How you handle difficult times is what sets you apart

Infidelity in a marriage isn’t easy on anyone.  It hurts, it triggers fears, it ruins the status quo, it just totally and completely sucks. Once it enters your world you will never be the same.

I wonder then why some people are able to move beyond a betrayal to rebuild a stronger relationship or to at least improve their own character – and others never do.   Some women just get stuck.

I read some blogs recently that were posted on a ‘divorced moms’ site.  I think what struck me most is the self-righteousness of the author and the anger that lurked behind every word.  One blog in particular was fueled by a belief that simply by kicking her husband to the curb that she had somehow become a stronger, better person.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t take a degree of strength to kick your spouse out of your life – but in the case of this particular woman that act alone didn’t seem to change her.  Years after the divorce she was still experiencing the same degree of hate and anger – but now she was doing it alone.  The hatred that seeped into her words were heartbreaking.  Hatred for her husband, for men in general, for women who sleep with married men…it was pretty upsetting.  This woman has children with her ex – I can’t help but wonder how much of that hate is felt by those kids – and what happens when one day those children are old enough to read their mom’s blog.  Ugh.

I do understand when women decide to divorce their husband because of infidelity.  As much as I’m a believer in staying, I do think there absolutely are cases when leaving is the best thing to do.  But it doesn’t negate the need for those women to try to move beyond the anger, to deal with the pain, to forgive rather than hate, to own up to their own patterns and to open their hearts.  These things that need to be done whether you stay or you go.  There is no sense in dwelling in the pain.  It’s needless suffering.  Holding onto that hatred and all the feelings that go with it can never benefit anyone and won’t prepare you for the possibility of a healthy future relationship.

If you are struggling with the idea of forgiving an ex or a current partner who betrayed you – maybe you can start by praying for that person.  Perhaps that can be the first step down a lighter more positive path.  A path that is lit by empathy, caring and love.

A blog for both the cheater and the cheated upon.

I certainly don’t claim to be an authority on the subject of marital infidelity, but I do think I offer a unique perspective on the subject.   My understanding arrived first as the unknowing wife who was cheated on – repeatedly – by her sex addict husband.  Second, as the lonely, confused woman who sought comfort in an affair in order to escape the pain of my husbands actions.

Many of those who follow my blog are women who themselves have experienced the unimaginable pain of discovering their husband has been unfaithful.  Another significant group of followers are men who are married but cheating on their spouse.  Interestingly, I also have women following my blog who are the the mistresses of married men.  I appreciate that there are people from all sides of this complicated subject reading my posts.   I have no ill will toward any of these people and I sincerely hope that once in a while something I say resonates with each one of you.

This diverse audience is the reason that I write in equal parts from the viewpoint of both the hurt wife and the cheating spouse.  It’s natural to just want to read the parts that you personally relate to – this selective reading provides support through familiarity but not necessarily any growth.  I encourage everyone to read both sides of my story, perhaps by doing so one can begin to find some empathy or understanding toward the other parties involved.  Trying to understand isn’t the same as condoning lying and betrayal  – but by examining the flip side of the situation I believe we can start to move closer to the goal of healing.

Here are some of the feelings that I have experienced over the past 10 years through my discovery of my husbands addiction, his acting out, his relapse, my affair and our recovery.   If you have felt any of these feelings then I suspect many of my blog posts could be of interest to you – no matter which side of the affair you fell on:

Humiliation, disgrace, embarrassment, denial, apathy, pity, anger, hatred, loathing, rage, contrition, revulsion, guilt, superiority, shame, wrath, resentment, pity, indifference, compulsion, disgust, preoccupation, fixation, anxiety, obsession, passion, longing, craving, desire, loneliness, controlling, fearful, comprehending, powerlessness, forgiving, compassion, understanding, gratitude, empathy, tolerance, trust, love.

The importance of change after an affair

It’s the life force of civilization.  It’s the one constant in life.  It’s uncomfortable and frightening and ignites our fears.  It’s CHANGE.

When I look at my past, the most profound times in my life were during major life changes.  All of these changes weren’t perfect in and of themselves.  But they all improved my life by the way they affected me.  The experiences surrounding changes in my life made me a better, more experienced, more open minded person.

When your relationship becomes affected by infidelity, there are a number of different paths you can take.  You can stay or you can leave.  You can go into denial or you can face the situation head on.  You can forgive or you can resent.   I challenge you to explore the path that involves the most change.  I don’t mean surface change, as would occur if you moved out and got a new house, a new mate, a new life.  I mean deep, profound, internal change.

I am over simplifying a bit, but lets look at 2 options and what opportunities they hold for change.

1.  You leave your husband.  This is sometimes the best or only option.  For instance, if your partner is not willing to take responsibility for his actions, or if he is abusive or if he wants a divorce.   In this case there will be an unsettling period of situational changes while you go through separation and divorce.  However, once the dust has settled, who are you going to be?  Will you remain the same person you were prior to the divorce?  If so, statistics show that you will probably enter another relationship with someone who is exactly like the one you just left.  You won’t recognize it to begin with, the decision is a subconscious one, but eventually it will come to light and you will find yourself if the same place as you were before.  It’s a strange phenomenon, but if we don’t change ourselves, we all tend to repeat our relationship patterns.  The challenge here is to deeply and honestly explore how you ended up in this position in the first place.  The answer isn’t as simple as “he is a lying cheating asshole”.  The answer lies in the reasons YOU CHOSE TO BE WITH this lying cheating asshole in the first place.  What familial patterns attracted you to this person?  What signs did you ignore along the way? What role did you play in enabling his behavior?  If you don’t want to repeat your cycle, then do this work, answer these questions and MAKE CHANGES IN YOUR PATTERNS before you start a new relationship.

2.  You stay.  Maybe he apologizes and promises this will never happen again.  Perhaps he makes some grand gesture that convinces you to believe him.  You will probably have a few blow up flights, a couple of nights with him on the sofa, some very real and very wet tears.  You might convince him to go to a therapy session or two.  Then, you get back to your routine and quite frankly, you don’t want to think about it or talk about it again.  You tell him that you will let it go this time but threaten if he does it again you will dump him.  This isn’t using the situation to better yourself.  This decision is based on fear.  Fear of the truth.  Fear of uncovering painful pasts.  Fear of change.  Life events that are this traumatizing can’t be swept under the rug.  The entire foundation of your relationship, your trust and faith in the one person who was supposed to protect you has been shattered.  This deserves your attention.  Not a little bit of attention –  A LOT OF ATTENTION.  You need to mourn and heal and talk and grow.  You need to look at your roll in his behavior.  You need to look at why you want to just ‘forgive and forget’ (as though that is possible).   You need to look at what you need to start feeling safe again.  You need to rebuild (more likely you need to build for the first time) a basis of intimacy with your partner.  You need to slowly allow yourself to be vulnerable again.  You need to share all of your feelings and listen to all of his.  You need to learn self care.  You need to learn to decipher intuition from fear.  This is an amazing opportunity to grow into a more trusting, vulnerable, communicative, smarter, more confident person.

In both of these scenario’s there is a choice.  You can ignore your role in the events.  I don’t mean that you caused him to cheat  or that his affair was your fault.  I mean that you selected this person as your mate.  You probably ignored suspicions about his fidelity long before you got proof of his activities.  You may have contributed in any number of ways.  But here is a chance to learn about your self – about your coping mechanisms, your intuition and how your childhood and past affects your current relationship.  You can learn how to care for yourself, how to put your needs first, set personal boundaries and become a more confident, secure person.

This affair doesn’t need to swallow you hole.  It doesn’t need to leave you numb.  It can be the beginning of an amazing future relationship either with your current spouse or with a new mate.   But, first, you need to welcome the change.

Sometimes our affair partners stand on such green grass. Oh wait..it’s just a mirage.

I missed my boyfriend today.  I shouldn’t call him that because he is no longer my boyfriend – but it’s the name I have given him in this blog.  I should rename him for the sake of this post.  Let’s go with Mr Jameson – one of his favorite drinks.  Mr J was my boyfriend on and off for about 12 years before I met and married my husband.  We were pretty serious for a few of those years – 4 years here, 2 years there, a bunch of break ups and get backs in between.  It was my most significant relationship in my 20’s and 30’s prior to meeting my husband.  He was driven, charming, super successful, adventurous and a whole lot of fun to be around.  He was also short tempered, afraid of intimacy, occasionally abusive and non committal.

I came from a proper, conservative upbringing so I had put Mr Jameson behind me when I married.  I figured he would be the guy I might eventually send a Christmas card to (once he married as well, of course).  I thought it would be nice for my husband to meet him some day (I know they would like one another).  He was my ex but I certainly didn’t hate him.  In fact, about 3 weeks before I met and got engaged to my husband, Mr Jameson and I were planning a getaway to Mexico.

After my wedding, I stayed away from Mr Jameson.  No emails, not phone calls, nothing.  It was the proper thing to do now that I was married.  But the day after I found out that my husband had been cheating on me, he is the person I reached out to.  I didn’t initially tell him why I reached out – I just sent a benign email saying ‘hello’ and asking if he ever visited California (where I moved when Mr J and I broke up).  An email volley ensued – polite and friendly to begin with – then a subtle suggestion that we missed one another – and then a full blown exploration of ‘what if’s’ and ‘could we’s’ and ‘maybes’….

I didn’t physically see Mr Jameson for a few years.  We emailed and texted and flirted intermittently.  I would reach out when I felt lonely or angry with my husband.  He would provide a distraction which I mistook for comfort.  It wasn’t comfort of course – it was just fuel for my fantasy of a better world with a better person in a better place.  Ah, how green that grass can seem!

After a few years of putting off the inevitable, we started a physical affair.  Mr Jameson lived on the other side of the country – and I was married – so we didn’t see one another often – but we did see one another.  During those random days and nights I appreciated the familiarity most of all.  It was our history together which drove me to him.  He knew me when I was 23 and hopeful and young.  He was a reminder of who I was in a time before life and husbands and aging and cheating became concerns.  It wasn’t that I loved being with him as much as I loved who I was when I was with him.   To be honest, when I was feeling so much confusion and pain in my own marriage I couldn’t imagine having an affair with a stranger – it doesn’t make sense to me at all – but I know many people do that.

About 2 years ago, after years of inappropriate behavior with Mr J, I told my husband about the affair.  It was REALLY hard to do – but I knew that if I kept that secret to myself then I would be tempted to reach out to Mr J again.  Once the slate is clean it’s a much bigger leap to dirty it again.  If you don’t understand that concept – just think about eating cake.  If you are in great shape and good health and regularly eat cake you don’t think twice about ordering it.  If you are however on a strict no sugar diet because you are diabetic and it can truly harm you then it’s quite a big decision to take a bite.  By telling my husband everything that had happened – I put myself on a very strict diet which does not allow any Jameson.  I can’t say it’s impossible that I would ever contact him again, but I definitely won’t ever reach out to him mindlessly, as it would literally poison everything I have worked for.

To get to the point of this post – yesterday, I wrote on someone’s comment page about affairs and loneliness and blah blah blah.  So last night Mr J creeped into one of my dreams.  It wasn’t sorted or dirty – I just ran into him and we embraced and it was nice.  Needless to say, that led to him being on my mind after I woke this morning.  Not because I want to continue our affair (I don’t) but because he was a massive part of my life for 2 decades and when I am reminded of him I do miss him.  I miss him as I would anyone else who was that important to me for so long.  It saddens me that I can’t send a text saying “hey…I was reminded of you today…hope you are well”.   But I can’t.  Because I crossed a boundary that was not good for my relationship.  Had I not allowed my heart and body to crossed that line, Mr J could still be in my life as a friend.   We could grab a beer with my husband when we are visiting Chicago.   But this is not longer an option.

The moral of this post is this – and it’s intended for those who are cheating:

1.  Be honest with yourself about your feelings.  I confused loneliness for love.  I thought that because I craved Mr J that I loved him.  That’s not true.  I craved him because he could distract me from my intense pain.  Mr J couldn’t fix my loneliness – only reconnecting with my husband could do that.

2.  When I felt myself thinking about Mr J today I didn’t allow it to take over my mind.  I instead focused on what I could do for my husband and for our relationship.  I planned and prepared an amazing dinner and can’t wait for him to get home so I can share it with him.  When you are drawn to another – stop and refocus your energy and your mind back to the place where it belongs.

3.  Don’t mess up your relationships with co-workers, neighbors or ex’s to have an affair on your spouse.  In the end, you aren’t going to end up with that person and you will have destroyed what could have been a lifelong friendship.

4.  Finally, cheating will never, ever bring anything but loneliness and loss.  No matter how ‘justified’ it seems – all it does is breeds distrust in the other and shame in yourself.

The grass is always greener over the fence.  And it will remain that way until you start to water your own lawn.  Speaking of..I need to get back to making a feast for my husband and I.

Why do feelings hurt so much worse than flesh?

Everything that is hurt needs to heal.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a stubbed toe or an ego.  Scientists have proven than emotional and physical pain are both centered in the same part of the brain, so why is it that feelings – which exist only in our brain – can take so much longer to heal than an actual flesh wound.

I watched my mastectomy scars improve every day when I first had surgery.  I was amazed by how quickly my body rallied to heal itself.  Within weeks they looked pretty amazing.  They still exist, and always will, but they don’t hurt when I touch them. When I look at the scars, there is nothing triggering.  I don’t feel the pain of the surgery or the anxiety surrounding it.  They are just a lasting but benign result of an incision which may have saved my life.

How funny that our bodies can recuperate so completely and swiftly – but when our feelings are hurt the pain is so much more intense – and hangs on for what seems to be forever.  Even when the feelings start to heal, one wrong reminder can reopen the emotional wound and we are right back where we started feeling all of those hurt feelings again like they just happened.

When I first found out that husband was unfaithful the number of physical symptoms that went along with my hurt was shocking.  The lump in my throat, the nausea in my stomach, the uncontrollable shaking, the weight loss, the fear.  I even got a fever the night I found out.  I knew that it was just my feelings reacting to the stress in my body but I didn’t have any tools that could control it.

I think that part of the difference, and one reason why old emotional wounds are so easily accessed, is because we don’t tend to emotional pain in the way we do physical pain.  With my mastectomy I started taking supplements a month prior to surgery so my body would have the vitamins and minerals it needed to heal.  I cut out wheat, sugar and alcohol to eliminate inflammation and added in white chicken meat to up my protein level.  I made sure everything I ate and drank was organic and fresh.  I consulted with many surgeons to make sure I had the right team of doctors.  I read books and researched how to heal quickly and painlessly.  After the surgery I rested and slept and saw my doctors for lots of check ups.  I was tended to night and day by my husband and mother.  I was prayed for by countless friends and strangers.  I listened to healing meditations at least 4 times a day.  I repeated mantra’s to tell my body to heal.  I applied creams and salves and had physical therapy for weeks.  All this to recover from a surgery.

By comparison, the first time I found out about my husbands infidelity I cried alone, I yelled at him and then ignored him.  I didn’t tell any friends and didn’t have a therapist.  I refused to hear about – much less learn about – sex addiction.

I think it’s obvious why my body healed better than my feelings.  I helped my body in every way I knew to heal itself.  But when I was emotionally hurt I didn’t tend to my feelings with the same commitment. My feelings didn’t heal and I suffered for many years with insecurity, anger, confusion and suspicions.

Cut to the discovery of my husbands relapse 2 years ago.  That time, the initial pain was equally as horrible as the first time around.  All the symptoms that were there the first time – the shaking, the nausea, the tears – were all present.  But this time around I healed.  Instead of getting angry and yelling at my husband I held him and comforted him and helped him.  Instead of keeping it all to myself I shared it with other wives of addicts who I had met over the years.  This time I attended and shared at S-Anon meetings.  This time I found an amazing therapist who deals specifically in this area and I committed to letting her help me.  I journaled a lot.  I read lots of books on the subject of sex addition.  I talked to my husband for countless hours sharing every feeling and fear with my husband.  And like with my mastectomy, I can still see the scars, but they don’t trigger me the way they did the first time around.  I took care of myself – and it shows.  I am working on my meditation practice (I wish this came easier to me!) so it is in place the next time I have an emotional or physical trauma.  It’s life.  Things happen.  We need to prepare.

I’m sure there is an entire scientific study about physical versus emotional healing which would be way over my head.  But I am pretty sure that taking care of our emotional wounds with the same care and gentle touch that we do our physical wounds will help them heal better.  At least it can’t hurt.

18 days a counting

18 days ago I wrote a post about being in love for that day/moment and how I was going to try to extend that feeling by just a little bit.  Maybe a day…or if I was lucky a few days in a row.  It’s 18 days later and I haven’t lost the feeling yet.  I have even held onto it through a visit from a relative and a week of PMS.  

Could it be as simple as just telling myself to hold the feeling?  Is it because I actively resisted using porn?  Did I avoid thinking of my ex…or didn’t he cross my mind due to my state of mind?

If and when this feeling wanes, I will be ultra aware of the moment so I can avoid it in the future.  Because even though being madly in love never really makes sense – it’s still the best place to be 

Loving with my heart, not with my head

Try as I might to calm my active mind, I lean toward being an worrier and an over thinker.   I worry about things I have no control of and have a low level of anxiety on a daily basis.  To gain some false sense of control, I have historically thought myself straight out of all of my serious relationships in the past.  I would find a ‘flaw’ that I couldn’t accept and would walk away without another thought.

When I married my husband just 6 months after meeting him I knew the risk I was taking.  I realized that it could all go horribly wrong.  I also knew that if I didn’t marry him right then that I would find a reason not to do it.  I allowed myself to be hasty because something inside of me (inside of my heart) recognized that I had found a soul mate and I needed to commit.  Waiting the socially appropriate amount of time to marry him absolutely would have been the end of us.

I grew up in a family and an environment that didn’t really see divorce as an option.  So when shit hit the fan and my husbands addict wreaked havoc on our relationship, leaving him wasn’t really an immediate option.  The marriage certificate kept me by his side when the easier and more familiar thing to do would have been to leave.  In choosing to stay, I was challenging myself to find a way to forgive and love despite the massive obstacles.  I learned that the solution wasn’t entire up to him.  Marriage is a team effort and I needed to do my fair part.  The result of this has been my incredible growth as a person.  Growth that never would have occurred had I left.  Change is never easy, but it is one of the most vital parts of a rewarding life.

It’s hard to say what would have happened if I had left, but I have a pretty good idea:  1. I would have stayed with my pattern of developing temporary, unfulfilling relationships.  2. My fear of pain and imperfection would paralyze me to move forward.  3. I would be alone by choice.  

In my head I still recognized some very strong arguments why leaving would have been, and still could sound sensible.  But to really experience all that this amazing journey has to offer I willingly take the less obvious path – I push myself to sit with the uncomfortable parts – and I am a better, happier and more fulfilled person for doing so.    I still have many days when my brain wants to overrule my heart but I am finding more balance and more contentment every day.