Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Worth considering...

"Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Place to Share Your Story

I'm a firm believer in the power of sharing our stories as a path toward healing. As long as that sharing takes place in an environment of mutual compassion. No matter our circumstances. No matter our choices.
So...I believe that environment exists on this site. I'm enormously proud of the community we've created and it fills me with a mother's joy when you comment on each other's posts and offer up empathy and, often, humor. There's HUGE power in that connection. Suddenly we're not alone in our pain. Suddenly there's someone who knows exactly how we feel. A virtual hand to hold. A virtual hug.
I've long wanted to find a way that each of you can connect with each other. I'm not quite there, mostly because my ability to navigate technology is more of a dis-ability. And partly because blogger, the platform I've used for this site, doesn't offer up much of an option. However, I've created a second page, which you can find by looking at the top of the Home page. There you'll see a tab marked "Join the Club...and Share Your Story." It's you invitation to do exactly that.
I hope you will. It'll take a while for people to find your story so don't take the initial lack of response personally. You've put it out there. And someone, somewhere is grateful to you for that. Including me.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Importance of Understanding Infidelity as Trauma

The traumatic nature of disclosure of infidelity intensifies when the threat continues, through the continuation of the marital affair or lack of proof of its discontinuation...
This can't be overstated. The insanity we feel when we suspect an affair increases exponentially when we confront the cheater, expect that he'll end the affair only to be left without any proof that it really is over.
And though the research paper focuses exclusively on wives of sex addicts, this holds true for all wives who've discovered their husband's secret life.
It's the reason that any husband remotely interested in saving his marriage must immediately establish no contact with his affair partner. It's the reason that there needs to be total transparency – with you having access to his computer passwords, cell phone, all records and whatever else makes you feel that he some measure of accountability. It's the reason that he must always be available to take your calls any time you need to check on him. It's the reason that he must always be where he says he is, with whom he says he's with and for how long.
It's not about you becoming police and watchdog, it's about you being able to slowly feel safe again. Post-trauma can even follow you into a new relationship, or impact friendships. We become suspicious. We don't trust our own judgement.
Trauma following betrayal isn't the exception, it's the rule. Sure there are some women who recover more quickly but the rest of us are generally shell-shocked and paralyzed for a year, or two, or three. Post-trauma leaves us frightened and anxious, feeling isolated and unable to determine our next step. It's not something we can force ourselves to move past or will ourselves into stopping. Self-help books can't make it go away, though they can help us recognize that we're experiencing it.
I spent the first half year wondering why I wasn't feeling any better and was, in fact, feeling worse. More hopeless. Though my husband was in counselling for sex addiction and attending a 12-step group, though he was doing what he could to support me, I felt fearful and anxious. I also found myself highly mistrustful of just about everyone. I questioned their motives, wondered who they "really" were. I felt constantly off-balance. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
When a friend, who worked at a support centre for sexual abuse survivors, suggested that what I was experiencing was post-trauma, I dismissed it. As I've written here before, I thought post-trauma was what rape victims or veterans dealt with. I thought what I'd experienced didn't "qualify" me for post-trauma. It seemed too dramatic a label for something so, sadly, common.
But what my friend had said at least made me open my mind to the possibility. Now it seems I'm reading everywhere that being cheated on leads to post-traumatic response.
It's not just semantics. Be recognizing the depth of your trauma, you can better heal from it. By truly acknowledging that what happened isn't just about your husband being an ass, you can recognize that your responses/reactions to a wide variety of things – from a friend cancelling a lunch date to the death of your pet – are through the lens of post-trauma.
Betrayal is traumatic. But continued betrayal or inability to determine if betrayal is continuing is worse still.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Can There Be Joy Behind the Pain?

A betrayed wife recently commented on this post that she wondered if she had recovered too "easily". She was six weeks out from D-Day and, though she had her rough days, nonetheless was feeling pretty positive. She asked if I thought she was maybe in denial.
Though, of course, I can't answer that, it's possible but it's also possible that she's just a really healthy, wholehearted person who recognizes that her husband's horrible choice doesn't define her in any way. And then I came across this on this site here, which perhaps explains it as well:

It has never failed that when I have been through the most heart-breaking passages of my life – betrayal, financial hardship, divorce, dreams dashed – the pain brought me to the floor of my being, and what was there to be found?: The simple joy of being alive. So cosmically basic it's mind-blowing: the joy to be here, connected, animated, breathing, blessed, resilient, to be broken, to be open, to have what was, what's left, what's coming. The joy just to be part ofreality

What do you think?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Five Ways We Hurt Ourselves After Our Husband's Affair

Infidelity is excruciating. Never in my dreams did I imagine how excruciating. Like most women, I had talked about what I'd do if I found out my husband cheated. My friends and I, when we heard of someone having an affair, would inevitably say to each other, "Well, if my husband ever did that, I'd show him the door so fast..." We imagined we'd wipe our hands of the scumbag, throw his stuff on the front lawn and be done with it. At no point did I imagine years of therapy, anti-depressants, and a stack of books on my bedside table that covered on everything from forgiveness to sex addiction.
Life has a way of messing with my plans.
I've learned, however, that though I clearly couldn't control what choices my husband had made (oh, if I could have!!) I could learn to control myself. I say learn to control myself because I'd never really thought of it that way before. I'd always operated from the "I am what I am" school of thought. That my responses to life were the result of some personality lottery, and I received a rather impetuous, emotional, mercurial one. So when I knocked a television off a table to indicate just how angry I was with my husband well...how could I control that? I was fiery.
Ummm....no.
Over the years following discovery of my husband's cheating, I began to recognize just what I could control (actions). And what I couldn't (feelings). By controlling actions I can so often better manage feelings. I can keep them from galloping away, and taking me with  them. The goal, of course, isn't to turn into some sort of automaton whose feelings are experienced with precision and control. It's to get to a place of healthy healing, where you can feel all your emotions – joy, pain, fear, excitement – without acting in ways that aren't consistent with your values.
Unfortunately when we're in such emotional pain we can lose sight of what we can and cannot control. The part of our brain that performs the so-called executive functions has been hijacked by the part of our brain that focuses on pure survival, our reptilian brain. And by survival, I'm not referring to scrapping it out with our five-year-old over the last piece of pizza because we're starving...but rather emotional survival, a craving to understand just exactly what the threat is that we're dealing with so that we can be prepared for it. It's a rational impulse. But our ways of achieving it can be irrational. Julie Gottman calls at least some of our behaviour PTSD and had this to say in a New York Times story about deception: "When secrets emerge ... the partner suffers profoundly. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the result — being battered by unwanted intrusive thoughts about the betrayal, nightmares, emotional numbing coupled with unpredictable explosions, sleep disturbances and hyper-vigilance as the partner or spouse searches for yet some other betrayal."
Consider these five ways we hurt ourselves in the name of "survival".

Pain shopping (or asking the same questions over and over and...): Most of us, when we finally get proof (or an admission) of cheating from our spouses are flooded with questions. How did this happen? When? Where did they meet? What did they do? Did he meet her friends? Did other people know? What does she look like? Where does she work? Does she wear high heels? Is she vegetarian? and on and on and on, until our poor brains simply can't absorb the volume of information and our spouses can't even keep track of the details.
The need to know is crucial and valid. For too long, we've been outside the door of the affair with no awareness of what's going on behind it. In order for a marriage to heal (or you to heal on your own), it really does help to open the door and have the chance to take a look around. But – and it's a big but – at a certain point you have all the information you really need. The rest is pain shopping.

Digging for "evidence" of an affair he's already admitted: My husband came clean fairly quickly about his affair. Within 24 hours I knew pretty much everything I needed to know. Did that stop me from rifling through his drawers, his phone records, his VISA statements and anything else I could get my hands on? Of course it didn't. I was like some sort of crazed forensics expert, pouring over everything as if it could doubly confirm what I already knew. Did I discover anything crucial? Nope. Not a thing. Sure I saw some receipts for dinners out with her. But given that I already knew they'd slept together on a number of occasions, what did it matter that he felt obliged to buy her a steak? I already knew at that point he was a liar and a cheater...everything else was a matter of degree. Do yourself a favor. Find out what you need to know to paint the big picture. Then stop. At this point you're distracting yourself from actually feeling the pain of what you now know. You can't dam up that flood of emotions no matter how long you spend looking at receipts. 

Staying in contact with the Other Woman: I sent the OW a Christmas card (my D-Day was December 11) in which I included a photo of my husband and our kids, along with a note about how I knew how much she'd "done" for our family. It was the type of card that, had she taken it to my husband's and her employer, would make her look insane because on the surface it was innocuous. Almost sweet. But she -- and I -- knew exactly what I was saying. But that was where the contact stopped. I know too many women who stay in touch with the OW, either via Facebook or mutual friends or even face-to-face, and I can't believe anything good can ever come of it assuming the OW knew about you. Block her on FB, steer as far out of her way as possible, cut her out of your life. She's poison.

Numbing ourselves with drugs/alcohol/food/shopping/insert-compulsive-behavior-here: Oh...it's tempting. So tempting that I didn't take a drink for months after D-Day because, as the daughter of two alcoholics, I was pretty sure it would end badly. But forewarned is forearmed. Recognize that right now you are incredibly vulnerable. And for most of us the discomfort of feeling vulnerable is something we'll do almost anything to stop. Like eat a chocolate cake, buy four pairs of shoes, pop Zoloft like it's candy, even exercise to the point of injury. Whatever your compulsion of choice is, now's the time to put it under a microscope and determine just how much is healthy...and how much is harmful. You need you right now. Not some numbed out zombie with too many shoes.

Maintaining toxic friendships: Infidelity brings up a lot of issues for a lot of people. There are those who will suggest you "get over" this, those who dismiss your angst with impatience that you don't just kick him out, those who avoid you because your experience brings up uncomfortable feels about their own marriage. It's tempting to keep everyone close because you're feeling so alone. But toxic people simply make your pain and loneliness worse. You need compassion and understanding, not blame, frustration, impatience or unsolicited advice. If there's no-one in real life, please remember that we're here, we know your pain and will lovingly guide to toward healing.

That's the short list. Are there things you do that you recognize are only hurting yourself? Share your story here. Others will no doubt recognize themselves. Together we'll heal.


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