Experiences Compounded

One of the things that has really been in my face lately is how much this betrayal has affected other life experiences.  For example, yesterday, my kids were in the car, and they noticed a gem on a sign.  They are talking on and on about how beautiful it is and about princesses and such.  I suddenly snapped to attention.  The sign?  The Diamond Royale.  Ah, of course.  The beautiful gem was associated with strippers.  My stream of consciousness went all through the circular thinking…objectification of women, porn, princesses, lack of being able to understand true intimacy.  I was not spiraling down.  In fact, I was just simply sad for our society and for what so many seem to value over truth and reality. For a minute, I was a little worried for my girls.  How can I be sure I instill in them the self-confidence they will need?  How can I ensure they will choose a man who values them and real life in all its glory over fantasy?

This kind of thing happens to me all of the time.  I have these life triggers, and I am just so sad about the life I have chosen.  I am sad that his decisions stole quite a bit from me.  To be honest, I have been having many good days.  We have had some really good talks, but underneath, there is still that deep sadness.

The worst thing lately for me has been work.  I notice how things that may have barely affected me before seem to have me in an emotional tailspin.  I no longer want to stay silent at work because I feel like I was silenced in my marriage.  I feel like I deserve a voice somewhere…and well, perhaps that is not the best thing.  The work situation has been very difficult.  Morale is down.  No one has had a raise in seven years.  People do not feel valued.  Comments have been made about cuts and about my particular position. I feel like I’m in immediate fight or flight mode.  My boss already used her knowledge of the affair to hurt me.  I’m simply unsure how much more I can take.  It’s so weird how the place that was once such a safe haven for me is now less safe than my home–where I stopped feeling safe two years ago.  I feel crazy some days, as I drag myself out of bed and force myself through the motions of going to work.  I try so very hard to find the positives.  Some days, I’m more successful than others.  Most days, I pray to God that I am able to find a new position where I can grow and feel valued.  I am so tired of feeling stuck in my life.

Are there life experiences you have had that are made worse by the infidelity?  What have you done to make these easier or at least more livable?  I’m so interested in your replies.

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Acceptance vs. Forgiveness

It occurred to me today that I believe there really is a difference between acceptance and forgiveness, although sometimes, I think people use the words interchangeably.

Acceptance is believing that this happened.  My husband had an affair.  He touched her. Kissed her.  Had sex.  Sexted.  Had tons of “conversations” through an app. He enjoyed it all at my expense. These things happened.  I accept that they happened.  I grieve parts of this every day, but I know that it is true.  I accept this is my reality.  It is now a part of my story.

Ah, but forgiveness, to me, is a different thing.  According to Rob Bell, “Forgiveness is setting someone free, and then realizing it is you.”  Gulp.  Yeah.  That SHOULD be easy, right?  We should just get in there and forgive so that we feel less pain.  People will tell us that forgiveness is just a simple choice, but friends, I really don’t think so.  I do think it is eventually a choice we make to let go of the need for revenge.  We have to let go of our desire for our spouse to feel our pain (they can’t). They will never know what it feels like to have the person closest to them betray them in the deepest, most painful way.  It means that there will come a time when we will stop hoping that the other woman loses everything, or her kids hate her, or she ends up divorced.  It means we have to stop wanting to hang flyers of her naked photos up all over the neighborhood with the words “Keep Away from Neighborhood Whore” on them (ok, I admit I REALLY wanted to do this but was talked out of it in case of a law suit).

What we realize is that NOTHING will stop our pain from this, and certainly, revenge will not stop OUR pain.  It will only serve to keep the violence in circulation, and there is always a “I’ll do them one better” coming back at anyone who engages in this cycle.  So, at some point, we will think about or talk about forgiveness.  I know I would love to say I forgive him, but I cannot do that right now.  I’m not against forgiving, but I certainly don’t want people telling me there is some kind of timeline to it.  It isn’t like you find out, and then a few months later, you can say you forgive him (or her), and all is well.

Forgiveness takes TIME.  Like grief, it is a whole damn process.  Again we have to go through a long process, and we are so tired and worn down.

What I know for sure is that I can let go of my need for revenge…mostly.  But I can’t seem to get out of my head what he risked everything for, and so, I need more time.  I need to believe that he is really changing and that this is not all a joke because I will not settle this time.  I believe when I feel confident in that, I will begin to fully heal and maybe…maybe I can forgive (after I burn some more evidence and break some dishes. Right?)


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The facade and passing time

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
-T.S. Eliot
Ah, T.S. Eliot and “The Love Song of  J. Alfred Prufrock” is one of my favorites.  I remember the day we studied this poem in college and when the line “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet” came into the discussion.  Isn’t that just the truth?  We all do it, but I find it particularly real in my case lately.  I get up, put on my makeup and prepare to meet those in the world who have no idea of my pain.  If they did, they’d only question why I had not yet healed or why I stayed.  I often feel like I’m screaming inside for anyone to notice or care.  I find it interesting that even my close friends have stopped asking how I am.  Do they think it will make it worse or bring it up when I had not thought of it?  We all know that is unlikely. 
Eliot goes on to discuss the “time to murder and create,” and in my heart I feel the intensity of those words, too.  It is funny how time and life experiences can change our perception and perspective.  When I first read this poem, I never could have imagined this kind of murder.  The kind of murder where the one closest to you guts you and leaves you bleeding out while continuing to feel they are entitled.  And time to create?  I certainly didn’t imagine sharing this kind of pain publicly by creating a blog.  It is a bit scary to think that people are reading this who don’t know me.  Yet, isn’t it interesting that you know me better than those in my everyday life. 
 There will be “time yet for a hundred indecisions / and for a hundred visions and revisions” as we sit and question and wonder if we should reconcile or leave.  We ponder and twist and try to make it all work in our heads.  I woke up this morning with new questions in my mind, and it infuriated me.  For me, the questions have slowed down, but it is the logical ones that remain–the things and details that I am starting to believe that only those who have cheated and twisted reality can make sense of.  It is maddening. And really, would any answer really help at this point? 
 Time.  It really is the four letter word.  We have it or we don’t.  We waste it or we stay in the moment.  We use it wisely or we have regrets.  Time.  Is.  Passing.  What are we choosing to do with it?
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Tomorrow is the two year mark of my Dday–my Dday antiversary.  To say that it does not bring up a lot of feelings and insecurities would be a lie.  I have had a rough week and have had some triggers.  I feel crankier than usual.  In the past two years, I have been through more pain than I ever thought was possible and been betrayed by more people than I care to think about.  Each betrayal was another blow, adding on to this crazy ride.

Two years ago, I found the photo on his computer after following a feeling I had–a gut instinct that I should dig.  When I found it, I knew.  I just could not accept the reality, and I even contacted her via Facebook.  First she denied, then she told me to talk to my husband, and then she threatened me and told me to stay away from her family–you know, the way she stayed away from mine.  Two years ago, my world imploded, along with everything I thought I understood about my life and the people in it.  It took him ten days to admit to the physical affair, and I kicked him out.  Two years ago, I was forever changed.  The person I was is no more.

In her place is this new person–stronger than I ever thought I could be (than I ever wanted to be).  I have grown and am healthier, I suppose, because of all of the therapy. My view of the world and the people in it, unfortunately, has changed.  I go through my day-to-day, but there seems to be this overlay of sadness that seeps into my pores.  I feel unsure of the future, even though I know I will be ok.  It is this sense that at any time, I could find something new or realize that this was a deal breaker for me.  I now know all too well what he is capable of.  I pray he is changing, but as we know, nothing is for sure.

I will never say I am glad that this happened or that we are better for it.  I will never say I have a better marriage because it is just different now.  My innocence is gone, and I wish I had the trust I once did.  I wish I could just sink into his hug and feel the relief you get from knowing the other person has your back no matter what.  I know I will spend moments over the next few days, reliving that day two years ago and all of the pain and fear.  I will remember finding out that people do not always keep their promises, even when said before God.  Yet somehow, I will find a way to make the day just another day.  I will stand firm in the knowledge that I know who I am, and though I wish I could change this part of my story, I can’t.  I will move forward because that is the only choice.  I move forward because I am seeking my new happiness.

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Riding the roller coaster–grief, anxiety and fear (Oh my!)

One of the most painful and difficult parts of healing from infidelity, is riding the roller coaster of emotions.  One minute, I feel really good–maybe even joyful–the next, I’m sobbing in the bathroom.  I often feel crazy.  Like many of you, I have to work through all of this, and the trauma of this experience has made it very difficult for me to feel confident in my work performance, even though I am an extremely hard worker who cares about my career.  Some days, I am very forgetful, and others, I am on the top of my game.  I’m never sure which me to expect to show up.

In the April 24th issue of Time, Belinda Luscombe interviews Sheryl Sandberg, who lost her husband suddenly in 2015.  As COO of Facebook and the author of Lean In, Sandberg is living a life most of us would agree is successful.  Yet when her husband unexpectedly died, she crumbled to the ground in grief.  In the article, she shares how people did not reach out to her because they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.  They were afraid of opening her wound–yet as most of us know, when your wound is open and you are basically bleeding out, there is no time when you are not thinking about it.  Each day we start the roller coaster over.  Sometimes, I start out doing really well, only to crash an hour (or even a minute) later.  Sandberg shares how grief and loss made her feel less confident.  People would think they were helping by taking work away from her, only for that to make her feel less self-confident than ever.   And this particular grief?  The one we are hurting from?  Well…those who have not experienced it simply have no clue. They say they know they would leave, but I said that too.  They do not understand why even a year or two later, we are still in so much grief.  It is one of the reasons that I sought out online forums, along with the reason I started this blog.  I needed and craved understanding and connection.  It is not as if we can openly share what has happened to us without worry about commentary and judgment.  Our society believes infidelity means the wife/husband deserved what happened.  Certainly a spouse should not attempt to stay after such a betrayal.  Going through this is very isolating.

In my own job, I have experienced another betrayal.  My boss knew about the affair because on Dday, I was honest and told her.  I needed a few days off.  I felt I could trust her.  Months later, I find out that the knowledge of my deepest pain in my boss’s hands was a mistake, and she used the knowledge to manipulate me at work, and in fact, re-traumatize me.  One of the things that Sandberg states in the article really stood out to me based on my experience.  She says, “Expressing emotion when you’ve gone through extreme pain is not weakness.  It is humanity.”  Exactly that.  You see, it seems as if in our culture, the strong do not express emotions.  Ah, ok.  So that got my husband where?  He shoved his emotions down until he resented and became a person I did not know.  In the midst of your deep grief, you need to be able to have a safe place to express your pain.  It is NOT weakness.  Showing emotions at work means you care about your performance or that you are struggling.  In those deep moments of grief, that is the time colleagues should hold us up because who among us has not suffered from loss and pain?  And if someone has been that lucky, they soon will have their own experience where they will need a tribe of people to support them.

Along with the grief, for me, comes the near constant anxiety, anxiety about how my boss sees me and will evaluate me, over small things in my day-to-day life that rarely bothered me before, and over what is to come.  What choices will I make?  What choices will he make?  The anxiety, for me, is the worst.  I almost can handle the grief more easily than I can handle that constant sick feeling that sinks deep into my gut.  It is like we take the normal worries of life and compound them exponentially because we are grieving.  It is overwhelming.

We go through the grief, anxiety, and then the fear hits.  I try so hard not to operate on fear.  The fear of now, the fear of what he will do, the fear of the future, the fear of not knowing the past, the fear of making the wrong choice…my gosh, can we list the fears now, or what?

I want to rise above all of this pain to become the stronger, amazing person I know is here.  So today, I am taking a step toward the future.  I’m riding the roller coaster but taking breaks waiting to ride the ride again.  Sometimes, I enjoy the downward coast after a very difficult climb.  Sometimes, I feel stuck at the top.  But today?  Right now?  I am going to choose to live.  I will feel the pain, the grief, the fear because I have to in order to heal, but I am also going to find moments of joy in each day.  If we string enough of those joyful moments together, we can dig out of this hole and see the beauty through the pain and the tears.

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Do you speak those words to yourself?  Stand in front of your mirror and say them out loud over and over.  My gosh, I hope you believe them.  In the midst of all of this, I think we lose that belief.  We compare and we wonder, “Why wasn’t I enough for him/her not to cheat?”  “Why wasn’t our marriage enough?”  The stark reality is that we ARE enough.  We have always been enough.  These horrible choices our spouses/significant others have made had NOTHING TO DO WITH US.  They certainly have a lot of work to do to figure out why truth, love, family, and frankly, the reality of a beautiful life was not enough for them, but that is not our work.

Our work is to rebuild ourselves. We must dig deep and find the strength that is buried there to move forward, to know that no matter what, we will be ok–even amazingly wonderful.  I am slowly getting to this point, and for the first time in two years, I have moments of peace.  This journey requires us to put our oxygen masks on first and to stop trying to save our marriage or fix our husbands.  It means doing things for ourselves–getting a manicure, meeting a friend for coffee, seeking out a therapist or spiritual advisor, taking walks, writing in a journal, making time for meditation, getting a luxurious massage, or really being present in the moment with your kids.  You see, somehow in all of this, we lost ourselves.  We have questioned who we are.  It is time we find out.  You know those times when you have curled up in a ball and have been wracked with sobs?  When you have said to yourself, “How did I not know?  How can I survive this?  Can I stay?  Am I betraying myself for trying? Am I strong enough to leave?”  THIS IS YOUR TIME.  We owe them nothing.  We owe ourselves everything.  We must know who we are and why we are making the choices we make moving forward. To do that, we must allow ourselves the gift of time.

Oh, I know.  You don’t have TIME.  You must know the answers immediately.  You have kids.  You have to work.  You can’t even get out of bed, so how can you figure this crap out?  The same way you have lived through anything else.  You take one small step toward YOU.  Ten minutes.  Give yourself ten minutes.

Thursday is my two year Dday. Certainly, I have a lot of painful memories to process. After a bit of dread, I realized it was my chance to be gentle with myself.  I took a personal day today, friends.  I have a full, glorious day of time.  Guess what I’m doing?  I’m in a perfectly quiet house.  I’m watching rated R movies!  I’m painting my nails (I haven’t done this in months!).  I’m going to take myself to lunch.  I’m going to read–uninterrupted!  I’m going to spend time NOT THINKING ABOUT THE AFFAIR.  You know what?  I am so excited to do this for myself.  I promptly dropped my kids off of school and feel so free.  This day?  It is for me.  Honestly, we deserve this and so much more.  It is never wrong to take care of ourselves when we know things are particularly hard, yet as women, we tend to fight it.  Give yourself some wonderful, juicy moments of time today.  Comment and share what you will do for yourself today.  Come on, you can do it!

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Before and After

Isn’t that how we see it?  It’s like we are in this alternate reality.  Before the affair and then after.  Before–when our lives seemed what we thought was normal.  When we thought our significant others loved us and would never betray us.  When the day to day had a rhythm and a comfort and sometimes, even a joy to it.  Then, the after.  NOW we know the reality.  We have seen what they are capable of.  We know our lives are not what we had thought.  Was it all a lie?  How can they do it?  Who IS this person?  How could we not know?  How could they not SEE us for who we really are?

Do you see the world differently now?  I used to believe more in love and goodness and gave of myself so freely.  Now it’s like I see the seedy underbelly of the world.  I haven’t given up on integrity, morality, and love in the world, yet it seems like the nastiness and darkness have driven it out some?  I keep remembering finding out all of the things he had done, each new finding a blow to my heart and to my logical mind. I remember trying to understand the world of cheaters, so I Googled all of the things.  I KNOW you have done this.  You Google and find pages of other women and men who have cheated. You try to understand how they think, how people can hurt those they love.  You end up on disgusting porn sites, dating sites, and Craigslist and see things you NEVER KNEW EXISTED because why would you?  I wanted to stab my eyes out after seeing all of these married men posting from my city on Craigslist.  I have lost so much of my innocence and the part of me that just trusted that…well, that love wins.  My gosh I was and still am stunned at the things people will do for attention or to seek…what?  These things will never fill the holes in their heart.

Before, we had this history and a beautiful family.  We had lost grandparents and friends. We had been through four job losses together.  Lost babies.  I felt that all of those things held us together, weaving all of the strands of our lives and experiences together into one life tapestry.  Surely he valued marriage, family, love, memories as I did.

After, I realize that he said “I love you” and pulled my car out for me that morning, but then went to her two hours later.  I find out that he valued sex over commitment.  That bullshit comments from someone simply to boost his ego meant more than the years of a life together.  It occurs to me that my texts telling him I loved him reached him while he was with her, and of course, he did not answer.  I realize that whether his wedding ring was on or off–he destroyed the sacredness of our bond for “just sex.”  That’s quite the shit sandwich to swallow.

As I sit here, holding my glass of wine, I think of all of you out there, also in pain, and I wish we could all sit together on a porch and drink some wine together, share our stories and support each other.  So, dear readers, grab your glass and raise it high.  We are survivors.  Cheers to all of you walking this path.  I know we are changed.  I know we are strong.  Together, we will survive this and grow.  Leave me a comment and share what you are raising your glass to today.

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