Friday, December 2, 2016

What do we really know about why our husbands cheated?

we need to NOT know what the person meant,
so we can ask.
we need to NOT know why someone does something,
so we can ask.
we need to NOT know someone’s thoughts and
feelings, so we can ask.
we need to NOT know how to fix something so we can
work with others and include other ideas and come up
with things together.

~Terri St. Cloud

I knew exactly why my husband cheated. It was because she was a porn star in bed. It was because he was raised in a sexually repressive family that trafficked in shame. It was because he didn't love me. Or his kids. It was because he felt entitled. It was because of the alpha male "locker room" atmosphere in his stock-jocky office.
I knew. 
It was because I wasn't pretty enough. Or interesting enough. I nagged too much. I didn't cook the foods that he liked. He hated the color I painted our bedroom.
The list went on.
But I knew.
Nonetheless, I continued to ask him. Why would you do this? What's wrong with you? What's wrong with me? What does she have that I don't. Why? Why? Why?
He told me. It's not you, he said. There's nothing wrong with you. It's me, he said. There's something wrong with me.
But I wasn't listening to him. I was only listening to me and my long list of reasons. I was listening to our culture and its long list of reasons. Men cheat because they like sex more than wives do. Men cheat because they're dogs. Men cheat because they're hard-wired to spead their seed. Men cheat because sex isn't about love. 
I couldn't hear what my husband was saying over the noise of everybody else.
There's something wrong with me. 
The problem with "knowing" is it closes our ears to answers that don't line up with what we've already decided to be true. By "knowing", we can't learn. By "knowing", we aren't open to other thoughts, other truths, others' experiences.
It gets in the way of really understanding, or at least moving toward understanding. 
My husband tried to tell me his truth for months, even as he continued to hide the extent of his cheating. There's something wrong with me, he said. I hurt too, he said. 
But I was so busy telling him who he was and why he did what he did, oh! and reminding him daily (minute by minute!) of the price I was paying for his cheating. 
It was a normal response to the worst pain I've ever experienced. 
But it wasn't helpful. 
If I could go back and have a do-over, I would try and stop myself from knowing quite so much. I would urge myself to listen a bit more. To ask myself, when my mind was racing with the infinite reasons why my husband cheated on me, what was my source of information
Knowing can sometimes get in the way of finding a deeper truth that can move us toward healing. Knowing is the enemy of learning more, of allowing another to tell his story.
Not everyone can tell his story, for lots of different reasons. He doesn't understand himself why he made such a painful choice. Although, "I don't know..." is a valid part of his story too, at least until he's willing to learn more. Or maybe he accepts what our culture tells us: it's "normal" for guys to want sex all the time. Monogamy is unnatural. And on and on. 
Some prefer the fiction they've been telling themselves that absolves them of any real responsibility for what they've done. She nags all the time. She's not interested in sex. She doesn't love me anymore.
Sometimes, as I've said before, a dog is a dog. And they're not worth the heartbreak of trying to rebuild a relationship because they see nothing wrong with what they did (except they got caught) and have no plans to really change their behaviour. It's that old "locker room" defence. Guys will be guys, right? And, eyeroll, women...amirite?
Yeah but those aren't the guys we want to be with. They're not the guys willing to dig deep to discover what's driving their hurtful behaviour. They're not the guys worth gambling your future on.
But the others can be. The ones who, though it might take a little while, are willing to recognize that they alone are responsible for the damage they've caused. The ones who hate what they did and hate the pain they've caused us. The ones who want to understand who they are and how they can become a better person. Who want to like the guy they see in the mirror.
My husband was one of those guys. But I couldn't see it until I stopped "knowing" quite so much. It was only when I challenged my own "facts" that I was able to see my own fiction. 
I was right about a few things but wrong about plenty. 
And I continue to be wrong. Just ask my kids. 
Opening my mind to others' perspectives has changed how I interact with everyone in my life. I can no longer presume to understand what's driving anyone's behaviour. Truth is, I don't know. Sometimes they don't even know. But being willing to listen, to take the time to challenge not only my own version of events but others' versions too, gets us all to a place where we better understand ourselves and them.
It's tough. We hate not knowing. But not knowing gives us the opening into knowing better. 


Monday, November 28, 2016

Don't Let His Affair Change Who You Are

A.J. Muste, a Dutch-born American clergyman and civil rights activist would stand in front of the White House each night during the Vietnam War holding a candle. A reporter asked him, "Mr. Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?"
To which Muste replied, "Oh, I don't do it to change the country, I do it so the country won't change me."

On the inside of my left wrist is new tattoo of a safety pin. You might know that this safety pin movement has gained steam in recent weeks after the election of Donald Trump as a way of signalling to frightened, vulnerable people that they have allies among us. That not all of us see them as "others".
It's my first tattoo and, likely, my last. It's not my only way of reaching out to the marginalized. I also roll up my sleeves to work. But my tattoo's purpose is to remind me, every single day, that kindness matters. That decency matters. That every single one of us matters. And it's to remind me not to let this bully culture change who I am. To hold tight to what I believe even when my beliefs seem drowned out by the angry mobs. 
I feel a vulnerability and anxiety that I haven't felt since the weeks and months and year following D-Day. This sense that the world is unsafe. That there is a darkness that goes deeper than I realized. 
It can be so hard to remember who we are in those moments. When we're confronted with the realization that we were lied to, that the person we trusted with our hearts didn't deserve that trust, it's especially hard to hold on to who we are. Fear lies to us. It tells us that we're a fool. It tells us that we're not good enough and that's why this is happening to us. Which is why it's crucial to stand in the truth of who we are. To remember that we don't deserve this or any betrayal. That, no matter what he or the OW or our "friends" or anyone else is saying, we are not fools. It can be hard to remember what's in our own hearts when those hearts are shattered.
But don't change. I'm not, of course, referring to changing the things that might make you happier, the things that are part of radical self-love and self-care. Develop an exercise program if that makes you feel better. Change your job if you're miserable and unappreciated. Change your drinking habits if they're contributing to problems in your life. Change your clothing if it's time to remind yourself that you're beautiful beneath those sweatpants and stained t-shirt. Change your husband is he continues to reveal himself as someone incapable of or unwilling to become a better person. 
But remember who you are. Remember that you are worthy. That you deserve love and kindness and respect and honesty from anyone you let into your life. 
I'm not suggesting you get a tattoo (although...it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would), but find some way of reminding yourself, all day, every day, who you are. 
It will matter far less what other people say you are if you know better. You can withstand hurtful words when you know those words are simply untrue. 
Healing from betrayal, if there is a silver lining to this coal-black cloud, can offer us a doorway into a deeper relationship with ourselves. It can help us find our way back to who we were before we lost ourselves in serving everyone else's needs.
My safety pin is a symbol to others that I'm an ally but it's also a reminder to be an ally to myself. That kindness doesn't only extend outwards. That we all matter. Including me. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thank-you

For those of you who donate to this site, please know how grateful I am. Creating and curating Betrayed Wives Club has long been a labour of love but the support I receive is so affirming and appreciated. (And to those who often ask, the book is coming...)
Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. members. And happy Thursday to the rest of us. We're on the path toward healing, my wonderful warrior wives. 
thank you

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I Learned from Love Warrior

Image result for Love Warrior, imageI recently finished reading Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior, her account of rebuilding her marriage after her husband confessed to sex addiction. (And before the recent announcement that Melton has found love with soccer star Abby Wambach.)
H'mmm...where to begin. I didn't love Love Warrior and I really wanted to. I thought it started out strong but the second half devolved into a laundry list of coping strategies that, clearly, changed her life but that seemed almost perfunctory.
Yoga: check.
Therapy: check.
Meditation: check.
Positive church community: check.
Dare I suggest that it seemed as though her heart wasn't really in it? That she was telling her story because that's what she does but that she kinda sorta wished she wasn't? In hindsight, I wonder if she knew she was leaving the marriage even then and was hoping to write another ending in real life. Who knows. And, frankly, no matter.
Because, nonetheless, there is some sound advice in Love Warrior that I think we'd do well to look at more closely. She learned valuable lessons that changed how she viewed her place in the world and, consequently, how she showed up in her marriage and that, no doubt, also gave her the clarity and courage to ultimate make the choice to leave. And whether you stay or you leave, you want to do it with as much clarity as possible. You want, as much as possible, for your response to be a choice.

Let's start with
Giving your insides a voice: Melton learns, as she's trying to find her way back to her husband, that she has spent a lifetime silencing her insides (as she refers to her inner thoughts). And I don't know about you but, wow, me too. In fact, I still do it. Maybe not as much as I used to but still...time to pay attention to that.
Case in point: My husband and I are both in the market for new vehicles. Mine has recently adopted a death rattle to let me know that it's about to start costing me a lot more money at the repair shop.
This past weekend, we visited a dealership and my husband encouraged me to test-drive a car that, I figured, was out of the price range. He makes more money than I do and I've historically deferred to his budget setting. But I drove it. And loved it. Right size. Right fuel economy. Drove like a dream.
But...I found myself afraid to say so. Money remains a point of power in our relationship. And though, intellectually, I believe that my contribution to our family – not just what I earn but the hours I put in as primary caregiver, meal-preparer, homemaker, pet carer (the list goes on. And on) – puts us on equal footing, the fact that he largely pays the bills creates feelings of disempowerment in me.
However, reading about Melton's consciousness around giving voice to her insides reminded me that I must do the same.
So I did. And now we're negotiating with the car dealership. The sky didn't fall. I didn't stutter or die of shame. Instead, I said I would really like that car if we decide we can afford it. My insides were given voice. And you know what? It feels really good. You know what else? It reminded me that, when I'm afraid to give my insides voice, it rarely has anything to do with the right now and instead is about way back when. Way back when I was told my needs weren't important. Way back when I learned, from my alcoholic mother, that wanting nice things made me selfish.
Lesson learned: Give voice to your insides. Or at the very least, challenge your thoughts about silencing them. Is it really about now? Or are you still being the good girl who doesn't want to rock the boat?

"Maybe, for now, the only right decision is to stop making decisions." There are plenty of sites out there for betrayed wives that offer up a prescription for a marriage in crisis. Some insist the only option is to dump the guy. Others push a marriage-is-sacred agenda. As you all know, I don't presume to know what's right for anyone but me (and I'm often not so sure about me). But this idea that we need to immediately do something in the wake of betrayal forces so many of us who are paralyzed by anxiety, or reeling from the shock to wonder what's wrong with us. Surely this is a no-brainer, right? We should stay. Or go. Or...something. Anything but just sit with our pain and see if the right path reveals itself with time and consideration and a gentle tending to our own hearts.
Lesson Learned: As Doyle Melton writes, "I'm trying to fix my pain with certainty, as if I'm one right choice away from relief. I'm stuck in anxiety quicksand: The harder I try to climb my way out, the lower I sink. The only way to survive is to make no sudden movements, to get comfortable with discomfort, and to find peace without answers."

"We started out as ultrasensitive truth-tellers. We saw everyone around us smiling and repeating "I'm fine! I'm fine! I'm fine!" and we found ourselves unable to join them in all the pretending." This passage stopped me cold. I know there are plenty of emotionally healthy women on this site who's husbands are less so but I cast my lot in with the ultrasensitive truth-tellers who've spent a great deal of their lives being told they're "too sensitive", that they expect "too much", that they should just sit there and look pretty and not expect anyone to care about what's going on inside. My 20s were dedicated to numbing my own anxiety with booze and a crappy boyfriend because admitting my pain sounded self-indulgent. I was a white, middle-class, university-educated woman. What did I have to feel sorry for myself about? I went to therapy, which certainly helped but I buried so much of that pain that it didn't emerge until my husband's affair. And then, it emerged with the thunderous roar of a wounded animal. All that fear – that I wasn't worth loving, that there was something wrong with me, that I didn't deserve good things to happen, that I couldn't trust anyone, that I would always be left for something/someone better – refused to stay buried any longer.
Lesson Learned: And so my healing wasn't just about my husband's betrayal, but my mother's and my father's. And, most of us, the ways in which I'd betrayed myself.

And that's the best part of Love Warrior. It's a love story to ourselves. It's about learning to value our own voice. It's about paying attention to our own hearts. It's about all the things we talk about on this site – holding ourselves with the deepest compassion.

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