Monday, November 29, 2021

Your Quiet Courage

You've got to tell the world how to treat you [because] if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.

~James Baldwin

There is one question that hangs over so many of us in the days following discovery of our partner's infidelity: Will my marriage survive? Of course, it's a question that only dogs those of us who think we want our marriage to survive. Plenty of others cut and run, convinced that infidelity sounds the death knell of any marriage. I used to envy them their certainty. 
But those of us who stay tend to agonize over it: Will my marriage survive?
Mine has. I'm coming up on the 15th anti-versary of D-Day and here I am. Ring still on finger (engagement ring, anyway. Wedding band remains tucked away in a drawer), husband beside me.
But it is with the hindsight of 15 years that I recommend a far more important question to those of you in the early days of discovering betrayal. Who will I become?
We all become something after earth-shattering events like betrayal. There is simply no going back. Our world has changed. And, like it or not, we are changing with it.
But those who emerge from betrayal with a strong sense of their self and their worth are those who refuse to be defined by it. Or, as a good friend put it, they don't ask "why did this happen to me?" but rather "why did this happen?" The betrayal, they realize, isn't really about them at all. They are collateral damage. Or, as we often put it on this site, he didn't cheat because there's something wrong with you, he cheated because there's something wrong with him.
Chinook, who wrote the quintessential blog post on how to survive betrayal, urges us all to recognize that who we are is worth revering:
As a society, by and large, we only value loud courage: the action hero kind of courage. Punching. Shouting. Kicking him out. Calling a lawyer. Going it alone. (We don’t appreciate the phenomenal difficulty that single mothers face every single day, but we do applaud the woman who kicks the bum out.) We don’t value (or even recognize) the silent kinds of courage. The courage to find compassion for yourself and others. The courage to really feel the pain. The courage to stay with someone who has hurt you but is trying like crazy to make amends. The courage to shield our children. The courage of grace. We appreciate things that look physically courageous. We mostly don’t know how to even recognize emotional and spiritual courage. Does it take courage to leave? Yes. Does it take courage to stay? Yes.

However you choose to respond to what's happening to you, know this: You get to decide who you are. You get to decide what your marriage becomes. "My heartbreak, my rules," right? You get to decide, as Chinook put it, if the person you are becoming wants to build a marriage with the person he is becoming. Because if we let anyone tell us how they're going to treat us, then we are in trouble. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Grief and growth and my promise to you

I sometimes wonder what I have to contribute to this conversation around infidelity when I am so far past it. Sure, I still remember those awful days when I felt both pinned beneath my pain but simultaneously cut loose from the physical world. I would drift between wishing I could just go to sleep and not wake up and wishing I didn't have to go to bed because there would be nothing, at 3 a.m., to distract me from my terror.

But while I remember those days, I no longer feel them. In some ways, it's like it happened to someone else. And I suppose it did. Me but a different me. 

Still, I will come across a comment or a story or an image (like the one above) and think, yes, yes, that's what it was like. That's what happened to me, too.

I'm occasionally asked how I got over (through, I tell them, through, not over) my husband's infidelity. And I have my answer: therapy, my mother (until she died six months post D-Day), running, crying, my pets, a couple of good friends. But there is also this answer: time. It is not magic but it can feel like alchemy. Time alone will not disappear pain but time + therapy + feeling your feelings = healing.

I'm posting this image (credit for this, too) because it so perfectly depicts what really happens. My pain, my grief around what I lost when I learned of my husband's betrayals, didn't shrink. Not at all. But my life grew. My world expanded. I was able to keep space for my grief but not let it eclipse everything else. At first, that seemed impossible. I was certain that I would never ever feel joy again. My pain, my grief, consumed me and cast a shadow over everything else. Even when I felt a tinge of happiness, it was quickly swallowed by sadness. And so I resigned myself to a half-life. One lived without joy.

But I had a moment when I could see that something was shifting. It might not have been the first moment but it was the first that I really took notice. I was walking my dog. It was winter and it had snowed. The sun was out and the snow sparkled, as if sprinkled with fairy dust. It felt like magic and I smiled to myself. I could see the beauty. I could feel that something different was possible. And that's where change happens right? When we can imagine it. When we can open ourselves to believing that what we feel right now isn't the end of the story.

It can feel complicated to talk about grief in regards to infidelity. After all, our husband didn't die. We haven't lost a child. Rather, infidelity grief is complicated grief. But it is, nonetheless, grief.

And so I can tell you this: Your life will grow around it. Your grief will not disappear though you will, as I did, come to place where it isn't raw like a fresh wound but rather leathery, like a scar. 

And I can also make this promise: You are bigger than this pain. Your life is bigger than this pain. You, too, will get through this. Not over but through. And though your grief won't necessarily shrink, your life will grow around it until your grief is not a boulder but a pebble that reminds you of your strength and your courage and your refusal to give up on yourself. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Here's What Will Happen When She Finds Out You Cheated

I am away so I'm reposting some of my most popular posts. This originally appeared in March 2020:

If you've thought at all about how your cheating is affecting her, you likely 
imagine just how angry she'll be.

And yes, she probably will be angry. She might throw you out of the house. She might empty your closets and toss your clothes on the front yard. She might call up your mother and let her know just what a scumbag she raised. That's probably what you're picturing, right? If you're picturing anything at all. If you've considered that you might get caught.
But you know what's also possible? What's likely? 
That her face will register utter bewilderment that the person she trusted with her heart has broken it. You might not be there to see it. She might discover your betrayal by stumbling over a message or a photo on your phone. Or she might get a phone call from someone who starts the conversation with "I don't know how to tell you this but there's something you should know..."
But then she'll ask you. Is this true? And if you man up and tell her the truth, you'll see it: bewilderment. Shock. And then a shattering
But that's just the beginning. This isn't a storm cloud that blocks the sun for a day, or two, or three. This is an entire climate shift, a new reality, that will change everything for weeks and months and, yes, even years. 
In the days following her discovery of your betrayal, she will cry a million tears. Just when you – and she – think there couldn't possibly be any more tears, they will fall.
They will fall when you try and hug her. They will fall if you refuse to hug her. She will fight them when she's tucking your kids into bed but they will come later. When she's still awake at 3 a.m., they will roll down the sides of her face and soak into the pillow. She will be wondering how she could have missed this, how you could have lied to her face. She will be rethinking every choice she made related to you, starting at the very first meeting. She will wish she'd never met you, never said 'yes', never said 'I do.'
She will be imagining what you did with the Other Woman. It won't matter that it wasn't like that at all. You've told her that. It was nothing, you've told her. It didn't mean anything. But she will still picture you two, like porn stars, doing things she can barely imagine. She will imagine you two laughing at her, taking delight in her cluelessness. She won't yet understand that you didn't think about her at all. And if you did, it was only to imagine how angry she'd be. To consider how you'd better be careful so she didn't find out. 
The tears will eventually stop, replaced by...what exactly? This isn't your wife. Your wife is warm and loving. This new wife, this zombie, will frighten you. Is she thinking about leaving you? Why doesn't she want to be touched? Why is she so...volatile? Or numb?
Her pain is there buried beneath a numbness that allows her to function without feeling. It's survival. Nobody can sustain that level of pain. We need a break from it. Our bodies and minds numb us. You didn't expect that, did you? If you thought about it at all.
But you didn't, did you? You didn't think about it. Except to justify it to yourself. To tell yourself that "nobody" was getting hurt. That "nobody" is barely recognizable to you now, isn't she? She's not the woman she was. She's distant and moody. She's thin.
Yes, she's very thin. 
She hardly eats because food tastes like the ashes of her burned-down life. You lit the match for that. She knows that. 
Which is why it's so confusing to recognize that she still loves you. That she wants to believe you when you tell her that it's over, that it was nothing. That she is who you love.
She wants to believe but how can she? You're a liar. Yes, I know you balk at that word. Just like you spark with anger when she calls you cheater. But you are those things, aren't you? A liar and a cheater. You hadn't thought about it those stark terms, had you? If you'd thought about it at all.
But you didn't. Think about it, that is. You really didn't think about it.
And even now you don't want to think about it. Which is why you're so damn tired of her wanting to talk about it. Of her wanting to know more. Always more. Where did you go with her? she asks. What did you talk about? Did you tell her you loved her?
How to make her understand that none of that mattered? That it meant nothing, even if you told the OW you loved her. You didn't mean it. It was a way to keep the fish on the line, so to speak. To keep the supply coming. You hadn't thought you were hurting anyone. You hadn't thought.
That's the truth, isn't it?
You hadn't thought about it at all.

Monday, November 15, 2021

How to Apologize for Breaking Your Wife's Heart: A Guide for Cheaters

I am away so I'm reposting some of my most popular posts. This was originally published August 2017.

 Often I hear something like, “I told you I was sorry about the affair ten times so let’s drop it already.”  That won’t cut it. High-stakes situations calls for an apology that’s a long distance run—where we open our heart and listen to the feelings of the hurt party on more than one occasion. There’s no greater gift, or one more difficult to offer, than the gift of wholehearted listening to that kind of anger and pain when we are being accused of causing it.

~Harriet Lerner, author of The Dance of Anger and Why Won't You Apologize: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

Okay cheaters, this one's for you.
Most of you likely didn't respond to your wife's pain around your betrayal the way renowned relationship expert Harriet Lerner suggests, above. If you're like most guys, you said you were sorry, promised it would never happen again, it meant nothing for chrissakes, can we drop it already? And then you really really hoped that she would forgive you, you'd have makeup sex and then move forward into the rest of your lives. She might even be a little bit more appreciative of you now that she knew you had other options, right?
If you were a bit more realistic than that, you figured you'd go to a marriage counsellor a half-dozen times, let her cry, bow your head with genuine remorse and even endure the insults she'd throw at you. And then, thank god, move forward into the rest of your lives.
It likely hasn't worked out like that. 
But here's the thing: It hasn't worked out like we hoped it would either. Never did we imagine how excruciating betrayal was. Never did we think we'd come as unhinged as we did. We figured we'd be mad. We might execute some funny but biting revenge, like in the movies. We might meet our girlfriends and sob into a martini. But we didn't imagine there would be days we couldn't get out of bed. We didn't anticipate the confusion, the mental fog, the dull dread that took root in our stomachs or the stabbing pain in which, we swear, we could feel our hearts actually breaking. 
We didn't think that, even months later, a song on the radio could reduce us to a sobbing ball on the floor. Or that a chance encounter with your affair partner could unleash in us a fury that threatened to swallow us (and you!) whole. 
I've been there. So has my (still) husband. Ten years later, we know a thing or two about getting through this.
You? My guess is you're in uncharted water. Well, so is your wife. So, in the interest in helping you help her through these treacherous days, weeks, months, here's your guide to apologizing for breaking her heart:
1. Apologize. Sounds simple, right? It's not. Do everything you can to imagine her pain. Look directly into her eyes and don't look away. See just how deep that agony goes. And then tell her how sorry you are that you weren't the husband you should have been. That she did nothing to deserve this betrayal. Repeat, as often as necessary.
2. Be transparent. Here's the thing about asking us to "trust me again because I've learned my lesson": Ain't gonna happen. She's sad, not stupid. You've shown her you aren't to be trusted. That's the problem with lying and cheating. It's easy to squander trust. It's really hard to earn it back. And that's what you're doing now. Earning it back. Bit by bit. By showing her, not telling her but showing her, that you are where you say you are, that you're with who you say you're with. I know you feel like a child. I know it's humiliating to have no privacy. Do this right and you won't live like this forever. But for now, you need to prove that you're worth taking another gamble on. And you prove that by being willing to sacrifice your privacy. If she's not worth it to you, then do yourselves a favor and leave. 
3. Work really hard to understand why you did what you did. Face your demons. You wouldn't have done such harm if you weren't struggling with your own self-worth. Go to a therapist. Doesn't matter if you don't "believe" in therapy. There's a reason you risked everything that mattered to you for someone who didn't. Figure out what it is with someone who's been trained to help you. You're no good to us until you've worked out your own shame around what you've done. Until then, you're going to try and deflect, you're going to minimize, you're going to defend. None of which moves us toward healing. All of which compounds our own pain and isolation. Fix yourself first. Oh, and by the way, don't ever cheat on her again. Ever. 
4. When she tells you what she needs, give it to her. If she wants you to read a certain book, then read it. If she wants you to call home if you're going to be late, do it. If she needs space, give it to her. If she needs closeness, give it to her. Understand that you're asking her to do the hardest thing she's ever had to do: Forgive her best friend for lying to her, for jeopardizing her physical and mental health, for subjecting her to humiliation and gossip, for betrayed the promise you made to her. What is she asking you to do? Bring her flowers. Make a bit more effort to select a Mother's Day card. Compliment her. Make yourself uncomfortable by talking about your shame. Doesn't seem like too much after all, does it?
5. Help her carry the pain. You do this by understanding it. You do this by really listening to her, over and over and over. Yes, it gets exhausting (it is for us, too). It doesn't mean you have to endure abuse, emotional or physical. Its just means that, by listening to us, by answering our questions even if we've asked the same ones repeatedly (you'd be amazed at how fuzzy our brains are), you're helping us process our pain. You're shouldering a bit of the burden for us. You're showing us that our hearts can be safe with you again. We're grateful for that, though it might be a few months before we can show it. 
6. Be patient. Healing takes a long time. Three to five years, by many experts' calculus. That doesn't mean you'll both be miserable for that long. But it does mean that there will be setbacks. There will be triggers, large and small, that reduce her to a sobbing mess, that feel as though you're back where you started. You aren't. It's a setback. And it can even be a chance for you two to remember you're on the same team, that you're working together to rebuild your marriage. Double down on the genuine remorse for creating this pain. Remind her again that you're working hard to make sure she never goes through that pain. And then, for good measure, tell her that you're the luckiest guy in the world and that you're going to spend the rest of your life earning the second chance she gave you. And that she'll never have to give you a third.

None of this is easy. But it is worth it. If rebuilding your marriage is what you want, I guarantee that following these steps will get you a whole lot closer to that goal. I can't guarantee that your wife will be able to move past the pain. I can't promise that she will forgive you. I have no idea whether she'll respond with a revenge affair, or file for divorce anyway, or just make your life miserable for eternity. But I do know that you will have done what you could to begin to make reparations for the damage you caused. And I also know that, no matter what happens, you will have begun to live your life with integrity. Which means that, whatever happens next, you're going to be a better man for it. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

The Quintessential Guide to Healing from His Affair

...posted by Chinook

Girl. When the shock wore off (which took about 12 hours), I didn’t just have anger, I had violent rage. Violent. Rage. A spirit animal — a bird of fire — came and inhabited my body for three straight days. I packed a bag and walked out, leaving my husband with our two little children and with no indication of when or if I’d be back. My anger was so furious that separation was the safest thing for both of us. That’s when my husband realized just how catastrophic his choices were. That was his rock bottom.

#2 PAIN.
The pain was more intense than any pain I have ever felt. I gave birth without an epidural or any kind of pain control, and I swear, this was the same level of pain, but sustained for weeks.

The gaslighting. And the fact that he wanted to share special things with her; not with me and our children. Unlike so many women I’ve heard from, I knew — knew in my gut — that something was wrong as he was starting the affair. Our marriage was in bad shape despite the years of effort I’d been making but even at that, I felt something shift. I forced us into marriage counselling and it turns out that my instincts were bang on. He booked their first date, thus starting the affair, the same day as our first marriage counseling session. I even asked him point blank one night if he was having an affair. (That sense of just knowing that Elle describes? Girl. I had that too.) He denied it all of course and used our therapy sessions to make me think I was imagining things. But I never gaslit myself. I knew something was wrong. His affair “only” lasted two months and the physical component was “only” a week long and, so he claims, never quite made it to being sexual (and yes, I’m defining that terms in the broadest possible sense). But it wasn’t the fact that he made out with her multiple times or even that he came close to sleeping with her once. It’s the fact that he made diner reservations for her, not me. That he sent joking emails to her, not me. That he invited her to go hiking with him, not me. And all the while I was staying home with the two kids, unwittingly facilitating his affair. Girl, that is a punch in the gut, even now.

I didn’t make it a secret that I was going through the experience of discovering I had been cheated on. That said, I didn’t advertise it either. The reason I didn’t make it a secret is because I knew I’d need people supporting me, and those people needed to know the truth. Also, this is apparently something that happens quite a lot in our society, and I really think that if we just TALKED about it more, a lot of the stigma would be reduced and also people who are tempted to think that cheating is something they can just do on the sly without hurting anyone would disabuse themselves of that bullshit. In the very very beginning, I reached out to two women I barely knew that I knew had been cheated on, seeking their advice. I wouldn’t have had those people to turn to if I didn’t know they had been cheated on. Now, maybe I can be that for someone else who is as desperate as I was.

My friends were and continue to be awesome, which really speaks to how amazing my chosen community is. I have surrounded myself with a network of women who are smart and strong, who understand and embrace the sticky messiness if life, and who will respect and support me whether I stay or go. Along with those women come the men and women who love them and are their life partners: people who value self-knowledge and are compassionate and kind. The big disappointment for me was my parents. When things fell apart, I literally couldn’t function. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t work, and could not take care of my children. I was in crisis. I really, really, really needed someone to listen without judgement and to physically come in and take care of me and my kids for a while. My parents, who could have done it, chose not to. They wanted to preserve the comfort of their perception of reality and of their routine. So who did step up to take care of me when I was incapacitated? Here's where it gets weird. It was my husband, the man whose selfishness put me in that state. And looking back, that was what first made me consider the possibility of staying.

I’m lucky because right from the word go (because of work done by feminists and relationship experts like Elle and like Esther Perel), I knew this was 100% because of him and his issues and 0% because of anything that had to do with me. I’m an awesome catch in every way. But it took a while and lots of therapy with a very very good therapist before my husband finally figured out for himself why he essentially blew up his whole life (and mine and that of our kids). In our case, my husband had an affair because he wanted to escape the problems in our marriage, which existed because of a whole lot of crap from his horrible childhood that he had never had the courage to deal with in a healthy way. But instead of being brave and facing the crap and accepting that HE was the problem in our marriage, he instead chose to create a double-life in which he presented himself as a single dad to the (very) young woman who asked him out one day, taking the opportunity when it arose. I had been working diligently and patiently for years to try and make our marriage better but it turns out that the more effort I put in, the less he felt like he needed to try, and the more he felt entitled to take take take. Ain’t that a kick in the teeth? When I discovered his affair, my boundaries came roaring back into place and my healthy sense of entitlement came roaring back. I could literally hear the roaring in my ears as they came back from wherever I had shoved them down to over the years of self-sacrifice. They are all still firmly in place and will never budge again.

#7. WHY HER?
Again, I am soooo lucky that I had very strong resilience going into this. (Which reminds me: read “Resilient” by Rick Hanson. Amazing.) I knew from the beginning that my husband’s affair wasn’t because I lacked something. In fact, when I started to learn about the other woman, it became clear to me that she was inferior to me in every way (except age, if you adhere to our society’s view that youth is superior, and fitness level, where I’m still pretty fit but not compared to someone 13 years younger with no kids who can go to the gym whenever she likes without having to arrange child care). And that was the whole point for my husband. He WANTED someone inferior to me — less confident, less powerful, less accomplished, less educated, less worldly, less well travelled, with lower earning power — because he liked how it made him feel better about himself. Was I making him feel bad about himself in our marriage? Hell, no. I thought he was awesome and sexy and a fantastic dad and told him so all the time. The voice that made him feel inferior wasn’t coming from me, it was coming from inside himself; but he didn’t want to admit that to himself. So what did she, the other woman, have? As Elle wisely says: nothing I want. She is damaged and lacking in confidence and willing to not ask too many questions about why the guy she’s dating kinda still seems to be living with his wife and kids despite his claims that they were separating. Do I want to be like her? Hell, no. The other thing that made him choose her is convenience. She flirted with him. She was available. And would I ever want a man to choose me primarily because I’m available? Duh. No.

Some people say you shouldn’t hate the other woman but rather pity her. I say do both! She was instrumental in nearly effing up my children’s lives by wrecking their family. Of course I hate that bitch. That pathetic, pitiable bitch.

Nope. Because if she did care, she wouldn’t have done it. You’ll never be able to understand how she can live with herself so don’t even try. The answer is that she is completely messed up. Take solace in the fact that you aren’t. You are in pain, but you are not messed up.

I'm not sure if your kids factor into this at all, but they did for me. I’m actually pretty surprised at how rarely I read that kids factor into people’s decisions to give a cheating spouse a second chance or not. Personally, if I didn’t have kids, I would have dumped him immediately. Our marriage was in a terrible state before and I was the one doing all the work to make it stronger. The fact that we had two very young children is the ONLY reason I even contemplated not divorcing him; I was very happy, independent and accomplished before we met and, without kids, and would immediately have gone back to that life. When I discovered his affair I was willing to fight for our family but not for our marriage; he had to fight for that.

It sounds like you're already doing this, Anonymous. After the first few weeks of shock and body-shaking sobbing and furious anger, I decided that I would have to actively rewire my brain so that the unhealthy stuff didn’t have a chance to create entrenched neural pathways. I knew the anger would poison me. I knew that trolling the OW’s social media would make me hurt more. I knew that drinking a bottle of wine every night was just making things worse. So, I forced myself to make them. And Girl: it sucked. But I did it. When the angry thoughts came in, I actively stopped them and forced my brain to think of my awesome children. When self-pity squeezed me, I forced myself to feel gratitude. When I wanted to check the OW’s Instagram, I forced myself to read a gripping fiction novel instead. Forced myself. Forced. It was an act of will. And Girl, as I did it, it felt like it wasn’t helping at all. I was still so angry. I was still so consumed by the injustice of it all. I still obsessed over her. But I kept on doing it. And thank god I did, because within about 2-3 months, all that stuff just got much, much quieter.

You mentioned being in the eye of the storm and struggling badly. To paraphrase Mira Kirshenbaum from her book “I love you but I don’t trust you” (which I found good but inadequate — it’s better for “smaller” betrayals), if you’re asking yourself “how do I survive this pain?” the answer is that you already are surviving it. You are doing it. My advice, if you find a wave of grief crashing down on you, is to enter the texture of the moment, and breathe. Notice the smell of the room. The texture of what you’re sitting on. The saturation of the colours. The many sounds. Stay in the moment. Breathe. The pain will eventually release you. Then, at the end of every day, make a point of being grateful. In your mind, actively relive all the things you experienced during the day that you are grateful for.

Make no mistake about it, You are being brave. As a society, by and large, we only value loud courage: the action hero kind of courage. Punching. Shouting. Kicking him out. Calling a lawyer. Going it alone. (We don’t appreciate the phenomenal difficulty that single mothers face every single day, but we do applaud the woman who kicks the bum out.) We don’t value (or even recognize) the silent kinds of courage. The courage to find compassion for yourself and others. The courage to really feel the pain. The courage to stay with someone who has hurt you but is trying like crazy to make amends. The courage to shield our children. The courage of grace. We appreciate things that look physically courageous. We mostly don’t know how to even recognize emotional and spiritual courage. Does it take courage to leave? Yes. Does it take courage to stay? Yes.

As a writer, words are extremely important to me. The words “taking him back” make me feel really uncomfortable. They just don’t reflect my experience. Because “him” – the man who cheated on me – is more or less gone at this point. Instead, over the past year of rocket-fuel-pain-powered growth, my husband has become someone amazingly different. That’s why I prefer these words instead: I’m seeing if I the person I have become might want to have a new marriage with the person he has become. Wordier, yes. But accurate.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Honoring an Anniversary After Infidelity

I am away from my desk so I'm republishing some of my most popular posts. This originally ran in August 2020

If trying to find a way when you don't even know you can get there isn't a small miracle; then I don't know what is.  ~Rachel Joyce, author

Today is my husband's and my anniversary. Twenty-four years ago we stood in front of family and friends and promised to be each other's one and only. We promised kindness and respect. To stick with each other through "good times and bad." 

There was a lot of bad.

I didn't know just how bad it was but it was bad

And when I discovered how bad it was, I reeled. I cried. I curled up in a ball on my bathroom floor many many nights and sobbed into my dog's neck. I could see nothing but the bad. I couldn't conceive of my marriage ever being anything but bad ever again.

And yet I stayed. I stayed because I was afraid to leave. Afraid to disrupt my young children's lives. Afraid of what my husband might do if I left. Besides, I was exhausted. I could barely get through a day let alone find the energy to kick him out, or leave myself. And so I waited. I waited until I felt strong enough to leave. I made my expectations clear – no cheating, no lying, full disclosure. If he stepped outside the line, even the slightest bit, I was gone. He knew that. He went to therapy. He attended 12-step meetings.

And I waited.

For strength. For a sign from the universe. For my kids to get older. For myself to get clearer.

It was never so much about if I'd leave but when, though I held out faint hope that my feelings for him might return. That I might love him again as I had that day twenty-four years ago. 

And here we are. 

It has not been easy. It has, in fact, been extremely hard. (I was going to write the "hardest thing I've ever done" but that would be untrue. Since that horrible time, I have had to commit my daughter to a psychiatric ward and that, my friends, is the hardest thing I've ever done. I have had to bury my mother, which was another very hard thing.)

But the thing with infidelity is that the pain eclipses every other thing. It blocks out the light. It leaves us squinting in the dark with no expectation of light ever again. This, we are certain, is our life. Not just for today but tomorrow. And forever.

That is a lie.

The pain is excruciating. I know. But it passes. Not today. Not even soon. But eventually. And though I wish I could tell you differently, the truth is that it takes a long time to pass. And that there are no shortcuts. I don't think it hurts less to leave. I don't think it hurts less to find someone else. I don't think it hurts less in a short marriage than a long one. It just hurts. And it hurts so so much.

And then, one day, I realized it hurt a little less. And then less still. And so on until I'm celebrating my 24th wedding anniversary and I realize it hasn't hurt at all for a long time. And that we are exactly where we want to be and with exactly who we want to be with. He has changed over the years and not just grayer hair and a wider waist. I have changed a lot too. WE know each other much more deeply than we did that day 24 years ago. I have seen him at his absolute worst. I have decided that he is more than that. We have been with each other to bury our mothers. We have been with each other to get our daughter the help she needed. We have grown together and through.

And here we are. Okay. More than okay. Beyond all expectations. Happy.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

All we have is what we are and what we give

We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.

Ursula LeGuin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

You may have noticed that my blog posts have been less frequent. The past months have been busy. I'm working with a new startup and it is absorbing not just my time but my energy so that even when I find myself with an hour or two, I must try to refuel. Which usually means a hike in the woods. 

I have, however, been trying at least to keep up with the comments, which can often take an hour or two to read, moderate, and respond to. I don't respond to every comment but I try so hard not to miss anyone who is seeking a response, who is clearly in need of someone to say, if nothing more, I see your pain and I know it too. It will pass.

Which is why I'm so grateful when I return here, time-pressed and tired, to see that someone else has stepped in for me. To read someone else's words of comfort to a fellow traveler to these rocky shores. To see the compassion and wisdom extended. In short, you all – my secret sisters – amaze me.

I remain convinced that, while betrayal is excruciating, it is made worse by the loneliness so many of us feel as we suffer it. As one woman put it on this site last week, her shame has kept her silent. And her silence has kept her lonely.

I was lonely. And yes, there was definitely shame that kept me silent though I have since come to understand that the shame was never mine, that betrayal doesn't mean there's something wrong with me but rather that there's something wrong with him. Still...silence. And silence isolated me. Desperate for those who might also know my pain and eager to create a space where we could gather, I created this blog, which has long outgrown the rudimentary technology it was built on. I have become frustrated at my inability to create the opportunity to connect you to each other in a way that doesn't involve me moderating comments – to create a safe way for you to come together in whatever way works for you. To meet in person, or via text, or Messenger, or WhatsApp. I have tried to think through options but none of them make me comfortable as the liaison. 

If there are techies among you who have a potential solution, please share it. I continue to mull over how best to grow this community, to expand my reach, to share what I think this site does so well: Remind others going through the agony of betrayal that they are not alone, that others know and see their pain, that no matter what path they choose, they will be okay. Betrayal isn't the final line of the story. 

And until I am not so busy, please know how grateful I am to those of you who step in to offer comfort, to offer welcome. To those who arrive here with only a broken heart and a story, you are among friends. 


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