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Getting through Valentine’s day


Remember that Valentines day when you were the only one without a girlfriend/boyfriend, and it seemed everyone else was happy in a relationship? Yeah…this feels worse doesn’t it? Trying to get through a holiday hell bent on celebrating the saccharin syrupy sweetness of love, when you’ve just been stabbed in the heart. It hardly seems fair. It isn’t.

For many people who have experienced the pain of infidelity, Valentine’s Day represents a significant trigger. For some, even, it represents a major setback, causing them to lose ground on what they felt was a forward momentum in their healing journey. Hallmark cards lining the aisles, beckoning you to read stories of love, compassion, and caring, all the while knowing that the person to purported to love you decided to break your heart instead of buying you a chocolate one.

I’ve grown to dislike valentines day. I used to like it. That was also when I was naive and thought that my wedding vows meant something and that my husband was committed to me. For me, I am not sad because of what i went through. I am sad thinking of all the people who experience love shallowly, albeit blissfully unaware. Now, I watch as naive couples get wooed into the magical and love struck world of valentines day, as men rush out to buy roses, as couples scurry off to their dinner date…and I wonder if they are aware of the dangers that lurk. Gosh, they look so happy…I wouldn’t want to burst their bubble, but c’mon people…get a grip on reality. Love isn’t about one day of showing someone you care. It’s an ongoing commitment to doing the right thing. It can’t be encapsulated in one day, and a box of chocolates won’t right the wrong.

Instead of allowing Valentine’s Day to bring you down in the dumps, and giving you permission to dwell on how horrible your situation is, perhaps take this time to be your own Valentine, to show yourself some self-care. Treat yourself to something luxurious tomorrow, whether it’s a manicure, a massage, a walk in the woods, a coffee with a friend…a trip to the bookstore. Whatever your guilty pleasure is, gift it to yourself.

Then, as much as I hate to compare stories of infidelity and to consider any one person’s situation as more “traumatic” than another’s, I think there a value in adding perspective. There is always a way that your situation could have been worse. There is always one part of your story where you can say: “well at least ___________ didn’t happen. For me, that something is an STD or the my husband didn’t leave me to be with his affair partner. If he had, my story would feel so much worse, at least I think it would. Valentine’s day is approximately the day my husband would have found out that the OW was pregnant. He screwed her on her birthday, Feb 1, and ta-da she would have tested and found out….about now.

For some, you might read my story and say “oh my goodness, at least my husband didn’t father a child”, or if a man, “at least my wife didn’t get pregnant”. For some, my story is their ultimate blow. For others, their story went far beyond.

There is always one step beyond how bad your situation is to a place that you would have felt worse. Perhaps taking some time to be thankful that it wasn’t as bad as ____________ can be your gift to yourself.

These sappy romantic holidays make me feel sad now. Not for me, but for all of these love struck girls who are tickled to have a date this valentines day, who just don’t know the signs. She doesn’t know what to look for. She doesn’t know how to affair proof her relationship. The problem is, she doesn’t yet know that she has to. Therein lies the irony….no one ever takes the time to do this work, until it has happened to them.

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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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How could he do this to me, and claim to love me?


Often times,  I hear betrayed spouses say “How could my spouse have done this to me?”, and “S/he must have known this would devastate me, how could s/he do this on purpose?”, or ” S/he says s/he never stopped loving me, despite having had an affair.  How do you love someone and simultaneously hurt them so deeply?  How is that loving??”

Those statements are familiar, not only because I have heard them time and time again from wounded spouses, betrayed by their partners, but also because I too have asked EACH ONE OF THOSE QUESTIONS at one time or another.

The pain of infidelity brought on by a spouse’s affair has been described as one of the worst emotional traumas that a person can experience.  If you just caught yourself debating that statement in your mind, and posing death as a more painful trauma, you’d be close, but wrong.  In death, those left behind, except in the case of suicide, know that the person who left them did not do so on purpose.  In an affair, the person who suffers the loss is caused to suffer due to the purposeful actions of another, worse still by the person who vowed to protect their hearts forever.  It is a truly indescribable loss and betrayal that you simply can’t fathom or appreciate unless it happens to you.  When someone causes you to suffer such pain on purpose, and with intent, the damage is really immense.

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Of course, upon discovery of the affair, the first thing we wrestle with is the dissonance that arises when we consider that this pain was caused intentionally through the purposeful behaviour of someone we love, and who purports to love us.  “How can someone love me, and do something so ugly to me?”.   The simple fact is, affairs are completely selfish acts, where the person embroiled in the affair is NOT thinking of you, the pain their actions will cause you, the consequences of their actions, or whether they should reconsider in light of your feelings.  They are motivated completely selfishly by the benefits that the affair brings THEM.  For the time being, the world is revolving around them, and for a brief time, you do not exist.  Hurtful to think, but completely true based on the many reports from wayward spouses who report their experience. Affairs satisfy an emotional gap left open by vulnerabilities in the wayward spouse’s world.  Passed up for a promotion, the loss of a parent, a recent move, addition of a new baby into the home, these experienced, not dealt with and perhaps even minimized in the mind of the wayward spouse, grow and are soon tenderly placated and soothed by the adoring and admiring words of another, who reflects back to him/her the reflection of themselves they wish to project.  The affair partner, then, becomes a mirror to the wayward spouse, reflecting back only those positive qualities in themselves, and none of the stressors and reality that come with real life.  It is a fantasy and it feels really good.  It feels so good in fact, the wayward spouse starts to seek it out, the thrill like a drug, the  fringe benefits well worth the effort to cover it up and hide it.  Who the affair partner is, what s/he looks like, how they perform in bed, what they say and do don’t really matter – it’s how those things made your partner FEEL that made the difference, and I can guarantee that while they were deep in the throes of self-esteem-seeking, they were not thinking about you, your pain, the possible outcome.  They were selfishly only thinking of themselves.  It is akin to a drug addict, who just needs a hit – the tunnel vision showing them only the drug, the finish line, the goal.  Everything else falls outside the line of focus, at least for now.  So, when a spouse says, “I wasn’t trying to hurt you”, s/he probably wasn’t.  What s/he WAS trying to do was unhurt themselves, and you were collateral damage.

One of the things that used to drive me INSANE in the wake of my husband’s affair was that he used to say “I never stopped loving you”.  Knowing that my husband had been intimate with another woman made me feel as unloved as a human could possibly feel.  I had no value, no worth.  I wasn’t worth loving if he chose to do that to me.  I was unworthy.  Claiming that he never stopped loving me felt like a slap in the face each time he said it.  He’d say it with a expectant tone, as if I would hear it and magically understand that he was right, and I shouldn’t hurt over it.  PARDON ME???!!  How do you claim to love someone so deeply while thrusting your penis into another woman?  How do you love me while creating false email addresses to hide your tracks and telling the other woman that you love her?  “How is that loving me?”, I’d thought.  He would explain it as “compartmentalization”….that he had an ability to put me and our family out of his mind completely when he was with the other woman.   When he’d start to feel guilty, he would justify why he deserved this, why it was OK, and even why he thought I would be ok with it (yes, he rationalized that one).  He wasn’t thinking of me while he was with her. He had his phone turned off, and he was disconnected from us.  It was weird to consider that notion, because part of me wanted him to be thinking of me, and the other part didn’t.  If he was thinking of me, then I held at least an equal share of the OW’s power, I’d think.  However, if he was thinking of me, it also meant he was doing this to me with willful knowledge of me, consciously.  It was a lose-lose, and I hated it.  It was only once I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Brian Bercht of Passionate Life Seminars, and his description of what was going through his mind, that I realized that it was possible and that my husband “may” be accurately describing his experience, and not lying about it.  That was a big step forward for me.

It is hard to imagine, but our husbands don’t think of us during every moment of every day. I like to think that he does, and often play the playful “Did you think about me today?” game when we finally connect after work over the phone or in person.  Of course, then I want to know how often, what he thought…he just can’t report that because he doesn’t remember and just doesn’t think of me as often as I would like to think that he does.  He certainly wasn’t thinking of me when he was seeking her out, and if I popped to mind, I was rationalized away pretty fast.  It is amazing what the mind can do, and what you can allow yourself to do, and focus on, at the expense of all else.

We would like to think the pain the affair would cause US would have been a deterrent to the affair.  It simply isn’t.  The pull towards filling whatever that gap is, is so strong, that it trumps all things.  It is pure selfishness, unbridled.  They seek only to satisfy themselves, without thought or consideration of other people.   It’s the same reason why knowing that sex can lead to STD’s and unwanted pregnancy doesn’t stop horny teenagers from engaging in unprotected sex – the urge to fulfill their own immediate need blinds them, and their tunnel vision shows only the reward, not the sacrifices along the path.  It is the same situation that arises when one, addicted to food and what the food represents for them, gorges themselves with it, knowing full well that it is making them sick.  They do it anyway, because for the time being, it feels good.  The guilt will come later, but it will be rationalized away…”that’s the LAST time…”, or “I just needed it this one time because…”

Nothing set me off more than when my husband would say to me “I never stopped loving you”.  It was such a slap in the face, in the aftermath of the affair.  How dare he put a tender word like “LOVE” into his affair?  How dare he equate loving me with betraying me?!!?  It made no sense and would anger me incessantly.  He just didn’t understand why I would become so enraged when he’d say that.  He really believed it to be true and was trying to make me feel better.  So why wasn’t it working?  My next post will highlight how I showed him through a simple exercise why, and why he never said those words to me again.  Loving me was no longer part of that equation, and showing me how he loved me from that day forward was going to make the difference.

Stay tuned.

An affair in the making


Man and woman starting an affair

Casual business lunch, or something more?

 

This past week was my birthday. Well, ok, not the ENTIRE week, but one day out of it 🙂

My husband and I went for lunch at a swanky sushi bar downtown where the tables are packed in together like sardines (I am not sure why the swankier the spot, the more crammed the patrons need to be, but that is not for discussion here). The people to our right and left were so close to us, that we might as well be seated at the same table. In fact, had I extended either arm straight out to the side, chances are I would have been inappropriate.

As we sat together, we became aware of a couple to my right (his left) who were dining together. Both were of average height with slim builds. He was dark haired with brown eyes and she was blonde with green eyes. She was facing me, so I had a better glimpse of her. She was thin, athletic, lean and tall. She wore 3-inch heels and a grey dress which hugged her curves tightly. Both had on wedding rings, and both were speaking very animatedly about their work, which I gathered must have been in the same industry or even the same office, as they seemed to familiar with each others’ scenarios and key players. Now, I didn’t mean to listen, but really….we were sitting so close, we may as well have been at the same table, and it was impossible not to catch snippets of their conversation as they lunched.

And then he said it. You know, that one little thing that someone has to say that steers your perception in a totally different direction, and suddenly makes you aware that what you thought was the picture, wasn’t the picture at all? Yes, that thing. He said, ‘My wife doesn’t know how to _______”, and for the life of me, I can’t remember what that something was, but I remember it not being something terribly complex, and the way he said it had an insulting tone to it, as if to say “can you believe it? My wife can’t even ______”. He’d set the stage, he’d put down his wife in front of another woman, and then waited for her to make her move in the game. Would she also admit to not being able to do that thing? Would she normalize that for the husband, making him realize that his wife isn’t the odd one out, and that others also share this inability? Of course not. She immediately leaned in, and started talking about her proficiency in that area, expressing subtle surprise while trying to appear non-judgemental about the fact that his wife now has a one-down.

This, dear readers, was an affair in the making, and we were there to witness it. Two people of the opposite sex, taking time out of their busy downtown jobs in the financial sector to casually have lunch together. Was this a business meeting? Didn’t sound like it. It was far too playful, and a little too personal to be a business lunch. They sat across from one another, playfully talking about their likes, their friends, the activities they like to do in their spare time…it was kind of like speed-dating….except the two of them are married – not to each other.

Several times during the lunch, the man referred to his wife. He would start sentences with “My wife will sometimes….”, and “I told my wife the other day”… Now, to the untrained eye/ear (or to the person who has not been touched by an affair), this might seem like an affair-proofing maneuver to mention the wife often in conversation, but those of us who have been there will know better. He worked his wife into the conversation several times, mentioning her here and there and peppering her name into the topic of the moment. What he was doing, ladies and gentlemen, was testing the waters with the mistress-to-be. He mentions the wife, talks about her, references their activities together like dangling a bait over the mistress head, waiting to see if despite his obvious relationship status which he’s placed out there in the open, whether she will still find the bait attractive and take a nibble. She bit. Despite hearing that he is married, and hearing about the wife, this other woman continued to use body language to signal her interest. She was playing with her hair, touching her neck, talking playfully, and leaning into the table. She would counter everything he would say with some quip of her own, and the two of them agreed with very word the other said. It was like a dance that read like:

Him: I have a wife you know

Her: That sounds great, but are you happy?

Him: I’ve been married for 6 years and we have a two year old son.

Her: I am sure he is adorable, and I can’t wait to meet your son

Him: My wife and I don’t agree about _____

Her: I totally agree with you, you are so right! My feelings on this other matter are ______

Him: I can TOTALLY see why you feel that way, I feel that way too! Look how much we have in common!”

Her: I know, I am a real catch you know, and you’d be so much happier with me

Him: I wish my wife felt that way

Her: Well, we can’t all be perfect like me, you know (squeals of laughter while touching her neck…)

So now she knows he is married, and it doesn’t seem to faze her. He’s put it out there, and she has signalled to him that it doesn’t matter. Mentioning his wife so often in conversation is just a way of saying “hey, let’s be real here. I am married. You know I am married. I am interested in you. We are both going forward here with full knowledge that I am married, and I have no plans to NOT be married or leave my wife, but I am very interested in you, so what do you say?”. When she counters with body language and compliments, she is telling him “look, I know you are married, you’ve mentioned it several times, and yet I am still flirting with you, and signalling to you that you are attractive to me, so obviously your marital status need not play a role in OUR relationship…I’m ok with it”.

We sat there, quietly sharing our thoughts on this conversation. From time to time, I would raise my eyebrows in surprise, and my husband would shake his head. At one point, my husband whispered under his breath “It’s not worth it”. I was so tempted to lean over to the two of them, excuse myself for prying, and then tell them both that it isn’t worth it. The pain that they are going to cause their spouses, their families and HIS child would be enormous. I saw myself tapping him on the shoulder and revealing that my husband had had an affair, and then letting him know to please reconsider. I saw myself doing it, but couldn’t bring myself to actually do it. I can’t save the world, but I did really want to save these two marriages a I bore witness to them on a track to unraveling. “How can I sit here, aware of something that they both are blind to right now since they haven’t seen the ending to this movie, and say/do nothing?”. Let’s face it though, it isn’t my place to approach a random stranger at a restaurant and tell them how to live their life. I just wanted to save someone some pain, but I realize that what is going to happen, is going to happen, and I can only hope that they make the right choices. I also know that while we were sitting there at that restaurant, hundreds of other ‘business lunches’ were going on across the city which weren’t business lunches at all. You can’t save the world.

Never having had an affair, I have to admit that it was interesting to bear witness to the beginning stages of an illicit relationship, to watch the flirtation, and to see the game being played. It is only with these experienced eyes that I am able to decode the true intention behind the behaviours that we witnessed at the table that day. Three years ago, I would have assumed they were on a business date, and thought of how wonderful it is that they get along so well, and seem to have a great working relationship. I am no longer naive. Now, I just know that he wants to get a little on the side, and hopes that his wife won’t ever find out, and that she will be up for it. I hope his wife is strong enough to handle the pain that is coming her way. She’ll need all the strength she can muster. I also hope the woman doesn’t end up getting attached and falling in love with him, thereby turning into a psycho when the man tells her he has no intention of leaving his family…cause that can happen you know.

 

 

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.

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 🙂

Haunted


I’ve been told that I am suffering with a variant of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Given the flashbacks, the physical reactions that I feel to the memories, or the images that run through my head, I believe it.

Learning that your spouse has been unfaithful and that you have been purposefully deceived by the person you trusted most in this world is traumatic, to say the least.  It shakes you to your core, and causes you to reevaluate all of your beliefs, and to question your own judgements.  Your confidence in your relationship, your family, and yourself are all questioned.

Learning the details of what happened serve the immediate “need to know”, and prevents you from imagining scenarios and circumstances that simply never took place, and replacing those self-created “fantasies” with factual data.  While useful in one sense, it is also excrutiatingly painful to hear your spouse described what he did with his mistress, when, and how.  It allows you to create a mental movie in your mind of the events, and gives your mind ammunition with which to flash back to these movies at seemingly random moments throughout your day.

Seemingly innocent things can act as a trigger, reminding you in a split second of your suffering, the affair, the loss.  Looking at the couch that I sat on when he told me.  Where I sat.  Where he sat.  That does it for me.  I can’t sit on that sofa now without thinking of it.  As such, I’ve tucked it into the living room that we rarely use.

Pulling out the journal that I kept for the first few months brings me right back just by looking at the cover.  I will reread the entries now and again, not to remind myself of the pain, but to see how far I’ve come.

One of my greatest triggers is music.  It is sad for me, because music is something that I love.  I consider myself quite musical, having studied music as a child and adolescent, it has a very emotional connection for me.  Music can lift my mood, make me sad, etc.  It has a powerful force for me.  I listen to music for a great part of my day.  Whether I am in the car (I never drive without music playing), or at my computer doing work (also have iTunes playing in the background), music is always with me in some way.  My musical memory for songs is also vast.  I can remember lyrics and elements to songs from my childhood and adolescence like they were yesterday, even if I haven’t heard the song for a decade or more.  It brings me right back to the days when it was a hit on the radio, and in a flash I am that teenage girl sitting on the steps of her highschool watching the boy she pined over throw a football with his friends, wondering what she could do to be noticed.  The feelings flood back immediately, and I am transported right back there.

In the wake of the affair, I spent a great deal of time in profound sadness.  I would drive to and from work, songs playing on the radio, so desperately sad.  I now connect those songs on the radio to the way I was feeling, and hearing them now puts me right back in that place.   Songs I used to enjoy, not carry with them a deep feeling of sadness and despair. I remember vividly the feelings I had, the thoughts running through my mind, or even which intersection I was at the last time I heard it.  Hit songs that dominate the airwaves wax and wane, and soon enough, a hit song goes into a remission.  It disappears for a while.  And then it resurfaces.  When songs from that time come back on the radio, it is immensely painful.

It isn’t only the songs that were current after the affair was disclosed, but also songs that I enjoyed that were popular while he was having his affair.  I can remember sitting in my car, singing along to a song, doing my infamous seat-dancing that I am prone to do when a good song comes on.  I now look back at those moments, and realize that at the time that this particular song was popular, and I was sitting in my car bopping to the tune, my husband was lying to me, deceiving me, and sleeping with another woman.   I can no longer listen to songs from that YEAR without saying to myself “He was having an affair when I used to enjoy this song”, and it strips the shine off of the enjoyment of the song.  I will still sing along to it, and enjoy it, but it will always be there, imprinted and attached forever to it, like a tag.

The worst part about songs, I find, is the lyrics.  I am a romantic at heart, and often relate the lyrics in a song to my own life.  Love songs with their professions of deep caring or turmoil when there is a fight strike a chord with me.  I often find myself thinking: “I know how that feels!”.  I think this happens to a lot of people, and songwriters want their listeners to relate to, and appreciate what they are writing about.  It is kind of like this blog, and how I want my readers to connect with what I am writing, and if a betrayed woman finds this blog, I want her to be able to relate to it, and find comfort in it.   Songs of a broken heart now have a whole new meaning.  Songs of loss and despair ring true in a way I’d never been familiar with before.

Songs about infidelity almost kill me.  3 months into the affair discovery, the song “Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri  was released onto iTunes, following its debut as a song on “So you think you can dance”.  It used to take the breath out of me. Now that it is being played many months later on the radio, puts it right in my face.   But, the good thing is that I no longer relate  the lyrics in the same way….I don’t want my husband out of my life.  I now attach these lyrics to her.  She is the one with the heart of stone

Jar of Hearts Video

I know i can’t take one more step towards you
cause all thats waiting is regret
don’t you know i’m not your ghost anymore
you lost the love i loved the most

i learned to live, half alive
and now you want me one more time

who do you think you are?
runnin’ ’round leaving scars
collecting a jar of hearts
tearing love apart
you’re gonna catch a cold
from the ice inside your soul
don’t come back for me
who do you think you are?

i hear you’re asking all around
if i am anywhere to be found
but i have grown too strong
to ever fall back in your arms

ive learned to live, half alive
and now you want me one more time

who do you think you are?
runnin’ ’round leaving scars
collecting a jar of hearts
and tearing love apart
you’re gonna catch a cold
from the ice inside your soul
don’t come back for me
who do you think you are?

it took so long just to feel alright
remember how to put back the light in my eyes
i wish i had missed the first time that we kissed
cause you broke all your promises
and now you’re back
you don’t get to get me back

who do you think you are?
running around leaving scars
collecting a jar of hearts
and tearing love apart
you’re gonna catch a cold
from the ice inside your soul
so don’t come back for me
dont come back at all

x2

who do you think you are?
who do you think you are?
who do you think you are?

As I struggled with the decision with whether to stay in my marriage, I was torn in a way that I’d never experienced.  Staying felt like I was weak. Like I would allow myself to be humiliated, deceived, taken for a ride, and would come back for more.  It seemed like a reward allowing him to stay, allowing him to have his children, his wife, and his life.  I wanted him to hurt.  I wanted him to lose like I had.  I wanted him to be desperate for me.  Asking him to leave meant losing the best friend I’ve ever had.  It meant my children losing access to their father.  It meant losing my partner. I wasn’t prepared for more loss.  I worried that my friends would consider me weak for staying, or judge me.  But I knew where my heart belonged, and made a commitment to do my best to make it work, regardless of what others would say.

I’ve always loved the song “Heaven helps the man (I’m Free)” by Kenny Loggins.  It is the song that plays while the credits roll in Footloose.  Not only do I still love the song, but the lyrics to the song have special meaning for me now.

Heaven Helps the Man (I’m Free) Video

Looking into your eyes I know I’m right
If there’s anything worth my love it’s worth a fight

We only get one chance
But nothing ties our hands
You’re what I want
Listen to me
Nothing I want
Is out of my reach

Chorus
(I’M FREE)
HEAVEN HELPS THE MAN who fights his fear
Love’s the only thing that keeps me here
You’re the reason that I’m hanging on
My heart’s staying where my heart belongs
(I’M FREE)

Running away will never make me free
And nothing we sign is any kind of guarantee
But I wanna hold you now
And I won’t hold you down

I’m shaking the past
Making my breaks
Taking control
If that’s what it takes

Chorus

I long for a time when a simple ride in the car, a hug with my husband, a show on TV won’t transport me into emotional hell.  For now, it is my reality.  I know in time it will let up.   I just can’t wish any more than I do that it comes soon.

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.

Debunking the myths of infidelity


In both my reading on the topic of infidelity and in my casual polls taken among friends, it seems there are many myths that come with the territory of infidelity.  Some of these myths are held by women, some by men, and some by both.   Some are held by mistresses, some by wives.  I’ve learned a lot this past year, and thought I would go over some of the more popular myths that exist and debunk them.

1. Affairs only happen in unhappy marriages.

While this does tend to be the reason why women cheat, it doesn’t usually apply to men.  Men who live in very happy, sexually fulfilling marriages have affairs.  For women, this is hard to understand because we equate love with sex, and if he is having sex with someone else, he must not love me.  Believe it or not, this isn’t true.  I wouldn’t have believed it a few years ago, if I hadn’t been on this journey myself.  I am sure his affair partner felt that he loved her.  As a woman, her paradigm is to believe that sex=love and so he must love her.  False.  He did, by his own admission, tell her he loved her in the midst of an orgasm, something he immediately regretted as the blood flowed back to the brain that has the higher functions of reasoning and intelligent thought.  Idiot.  I digress…

Women who are unfaithful have usually already fallen out of love with their partners, and have emotionally disconnected.  For many women, then, they feel they can justify their behaviour because to them, the relationship was already over – even if he didn’t know it yet.

Men have the ability to compartmentalize sex and love.  The two can coexist together, as they do when a man loves his wife, but they need not coexist all the time.  Men can have sex with a woman for the sake of the physical release it will bring, and nothing more.  Men don’t have to find her beautiful (although it helps if you have something nice to look at), and they don’t have to find her intelligent.   If you are the mistress, and your relationship isn’t a deep emotional connection, but just sex, then chances are he isn’t looking for you to satisfy his need for intelligent conversation – you fulfill a very basic need- sex.  That’s it.  You might as well wear a t-shirt that reads: “Have Vagina, will travel”.

2. Men cheat more than women.

As a society, men tend to be more outwardly sexual in nature than women, so we have an easier time justifying men’s behaviour when they stray, and assuming that they do it more often.  Men’s brains are very different from women’s, and they are hardwired to sexually pursue QUANTITY, while women look for QUALITY.

While the stats for infidelity may be tipped slightly more in favour of men, it is the REASONS for the infidelity that differ.  Women cheat because they are no longer satisfied in the relationship.  What was once a satisfying relationship has lost its glimmer, and it is safe to say that most women who cheat have already emotionally abandoned their primary relationship.  With men, this is not the case.  Men can be completely satisfied in their relationship, having frequent and great sex at home, and still take the opportunity to get a little more on the side, if the opportunity presents itself, and there is a low likelihood of getting caught.  He may be getting fine dining at home, but a little dessert would also be nice….especially if I won’t gain weight.

One key thing to realize is the different ways in which men and women view sex, and how these views allow them to cheat for different reasons.  More on that in a future post.

3. An affair is about sex.

An affair involves sex, but it is usually never ABOUT sex.  People don’t seek out affairs to get more sex, or to have better sex.  Sex is simply the natural progression that happens when someone seeks out a new relationship with someone of the opposite sex.  For men, sex is like a sport; something you enjoy that invigorates you, makes you feel energized, potent, alive.  For men, there need be no emotional connection whatsoever, and it has very little, if anything to do with love or emotion.  We’ve all heard someone say “He’ll have sex with anything that has a pusle”, and for many men, this may very well be accurate.  Men simply need an outlet, and who it is, or what she looks like has little bearing on why she was chosen.   Men don’t need love for sex, or sex for love – they need sex for sex.  Whether you are beautiful or smart won’t really matter….whether you are sexually available at the time will have much more of an impact.

So, if affairs aren’t about sex, what are they about, and what purpose do they serve?

Often times, men report that it wasn’t the sex that made them stray.  It wasn’t the beauty, intelligence, warmth, compassion, or personality of the woman he strayed with.  It was something about how he was FEELING while he cheated, and how the other woman made him FEEL when they are together.  The rush and the exhileration of knowing that they are doing something forbidden causes an endorphin rush, which amplifies and creates a rosy glow (can you say rose-coloured-glasses?) over the entire relationship.  She probably showers him with compliments, boosts his ego, tells him how smart he is, how powerful he is, how strong, fit, and capable he is…something that perhaps his wife doesn’t do as much as she used to now that their relationship has settled into a comfortable pattern.  Just like women need and want continuous feedback that they are valued, men also need this, although most won’t admit it.  They want to be told they are attractive, sexy, a great lover.  In marriages, however, we settle into a pattern of comfort and security and no longer shower each other with these compliments, even if we DO feel them. I guess the difference is that when women need to hear it, we find ways of encouraging our lovers to tell us, while men feel foolish doing so.  So, if a man is feeling needy for that kind of attention, he may never provide any clues.  So keep the compliments flowing…that is even more important than being sexually available – it tells him he’s important to you, that you love him, and that he still ignites that spark for you.

4. If a man is having an affair, it is due to a deficiency in the wife, aesthetically or sexually, and the mistress is seen as superior in these areas.

While this will always be the case for SOMEONE, it isn’t the case most of the time.  As per the above answers, men aren’t looking to improve upon anything, and having sex with the mistress didn’t mean there was a competition in his mind between the two.  Just like sex and love are mutually exclusive, so are the wife and the mistress.  So, if your husband cheated on you, it doesn’t mean he didn’t and doesn’t love you.  If you are a mistress to a married man, just because he is having sex with you does NOT mean that he loves you or wants to be with you long term.  You’re scratching a temporary itch, and yes he is having sex with his wife and enjoying it, which brings us to the next myth:

5. A married man engaged in an affair isn’t having sex with his wife.

This is completely false, although I am sure most mistresses would like to believe it.  Most affair partners are shocked to discover that the man they thought they were ‘stealing’ and ‘one-upping’ from the wife is actually engaging in regular sexual activity with her.  In some cases, he may be having more sex with his wife than with the mistress – she just doesn’t know it.  Married men sleep with their mistresses and return home to their marital bed every night.  They snuggle in with their spouse, they say “I love you” before rolling over, they hold each other in their sleep.   In fact, because an affair boosts a man’s self esteem so much, many have reported returning home from their rendez-vous with invigorated, excited, and ready to make LOVE to their wife.  Therein lies another main difference….he fucks the mistress, he makes love to his wife.  It makes sense because that is what each relationship is based on – casual meaningless sex vs sex for love.

Now that isn’t the case in ALL extra-marital relationships.  Some marital relationships may very well be on the rocks, and a man MAY turn to a mistress to satisfy the sexual needs that aren’t being met at home.  But, this isn’t ALWAYS the case, and certainly wasn’t the case for us.  We are very much “in love”, exchange kisses each morning before we part ways for work, affectionately greet each other when we return at the end of the day, find reasons to tell each other that we love one another, exchange playful sexual advances like we did when we were dating. But, I would wager a bet that his mistress wouldn’t believe it if he told her.  In fact, he DID tell her, and she didn’t believe it.  She accused him of being delusional, and then painted her own story that matched what she wanted to believe.

My husband made every attempt to paint a very clear picture for her about what this was for him.  “This is only about sex for me”, he’d said.  I was shocked to hear him say that because this isn’t something that I ever would have imagined him saying.  My husband is one of the most emotionally sensitive men that I know, and he very much equates love and sex….when it is between US.  “I love my wife”, “I love my children”, “I love and want my family”, “I don’t love you”.  All of these comments were met with resistance.  Resistance to believe that it could be true, when all of the signs she was seeing were pointing to the opposite.  I can’t blame her for thinking that – she is a woman and we equate sex with love…and that belief gets both the mistress and the affair partner into trouble inside their own minds when evaluating the affair and what it really meant.

In Shirley Glass’ book, “Not just friends”, she writes: “A distraught wife said to her husband, “How could you do this to me? You always looked down on those men who had affairs and broke up their family.”  The husband replied…”I was always committed to you.  I never once intended to leave you.”  She was enraged. “What do you mean you were committed?  How could you be committed when you had sex with another woman?”. He answered, “It never meant anything” (Emphasis added)

6. If a married man is having sex with his mistress, he must love her.  If he isn’t having sex with his wife, he must not love his wife.  He has chosen the mistress over the wife.

If I have learned any ONE great truth out of this whole year of discovery, it is that the differences between men and women are staggering.  We are so vastly different, and the ways in which we see and evaluate relationships is remarkably different.  We can’t evaluate a relationship with a man through OUR eyes, because our eyes are female.  The opposite is true for men.  We simply aren’t hard-wired to understand it from their perspective. Sometimes it takes a crisis to propel you to a place where you are forced to look at it, examine it, and understand it, and for that I am thankful to have had that opportunity – it has been life-changing.

When I first learned that my husband had had an affair, my initial thought was “he doesn’t love me anymore”.  For women, sex and love go hand in hand.  Women want to feel love in order to have sex (prostitutes and manipulative mistresses are the exception…but even then, deep inside they long for a loving connection too).  If we feel love, we will have sex, so if a man has sex with us, it means he loves us – right?  Wrong.  Men have sex for sex. It has nothing to do with love or emotion.  Men have the ability to compartmentalize sex into its own category, and love and emotion are not required.  A man can have sex with you without feeling an ounce of love.  A man feels no guilt about engaging in loveless sex because the two are mutually exclusive.  This is why he can have sex with the mistress and still LOVE HIS WIFE.

Once I learned and understood that he was capable of separating the two, it became much easier to understand his perspective and regain the faith that he may still love me.  There was a chance for us after all.

7. The mistress must be more attractive/smarter/more fit/more beautiful than the wife.

This is rarely the case.  In all of the reading that I have done, rarely is the mistress more beautiful than the wife.  Sometimes she is younger, but usually not prettier.  Because women fret about their appearance, and because we know men are visual creatures, our first fear is “he found someone prettier than me”.  This is rarely ever the case.

When my husband first made mention of this woman at work who was now working closely with him, my first comment was “oh a blonde woman working with my husband, should I be worried?”, said with a smile.  He replied with: “Oh goodness no, absolutely not, she isn’t even slightly attractive to me”.  Now, of course you are thinking “well he told you that at the time because he was DECEIVING you”, and I would agree, except that he still says it now.   When we talk about what led him to being with her sexually, he is stunned that he ever strayed towards her.  He doesn’t find her physically attractive or sexually attractive, he has no memory of what she looked like naked except for the fact that she had breast enlargement surgery and corrective surgery for inverted nipples.  He remembers these things because he found them odd, and yes, my husband prefers natural breasts thank you. The sex was “nothing special”, “not very good”, and he doesn’t remember any details about the actual sexual interactions they had together.

According to Shirley Glass, in her book “Not Just Friends”, she states that “outside observers will speculate unfairly and ignorantly that the betrayed wife must have been inadequate in the bedroom.

8. Once a cheater, always a cheater

This is one where there is no absolute answer. Heck, there isn’t an absolute answer to ANYTHING, but this one is truly variable.  Because men cheat for various reasons, the things that keep them cheating or not also vary.  If a man is incapable of fidelity, and has an inability to commit, then yes, he will likely re-offend.  When the infidelity is the result of a deeply seeded problem within him, it will take time and commitment to reversing it.  If it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led him to make choices he normally would never make, or if he was in some way coerced or assisted by the affair partner into starting a relationship, that’s different.

When a man makes a pledge towards honesty, confesses the affair, and lays all of his cards on the table for scrutiny and examination, he has taken the first step towards earning back your trust.  Instead of more lies and covering up, he has chosen to tell you, and that is a good start.  When he chooses to enter therapy in order to better understand himself, you, your relationship and why the relationship was vulnerable to an affair, he is showing an interest in identifying and fighting the demons that led him down the affair path.  When he listens, when he cries with you, when he takes responsibility for what he has caused and feels true remorse, and when he puts himself into your shoes to feel what you are feeling, and to grasp the intensity of the pain that he has caused, you can now say that he truly GETS IT.  I would venture to guess that someone who knows the pain of infidelity from the other side, and who respects and loves the person to whom he is married, will not want to hurt her that way again…especially if he wasn’t aware, at the time, of the impact his actions were having.

Men can cheat once and never again.  Some men are serial cheaters.  Not all men.

9. Men initiate almost all affairs

Obviously in cases where the wife is the cheater, this doesn’t apply.  This response will be directed to married men having affairs. I think it can be true that men will seek out an affair, but I don’t believe that a man wakes up one morning, and says “Today, I am going to seek out a woman whom I can engage in an extramarital affair”.  It isn’t as much a CHOICE as it is a CIRCUMSTANCE they find themselves in.  Men who find themselves in affairs, sometimes do, not because they were actively seeking it out, but rather a set of circumstances presented themselves in such a way, at such a time when a man was vulnerable to an affair.

In our case, my husband did not seek out his affair.  He was ‘befriended’ by a woman at work, who soon became privy to the emotional turmoil he was going through.  Casting herself as his “friend”, and as his “ativan”, she justified her overly-caring behaviour as part of her ‘loving, caring, compassionate nature’.  Looking back at it now, my husband sees her approaches disguised as ‘friendly banter’ through a more informed lens, and feels conned.   Interesting when the betrrayer also feels betrayed.

My husband’s mistress set her sights on him early, and he was a target.  We are convinced that if it hadn’t been him, it would be some other high-earning professional in his office.  She set her sights on him, knew what she wanted, and made it happen.  She knew men love sex, so she outwardly professed to “never getting enough to be satisifed”, and how she would have sex “8-10 times a day if possible”. She catered to his male side, and painted herself as “every man’s dream”; sexually available, sexually interested, and no strings attached.  Unless you define a purposeful pregnancy which resulted in a baby, an attempted collapse of your family, manipulative threats toward your family and professional mobility, and a monthly child-support payment “no strings”, you’re right on.  Women who see what they want and go after it are very easily capable of igniting an affair with a man, as long he is in the right place from a ‘vunerability’ standpoint.

10. Infidelity means the end of a marriage.

I, and countless other women are proof that this is not the case.  Don’t get me wrong, this is the hardest road I have ever traveled, and I’ve logged many miles soaked in tears, but I will survive this, and our marriage will be better because we’ve been through it.  A compassionate and understanding husband who takes responsibility for his actions, open and honest communication, marital therapy to assist couples in communicating effectively and filling the potholes which made their marriage vulnerable – all of these things assist a couple in rebuilding the trust and intimacy of their marriage.  I am sure at one point, or maybe even at many points, I considered our marriage to be “over”, unsalvageable, irreparable.  With time I am starting to see that this affair, his infidelity and this crisis may simply be a catalyst for a new beginning.

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