Friday, July 20, 2012

Second Letter to the Other Woman...

I recently received this: 
In my circumstances of life, I am the other woman. I have been involved with a married man for many months and have since left the state and discontinued all contact. I am only in the beginning stages of healing myself- but I am very torn that his wife does not know. I, although already began the process of destroying their family, am truly seeking the forgiveness of this woman. The husband has contacted me multiple times and my answer has always been no. In the clearest most non-vindictive motive ever, I want to write a letter asking this woman for her forgiveness. Any advice?~Anonymous



So I responded with this:


Dear Anonymous,
I applaud you for refusing all contact with the married man. That's the smartest move for everyone's sake, including yours. A relationship with a man with one foot still in his marriage (no matter WHAT he's telling you) is a recipe for heartbreak.
However, I question your motives for seeking forgiveness. You say that the wife does not know. I’m assuming you want to tell her? I do believe she should know…but the best person to hear about it is from her husband. I'm suggesting you tell him that he needs to be honest with her or you will. 
And then, I'm asking you to step into the wife's shoes. Let me to give you a glimpse into what it's like to learn that the person you love and trust has betrayed you:
The world suddenly seems extraordinarily unsafe. You wonder, if you could be so wrong about your husband, what other things are you wrong about. Can your friends be trusted? Your parents? Can anyone be trusted? Including yourself?
You can't sleep without images flooding your brain of your husband and the Other Woman. You imagine their sex is like the steamiest, most sexy movie ever. You imagine she's more beautiful, more exciting, more interesting – no matter that reality (and often your husband) reveal otherwise. You feel invisible, useless, of no value. You might need to take anti-depressants. You might consider suicide. Betrayal takes you to the lowest point of your life.
You feel a rage you never knew you were capable of. You could kill him. And her. With your bare hands. If only you had the energy to get out of bed.
You can't eat. You feel constantly sick to your stomach. Indeed, many betrayed wives are physically sick when they find out. 
You can't think about anything BUT your spouse's affair. Your children fade into the background. Your work suffers. You take no pleasure in anything and wonder if you'll ever feel joy again.
You have no idea whether to stay or go. You have no idea whether what he's telling you about the affair is the whole truth, partial truth, or simply more lies based on what he thinks he can get away with. You wonder what happened to the man who promised to cherish you above all others, 'til death do you part'. Was he lying then, too? Has your entire married life been a waste?
Now imagine, in the midst of this emotional maelstrom, the other woman asking you to forgive her
Do you see the problem with this? After all the pain you've caused her, you're asking her to do something for you.
It's time for you to do something for her. A kind something. A generous something. 
And that's only possible when you acknowledge the pain you've helped create and figure out what moral lapse allowed you to go down that path. 
What stories of his were you believing? What stories were you telling yourself? What red flags were you ignoring? 
If, after this, you can offer a sincere apology – a simple no-strings-attached "I am so profoundly sorry that I contributed to your pain" – go for it. THEN live a life that indicates you've learned from your mistake. 
But remember, the apology is for HER, not for YOU. Though it might make you feel a little better about yourself, ensure that it's INTENDED to lighten her load, not yours. Don't be surprised if she rejects it...and you. Her pain is so deep right now, she can barely function let alone truly absorb your remorse. She may hate the fact you’re using up oxygen on this planet. Or she might accept your apology. And she might be able to offer forgiveness somewhere down the road. I don't think I forgive the OW who was with my husband, but I also don't wish her ill. She's simply a non-issue now. I understand that she wasn't the problem, my husband was. If it hadn't been her, it would have been someone else.
The question comes down to: Is the apology to help her with her healing, or to ask her to help you with yours? 
If you can't answer, then walk away and get on with your life. One without married men in it.




Elle

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Last Waltz

Last night I went to see Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan. It's a beautiful movie, like I've come to expect from writer/director Sarah Polley.
I went alone. My husband generally likes comedies or action – not such a fan of "real-life" stuff. And I didn't trust myself to go with a friend.
Why? The storyline follows a twenty-something married woman who meets a man and falls head over heels. Of course, it's not as simple as that – Polley is gifted at giving us the complications of life and of people. What appears to be a case of a stale marriage, an exciting, attentive new man, and the pain of leaving the old for the new is really a hard look at long-term relationships, compromise, loyalty and love.
The woman, toward the end, comes to perhaps not outright regret leaving her husband but certainly revisit her decision in light of what she's come to know, which is that all relationships become...comfortable. All relationships require compromise. Or, put simply, people let us down. Life lets us down.
It can be hard to watch this stuff sometimes, which is why I went alone. I'm never sure what's going to trigger me and launch tears. I occasionally seek out opportunities to revisit that still-scared place in my heart, to remind myself that nothing is guaranteed and that pain is as much a part of living as joy. Maybe even a bigger part.
I didn't cry, except from laughter. (There's a pool scene that aroused my childish sense of humor. And the cutesy names and goofy behavior of the married couple is humorous as much as uncomfortable. I suspect a few of us will recognize ourselves in their "universe-of-two" actions.) But, a day later, I'm still thinking about the characters and their stories.
And that's I think the best that can be said about any movie. It has me wondering about life in general and my own in particular. It reminded me that things aren't always what they seem. And it confirmed that our stories, our messy, mistake-ridden stories, don't always have a clear villain or hero. Those of us expecting a waltz are likely to be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How My Husband's Affair Was Good For Me


“So whatever you do, don’t shut off your pain; accept your pain and remain vulnerable. However desperate you become, accept your pain as it is, because it is in fact trying to hand you a precious gift: the chance of discovery, through spiritual practice, what lies behind sorrow. ~Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying





Kinda sounds crazy, doesn't it? Opening yourself up to your pain? We human beings will do just about anything to avoid feeling pain. We'll shop. We'll eat. We'll inject chemicals into our veins. We'll have affairs. We'll watch TV. We'll check e-mail every five seconds. Anything to avoid feeling that horrible sense of loss, or emptiness, or betrayal. 
And yet, teacher after teacher, from Jesus through Buddha through Eckhart Tolle through Rinpoche, tells us to do exactly that. To open ourselves up to the pain we're feeling. To let it wash over us and in so doing, realize finally that it won't wash us away. That when it has passed – and it will pass – we'll still be standing. What's more, we'll be standing with the awareness that we are bigger than that. That we can withstand pain/loss/betrayal more excruciating than we ever imagined. Pain that brought us to our knees doesn't haven't to keep us there. 
What I'm not advocating is obsessing. I'm not suggesting that you pour over the details of your husband's affair like a forensic detective – seeking out every detail, every possible scenario. That is called pain shopping it's not feeling pain but manufacturing it. It's distracting you from feeling because it's giving you the illusion that you're doing something. You're not. You have all the evidence you need right now.
What I am advocating is to let yourself get in touch with that tiny part of you that  has likely spent a lifetime avoiding exactly the type of pain you're experiencing now. That part of you that was, perhaps, betrayed by a parent. Or a sibling. Or someone else close to you when you were a kid and who you trusted – indeed needed – to keep you safe. And they didn't. 
The women who struggle the most to get past betrayal are, I believe, those for whom betrayal reopens old wounds that many of us pretend we don't even have.
And I'm about to say something even crazier than opening yourself up to pain. What I'm going to say is as shocking to me as to anyone else.
My husband's affairs were good for me. 
If it wasn't for me finally facing long-buried pain and shame from childhood, I wouldn't be – perhaps – the happiest I've ever been. No, not happy. Happy is for birthdays. But peaceful. I've never felt so at peace with myself and at home in the world. 
It's a wonderful feeling...and a new one for me.
And it's because I allowed the pain to wash over me. To fearfully (there was nothing fearless about it!) go back and revisit all the pain from being betrayed as a kid that was triggered by my husband's betrayal. 
And what I discovered was that I survived. It was horrible and painful and confusing and frightening and no child should feel like that ever...but I survived.
You did too.
And you'll survive this as well.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nora Ephron: A Hero to Betrayed Wives


The world lost the great Nora Ephron last week. When a writer dies, I always lament the unwritten stories that died with them. But Ephron left us a treasure trove of wonderful stories, that could have been our lives. She was one of us – a woman, a wife, a betrayed wife, a daughter. 
Someone who could make us laugh through our tears. 
To celebrate Ephron, I'll be including a few of her wonderful witticisms, relevant to  all of us here. A reader recently commented on this site about her own situation, which was so much more than being sexually betrayed. This commenter was in an unbelievably abusive situation, in which her value as a person was under attack. This one is for her from Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman:
Why hadn't I realized how much of what I thought of as love was simply my own highly developed gift for making lemonade? What failure of imagination had caused me to forget that life was full of other possibilities, including the possibility that eventually I would fall in love again?

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