Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Five books to help you through

I admit, I'm a reader. And an information junkie. When faced with a problem (cheating spouse, perhaps?), I arm myself with every book I can get my hands on, convinced that somewhere within its pages is THE answer I need. While I've yet to find THE answer, I have found AN answer...or two, or three. And often these answers take me further along my own path to healing.
Herewith my bookshelf selections to ease your aching heart:
Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass
After the Affair by Janis Abrahms Spring
Back from Betrayal by Suzy Farbman
Co-Dependent No More by Melody Beattie

Do you have a favorite? Let us know...

Why cheaters rewrite history

Far too often, our deluded spouses give us speeches that sound like English, but defy common sense. You might hear the “I love you but I’m not in love with you” version. You might hear the “yes we had a wonderful marriage, but she and I are soulmates” version. You might even be treated to a recounting of your marriage – in which you’re cast as a villain – that doesn’t sound remotely like the marriage you were in. The truth is that most people in affairs aren’t really bad people. So in order to justify to themselves why they’re engaging in behavior that simply doesn’t fit with their own moral code, they rewrite history…and reality…to come up with a version that allows them their affair and to feel okay about it.

We’ll get to how you can shine the harsh light of reality on their little fairy tale. For now, just take whatever he says with a very large shaker of salt (tequila would be nice, too, but later…when you’re less likely to abuse it!) and focus on yourself.

Step #1 in saving your marriage

Establish No Contact

If your husband wants you to even consider sticking around his cheating self, then he needs to establish NO CONTACT with his affair partner and that starts right NOW. No negotiation. He makes a phone call and follows it up with a letter. He must state unequivocally that the affair was wrong and that it’s over. He must make it clear that there is to be absolutely no contact going forward. Of course, there are going to be complications. My husband worked with his affair partner and it was messy (and expensive) to extricate her from our lives. The BWC has heard of affairs with sisters, sisters-in-law, kids’ teachers, coaches, professors… So, let me add this: When possible, there must be NO CONTACT with the affair partner, especially by the offending (offensive!) party.

The catch is, you need to respect the No Contact agreement too. No drink-and-dial phone calls to tell her she’s a bitch (on some level, she knows). No nasty e-mails. No FaceBook postings designed to be inflammatory. No snarky remarks when you run into her at the PTA meeting. Your issue is not with her, but with your husband. He’s the one who made promises to you. Just hope the whole experience has been sufficiently painful for her to resolve to NEVER again get involved with a married man. Don’t count on it…but hope nonetheless.

Recovering from an affair: Identifying a cake-eater

As in, "wants his cake...and Edith, too."
Far too often I hear of women hanging in limbo while Lothario tries to determine which lovely gets the prize -- him!
They're called "cake-eaters" and they're easily identifiable:

1. Indecision: "I just don't know what I want..." usually delivered in a high-pitched whine. Let him know that he can take time to figure it out. You just might be gone by the time he does.

2. Stringing you along. He'll offer you just enough hope to keep you hanging. Negative comments about his girlfriend. Wistful words about "missing" you. He might not be intentionally manipulative, but, if you go along with it, you ARE being manipulated. If you still want your marriage, it's tempting to play his game, hoping he'll come to his senses. However, it's healthier for you to insist on the marriage you want -- one that does NOT include another woman.

Should you tell?

Infidelity can be isolating.

There are those who have no trouble telling the world their woes...and often getting enormous support in the process.

Who you tell is a personal choice, clearly. But think it through. Stacey told anyone and everyone in the first few weeks. Now, she says, she wishes she hadn’t as she’s moved past it…but not everyone else will let her forget. Nikki says it isn’t a “one size fits all” situation. Depending on the person, she either reveals that she and her husband are having troubles, that her husband had an affair, that he’s a sex addict in treatment or…nothing at all. Stick to people you trust to support you. You don’t need to add more fuel to your outrage. You need someone to talk you in off the ledge. If all else fails, we’re here…

Get tested...yep, for STDs

We hate to be the bearers of even worse news, but you need to get fully tested for STDs. Even if your husband swears he used a condom. Even if he swears the relationship wasn’t consummated. Unless you have irrefutable proof that the relationship was emotional only, you need to get tested. This guy – however much he still looks like the person who promised to love, honor and cherish – has been lying to you. Perhaps he still is. And his affair partner(s) is someone who has sex with married men. Her boundaries are clearly a wee bit fuzzy. Don’t take chances. Get tested. And don’t have unprotected sex with your spouse – or anyone else for that matter – until you’re sure you’re clean.

We know, yuck. I’m not sure I was ever at a lower point than the evening I spent in the STD clinic at my local health unit to be tested. There I sat, along with a number of 20-somethings who clearly made some bad choices, swallowing my rage at being put in such a humiliating spot. I got a clean bill of health.

Carly wasn’t so lucky. Not only was she saddled with a heap of pain, she was left with Chlamydia as a souvenir.

Cross your fingers, uncross your legs…and pray for the best.

Triage for the Newly Betrayed

The BWC members all agree that the first things to go are your appetite and your ability to sleep. And your ability to think straight. And sometimes your ability to recognize your neighbors.

You’ll cry. And when your body has exhausted itself from crying, you’ll lose entire days simply staring into space. You’ll spend nights staring at the ceiling. You’ll forget to eat. Or you’ll try and one bite will make you nauseous.

But your body and mind are trying to cope so this is no time to starve them of food and sleep. Easier said than done. We know. So just follow the simple instructions here:

1. Eat

Choke down a banana. Nibble on an energy bar. Munch a piece of toast. Slurp a little soup. Even just a few bites of something will help. In a fit of efficiency, Nikki stocked up on protein shakes and forced herself to down one each at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Perfect for the days she couldn’t drag herself to a grocery store.

If you have the energy and the mental capacity to follow directions and operate a blender, mix up a smoothie. Resist the urge to add rum. Alcohol is NOT your friend right now and will further impair your judgment, which will be compromised enough.

2. Sleep

I craved it, if only to forget – however briefly – that my formerly wonderful life had become a Jerry Springer episode. Then, when the horrible dreams started, I dreaded sleep. But the less sleep I got, the crazier I got. The more frequently I shook my husband awake at 3 a.m. to scream at him. The more likely I was to collapse on my bathroom floor sobbing into my dog’s neck and feeling more bereft than ever before in my life. The more likely I was to contemplate murder. Or suicide. Infidelity will make you crazy. Lack of sleep will make you crazier still.

I finally turned to melatonin, an over-the-counter sleep aid you’ll find in the vitamin section of your pharmacy. It’s a staple of shift-workers and flight attendants who can’t afford to lose shut-eye. Kathy, a registered nurse, relied on Gravol. It’s non-addictive, she says, but will still knock you out for a few hours.

If necessary, go to your doctor and get something that will help you get some rest in the short term. There’s no shame in asking for help.

If life is an amusement park, this must be the roller coaster

If my husband ever cheats on me, that’s it. It’s over.

If mine cheats, I’ll kick him to the curb.

Mine wouldn’t cheat. He knows I’d kill him!


Most of us (celebrities aside) head into marriage with delusions…er…illusions of “happily ever after”. We never really think about cheating because isn’t the whole reason we’re getting married because we’re DONE having sex with other people?

We step into this fantasy world and all is sunshine and butterflies.

Until the day we discover a hidden cell phone. Or graphic e-mails to someone else. Or, like Vicky, we’re contacted by someone claiming to be in love with our husbands...and telling us we’re nagging bitches.

Suddenly, our lives are upside down. Nothing seems safe. Nothing seems right.

The day I found out, I walked the house like Lady Macbeth, wringing my hands and repeatedly moaning “what am I supposed to do?”

Angie vomited over and over, barely able to breathe.

Debbie remained emotionless and stunned for days when her husband offered up the “we’ve grown apart” speech and announced he’d met someone else.

There is no right or wrong way to react (though it’s wise to avoid reaching for sharp objects). As one wise BWC member says, “whatever you’re feeling right now is the right feeling.” Acknowledge that this is traumatic to you, and your body and mind are responding as such.

“How could he do this to me?”

In the days following discovery of a partner’s infidelity, we often read from the same script. We weep, we beg, we scream. “How could you do this to me?” we wail. “I’ve been a good wife,” we protest. “What does she have that I don’t have?” we demand. Etcetera, etcetera.

We contemplate our options, but rarely with a clear head. (On the advice of my lawyer, I’m leaving out the part where I contemplated running my husband over with my car…but homicide, too, is a common thought! For now, though, let’s keep revenge fantasies just that – fantasies. I don’t want to have to post bail for any of you.)

Suicide can also be a far-too-common consideration. If you’re in such pain that you can’t possibly see a way out, please call a crisis line, family member or good friend. You will find your way into the sunlight again. I promise.

Our emotions tend to center on feeling like this horrible miscarriage was done to us. But the bizarre thing about infidelity is that it likely – honestly – had nothing to do with us. We’re just collateral damage. And if you start from that point – accepting that the affair was HIS choice (regardless of how good or bad your marriage was) and that HE needs to take responsibility for his choice, you’ll save yourself a lot of agonizing and self-flagellation.

Cheaters have cheated because…well…because they clearly have boundary issues and, sadly, because the’re missing something that they think they can get from an affair partner…or at least distract themselves from its lack by the ego-stroking that an affair provides. But, while you can sympathize that they’re missing something – a good job? Good health? A red sportscar? – the problem is theirs.

And – guess what? -- if they’re unhappy with the marriage, it’s up to them to tell you so. And for the two of you, if you so choose, to fix it. Or separate. If affairs were a reasonable solution, they wouldn’t have to be secret.


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