Wednesday, June 8, 2022

When the war is happening inside

Most people haven’t even noticed their strength. They’re so focussed on their pain.

~ Rachel Naomi Remen, author Kitchen Table Wisdom

Our household has recently welcomed a family of Ukrainians, fleeing the war. It's a mother and two daughters – the husband and 18-year-old son remain in their country to defend it. 

I just returned from walking the youngest to the school bus, where she climbed on with a dozen other kids for the ride to her new elementary school. It's been just nine days since she got off a plane from Poland. 

This family is weaving itself into our day-to-day lives. Their dog plays with our dogs and cats. We all sit down to dinner together. We grocery shop together. We jokingly call ourselves "one big happy family." But I notice how often they check their phones and then exchange glances with each other. The other day, they shared with us a photo of a magnificent church in a village near to their own, the turret engulfed in flames

"I don't know how to talk to you about this," my husband said to them, his voice deep with sadness. "But I am so sorry for what you're going through." 

They smiled. Those words, for the moment, were enough. Someone saw their pain. Someone recognized their loss. Someone acknowledged that none of this fair.

I'm awed by their courage. To pack up everything into two large suitcases and a couple of backpacks. To leave their family business, their home, their friends, their husband and father and brother. But they've heard the stories of what's happening to those who stay. They know the stories. And so they roll the dice on a family they'd never heard of before, who lives across the world in a country they'd never been to. They took the chance that they would be welcomed. That they would be safe. That what they didn't know in another country was better than what they knew in their own.

Any time our lives are turned upside down thanks to the actions of a madman, we are thrown into a fight for our survival. Infidelity might not be war but it can sure feel like it. Our bodies don't discern between threats, they only know that the bright alarm is flashing red. And so they fight. Or flee. Or freeze.

But though it might not feel like it, we have choices beyond fight, flee, or freeze. And though you might not recognize it as you're living through it, you have a deep well of strength that you're drawing on even as you're curled up weeping on the floor. It's a strength that will serve you. It's the strength that gets you to work more days than not. It's the strength that parents your children, that comforts them. It's greater than your pain. 

Rachel Naomi Remen, the provider of the quote at the top of this post, was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in her early teens. She spent a decade, she says, "angry". And of course, she was. It wasn't fair that she had a disease that, she was told, would cut her life short, would cause pain and discomfort. It's not fair that Ukrainians are fleeing their homes because of an ego-driven authoritarian. It's not fair that our own lives have been turned upside down because of a partner's betrayal. We can choose anger, which is reasonable. And maybe we have to spend some time there. But we can also recognize that, greater than the pain, is a strength that will help us straighten our spines and walk into a future that might not be the one we'd have designed but that we can make beautiful too. 

18 comments:

  1. This is absolutely true. Even when I was curled up on the bathroom floor weeping hysterically, I knew I had to get up eventually, take care of my
    kids and pets, and get to work. We don’t know our strength until it’s truly needed.

    And best wishes to your refugee family.

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    1. "We don't know our strength until it's truly needed." Yep. Absolutely. And thank you for the kind words.

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  2. This is LLP. I haven't been here for quite a while. So much to say. I found out 2103. Do I still think about it? Not much only when I'm tired or the house is very quiet. I think of all the things I will never know. What difference does it make? I would like for him to tell me the truth one time about something that I won't like. I would have a bigger of chance of my wish coming true throwing a penny in a fountain. For every rat you see is hundred you don't, says Dr. Phil. How did I get over IT? I got away from him. I think my own thoughts, I make my own decisions. Big and little decisions. I learn how not to be dependent on him. I learned to just get the hell away from him mentally. Sure, I still ask his advice but then I make my own decisions. I let many professional things go. I let many things about my kids go. I let many things personal go. To get over it, let go. and hang on to something else you like better. That is the hard part, first finding something you like better then flat out going for it. I say things now like don't gas light me. I built a 5-stall stable and now have 14 horses, 2 trainers and one stall mucker. I got so much push back, but I did it. You are going to run out of money - that is ok, I'll think of something.
    The bottom line is flat but I'm very happy. It still hurts and changed who Iwas. How someone can do that is still incomprehensible to me. You will find your way; it is not easy. I don't know you, but I promise you can get through this.

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    1. LLP! How wonderful to hear from you. I think of you often. So happy to hear that you're so happy. Stables and horses sounds like a dream. Thanks for weighing in and offering support to others.

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  3. I often choose anger, at least as my initial emotion. I guess I define it as part of my strength. But through therapy, I learned to allow my pain to sometimes have center stage, to let myself cry ( really hard for me), and to feel. Although my affair brought me to therapy, the gains I made beyond the affair were enormous. Thank you for another beautiful post and for the selflessness you are showing with this family.

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  4. Thank y’all for your transparency. It’s nice to see how strong y’all are, and how you survived that loss. This gives me hope.

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  5. It is very hard to deal with a cheater. I have been married for 15 years, but in April 2022 I found out that my husband who is 56 years old was having an affair with the new neighbor Amanda Gil 202 w 100 n in jerome id for one year. Can you imagine she is over 30 years younger that him. She doesn't work and has a kid. They spent over 3200 text messages per month. What kind of good woman steps into my house on my bday and gives me flowers knowing that she is fucking my husband. My husband and i have a daughter and thanks to Amanda my daughter's relations with her father is broken. I just hope and pray that the rest of her neighbor don't fall for her when she knocks their doors and pretent to be a nice neighbor.

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  6. Elle, for the family that is displaced and is at your home. If they need mental health support, complicated.life provides access to free therapy in Russian and Ukrainian under Therapists for Ukraine (I am a volunteer there). There is also the http://www.mansioglobalcollective.org/ and https://heartinhands.me/

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  7. I am just 3 months post D-Day. I don't know where I'm going. I am grateful to have found this blog and for the messages i've already read on it about 'becoming' and 'quiet courage'. It has cost me every drop of strength to hold myself together so my kids haven't found out. I don't know if i can or should trust him. I don't know if we can re-build. I hope I can become stronger, wiser, more beautiful regardless. I will read more on this site and hope to learn from others who have travelled further. I really don't like that I can't be honest myself sometimes... when people ask me how I am... I have precious friends who do know.. but others I would normally talk openly with, I don't now feel i can. I hate that. I have nothing to hide.. but to allow space for recovery and especially so it doesn't get back to the kids... i don't want to spread it too far... If anyone has wisdom on that... i'd be grateful. Thank you and love to all travelling on this unchosen rollercoaster.

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    1. Fellow anonymous, I'm sorry you've had to join us. I think it's smart to not let the news spread and try to keep it to yourself, your spouse and hopefully your therapist/s. I am upset I shared it with my family and a few friends. You can never take it back and if you end up trying to reconcile like we have been, those relationships will never be the same. Neither will your marriage but at 2.5 years post discovery, our marriage is better than ever so I'm glad it isn't the same as before. Would I want it to happen this way? HELL NO. It's not the story I chose, I wasn't part of it. He had a two year affair and it will be a journey trying to heal from that. I'm jealous your children don't know. He chose on d-day to tell 2 out of our 3 children. He didn't discuss it with me, just took it upon himself to "come clean" with almost everyone. While I appreciated the no more lying, I'm glad he didn't tell our youngest and hate that he told the other two. I'm sure the youngest suspects something but I didn't want them to grow up so fast and it's been a rollercoaster. They got into therapy right away and will certainly need it again in the future one day. Anyway, I know it doesn't feel honest and true to hide it but everyone doesn't need to know your business. Just think it through and I wish you the best on your healing journey. Take care of YOU.

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    2. I could have written this myself. One month since I found out.

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    3. The truth is you don’t need to know where you are going the fact that you are getting up and managing just the everyday life is testament to the strength you have found in you.That
      deserves so much credit just to get up in the morning. I wanted to stay in bed not face the world but when you have a family and a business to run ( if I don’t work I don’t get paid so then the bills don’t get paid and that impacts my family). I got up and kept going it was a struggle and at times I still struggle. I too chose not to tell the world and his wife ( sorry English expression ) about what happened my children don’t know. As I have made the choice to stay, but I had counciling in the beginning which helped a lot it made a difference talking to someone that I didn’t know, if you can I’d suggest trying that. I have to say in the darkest days at the beginning it helped me feel a little bit grounded when you feel like your life just feel apart. I didn’t find this site until months later and reading and posting on here has helped so much too.

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    4. Dear Anonymous - I posted on 4th July. Just wanted to say thanks to you Anonymous for your reply on 7th July. i'm so sorry for what you have been through and to not be in control of who knows, especially your kids sounds so so hard. I think as time goes on, I am glad, as per your advice, that not everyone knows. But a select few, chosen by me, have been a godsend. It's amazing to hear that your marriage is better than ever 2.5 years later... while that feels at this point somewhat unimaginable... it is so helpful to hear that it can sometimes go that way.. I'm sure with enormous effort and grace.
      And to you Anonymous on 10th July - sending you love. Such early days... all so raw. I hope you are finding your way through each day. It's just so much to try to take in. So much to process and re-process. So much hurt. I hope you may be able to find some sources of support and comfort. X

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  8. Everything went well until Dday2: Around the same time, he was careless enough to leave a gay dating app called Manhunt opened while showing me the photos of a car he was buying. I screamed at him asking if he was still going on with his gay encounters. A couple days after that, I discovered I had crabs and of course, he had crabs as well. I went bonkers. Again, he promises he will never do it again, he is sorry, he does not know why he did it. I tell his sister and our best friend, he goes to therapy, he gets tested for HIV (negative), we stopped having sex, he remains in the house, he returns to "normal self", we have sex again after two years for just once more in a surprise trip he planned for our 25th anniversary. The following day, he mentions how wonderful we are being intimate again. I said I missed it too but I am afraid to become infected with HIV or an STD. He never makes a move again. (We both had very demanding and satisfying jobs at the time, and I never took that as a sign that he was still fooling around, until....)

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  9. DD 3: My oldest son had surgery last May. Only one of us was allowed in the hospital´s room: So my husband went in. When my son was about to be moved to the operating room, my husband uses his phone to put him on video in whatsapp so I can see him and say good luck. The following day, my son asked to speak to me, and he dropped the bomb: "Mom, I have remained silent about this that I´m about to tell you: It is very hard for me to say that you need to be careful with Dad. 15 years ago, while in highschool, I went to his office to print out some homework and I find several windows opened in his desktop, with gay pornography and very explicit gay chats. Is my dad bisexual?"..... I tried to remain calm over my 30-yr old son, I replied that his Dad was a good man with one very big defect. I was still trying to protect him and the image that our son had from him! I cannot believe myself. My son did not let me off the hook. He said "No-No-No Mom, my Dad has a problem, he is being stupid by going online with this shit at his office. He is also chatting with gay men because when I was about to go into the operating room and he placed a videocall to you, a message from a guy just popped into the screen." I thanked my kid, he asked forgiveness for not telling me anything 15 years ago, I assured him this was not his fault at all, no kid should be in a position in which he had to choose which side he was going to be loyal with, and no kid should feel that he needs to hide a secret that is not his. He said that it was only a matter of time for anyone at work to discover my husbands gay cheating, and to tell him that he was being really stupid because all conversations, porn sites, etc etc remained in the devices forever no matter if you deleted them, any IT worker could retrieve them very easily. My son said that if my husband was gay, he should do things the right way and not be hiding stuff and cheating me. Wow. Eye opener. I went back home and confronted my husband for the 3rd time: I asked whether he was ready for a public scandal. I told him our son knew since he was a teenager, I spilled the beans. I blamed him for whatever happened in our son´s lives as a result of his hiding in the closet all this time, and demanded to know whether he had had sex with men from his work. He admitted to being with "one ex-worker after he left the place".... and of course, several more people some anonymous, some know who he is and "protect him". This is really too much. I ask him to go to a therapist that can help him find out what he wants, that I will no longer be his cover-up.

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  10. He is going to a therapist, I got the strenght to go with him once, but I am DONE with his not being able to communicate, with his lies and with his cheating. I began searching for advice on what to do and found your site in a place that mentioned several steps towards building a new relationship (if that is at all possible). Among the steps there were two that hit me: 1. That one has to agree to have BRUTAL honesty and have all questions asked and answered. 2. That one is to understand that the relationship that once was is to END and another one must start from scratch. I have had two days of "BRUTAL" asking questions that I never befored asked out of respect and honestly trying to believe in my husband. One of which was when did this gay cheating begin or if this began before us and it was there when we got married. He said he began going to saunas for gay masturbation and oral sex shortly after we had our second kid. This was 27 years ago. But I simply do not believe him. I asked him to move out of our bedroom, I have also asked him to arrange all of our assets so our properties are secure. We had talked about writing wills but those can be changed, so he is passing property ownership to our kids to avoid losing them in a gay fling that may come in the future. I also said I am not sure what I want to do, I certainly do not trust him, and he says he wants "Us".

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  11. I am not that technology-savvy, but I can fix that if I can find the energy to do so. Nevertheless, I am tending my 95-year old mother that has dementia, this keeps many hours of my day. And I also find it humiliating for both to be prying into his phone or laptops or tablets and checking what the hell he is doing or texting, and of course I very seldomly come to his workplace, in which he holds a high position. I am invited to be at important events and celebrations, his co-workers know me, (the last one he has been having gay sex with also knows me, what nerve...) (¿¿x@¿!) Of the gay men that have been chatting or having gay encounters with him, there are several who know he is married, one of which is the owner of a store I regularly went to. I don´t know if there is a "code" between cheaters to hide everything, but certainly he has been lucky that word has not been spread about his cheating amongst the rest of the family or at his job. He would not stand public shame. Fortunately for him, I really don´t care much of what people think or say, but I resent that he has even risked public shame for the family if one of such men wanted to share pictures or videos or blackmail him. One of the most important things my husband shared with me was the highlights of his day at work and I would give advice or comment on those. He was recently given a prize for his work. I did not attend. I also asked him not to share anything about his work anymore.
    At therapy, I told him that life is short, that we are in our last third of our lives and that he should really look into himself and see how he wants to spend the rest of his life. I told him that it was OK with me if he chose to find a gay partner and move in with him, I said that I felt disgusted at his promiscuous gay sex, and that I missed the signal he gave when he stopped any move when I mentioned that I was afraid to catch a disease from him, that for me, it meant he was still fooling around. I also mentioned that I would never forgive that he subjected our son to choosing who to cover up to, and that he was a careless, selfish man. He said he is sorry he lost his "best friend" which is me. And he has repeatedly said he will do everything to rebuild trust. That is impossible. He continues to go to therapy, I don´t know what the approach is going to be, he has also asked for medicines to control libido and I really do not know where this is going to end. I am hoping and praying I can forgive him for the hurt he has caused, for the risk he has put us in, but a cheater is a cheater, gay or straight, and although he is trying to put this as a "sex addiction", he has had years to address this situation and only now has he discovered this? After I caught him for the 3rd time? I reflect back and I know we had had fun times together, we have two marvelous kids, we have travelled extensively, we have built a comfortable life together and we own properties. But life is really too short to feel one´s life has been spent as a cover-up for a closeted man, no matter if he is "your best friend"....

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  12. Hi Elle,
    Thanks for all the posts you’ve put on this site. In the darkest of hours it has been if anything encouraging to know that others are going through this incredibly difficult time. It has been 2.5 months for me since D-Day… well the second. Its been a little more manageable being the second time but still haunts me every few days. I have a few good days then it comes back, and I have to get out of bed (as that’s the quiet time when I end up thinking about stuff) and I feel an extreme feeling of anger. I don’t know how to trust him again, I don’t know how we will move forward… but foolish as some may call it we both want to move forward together. There are a lot of mental health issues going on, and I hope that he can and we can get through this. Easy to say throw it away, but as long as we have the same goal… I just can’t. Yet I don’t know in a lifetime how I can trust him again. Trying to look after myself as friends and therapist have advised me to do. In comparison to what others are going through (for example, Ukrainians in this post) my situation isn’t anywhere near as bad… but it’s just different. I know that soon when we start therapy together we will have to make the big scary decision whether we want to stay together or not and whether it’s good for us… I don’t know if I can in all honesty. I wish we can get better, it’s been good to know that some have worked their way through. Thank you for your comments, ladies and STAY STRONG!!!

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