Monday, June 12, 2017

Six Things You Must Know About Being Cheated On

I will not say that my husband's affair was a good thing. The cost of his betrayal was too high. My ability to meet my children's needs was undoubtedly compromised when I could barely get out of bed. My career suffered when discovery of his betrayal coincided with the publication of my book, along with a number of related opportunities that I simply didn't have the energy or confidence to pursue. And I continue to wonder about the impact all that stress had on my physical health.
However, I recognize and acknowledge (such as here, here and here) that through healing from my husband's betrayal, I've learned and grown in wonderful ways.
Put simply, I'm not the person I was. And though I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, that is a good thing.
But when you're still in the weeds, it helps to see someone standing on the shore waving you in. So I've put together a half dozen things that you need to know about being cheated on, plus a bonus one. 

1. Affairs are about escape, not "trading up".
The stereotypical Other Woman is a sultry siren, dressed in a short skirt, and with long flowing hair and perfect teeth. So we're often shocked to discover that the Other Woman is, well, ordinary. Or younger but crazier. Or skinnier but nastier. Or chubbier and a raging alcoholic (as in my case). But his affair was never about so-called trading up. It was about escape. Consider this from New York magazine: "It might be reassuring to know that most people have affairs not because they’ve found somebody better or hotter or more perfect (perfect people don’t tend to have sex with other people’s spouses) but because affairs make us feel alive and seen; they counteract feelings of numbness or flatness or disconnection that seem like they might kill us, if we don’t kill ourselves first. And since we aren’t up for suicide, we find a work-around." 
In other words, the affair offers a distraction from those awful feelings he wants to avoid. They're the coward's way of dealing with problems. And his affair isn't about you at all. You're just collateral damage.

2. Happiness really is a warm puppy or fill-in-blank-here.
I discovered, by accident, that the way out of my pain was noticing those fleeting moments of contentment and holding on for dear life. In my case, I took great comfort in my giant white dog whose love for me felt solid and certain. I would walk him in the morning, which not only got me out of the house and into the world, it reminded me that the world can still hold beauty even when I'm in pain. I would marvel at the sunlight scattering on the fresh snow. I would notice the birdsong. I would delight in my dog's ability to be entirely in the moment – not miserable about yesterday or terrified of tomorrow. 
So, for me, happiness was my warm puppy. For you, it might be your newborn daughter, or your grandchild, or your blank canvas, or Mozart, or the weight room at the gym, or your garden, or...,or...or.... Whatever it is, be grateful for it. Prioritize it. It will save you. 

3. People love us the best they can. And sometimes their best sucks.
I owe this lesson to my mother, who pointed it out to me when I was in the "why would he do this to me?" stage of mourning my marriage. A graduate of the 12-step school, my mom had plenty of lessons to impart. And she died weeks after D-Day #2 (when I learned the full extent of my husband's betrayal). For the six months, however, between D-Day #1 and #2, my crisis provided the opening for me to really start paying attention to my mom's wisdom. To be so grateful for the rock she provided me when I felt like I was drifting. She was speaking about my husband at the time. But this particular lesson was true for her too. The worst of her alcoholism came during my teen years, when I desperately needed a mother. She loved me then the best she could. I know that now. And when she was better, she could love me better. 

4. Judgement masks fear.
Ohhhh boy. I shake my head when I remember how certain I was that my marriage was safe from infidelity. And when I heard rumours of infidelity in other marriages, I would comfort myself with the certainty that I wasn't like those wives – who nagged, who "let themselves go", who weren't much fun. Gulp. 
In the days following my own D-Day, I admitted just how judgemental I'd been. And I realized that I hadn't a clue what was going on in those other marriages. Just like nobody had a clue what was going on in mine. What's more, it became acutely clear that feeling invisible in a marriage does things to a woman. She just might nag. She might "let herself go". She's not much fun. None of which make it okay to cheat (or continue to cheat) on her. 
When we judge others, it's like a neon sign toward our own fears. We judge others to feel superior. To feel safe. I have a friend who, whenever she's being judgey about someone else, does this: On a sheet of paper, she writes down that person's name and underlines it. Then beneath that name, she lists everything about that person that drives her crazy. And then, when she's finished her list, she goes back to the top of the page and crosses out that other person's name and writes her own. Looking over the list, she says, she always ALWAYS finds a list of things she doesn't like about herself. And that gives her the clarity she needs to recognize that her judgement about others is really fear of judgement about herself.
Fear is often behind our worst behaviours. Judgement is no exception. 

5. Perfection is the enemy of joy.
Speaking of fear, I often hid behind a pursuit of perfection, certain that if I could just be perfect, then everyone would love me and I would never be abandoned or alone. Great theory right? Uh...no. All it did was leave me resentful and exhausted because perfection is always just out of reach. I was never quite skinny enough, or quite pretty enough, or quite a good enough cook, or quite intelligent enough, or quite successful enough, or quite sexy enough, or...or...or... 
D-Day forced me to admit that my life wasn't perfect. I wasn't perfect. I hadn't been able to  protect myself from emotional abandonment. In fact, focusing so much on being pleasing to others left me empty. I hadn't bothered to take care of myself. I kept many people at arm's length, lest they see behind the mask. 
After D-Day, it was all I could do to remain upright. The idea of perfection was laughable, if I'd been capable of laughter. Instead, I learned something my wise mom had been trying to tell me for years. That all I ever had to do in life was "show up". Showing up was all I could do (and even that felt impossible some days). But I discovered that showing up was enough. Showing up -- really showing up, in all my imperfect authentic glory -- allowed me to have deeper friendships, it created work opportunities I couldn't have imagined. I didn't have to do the ol' jazz hands to make me notice me. I just had to show up. 
Perfection keeps us forever on the path of not enough. It keeps joy out of reach. Joy, on the contrary, embraces us exactly where we are. As exactly who we are. Joy is laughter. It's a deep appreciation for our imperfect selves and all other imperfect selves. 

6. It's possible to be happier after heartbreak. 
Raise your hand if you said, in the hours/days/weeks following discovery of your partner's betrayal, something along the lines of "I will never ever be happy again." I read it here all the time. Women who, in their agony, embrace hyperbole to insist their husband "murdered" any hope of happiness ever again, or "destroyed" their souls, or "shattered" their hearts and hopes. 
I know if feels like that. Lord, do I know! But let me tell you something I've learned on this path out of hell (there I go!): you will not – I promise! – feel like this forever. Emotions are transient. This too shall pass, the wise 12-steps folks try and tell us. And they're right. That doesn't mean it doesn't feel like your heart is in pieces. I know it does. But feelings are not facts, as my brilliant therapist reminded me over and over and over. 
And if you do the hard work of healing from betrayal, by learning how to be gentle with yourself, by learning to love and respect yourself, by letting go of any expectation of perfection in yourself and in others, you will come to a place where you not only feel happiness again, but you feel a greater happiness. It's a different kind. As one of my favourite poets, William Blake, tells us in Songs of Innocence and Experience, we gain a sort of understanding of pain having gone through this that will forever alter our understanding of the world. Our broken hearts are now capable of holding both dark and light. As Leonard Cohen puts it, the cracks are how the light gets in. 

Bonus Lesson: You do not need to be able to read your future in a crystal ball. You only need to ever know your next right step. Too often we think we need to respond RIGHT NOW to discovery of our husband's betrayal. And so we react – angrily, impulsively, thoughtlessly. We might file for divorce. We might light his clothes on fire. We might call his boss or his mother and give them an earful. We might run into the arms of another man. And frankly, any of those things might be a perfectly acceptable action. The key is to determine what you're going to do based on what is really the right thing for you. Not ready to kick him out? Then don't. (Just make sure some clear boundaries are in place.) Can't live with him in the house right now? Then don't. But before you make a difficult-to-undo choice, make sure it IS a choice. And not simply lashing out in pain. You don't want to compound your heartbreak. 
Your next right step. That might be an appointment with a therapist. It might be a facial. It might be changing the locks. But putting pressure on yourself to somehow know the absolute best way through this is setting yourself up for more heartbreak. Just focus on the now. And the next now. 

37 comments:

  1. Elle, thank you so much for this right now. I just had Dday #2 nearly a full year after the last. Same woman, same result - a child! The previous she decided to get rid of, this one, well I am still to find out but I think it will not happen this time. I am in shock and cannot believe it happened again. We we're, or so I thought, moving towards a better place. Turns out my husband wanted to be more destructive. I am sure he is depressed and I have no idea what I am going to do but as you say I am just going to acknowledge my feelings and make decisions later. I just wanted to reach out again, as I did last year. I don't want to tell friends or family as they all thought I was an idiot for taking him back so now it is just me, trying to find myself. Thanks

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    1. Natalie, I'm so sorry you're in that awful spot of someone you love hurting you so badly and betraying you. Please know that this is on him. You gave him an incredible gift of a second chance and he blew it. That doesn't make you anything but loyal and decent and compassionate. It's on him that he chose to throw that gift away.
      For now, give yourself the time to find the ground beneath your feet, to figure out your "next right step".
      I hate that you have to be here but so glad you came back. Let us help you heal.

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    2. I must still be in shock but we are living in the same house, staying in the same bed. I want to stay with him but it's this child that means that I will struggle and I don't think I want to deal with that. What my family and friends would say. I don't want to tell anyone... I can't think of how I feel, there is certainly a fear of being alone. He was my best friend as well as my husband. I am so used to being in contact all day long. I am just very confused but also avoiding thinking about and dealing with it. The OW is blackmailing my H and using the unborn child as a weapon. Not sure how we could get through this this time.

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    3. Natalie, I am thinking of you. If it matters to you I do hope your H insists on a paternity test ASAP. I can't even imagine the pain you are in. Please take good care of yourself.

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  2. I can relate so well to this post. I remember reading on Facebook about 6 months after dday how one of my friend's husband was talking to his high school girlfriend. He was hiding it from her and she found out. This woman had wanted to know what we all thought cheating was. Some of the answers were amazing. I'd leave him, divorce him blah blah blah. My answer to her was to wait and find out what was really going on and not to make decisions when she was angry. I also said that when you go through this you really have no idea how you will handle it. I told her how I had kicked my husband to the curb, threw his clothes out on the front yard and sold all of his tools. But I also mentioned how he was back home the next day asking for forgiveness, crying and not knowing why he did it. I let him come back home and we worked hard on our marriage. After 22 months I still have issues but I'm learning how to deal with them better. This isn't an easy journey. Some days I feel great about how close we are and some days I'm consumed with the cow he slept with and the drugs she slipped him and choices that he made. I try very hard to not let the negativity eat me alive when she's in my thoughts. She is an excellent manipulator and psychopath as far as I'm concerned. Walking my dog, painting, and listening to something motivational or inspirational seems to help me better than talking to someone. I seem to get a better grasp on myself and my feelings while trying to find clarity.
    Cathy

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    1. Cathy,
      It's baffling how these toxic people get into our brains and under our skin. But you're doing everything you should be doing to de-tox from such a toxic person.
      It's not an easy journey. But extending such compassion and honesty to your friend is an incredible and healing thing to do. By reaching out to those behind us, it helps us realize that we're no longer there. We might not be where we want to be quite yet, but we're on our way.

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  3. Wow. That is about all I can say is...wow. This post, today, right now - in this NOW - is exactly what I needed to read. I am only one year out from Dday, but it was a very long term EA that I knew was happening - so while Dday was just a year ago, I feel like it has been longer. But many of the lessons you write here I have thought, or felt or needed to hear. Thank you for your words of wisdom, and helping me, helping all of us, not feel so alone! (Hugs)

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    1. Jules, not feeling alone is the whole point of this site. You're among friends.

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  4. Elle, thank you so much for your beautiful and helpful and healing posts. I meant to comment on the previous one, too, about letting him off the hook. It was so helpful to read that one, as I think I feel that if I let up about my pain, even for a minute that my husband will feel similar to what you said, that he will feel "thank God, she is over it and I can go back to not trying so hard," AND I am always afraid he will think, "Oh, well, what I did wasn't so bad, look, she is over it now." And of course, I know I will NEVER be over it to the extent of feeling what he did was minor. I love that you said it is ok to feel like we can laugh sometimes and have joy- and the unfaithful will feel hope in our laughter and not that we are now feeling like he is "off the hook." You are so wise and so helpful and so insightful.
    This post today is wonderful. I am 2 years from the 2nd Dday and 2 1/2 years from the 1st Dday where I found out he was seeing whores, but the magnitude of what was really going on came out 6 months later when I found out it had been going on for 28 years of our 38 year marriage. I am still struggling with images, triggers, and devastating pain, but reading your post today has helped me see the hope and healing that is so possible from this horrific nightmare.
    Point 1- ALL the points you made are so very helpful to me. It is so good for me to be reminded that his seeing whores was HIS problem, and HIS way of escaping himself- NOT about me. We had the usual marriage issues, but his choice to cheat was EXACTLY that, HIS choice to escape and medicate himself.
    Point 2 was good for me- I need to focus on those things that give me comfort and happiness, like my beautiful granddaughter and my cats and my walks and my needlework.
    Point 3 is excellent, too. The way I love someone is not necessarily going to be how someone else shows and loves someone. My husband is doing the best he can given his emotionally unstable childhood and his subsequent development of intimacy anorexia. He has been working on this problem and though he still needs to keep working on it, he is so much farther along now after the Ddays than he has ever been in his life.
    Point 4 was so helpful, too. I have tended to do that over the years- to make myself feel better I would criticize and condemn others for whatever about them I didn't like or disagreed with. I know it was a way to counter my very low self-esteem. I don't do that know. I like the exercise your friend did with the list and changing the name to herself -that is very helpful.
    Point 5- wonderful reminder to me to stop waiting for perfection. I have done that so often- feeling EVERY thing HAS to be perfect before I can enjoy it or move on. I want to stop this obsession I have with perfection.
    Point 6- So beautiful to know there is HOPE! I love your suggestions about doing the hard work of learning to love ourselves and respect ourselves and being gentle with ourselves. And the letting go of perfection. And that our happiness will be back, different than before, and more beautiful and a greater happiness than before.
    Bonus- It is so good to keep in mind this point. That we can do just the next step and not try to solve everything now, or try to do everything right now . It is a process to heal and should be taken steps at a time.
    I apologize for this long comment, but I want you to know how VERY grateful and blessed I feel to have your wonderful, helpful and healing blogs to read. You a true angel of caring and love to all of us who are hurting so horribly from betrayal.

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    1. Janice, Thank you for your kind words. I'm thrilled that the posts help. It's really about sharing what each of us has learned through this and sharing our struggles too. We learn from each other.
      And...cats! Yes, cats. They are wonderful healers. I have three of them, including my cat-husband (yes, I know. I'm crazy) who sleeps beside me each night, reminding me that I am safe and loved and very very lucky.

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    2. Elle, thank you for your beautiful reply! Yes, the sharing is so VERY helpful and healing. Your wonderful sharing has helped me tremendously and there are not enough words to express my very grateful feelings.

      And , yes cats! I love that you are a cat lover! Cats have been my love since I was 2 years pold(or so my mom told me) and I am could almost be called a crazy cat lady! I have 6 cats- all rescues in one or another.
      I love the way you referred to your "cat-husband," that is truly beautiful and loving, and I will think of my husband that way, too. He has stayed with me, too, and it is a beautiful and wonderful reminder that I am loved and safe.
      Bless you, Elle, for all the healing and love you have given us betrayed. ❤

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    3. You're so welcome. And I'm so glad you found us.
      As for my cat-husband, I'm not joking. I'm really referring to one of my cats -- Emerson. We might not have had an official ceremony, but we are truly a couple. ;)

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    4. Thank you, Elle. I apologize for not understanding about your cat-husband! That is so cute and so true, too! I have a cat, a boy, too, who could be my cat-husband- he lays beside me every night and I feel security and warmth and love knowing he is there. Hugs and love to you! ��

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    5. No apology needed! I am, admittedly, a bit nuts. But yes, my cat-husband and I are very happy together. And, as far as I know, he's never cheated! ;)

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  5. Amen to point #3! I love and agree with everything you said, but realizing that people can only love you as much as they know how, to me, is essential to not find myself still trapped in a failed marriage or ever again. Today is my birthday. Although I've had 32 birthdays, this one is a birthday of firsts. This is the first birthday my husband is not cheating on me (as far as I know). This is also my first birthday being separated. Not only separated, but heading towards divorce. This is my first birthday since being married that I am without a husband to tell me happy birthday at midnight. It's my first birthday alone. Going through the first of many firsts, I can't help but to think about how the next year will go. Who will host holidays? How will holidays and events go as a single mom for the second time, and now a once divorced single mom? How do I deal with my daughter's pain during all these firsts? How will I handle my own pain? I guess I'll soon find out. I'm definitely at the stage where it feels like the hurt will never end. My experience is more than loneliness from a failed marriage, but also the loneliness and isolation that comes from the unwarranted judgement of others. The kind of judgment the cuts deep like the sharp knife of betrayal from those who are supposed to support you and help protect you. The type of judgement that lies to you and tells you that your spouses betrayal is somehow your fault because maybe you weren't submissive enough, did enough, gave enough, grateful enough. Judgement, that if you were to listen to, would have only enabled your spouses betrayal further as you continued to be a glutton for abuse and suffered in silence. Yes, this is definitely a lonely day. Trying to put on a brace face for my daughter only adds to the loneliness. Today will be for her. To give her hope and a sense of security. Maybe by making my birthday about her I'll be able to subside the loneliness. At least for a time. I know I'll get through it, but right now that doesn't make me feel better or take away any ounce of hurt. I never thought I'd be here. I'm sure non you ladies thought you ever would either. Yet, here we are trying to make sense of what seems senseless as we are trying to put the pieces back together whether we stayed or left. Either way, stayed or left, prayers be with you all on your firsts, that both groups will experience or are currently experiencing, since having learned the truth.

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    1. Oh I wish I could take you out for a slice of cake and coffee/tea at this wonderful dessert spot here in our town! I'm so sorry for your real pain and pray that you can find freedom in KNOWING IT WASN'T YOU! Sin is selfish and done by the ones engaged it in. We don't make someone sin - it's their choice. Celebrate WHO YOU ARE! The TRUTHs about YOU (- i.e. you are beautiful, kind, make good cookies, compassionate, caring...) Find a JOY (which is different than happy) birthday! (Praying to my Faithful Father for you right now!)

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    2. Happy Birthday Christine! Wish you the best day ever with your daughter. Focus on your relationship with her and find joy in being together on your birthday :). I do celebrate you in you making it through this, so feel proud. No matter what the outcome, you made it. You are moving in a direction that I pray you can make better for yourself and your daughter. Try not to beat yourself up too much about judgement from others. At this point who cares what anyone thinks? They were not in the marriage and experienced the heartache that you have.

      Reach out to friends and family to boost your spirits and to not feel so alone. For me the loneliest times were when I was lost in my thoughts and couldn't break out of it. Being around people, trying to laugh again and loving those that are your tribe is what gets your mind off things.

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    3. Christine,

      I know that judgment by people who you hope would have compassion for you. My H's immediate & extended family insulted me over and over again. They knew of the A decades before I did and they held a 'family meeting' specifically about it - not a single one of them confronted my H and said WHF is wrong with you? nope, they all blamed me, I must have not been good enough. They were all happy to come to my house every holiday though and allow me to be overly hospitable and make them lavish meals and buy them gifts. They were all willing to go out to a restaurant and let me pay for their dinner. The BH (a family member) ultimately disclosed the A 7 mos ago on social media (that was how I found out) and in that very post he called me "an idiot". Just days after Dday my MIL told my H that I'd better 'get over it or move on' and a few days later 'that I could never make him happy'. His favorite aunt called me a 'fake Christian' on social media. I was already in the most pain I have ever experienced and our family kicked me when I was down, it was agonizing.

      Know that those people who are judgy are doing so because they fear being in the same position, they've never walked a mile in the shoes of someone who's been betrayed so deeply (and some of them have they just don't know it). Look around this site and I bet some of the ladies responses to how they handle those painful situations will inspire you. You will find your own compassionate and/or snappy little comeback. And they way your friends receive your response will tell you if they are someone worth keeping in your life or not. Don't believe their false juedement. They are completely baseless and ignorant. It is a false narrative, maybe perpetuated by the entertainment industry, where the cheaters are glamorous and the betrayed have some kind of shortcoming. You did nothing to deserve this and you could have done nothing to prevent it because something was missing in CH and the OW, but not you.

      I think it's a awesome idea to make your birthday about your daughter - do something fun, take her out for a nice meal, order a fabulous desert with a candle in it. And when you blow out the candle think of all of us on the blog will be there in spirit singing you happy birthday.

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    4. Happy birthday Cristine. Yes, a birthday of firsts but perhaps a day of the birth of this new chapter in your life. Without someone who didn't respect your vows. Without someone who didn't value what he had.
      That doesn't mean you can't feel the pain and the loss. Just that the day might be coming when you realize you got the better end of the deal by losing him.
      As for your daughter, putting on a brave face doesn't have to mean putting on a phony one. It's okay for her to know that this is a tough day for you. It's okay for you to show you that you're sad, that you're grieving a loss. In fact, it gives her permission to own her feelings too. Just show that, along with feeling sad, you trust yourself to handle those feelings. That those feelings are normal and that you know they will pass. And that in the meantime, you two can create a new kind of day that celebrates how happy you are to have each other.
      One more thing Cristine -- I wish you a year in which you truly begin to understand that you are enough. That you have always been enough. That his cheating was his failure, not yours.

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  6. I've been wanting to post for a while about my current state and this post seems like the open door I needed. We are coming up on 2 years post DDay and even though I've decided to stay in my marriage (and we're still doing couples counseling), I still wonder if I've made the right decision. (Insert your wisdom in the Bonus Lesson). My head and heart can't seem to stay aligned to my decision to stay. When I first found out, I kicked him out of the house for a few months. Things seem to be going well for us now but my struggle is with how I was raised to believe, if you cheat in your marriage, you don't get to stay married. My therapist says, just because that's how I was brought up does not mean that's how I have to live my life (believing it). I see what my therapist is saying but I don't know that I want to change my belief system. I've lost some respect for my husband. Respect that I don't think I'll ever get back. My question is .... for those of you who have stayed, did you also waver about your decision? If yes, for how long? I'm 2 years post DDay and keep thinking by now (or very darn soon) I should be able to keep my mind focused on the positive instead of looking back on how much I hate what he did. That vision makes me think we should not be together. I'm stuck right now and can't seem to move forward. Thanks for reading, Sunflower.

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    2. Sunflower, You are at a normal state to constantly waver. You went through extreme pain on dday to present day and for the most part it's a day by day thing now. I think we all have our good days and bad days with the wave of triggers and emotions. The wavering, gaining back trust and gaining back respect, in my mind is a daily thing too.

      For me the affair caused panic attacks, lack of self worth, loss of extreme weight, loss of sleep, as many on here acknowledge. It's part of the process... as is finding a way to reconnect with your spouse. The affair hurt like hell and I lost so much in myself, but things in your relationship can be made better because of it. There is always a glimmer of hope that things will be better than ever, but that hope and commitment involves the two of you working on it together. Is that what you want? Is that was he wants? Are you working it together and feel at least some progress? At this point I feel a strong connection to my H and know that I want to stay. There are certainly days that I question staying, but they few and far between. I also know that no matter what, I'm stronger and can make it on my own if that's what it comes to. I lost myself, but then found myself again. I was in the "stuck" phase for a very long time though.

      I'm at the same point you are 2 years post dday. I train my brain to look forward vs back on a daily basis. The norm is to get pulled backwards, so don't feel like you are alone at all.

      I feel like more than ever I need to plan out things to look forward to. It gives a sense of purpose for staying. Do you have some summertime activities that you can plan out and look forward to for yourself and you and the H?

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    3. Sunflower,
      Yes, I was there. And I was there for a long time. Can't recall exactly how long but years. I kept one foot out the door and reserved the right to flee whenever I was ready.
      I was never ready.
      And by the time I felt emotionally ready, I no longer wanted to. That message -- the cheaters are never to be given a second chance -- is a loud one. It's not just your family, it's our culture. "Once a cheater, always a cheater", right?
      Well, no.
      And I had to fight hard against that message because it's so insidious. It takes incredible strength to rebuild a marriage after betrayal. There's nothing pathetic about it. And a guy who shows up, day after day, to face what he did and to face the person he did it to and who is really willing to take responsibility for that isn't a coward.
      In fact, I gained incredible respect for my husband BECAUSE of the work he did after his cheating. He had to look in my eyes every single day and know he was the reason there was pain there.
      A big part of the problem is that we rarely hear about the marriage that survive infidelity. We hear about the ones that don't. Those of us quietly rebuilding our marriages are the silent majority. And unfortunately, that doesn't give others the chance to realize that there are, literally, millions of marriages growing stronger for the storms they've weathered.
      It's always your choice -- to stay or go. But try to acknowledge the courage and strength it takes to give someone a second chance. Pay attention to the stories of those who've forgiven the unforgivable. Abandon the idea that there's a punishment that must be meted out to people who violate certain standards. The punishment my husband experienced by facing up to what he did was punishment enough.

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    4. sunflower,
      I go back and forth too as many of us do it seems. I had an experience with my family (who doesn't know about my H's cheating) this weekend that I found interesting. I was raised with black-and-white statements about cheating too that I find difficult to sift through as I make my decisions. At a restaurant this weekend, my sister was talking about a TV comedy in which two women form a friendship after their husbands cheat on them and leave for each other (the husbands have an affair together and leave their wives. The wives become friends.) She liked the show but said, "I have one big problem with the show. The cheating. Once a person cheats, they no longer get to be part of the story. These cheaters are still part of the story and they should never be allowed to be part of the story again after what they did." Wow!!! Instead of a shame trigger, I immediately felt sorry for her. My sister is deluding herself. Cheaters are part of the story whether we stay or leave. They are fathers to our children, huge parts of our hearts (even if only in the past)... There is no way for them to cease being part of "the story", nor should they be. If there had been a way for me to make my H no longer "part of the story" after discovering the affair, I would have done that! I think we all would have. The point is that the affairs become part of our story whether we like it or not. The person who committed the betrayal against us is part of our story no matter how we choose to live the rest of our lives. My sister gets to live in a world where things are so simple and easy to fix. Good for her (until it's not!) I only get to live in the world where what she said is soooo short sided and uninformed. I am ultimately really glad that my H is still part of my story. He has helped me heal (not all do), but even if he hadn't, I no longer believe that a person who does this deserves to die/be punished eternally. I have seen the pain my H was in before, during, and after his choices. Over time, I have developed first, compassion for what he was going through and second, admiration for his ability to take responsibility and sit with me in my pain. His work on himself and the changes in his behavior are part of the happy part of the story, and I'm glad to still be reading! Those messages from my family are not helpful.

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    5. Sunflower, I now have a similar response to you. Whenever I hear someone speak in these absolutes "I would never put up with that..." or "Cheaters shouldn't be allowed to be part of the story..." or whatever, rather than take them at their word, I focus on the fear behind those statements. And that changes everything for me. Rather than feeling shamed myself, I acknowledge how afraid that other person is. So. Much. Fear.
      And that fear is masked by statements that give the illusion of control. As you know, betrayal makes it clear that we don't have nearly the control we think we do. Sure, we can kick him out. But the heartbreak remains.
      We learn that we can only control our response to a situation. Which includes our response to those who still have their illusion of control.
      So. Much. Fear.
      Your sister can't even watch a television comedy without being somewhat triggered by it.
      So. Much. Fear.

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    6. I can relate to Ann's sister in a way. Before my husband cheated I felt firm in my beliefs that "if you cheat, you don't get to stay in your marriage." It is only AFTER you are put in this horrible situation that you realize nothing is an absolute. I was naive and listened to friends who were then in the shoes that I wear now and remember telling them that "I would never put up with that!" Well look at me now - educated with more life lessons - harsh lessons. We only truly know how we will respond to a situation after we experience it. If only our younger, more innocent selves knew that then.

      Hanging in there,
      Sunflower

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    7. Sunflower, I second what Ann said. I just posted in the Wednesday Word post also. What my husband did is forever part of our story, even if there are only four of us who know the story. It is not a happy story but it isn't the end of the world either. Knowing my story makes it easier in some ways to look at my life realistically. Like Elle said above, Fear, is scary. I don't make any absolute statements anymore and I don't think I did much of that in the past but I am definitely more sensitive to the reality behind infidelity now that I've experienced it myself. Nobody deserves this pain, ever. As hard as it would be to tell my spouse I wanted a divorce or I was falling for another person, it is a much more honorable path to take than cheating. Some of our spouses have deep disorders of intimacy that they themselves did not recognize or understand but once the truth is out, it is on them to step up and do the work they need to do. We do our work and we learn better ways to live and look at the real world out there. No more rose colored glasses. I just listened to a pod cast on Love Rice from April 21, 2016.It is called Nerd-out on Bonding: Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Kevin Skinner. Wow, I'm blown away and humbled. I am also happy with the changes in my spouse.

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  7. It has been 8 months since I found out and I still cannot bring myself to feel present in life. My daughter graduated from High School and it was a moment that I feel cheated out of. This is always in the back of my head and I can't move on. Not sure if I will. This is not the first time he has cheated on me. Just not sure if divorce is best. Hate feeling so sad and lost. Thanks Elle.

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    1. Jean B,
      Eight months likely feels like an eternity but, in the trajectory of healing from infidelity, it's not so long. Are you in any sort of counselling to help you process all the pain and grief and loss? Many of us get stuck. And many of us experience post-trauma symptoms -- far, hyper-vigilance, numbness.
      What is your husband doing to help you heal? Is he dealign with the reasons he cheated? Is he able to support you in your pain? I think it's often when we're expected to be moving on that we can't. Just letting ourselves sit with the pain and accepting that the only way out of it is through can actually move us along.

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  8. Ladies,

    Thank you all so very much for your compassion and birthday wishes!!! I wish I could give you all a hug! The encouragement you all have provided truly made my birthday special! I was honestly tearing up because of the love you all had shown me, a perfect stranger. The smallest acts of compassion truly go such a long way. I'm very thankful for each of you :)

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  9. Just an FYI, i was on the "books for the betrayed" page which is pretty amazing and there are lots of links to both websites and books and more. I added the Esther Perel on Audible links, and if anyone has vidoes to share--Elle is it ok to put that stuff there too? Makes it so easy to find. That is a GREAT page.

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    1. Absolutely. Anything that will help. I just listened to one of the Esther Perel tapes the other day and it was fantastic. So much helpful info.
      Thanks!

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  10. Elle what a beautiful post and totally true. I am almost 4 years out now although I have to be honest not really sure if d day 1 was 2012 or 2013. I feel like a much improved person since then with a much improved marriage.

    One truth I would add to your list as Bonus #2. I kept asking myself and him what was wrong with me what was wrong with our marriage that he would cheat. I can say that I have truly moved on now because I no longer ask. I know the answer to both of those questions is nothing... the answer to why he cheated was that there was something wrong with him. He was in his 30's but feeling old and insecure because he was balding. Now that he was a successful doctor he had these very aggressive women flirting with him making him feel young and desirable when he spent his awkward teenage years and college years being unnoticed (like most of us). I'm not excusing it I'm just saying I understand it--2 very different things.

    I haven't been to this site in months but would like to tell everyone that there most definitely is life at the end of the tunnel.

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  11. I need someone to talk to at night I'm lost

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    1. Yolanda, I understand. Nights are lonely, especially when you can't sleep. Your brain reprocesses the pain in detail over and over again. A few times I called an 24/7 counseling line provided by my work. Often I came on this blog. My IC suggested I do breathing exercises and a 'brain dump' before bed. I try the breathing. Honestly the only thing that works for me is if I take something which I hate to do but not sleeping is worse. A few times I just sat down at my computer and journaled what I was thinking. Many times I want to wake my snoring H up, but that always backfires because he is a total grouch when he's sleepy, but if it weren't for their bad actions we'd be sleeping just fine. I have no idea how H can sleep so soundly knowing what he did - the guilt alone would give me insomnia.

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  12. Thanks so much for this article. D day number one is coming up on August 2nd and I have lost soooo much hope right now (after just experiencing the pain & despair of our wedding anniversary). I don't see this "happiness" potential you mentioned. Life will never be the same. "Family" as I pictured it - will never be. I really don't know how to do this. :(

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  13. My DDay has been spread out over the past 3 months. April, I found out a little. May I found out more. June I received a video of my H. I am a shell, I am going through life and I don't even know how. He is remorseful, he is begging me for forgiveness, we are in counseling.
    I am in a state of mental drowning. I actually felt I was doing better initially than I am now. I am lost.

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