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Surrounding yourself with those who care about you


So much of what I’ve been focusing on so far has been linear.  I started with day one, the day I learned of the affair, and since then, I’ve progressed in a linear way, with you all hearing about the ups and downs, the one step forward, three steps back progression to this story.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection the last little while, and with this upcoming seminar, I am really looking forward to taking my happiness to a new place, to take my marriage to a new place, and to rediscover who I am.

For the last 2 years, I have been immersed in my husband’s affair.  I’ve lived it, breathed it, slept it, dreamt it, ate it (in the form of any chocolate laden, champagne topped, delicacy I could find, even though I *knew* it was bad for me), talked it, cried it, wrote it, researched it…and I am getting tired.  Mind you, for the last 2 years, there has been an ongoing legal battle which has just come to a close in the beginning of 2012, so the past few months have been quiet.  It has given me a glimpse into what I think might be the new “normal”.

Those close to me know that the affair has been a big part of me for the last 2 years.  It’s dominated my thoughts, it has dominated my conversations at times, and whenever a friend has opened the door with “so anything new on the psycho mistress front?” they had to know they were in for a 30 minute monologue, cause there was ALWAYS something going on that was new, unbelievably painful or remarkable that I had to share.   Bless my friends who have stood by and listened to me, asked questions, been actively interested, offered help, or even just a shoulder.  It really does help to surround yourself with friends whose ultimate goal is to see you through this.

If you are in the early stages of affair discovery, you need to find support.  You ideally need to find a support group so that you don’t inundate your friends with constant affair chatter.  I’ve just learned recently that the amount of spotlight time taken discussing the affair or the issues that surround it can be perceived as hogging the limelight, so being able to offset that by having another outlet is probably a good idea.  Unfortunately, when I went looking, there was no support group for this in my area ANYWHERE, and I actually talked with my therapist about her and I starting one!

In the absence of a support network nearby, tell a few select friends about your experience, and let them help you.  Although as the betrayed spouse, you probably want to tell EVERYONE you know, be cautious who you tell.  I actually have great regrets over having told certain individuals in my life about the situation.  Looking back, I should have not confided something so personal, but hindsight is 20/20.   Your ideal support person will be someone who has been through an affair.  Since that is not always possible to find, your next best option is to at least find someone who is married, understands the investment you have made in your life into this relationship, and what it means to possibly face losing it.  If there are children involved, someone who also has children will also provide them this needed insight into seeing things from your perspective as you try and save your family and your shield your children from this reality.   You want someone who exhibits a lot of empathy and who will listen to you unconditionally and not limit your expression.

Shirley Glass, in her book “Not Just Friends” talks about a ‘friend of the marriage’.  In the aftermath of an affair, many people will question why you’ve chosen to approach it as you have.  Why did you stay?  Why didn’t you leave?  Why did you leave?  Why didn’t you kick him out instead of you leaving the home?  Why didn’t you tell the kids?  Some friends will provide advice based on what they THINK they would do, but we’ve already established that what people THINK they will do, and what they ACTUALLY do are two different things.  I’ll have more to say about that later.  So when your friend, with her expectations of what you should do starts telling you that your decision to stay is ridiculous, and that she would have kicked him on his ass, do you really think she can be supportive?  Will she really ever take the time to try and see your perspective with such a heavy bias?  A good friend of mine was the first person that I told about the affair.  I’d texted her from work to tell her that my life had just fallen apart and she called me within seconds.  I didn’t have much time to talk, since I was expecting clients, but in the brief time we had, I filled her in.   Over the next few days, we debriefed together, with her coming over as often as possible and checking in on me.  Within a few days, she shared a personal tidbit about her life as well.  Her husband and her had not had sex in 7 years.  SEVEN YEARS.  They no longer shared a bedroom, and he slept in the guest room.  They weren’t seeking divorce or separation – this has just become their ‘normal’.  When it was a question of what I was going to do, she encouraged me to leave.  She said she would help me leave, and find me a place if needed.  She was very keen on me not remaining in the marriage.  Fast forward a year, and this same friend tells me that she has reason to believe that her husband is having sex with escort services.  Credit card bills and internet search histories revealed as much.  Asking her if she wants to leave, her response is “No”.  Well wait a moment, my husband ADMITTED an affair, your husband is having sex with MANY people behind your back, so aren’t our situations similar?  We have both been betrayed.  Our husbands have slept with other women.  She wanted me to leave.  She wasn’t prepared to leave.  How can a friend support you fully in your decisions when they don’t accept your choice?  She will be the first to admit that my husband’s affair fractured her relationship with him.  It not only fractured her relationship with him, it also fractured her relationship with me.  No longer were we getting together 3-4 days a week to run.  No longer were we finding excuses to meet up for pre-dinner drinks at 5pm to unwind and gab.  Suddenly, there was a paucity in her availability.   She later told me that she had to “work very hard” to come to a place where she could be with my husband socially, and to this day, I still feel the tension like a thick fog.

When a friend is not a ‘friend of the marriage’, championing for your cause, you have to set them free.  In order for your marriage to heal, you need to essentially be surrounded by a network of friends all sporting a “Pro-your marriage’ T-shirt, offering their support for you BOTH without judgment.  Without this, you will always be exposed to second-guessing from those who don’t approve.

You also need to surround yourself with people who will be there for you unconditionally, and who won’t keep score.  It is expected that for the next while, you are going to be needing some over the top, extraordinary TLC from your friends and family.  I hesitate to say it, because I don’t like this term applied to me, but you are going to have to be “needy” for a while.  You WILL take up more of the conversation space with your friends because when you don’t offer up information about the affair when you get together, count on them asking about it anyway. I have a friend who once we exhaust all of the obvious front-line niceties, her comment is ALWAYS “so, anything new on the you-know-what front?”.  I don’t even have to want to talk about it, and suddenly we are talking about it.  Sadly, this has meant that I have had to make a concerted effort to  gauge the degree to which I feel my issues are dominating the conversation, and to which the balance is tipped towards me.  If you have friends who are equally extroverted, they will interject with their own stories too.  If you  have friends who are introverts, you will have to make a special effort to turn the light towards them too (but being introverted, 99% of the time, they will shine it back to you anyway 😉 )  It is unrealistic to expect a person who is going through a trauma like this to not change, or for your relationship with them to change.  Everyone involved needs to recognize and acknowledge that this person is hurting, and has been through a lot.  She WILL need more TLC than usual, she WILL need more talk time, she WILL sometimes NEED more than she can GIVE, and you can’t keep score.  Like any friendship issue, there will be days when one person needs more than the other, when one talks more than the other, and when one demands more of the other.  But in the aftermath of trauma, I think we can all logically assume that the person suffering the hurt will probably be in a deficit to you for a while because she just won’t have a lot to give back, having been emotionally and physically depleted.  I recently had someone tell me that over the last while it has been “all about me”, and that the balance of time and attention had tipped in my favour.  Initially disturbed by the fact that I possibly hadn’t kept myself in check well enough to balance my spotlight-time, I apologized for having been so demanding of late.  I also lost my mother a few months ago, and while I haven’t talked specifically about that issue as much, the emotional strain and drain from it has left me needier than usual and with less ‘reserve’ to cope as well.  I possibly relied on others too much, it seems.  A few weeks later, after some quiet introspection, I decided to give myself the self-love that I have been denying myself where that issue was concerned, and forgive myself.  Heck, I’d lost the intimacy in my marriage, discovered I had a betraying spouse in what I had thought was a perfect union, questioned everything about my family and marriage, watched it falter before my eyes, learned that there was a mistress who wanted me dead and who then spent the next 2 years plotting ways to harm me further and to twist the already plunged blade into my back even further, inflicting more harm.  To top it off, I discovered through therapy that my mother was a narcissist, and that I was the daughter of a narcissistic personality disordered parent.  (For those who want to see the impact of that, I encourage you to visit  http://daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/characteristics-of-narcissistic-mothers.html) and see how my past and my reality growing up made recovering from this affair so difficult due to the wounds that had already been inflicted early on.  So, on top of ALL of that, my mother passed away this fall, leaving me to care for my ailing father, the marital home, their finances, on top of raising my children, supporting my home, and oh yeah…..trying to recover from this affair.  To say that I have been through a lot has been an understatement, so I forgave myself for having felt the need to apologize for it, when it was brought to my attention that I hog the friend-spotlight.   The comment that had originally made me feel awkward and needing to apologize later left me feeling bitter.  As someone who is trying to practice more self-care, I had to forgive myself for having been “needy”, and see it as normal.  I had to forgive myself for not having policed my time, or stop-watched myself, and instead see what happened as a very natural and expected occurrence.  I’ve been through a lot, and it is normal to have needed more than usual, to have talked more than I’ve listened, and to have racked up some debts.  My disappointment in myself suddenly turned into disappointment towards this individual who has obviously been keeping score.  I’m a big believer in friendships being fluid.  Sometimes they are great, sometimes they are not.  Sometimes people are great listeners, sometimes they are not.  Sometimes people need more than they can give, and sometimes people give more than they ever ask back in return.  We don’t keep score, we just offer the best of who we are at any given moment, and THAT is being a friend.  Offering the BEST of who you are all the time, and not keeping score, not holding a mental score-card of who is owing to whom.

http://mainetaining.blogspot.ca/2009/09/friendship-vs-keeping-score.html

It made me think that in my time of healing and nurturance for my family, perhaps this exposure is not healthy, if I am going to feel like I am NOT GOOD ENOUGH, after all, it just echoes for me what I’ve been told by my narcissist mother my entire life….it is the mantra of a daughter of a narcissist “I am not good enough”, and here I was told that as a result of my neediness lately, I was not a good friend either, having hogged the time.  Here in the midst of my acceptance speech for “most hard done by”, they started playing the anthem and flashing the red light on the teleprompter.

When you have people around you who can help you, listen to you, heal you – you can get through this.  Your primary helper needs to be your husband, but you don’t want to sound like a broken record to him either, so having others, good friends, a therapist, a support group, family etc. is so beneficial.  In fact, second to a remorseful and willing husband, proper supports outside of your marriage from FRIENDS OF THE MARRIAGE is crucial.  Beyond Affairs http://www.beyondaffairs.com has a BAN (beyond affairs network) with listings of support groups for may cities.  Check and see if yours is there – mine has one now, so my friends will all be relieved that I can offload elsewhere for a while 😉

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. When we told our friends and family we were surprised by how many actually stood by us and encouraged us to stay together. We were expecting the opposite reaction from many of these people. There has only been a couple of distant friends we’ve had to write off so far, and that wasn’t a big deal in the end. I think you have to be ready to lose some friends and family in situations like this. Surrounding yourself with only supportive, positive people is the only way to keep your marriage strong.

    You can always drop me an email if you need to talk. =)

    Wendy

    • We’ve had some great friends too. In glad you were able to find the love and support too. Most of my friends and I are on the same page about me staying. There was really only the one friend who was vocal about wishing I’d left. It’s funny when essentially she is facing a crumbling marriage and yet she stays too while advocating I leave.

      My husband’s parents don’t know. He won’t tell them. His mother is mentally fragile and he fears it would set off an unrecoverable cascade. His father cheated serially on his mother (which interestingly he never condoned and vowed never to be like him…and truthfully he’s not), and he fears his dad would simply side with him against me, believing its my fault, and then assuming I’m the issue in the marriage when really its his dear boy. So I’ve allowed him to not tell them but I do feel that due to the child, they should know. They have a grandchild but man does that complicate things.

  2. dotcablogger says:

    Glad to see that you’re getting to a better place with your feelings. I’m glad that you’re reaching a balance or a normal to have as a foundation. I’m glad that you’re making it with building, the pieces that you had, your life into one that you can enjoy again.

    • Thank you, and as you know, those feelings can be pretty up and down. It’s like a roller coaster with progress and setbacks. Nothing is predictable or linear. Truly the hardest thing I’ve been through.

      • dotcablogger says:

        Also Wendy is really nice :). She’ll help you out for sure!

        Anyway, this will sound cliche, but I see it as true: Just hang in there and keep going. Don’t ever stop with your recovery. And I hope ‘friends of the marriage’ keep showing up for you to keep close by.

        And for a while, I was worried that you were getting swamped and drowned by your anger about being legally embroiled with the “One Who Shall Not Be Named (Voldemort)”. But when you found Wendy’s blog that did help you get back on track to feeling better :).

  3. Laura burch says:

    I completely applaud your turn towards self-love. I think so often, the people going through this, can have such a detrimental impact on their self-esteem, and what they feel they are worth, that they deny themselves the love they deserve. When your husband tells you that he’s been cheating on you, your initial response is to think that it’s your fault. You wonder if you’re good enough, pretty enough, physically fit enough, young enough, smart enough… with so many other thoughts plaguing your mind about whether you are enough for him, I am glad to know that you feel as though you are enough for you.

    I can’t believe you had a friend tell you that you are hogging the spotlight. True friends don’t keep score. A true friend will not keep a running diary of how many hours you have spent talking about yourself. They also won’t compare your performance with their as a friend. Like you said in your post, sometimes people need more, and sometimes they need less. Sometimes they give more, and sometimes they give less. Your friend obviously doesn’t understand the detrimental impact that this has had on you, if she had the nerve to tell you that she felt as though you’ve been selfish, or have taken up too much time talking about this issue.

    My sister was the unfortunate victim of an affair by her husband. He cheated on her for more than six years. Her self-esteem was an all-time low, her neediness was at an all-time high. I love my sister, I care about my sister, and I will always put her needs ahead of my own. I don’t think that makes me a good sister, I think it makes me a good friend. I would do the same for any of my girlfriends, if they were going through this. To tell someone that they’ve talked too much about the issue, or that they’ve been selfish and taking up too much of a friend spotlight, as you say, is disgusting. That person ought to take a very close look at themselves. sure, my sister talked about herself a lot. She talked about the affair of a lot. It dominated most of the conversations we had for the greater part of 4 1/2 years. It’s only the last 18 months that her and I can actually get through a conversation without it coming up in some way. and like you said, even if she didn’t bring it up, it would make me ask her what was going on because I’d wonder how things were in the absence of her sharing it. We are now finally able to have conversations where his infidelity and the resulting outcome don’t come into play. Sure, I’m glad that our conversations have move past that. But it wasn’t because I was tired, or sick of it, or felt as though she was dominating and monopolizing the spotlight. She was the one who had a trauma, not me. My problems, are absolutely petty in comparison to what she has gone through.

    Your friends should be able to understand that you have been through a horrible trauma. I top of all of this your mother passed away. I can’t even imagine loading that onto your existing plate. When I look at my sisters situation, all of the problems that I have faced over the last five years are petty and small in comparison to what she has been through. I lost my job, our family dog died, my best friend moved out of the state. Those things are painful, yes, but they are absolutely petty in comparison to what my sister has faced. I wouldn’t dream of asking her to put her problems aside, to help me with mine, just so that the score could be “even”. The score can’t be even, when two people aren’t playing in the same game.

    I admire your strength and your resilience. I can’t imagine how having a child involved on top of all this has made it so much worse for you. Affairs on their own are horrible. I do your situation this additional layer, and you have something I can’t even fathom. I’ve read through your blog, and also read about the loss of your family friend, who turned away from you in the summertime, and your aunt is systematically tried to destroy your family relationships. You, my dear, have experienced a great great great deal of loss. I am so very sorry.

    • Laura, thank you for your reply. I appreciate you sharing your story and my heart goes out to your sister. You have been, from the sounds of it, a phenomenal support to her, and I am glad that she has had you 🙂

      I don’t want to make it sound like my friends are unsupportive. That is not the case. In fact, most of my friends have been very supportive, calling to check in, asking about me, offering to help seek revenge (LOL!), and offering to take the kids for weekends to allow my husband and I some alone time (we’ve never done that!). On the most part, my friends have been great. Unfortunately, I just don’t think that this one friend really “gets it”. Having never married, the depths of this are not something that she can possibly have perspective on. It isn’t like a long time boyfriend breaking up with you, or sleeping with another girl on the side. A marriage with children and investment like this is a whole other level that she has yet to experience, so I can’t expect her to understand THAT part of it, or the pain that comes from this. I couldn’t imagine, if the tables were turned, ever telling her that I felt that she was getting more than she was giving. I think I would expect that, given the circumstances. Maybe it is because it has been two years, and she thinks I should be “over it” by now, I dunno. But, if it illustrated anything, it illustrated that a scorecard is in play, and she has been keeping track, feeling unappreciated and needing more from me at a time when I have very little to give.

      I’ve tried my best, put on a brave face, not broken down into crying fits, and tried to maintain as “normal” an existence as possible, so as to not drag her or my other friends down. I really DON’T want it to monopolize our talks or become what our friendship is about, defining what we talk about. Perhaps my own ability to separate and compartmentalize has made me appear “fine”, “resolved”, or more “over it” than I am. I’ve had to become the world’s greatest actress, putting on a brave face for friends, clients, family, kids’ parents, etc. Perhaps seeing me looking fine made her feel as though I am better than I am….and hence assumed I should be more able to reciprocate than I, in fact, am. I guess I just don’t want to be a drag on others.

      Thanks again for your reply!

  4. Aranciata Guerrera says:

    I’m sorry but your friend sounds like a bitch, and your other friend is a hypocrite. I’d get rid of them both in a heartbeat. You don’t need to surround yourself with such selfish people, at such a sensitive time. Love you. If they can’t love you it’s their loss. You’ve been through enough.

    • Aranciata (I love your name by the way), thank you for your comment.

      I don’t really advocate “getting rid” of friends. I do believe, however, that sometimes one needs to take inventory of the friends that they have, and make changes when necessary. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship is over, or doomed. It can sometimes just mean that a person need not play as large a role in your life as before. I don’t like to “throw out” friends, trying always to remember that each person has their own unique gifts and that not all friends can be everything to one person. My friend may be hypocritical, but it’s what she needs to do for HER, and I accept that. I also know not to take her advice on marital issues like this. She can listen, and I appreciate that, but I take her advice with a grain of salt, always appreciative though for the support. I like to think it is well intentioned. 😉

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