Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Forgiveness is the Wrong Word. How about "transformation"?

A recent radio program about the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa got me thinking about the idea of forgiveness.
A woman, involved in the TRC related to apartheid told a reporter that she was able to come to a place of empathy for her former enemy because he had shown remorse and was as disgusted by his actions as others were. In that moment, she said, he stopped being an "other" and become "one of us".
Forgiveness, she said, was the wrong word. Instead, she called it "transformation".
That's what we're after, isn't it?
We aren't after apologies and promises, though they don't hurt if they're heartfelt. We're after the point where our husbands are as disgusted by what they did as we are. As disappointed in themselves.
We don't want them crippled by it, we want them inspired by it. To be better. To learn from this.
It's within that disgust and disappointment where transformation occurs. It's the place where the seed is planted in soil rich with the determination that allows them to choose another path. To be a better person.
I'm always a bit nervous when I use terms like "better" or "compassion" because it's too easy when you're the betrayed wife of an unfaithful spouse, to fall into the trap of believing yourself ethically superior. To position yourself as someone who would "never" do such a thing, who can't imagine making that choice.
And by doing that, we position our spouses as forever after an "other". Even if they use their painful choices to transform themselves, we nonetheless hold ourselves on the moral high ground.
But as our South African teacher is trying to explain to us, our goal is to invite the transgressor to be "one of us". To release any moral hold on him. To celebrate his transformation as integral to our own.
It's the only way, I believe, of creating a truly healthy relationship going forward. As long as we hold on to forgiveness as if it's a magic wand that only we are capable of using to wipe the slate clean, we remain in a power position, which puts our spouse in a subordinate spot. It's a relationship that's ultimately going to fail. Or at least fail to make each partner happy.
And though I believe that, as betrayed partners, we get to dictate the terms of healing because it is, after all, our healing, I nonetheless think it should be our goal to create space for our partners to become exactly that – our partners.
It's the only way to rebuild a relationship of equals. A relationship in which it's acknowledged that none of us is infallible. That even people deserving of our love can make incredibly hurtful choices.
It's the only way to achieve transformation. His and our own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cheating...ugh: Here's what you need to know

This is another post by BWC member Steam. As usual...she's nailed it.

by Steam

If you are here, it probably has happened to you, maybe you just found out.
Well..there are some things you might not believe, but you need to know.

You are going to be okay and this was not your fault.

Your husband may come around or he may not but you are going to be okay.
Not today,  probably not tomorrow but one day you will be okay. No, even better than okay.

You don't have to believe it, how can you believe it?  I remember how you feel.  
You feel that you will never get over this, never get through this, never ever ever. How can you?

But if you work with the pain and not against the pain eventually, eventually the pain will give up, having nothing to resist. Maybe pain eventually gets bored and moves along and something else, something better, will take its place, for the most part.
Little by little by little.

Pain does one thing better than anything else.
It breaks your heart wide open.
And there will be room for more and better and well-earned things. Rich beautiful things that belong in there, that might have been trying to get in there for a very long time but you thought your heart was full enough.
A heart can never be too full.
Good things can move into an open heart even if it is stomped on, bleeding and in pieces. Good and beautiful things help it piece back together. Stitch by stitch, second by second, tear by tear. 
It will heal.  
You will heal.

When you work out, your muscle tears a bit and it is rebuilt bigger and stronger, thanks to scar tissue. 

Your heart, I believe, metaphysically does something similar.
You don't feel it now, you only feel the burn but something is happening, something good.

Your fault? No. I don't care what you did. Unless you chose a woman, got her number, got an address, drove your husband over there, made him get an erection and then you inserted his penis somewhere in her body, you did NOT drive your husband to an affair.

Okay? Got that?

I don't care if you put on 50 pounds, let the house fall apart, ignored him, were a bitch, spent too much time at work, turned your attention to the kids, didn't shave your legs every day. Forgot to be his girlfriend and laugh at all his jokes.
You did not make him have an affair.
Maybe you thought you had the perfect relationship and you were both happy! 
Well that sure didn't make him have an affair!

What he should have done is talk to you. 
Sure, okay you should have been talking too.  
We all should have been talking, I am guilty as charged but we weren't talking, at least not about the right, important things.

You are in the same marriage as he is but you didn't cheat, right?
You are in the exact same marraige!
So your marriage did not drive anyone to an affair. 
You did not and I did not have the affair.
He did.
He chose it.
He should have talked to you but he chose not to.  
Nope. He took the easy way out to avoid talking.

Talking honestly is a LOT harder than pulling your pants down for a stranger.
Try it sometime, some time later – the honest talk part, not taking your pants off.

It's hard but you can do it because you are strong.
You had the strength and smarts to Google and find this place, to remember how to use a computer. You got off the floor. That was a good start.
You are so strong.

So, again, look at you!
You'll be ok and this was not your fault.

These are hard concepts, I know.  
And I don't know why it is so hard to get through our heads.  

But it's been said on this site before –  and in a million other places we did not know existed until right now in these terrible times of agony – we did not put a gun to our husband's head and force him to go have sex somewhere else.

The more you read, share discreetly and discover. The more you learn, the more you will see, and hopefully you will hear it from your husband...this was not your fault.
And no matter how you feel right now, my bet is, you don't feel good.
You don't have to believe it but try just a little
You will make it through and you will be okay.
And it was not your fault.
You had a heart big enough to love a flawed person.
So did he and hopefully he remembers that too.
And hopefully he tells you that when you get to talking honestly again or for the very first time.

I promise you. Work at it, work with it, and you will be okay.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pain: Learning to shut the hell up

...Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.
~Randall Jarell, from 90 North

It can feel an affront, in the wake of discovering a spouse's betrayal, to be offered up platitudes. "We aren't given more than we can handle," we are told by well-meaning friends. "There's a reason for everything," we hear, knowing full well that the reason that particular armchair philosopher has in mind isn't that our husband is a morally-challenged idiot. Or, perhaps you're told, that within all this pain is wisdom. Um...gulp...that one might have been from me.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran "Pastrix" who has this to say about platitudes:
"...when I've experienced loss and felt so much pain that it feels like nothing else ever existed, the last thing I need is a well-meaning but vapid person saying that when God closes a door he opens a window. It makes me want to ask where exactly the window is so I can push him the fuck out of it."
Feel familiar?
Bolz-Weber goes on to explain, however, what she's figured out from working as a hospital chaplain, and being with people when they're in the worst pain of their lives – losing a child, a parent, a spouse:
 "...when...someone says something senselessly optimistic to you, it's about them. Either they want to feel like they can say something helpful, or they simply cannot allow themselves to entertain...pain, so instead they turn it into a Precious Moments greeting card.... As a chaplain, I felt that people really just needed me to mostly shut the hell up and deal with the reality of how painful it all is."
It's something so few of us understand about pain until we've experienced it ourselves. The cancer diagnosis. The death. The betrayal. And even then, some of us never learn. The continue to try and soothe us with well-meaning advice. Or quote-of-the-day wisdom.
Help, as my counsellor loved to remind me, is the sunny side of control. And control, many of us haven't quite yet learned, is what anxious people cling to because the alternative – that we're all just hanging on for dear life – is just too much to bear.
Those of us experiencing it right now? We don't expect others to fix it. We know they can't. But so much of the pain of betrayal is feeling as though we need to hide it.
Which is why those friends – in real life and in the virtual world – who can simply be with us in our pain are so valuable. They see us. Our pain is visible to them. And they respond not necessarily with advice (unless requested) but with compassion. They remind us gently that we won't always feel this way. They nudge us toward the tiniest bit of light.
As for me, I'll continue to write my experience. Some of what I've learned will sound like bullshit to you. Feel free to skip past it. As always on this site, take what works for you and leave the rest. There is no right or wrong way toward healing. There is only the way that takes each of us out of pain. If you want to share your own path, we're all ears.
Now I'll "shut the hell up" and listen.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest post: A Post-Betrayal Guide to Surviving the Holidays (or Just Surviving)

"Steam" often comments on posts and shares her hard-won wisdom with others on this site. She's got such compassion and common sense that I invited her to contribute more regularly. Here's her inaugural post:

There are many of us on this site who have been in this state of knowing what we know for many years; there are others, like me, approaching my first holiday season armed with a lot more sad knowledge than I had last Christmas. I am prepared in case I take a nosedive but I don't feel like I will.

It seems, though it might just be that I notice, that a lot of us find out about our spouse’s affair close to the holidays. Why, I don't know (there is a lot I don't know): new phones? New devices left unlocked? Too much holiday cheer leading to carelessness on the cheaters’ part or boldness on the part of the OW.

With a new year looming and, for many, without the “happy” to preface it, maybe it's time for a refresher course. Or for those just finding out…a how-to guide. Survival 101.
Not definitive, and your suggestions and thoughts are totally welcome.

You, in the moment of discovery, may stay focused in the moment, that moment your knees buckled and you ended up on the floor, or you opened your mouth but no sound came out and you quite literally could not breathe...or you may have immediately jumped to thoughts of your life alone, your first homicide (kidding) your 2nd (kidding) and how you are going to make though it at all – so let’s just look at what you can do to get through right now, and then maybe one more day.

This is how it happened for me: My H had gone to the store and I needed to download photos onto the laptop we were sharing (as I spent most of my time with a tablet.) As my photos were downloading, many many others were quickly drawn from the laptop into the photo program I was using. Due to the nature of my H's business, none of them really shocked me –they were going by me at a rapid blur. It was logging onto my OWN Facebook page to post when a dropdown menu appeared with a name I had never seen before, and a saved password. That led me to snoop for the first time ever, in 14 years, only to find an e-mail under the same name also with a saved password. Wow, was he screaming to get caught or what?

I demanded, within one hour of finding out (longest hour of my life waiting for him to get back) that my H write ONE last e-mail to the woman he cheated with. Telling her that I knew (she didn't even think he had a GIRLFRIEND) and that this was OVER, he was deleting the e-mail account (which he did) and that I would have passwords to all of his accounts online (which I did). Ha! I'm writing like I did this all very rationally. I am leaving out my complete and utter insanity, profanity, slaps, threats of destruction of the laptop held high over my head.

Do Not Expect to Think Rationally
 What do you do if your husband is not ON HIS KNEES begging forgiveness, crying, swearing he never meant to hurt you, telling you he wasn't thinking clearly? I don't know. That was not my experience, but let’s just say, by the time he got home, I all but had his bags packed, I was ready to kick him out without a doubt. I had made arrangements in my head already that I would without a doubt, have carried out that day. I also would have taken his phone, work laptop and Kindle. 

This was a deal-breaker for me. It might not be for you. But if I thought for one second that he was going to spend one more minute online with her as he had that last two months, he was not going to do it while he was under the same roof as me.

What do you do then – what do you do after that first fitful night when you sleep or you don't, and the sun rises and you know it was – sigh – not just a bad dream.
I wish there was a one-size-fits-all fix.
I guess much of your survival depends on your situation.

Excuse yourself
Do you have kids? Is there ANYWAY at all you can fake the flu, and give them to a relative for a day or two? I really don't know because I am not a mother. 

Maybe being mom can help you feel grounded and give you something to keep you out of your head and all of those horrible thoughts that you cannot control.
If you have those thoughts, BTW, you are completely normal. 

I don't have kids, but I faked the flu anyway. I looked like HELL frozen and then boiled over. My eyes were puffy, there was no way to hide the history of tears and sleepless nights. So I said I had the flu. Everyone bought it.
I canceled New Year’s plans. I could not be festive.

While I was breathing via hyperventilating, I really did have to stop and really breathe – those big breaths everyone tells you about? Take them. 

Do your best to count to 10 before lashing out because chances are good you are going to lash out. I was lucky if I got to 3, but at least it got me somewhere.

You might think about next week or six months from now but it's really not the time. You will have emotions you did not know you had in you and just making it through the day, or the next hour should be your biggest concern.

You might want to stay away from the “once a cheater always a cheater” websites. I was angry as HELL and I could not even tolerate them THEN. I had enough anger to last my own lifetime and I did not need more. 

Avoid most 'reformed cheaters' websites, although you might be surprised at what you learn – that cheaters have a LOT of shame and remorse, they even take responsibility and don't blame their spouse but you might also read accounts of how much a cheater misses their co-cheater, and that's about the last thing you want to hear. You have enough fuel in your fire already. And watch out if you Google celebrity cheater’s names in the comments sections – EVERYONE has an opinion on EVERYTHING and it was probably, in the end, Obama or Bush's fault anyway. :o)
Download or buy a copy of “After theAffair” and start reading NOW.

Come to websites like this and realize you are NOT alone. It's amazing the compassion you might feel for others. It's nice to know you can feel something other than anger.

Take your anger and do something with it, even if it means just writing it down. Journal your broken heart out...put that unanswerable question on there – the WHY in big bold letters. Maybe when you get your emotions down on paper they will come to you, the questions you really want to ask.

 This next one is going to seem impossible... 

Be nice to someone
I don't know where it came from but suddenly I was connected to the great suffering of people around the world (I know – hard to believe there was suffering greater than mine) and realized that I never knew really what was going on with perfect strangers, acquaintances and even friends.

When I left my house after two days, it was the night of New Year’s day and I saw a few acquaintances coming into a restaurant, each alone, where I had agreed to go out to dinner with my husband (after of course, spending New Year’s Eve NOT celebrating). I had the urge to go over and wish every one of them a happy new year as they came in. These were all acquaintances, not people I would normally hug. I still don't know what they thought about it or me, but I remember a huge sense of gratitude that I was able to give something when I felt that I had nothing at all to give.

Again, it was a horrible way to spend the remainder of a vacation, but my D-Day was during a vacation, so I was able to sleep in and answer to no-one.
Grab sleep whenever you can.
I can't give medical advice of course but there are over-the-counter remedies that can help. I was fortunate enough to have the Big Guns due to a slight insomnia issue. They are not Ambien but I will add, do NOT try to stay awake on Ambien. You will most likely live to regret your actions, and you have enough going on. Please be careful how you use any medication as the temptation to overuse them was incredibly strong.

Be careful who you tell
I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! I wanted to tell his family! I wanted to tell my FRIENDS. Selfishly though, I worried that they might secretly wonder just what it was that I DID to “drive” him to this.
That ended up being a great self-defense mechanism because now, almost a year later, only two people know and that was one too many. Unless someone has been through this, his/her automatic reaction is to think your husband is scum and you might be teetering on the edge of foolishness to stay. You know, the way YOU might have reacted had the same been done to them prior to your own D-Day and they told you. You don't need to defend your actions to anyone and, one way or another, you will be asked to in blatant or subtle ways

It's good if you are able to lean on and cry on your friend’s shoulder. Friends can be a godsend, but they are sometimes going to give you advice and a bunch of platitudes and sometimes it feels like they are patting you on your poor little head. They cannot always know what to do...not only with your life in general but NOW.

By the way, what you will find out is if you choose to stay is that it is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength, compassion, forgiveness and even love. Not now – you don't need to feel compassion or forgiveness or love now – but love is probably the deeply hidden driving force that eventually leads to compassion and forgiveness.

Strength, you have always had, it just probably has never been tested like this. Women who get that surge of adrenalin to pick cars up that have rolled onto their kids? Yup, we're strong like that.

Don't make long-term plans right now.
 Everyone who has gone on this unplanned journey or studied the travelers on this well-beaten but rarely-spoken-of-rationally-in-public road says to wait. Wait six months to a year before making this big decision or any other big decisions.
Things will change. He will change, you will change. And the 3rd entity in this – your relationship will change. The one you thought was going pretty well can thrive and MUST change so that you are not in this situation again.
I often say “if you're lucky” these things will happen, but it's not luck. It's work. You will eventually have to work (and so will he!)  but right now…

You have just received a terrible blow. You can rest a while. You need to. This was like a surgery to rip your soul out. Your doctor would tell you to rest after having a tooth removed. This is a lot more painful than that.

Find help for your recovery
I am sure there are people who can make it through without therapy. I don’t know any of those people. Nothing in your life, hopefully, has prepared you for this. What do you do with the anger, sadness, not to mention that shame that is NOT yours (so stop feeling ashamed)? How do you eventually learn to talk without screaming and crying? A good marital counselor will gently help you regain your balance and remind you that this was not your fault (I mean, come on, did he tell you he was doing this ahead of time? Or even considering it? Or perhaps mentioning he was a bit bored or restless? Give you a chance to 'fix' what needed fixing? No? There ya go, no wonder you felt like you were slapped upside the head.) Your spouse should go, of course your spouse should go, not that you asked me but that's a must in my book. If he won’t go, then YOU go. None of this “but he refuses and gets upset if I go”. To this I say “too effing bad.” Does he not realize if he doesn’t go that he's going to be talked ABOUT behind his back for an hour at a time? Come on – he's got to go. But if he doesn’t, you MUST. You might cry your way through the hour but you may be doing that anyway, and every counselor’s office has already paid for the big box of Kleenex. Take advantage of at least that. 

You do not have to accept that time heals all wounds. That’s just something people say when they have no idea what else to say. The reality is that the more time between you and discovery, the less and less it hurts. I'm not saying there won’t be a scar, I'm saying that time will somehow work some magic, like it or not.


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