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.

Advertisements

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.

This is how progress feels. It feels like freedom.

My husband, being a sex addict, had countless liaisons with people over the years.  95% of these acting out partners were strangers.  He didn’t know their names, didn’t care who they were, and probably wouldn’t recognize most of them in a crowd.  Of course, there were a couple of women who he did know.  They weren’t close friends, just acquaintances who made it clear they had loose boundaries and he ended up having sex with them.  Never more than 2 or 3 times – the thrill would wear off for him by then and he would move on.

I’ve written before about this one person who still contacts him.  The emails from her are few and far between – maybe twice a year – but every time she reached out to him in the past it really triggered me.  I felt sick to my stomach and got angry with my husband and started to ask questions that had already been answered.  Until now.

A few days ago, my husband saw an email from this person.  she sent it late at night so he received it when he got up in the morning.  He needed to leave for work before I got up so he came to wake me.  He said “I didn’t want to wake you but I need to tell you that I got an email from that lunatic”.  At first I didn’t know who he meant, but I figured it out pretty quickly.  I asked him what it said and he said he hadn’t read it yet.  He asked if I would like to get up so we could read it together.  I rose and we read the stupid email.  It was just a sentence or two of no consequence.  I don’t understand why she writes to him especially since he hasn’t had contact with her in 2 years.  From her emails, it doesn’t appear to be romantic or with a desire to see him.  The simplest explanation is that she is afraid of him being her enemy since they work in the same industry.

I don’t know her reasons, but still she writes.  Every time she does, we read it (and delete it) together.  But one thing changed this time.  I didn’t have a negative physical reaction.  I didn’t dwell on it all day.  I didn’t feel anger toward my husband.  I saw this for exactly what it was.  I’m not talking about this woman and her motivations.  I am talking about my husbands actions.  He isn’t hiding anything from me.  He didn’t pre-read her message to find out what it said before alerting me to it.  He loves me and wants me to learn to completely trust him again.  This is the truth.

My husband has offered for me to put a rule on his account so that her emails will forward to me, or will be immediately deleted, or bounce back to her.  Anything I want.  Anything that makes me feel comfortable.  I used to want to read them for some clue about his relationship with her.  I thought perhaps there were secrets I didn’t know.  But that’s not the case.  I know everything I need to know.  I know he is sick and acted out with her and others.  I also know that he is recovering and changed and worthy of my love and trust.  I don’t need to control his emails to know all of this.

This gal may write again, she may not.  I don’t really care.  I couldn’t much control it if I did.  But, from here on out, it won’t affect my relationship with my husband if and when she does.  This is freedom.

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.

Getting over infidelity

I thought it couldn’t be done.  All those years ago when my husband first cheated (he is a sex addict) – and then last year when I found out his sobriety was a farce.  I knew I loved him (as in cared about him, wanted the best for him) but I never thought I could be in love with him again.

It has been almost a year to the day that my world was shattered for the second time.  But unlike the first time around, I didn’t stick my head in the sand.  I didn’t expect my husband to become the man I knew he was without my support.  I did everything differently.

I would suggest to anyone who is dealing with infidelity – and more specifically with addiction – to consider joining S-Anon, to getting a therapist who is trained in addiction, to telling one or two close friends who can be trusted not to judge.  I suggest reading literature about being the partner of a sex addict.  I also suggest putting boundaries in place to help yourself feel safe.  Boundaries can include anything from insisting he get an STD check to knowing his email passwords to reviewing his progress on a regular basis.  Everyone’s story is different and everyone’s triggers will be too.  Once you can identify the things that take you off your path you’ll be able to set up nets to catch yourself and right your path.

Work and time, work and time, work and time.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, of course.  There are still certain memories that will forever make my heart stop for a moment.  Then I pull myself back into the present and take inventory of what is happening TODAY and I am able to push those painful memories away.

I am fortunate to have a husband who is a fantastic communicator and who was willing to (finally) look at the roots of his addiction which stem to his childhood abuse.  He was very strong to take the steps he needed to make things right with us.

Will my trust ever be the way it was when we were newlyweds?  No way.  But that was an unrealistic version of trust.  It was a fantasy and had no basis in reality.  His trust now is earned with consistency over time.

I am in love with and respect my husband.  And it feels wonderful.

Peeing into a cup: The sex addicts version

I read a lot of blogs that are written by partners of sex addicts and other betrayed spouses.  As I’d expect, many of these posts are filled with “what if’s”.  What it he is cheating again? Was that text really intended for me?  Was he really working late? Why didn’t he answer his phone?  If he really went to the gym why aren’t his clothes sweaty?  What is this credit card charge?  Why does his car smell like gardenia?  Some of the excuses we are given (and that we silently agree to believe) are down right hilarious.

No one will ever know every thought that goes through their partners head –  it’s best this way.  But the basis of trust in a relationship comes down to our actions.  Did I think about hooking up with that hot guy at the gym?  Sure I did, I am human.  Did I act on it?  Hell no.  It’s not about the thought – it’s about the actions we take after the thought.  When we are unsure that our partners actions are on the up and up, that’s when we have a problem that needs to be addressed.

If something looks suspicious, his stories don’t add up or your sixth sense is setting off alarms – those things can’t be ignored.  Is he cheating?  Is he lying?  You need to know in order to make a healthy decision for yourself.  If he has done it before then I hate to tell you but there is an extremely good chance he is doing it again…especially if he is an addict.  He can’t stop that destructive behavior just by going to a few therapy sessions.  It takes a lot of daily work to get sober and a lot of trust to learn to be transparent with our spouses.

I can’t emphasize enough how helpful the polygraph was to my relationship.  After being lied to for so many years it was impossible to believe that I had indeed finally been told everything.  Knowing 1/2 the truth was of no use to me.  Holding back any lies would be an insurmountable obstacle to our future together.

My husband certainly didn’t like having to submit to the test but he understood the reason it had to be done.  He wanted me to know, beyond any doubt, that I had been told the entire truth.  After all the pain he had caused me, he owed it to me to do ANYTHING IN HIS  POWER to make me feel safe.  He didn’t resist doing this for me.  Only after the truth was out could we could start again at ground zero knowing that everything was on the table.

The polygraph my husband took came back clean.  But I think it was his willingness to take the test that made me really believe that not only did I have the truth about our past – but that his intentions for our future were on par with mine.

In my boundaries/consequences list I have indicated that we will do yearly polygraphs for at least the first 3 years since discovery.  The concept of a lie detector has a horrible stigma attached – but it is exactly like having a former drug addict pee into a cup.  It’s simply a tool we can use to verify a sexaholics sobriety.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It comforts me to know that I have this tool to use.  If I ever have reason to ask “was he really where he said he was” I know that the truth really will come out.

I have suggested to friends in similar situations that they might want to explore the option of using a polygraph.  Some have, some haven’t.  I believe the difference is that some people truly want to know the truth.  Others would rather live with a bit of denial and aren’t quite ready for 100% disclosure.  It’s a personal decision but one worth considering.  Why cause yourself undue anxiety over a husbands real or imagined activities.

Everyone’s path is different.  I can only share what worked for me.  I really needed to know the truth in order to start again.  And my husband really needed to realize that he is still loved, even after I learned every horrible thing about his behavior.  What an empowering way to live.  What a great foundation on which to learn to be honest.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cheaters tip # 1: Know who you are f-cking around with better than they know you

A friend Erika is dealing with a horrible side affect from her husband’s infidelity.  A stalker.  

Erika’s husband is an addict.  He is also a douche bag. That fact has nothing to do with this story but just had to be said.

Erika thought her hubby had been ‘sober’ for years.  She found out 2 months ago that he had been gambling, doing some drugs and, of course, acting out sexually.  He told her that he just looked at some porn, chatted on line with some strangers and met a couple girls for dinner.  He claims he had no sex and didn’t pay any hookers or any such stuff.

One of these women who he apparently dined with now calls the house phone (they had to have the number changed), calls her husband at work, threatened to tell the wife, drives by the house, etc. She claims that she is sending legal documents to the house.  Oh my.  So this gal knows Erika’s husbands full name, work place, home address, email, home phone, wifes name, wifes cell phone.  Yet he knows NOTHING about her.  Not her last name, what car she drives, where she works – not even her last name.  

He tried to call Ashley Madison’s support center to get some info on the woman but their only advice was to call the police.  Thanks A.M.

This gal is obviously bat shit crazy.  Even if she did screw the husband (I have little doubt) – and even if he promised her the sun, moon and stars and various illegal exchanges- her stalking and blackmail is fatal attraction scary.  

Men’s stupidity when it comes to sex never ceases to amaze me.  The level of arrogance associated with their behavior is laughable.  

To all of you out there who believe you are going to pull off an amazing affair with mind blowing sex and no strings attached and are going to walk away when you have had enough.  Then your spouse and family are never going to find out, you won’t catch an STD,  will successfully delete or hide all history of emails, photos and phone calls from her and the only memory of it will be in your mind.  Think again.  You’ve gotta be smarter than that.  

At the very least, get the girls real name for heaven’s sake.  You never know when she is going to come back to stalk you.