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Using grief for good


Have you heard the concept that the act of smiling releases “happy hormones” that can actually alter the way someone feels? Researchers suggest that when feeling down, that one force oneself to smile because the act of smiling has been proven to improve mood. Interesting.

Along a similar vein, I’ve also heard that the best path to happiness is to feel gratitude. To be honestly and completely thankful and grateful for those things that one has. Now, admittedly that can be hard to do in the face of a trauma like the discovery of a spouse’s unfaithfulness. It’s easy for ones self-talk to focus entirely on the unfairness, the horror, the utter victimization. After all, how can you NOT think of those things?

I would challenge you, however, to think today about 10 things you are grateful for. Off the top of my head, here are mine as I sit in an airport waiting at the gate for my flight home.

I am grateful that…

1. My children are healthy
2. I live in the free word
3. I was able to afford breakfast this morning and eat while so many cannot.
4. I am flying home today
5. I have a family waiting for me when I get there
6. I have a husband who honors my
healing journey and who has graciously “allowed” me to leave home for 4 days to coach betrayed women on their
journeys, being a full time parent alone.
7. I have a wicked sense of humor
8 I’ve been blessed with the ability to “feel” whether good or bad.
9. I’ve been blessed with a compassionate heart for others.
10. I’m alive.

The mere act of being grateful and taking the time to actively think of the things for which we are grateful has the same function as smiling when we are sad. It causes a shift.

Take some time to be grateful, to find a reason to smile, even when it seems dark. There is ALWAYS

    something

to smile about.

On Friday afternoon, I watched 30 women walk cautiously into a room. They all had in common the pain of infidelity. For most of them, their eyes remained downward, their demeanor apprehensive. They had all arrived for the “take your life back” weekend. As coaches to them, we had prepared a weekend for them that they were likely all scared to experience but perhaps a little excited too. The physical transformation of these beautiful souls was inspiring. Women whose faces were lowered Friday were glowing on Sunday. Those broken down and beaten were inspired and hopeful, with a renewed purpose upon returning home. It was beautiful to witness, and some of those women are readers of this very blog.
It was an honor to meet you, hear your stories and to be given a window into your journey so that I may help you walk it.

I am hopeful that every one of those women return home today with a reason to smile, each with a new battle cry and a renewed sense of self. I am so proud of each and every one of them for showing such bravery and honesty this weekend.

There is such beauty in turning ones grief for good…, so I guess that’s 11 things I am grateful for today – the opportunity to be able to use my story to heal others. May each of you on this journey seek out the same opportunity when you are ready, whether as a coach or a confidante…your compassion and understanding are now a gift you can give others to give them a reason to smile and then pass it on.

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Man of honor: words from a husband


My husband wrote me the following last night, after reading the previous blog entry. It speaks to his experience of the “man of honor” weekend, what he pulled from it, and how he sees his future.

I am sharing it in the hopes that it can help give some insights into his thinking on his affair.

With respect to the blog post that I prepared for you…I was disappointed that it did not speak to you in the way that I had developed it in my mind. I can see how you would receive it to be a disturbing, insensitive, and emotionless post. I was surprised that it came out to be that way – but I understand how it came to be, and I would like to share with you my thoughts.

I had spent a year developing various ways of expressing myself with regards to this very important post. One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to sit down and spend a few hours writing. All I achieved was a chronology of the events of the year, and the recovery following. It was very unfulfilling, and added nothing new to the situation at hand. When I learned about the Man of Honour weekend, it gave me the hope that I would spend a weekend with men focussing on the affair, dissecting it, and rising to a revelation about the situation. In the end, I think that I did that. I regret that it’s not palatable to you. If there’s one thing that I learned from the weekend, it’s that men and women approach the affair situation in very different ways. It leaves me to wonder if the critical elements that are required for men to understand, digest, and recover from the affair are not, and perhaps never could be, the same kind of elements that are necessary for women to recovery irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator of the infidelity.

As the weekend progressed, I became acutely aware of a need to develop a vision of myself as the man who I want to be in the future. Clearly the man who I was in the past was not suitable. This vision is important not only because it of the way I want to see myself, but because it will engulf the man who I intend to be as a husband to you, a father for our children, and the career man who I want to be remembered as. People often use the idea of writing one’s own eulogy as a way of identifying the key means of direction for their moral compass. Bryan Bercht and the Man of Honour weekend helped me transcend that overused eulogy creating exercise. It was from that weekend that came my blog contribution.

There are three key elements that came out of the Man of Honour weekend that changed my vision of who I aim to be. The first is the notion of the Man of Honour, the second comes from the words of Victor Frankl, and the third is just me putting it all together into a vision of the future.

On Friday night, our group of approximately 20 men ate our dinner, we were engaging in polite conversation, and cautious of broaching the delicate issues of infidelity. We then assembled in a meeting room and upon the request of our leader, we assembled a list of qualities that we unanimously agreed would reflect a man of honour. I find it ironic that a group of men, disgraced by their infidelity, would have any right to develop a definition of the man of honour – it’s like asking a group of criminals to re-write the criminal code (with the anticipation that it would be a better document than the original). However, from the broken rubble of our lives, we developed the following list of characteristics that would represent a Man of Honour:

The qualities of a man of honour are:

· Honesty
· Integrity
· Trustworthiness
· Accountability
· Reliability
· Loyalty
· Courage
· Loving
· Committed
· Friendly
· Humble
· Compassionate
· Empathic
· Sincere
· Role model
· Patient
· A good listener
· Willing
· Transparent
· Victorious
· Enthusiastic
· Understanding
· Dependable
· Hard working
· Genuine
· Resilient
· Consistent
· A leader
· Forgiving
· Generous
· Strong sense of conviction (spiritual, hope, core values)
· Optimistic
· Perseverance
· Unselfish
· Cooperative
· Servant
· Team player
· Looking out for others

On the Saturday, our group hiked through the mountains of Colorado, 9000 feet above sea level with stones in our nap sacks, short of breath and tired. While we did that, we reflected on our lives, the damage that we caused, and tried to find ways to support one another in our journey (both to face the physical demands of the hike, and to help repair the emotional damage that we brought into our lives). Our course leader reminded brought our attention to Victor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a Psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. All members of his family, including his wife and brother were killed. Dr. Frankl survived and during his ordeal, he developed a philosophy and treatment methods that helped many people. The one point that struck me as most relevant to my situation was the Dr. Frankl stated “One cannot always control the circumstances that lead up to events that happen to them, but one always has control over their response to those circumstances.”.

Out of the rubble of my mistakes, I am actively building a vision of the person that I want to become. I want to be a man of honour. In fact, it’s sometimes a trigger for me that guides my values. It can be as simple as paying for street parking. It’s no longer about a desire to avoid a ticket, paying for a ticket to park on the street becomes a brick in the foundation that I am building to be a man of honour. It guides everything that I do. I sometimes fall short, but I continue to work at it regularly. The second part of that vision involves the words of Victor Frankl – I may not be able to always choose my circumstance, but I can always choose my response to those circumstances.

When I think back to my acts of adultery right now, I am in disbelief about my actions. Regret is an understatement. I have an incredible wife, wonderful children, and an enviable life, how could I have done what I did???? The act destroyed the lives of so many people-it’s truly unbelievable. To truly be a man of honour, I have to take accountability for MY actions. Naturally there were circumstances that were very difficult, but in the end, I chose the wrong actions! Dishonorable actions. Yes there were extreme circumstances, yes I was cornered, and yes I was isolated from anyone who could help me, but my personal recovery, my first step towards a more honourable life requires me to accept accountability for my actions –fully! Why? Am I being too hard on myself? No, because a man of honour must act with honour, dignity, and fortitude. The price for being a man of honour may be a high one, but the price for being a man of dishonour is even greater.

As I move into my mid forty’s I begin to see my mortality on the horizon. I don’t mean to evoke feelings of sadness or pity. In order to live a fulfilling life, one must be aware of their mortality. Recognizing that there is an ultimate finality, one’s actions are guided differently than that of a person who has no appreciation of the short time that we have on this planet. The way we experience the world, the decisions that we make, and the way we spend our days changes when the days become numbered. To that end, I bring the first part of my life to an end – I close that book altogether. It was formative, and I will never forget it, but I feel that it no longer represents the person who I am today. With the many lessons that I have learned, the experiences that I have had, the mistakes that I have made, and the triumphs that I have achieved, I begin to develop a map for the way I intend to live the second part of my life. Most importantly, I intend to live my life with honour.

I am sorry that I hurt your feelings with the blog post that I wrote for you. Perhaps I was too brash, bold, analytical. Too much time spent looking at the situation from above rather than experiencing the importance of the moment from within. I love you deeply and I find it hard to live with myself every day that I think about what I had done to you, to our family, and frankly to this world (albeit, very small part of the world). I am hopeful that by becoming a better man, a better person, a better husband I can make an impact and make it right.

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.

 

Teleseminar recording is now available – Come listen!


Betrayed spouses…if you missed the opportunity to hear the teleseminar that took place this past week, on Tuesday night, February 5th, you can now hear it online.

Anne Bercht invited me to join her on the call this past week and share my story.  Those who have been following my blog know it well, but if you would want to listen in to the discussion that was had, click on this link to be taken to the recording, and think of attending future ones live, or just enjoy listening to past calls on the beyond affairs tele seminars page. 

 

 

Drip…drip…drip…The danger of the “trickle-truth”


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Trickle-truth: A phenomenon whereby an individual who has betrayed their partner reveals the complete truth s little at a time, as opposed to all at once.

You either have a denier, a gusher or a trickler. A denier will deny the affair is happening, and make you feel like you are going crazy, filling you with self-doubt. A gusher will explode with all of the truth right away, whether they were caught or whether they willingly disclosed. A trickler, on the other hand, reveals information slowly, over time, possibly telling lies to conceal certain aspects of the truth until they are ready to let them out in a slow and controlled way, thereby delaying the betrayed partner from having the “complete truth” for some time.

Do you have a denier, a gusher or a trickler?

I had a gusher, and I am thankful.

First of all, I should back up one step. Before the truth can come out or be received, the betrayed partner needs to decide at what pace they wish to receive the truth, and how much detail they want/need. Not everyone needs or wants the details. I am NOT one of those people. I wanted to know as much about the affair as my husband did. I didn’t like knowing that another woman knew more into that window of his life than I did, and so I set out to see the affair through his eyes, to share in the details and not feel as though I was left out. So, for me, having a gusher was a good thing.

Aside from complete denial of the events, trickle-truths have to be the most damaging thing to the healing process, second only to finding out that your affair never ended, after being told it had (but that is another blog post for another day). And so I write this blog post for the spouse who betrayed. Yes, you…I am talking to YOU this time.

Being betrayed hurts. It hurts like hell. There is no greater hurt imaginable. Whether you were discovered accidentally, or whether you came clean and told your partner you had an affair, the simple fact is that you committed a crime against your marriage, and have changed your spouse forever. The hurt that comes from the betrayal of the most intimate part of your life is intense. But what carries more weight than the details of your behaviour during your affair are the details of the behaviours you exhibit AFTER disclosure. Whether you are aiming to reconcile or whether you are headed towards separation or divorce, your partner is going to want to know what happened. BEing cut out of someone else’s life, and having a secret life outside of them is hard to wrap your head around. When your whole world comes crashing down, and you are given the devastating news, you really do start to question what was ever “real” in your life. In order to make sense of the information, many betrayed spouses find themselves asking a ton of questions designed to pieve together the puzzle, create a timeline of events, and make sense of what happened. It isn’t enough to know that you cheated. We want to know where, when, how often, with whom, in what way, what you did, and most of all WHY you did it. We want to know if she was prettier than us, if she was smarter, if she was better in bed, if she was thinner, if she made you laugh more, if she was….better. Whether you are uncovered or disclosed, your opportunity for some sort of redemption is NOW. You are already found-out, you really have nothing else to lose. So, why do the trickle-truth way of concealing certain details, only to reveal them later? Don’t you know that is more hurtful to us? All you are doing when you do that is protecting yourself, and once she realizes you aren’t being forthcoming, she will see that you are once again thinking only of NUMERO UNO, and not putting her needs first.

I know that you feel ashamed. Maybe you feel angry because your secret has been uncovered, and you feel like you can no longer partake in your extra-marital activity. Regardless, all you want is for it all to go away. If you could snap your fingers and make her “reset”, whereby she is aware of the affair, but never raises it, doesn’t cry, doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t hold it over you, and doesn’t threaten to leave…I bet you’d snap those fingers. I know that anytime I’ve felt shame, I’ve just wanted to hide and come out when it is safe, has blown over, and people have forgotten about it. I get it. But, let’s face it, you did something pretty vile, and you need to take responsibility for your actions and the hurt they have caused. Telling the truth is only part of what is necessary, so I start there.

When your hurt partner asks you for the truth, they want it. They NEED it. You hold the key to their healing, and if you deny them the truth, you deny them healing, or at best, you delay their healing. Neither are good options. I firmly believe that people ask questions at the time when they are ready to receive them. In the case of infidelity, I think this is an exception to that rule. Sometimes a partner asks for the truth, demanding it immediately, only to discover that they aren’t emotionally ready to process what has been offered. The betrayed spouse has a responsibility in asking ONLY THOSE QUESTIONS THAT THEY ARE PREPARED TO HEAR THE ANSWERS TO. You will need to talk together about how fast and how much, but just knowing that you are giving it ALL to her/him at the speed at which S/HE needs to hear it is so comforting.

I look at it this way: The affair was a wall between you and your spouse. Your activities were completely hidden behind the wall. When the affair was blown open, it threw open a window between you and your spouse. She can see you, and you can see her. She might even be able to climb through the window to meet you on the other side. But, each time you tell the truth in a way that shows her that you concealed it previously, the window closes by an inch. With each concealed lie slowly making its way to truth, the window openings gets smaller and smaller until you find yourselves on two opposite sides of the window, unable to cross through to the other person. Your window, right after the affair is the widest it will ever be. Keep it that way by telling the truth as you are asked. Each time you do, the truth helps prop the window open, making it more likely that you can 1. See each other better, and 2. One of you will make the overture to join the other on their side.

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It sounds silly, but in the wake of my husband’s affair, while I was reeling in pain, the one thing I could feel comforted by was knowing that although it felt I had momentarily lost him to the other team, knowing that the truth was given freely each time I asked felt like he was coming back to mine. Knowing that I could access the information that I needed whenever I needed it, allowed me to feel as though I was strangely in control of something. When you learn of your partner’s affair, suddenly you are strapped into a roller coaster ride that you never intended to board, and you feel as though your life has run away with you, and you aren’t in control of anything. Your partner cheated, perhaps the other party is making demands or acting like a nuisance…either way, you feel out of control. Having the information as I needed it allowed me to feel some small semblance of being in control of my self.

For me, I wanted the information right away. I told my husband to give it all to me at once. When he disclosed, I felt as though my world was pulled out from under my feet. I had fallen down, and getting up felt like an insurmountable task. The last thing I wanted was to stand up, knowing the truth I had, bearing weight on my legs again, only to have them swept out from under me again with some new unexpected information. I wanted it all at once – quick – like a bandaid. I figured: “knock me down, beat me up, kick me while I am down here. But, so help me God, if I have to get up and be knocked down again….I don’t think I will get up the next time”.

My husband was forthcoming with the information I needed. It was one of the factors that allowed him to restore my trust in him. Had he withheld, told me slowly, or concealed further, it would have added insult to injury. It would have left me feeling as though he didn’t respect me enough to tell me the truth. It is one thing to conceal an affair when it is a secret. It is entirely another to be given a chance to come clean by someone who is begging you for the truth, and then deny it knowing how much it means to them. When you are in the affair, you can rationalize why s/he doesn’t need to know. You can justify your actions and secrecy by saying that she wouldn’t want to know. But when s/he stands in front of you, a broken person, and begs you to tell the truth, and you don’t….on purpose…you are simply someone holding onto a large cold glass of water, and depriving the parched and dehydrated person in front of you from taking a sip.

Now, if you are the betrayed spouse, there is a way to minimize trickle-truth. Remember, that trickle-truth tends to happen because the unfaithful partner feels scared and ashamed. They are less apt to tell you the complete truth if they think it will harm them (you will walk out, you will threaten to take the kids, you will divorce them), or if they think you will use whatever information they provide as ammunition against them later. Remember that you too have a role here, and that is that if you are going to ask for the information, you have to promise to use it internally only, for your own knowledge, and that you won’t turn it around and use it as poison. No one will offer you a vial of poison if they think you are going to turn around and pour it down their throat. Reassure your partner of why you want to know, and that you won’t hurt them with the information. Reassure them that although it might hurt YOU like hell, that you will do your best to process the information that comes in a way that is healthy and helpful to both of you.

Being betrayed hurts. Being deceived after the betrayal is uncovered is just further disrespect. You don’t have to spill it all in one episode, but the simple act of reassuring the betrayed spouse that you will do your best to give her the information as you remember it, when asked, is a huge step forward and earns big points.

Betrayed spouses: Be prepared for some of the answers that you do get to be “I don’t remember”. This is especially true if the unfaithful spouse is male. Men simply don’t remember the details the way us women do. We remember what he was wearing, what cologne he had on, whether it was breezy out…he simply doesn’t look for, appreciate, or need that detail in order to live his life, so he may not have made that mental note. But, don’t fret, those memories can come back, if they are given time to percolate. The important thing is that the unfaithful spouse doesn’t start creating details that weren’t accurate simply for the purpose of ‘having an answer’. That helps no one, and can do more harm than good. If you don’t know – say so. If you spontaneously remember in a few days, gently remind your partner that you’ve had a breakthrough memory of the events s/he was asking about, and ask when it would be a good time to share it.

Healing can only begin once the truth is known. Finding out weeks or months later that the “truth” you thought you had wasn’t the truth at all can cause significant setbacks in healing. If you want to move forward to a place where forgiveness is possible, a place where she doesn’t “bring it up anymore”, where she doesn’t “ask anymore questions”, and where the affair no longer dominates discussion, remember that truth now brings healing later. Truth later, brings healing even later. In a nutshell: You need to sit in the shit before you can get out and towel off. Be willing to jump in.

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Remaining true to myself and my journey


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This weekend, I had the opportunity to be exposed to an individual who really pushed my buttons.  He had requested to be a part of the support group that I head up in my city.  It is for betrayed spouses only, and our only pre-requisite to join is that you are a betrayed spouse seeking support who has never, in turn, betrayed someone else. I will call this member, “memberX”

We meet in the same place every month, and we take turns sharing an issue which is coming to a head for us at that moment, that we need support on, or share something that has helped us in the hopes that it helps someone else. Over the months since I started the group, we have developed quite a strong and supportive network, and we look forward to our monthly meetings.

As we sat together this week, we had a couple of new faces.  As is usually the case, I take some time before the meeting to talk quietly with the new members to reassure them that there is no need for them to feel pressured to speak, and that they can share the details of their story at their own pace, if at all.  I hadn’t shared any of my story, or the details that my husband and I had fully restored our marriage.  I simply started the meeting, and allowed it to take its course.  Within a little while, as a member was sharing something about her pain and grief and the process she had undertaken and some choices she had made, he piped up and mentioned how he had done things totally differently, and how he saw no value in how she had handled it.  It was in respect to telling friends about your spouse’s affair.  This woman had opted to not share the details of her husband’s affair with anyone.  She felt shame and embarrassment, and didn’t want to burden others with her pain.  Instead, she was suffering silently.  I see value in sharing the details with friends, but being very selective in WHO you tell, as I had told some now who I wish did not know.  I feel regret. The support I got wasn’t worth the regret I now feel.  I chimed in that she need not suffer alone, and that she may want to tell one close person who she feels would be able to help her.  The other members piped in and suggested she might have family, friends, or people overseas that would allow her to share her feelings, but not burden them with the immediate compassionate response one would feel compelled to give when sitting face to face.  MemberX interrupted with the comment that he couldn’t understand why she hadn’t told anyone, after all, he had told EVERYONE. Completely discounting her feelings and showing no compassion for her process, he undermined her completely, offering instead his advice based on what he himself had chosen.  The ‘rulebook and healing wisdom’, as compiled by memberX.

Later in the meeting, I was asked how a wayward spouse can ever be certain that they won’t betray their spouse again.  My comment was a fairly straightforward one. ” If a wayward spouse has done the internal work on themselves and thoroughly made an effort to understand HOW and WHY their affair happened, to see what decisions led them to the path that they found themselves on, then when in the future, they come to that same fork in the road, it will arise in them a feeling of discomfort and familiarity.  They will know that they are sitting at a fork in the road, and be able to make decisions backed by a knowledge of where they are at, and why they don’t want to go that way.  The first time they were on that path, they were blind, led only by unconscious feelings.  Bringing those to consciousness and having a desire to understand is what will prevent them from going down that same road”.  “Bullshit”, memberX yelled from across the table.  With suggestions that he and I might have to “agree to disagree”, he told the members of the group that all wayward spouses will reoffend, that it will only be easier the second time.  The horror and pain in the eyes of those at the table who had been working to reconstruct their trust was palpable, and the discomfort around the room was thick.  “So you think that each of our spouses will do this again?” I asked.  “Absolutely” he replied.  I found it almost comical that someone who showed absolutely no insight into affair recovery, and who had done very little self-work or marital work, and wasn’t given a chance to heal his marriage, could do so with such certainty and faith in their position. I think opinions are great, and I welcome debate when it is done with intelligence and knowledge, but this was simply blind opinion, fed only by his own jaded and bitter perspective, and I felt sorry for those around the room that were hurt.

Later into the meeting, as we sat and talked about ways to maintain and restore trust, I talked about the ways in which partners could openly and together reinforce the boundaries of their relationship by constantly patrolling the integrity of their marital fortress, and patching any holes in its foundation.  Sometimes one partner can see what another can’t, and just like the umpire in a baseball game giving the pitcher direction about which way to throw to avert the other team, a spouse can offer insight and vision to his spouse about threats to their marriage that the other partner is blind to.  I told a story about another couple who have it as an unspoken rule that if one partner suspects someone else is interested in their spouse, they tell the other, and no-questions-asked, the exposure to that individual is limited.  They, as they say, “have each other’s backs”.   MemberX laughed loudly, tossing his head back with a non-chalance.  Once again, my story and perspective was called out as “bullshit”, and we were going to have to agree to disagree.  According to memberX, his wife was a grown woman who made her bed, made her decisions and should have known better.  While I agree wholeheartedly with that, I also know that there are a myriad of other factors, and that it isn’t as simple as that.  He commented that if an individual needs their spouse to externally govern their behaviour because they don’t have the internal fortitude to govern themselves, than the fault lies with the one who can’t be governed.  He also went on to say that he himself would never find himself in that situation, would never hurt and betray his spouse, and wouldn’t need someone else to be his eyes and ears.  I think that is wonderful, if he believes that, but I also know that no person and no marriage is immune.  I also know that to think that one is completely impermeable to an affair, that it is the biggest vulnerability that he can have, and is what makes him the most vulnerable of all to it.  His comment that he could have a woman naked in his lap and not be tempted simply showed the simplicity of his thoughts on the matter.  It isn’t about sex, it isn’t about being tempted.  It is very black and white thinking to think that every affair is borne from someone being tempted and then succumbing to the temptation and making a choice to have an affair. Yes, some affairs are pre-planned.  I would wager a bet that this is the minority of them though.  Most affairs aren’t intentional, and until you take the time to actually read up on, and understand the anatomy of an affair, and how they happen to otherwise GOOD PEOPLE, you will simply just go on being bitter.

I think the thing that perturbed me most about the exposure to this person was that his comments were made in an attempt to invalidate my experience. What I felt important were scoffed at.  What I felt had helped me (and countless others) to heal and find peace, was laughed at, and given no credibility, no weight, no acknowledgement.  I have just fought the war of my life for the one that I love, and I have been through hell and back a few times.  I’ve been bitter.  I’ve been jaded.  I’ve wanted to kill myself. I’ve wanted to not wake up.  I’ve gotten up, tried again, fallen down, and kept rising.  I’ve found resources to help me understand what has happened to me.  I have attended seminars and teachings about how to heal.  I have listened to countless stories from betrayed spouses, wayward spouses and couples trying to heal to see the pattern we all share, what works, and what doesn’t.  I’ve used this information to forge tools to help in my healing.  Not only did they help us to survive, they helped us to thrive.  When you have been through the devastation of an affair, and have put in the work to REBUILD your marriage, which means dropping the bitterness, dropping the sense of entitlement to your pain in order to hear out your spouse, dropping the feeling of superiority in order to get a true and honest appreciation of the COMPLETE picture, not just your side of it, and taking the time to LEARN things you perhaps DIDN’T KNOW, you learn to appreciate the tools you used to rebuild.   They have deep meaning for me, those tools., and I will be damned if someone is going to come in and ridicule them. These beliefs and tools continue to help me along this path, and have also helped countless others who forged the same tools.  Some things just WORK.  But to sit in a room and listen to a person discredit what I have found to work, to undermine the power in the techniques that I *KNOW* work, and to undermine my healing by telling me that I am full of shit, well that really impacted me.

You see, memberX, I don’t need people to agree with me or my methods, or my perspective.  All I ask for is to show COMPASSION for another person’s journey and what they have found has eased their pain.  Agree with it or don’t, it isn’t your place to ridicule it.  I won’t ridicule how you go about your healing and I certainly won’t tell you that you are full of shit because you choose to see those who cheat as eternally flawed and not worth being redeemed, even though I do disagree.  And when I do disagree with you, I will keep it to myself and simply allow you your time to speak because I am there to support you, in whatever way YOU need that to look like.  If that means stomping my feet and standing beside you while you scream out that the world isn’t fair, and that cheaters suck ass, then I will do that.  What I won’t do is ridicule you when I don’t agree.  Instead, I will simply remain quiet and give you the chance to process your feelings.  I simply ask you to do the same for me, and for all of us around that table because it is, after all, a support group.

And with that, I will say that I remain true to my feelings, and my process.  I have done amazing work and am proud of what we have accomplished.  I am not a naturally forgiving person, so to have the biggest hurt possible thrown at me, and to come out the other side able to forgive…I think I will pat myself on the back thank you very much, and I don’t need or ask for anyone’s agreement or recognition.  I was given the choice to be bitter or be better, and I choose to be better.  Choose whatever path makes you happy, and brings you peace and comfort.

At the end of the meeting, as we were saying goodbye, he smirked and said ” I hope I wasn’t too hard on you”, to which I replied “absolutely not, because I will always be tougher”.  He scoffed as I turned to leave.  After going through what I have, I firmly believe that I am tough.  I won’t cower to anyone, and if you choose to ridicule my process, and undermine what has been truly inspiring and helpful to me, you WILL see a strength you don’t expect.  Trust me, I didn’t know it was in there either, until I had to rely on it to survive.

 

Happy Birthday to my husband’s mistress


Yes, today is the birthday of my husband’s mistress.  “Why on earth”, you ask, “would you remember THAT??”

First and foremost, I don’t try to.  I have a tendency to remember dates and numbers.  Call it a curse.

But, before you get all annoyed at the fact that this date is emblazoned into my memory, it does bring about a funny story, so I will tell it.

I became aware of her birthday, likely because my husband was employing her at the time, and likely asked my opinion on what to buy her as a gift.  Or perhaps she had asked for the day off, and I became aware of it that way.  Whatever the reason, I can no longer remember the circumstances around HOW I became aware of her birthday, I just know that it is February 1, 1976.  Today she turns a ripe old 37.

A few months after D-day, probably 3-4 months, my husband drove me to the local market so I could pick up some items for dinner. With the kids in the car, I went into the store alone, leaving him to entertain the little ones.  I figured it was easier to get in and get what I needed unencumbered, without children in tow.  I stood at the checkout, my husband’s wallet in hand. I hadn’t brought my purse for whatever reason, so I was using his credit card.  It wasn’t the first time we’d done that, and I was well aware of his PIN.  I entered the PIN when I was instructed, and it told me the PIN was incorrect. “How could that be?”, I thought to myself.  I tried again, this time being very careful, as I assumed I had pressed an incorrect key.  Failing again, and the clerk staring at me like I had two heads, I quickly called my husband on his cell while he sat in the car.  “What is the PIN number on your credit card?”, I asked.  And firstly, I should mention, that his PIN number has always been known to me, and is the same as many of his passwords, so it was quite shocking to think that it had even been changed. “2176” he said.  “OK thanks”, I said quickly and hung up, so that I could be rung through and get out.  As I am waiting for the transaction to approve, I am thinking to myself “2176….what does that even represent?  Why would he select that set of numbers.  It isn’t our ages, it isn’t a child’s birthday….oh my GOD it is HERS!!” and I freaked out.  2-1-76….February 1 1976….her birthday.  Had he really changed his PIN number to her birth date?  Why would he go to such effort to change a PIN on an existing card if not to give himself a little reminder of her during the day when he would have to key it in.  Sickened and disgusted would be an understatement.  It was before I had started this blog, and that would mean that we were 3-5 months out – nowhere near healed but on the right path.  To say that I was re-triggered was an understatement.

I wanted to raise it, but I was afraid.  I wanted to confront him, but I felt stupid.  Why did I feel afraid and stupid?   I didn’t want to sit there across from him and have to watch him tell me that he had changed it on purpose, that the most memorable date that he could think of to program his PIN was her birthday…not mine.

I stuffed it down for as long as I could but as we drove home, I asked: “Why did you change your PIN?”.  He explained that he hadn’t changed the pin. The bank had issued him a new card, and that was the default pin he was given.  He simply hadn’t changed it.  I didn’t buy it for a second.  Me, the betrayed spouse, on hyperalert wasn’t having the woool pulled over my eyes again.  “Bullshit”.  I called him out on it because there was just no way.  We talked once the kids were no longer in the car, safely out of earshot.  He simply couldn’t understand why I was so upset about a new PIN.  He chalked it up to my pain…I am sure I was doing a lot of things out of character at the time, but he really wanted to know why this was such an issue.  I drew it out for him clearly:  2-1-76…..February 1, 1976 – “HER BIRTHDAY!!??!?!?!!”, and my husband’s face went quickly from a look of confusion, to a look of shock, to a look of confusion….he was dumbfounded.  He went rifling through some bank envelopes to show me the one where they created his default PIN….but alas he had thrown it out.  He wanted me to see he wasn’t lying.  He wanted to prove it to me, but couldn’t – the evidence was gone.  The look on his face, however, was enough.  He was as shocked as I was.  In fact, he didn’t even remember that her birthday was February 1st…only *I* had remembered that, and I remembered it because it had recently been included in the old emails he had given me access to.  He hadn’t changed the PIN, and he hadn’t selected the numbers.  It was sheer coincidence, but it was far from funny.

Now, of course, the nay-sayers who sometimes pop up on this blog in comments will say that he was lying.  That is OK.  You can think anything you like.   What matters is what I saw, and what we did with that information.  My husband was remorseful that such a random event had triggered me, and he understood the reason.  He promptly went to the bank and changed it.

This morning, as I drove to work, I was reminded of the date, and because I don’t forget details like these, I remembered it was her birthday.  For some reason, dates and numbers stick in my head.  I can tell you the birthdate of every past boyfriend, the date we got together, the date we broke up….I can’t NOT remember it, as much as I try. I think that having a negative association to a date just makes it stick around, and not wanting to have a negative association to her birthday, I offered her this birthday wish as I drove:

“I sincerely wish _______ a very happy birthday today.  I hope her day is filled with happiness and love, and that those who choose to celebrate with her remind her that she is loved, and that she has every reason to focus on the good things in her life.  I hope that she has a good day with her daughter, and that being surrounded by those who care about her raises her self esteem, fulfills her, and lets her know that she is loved, today and always”.

I smiled as a drove after that, partly because I had buried the negative association but mostly because I knew she would never do the same for me, and let’s face it, I enjoy being the bigger person 😉

**If this posting date confused you, yes I did back-date the post.  I started writing it on her birthday, and stopped writing halfway through as family matters took precedence, so I finished and posted it today**

Dealbreakers


When something traumatic happens to us, our world shatters.  What we knew before is now changed, and we question what we ever saw as “truth”.  Many of us struggle with the idea of what we could have possibly “done” to have “deserved” what happened to us.  The simple truth is that none of us brought upon ourselves the circumstances that led to our suffering, and we aren’t karmic collateral damage.  We are victims of the unfortunate and stupid, careless and hurtful actions of someone who vowed to protect us.

Today, while at the support group that I lead for betrayed spouses, we talked about our respective “deal-breakers”.  Each of us took our turn sharing what, for us, would be the ultimate deal breaker in our recovery.  For some, it was that their wayward spouse seek and attend therapy.  For others, it was that the wayward spouse grant the hurting spouse the opportunity to seek and receive support from others outside of the marriage.  For me, it was an interesting question to ponder, as I don’t think I ever had one dealbreaker.  For me, having the affair was supposed to be the dealbreaker.  I was “supposed” to walk away from my marriage, kick my husband out on his ass, and get on with my life.  Wasn’t that, after all, how I said it would be when he and I would talk about infidelity?  Isn’t that what I had vowed I would do?  Why then, did I not do it?  What was my dealbreaker???

In the wake of my husband’s affair, the deal breaker became whether he was going to support me or not.  Would he blame me?  Dealbreaker.  Would he find ways that I led him to, and threw him into an affair through my actions, our marriage, or my lack of je-ne-sais-quoi?  Dealbreaker.  Would he refuse to listen to me when I cried, or deny me the compassionate ear, the receptive shoulder?  Dealbreaker.  Would he tell me that I raise the affair too often?  Fail to look inside himself at what he was lacking and how his own issues led him down that path?  Restrict me from seeking support, prevent me from telling those I needed to, deny me the right to be angry, pick on him when I needed to, or just cry spontaneously in every-day moments becoming embarrassed by my reaction?  All dealbreakers.   I came to realize, as I drove home from the support group, that I have no ONE dealbreaker.  They were ALL dealbreakers.  For me, the dealbreaker was in preventing me the opportunity to be a victim, and to play that out in whatever way I needed to at the time.  I needed my husband to give me complete permission to say, do, seek anything that I needed at any time in the name of supporting me as a victim of his crime (an affair is not a mistake, after all, it is a CRIME against the marriage – thank you Anne Bercht).  If my husband had not allowed me to complete immerse myself in whatever I needed at whatever time, in order to allow me to wallow in my victim role, it would have been a dealbreaker for me.   I needed to be a victim, and I needed  him to honour that need, and to allow me to play that role.  It played out differently from day to day, but I needed it, and he gave me that.

The truth is, my husband completely owned what he did, and never made an issue of me seeking what I needed.  The only “restriction” he ever placed on me was the decision to talk together about who I was going to tell, and to be mutually comfortable with the idea of doing so.  I came to realize that by announcing my husband’s infidelity to anyone who would listen, I was bringing embarrassment to him, and I needed to be careful of who I told.  I had told a few friends, but I haven’t told all of my friends.  There are some couples that we hang out with who have no idea, and would likely be shocked.  I didn’t want to cause my husband pain and suffering, and so I chose to respect his privacy, and we would decide together who “needed to know”.  His parents don’t know.  Our neighbours don’t know.  Many of his colleagues who are close friends don’t know. The good news is that I no longer NEED to tell them, the way I once thought I did.  I don’t need the support anymore.  I do feel, sometimes as though I am living an unauthentic relationship with them, with them not knowing this significant story in our lives, but there are many things we don’t know about one another’s pasts, and we can still be friends.  Maybe some day we will feel the need to tell them, and we will decide that together.

Going forward in my healing, I had to make the choice to continue wallowing in my victim role, feeling sad, helpless, pathetic, sorrowful and pitied, or whether I wanted to stand up, shake off the past, and learn from it with my eyes on the future.  Was I going to be defined by this?  Would this become the headline of my life?  I didn’t want this to be the most defining thing that had ever happened to me.  I didn’t want it to be the most significant (albeit in a bad way) thing that had ever crossed my path.  I wanted to be a victor in my life, not a victim.  I have influence over how my life will turn out, and although I can’t, and could not at the time, control my husband’s behaviour and choices, I do control mine.  I chose to be a victor in my life, and to no longer be defined by this horrible trauma that had been dumped in my lap.

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Was does being a victor look like?  Well, for some of us, it will mean having the courage to leave a spouse who isn’t supportive, and who isn’t remorseful, and who refuses to face his actions.  It will mean harnessing the courage to be on our own for the first time in a long time.  It will mean standing up and starting over. For others, it will mean facing the task of rebuilding our marriage, despite the obstacles that lie ahead, living with the constant reminder in your face, and choosing to fight for something we feel has value left.  For all of us, regardless of whether we keep our marriage or let it go, it will mean finding a new “us”.  Many of us get so caught up in who we are as a spouse, that we forget who we were as a person before we became a couple.  It will mean having two feet solidly on ground, and no longer being lulled into the false sense of security that comes with the belief that “this will never happen to me”.  We now know that that is a lie, and it does not serve us.  Perhaps being a victor is choosing to live our lives to the best we can, with or without the one we married, in the hopes of finding true happiness within ourselves, through activities we enjoy, friendships we cherish, and new skills we want to learn.  Perhaps being a victor just means standing up, after being kicked down by this trauma, or waking up every morning with a willingness to give this day our best shot.  Sometimes we will win at the day, and other days we won’t, but we will have tried.  Maybe that is being a victor.

And so the question:  What is YOUR dealbreaker?

The key to my heart: A tale of forgiveness


It is a New Year, a new beginning, a fresh start. How will you write this chapter of your life? You have 365 pages, and today is day 1. What have you done to move your story forward, to propel yourself toward happiness? Are you stuck? Do you feel lost? Or are you in a place of contentment? Do you feel you are settling for what you have, and if so, do you have the courage to reach out and grab that thing that eludes you? Is this your year? Is this the year it finally comes together? Are you ready for the wonderful things that are coming your way? I hope so 🙂

As 2012 drew to a close, and with the golden rays of 2013 on the horizon, I offered my husband a gift. Not only was it a gift I had never given him, it was a gift I have never given anyone. I forgave him. I’d made the choice to forgive him some time ago, but wanted to tell him in a way that was meaningful to me. At first I thought I wanted fanfare and streamers, fireworks and hoopla. But as it drew closer, I just wanted something quiet, something personal, something warm.

I sat down to write my husband a letter this week. I wanted the letter to represent the emotional journey that I have been on over these past 2 years and 9 months (and let’s not forget the extra 15 days tacked on there either, it has been a long road). I wanted to take him on the journey with me, or at least the Coles Notes version, transport him briefly through the experiences that I have had in healing, and the ways in which he has helped me to heal. I wanted to thank him for all that he has done, for being a good man and for always putting my need for support above his need for shelter, for listening, for answering, for sitting in the shit with me (and this blog documents that there has been a lot of shit). I wanted to share my appreciation for all that he has done in this journey, and to convey to him that he has been my hero. I sat down, and slowly started to write, and when I was done, I had the following letter, which I am publishing for you all to read, which was presented to him last night.

One thousand and twenty days ago, you held my heart in your hands and crushed it, slowly suffocating the life out of me. As I sat there across from you on the sofa, trying to comfort you because you were crying, you pushed me away, and told me that you needed to tell me something. You told me that I deserve to live my life with full knowledge and awareness, and that I hadn’t been doing that. You then proceeded to tell me that my deepest fears were true, and that you were in a relationship with another woman, and had been for some time. As my stomach hit the floor and the room started to spin, you told me that she was pregnant with your baby. The floor fell from beneath my feet, and I stood paralyzed on what was left of the small bit of earth that I was perched upon.

The man I thought I knew stood before me, but he was gone. His familiar gaze now gave way to empty eyes that stood emotionless in front of me. I allowed the words to penetrate, but I could not respond. I felt completely paralyzed. I just sat there and listened to you, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t sure whether I was real or not, whether I was in a dream, or whether I had just died. The truth is, a huge part of me died that day, and that part was the part I call “us”. “We” were no more. We were just “you” and “me”, because the safety and sanctuary that was “us” had just been violated and torn apart. It lay there, broken, hardly recognizable, and the only thing I wanted was to put it back together again. The only thing I wanted was for you to tell me that you were kidding, that it was some prank, to shake me awake. I wasn’t asleep, and you weren’t kidding, and this was to become my new reality.

When I awoke the next morning, for a fraction of a moment, I was certain I had dreamt it, and felt a lightness I can’t explain. It was like nirvana, but then I remembered that you were not with me in bed, and it had not been a dream, and that moment of serenity imploded. I woke up to the broken reality that would become my new “normal”. “My husband cheated on me with another woman, and she is having his baby”. The words tasted bitter in my mouth, but they would become my new mantra, repeated daily in my head for months and months and months, and years. I heard it in songs, I saw it on TV, reminders were everywhere. It was a new reality I had not invited, but which I was now forced to contend with. The phrase “life isn’t fair” suddenly had a personal meaning. I wasn’t sure what I had done in my life to deserve it. Was it karma paying me back for some horrible misdeed? Was I simply a cosmic collateral damage in the universe? Was I a bad wife? Had I gained to much weight? Was I no longer attractive? Had I “lost it”, and by “it”, I mean everything you used to find of value in me? Why was she chosen? Why was she better than me? Why did you pick her? Why had you done this to me? Why was I now having to pay the price for your bad decisions? Was I unlovable? Was I unworthy of being loved the way I needed to be?

As I spent my days dragging along the floor behind me a drawstring bag, carrying what was left of my self-esteem, I was inundated with hurtful emails from the woman who claimed to be so caring and understanding, so warm and personable. She took what remained of my self esteem, and held it tightly in a vice grip, dipping each piece of what remained into the acid that came through her words. Her words confirming my deepest fears: “I am ugly to him, I am fat to him, he laughs at me, he chose her, he is only staying for the kids, he never loved me…” She hand-plucked each one with deft precision. It’s as if she had lived inside my head, and knew exactly which buttons to push, and she pushed them with a satisfying and demonic enjoyment, her every move designed to wedge the knife deeper into the still bleeding wound. And when it would seem that she hadn’t done enough, she went in for the kill: She told me that due to words that I had spoken, due to action I had taken, that she had made the decision to keep the baby. She took the worst possible outcome (having the baby), and made it the result of something *I* had done, as if it was decided by me. No, instead it was to be my punishment for having fought for my marriage. I either lose my husband to her, or I keep my husband, whose love I don’t even trust anymore, he gains a daughter, and I gain a 22-year child support sentence. It was the ultimate lose-lose, and I felt like she held all the cards. I was broken, and death seemed more palatable.

Although I had my suspicions that something was wrong, I trusted you, and felt you would tell me if anything was really wrong. When you assured me everything was fine, I allowed your words to quench the fears I had, and the slate was wiped clean each time. The trust I had in you far overcame any fears, and I knew I could just trust, and I did just that.

I never snooped in your emails, and I never checked on your phone calls. I didn’t monitor your texts, and I didn’t have you followed. I had no reason to doubt what you were telling me. I didn’t have to investigate anything on my own, because you summoned the courage to tell me, and for that I am thankful. Although you do say that you were pressured to tell me, and had no intention of ever telling me, and were only doing so out of duress, I can tell you that I would have fared far worse had I learned it from her, so I thank you for telling me quietly, in the privacy of our own home, far away from her evil. Thank you for not letting me find out any other way. Thank you for being a man, and telling me to my face, despite the shame that such a moment brought to you. It is a shame that I can’t even imagine, and something that I would not have had the strength to do, had the situation been reversed. Thank you for being strong enough to do the right thing.

In the weeks that followed, you attended marital counseling with me. You attended regular weekly sessions, and faced head-on the shameful situation of having your mistakes placed on the table for open commentary and evaluation. You watched me cry and break down, witnessing firsthand the carnage that you created in the one you professed to love and protect. But you kept coming, and didn’t complain. You didn’t back down, you didn’t refuse, and you didn’t stop.

You took the time to look deep inside of yourself and your situation at the time, with the guidance of our counselor with a desire to learn what had led you there. Thank you for seeing the possibility of there having been a lack of something within you, something broken, something that needed mending. Although I do own my share of any marital breakdown that resulted in your inability to feel that you could come to me with your feelings, I also understand that your decision to have an affair was yours alone, and wasn’t something you did as a result of me, or our marriage. You had plenty of healthier alternatives to deal with your situation, but made a bad choice. I don’t think it makes you a bad person, and I don’t define you by it. Thank you for trying to find what it was within you that enabled this situation, no matter how painful, and for having the strength to examine it. Thank you for being strong enough.

You listened to me gripe and complain incessantly. You watched me hurt, and you listened to me ask the same questions over and over again. You answered them honestly, whenever there was an answer, and struggled to give me comfort, even in times when there wasn’t an answer to give. You placed all of your cards face up on the table, and gave me the truth at the speed at which I needed to hear it, not at the speed at which you were willing to face it. You followed my lead and proceeded at my pace, even when it was uncomfortable. Thank you.

You allowed me to start writing a blog to express my feelings, in the hopes that publically sharing it, that I might gain support from objective others, and also possibly help others in the process. You didn’t stop me from making public our struggle, and I agreed to protect our anonymity. Writing the blog has been a great triumph for me, is something that I enjoy, and which has brought me a great deal of support. It has also helped others. Thank you for giving it your support, and for being a faithful reader, and my first subscriber.

You never made it my fault. You didn’t blame me, or equate any of my inadequacies with your choice. You didn’t deprive me of support, and never denied me the opportunity to talk about it when I needed to. The door was always open, and you always made room for me, and you didn’t shut the door on me, or tell me I was raising “the affair” too often, was asking too many questions, or was being “unreasonable”. You tolerated my teasing and rubbing your nose in it, when I felt I needed some “payback”, and you took it without anger or disdain. Thank you for not retaliating and allowing me this momentary feeling of satisfaction. I sometimes needed it.

You allowed me to tell certain friends about the affair, and gain support from them, even though them knowing was embarrassing to you, and shone a light on your shame. You put my need for support above your need for secrecy, and I thank you.

You willingly attended the “Healing from Affairs” weekend with Anne and Brian, and never once questioned the purpose or need, nor the cost. You made the arrangements, attended, were a full and willing participant, and enjoyed a weekend that brought us closer together and for which I will be forever grateful.

You allowed me to attend the “Take your life back” seminar with Anne and Brian last month in November, taking charge of the kids to allow me to experience a weekend with other betrayed spouses, and the healing that comes from that. You didn’t stop me, you didn’t suggest against it, and you made it easy for me to attend without guilt. Thank you for that support, and for that gift. It, combined with the previous seminar, the learning and the introspection has helped to bring me to the place I am today in my healing, coupled with your support and care. Thank you.

Thank you for helping me to heal, and for acting as my healer in this journey, taking on the weight of my load when I didn’t think I could do it anymore, despite also having your own load to carry. Thank your for your patience, and for never asking me to “move on”, or “get over it already”. You accepted the repercussions of your actions as a burden you were willing to bear as a result of your actions, and you allowed me to do, say, or feel whatever was necessary, as a result, without making me feel stifled, or stupid, or judged. Thank you.

Throughout this journey, you have proven to be my hero. You have tackled situations that I don’t feel that I would have had the opportunity to tackle if I had been the one who had the affair. You have graciously stepped into the shameful places you needed to go. I know that I would not have had the ability to tolerate the constant nose-rubbing, the shame, the embarrassment and the constant exposure of my errors. You did, and for that, I recognize you as the pivotal reason for my healing, and the biggest force, outside of myself, that allowed me to heal in the way that I have.

I now have greater insight into how your affair came to be, and I no longer wish to hold it over your head, or to make you feel remorseful, or guilty. I know that you are remorseful, and I know that this has been your life’s biggest tragedy. It has been mine as well. Instead, I want to help heal you also, and move forward from this tragedy together.

When we first sat with our marital therapist, at our first marital therapy appointment, he told me that the end goal of affair recovery was to seek and grant forgiveness, and that forgiveness could only ever be considered once I felt as though you had stood in my shoes. I remember feeling such torment at the idea that I was to be expected to forgive you. “Forgiveness” was not the F-word that I had in mind, and wasn’t something I was prepared to consider. Last spring, at the end of the seminar with Anne and Brian, you were asked to write a letter, asking for forgiveness. I appreciated the letter, its heartfelt contents, and your genuine request for forgiveness, but I simply couldn’t grant it. I felt badly, like I was expected to. I wanted to, but simply couldn’t. I loved that weekend, and the feeling of togetherness that it helped to reinforce, and I did not want to forgive you simply because you had asked me to, or to comply with the programming of a seminar.

In the weeks that followed, I didn’t want to forgive you simply because I was running on a “post-seminar high” or trapped within the memories of that weekend. Instead, I hoped that the moment that I offered you forgiveness would be more genuine, and coming more from inside of me, not because you were asking, and not because you were programmed to request it. It needed to be real, and it needed to be heartfelt and pure, and it needed to come from me.

I was never ready to forgive you because of what I thought “forgiveness” meant. I always thought that forgiveness was the act of ‘excusing’ someone for what they had done. I thought that it meant ‘condoning’ someone’s actions, and finding something ‘acceptable’ in those actions. I thought that it meant ‘pardoning’ them from their responsibility, and telling them that what they had done was “alright”. I could never come to a place where I believed any of that to be true, and I felt that to ask me to forgive was to deny me my right to be angry, to feel betrayed and to claim that someone had wronged me. I thought that forgiving meant that I could no longer claim to have been betrayed, or own that, and that it took the value of what I was feeling away. I owned those feelings and I didn’t want to lose them. They were the expression of my broken heart, and they weren’t ‘wrong”, they weren’t ‘pardonable’, and they certainly weren’t ‘acceptable’. In speaking with other betrayed spouses, and those who have been hurt in other ways, I learned to define my own meaning of forgiveness, and this one felt better. It was to be the definition that I would then strive towards.

Forgiveness, as I now see it, is the act of letting go of the “better than” attitude that I was able to hold over your head because you had had the affair, and I had not. It was the decision to not see myself as a “better spouse” and to let go of the comparison. Being a spouse isn’t a contest to be won, and we aren’t on opposing teams. Forgiveness is the conscious choice to no longer hold your actions over your head, and to no longer engage in behavior that accentuates your shame, or which holds your actions under a microscope with the intention of helping me to feel better at your expense. Forgiveness is the choice to let go of the victim mentality, and to no longer be defined by it. Forgiveness is making the choice to see that you were a man who made a series of bad decisions, but not to see you as a “bad man”.

1020 days ago you broke my heart when you disclosed that you’d been having an affair. 2 years and 9 months, and 14 days ago, my life changed completely, and my reality was irreparably altered. These 145 weeks, these 24,480 hours, these 1,468,000 minutes, these 88,128,000 seconds have been the most painful, but also the most transformative of my life.

I do not condone what you did. I do not accept what you did. I do not pardon what you did. We both know that if you should find yourself on this path in the future, that the outcome will look very different from this. But, I trust with every fiber in my being that we won’t find ourselves in this place again. I trust that you will talk with me about issues which render us vulnerable, and that we will work towards fortifying our relationship and making the necessary steps towards keeping our union safe from any outside threats. I trust that we will actively work at strengthening our marriage, and no longer fall to the path of least resistance, the easy-way, the “comfortable way”, and I agree to work outside of my comfort zone and work at the ways that I can be a better spouse to you, going forward.

And so this New Years, 1020 days after you broke my heart, I find it mended. It will always hold the scars, but you have helped me heal in a way I didn’t think would be possible 1020 days ago. I thank you for being my hero in this, and I would like to offer you my forgiveness.

To honour this step, I wanted to offer you something as a symbol of forgiveness, so that you could carry something with you as a reminder of our story, and where we are. I tried for weeks to determine what that would be, but then realized that it was too personal a choice, and you needed to be the one to make it. I will let you decide what you would like that to be, if anything at all. For me, I purchased a Pandora charm for my bracelet: a heart shaped lock with a small golden key. This is highly personal for me, and symbolic of where we stand because 1020 days after our tragedy began, you once again hold the key to my heart. I love you.

Welcome to my new beginning.

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Rebuilding Trust after an Affair: A guide for the Wayward Spouse


Trust is nothing more than ‘proven behavior over time’.  When an affair devastates a marriage, trust is completely broken.  How do you go about restoring trust in the aftermath of one of the greatest devastations a person can inflict?

First and foremost, if you are going to confess an affair to your spouse, you might as well tell him/her the ENTIRE truth.  I told my husband in the wake of the discovery of his affair that I wanted all of the information on the table.  I wanted to know who, when, where, how often, what, and most of all, WHY.  That last one was the one that took the longest time to unravel, and truth be told, it isn’t often one that the wayward spouse even knows the answer to….until they do the work involved in uncovering what made them seek a relationship outside of their marriage, and that takes time, introspection, and therapy.

The most important thing for me, in the initial days, was the reassurance that I wasn’t going to be knocked off of my feet again.  I lost all footing when he confessed his affair.  I hated the feeling of helplessness that brought, and I reasoned that I would rather know the truth, no matter how devastating, in one fell swoop than receive the truth in small doses, each time being knocked to the floor.  I reasoned I was already on the floor, you might as well throw it all at me, because once I get up, I don’t want to be knocked over again.  So, you may as well give your spouse what they need to know, if you are even going to admit to your wrongdoings.  There is no point in half-way.   Either you tell them, or you don’t.  Obviously, it is better if you do, but my point is simply that trickle-truth (truth that trickles in slowly, one drip at a time) only results in a reduction of trust when you slowly confess to things you earlier denied.  Laying your cards on the table face up, and doing so early will win you major points.

A betrayed spouse is going to have tons of questions.  How many questions s/he has depends on the person.  Some people crave to know every last detail, while others are satisfied with less.  I, for one, wanted ALL of the details.  I didn’t like knowing that my husband had a little window of life that I didn’t have access to, or know about, and I wanted as much information and knowledge of his affair as he had….as she had.  Whether you ask for the gory details earlier in the process or later, remember that you are responsible for the information that you receive.  Do not ask a question that you are not prepared to hear an answer for.  If you can imagine hearing the worst case scenario and you feel incapable of handling that truth, perhaps it is best to wait on that particular question, but table it for another time.  Answering all of the questions that a betrayed spouse has shows honesty and a commitment to the process of healing. Showing patience for his/her constant re-hashing of details, and perhaps even asking the same question again and again is necessary.  We repeat the questions because our brains are trying to synthesize all of the information.  Repetition allows the information to penetrate to an area where we can then understand and deal with its content.  Just like children, it helps us learn to repeat.  It also helps us to test answers against prior responses to gauge truthfulness, but it isn’t USUALLY done on purpose as a test…that is just a side bonus 🙂

Owning your mistake, amidst such shame is not an easy task.  I don’t think I would have the ability to do it.  I am not strong enough of character to manage that, I don’t think.  Having your mistake brought up again and again is hurtful to the one who has betrayed.  Not only because the wayward spouse needs to re-examine his/her flaws under a microscope again and again, but because s/he needs to see his/her spouse struggling with the information, hurting, and trying to piece themselves back together again.  You cannot rush a healing process. It is a process…and it isn’t a straight line.  In fact, some days you won’t remember the last time you took a step forward as it seems each time you do, you take three backwards.  It is frustrating, but stick with it.  Invite the betrayed spouse to ask questions, and be patient with him/her.  For me, asking a lot of questions made me feel needy and burdensome.  I worried that if I asked too many questions, my husband would find me unappealing, and leave me.  Of course, that was when I still believed that the reason he’d had the affair was because I was unappealing in some way and that it had something to do with me. It wasn’t until much later that I learned (through repetition and re-exposure to the idea) that it had NOTHING to do with me.  Be patient.

Actions speak louder than words.  Show your spouse that you are committed to their healing.  Attend marital counselling and DO THE HOMEWORK.  Attend individual counselling also.  Give your spouse password access to your phone, your emails, your text messages and your voicemails.  Give your spouse complete access to check these as they need.  You need to be an open book now, at least for a while.  Don’t be surprised or angry when you feel s/he has looked through your personal communications.  After all, it was your actions that landed you here in the first place, and you haven’t been a stellar example of honesty.  Regain trust by removing all doubts by providing complete and unrestricted access.  Tell your spouse when you will be late, and provide your whereabouts.  Take pictures to prove your plans, if needed.  Your spouse is going to be on hyper alert for a while.  Offer these things before they are requested, it goes a long way towards showing you can be trustworthy.

What you say and what you do are two different things. They should both be the same, but one weighs more than the other.  Words are simply words.  Actions speak. In fact showing us through behaviour will carry more weight than telling us the same thing ten times.  Maybe more.

That brings me to the reason I made this post in the first place.  While standing in the Chinese Theatre in Epcot Centre at Walt Disney World a while back, I came upon this plaque on the wall:

 

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