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Burden of Responsibility: Is a mother to blame for her son’s infidelity?


I received an email from a reader of the blog today.  She is devastated because she just learned that her son has been unfaithful in his relationship, and she feels that she has failed as a mother.  As a betrayed spouse, she had a horrible experience, and wanted only the best for her children.  She shared the infidelity openly with them, in the hopes that they would see the pain their father had caused, and know the impact and devastation that an affair can bring.

She emailed me today to ask if I thought that she was a failure as a mother as a result of her son having strayed.

I picked up the email as I was stepping into the car to pick up my children from school, so I didn’t have the chance to send a detailed reply.  Since I was going to reply further, and since I know she reads the blog, I thought that others could also benefit from the post, and also chime in with their thoughts and support for her.

In my opinion, she is no more responsible for her son’s adulterous ways than she was for the affairs her husband had.  These are grown men, with free will, who should know better, and who chose to commit infidelity in their relationships…JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER MAN/WOMAN WHO DOES IT.  I told her in my reply that she is not responsible, and then I wanted to go into more detail and couldn’t.  What I would have added was:

My Mother in Law (MIL) was repeatedly cheated on by my FIL.  He took several mistresses, including my son’s nanny, and my MIL’s best friend.  Repeated infidelity over a long period of time, and infidelity that she came to know about.  Surely, she sought no help, and received no support.  I know this not only because this wouldn’t have been as commonplace (the support, not affairs), but also because she is not one who would know how to solve the issue, how to communicate effectively around it, how to seek support, and  is someone who would instead internalize it, thinking herself the cause, shifting the blame onto herself.  After many years, and a divorce, he abandoned her when she started to show signs of mental illness.  She was increasingly afraid to go out on her own, paranoid from time to time, and just not her old self.  She was damaged, and he moved on…married the best friend that he had once cheated with (needless to say that relationship didn’t last either).   She was, and still is, a broken woman.  She lives with her elderly mother, a woman who puts her down, makes her feel incapable and has essentially infantalized her into being completely dependent on her.

My husband had an affair knowing FULL WELL what the consequences of affairs can be.   He watched his mother disintegrate into a shell of a woman.  Is his mother to blame for not having “raised him right?”.  Absolutely not.  Should I blame her for not being proactive enough and educating him on how to prevent an affair?  No.  I can’t blame her anymore than I can blame myself for his affair.

So, dear reader, unless your son consulted with you, and asked you whether he should seek an affair and you helped him to have one, you have no responsibility for his actions.

Last night on the news, I sat transfixed on the story of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who were kidnapped and help captive for ten years, repeatedly raped and beaten by Ariel Castro.  I watched as they interviewed his mother, sitting in the front seat of her car, overwhelmed with grief and shame for her son’s actions.  She wept, speaking in Spanish, telling the news crew how she is so sorry for what he has done, and how she feels so badly for those girls.

I think we would all agree that this mother can’t be blamed for her son’s wicked actions, and we can all be fairly assured that she did her best in raising him, and cannot be held responsible for his decisions, many years after she has completed “raising him”.

Ted Bundy’s mother, Paul Bernardo’s mother…pick any sociopathic individual who has commited the most heinous of crimes, and we can still say with certainty that their mothers didn’t influence their actions, or play a role.

Dear reader, I know it is hard to learn that someone you love has been so hurtful to someone else, especially when you feel he should have known better, seeing what you had gone through.  It is hard to look at him, and not be triggered once more, feeling like the devil is too close.  It is hard to see him as your son, and not as a man who is capable of such deceit and causing such anguish.  Remember, that if he is remorseful, and truly wants to learn from this and grow, that he will need your support.  You are in a great position to be a support to his partner, and to help her through this.  You will help bridge the gap between them, and offer them hope and solutions.  You are, however, in no way responsible for what he has chosen to do, any more than you would be responsible if he woke up tomorrow and robbed a bank.

Stay strong.

 

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Affair proofing your marriage: Reinforcing the marital fortress


It sounds like “too little, too late” to say how to affair proof your marriage. After all, if you are reading this blog, and are interested in infidelity issues, chances are that it is because you have already suffered it. No one reads about, learns about, or cares much about the issues of infidelity until it smacks them in the face. Then, you start reading about all the things you COULD have, and SHOULD have done to affair proof your marriage. Annoying isn’t it? Why don’t marriages come with a manual? Is this what those “marriage preparation” courses teach young couples before marriage? Somehow, I don’t think so, but it would be nice.

OK, so many of us can’t affair proof our marriage in retrospect and alter time to put us back where we were, so that we could use those lessons to prevent our spouse’s affair, but we can put those lessons into place as we go forward. There will ALWAYS be vulnerabilities that make us more prone to an affair in our marriage, and there will always be opportunities that present themselves to us.  As I have mentioned before, an affair happens when the two collide – when vulnerability meets opportunity.  So how does one affair proof a marriage?

Step 1: Identify and be aware of your personal vulnerabilities and those of your spouse.  Know the things that make you vulnerable.  If you aren’t sure what makes you vulnerable to an affair, check out some of the items I’d posted in an earlier post that I linked to in the hyperlink in the paragraph above this one.  New job? Death of a parent? Recent move? Body image?  Raised in a family/culture where infidelity happened?, Work closely with members of opposite sex?, Travel for work?, etc.  These are just a small sampling of the things to consider.  Talk with your spouse about how many vulnerabilities you have, and be open about them.  Keep a tally on how many you have from a list you compile together, and check them over monthly to keep tabs on how you are doing.  Try to reduce the vulnerabilities where you can.

Step 2:  Work to reduce the vulnerabilities in your life that make you prone.

You might be asking, “OK so how do I reduce my vulnerabilities if they are out of my control, or past issues I can no longer correct for?”.  Good point.  You can’t change the fact that you were raised by a parent who was a serial adulterer.  My husband was too.  You can’t change the fact that you are changing jobs and experiencing stress.  You can, however, be AWARE that this change in your life presents a vulnerability that you need to be mindful of.  If you travel for work, perhaps try and cut down on the amount you travel, or arrange to bring your family/spouse when you can.  If you can’t do that, arrange date-calls while you are away to check in with one another.  If you work closely with members of the opposite sex, and frequently need to have lunch meetings with members of the opposite sex, arrange to someone of your gender also present, when possible.  If you can’t, perhaps arrange to lunch somewhere very public, not conducive to chit-chat, once the work has been completed.  The more you can reduce the vulnerablities and be AWARE that they are there, the better you will fare.

The biggest vulnerability of all?

THE BELIEF THAT YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO FALL INTO AN AFFAIR AND THAT YOUR MARRIAGE IS IMMUNE/SAFE FROM INFIDELITY

If you believe the above statement to be true, then you will not have your guard up appropriately, and be constantly patrolling for holes in your marital defence wall.  Now, you might say, “I don’t want to live my days worrying about safeguarding something that I know is strong.  It’s too much work, and focuses my thoughts on something negative that hasn’t even happened.  I’d rather use my energies for things that ARE happening, instead of constantly worrying about something that won’t”.  True….but false.  You know the saying “Marriage is work?”  This is what they meant.  It is a constant evaluation and reevaluation of where you stand together. It is the awareness that as your lives together move and sway, that you sway with them together.  It isn’t blind faith and hope that things will turn out, or that you feel you know yourself and your spouse well enough that you can guarantee an affair won’t happen.  Trust me, this was OUR biggest vulnerability, and we made the mistake of thinking that this was a strength.  It wasn’t.  Falsely believing ourselves immune, we didn’t look at or focus on things to reinforce our marital wall, and as it crumbled, we weren’t even aware, because instead of doing a 360 degree check, we chose only to look out the rosy side of the fortress we were trying to protect.

Step 3: Reassess regularly where you both score on your vulnerability list.  When you find that one of you has increased vulnerabilities, talk about ways to reduce them together.  Add in extra support for one another when one is going through a change of job, a change of life, a loss. Remember to always show care and compassion for your spouse when they are in a dark place, and remind them that you are on their team.  Work together always.

Step 4: Be the reflection your spouse needs

Over the years, and the many many many conversations I’ve had about infidelity, listening to the countless tales of others who have walked this path, I’ve noticed a trend.  Those who have fallen into affairs, did so unexpectedly, and in most cases, did so when someone of the opposite sex provided for them adoration, admiration, compliments, positive reassurance or confidence-boosting commentary.   When you take the time to ask people what pre-dated the affair starting, they will usually tell you that it was something about the way the other person made them FEEL about themselves.  Pumped up, and admired for their unique talents and gifts, someone noticed…someone took the time to let them know that they noticed…someone took the time to tell them it was a wonderful quality…someone else made them feel GOOD.  Brian Bercht of Passionate Life Seminars, said it best when he said “Men have an ego miles and miles wide…and a quarter of an inch thick”.  It needs to be reinforced for both genders.  At the end of the day, we want to know that we are admired by our spouse, that we have qualities that still light them up.  Be the source of light and positive reflectivity your spouse is looking for, and they won’t need to find it elsewhere.

I think it goes without saying, and I don’t need to add a step that you should take time to be with your spouse, and have quality time.  That is assumed, and doesn’t, in my opinion, require its own step. It’s not a step, it’s a given. 🙂

If you think that the desire to not want to cause pain and suffering to a spouse is enough of a deterrent to prevent an affair, you are wrong.  When in the affair, the cheating spouse isn’t even thinking of you, nor the consequences, and if we compare it to other situations, we see that self-fulfilling situations will trump one’s desire to not want to inflict suffering on others.  Teenagers, aware of the risks of STD’s and pregnancy will STILL engage in the behaviour of unprotected sex because:

1.  It feels good to them in the moment

2. They are thinking of the hear and now and not of the future

3. They believe it will never happen to them.

In my next post, I would like to tackle the thought: “How could my spouse do this to me knowing how much it would hurt me”, and “How can s/he claim s/he still loved me despite the affair”.

Healing weekend for betrayed spouses: Taking your life back


Have you recently discovered your husband’s affair?

Did your husband or wife confess their affair to you?

Have you tried to recover, but see no other option but divorce?

Are you healing together as a couple, or does your wayward spouse not promote healing for you and you are doing it alone?

Did your spouse leave you for the other woman or man?

Whether you found out on your own, or whether it was confessed, whether you are working on your marriage, or have taken steps towards separation or divorce, one thing is true: You have been betrayed, and have experienced significant trauma. Whether you go it alone, or with the support of your spouse, you will need to find solid ground again, love yourself, move forward, and exist happily in a future relationship, if one is in your future.

Recovery is hard.  Recovering from my husband’s affair is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I am one who has seen a lot of hardship and who has risen to meet many challenges.  I would not wish this journey on anyone (except maybe his mistress), and if I have learned anything from this, it is that support and understanding from others is crucial.  I’ve lost friends and family as a result of his affair.  Some people simply can’t relate or take the strain.  Many crack and fall away when a couple reveals difficulties like this one.  Seeking support is so important, and one of the many reasons I suggest finding support groups in your area to meet with regularly, to vent, to cry and to learn.

I can’t say enough about Anne and Brian Bercht, whose “healing from affairs weekend” catapulted me so far forward in my journey, and for which I am forever grateful.  After all of that, I am pleased that there is also an option for betrayed spouses to attend a weekend, without their spouse, for a deep look at the struggles that we, as betrayed spouses, face.  I signed up for an upcoming weekend, and I could not be more excited.  I hope to come back a new person, if it is anything close to how I felt after the weekend that my husband and I spent together with them.

I am always sad to learn of men and women who are recovering alone, either because their spouse has left them, the marriage has ended, or they are working on it, but the one who is doing the work is the betrayed spouse, without the love and comfort of the one who deceived them.  This weekend is for anyone who has been betrayed and who want to heal, either alone or as part of a couple.

From their website:

During this journey of healing from affairs …

Are you stuck in your healing journey?
Do you feel devastated beyond words?
Do you feel isolated and alone?
Are you wondering if you can ever be happy again?
Are you confused about what to do?
Do you feel like no one understands you?
Do you feel embarrassed? Ashamed? Judged? Misunderstood?
Are you afraid about your future?
Are you furiously angry?
Do you struggle with obsessive thoughts?
Are you wondering how to take your life back?

Than this may be of interest to you …

At our Take Your Life Back Retreat you will get …

  • Rest and refreshment for your wounded soul
  • A chance to talk with others who understand
  • A time to cry
  • A time to laugh again
  • Clear perspective to make sense of this unfair event
  • Motivation to go back and live your life with strength again
  • Unstuck
  • Clarity about how to proceed with your future

And you will learn …

  • How to forgive
  • How to release the pain and sadness
  • How to stop the obsessive thoughts
  • How to deal effectively with anger
  • How to rebuild your self-esteem
  • How to live as victor and not a victim
  • How to make sensible decisions for the future
  • How to get on with your life in the best possible way for you

The Take Your Life Back seminar changed my life in SO many ways. On the first day of the seminar I could hardly talk and by the end I was feeling so strong and able to come back home and live life stronger and with more love and compassion in my heart. There are still many challenges that I struggle with but now I know that I am not alone. The very reason I went to the seminar was because I felt SO alone and in such turmoil. I needed to talk to someone, anyone, who was going through the same issues that I was. The seminar was packed full of opportunities for self discovery and I wouldn’t trade a moment of that weekend! It has been a year since discovery of the affair and I am so proud of myself. My children have said to me, several times, “Mom, you are the strongest person I know and when I am feeling like I can’t go on, I look at you and you inspire me to be strong too.” Those words make me cry every time I hear them from both of my girls and I couldn’t have done it without the Take Your Life Back weekend. I am so grateful for all my experience that weekend and Anne and Brian Bercht both were invaluable in helping me find the strength to move forward each and every day. I encourage everyone to go to the weekend and learn to find courage just like I did. I came away from that weekend with so many tools that I rely on almost every day. – SP, California

 

I just wanted to let anyone who is suffering know about this wonderful resource.  If you can manage it financially, I am certain you will feel it was worthwhile.  I believe in it so much, and I know Anne and Brian do too.  That’s why they always guarantee their classes.  If you haven’t checked it out, you can do so here.

 

Marriage is easy…it just takes love. Right?


I never understood what people meant when they said “marriage takes work”.  What were they talking about?

“If their marriage needs ‘work’, I would think to myself, “then clearly they shouldn’t be together”. 

Marriage doesn’t take work, it takes love.  Or so I USED to think.

My husband and I had the perfect marriage.  We were in love, we adored one another, we were physically and sexually attracted to one another, we enjoyed each other’s company, and more than that, we admired one another.  We each saw in the other, things that we admired and appreciated.  We saw each other as capable and recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  We had perfected the dance of marriage, with each of us compensating for the other, stepping up in the areas where the other was weak, and hanging back, when necessary to let the other shine.   It was a dance perfected over time.  If you had asked either of us, in a candid moment, whether we were happily married, we would have said YES unquestionably.  My husband and I would often comment to each other about how lucky we felt to be together.  While friends and acquaintances appeared to be struggling with their partner, we really weren’t.  We would sit and listen to friends complain, “My wife is so controlling”, or “My husband puts me down”, or “My husband never tells me that he listens to me”.  We would remark how unhappy they seemed, and basked in the thought that we were above them, that our marriage was better.  We were, in essence, impermeable to problems.

Sure, our marriage had its problems like all marriages.  We would fight, and I will admit, I am NOT a good fighter.  Fights send me into “Fight or Flight” mode, and I am a expert at the latter.  I flee.  I run.  I hide.  I then pretend like it’s all better, and plead that we not talk about it anymore.  It passes, and we get back on track. Until next time…

Despite the occasional dispute, we really had no complaints.  We didn’t have money problems, he has always been a good provider, a wonderful father, and an exceptional example in his career.  We would sometimes hear of affairs, and it would further reinforce for us our impermeability.  “Well of course he had an affair”, we would think, “they fight all the time and she is all over him like a wet shirt…he needed his breathing room”, or “I just knew she would find someone else to give her the attention he never gave her”.  We would then make the natural comparison to ourselves, and feel reaffirmed that we were better, stronger, impermeable.   My husband has always told me that he loves me.  He tells me often that I am beautiful, sexy, or ‘hot’.  He complements me on my abilities.  He takes me out for nice dinners, and buys me thoughtful gifts without me having to drop hints.  He knows me very well.   How could a marriage like that suffer an affair?  We were, after all, impermeable.

It was that very belief, that very statement that brought us comfort and security that would later to prove to be our greatest downfall.  We thought we were perfect.  We thought our marriage was better than others.  While we may have been right on that last one, it didn’t mean it was perfect, and that it didn’t require work.  But, what does WORK mean in a marriage?  Counselling?  Learning to fight fair?

The very fact that we thought that we were in a great place and impermeable to this problem is the very reason I never looked for the signs.  It was the very reason I had never educated myself on infidelity, even though both my father, and my husband’s father had both cheated in their respective marriages.  It was the reason that when my husband found himself becoming “friends” with his work colleague, that he didn’t put boundaries in place, talk to me, communicate about his feelings, or even second-guess them,  because we were both living under the assumption that it would NEVER HAPPEN TO US.

It was the mistake of our lives.

25 months into my journey to healing from my husband’s affair, I now know many things:

  • Talking does not mean that ‘communication’ took place
  • I have to learn to be a better listener
  • Men and women need to be aware of what makes them vulnerable to an affair, and to put into place safeguards, the largest of which is to communicate with your spouse
  • Couples need to share complete honesty about their past hurts, their childhood scars, and learn more about each other and what has happened to form them the way that they are
  • No matter how long you have been married, and how many times you have said it in the past, every partner needs to know that they are valued and loved, attractive and invigorating, captivating and irresistible.
  • Couples need to schedule time specifically for the purpose of discussing their marriage.
  • Couples need to use this above mentioned time to discuss the ways in which they will continually try and improve it
  • Couples need to build trust with one another, by meeting and sometimes exceeding the needs of their partner.
  • They need to learn to anticipate these needs, and fulfill them before ever being asked, simply because they know one another well enough.
  • Couples need to be  honest with one another about their feelings INSIDE and OUTSIDE the marriage, including their physical attractions to others
  • Couples need to learn to communicate in a way that ensures that their partner feels 500% convinced that they have been heard, and in a way that validates their feelings.
  • Couples need to learn that sometimes, communication is a one way street, and all you need to do on this particular episode is listen and make your partner feel heard.
  • Couples need to have fun together, and to remember that their partner is a fun person, not just the father/mother of their children, and their spouse, but a person with value as well.

Doing the above takes a lot of work.  It takes time, dedication and a willingness to put it together.  It requires scheduling the time together, setting aside other plans, having uncomfortable discussions, facing their own hangups from childhood which impede them from being the spouse that they need to be in order to create a fully functional ‘whole’.

Marriage is HARD.  It isn’t enough to just love one another.  It takes WORK, and I now know what that work is.  It is a constant checking in, a constant re-evaluation of where you stand, and where you wish to be.  It is a work in progress, with each day offering you a new opportunity to overwrite and re-write the formula for your marriage.  That kind of thing doesn’t just happen, and it won’t just magically fall into your lap.  Couples who have great marriages have them because they put the work in, and they recognize when work is needed.  They didn’t just happen.  They aren’t just “the lucky ones”, because luck has little to do with it. They don’t blindly assume that they are impermeable and they take the steps to protect themselves.  They recognize their faults, and that they aren’t perfect spouses.  But they also take the time to try and grow for one another in ways that help their relationship.

In a sense, I guess for me, the word “partner” has taken on a whole new level of meaning.

Finding my happy place


I love my husband.

There is no hesitation when I write that, or when I think about that.  I’ve loved him for almost 16 years, and a day hasn’t gone by that I’ve doubted that.  Despite the love that I have for him, he cheated on me with another woman for ten months.  Lacking something in his life that he couldn’t explain, he was inexplicably driven to seek out something destructive, and he found it. He tore me apart emotionally, broke my heart unconsolably, and almost shattered our beautiful family and our happy home.  Despite all of that, I love my husband completely.

For those who are reading this for the first time, or for those who have been recently affected by an affair, my words won’t make sense.  In fact, it would be easy to write them off as “just another woman with low self esteem who is ok with letting a man treat her like shit, and she will come back for more, and claim to love him because she doesn’t think enough of herself to leave”.  Easy to say, given the circumstances, but it would also be dead wrong.

We have done an enormous amount of work, he and I.  From the moment that the affair was revealed, my husband and I got to work, mobilized our best resources, and although drowning, fought to come up for air, convinced that we were going to come out of this hell hole alive.  We joined forces against the borderline personality disorder-afflicted other woman, sought out legal counsel, obtained advice from a marital therapist, attended weekly marital therapy every week for 18 months while I attended my own personal therapy every week.  We fought, we cried, we talked, we hugged, we held each other, we hated each other, but through it all, we also loved each other.  I have never stopped loving my husband, and that has been the hardest part sometimes.  I think, with all that we have been through, that it would have been easier to hate him.  It doesn’t hurt as badly when someone you don’t love hurts you, so hating him may have relieved the incongruity that I felt loving a man who had hurt me so badly.

I feel like I have been living in a bubble, surrounded by the affair.  Living inside the affair, you have a different perspective, and it can be easy to have your perspective affected by the constant, in-your-faceness of it all.  This weekend, I stepped outside of the bubble, and had the privilege to see it from all sides, not just the inside that I was living in.  I use the word privilege on purpose, because it was just that.

My husband and I attended the Healing From Affairs Seminar this past weekend with Brian and Anne Bercht.  You may know Anne, or have heard of her book, “My husband’s affair became the best thing that ever happened to me”.  She and her husband Brian travel the continent offering support and seminars to couples devastated by an affair, and I was fortunate to have learned that it was going to be coming to my city this past weekend.  I jumped on the opportunity, told my husband, and had his full participation.  We left the kids with responsible others for the first time in the time that we have had kids, and decided to give ourselves not the gift of time away, or the gift of a romantic weekend.  We decided we were going to save our marriage.  Together.

We spent three complete days immersed in understanding the affair, ourselves, our personality types and how that plays into our recovery as well as our married lives together.  We learned about affair vulnerability, why the affair happened, how it happened, and completely dissected it.  We learned about trust, forgiveness and intimacy in marriage, and how to strengthen our bond, our communication and our marriage.  It is no small thing when I say that my husband and I emerged completely changed by this past weekend.  It was the best investment that we could have made in our marriage, and I am so glad that we went.  I learned things about my husband that I didn’t realize were contributing factors, and he learned about me.  Having a couple like Anne and Brian who have been through an affair, and completely recovered, stronger than before, was inspirational.  I felt privileged to be asked to share my story with her, and to gain her perspective.  My husband, and the other wayward spouses had the same tete-a-tete with Brian.  My husband finally had the chance to speak to another man who had not only “been there”, but who listened to him without judgement, offering only loving support, and a willingness to help us succeed.   My husband later had the chance to speak with Anne, and hear a woman’s perspective on an affair, NOT from me, the woman he had betrayed.  I had the chance to learn about the affair through the lens of a man, thanks to Brian, who helped to solidify for me the knowledge that my husband’s affair had NOTHING to do with me as a person, as a lover, or as a wife.  It’s one thing for your husband to say that to you, but it is completely different and transformational when you learn that he isn’t just saying that to make me feel better, but that this is the case for most affairs.  Men don’t cheat because they aren’t happy at home.  Marital issues do not lead to affairs.  One does not depend on the other, and perfectly happily married men have affairs.  Their wives are devoted, loving, caring, compassionate and sexually available.  They, however, find themselves in a vulnerable place due to a myriad of factors.

I feel closer to my husband than I have in a long time, and I dare say, closer than I may have ever felt before.   We learned such deep things about each other, and ourselves as a couple, that we truly feel privileged to be together, despite all of this.  He is my one and only, and I am his.  That won’t change.

The seminar provided us with such hope for the future, and restored a lot of trust in my husband that I was missing.  It helped us to repair and rebuild.  In some ways, it feels like we are starting over, but with better tools to build a more solid structure than we had the first time.

It’s like my husband said at the end of the seminar: I wish we’d been able to gain these insights and have access to the knowledge that we now do, without having had to make this journey.  But, I have also come to realize that the journey is important.  Our struggle, the difficult days, the painful moments, the agony and despair – it was all necessary.   We need to have gone through that to see how resilient we are, to prove to ourselves how hard we would fight for one another.  If I’d been given the knowledge for free, without the mess, I’d just have the knowledge of how to make a strong marriage going forward.  What I would be missing would be the awareness of just how much I am loved and valued, something I learned this weekend, thanks to Anne and Brian, but mostly thanks to my husband who was willing to show that to me.

If you have the chance to attend, I would strongly recommend that you do.   Whether you want to reconcile, or whether you are still on the fence, your path will become more clear after you experience the seminar.  Hopefully your husband shows remorse for his actions, and shares with you a desire to make things right, to take responsibility, and a desire to be your healer in the journey.  To listen to a teleconference with Anne and Brian about how the spouse who had the affair can become the healer, and how to start on that path, click here:

http://www.beyondaffairs.com/MP3s/TS-2009-June30.mp3

 

I am in a much better place, and I am so thankful to Wendy, for her recommendation on attending this seminar.  She was completely right.

Where I was stuck was in how to forgive?  How to stop feeling contempt?  I was making the mistake of thinking that I would just wake up one day and feel healed.  I was thinking that I would suddenly no longer feel hurt or betrayed. I was thinking that I would wake up and no longer have a need to rub his nose in the affair for sport when I was feeling badly about myself.  I now know that moving forward to a place of forgiveness is a choice.  It is a choice that involves active effort on my part.  It won’t be given to me, and it won’t appear in my lap.  It will be something that I will choose to feel, when the time is right.  Knowing that it is under MY control makes it tangible and more attainable.

And because my husband will be receiving this post in his inbox as soon as I hit “publish”, and will read it, I wanted to say publicly:

I love you with every ounce of me.  You are my heart, you are my soul, and it is a privilege to be your wife.  I will work every day to keep strong what we have, and to foster a healthy, passionate, and fulfilling life with you.  I am so appreciative of your willingness to come with me this weekend, and so touched that the weekend has impacted you in the way that it has.  Seeing how much you enjoyed it reinforces for me that we are touched in the same way, and want the same things.  I am so thankful for your willingness to take responsibility for your actions.  Disclosing your affair to me voluntarily showed me that you have great character.  I am thankful that you have never blamed me for your affair, and for being honest with me in the details when I have asked.  I appreciate your sensitivity and your compassion to my pain, and am thankful that you have been willing to put yourself into my shoes, and see the affair from my side.  I appreciate your patience while I have been healing, and your willingness to act as a healer for me.  You know my heart better than ever, and I am confident that we are closer than we have been before.  I want to remain that way.   I look forward to deepening that connection with you.  Thank you for sharing your life with me.  I love you with all of me.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


When I first made the decision that I would stay in our marriage, I felt like a coward.  It seemed as though everyone else was leaving, and why wasn’t I?  Tiger Woods had just been accused of cheating and his wife was leaving him.  Sandra Bullock suggested that Jesse James ‘not let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya’ (she didn’t actually ever say that, for the record).  Acquaintances whom I knew had gone through something similar were all jumping ship, separating, divorcing, making schedules for who would have the kids and when. And there I sat, choosing to stay with the man who had brought me so much heartache.  What was wrong with me?  Why was I so weak of character that I didn’t want to leave despite all signs pointing to the obvious?  Was I flawed?  Marred?  Scarred?  Abusable?

Over time, I’ve come to realize a few things:

1. Good people can make mistakes and still be good people
2. It takes a lot more work to stay and work on a marriage than it does to simply abandon it  and walk away
3. We live in a society where marriage is disposable and people are often too quick to throw it out
4. My responsibility in this lies not only to myself and my well-being, but also to my children and theirs
5.  You can’t change anyone but yourself, but if you find someone willing to change with you, embrace it and travel the road together

My husband isn’t perfect, but he is pretty close -for me, anyway. I saw this today, and thought I would post it for all of those people who have been hurt, deceived, and cheated on, and yet who have chosen to stay.  Many others won’t understand it, and you may get a lot of flack for your choice.  I applaud your courage and strength to face this every day, and do what you can to create something beautiful from the mess that has been dumped upon you.

Since we live in a society where marriage is disposable, I think sometimes, just sometimes, under the right conditions, we can take the crap we’ve been dealt, and work with it to create something better.  Instead of throwing away your marriage, employ the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce: Take steps to reduce the negative forces on your marriage.  In many cases, that force is other people who aren’t, as Shirley Glass calls them, “friends of the marriage”.  If friends, family, or others aren’t supporting your union, and taking steps to cause you to question it, they need to be voted off the island.  Surround yourself only by those who support and cherish your union.  If a co-worker is making inappropriate comments or flirting a little too heavily, she isn’t supporting your union.  She needs to go.  As flattering as it is, she needs to be cut out like a tumour.

Reuse:  Remember the things that brought you together, the things you enjoy and the things you value most about each other.  Focus on those things and try to reintroduce them into your lives as you rebuild it.  Visit the place you fell in love, your first date, where he proposed.  Revisit and reuse those places again, and keep the memories and the feelings of those places alive.  It is sometimes easy to forget, but it is a gift if you can bring yourself to remember and value what you had before the shit hit the fan.

Recycle: Don’t be so quick to throw your marriage out.  Although divorce is at an all-time staggering high, you don’t need to be a lemming and throw yourself off the cliffside just because your friends are doing/have done it.  Reinvent your marriage with what you envision it to be, and take the steps to help your marriage become what you see.  Invest in marital therapy, and do your best to spend quality time together working on your marriage.  Make it a priority, not a side-thought.  Instead of throwing it out, recycle it into something new.  It will look different.  It will feel different.  Nothing recycled ever resembles what it did before.  But you may end up finding out that what you’ve created is a gem.

I love you sweetheart.

Bipolar


Some days, I feel bipolar.  I wake up feeling great, and within minutes, I feel like crap.  I have good days, and I have bad days.  I think all of us who go through this do, so I don’t feel abnormal about it, but I do notice the oscillations.  I wish I lived on a more even keel.  I am a big lover of predictability, and I hate that I can’t even predict myself some days.

Today I find myself feeling more tired than usual.  I am supposed to be getting work done, and I can’t bring myself to focus and concentrate on anything.  I would prefer to sit here and type out my feelings.  Yes, it means I will be behind tomorrow, but then maybe that work will help me to not dwell on the sadness that I still feel.

I am sad, I suspect, because I am feeling disconnected from my husband.  We haven’t been able to spend much quality time together lately, and we’ve had some disagreements that we haven’t properly repaired and swept away.  We’ve had some tense and frustrated moments, and although they were few, I find those little things add up for me, and I need to feel that I’ve closed the door on even those little things.  I feel like we’ve drifted a little from the close place we are in after therapy.  We missed therapy for 2 weeks and it makes such a difference for me.  Our therapist is able to find ways to navigate our discussions in such a way that we slow down.  I find we are always so quick to prove a point, or to defend our position.  I find myself defensive and then feeling attacked and unloved, and then I withdraw.  It is my pattern, and now I know it.  I feel it coming on, and I still don’t quite know how to stop it.  It is comfortable and familiar…it’s what I do.  Anything else feels awkward.

Strangely, what also feels awkward is the acknowledgement to my husband that I feel disconnected.  It is a catch 22.  I feel disconnected, and therefore I don’t feel connected enough to feel comfortable mentioning the fact that I feel disconnected, which leads to more….disconnection.  The good thing is that he reads these posts the moment they are posted, so I at least I know of one way to tell him how I feel when I feel awkward….blog it!  What did couples do before they could communicate using technology?  Maybe they actually spoke to each other?  LOL!  Let’s see how long it takes him to come up from the basement and mention this post…

We sooooo need a babysitter.  We need date nights.  We need alone time.  We need time to focus on ourselves and our marriage and our friendship.  We don’t have that, and it sucks.

If our parents were at all reliable. we would do what I see so many other friends doing – calling their moms to take the kids for the weekend and taking off.  I will never take a vacation without my kids.  I will never have parents willing to help us in that way.   Why are we so lucky to have been blessed with such uninvolved and unsupportive parents in light of this tragedy in our lives?  Why does everyone else seem so much more connected to their families than I am?   I often blame my parents but maybe it is me.

I oscillate between wishing the mistress could stumble across this blog and read for herself what a trash whore I think she is, and enjoying the fact that I can write without doing so FOR HER.

All of this back and forth makes me feel bipolar.  It makes me feel unstable.  It makes me feel dizzy.  I need a good cry.  I am off to my steam-shower to sit in my cloud.  It is what I do when I feel sad and alone.

“Would the white elephant please stand up”


If I’ve learned one thing from this journey, it is that I am not  great communicator.  I like to talk, that is true, but I do not communicate well.  I am intensely sensitive, and I think I often recoil from saying what I really feel, or expressing what I need if I think it is going to upset another person, make them think less of me, or question their affiliation with me.  I guess I just have a lot of open wounds about having relationships be conditional upon me being perfect, doing and saying the right things.  Thanks mom for that crutch.

My husband and I are very sensitive people.  We listen, we care, we want to help.  We genuinely enjoy talking about our feelings.  We just don’t do it well with each other in a marital context.  We have great intentions, but we need tools.

What we have come to learn from marital therapy is that there is a way to communicate, and while it is so simple, it eluded us for the longest time, and is something that doesn’t come easily.  Even though I know the formula now, I still revert back to those old patterns that get me and us stuck.

My a-ha moment in therapy happened many months ago.  We were discussing how I hadn’t mentioned my feelings of sadness that week to my husband, and had chosen instead to keep them to myself.   They festered, they grew, and I found myself feeling excessively sad.  As the days went by, my sadness grew, turned into despair and on some days, turned into a desire to end my life.  When our therapist asked me why I chose not to talk about the pain of my week, I mentioned that I felt as though all I was ever talking about lately was how depressed I am, how sad I feel, how lonely I am, how fragile I feel….”what a downer I am”, I thought.

When you are wounded from your spouse having turned to another, your self esteem plummets.  Suddenly, you want to show him that you are the best thing in the world, and hope that he realizes his error in judgment.  Determined to show myself in the best light possible, I didn’t want to constantly be a mess of despair and tears.  I didn’t want him to associate me with pathos.  I felt pathetic, but I didn’t want him to think I was pathetic, so I chose to keep my pathetic feelings to myself.

Our therapist has taught us that seeking and offering clarification is key to communicating.  Getting your point across and knowing that you have been heard, and your message interpreted as intended are important.  To this end, he often has us turn our chairs toward each other and ask one another for clarification, or seek information to help us better understand the other.  If we find ourselves taking action or building a case based on assumptions, we are to ask the other person to clarify so that we don’t have a misunderstanding.

Being in therapy is like having a marital referee for an hour; someone who analyzes and evaluates what you say, how you say it, and the subtle undertones that underlie communication, in order to help you navigate a conversation at a deeper level.

So, back to the therapy a-ha moment…as the therapist asks me why I haven’t been sharing my feelings.  “I don’t want to be pathetic.  I feel like a loser and it is ALL I ever talk about anymore”.  Some more probing questions revealed that I had been withholding because I didn’t want him to see me in a pathetic light.  To see me as anything less than perfect makes me vulnerable to him leaving me (remember that relationships are conditional in my upbringing), so I didn’t want to always be projecting negative feelings and being a downer.  He had us turn our chairs together, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: “He is going to think I am pathetic”
Therapist: “You think he will see you as pathetic if you share your feelings of sadness?
Me: “Yes”
Therapist: “Have you asked him whether this is the case?
Me: “No”
(We turn our chairs to face each other)
Therapist: “Perhaps you can share with him why you haven’t been sharing”
Me: “I am afraid that if I continuously share sad thoughts, look sad, act sad, talk about the affair, ask questions, cry, etc., that you are going to think I am needy and pathetic and I worry that you won’t find me attractive”
Spouse: “I would never think you are needy for expressing your sadness.  It is understandable that you are sad.  I’ve done a horrible thing to you, and I expect you to be sad and to talk about it.  I don’t want you to hold things back from me”
Me: “But it is all I ever talk about, and I am afraid it comes across as needy and pathetic”
Spouse: “Of course you think about it all the time.  So do I. This is a hard time for both of us, but I would rather you share your feelings, good and bad, rather than keep them to yourself. I want to hear your feelings, and I want to help.  I don’t find you needy, nor would I.  I am prepared to listen to whatever you have to say for as long as you need to talk about it. I did this to us, and this is my cross to bear too.  I will do whatever it takes to make this better”
Me: “So  you don’t find it pathetic and unattractive?”
Spouse: “No, I don’t.  I find it understandable”

That conversation was an a-ha moment for me because I realized that a lot of what *I* do is make assumptions about what I think others will think or feel.  I then change my behaviour to suit my paradigm, and much to my surprise, I guess I am not often right.  Shocker!  At key moments when I feel myself pull away, recoil, distance myself emotionally, it is because I have a fear.  A fear of what the other will think, do, feel about me.  So the trick, as I have learned it, is to call out the white elephant in the room, and label it for all to see.

It would look something like this:

“I have some feelings that I would like to be able to talk to you about, but I am scared to share them with you because I fear that you will find me needy and unattractive for continuously harping on my sadness, so I am finding myself pulling away”

As you can see, the above follows the pattern:

a) what I need
b) what I am scared of / what is holding me back
c) what that fear is doing

Putting your fear right out in the open, allows the other person access to it, and an opportunity to address it and alleviate it.  Telling him that I was fearful of his evaluation of me and what it was causing me to do (withdraw), allowed him an opportunity to educate me on how HE feels and how my actions are TRULY interpreted by him.  Only when you call out that white elephant, and ask it to stand up, can you truly find out how someone else is interpreting you.

We make a lot of assumptions.  I know that I do.  My assumptions are probably wrong most of the time, and yet I allow them to navigate my decisions.  I am trying not to do this, but it is so hard.

This, of course, works in all relationships, and is something that I want to practice more with my friends also, to avoid those disagreements that come from silly misunderstandings.

Therapy has truly been a gift in so many ways.  I find myself excited for Fridays when my husband and I have a chance to reset our batteries, recharge our emotional connection and spend an hour focussing solely on us.  Oh, and leaving that office feeling extra connected, emotionally cared for and heard does something for my libido.  Good thing therapy is on Friday and I have the entire weekend to express my appreciation 🙂

Blogging


I had a chance to tell our marital therapist a few weeks ago about this blog.  He was less than enthusiastic.  His big fear, I suppose, is that by communicating through this blog, I am hiding behind a screen, and not facing my husband to discuss the issues firsthand.  Instead of simply saying “I need to talk to you. I am having a lot of fears and flashbacks this week”, I blog about it, he reads it, and we discuss.  I think as long as the discussion follows, there is no issue. I actually find blogging to be relaxing, and I think it helps me to unclutter my thoughts and feelings.  I also like the support gained from readers, so I hope you will continue to read, share it, pass it on, and link to me.  I will do the same with your blogs if you let me know the URL.

You plant beans…you get beans


This is an expression that has been used in my home for as long as I can remember.  When a child exhibits a behaviour pattern that is just like that of a relative, my parents would exclaim, “you plant beans….you get beans”.   The implication, of course, being that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Now, what I am about to talk about actually isn’t genetics…it is learned behaviours picked up through associating and learning from other people.  It is the argument that scientists call “Nature vs Nurture”.  Do you behave the way that you do because of genetic imprinting, or because of learning it from your environment?

In my childhood home, feelings were not often discussed.  It was almost as if it were a crime to have them.  My mother, despite claiming to be the most understanding, caring, warm and compassionate person in the world, coils away from feelings especially when they are possibly the result of something she may have done.  Her defensiveness was a roadblock to her taking the time to attend to the feelings of others.  Now I should mention that I think she CAN be caring, warm, compassionate, and understanding….to friends and acquaintances – when her ego isn’t at stake.  My father is allergic to emotion.  The emotions he conveys are happiness and anger.  He is pretty good at those two. But, he is very poor at identifying the emotions of others, and certainly doesn’t want to talk about them.

I learned at an early age that it was futile to approach my parents with any emotionally laden information.  Hard to do when you are a highly emotive person.  I also learned that if anyone was going to solve my problems, or attend to my emotional needs, it was going to be me.  I became a highly effective person, capable of solving my own issues, resourceful, efficient, capable.   What this has created, in me, is a person who isn’t used to asking for help, who isn’t comfortable admitting that I can’t fix it myself, and who relies solely on themselves.  I feel like a failure if I need to ask for help.  It feels like a defeat.  Now, I should mention that I don’t apply those same rules to others, and welcome them to come to me when they need help…I am efficient and effective, remember?

In a marriage, when two people come together to mutually support one another, a certain reliance on the other is to be expected.  An attachment forms between you and your spouse, and you come to rely on their for emotional support.  I had never learned to do that very well, I guess, and neither had my husband.  He was raised in a very chaotic environment as an only child.  His father was more consumed with himself – a narcissist.  His mother was unable to attend to emotions, and is one of those “Sweep it under the rug” folks who downplays everything with a smile, and “It will be OK” attitude.  Not very helpful when you have a real problem and require real guidance.  So, we both learned to rely on ourselves.  It was a very functional way to be during childhood and adolescence, but not terribly functional within a marriage.  We would soon realize that.   Our ability to communicate our problems was very limited, and there is no question that if my husband felt as though he could come to me for help, he would have turned towards me, and not away from me.   This was one of those things that shouldn’t have been tackled alone.  He wasn’t prepared, he didn’t see the forest for the trees, and became entangled in something he didn’t even see coming.   It was, in essence, a recipe for disaster.

With parents who didn’t meet my basic emotional needs, and seemed disinterested in general, I grew up feeling unloved.  The attachment I had to my parents was unstable, and I could never be certain that they would come through for me.  As a child, I remember being sent to an overnight camp for a month at the age of 8.  I was homesick, and didn’t want to go.  But, my older brother was going, seemed to love it, and they thought it was a good opportunity.  I was shipped away. I was there for three years before I hit my breaking point, and asked to come home mid-session.  My parents were disappointed, and I suspected that my grandmother, the financier, was upset at the loss she incurred as a result.  A few years later, it was determined that I should attend a private school for higher education.  My grandmother was big on that.  At the age of 13, I started writing entrance exams for the school she had selected for me. and I was accepted.  Once again, I was being sent away.  I never did attend, after putting my foot down and refusing.  I can be pretty stubborn…it’s a self protective thing.

Through therapy, I’ve come to realize that my childhood experiences have created in me a deep fear of abandonment.  I don’t want to be sent away to camp.  I don’t want to be sent away to private school.  I don’t want to be sent away.  I desperately craved an attachment to something permanent and reliable, and I felt unwanted.  That fear has followed me into adulthood, and creeps up from time to time, when I feel vulnerable, when my husband is angry at me, when I think he is going to “send me away” – or leave me.  Obviously, you can see the deep nerve the learning of his affair caused.  He’d abandoned me.  He’d walked away from me.  He’d separated from me.  Our attachment was unstable.  It was like my childhood fears all coming to the surface again.  The one person I’d managed to make a solid attachment to, felt completely loved by, completely secure with – had abandoned me too.  It hurt deeper than I could ever have imagined.  I wanted to recoil into a little ball, and I think I probably did.  Until my self-reliance, effective, reliant self kicked in – and I started researching infidelity online, desperately searching for information on how to cope, what it meant, and if I’d ever be ‘normal’ again.

Your past plays a huge role in your present, and your future.  Who you are today is directly the result of experiences that helped shape and mold you.  Hopefully, those experiences have resulted in positive adaptations and coping strategies, and hopefully you feel loved and supported.  For all of those positive experiences, unfortunately, we all have something that has damaged us inside and that we’ve had to adapt to, work around, grow in spite of.  Some of us have more of those than others.  It’s a matter of taking what you have, learning the most about yourself from the inside out, so that you can work with it, and create the best life for yourself.

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