keep asking myself, what are the lessons i need to learn here? Who am I in all of this? I am a strong proud brave and courageous and forgiving woman who is full of love and worthy of love, that's who I am. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Guest Post: Releasing Yourself from the Other Woman

I admit it. I was obsessed with the OW for a long time. I don’t understand her choices as a woman. Why did I obsess so much? What did she have over me? What did my husband see in her? Did she have a PhD in porn sex? 

I look back at how much of my time I wasted on these questions about the OW. I asked my husband questions that I knew would hurt me. He didn’t want to answer them the first time so I kept probing. If he said she was great, I was hurt to the core and if he said I was better than her, I didn’t believe him. My brain was trying to regain control. It wanted to understand why this happened to me. My brain craved a rational explanation because I thought a rational explanation would help me avoid feeling pain.There had to be a reason he cheated with her. I didn’t know there was never going to be a satisfying answer. Or at least, an answer that would satisfy me.

I wanted her to feel my pain. I wanted her to know she lost the war. My mind went in a revenge fantasy loop, day in and day out. I felt helpless to stop myself. 

I wondered what in the hell went through their minds?

So I went out looking...at OW blogs.

“I'm wondering why he's like this. Like he's hot and cold. I'm obsessed with him and can't get him outta my mind. Some days I get loads of texts. Other days he phones me. Other days I get about 4 texts. I reckon he's not lost interest. Part of me thinks yes part thinks no.”

Truth: He thinks about you less and less. Get a life with people who actually care about you, and stop moping around like a lovesick teen because you don't receive as many texts from another woman's husband as you used to.

“He is a quiet man and I just think there as been an attraction since we first met 2 years ago. It's helped me cope better with my situation but I'm confused now wondering why he isn't as chatty. Is it cause the fun bit has worn off? He is still so nice to me and says nice things to me. I know I'm so wrong doing what I'm doing but just looking for advice.”

Truth: As for that he really thinks of you? Want it straight. You're a play toy. A side dish. Sounds harsh but it's true.

“I have been super jealous of his wife. I don't know why. He never talks bad about her –won't. It's like she doesn't exist...but she does in my mind. My jealousy that he sleeps in the same bed with another woman every night. Even though he tells me they have not had sex in over a year (basically right before we got together sometime). I still get SO jealous.”

Truth: Tell him you can't have sex because you have chlamydia, or a polyp, or something, and see how often he comes around. The issue is a weak man who does not have the courage to leave her OR give his side thing up. (That's you.) Sexting gives him a thrill so he puts off figuring out what to do. And by giving him this kind of rush, he continually fails to face reality.

So reading all of this gives you insight into how pathetic these women really are. The OW elevated herself in her mind to believe that he values her more than you. She is deluded.

So here's my advice to you, who might well be where I was: Don’t let the OW have power over you because you’re helpless to hurt her. She doesn’t care about the pain she caused or the family that's destroyed. This obsession keeps you feeling horrible. You’ll feel better about yourself if you act above it. Eventually you'll become above it. 

You are holding him to a higher standard. You are a higher standard. Being angry at the OW is a waste of time and energy. Fill that time with yourself. I regret all that time I spent focusing on the OW. I only have a finite amount of time in this life. I made myself more miserable. Regardless of the OW's role in the affair, they didn’t have a covenant with you. He did. The only way to win is don’t play.


Related Posts with Thumbnails