"Steam" often comments to this site, offering up her experience as a guide to others, and supporting those who aren't as far along the path as she.
She wrote this awhile back and it's so succinct and compassionate, that I requested her permission to re-post it so that more can read it.
I love that this site has become a hub for so many who feel isolated and confused. I love how respectful we all are of each other's experiences, always recognizing that we each need to walk our own paths.
Thanks, Steam, for helping make this such a great space.
I was immediatly diagnoised with PTSD in our 1st MC session. Our counselor made it very clear to my husband that my reaction to his selfish and fucked up action was completely NORMAL, not that that makes you feel instantly better, but it was good to have a name for it. Reliving it over and over again is hard to avoid when you cannot stop thinking about it. I am 10 months out this week and I have done my best to "reclaim" the places and things that gave me joy, that he stole, that I thought he had stolen forever. Since most of his affair was online with only three in-person meetings – when they met (in another country) and two months later when they had sex twice (in another country) – there is not much to reclaim. All I have asked is that he NOT take me to the place they had their one dinner. He said it was bad anyway and he would never go again, good I dont need to go there, it was never mine to begin with. I am starting to feel safe again, and although I cannot ever trust him again like I did when I was blind, I do trust him a lot more. I no longer hit every e-mail address and social media page of his every day or even every week, I no longer search for her online. But I watch the cell phone bill like a madwoman. Something I never ever checked which had all I ever needed to know.
I feel a lot more like a better me, and our relationship has changed so drastically it's almost a miracle. And the hardest part to admit? It was not just him who had to change. I had to do my part too.
If you are brand new to this, don't think YOU need to do that immediately. You need to heal and he needs to help. It's only then that you can find a better version of yourself...she is in there, I promise.
It's not your fault, it was never your fault, you are not the one who cheated. You are not the one who risked everytihng, so just take it minute by minute – don't rush it – go through it, not around or over or under it, and if you have a new relationship with your partner (we could never have found one without counseling, relish it.
BTW, I had EMDR about 20 years ago and it was quite astonishing. If I was still living in the land of PTSD I would not hesitate, but first I wanted to beat my H up in counseling for a while.
Look at that, I just laughed. You will too...you will get through this unless your husband is an absolute a-hole and you are with a bad man, not a good man with issues and mistakes. Hang in there if he is worth staying with – and he will show you if he is – and thrive.
All I have wanted to do other than save my own relationship was to be able to help others who have been through this. The spark came while I was googling within hours of finding out on that horrible d-day. I was of the school "once a cheater, always a cheater" and "if anyone ever did that to ME, he would be gone SO fast".
Arent we all?
But when he DID do that to me, I gave him an immediate (and I add, loud and hysterical) choice he had to make – her or me. When I saw the absolute devestation in HIS eyes, seeing what he had done to ME, seeing his tears, hearing his words, feeling his absolute remorse, sadness, and looking into an opening into his soul I had never ever ever seen before. When I locked myself in the bedroom and he sat outside talking to me through the window, I surprised mySELF when I realized that even though I could not touch him or look at him right NOW, I wanted him to stay.
I wanted to know if we could survive this.
I wanted to know I would be ok (because how could I EVER be ok again??)
I wanted HOPE.
and this was the only place I found it.
I hated the name "club" – lol. I thought it would be just another husband bashing site, but it was not. [Elle's] words, as someone who had been through this, gave me HOPE – her essays and her links and her answers to others – so much wisdom and compassion, smart funny and sarcastic, but not bitter – it gave me what I needed. I wanted to get "there" where [she is], and I am on my way.
No one could have told me that I would ever get through this, but honestly, somewhere on this blog that very first day – [Elle] actually did.
- Join the Club...and Share Your Story
- Share Your Story: Finding Out (This section is full.)
- Share Your Story: Feeling Stuck? (This section is full.)
- Share Your Story: Multiple Affairs?
- Share Your Story: Feeling Stuck: Part Two (This section is full.)
- Share Your Story: Finding Out Part Two (FULL. Please post elsewhere.)
- Share Your Story: Finding Out (Part 3)
- Share Your Story: Feeling Stuck Part Three
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
I talk a lot about PTSD on this site because it was the paradigm that felt the most right to me after D-Day. After a friend of mine, who counsels those with PTSD from childhood sex abuse, suggested I was experiencing post-trauma, my response to my husband's infidelity began to make sense. Well, as much sense as PTSD ever makes.
It was a tough sell at first. As I've noted on this site before, PTSD seemed so...dramatic. As if I was exaggerating my experience. PTSD was for veterans and rape victims, domestic abuse survivors and people who fled the Twin Towers.
There's increasing research, however, that PTSD is more common than that. That those of us who experience a sudden, shocking event (infidelity anyone?) can come away with PTSD. Not all of us, of course. But some of us. Too many of us.
PTSD is created, explained the doctor on the radio program, when the feeling we experience during trauma (fear, grief, shame, for instance) becomes linked with certain stimuli (a sight, a smell, a sound).
As the doctor on the radio program put it, the neurons that "fire together, wire together."
It explains why a certain song can suddenly transport us back to that moment of finding out and suddenly our heart is racing, our blood pressure is skyrocketing, our hands are tingling. We're not just remembering the trauma, we're re-living it.
Maybe it's the sight of a certain model car. The voicemail message on a husband's cell phone (which I'd listened to roughly 30 times as I tried to reach him, knowing he was with her). A certain time of year. A snowstorm.
At first, it's normal for the entire experience to feel like a nightmare from which you can't awake. For some of us, however, that feeling lingers...and sometimes gets worse.
While we might become more functional in some ways, we have periods of the day when we're immobilized. When we're flashing back. When we're not remembering what we know but reliving it.
The most important thing to know is that this, under the circumstances is normal. Know also, that it's surmountable. Life will not always feel like a war-zone in which you're unsafe and insecure.
But it's important to get treated so that you can begin to heal. To have memories, including bad ones, without trauma.
Infidelity is so much more devastating than most of us could have imagined. Far more devastating than our culture understands. Unless, of course, you've lived through it.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
"My custom has always been to ponder grief; that is, to follow it through ventricle and aorta to find out its lurking places. That old weight in the chest, telling me there is something I must dwell on, because I know more than I know and must learn it from myself..."
~from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Ah grief, that foe. Grief, that makes our bodies rock with deep, deep sadness. Grief, that we'll do almost anything to avoid because it's so consuming, so exhausting, so bottomless.
As John Ames, however, the character in Robinson's novel Gilead points out, grief has secrets and if we sit with it, allow it to illuminate those dark corners of our heart where we "know more than I know and must learn from it myself," then grief can be our teacher.
It runs counter to our instincts, this sitting with grief. Especially in these times of quick fixes, of escape hatches. Why sit with grief when we can lose ourselves in television? Why sit with grief when there's a tub of ice cream or a box of donuts? Why sit with grief when there's Facebook, Twitter, cat videos? When there's an OW to stalk online?
Why? Because grief isn't going anywhere. Grief waits beneath the anger and anxiety. It makes itself known when your friend announces she's pregnant and you burst into tears. It makes itself known when you can barely get out of bed even though you know you need to get outside. It makes itself known when the mere act of making dinner feels like too much. It makes itself known when you move the wedding album to a bottom drawer because you can't bear to be reminded.
But grief is cagey. It can't be experienced on the fly. It requires that we truly sit still with it. That we don't try and "solve" it. We can't think our way out of grief. We need to feel our way through it, like a blind man in an unfamiliar place.
The beauty of grief is that when we allow ourselves to feel such deep pain and loss we open ourselves up to being able, eventually, to feel the highs too.
It's not easy, opening up to grief. It feels huge. We fear being swallowed alive.
But like our character in Gilead, that weight is our cue that it needs our attention. I spent far too long living life with the feeling of an elephant on my chest. Sure I was functional. But I sure as hell wasn't having fun. Perhaps "fun" is too much to expect of anyone going through the pain of infidelity. Perhaps we should lower our expectations to feeling a bit...lighter. Being able to smile sincerely. To hold, for even a moment, the beauty in a child's smile, or the trust in a friend's hug, or the joy in a pet's wagging tail, alongside our pain. To make room for something other than hurt and fear (disguised as anger).
I've been asked how to open up to the pain with the expectation that it also opens us up to life's joy again. The only real answer I have is to sit with it. When it comes – and it will, so be patient – let it wash over you. We're so terrified of our grief that we push it away. We busy ourselves. We shift focus.
But that only pushes grief into the shadows of our heart; it only leaves our hearts restricted.
Sit with your grief and discover that you know more than you know, including where to take your next step. Grief, especially, is wisdom that guides the way toward healing.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
People usually only come to this frontier when they have had a terrible loss in their life or they've been fired or some other trauma breaks open their story. Then they can't tell that story anymore... they hit present reality with such impact that they break apart on contact with the true circumstance."
They hit present reality with such impact that they break apart on contact. Sound like you? It sure as hell sounds like me.
I hit the reality of my husband's cheating with such impact that I shattered.
And it's hard, when you're shattered, to recognize that this breaking apart might, one day, be exactly what you needed. It's damn near impossible to understand that it's only when trauma has broken open your story that you're able to write a new chapter.
From my stop farther down the road, however, I can see that my husband's cheating – the trauma from that betrayal – meant that I couldn't keep telling myself the story I had been. It meant that, once I was able to pull myself back together, I had to admit that my story wasn't entirely based on fact. It was up to me to begin writing my own rather than let others dictate it to me.
Until then, my story had gone something like this:
I married a wonderful, principled man who adored me. We had three wonderful healthy children. Life was good, better than I expected or, frankly, deserved. The end.What I tended to ignore because it didn't fit with the storyline I wanted desperately to believe was that it disappointed me when he wasn't able to acknowledge the casual cruelty of his family towards me.
It hurt me when I felt emotionally abandoned after the birth of our first child.
I felt invisible when I would express fairly mundane needs (please walk the dogs in the morning, please have breakfast with me instead of sleeping in...) and he wouldn't. (His modus operandi, which he'd used for years with his own family, was to agree to whatever they wanted and then do what HE wanted. I, a firm believer in taking people at their word, took years to see what he was doing. Which might mean I'm either a) a hopeless optimist or b) kinda stupid.)
And it was confusing to me when, sometimes, I felt like a blow-up doll during sex. As if I – a fully present human me – wasn't supposed to be there, and certainly wasn't supposed to have my own needs.
But by not allowing those truths to be part of my story, I was living a fiction. The fiction of my adoring wonderful husband who would never-not-EVER cheat on me.
In the wake of that breaking open, we begin writing our new story.
I realized fairly quickly that my marriage hadn't been quite so polished and perfect as I had wanted to believe. I could see just how broken I was even before his betrayal completely shattered me. One of the hugest revelations for me was to recognize just how much I'd already betrayed myself.
I had assumed that my needs were less important than everyone else in the family.
I had accepted that, if his family rejected me on some level, it was because I wasn't deserving of their love.
I had been living my long-held deep conviction that I wasn't enough.
I accepted love that was, frankly, not so great and told myself it was more than I deserved.
As I healed, I began writing my true story.
And in this new story that has emerged, I am learning that I am enough. Have always been. Always will be.
I am learning that, in a healthy relationship, nobody's needs trump another's. That we all matter and can negotiate a family in which that's the guiding principle.
I can now spot the myriad ways in which I betray myself. My clue is a spark of resentment (which, left unexamined, grows to a roaring house fire of anger). When I begin to hear the voice in my head muttering "look how much I do", and "I'm exhausted!", and "why doesn't he...", and "why won't they...", I know it's time to take good look at how I'm NOT taking care of myself. When you hear yourself saying one thing when your heart and soul are screaming another, you're betraying yourself.
But what's clear to me is that all of this stuff, these rich lessons that have shaped my life in wonderful ways and deepened my relationships to friends and family and my children, arose out of my shattered self, my broken story.
It can be hard to see when you're surrounded by wreckage. It can feel like warmed-over platitudes ("out of suffering comes wisdom") that make you want to bash in the face of anyone offering them up.
But it was through my broken story that I gained the control to change the narrative of my own life into something that is far more likely to give me a satisfying ending. An ending, of course, to be determined.