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Letter from a Reader: Leaving a Cheater

30 Apr

Why You Should Leave a Cheater remains my most popular post.  I continue to get at least one or two emails a week, often more, from people who are dealing with similar situations.  The stories are always sad, heartfelt, and usually inspiring.   There are always a lot of emotions involved.  This is an issue that far too many people struggle with, sometimes after years of having the same negative behavior repeated by their partner.

They are all different, yet very much the same.  Men and women are both affected, and reach out to me in fairly even proportions.  None of them expected to be where they are.  Some of them try to hang on and fight for their relationship, others are struggling to make up their minds or seeking support and reinforcement for a decision they’ve already made to cut the cheater out of their lives.

Despite my strong personal feelings on the subject and the decisive wording of my article, I try to be an ear more than a giver of advice.  Every situation has its own complications, and I am not a trained therapist.  What I do think is that everyone should listen to their inner voice, be very cautious with someone who has already lied and cheated, and not settle for a bad partner out of fear and complacency.

Today I was contacted by a woman who very eloquently shared her story and what brought her to my blog.  I requested permission to share her story because it resonated with me.  Her story sounds like mine.  Maybe it sounds like yours.  There are many common threads in relationships where cheating is involved.  There is also power in hearing other people’s experiences.   She was kind enough to allow me to share in the hopes that someone could benefit from reading it.  Here is her personal story of leaving a cheater:

“I am a young woman from Ireland who has just discovered your blog. I just wanted to send you an email to say that your post ‘Why You Should Leave a Cheater’ is probably, no, most definitely, the best piece of advice I ever could have read.

Recently I’ve gone through a very rough patch with my partner of 1.5 years. I would consider myself a strong, confident, ambitious woman but because of him, I felt like nothing more than a few pieces of broken glass. He completely tore me apart as a person, and still, I stayed with him because ‘he needed my help’ to sort out his mess of a head. My family and friends hated him, but I thought that love conquers all, excuse the cliche.

After all my attempts to keep both of our heads above the water, I discovered he cheated on me, not physically but emotionally. Although there was no physical contact, I have no doubt that I will never feel pain comparable to that of seeing filthy pictures and messages exchanged between my partner and a woman from his past. I broke things off, and just as you described in your post, his tears started streaming, nose running, condemning himself for what he had put me through and the exclamations of how he couldn’t live with himself. And also, just like you, I felt so sorry for him. Look at this poor guy, he made a mistake, one stupid mistake and surely people deserve a second, third, fourth or fifth chance? How glad I am that I never offered that chance.

My partner was an emotionally abusive partner and it took me too long to acknowledge, accept and realise this. When I broke it off with him, I felt like I had been let out of a cage for the first time in months. I felt so free. I’m no expert, but I don’t think many people feel like that when they leave a relationship. So I was moving on, discovering new and amazing people, learning that there ARE people out there that I deserve, and yes, I do deserve better than the love he gave me. As I was moving onwards and upwards, we bumped into each other on a night out. We talked and he broke down in tears, exclaiming how losing me had opened up his eyes and changed him, making him see that he didn’t want to be THAT person. He begged me to consider giving him the chance to prove himself, and to prove that I could trust him.

After a few days consideration, it was last night that I told him I simply could not allow him the chance to regain my trust, as I had not yet accepted or moved past the hurt he caused me. Oh, and the fact that I didn’t, in the slightest, deserve any of it. Looking into his red,puffy eyes as he promised me he had been snapped into reality, and that he had changed for the better, I really did think ‘what if that is true’? He said it with such conviction that it made me think, ‘if he has changed, we could have the most perfect relationship out there’. I considered that maybe, just for the fact that he seemed so genuine about changing, we could actually be great together.

But I took a step back from my emotionally clouded judgement, and remembered the moment I found those pictures and filthy messages. I remembered the time he squared up to me and backed me into a corner. I remembered the time he told me I looked like a slut in my new top that I loved. I remembered the time he threatened to drive away in my car if I didn’t get back in it. I remembered the time he didn’t defend me when his friend called me fat. I remembered every little time that my heart twinged with pain. I looked into his eyes and told him I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t give him that next chance, because I wanted to grow and rebuild every part of me that he knocked down.

This morning, I had slight doubts and googled, ‘Have I made the right decision to leave my boyfriend’? That’s when your blog post popped up. And thank God for that. It’s so, so refreshing to know that someone ‘gets it’. Although I wish you and I had never gone through that pain, in a way, I now feel ready to offer helpful advice to others in a similar situation. I know that if my daughter one day goes through something similar, I’ll know exactly what to say and why.

Break ups, no matter what the reason, can be excruciating, especially when you feel like you’re not leaving just one person, but their whole family too. You’re cutting off what was your livelihood, love and passion for years. But when I doubt myself, and I read posts like the one you wrote, it makes me think I’m not the only one who has had to make these decisions. Thank you for taking the time to write that, because it really has cemented in my mind that this is what I want to do, this is the right decision. So thank you.

I read a quote recently that said ‘we accept the love we think we deserve’, and it’s very true. Right now, I’m certain that I deserve more, so why settle for shade when I can have sunlight?”

I hope anyone who reads her words will think about the type of love that you deserve and not accept less.

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10 Excuses People Use to Stay with a Cheater

15 Aug

I wanted to post a follow-up to my last opinion piece.  I talked about reasons to leave a cheater (or, rather, reasons to kick them out).  This one will address what I believe are common excuses that people tell themselves to stay.

1.  “I owe it to him/her to see if this can work.”  No, you don’t.  You don’t owe the cheater anything.  You’ve already given things a chance to work, and they didn’t.  Your spouse threw that away.  They chose not to work on things (themselves or the marriage, if there were marital issues before they strayed).  Instead, they caused further destruction.  Face it, your relationship wasn’t great before or during the cheating.  Communication and intimacy have to be screwed up for something like that to be possible, and your partner obviously had no concern for your feelings or, often times, health.  Now that something this huge and damaging and hurtful is added on top, what was shitty before is not going to become magically wonderful.

2.  “But he/she loves me.”  That is not love.  Someone who cheats on you does not love you enough to stay faithful.  See this post for an elaboration on this point.  It was written by a wayward spouse, with my commentary added, and it really takes a hard look at the kind of “love” a cheating partner is showing.

3.  “But I love him/her.”  I’m sure you do.  You’re not getting that love back (see above, and just look at their actions).  Love isn’t always enough, especially if it isn’t returned in equal measure.  A relationship with a cheater is incredibly unbalanced because the faithful partner obviously cares much more than the unfaithful one.  Loving someone can be a good thing, but it can also cause you to devalue yourself if it gets to the point where your love leads you to accept treatment and behavior that is completely unacceptable.  Try loving yourself first, just as much or more than you love them.
screenshot952013-08-04-18-38-17-114. “What will happen to him/her if I leave? I can’t abandon him in such a vulnerable time. What if he commits suicide? Him, him, him, him, him, ad nauseum…”   I see this so much, and I just want to grab the person, shake them, and tell them to stop making it about the cheater.  Stop expending your energy and emotions over their feelings when they didn’t care one iota about yours.  Do you need to be cruel and mean and hurt them the way that they did you?  No, absolutely not.  In fact, I discourage it because it won’t help you.

However, you do NOT need to fuss over them, or worry about the ramifications that their choices will have on their lives (it was THEIR job to do that, and they obviously decided the risk was worth it).  Believe me, they are playing that sympathy card and working you like a fiddle.  They know the more they can put the attention on their poor, pitiful me act, the more you will be distracted and the less you will focus on how you’re feeling.

Don’t fall into the trap of comforting the cheater more than you comfort yourself or looking out for their interests more than your own.  You can give them the phone number to the crisis/ suicide hotline and the yellow pages for a psychologist with emergency appointments if they really are considering that route, because they need professional help anyway.  Other than that, take care of yourself, and let them deal with the fallout from their actions, whatever they may be.  The bottom line is that you cannot live for someone else.

5.  “He/she is so sorry!” Sure they are… sorry that they got caught.  No matter sorry they claim to be or how guilty they say it made them feel, they were able to get past that long enough to cheat.  If they are one of the rare few who actually confessed what they did, it was most likely for selfish reasons.  Furthermore, being sorry does not change anything about what they chose to do.

6.  “He/she never loved the affair partner.”  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If they didn’t, that’s actually worse.  Someone who can throw away fidelity and their spouse’s trust over a person who they have no feelings or attachments to is the scariest kind of cheater.  It reeks of sociopathy.  And if they were in love?  Then there are a whole new set of problems to consider.
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7.  “I don’t have any other options.”  There are always other options.  Don’t stay because you feel trapped.  Use the law to your advantage, reach out to family or friends, find an organization that helps people in situations like that, look into pro bono attorneys, think about taking a class, even a low-cost community one, and give yourself a fighting chance at happiness.  Unless you’re kidnapped, enslaved, or chained down, there are always ways to get out.

8.  “He/she is the best I’ll ever find.”  This one makes me sad.  People who tell themselves this have had their self-esteem beaten down to the point where they feel like the poor treatment they are getting is the best they deserve.  I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  There are millions of people in the world.  There is no “the one.”  Does that mean there aren’t some people out there who will stay single forever and not find another person to fall in love with?  No, I wouldn’t go that far.  However, I firmly believe that it is better to be happy on your own than be taken advantage of by someone just to have a “partner.”  I put that in quotes because anyone who behaves that way isn’t a real partner at all.  I’d rather be in a ship alone that in it with someone who keeps shooting holes in the bottom.  Plus, when you take care of yourself and learn to find fulfilment within yourself, you will start attracting people toward you without even meaning to.

Maybe this is your longest relationship or the best, healthiest one you’ve ever been in.  Even if it’s the best you’ve ever had, it’s still not good enough. If you can’t trust your partner, you can’t build a life together. Move on. It will be hard, it will hurt, and you will grieve. But it will allow you to find someone you can trust who will be all of those things you deserve

9.  “I’m ashamed.  What will we tell our friends/family/kids?”  You have nothing to be ashamed of.  You can’t make someone cheat.  That is a decision that they make all on their own, no matter how bad the marriage was to begin with.  There are always options – talking about it, therapy, marriage retreats, plainly stating that xyz needs aren’t being met and it’s making me think about xyz, asking for a divorce, going to a pastor or religious leader (if that’s your thing), and the list goes on.  They chose not to do that.  Instead, they cheated.  There is nothing shameful about walking away at that point.  Tell people whatever you want to tell them.  The truth, if you feel comfortable, or nothing if you don’t.  It’s not their business anyway.  Now for the kids part…

10. “I can’t leave because of the kids.” I don’t have children, so I’m obviously not a parent.  I’m not a child psychologist.  Surprisingly, I haven’t even dug up a lot of research on this subject to post here (although you know that sounds just like me to do, and I have read plenty of it in my journey through this mess because of my thirst for knowledge).  Instead, I’m going to tell you a story.

My family growing up looked perfect. From the outside. My parents didn’t really fight in front of us. They didn’t really have conflicts.  My Dad had some control issues and not very much patience, there wasn’t a lot of affection, and there was sometimes tension in my household, but no one from the outside knew anything was wrong.  As I child I couldn’t point to one thing and say – “that’s really messed up” or “because of THAT my parents aren’t a good match.”  However, I remember wishing, praying, and even once begging my Mom to get a divorce.  I think she was taken aback that time, because I truly believe she thought they hid things exceptionally well.

And they did, for the most part.  There was no cheating.  No abuse.  No horrible, terrible things happening in my house.  But there also wasn’t happiness, love, or open kisses and hugs between my parents.  I had a wonderful childhood in just about every sense – I had everything I needed and more.  I had support from both parents.  I was involved in sports and they both cheered me on, I had horses, went to shows, we ate dinner as a family together every single night, and more.  But I knew.  I just KNEW that they weren’t happy.

It was in the air.  I could sense it, even if I couldn’t put my finger on it.  The relationship I had modeled for me was not a healthy one.  The marriage I watched the entire time I was growing up is not what a real marriage should be.  It was like looking at something through the bottom of a thick glass.  Or looking at your reflection in a spoon.  It was warped.  Off.  The best word I can think of to use is unfulfilling.  It was unfulfilling.  Suffocating, even.  Except that everyone thought it was wonderful.  While I was envying my friends’ divorced parents, people were admiring how great it was that my parents were still together.  If only they knew what it was really like for us kids…  It’s horrible to know something isn’t right but to have everyone around you not acknowledge that fact.

My parents stayed married until I was 18 or 19.  It wasn’t long after I left the house.  My brother and sister lived there when they separated.  My brother went off to college a year or so after, but my sister was still there through the divorce.  I remember talking to my parents, really talking to them both, for the first time in years… maybe ever.  Especially my Dad.  The honesty was so refreshing it was like a revelation.  All of the pretend and make-believe, the façade that we put up as a family… I finally got confirmation that I wasn’t imagining it.

From my Mom, too.  We were always pretty close, and she recognized my intelligence and treated me accordingly from a fairly young age.  But from that point on it was different.  She told me stories and things about their early years together, about the conflicts and family struggles that brought them together.  She told me about things that I never, ever would have imagined happened.  She told me about the pain of losing her father and having my Dad’s father be in jail.  How she thought about leaving, even back then, but never could find the “right time.”  She told me how circumstances interceded, how she got swept up in it, how we children were the best things she got out of the marriage, and other things.

We all made it through just fine.  In fact, it was the best decision, by far, that they ever made.  Hell, I remember being as young as 7 or 8 when I would wish every night that my parents would split.   Ultimately, they did, and it was the best thing for both of them.  It was a little difficult for a year or two, more for them than for us children.  Honestly, we all got it.  My sister was the youngest… 13 I think.  Even she understood it was for the best.  I recall her saying something along the lines of how much it needed to happen, and how she was glad it did.

My parents are both remarried to spouses much better suited for them in every way.  Again, there was no great tragedy, no huge betrayal.  They were highschool sweethearts who came together during difficult times for both of them and fell into marriage.  It didn’t work.  They weren’t well matched.  They should have divorced well before they did.  I was the only one who spoke up and said it to their face, because that’s the kind of kid I was, but I wasn’t the only one who thought it.  We all did.

It didn’t irrevocably damage any of us.  In fact, the most damaging things of all were the years we lived with them pretending everything was fine when we could soooo tell it wasn’t.  I have a better relationship with my Dad now than I ever had.  My sister, who was maybe the most upset in the very beginning, now lives with my Dad.  We’re all close.  We love both of our parents completely.  We know that their failure to make a marriage work did not and does not reflect on us in the least.  We always knew that.  But living in the middle of the unhappiness was far, far, far more confusing than watching them let go.

The other thing?  Having parents who you can sense are unhappy, even as they pretend they aren’t, puts a lot of pressure on a kid.  I felt like I had to be perfect.  I couldn’t screw up because I couldn’t add any more stress to their lives.  I knew they already had plenty, even if they thought they were “protecting me” from that knowledge.  My brother was the super helper.  He would try extra hard to do all sorts of extra stuff.  That was his way of relieving the tension we could all feel.  My sister was the most sensitive of all.  She would try to be the peace-keeper, between my brother and I, between the animals, you name it.  We all knew something wasn’t right, and we all tried to be “better” to “fix it.”  We got to be great pretenders, too.

It took its toll.  I don’t think it’s by chance that my brother has never had a girlfriend, my sister has been involved in a string of relationships with losers, and I was married to someone who was never there for me emotionally or otherwise.  We learned from them.  We observed.  We were taught, whether we knew it or not, that relationships did not have emotional support.  Didn’t have affection.  My sister now craves that affection and grasps onto anyone who gives it.  My brother avoids connections, partly because he’s shy but I believe largely because he doesn’t know how to interact with a woman in a healthy way.  I’m a mess.

I can’t blame my parents completely.  I’ve made poor choices.  My issues are my own.  But I did learn from them.  I learned from watching.  They taught me excellent things separately.  My Dad taught me how to play softball, how to be financially responsible, what it means to be a hard worker, and so much more.  My Mom literally taught me logical thinking, empathy, how to show people respect, how to write a great paper, how to study, how to be a woman, and so many things I could never name.  But together… they weren’t a good couple.  They weren’t a good example of what a marriage or a relationship should be.  They’re all I had to model against, though… their relationship is the only one got to see, day in and day out.

I tell you that story to tell you this – I may not be a parent, but I was a kid of parents who should have divorced long before they did.  Children deserve an example of a healthy relationship.   I know some people with children think that holding onto something broken that makes them unhappy is somehow the best choice for their kids.  It’s not.  A situation that makes you miserable is not healthy for anyone, your kids especially.  It doesn’t set a good example.  Neither does sticking around after being betrayed and lied to, over and over.  Kids seek out the type of marriage that they see their parents display.  It’s a subconscious choice that takes a lot of hard work to fight against.  No matter what you SAY to them, it is what you DO that makes all of the difference.  When you have an unhealthy example, that’s what you gravitate towards, even if you think you know better.  How do I know?  I lived it.

What other excuses do you tell yourself to justify staying in a bad situation?  If you really looked at them, these excuses that you tell yourself, how valid would they be?  How many other people deal with the same circumstances and come out just fine?

Why You Should Leave a Cheater

14 Aug

Most people say that they would leave a cheating spouse or partner when they have a clear head.  Before it has ever happened to them.

That is the right kind of thinking.  The way we think of cheating before it has happened to us is the thinking of a rational, logical brain.  It is the thinking of someone who is clear-headed, unbiased, and can see the reality of a situation.

You know how it’s always easier to give someone advice than it is to take it yourself?  That’s because when you’re giving advice you can step back and see the big picture.  You can weigh the facts and the likelihood of every scenario, and make a calculated, educated decision.  You can really see the truth of a situation as it stands.

Recently a blogging buddy (and real-life friend), Samantha Baker of Repairing Shattered Pieces, brought my attention to an article, 10 Reasons Not to Take Back a Cheating Husband.  I found myself nodding along emphatically the entire time I was reading.

I then went back to her blog and read her counterpoints to that article about why someone SHOULD stay with a cheating spouse, Reasons to Take Back a Cheating Husband.   I love my dear friend, and she made some valid points and arguments from her perspective and in her situation.  However, I have to strongly disagree.

I’m going to address things as I see them, using my own experiences as a guide.  Does that mean this will be biased?  Absolutely!  I’m now past the point where I can take an unemotional look at this topic, as is anyone who has been embroiled in any side of cheating.  It would be impossible for me not to infuse my history with a cheating, lying husband into this narrative.  So I won’t insult your intelligence as readers by pretending otherwise.

So what is it about the original article that resonated so much with me?  It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing, so I’ll take you on the journey that I went on.  I was always the strong, independent, and rather opinionated woman who stood firm in the belief that if someone cheated on me, lied to me, disrespected me, and took advantage of me, I would leave them.  Period.  Just that simple, just that easy.  I didn’t deserve it, and I wouldn’t accept it.

Then it happened to me.  My live-in boyfriend, who I had been with for over a year, cheated on me.

My world stopped.

I should have kicked him out.  I should have moved on.  I should have pictured the rest of my life unfolding with this untrustworthy person and run for the hills.

Instead, I felt sorry for him.  My empathy kicked in.  I saw him cry, snot coming out of his nose, seemingly remorseful and saying he hated himself so much that he wanted to drive his car into a telephone pole.  I listened to him beg for another chance and promise to treat me right.  I heard all of his excuses and watched him put himself down.  And I felt compassion for him.  Love and tenderness even, after everything.

I felt something else, too.  Fear.  I was afraid to let go.  I knew that it probably wasn’t the best thing for me to stay with him.  But I couldn’t bring myself to move forward.  Instead, I just stayed where I was.

Gradually, the searing pain went away.  Things got swept under the rug.  I was comfortable enough that I didn’t want to rock my world or risk not finding someone else.  I did a lot of justifying and rationalizing.  And I stayed.

It was expected that we would get married, so we did.  More “red flag” behavior popped up about a month or two before our wedding.  I almost called it off.  Again, I chickened out, caved, and did what I was “supposed to do.”

Then we went through a year and a half of therapy.  The counseling was completely worthless for our marriage because he was lying the entire time.  It helped me to start getting stronger, little by little, though.  There were hundreds of times during those 18 months when I should have been done.  Finished.  Gone.  But I wasn’t.

I had lots of great reasons to leave him, and really no reason to stay.  Oh, I had things that I thought were reasons, but they were just excuses. The things that kept me, personally, hanging on were:

  • I was codependent and wanted to “save” him.
  • I had a fantasy in my head that he would “get better,” live up to his “potential,” and be a good partner.
  • I had low self-esteem and didn’t think I deserved any more or better.
  • It felt good to feel needed.  I was the provider, the responsible one, the victim, and the selfless partner who sacrificed it all for someone who was so cruel to me. I played the part well, and I was comfortable there.  I am a giver by nature, but mostly I didn’t think I deserved better.
  • I was ashamed of what I’d been through, and I didn’t want to be a divorcé.  The stigma still felt huge (even though it turned out not to be).
  • I didn’t want to give up.  I HATE being thought of as a quitter. In fact, my marriage was the first thing I didn’t follow through to completion.
  • Promises meant something to me then, and they still do now.  I made vows that were a promise to him, yes, but also to me and my entire family and all of my friends. I felt like I owed it to THEM to try my hardest. I didn’t trust him, but I felt like just because he broke his promise didn’t mean I had to.
  • I bought into the “sunk cost fallacy” that I would be “wasting” all of the time and effort I put into the relationship if I ended it, and that if I just held on a little longer my “investment” would “pay off.”

What it really came down to, though, was fear.  I was afraid, and I scrambled to find any “reason” to hold on that I could.  Even though my reality sucked, the misery I knew seemed somehow easier to bear than the terrifying unknown.

I wanted to believe the fantasies and pipe dreams that people preach.  The “happily ever after cheating” stories were few and far between (for a reason), but still I clung to them.  Many of the people who had positive stories had seemingly fallen off the face of the planet (blogs that were discontinued, people who left the forums, or one and done articles).  Conversely, there were those who had written some book to sell to other desperate people like me so that they could make a few bucks.

I had never believed in that self-help crap before.  I used to scoff at that book aisle and feel sorry for anyone who thought that they would find the answers to life or their problems there.  Those people said what they needed to say to make money.  They polished their turds and pretended they smelled like roses, then sold them in bouquets to gullible readers.  Most of them said conflicting things – the solution was different from one to the next, but they all had the magic potion to make the marriage and cheater better.  More importantly, they were all designed to play to a person’s fears.

Suddenly, though, I was full of fear.  I rejected all of the things that I said and believed before, like “I’m worth more than this.”  Instead, I clung to false hope that somehow this person who I fell in love with wasn’t a horrible, selfish, untrustworthy, broken man who had and would stomp on my heart in a second if it got him what he wanted.

I was wrong.  He was all of that and then some.  I was kidding myself.  I was telling myself lies because those lies made me feel better.  Safer.

How ridiculous!

He continued to lie to me, and I helped him do it by betraying my own sense of what I deserve.  By accepting a cheater.  By allowing him to stay in my life.  I put myself through unneeded pain because I was afraid and because I settled.  I wanted to believe the delusional drivel of people who justified their decision to stay in marriages with crappy spouses out of codependency and fear.  I bought the façade they were selling that something terrible and deceitful and foul could be good (because the hard truth that things were still shaky wouldn’t sell books).  I watched other women in support groups bury their problems and concerns and fears under a blanket of denial, and that blanket looked warmer than cold reality.

If you’ve taken this journey with me and you’re still here, I applaud you.  I have been known to be wordy.  Now I’ll get back to my thoughts on the points in those two articles.

Here’s my (completely jaded) list of why you should leave a cheater:

  1. The relationship is broken, and it won’t get better.  Even if it does, by some miracle, who wants to settle for a relationship that’s slightly better than complete and total shit?  You will never have a relationship with true freedom, trust, and respect because at least one partner has already spit all over that (any maybe both, depending on the state of the marriage before the cheating occurred).  There’s no going back.  There’s no untainting rotten meat.  The purity, the sanctity, the sense that the other person will sacrifice for you, put you first, fight to do what’s right, and love, honor, and cherish you are gone.  Forever.  There’s no unbreaking something that’s broken.  A vase that has been smashed can be glued together again.  It can even look alright, but it will never be as strong.  Those cracks will always be there, weakening the entire structure.
  2. When you stay with someone who has already cheated on you, you will always wonder if it will happen again.  For good reason.  Someone who chooses to cheat is much more likely to be someone who takes the easy way out.  They’re the kind of person who will look outside of their marriage instead of talking and addressing concerns head-on with their partner.  They likely have deep issues that may never be revealed or fully resolved.  Generally speaking, they are cowards who would rather run from problems or pretend they don’t exist than face them.  Very likely, they have been that way for their entire lives and will continue to be conflict avoidant, withdrawing as a main coping mechanism, for the remainder of your relationship because that is their go-to.  Alternatively, they could be aggressive and entitled.  Either is a recipe for disaster, and you will likely find yourself in a place where your trust has been betrayed again.
  3. Children learn by example, and actions mean more than words.  Your children will find out that cheating tore apart your relationship.  They probably already know more than you think.  I have never been on either side of this situation because my parents didn’t cheat on one another and I don’t have children of my own.  For that reason, I will refrain from too much commentary on this subject.  I will simply said that what a child sees in his or her parents’ relationship becomes the model for future relationships.  Is this what you would want for your child?
  4. You’ll need therapy either way, but you should focus on YOURSELF.  Finding a good therapist has been a lifeline for me in this process.  Whether you stay or leave, you will want to talk to someone.  The sooner you can focus on yourself, and your own needs, fears, desires, and growth, the better off you will be.  Finding your inner strength and learning how to be independent, confident, and happy is a lot easier when you don’t have someone dragging you down into their muck.  Get rid of the baggage, and your balloon will rise a lot higher, a lot faster.
  5. You will BE safer.  No one wants to think that the person they love has exposed them to a disease.  You need a reality check if you’re with a cheater.  Likely, they have.  Whether it was a one-night stand or a long-term affair (or god forbid a string of affairs, or multiple one-night stands, or even prostitutes), your partner probably wasn’t safe all of the time.  Maybe they weren’t safe any of the time.  Someone who could risk their own health and yours like that isn’t someone you want to continue putting your trust in.  Want to keep gambling with your life?  I don’t.
  6. You will second guess yourself and your worth constantly if you stay, and your self-esteem will continue to be crushed each time you look at this person who didn’t think enough of you to stay faithful.  Not to mention the mind movies.  They will plague you.  Every time your partner touches you, you will think of the other person (or people) that they touched.  You will have flashbacks and triggers that will pop up years, maybe even decades later.  You will try to control these.  You will wish and beg and plead with yourself to get rid of them.  But they will invade at the most inopportune times – watching a movie, seeing a commercial, trying to have sex, passing an old photograph, and even attending a family event or birthday or holiday, when you suddenly remember that during a very similar event you were being lied to and betrayed.  Even if you have the best self-esteem on the planet before your spouse cheats, you will feel less than when you look in their eyes.  Will it all disappear immediately if you leave?  No, but some of it will.  And the rest can be dealt with so much more efficiently without the cause of all of those triggers and fears waiting for you in bed every night (just the thought makes me shudder).
  7. Things get better much faster when you cut the cheater loose.  This is from personal experience.  The last DDay (discovery day, when further betrayals were revealed) with my then husband was in March of 2011.  I was in a living hell, in one way or another, until September of 2012 when I kicked him out.  Small revelations and untruths were revealed during that time – too many to count.  The agony actually started in January of 2009 with the first discovery of cheating.  It took three years to get basic truths about his cheating, even just the number of women he cheated with (4, not 1).   Those three years were a constant struggle, complete with individual counseling, marriage counseling, group meetings, depression medication, journaling and blogging, a marriage retreat, many sleepless nights, and more lies than I care to remember.  He’s now been gone for less than a year and I’ve made more progress personally than in all of those years combined.  I also have more peace, happiness, joy (something I could barely fathom during those dark years), and hope for my future than would be possible if I were still with him (without a doubt).
  8. There is no “easy way.”  I do think that there is an “easier” way, and that is to face your fears head on.  Things are always scarier when you’re standing in the dark.  So turn the light on.  Really look at your situation.  And I mean, really look.  Is this where you want to be?  Will staying here make you happy?  Is holding onto something broken really your best bet?  Or are you just scared?  Confused?  Are you projecting the compassion and empathy that you wish your spouse would have given you onto them?  Are you choosing to believe them because lies are more comfortable than the truth?  Are you just making excuses?  Is your spouse REALLY going to change?  Are they putting forth honest effort and hard work, without you forcing them to?  Do they really want to be with you, or are THEY just scared and comfortable and hesitant to strike out on their own?  Is this the best you can do?  What would you tell your best friend if they were in this situation?  How about your Mom, sister, or daughter?  Answer honestly, then think about those answers, trust them, and act.
  9. Be your own partner.  Advocate for yourself.  Treat yourself with kindness.  Demand what you deserve, and don’t settle for any less.  Be as understanding of your own needs and emotions as you are of his (or hers).  Stop putting yourself last.  Stop second-guessing yourself.  Stop making excuses for the crappy partner you have, who stomped all over you.  Instead of worrying about “fixing” or “saving” or “helping” someone else, do all of that for yourself.  If he (or she) wanted to be better, they would be already.  They know right from wrong, and they always have.  If they don’t, it’s even more of a reason to run like hell.  Accept that they knew EXACTLY what they were doing, and still chose to cheat, without concern for you.  Become concerned for yourself.  Start finding your own fulfilment outside of anyone else.
  10. You deserve someone who would never intentionally hurt you.  Cheating is a deliberate act.  Either your spouse didn’t really care for you and love you, or they don’t even know how to.  Either way, you deserve more.  And there’ more out there.  In fact, being with no one is better than being with someone who harms you on purpose.  See #9.

So my advice is not really to “leave” a cheater, but rather to kick their ass to the curb with confidence and gusto!

If this article resonated with you, check out the companion piece: 10 Excuses People Use to Stay with a Cheater.

If you want more stories about what can change when you leave a cheater, read Letter from a Reader: Leaving a Cheater

Finally, I’ll leave you with this lesson from a very wise woman:

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Good, Bad, and Ugly

29 Jul

I know… what a cliché of a title, right?  I should do better!  It just seemed to fit, though.  There’s been a lot going on in my life.  Some of it is great, some of it is horrible, and some is funny and a little painful.  I was sick last weekend with a high fever, then last Monday I was out in the field doing a setup.  The week took off from there. Today I figured that I should give a little update.  I’ll just go in chronological order for now.


So first… the ugly.  Last Tuesday I got off work over an hour late due to some meetings.  I decided to treat myself to a little Mexican, and I got it to go because I really wanted to just sit on my couch and vegetate.  I got home to a mailbox full of junk mail.

I was in a pretty awesome mood, singing the tune off of the radio, loud and smiling.  I unlocked the door to find my wiggly Buddy there to greet me.  He was so cute hopping around, and he obviously wanted to go out to the front yard and pee on a few bushes.  I let him slip by me and kept the door propped open with my foot, thinking he would come right back in like normal.

Only he didn’t.  He decided to go running down to the neighbors house.  He’s usually pretty good about coming back when I call him.  But this time he just slowed down a little and kept wandering closer and closer to the edge of the road.  I kept calling, and he kept ignoring.

Since I’ve already had one animal (a cat) killed by a car in this neighborhood, Buddy is literally half blind, and it was so close to quitting and getting home time, I decided to go after him.  That’s when my heel slipped, my ankle went out from under me and I fell down the steps onto the concrete sidewalk.  I hit my ass on the stairs on my fall, scraped up my right knee, and managed to dump half of my dinner out on top of me.  Fun.  I’m actually laughing right now, but it was more of stunned silence that followed my spill.

I checked myself for major harm, and found none.  Of course Buddy trotted right over to help himself to my chips and salsa.  I sat there, legs splayed, grateful I was wearing a skort, not a skirt.  I pulled my heels off, managed to salvage the dinner, even though the aluminum container was smushed, and carried that into the kitchen.  I came back for my purse and keys in another trip, then picked up the mail that was now on the lawn.

Finally finished pigging out, Buddy came inside behind me.  I then stripped down and hopped in the shower to wash off the grass and dirt and blood and salsa that was covering me.  I poured peroxide on the scrapes and cuts on my knee, then bandaged it.  My knee is still all scraped up, I have scratches down my leg, up my thigh, and on my arm.  The pièce de résistance,  though is the massive hell of a bruise on my ass.  It’s the size of a fist and a deep purplish red color.  I’ll spare you the pictures.

Note to self: chasing after a dog while juggling take out, mail, my purse and keys, and wearing high heels… not a good idea.


Next was the good.  The following day, last Wednesday, my boss took all of us “executives” out on his boat.  Correction: his yacht. It’s something that he does once a year to show his appreciation.  It was so wonderful.  The weather was beautiful.  The ride took us past Mount Vernon and Fort Washington.  We walked around National Harbor.  Ate amazing seafood.  Had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  Then we stopped and went swimming.  I found a big shark tooth.  It was a nearly perfect day.  I didn’t get home until late again, but this time there was no fall down the steps.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the week had more in store for me.  I woke up Thursday morning and felt like shit.  Beat up. Between repeatedly lifting 50+ pound rotors on Monday, falling down the stairs on Tuesday, and riding for hours in a boat on Wednesday, I was exhausted and sore.  I just wanted to crawl back under the covers and stay there. I should have.

Ever have a premonition that a day is just going to suck?  I had one of those, and I was right.

I got a call from my gynecologist office.  That’s never a good thing.  I had my annual last week.  If everything had been fine I would have gotten a letter in the mail.  Instead, I got a call.  Abnormal results.

The woman on the phone was very reassuring.  She explained that abnormal results happen for a variety of reasons and it does not mean that I have cancer.  However, I get to go back to the gyno next week.  My doctor is out on vacation until August 19th.  I said fuck that.  I’m not waiting over a month until they could get me in (August 27th).  So I asked for whoever they could get me in with as soon as possible.  Apparently some women are weird about male doctors, so two of them had openings.  It doesn’t bother me one bit.  It’s not like he’s gonna rape me or something, and I’m not really shy.  Plus, I just want some answers.

They will be doing a procedure called a colposcopy.  They will be looking at my cervix with a microscope after putting a solution on there to make the abnormal cells stand out.  They will do a scraping and take some biopsies.  It will probably be painful.  I’ve been advised to take Motrin before I go.  Yeah, like that’s gonna do a whole lot to help.  Whatever.  I’m tough.  Pain has never scared me.

It is what it is.  Hopefully it will be nothing and everything will turn out okay.


So there’s my (not so) mini update.  I had more good yesterday.  I got to go to a Kix Brooks, Dierks Bentley, and Miranda Lambert concert.  I had VIP parking and VIP seats and access to the VIP area.  My Mom and sister and grandma went with me.  We had a fantastic time.  Three generations of lovely ladies enjoying amazing music.  I’m just going to keep moving forward, keep living my life, and keep finding happiness as best as I can.  I’ll do all of that with a smile on my face.

From last night

Look It Up

22 May

I ran into this song today through Spotify, and it is hilarious.  The video made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

Look It Up

The word is “faithful,” look it up
It don’t mean sneakin’ around behind my back
Like you ain’t gettin’ enough

How ’bout “forever”
Just look it up
It means through thick and thin and pitchin’ in
Even when the times get tough

The word is “easy”
Look it up
And you’ll see a picture of that piece of trash
Ridin’ ’round in your pickup truck

Let’s try “liar”
Just look it up
But you’ll need boots to wade through all the bull
You tell me when you come home drunk

It’s just like you to be so clueless
‘Cause you never thought I’d do this
I said go, goodbye, get lost, get out
Get gone, the word is “over”
Look it up

You said you’re “sober”
Look it up
It’s right next to hell is freezin’ over, flyin’ pigs
And all that stuff

And how ’bout “baby”
Look it up
It’s what you call me and it’s how you act
Every time I call your bluff

It’s just like you to keep denyin’
Save your whinin’ and your cryin’
I said go, goodbye, get lost, get out
Get gone, the word is “over”
Look it up

The word’s “forgiveness”
Look it up
It’s what Jesus has in store for you
But I don’t, no matter what

Quit your beggin’ and your cryin’
Can’t you hear what I been sayin’?
I said go, goodbye, get lost, get out
Get gone, the word is over
Look it up

Asshole
Just look it up, look it up

There’s No Coming Back From the Dead

27 Feb

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I was reading the post of one of my favorite bloggers when I had an epiphany of sorts.  Her last few posts have been about trust, which you know is on my mind a lot.  In the post Reflections on trust, she talks about all the ways her husband’s lies have affected her and made her feel devoid of value.  She went through 20 years of being lied to.  It blows my mind.  Still, some people who comment on her blog seem to think that she should devote more time to waiting around for her husband to magically change.

One went so far as to say,

“A trauma that taught him as a child to lie and keep secrets. Just because he has a grown mans body, a job, kids and a wife does not mean that he was ever taught to tell the truth. Do do what we are taught as children, it carries over into adulthood. You know I’m not making excuses for H’s affair, it was wrong he knew it was wrong but he was doing what he learned as a child. Now he’s trying to unlearn those behaviors, it’s not going to happen over night… Don’t punish him for what he IS doing.”

That literally made my blood boil.  It’s not going to happen over night?  Give him more time?!  That’s your advice?!  He was screwed up as a kid, he wasn’t taught to tell the truth, he’s just doing what comes naturally to him, so… what?!?!  She should just accept that?  Learn to live with it?  Wait some undetermined, potentially indefinite period of time for him to MAYBE, POSSIBLY LEARN to have a conscience and stop being a lying piece of shit?!?!?!?!?!  Disregard the 20 years of lies?  Forget about all these months he spent as an unremorseful ass?  Push aside the fact that he may not be in love with her at all and just keep hanging onto a dead marriage…? Because he did two decent, minimal things and made a few short-lived gestures?

What about the possibility that there is no change coming down the road…?  What if there is no fantastical, happy ending?   What if there is no pot of gold?  Maybe he is just broken.  Irreparably.  Maybe he will be a lifelong liar.  Maybe there just really is no hope for their marriage.  Have those people stopped to consider the fact that she isn’t obligated to continue being dragged around in the mud behind him?

Maybe they have and maybe they haven’t.  I guarantee that they haven’t had a moment where the switch flipped and they just knew that it was over.

I know how much lies can just destroy your soul.   Lies can literally kill any love that you had for someone.  I reached a point with my husband’s lies where that one more lie was just too much to handle.  That only took 5 years for me.  I can’t imagine the hell of being with someone emotionally closed-off from you who has been actively lying for 20 years!  It blows my mind.  She deserves a medal for toughing it out as long as she has so far.

Another thing I know those commenters don’t understand is that there comes a point where there really is no return.  No more “waiting” for the other person to make a change that will be too little, too late.  Once I turned that corner and flipped that switch, it was over.  Done.  No turning back.  There was a moment when I knew that there was no recovery, no making the marriage work.  I even tried to fight against it a little, but it was hopeless, even for me.  Once you have crossed that line, an impenetrable wall goes up and that’s just it.

It is hard to describe that moment to someone who hasn’t had one.  There isn’t an overwhelming feeling of hatred or spite.  In fact, the presence of those emotions for me meant that I was still hanging on to him in some way.  That moment of letting go, feeling the relationship die, it didn’t make me want to scream and yell and kick.  It was just a gentle click.  In that moment I lost all ability to feel much of anything for him besides vague pity, lingering hurt, and a deep desire for it to be over and to no longer have him in my life.

I can say with absolute honesty that my husband could do everything I ever asked of him, worship the ground I walk on, and never tell me a single lie for the rest of his life, and it wouldn’t matter.  I could have assurances that if he even uttered one false word he would be struck dead in his tracks.  He could never cheat again, never watch one more second of porn, never so much as look at another woman. He could make every dream I’ve ever had come true.  He could hit the lottery and win millions.  None of it would matter.  Nothing he could ever do would be enough to get back the love I once had for him.

He murdered that with his lies.

He destroyed it with years of half-truths, gaslighting, and hiding his true emotions and feelings from me.

Like I wrote in my post, I’m Getting Tired of Talking About Lying, I got to a point where I was tired of being lied to, tired of wondering what the truth was, and tired of expending emotional energy on the same thing over and over.  He was too broken, and I could not wait around anymore.

That moment for me came when he lied about STD testing and health insurance.  That is when he killed any chance we ever had of being together.  That was the final “click.”

The love just shriveled up and died.

Just like people, love can’t come back once it’s dead.  Even if it could, it would be a zombie – undead, cold, feeding off of the flesh of anyone close to it.

I don’t want zombie love.  I want the real thing.

Viral-Zombies

What Made Me Pick Him? What Do I Want Now?

18 Nov

I had a therapy appointment yesterday, and my counselor asked me a great question.  He asked me to rewind 5 years and tell him what attracted me to my husband in the first place.  I thought about it a little, and the initial attraction was that he could handle my dry, sarcastic, insult-ladened sense of humor and give it right back to me.  That’s still an attractive quality in a mate.  Not everyone gets me, and even fewer people can handle me. I’m complicated and intimidating and different from a lot of people.   At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Beyond that initial spark, though, he seemed family-focused and caring.  That made me think he was worth getting to know.  He came from a big family, I come from a big family, and he said the things I wanted to hear.  I discovered several lies he told me back then (not even counting the crazy sexual stuff), including the fact that he hardly visited with his family even though they all live close by.  He also told me that he was a construction foreman.  I discovered not too long later that he was not even close to that – he had just started with the company and wasn’t even hired on full-time yet because he was employed through a temp agency.  Yet somehow I made excuses for him or accepted his – it was hard to keep in touch now that his parents had passed because they were the glue, he was trying to make a good first impression, etc., etc.

I also overlooked a lot of things because I had empathy for his situation.  He was about a year out of a tough relationship and had just gotten a new job after a period of depression that left him homeless and without a vehicle or most of his belongings.  I, too, was recently out of a long-term relationship that ended badly.  Although I still had my house and vehicles and a good job and was getting excellent grades in school on top of all that, I could understand how easy it could be to lose it.  I could imagine saying fuck it, and spiraling down emotionally so much that the rest fell apart.

Empathy is a good trait of mine, but I now see that my other traits led me to want to rescue.  I thought I could help.  I liked him and related to his situation.  And there were other positive qualities he had that I thought out-weighed something as shallow as monetary concerns.  I still don’t necessarily care how much my partner earns, but they need to have passion and drive and ambition.  I have to admit that the prospect of not having all the pressure on me is very appealing, though.  Five years ago my need to be needed was fulfilled by his situation, and I got a rush from knowing how much he was attracted to me and admired me.  It made me feel worthwhile.  Back then what I was looking for in a relationship was validation.

My therapist then asked me what I was looking for in a relationship today.  The very top of my list is honesty and stability, two things my husband doesn’t have at all right now. I think a big thing that changed is I now know I am worthwhile. My validation comes from inside. Without that intense need to be needed I can focus on what I need.

At the very tippy top of my needs is truthfulness. Honesty is vital to a relationship.  It literally cannot function if honesty isn’t present – like gas is necessary for you car.  I guess in theory you could push your car around in neutral with no gasoline, but it would be a lot of hard work that would get you nowhere fast.  That’s what I feel like my marriage has been lately. He’s been sitting in the car with his feet up while I’ve been trying to push and steer at the same time. I’m so over that.

What I need in a relationship is openness, vulnerability, and the complete truth, even if it’s hard to take.  Honesty is the only way to make an informed decision, and I’m only interested in someone with integrity.  Stability is important to me now because I have lived with the ground constantly shifting under my feet for years.  I want a man who knows himself, and is comfortable and confident with who he is.  I don’t need someone with a lot of money, but I do need someone with direction and follow-through and goals.  I need someone who brings as much to the table as I do, including emotional awareness and maturity.

I don’t want to make sacrifices on the important stuff anymore. I realize that no one is perfect, and I know enough now to run the other way if someone claims to be. However, I can’t be the only one working, digging, and trying to be the best me. I want someone who can push me, not someone who lags behind. I want someone who pursues me, not someone I have to beg for the minimum effort. I want someone who wants only me, who will be faithful, not someone who is actively looking for the next sexual high or who would stop putting forth effort in his relationship. I also want someone whose entire existence doesn’t depend on me. I want someone with interests and intelligence and something special to offer me. I deserve it because I’m worthwhile.
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I Do Not Follow the 90/10 Rule

17 Nov

This past week we were taught that when you are getting to know someone, especially a prospective customer, they should talk 90% of the time and you should talk 10%.  Apparently studies have shown that the more someone else talks, the better they like you.  I admitted several times over the course of our training that the 90/10 rule is the hardest part of prospecting for me.  Hell, it’s the hardest part of life.

As you all have come to realize by now, I am verbose.  I am also an over-thinker, an overachiever, and a perfectionist.  I want to tell someone everything I can, especially if I really believe in what I’m talking about.  Another tidbit of knowledge I gained, “Don’t spill all your candy in the lobby.”  Sometimes less is more.  It’s a hard lesson for me to apply.

The Friendly, Silent, Questioning Stare is also a great tool for a top sales-person.  I think it translates to life very well, too.  One of our trainers said that in the beginning he would sit there after asking for the sale and feel all of the unsaid words bubbling up from inside, just waiting to erupt like a volcano. He would think of what he didn’t mention, what he could have done better, and want to break the silence.  A 30-second pause would feel like 3 hours.  He had to use every ounce of his strength to push those words down and wait for the other person’s response.

I easily recognize that talking too much is a fault of mine.  I am working on fixing that, although I know I’m still not very good at it.  One of the reasons is that my brain is full to the limit with countless thoughts, ideas, feelings, desires, hopes, fears, uncertainties, doubts, and emotions busting at the seams to get out.

Just to give you a slight hint at the current shit-storm in my brain, here are random snippets of things that are bouncing around in my head.  I’m not going to try to organize these thoughts, and they are in no particular order, just what happened to pop into my brain as I was typing.

  • “Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile goals.”  That is the most inspiring thing I learned at my sales training.  I heard it at the very, very end (even after the test).  In fact, I got misty-eyed.  You would have to listen to the entire presentation to understand, but this resonated with me so strongly.  I am a success if I’m taking steps towards a worthwhile goal, and I definitely think I’m doing that right now.
  • Just because I’ve wasted some time floundering around being lied to and deceived doesn’t mean I’m not successful or I can’t be in the future.  Maybe it means the goal I had wasn’t worthwhile (trying to make a marriage work with someone who hasn’t told you the truth since day 1).  Or maybe I had to do that floundering in order to understand what is worthwhile and what isn’t.
  • “If you’re not making mistakes, you aren’t doing it right.”  Wise words from a friend spoken to me last Saturday.  I’ve been letting that ping around in my brain ever since, and I like it.  I am finding it easier and easier to admit to the areas where I’m making mistakes, partly because I know it gets me closer to where I want to be.  Life is full of beauty and mystery and wonder, but you have to take chances and sometimes make errors in order to grow, learn, and get where you want to be.

  • “He has always been unsure about me, unhappy, dishonest and cheating from the earliest moments.  All the while I was living in blithe ignorance of what was really going on.”  From a woman whose life seems eerily similar to mine right now, emilylonging, in her post Were things ever good?  Those words ring so true.  We were in two different relationships.  I never had the full truth.  I was living in blissful ignorance (some of my own making), and every single “good memory” we have ever had together is tainted in some way with a lie, deception, or half-truth.

***All of this time I had somehow convinced myself that this was the best it could ever get for me – that not dying was the same as living.***

There is so, so much more, but that’s just a taste.  A great friend of mine told me that there’s nothing not complicated about me.  That’s very true.  For now, I’m going to accept the fact that I think and talk too much.  It seems like some people still like me anyway.

I’m Back & I’m a New Woman

16 Nov

By EllyDelice ©2010-2012

This week was exactly what I needed.  I’m back at home tonight and surrounded by my sweet dogs.  I’m happy to be in my robe, to have my own pillow back, and to get puppy love.  At the same time I am nostalgic for what I had this week and sad to see how fast the time flew by.  More than once during the week I wished I could hit the “Pause” button and take a bit to just soak everything in and savor my feelings.

My trip started last Sunday and ended this afternoon.  I went to corporate headquarters for an in-depth training class that had 15 total people attend (including myself).  The group was a great mix of people from franchises all over the country.  The very first day we got to learn some unique things about each other that made instant connections.  Ages in the class ranged from 19 to 60s (if I had to guess on that last one).  We had slices of the entire U.S. including Oregon, North Carolina, West Virginia, Texas, Florida, Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, Missouri, and several others.  We even had a French Canadian!  There was also a strong showing of females in a traditionally male-dominated industry.  In addition to myself there were 3 other women.  🙂

The evening “social” at the hotel, which I mentioned in my last post, was the perfect opportunity to let loose, throw a few friendly jabs around, get to know everyone in a more relaxed environment, and forge life-long connections.  I was able to remember what it is like to have fun again.  These past two years, or maybe more, I had completely forgotten the simple pleasure of laughing.  Not just laughing at a passing joke or something on TV.  I mean the deep in your gut, uncontrollable, joyous laughter of something unexpected that catches you in the right moment and makes your sides hurt.  I had several of those moments this week.

I found myself climbing out from under the crushing weight of this mess I’ve been living in.  I didn’t even realize that I couldn’t breathe until that pressure lifted.  It was freeing.  I found my honesty was appealing to people, and I was getting it in return.  I was able to laugh at myself and let go of my fear of looking stupid.  I even won a role-playing award and went on a real-life cold call that turned into a 25 minute rapport building sales presentation.  I did that with some training and guidance, great tools, the support of fantastic people, and a lot of looking my fears straight in the eye.

It looked just like this

I honestly can’t remember when I have had that much fun.  I even got to take home a fake cockroach which one of the trainers left on my table to scare me.  It worked somewhat on me, but even better when I used it on another woman in the class.  She actually screamed in the middle of a quiet goal-setting session.  It was hilarious.

There are so many stories and moments that will stick with me for a long time, if not forever, from this past week.  Some of them are small.  Some of them are bigger – like that first step I took into a prospect all on my own, scared out of my mind, and the satisfaction I felt when I walked out knowing that they liked me so much they wanted to know if I could fly back from Virginia to set them up.

I was the star pupil.  Or at least one of them.  I have always been great in school, but this was something different than that.  This was about confidence and sales skills and building rapport with people.  It was about being liked.  This week it finally sunk in that I am a valuable, genuine, bubbly (their word, not mine) person with lots to offer the world.  I deserve to be treated that way.  I deserve to have someone who gives me as much as I give them.

At some point this week, I changed.  I can’t put my finger on the exact moment, but I am a different person now than I was when I left.  I know with absolute certainty that I cannot go back to the way things were.  I also can’t stop my growth to wait around for someone else.  I can’t dull my shine for someone else’s comfort or because they can’t handle the intensity of my glow.  Here’s to change!

Results from the Affair Analyzer

24 Oct

Today I decided to take the Affair Analyzer on the website where Rick Reynolds has his blog.  I have read quite a few of his articles, and I really thing he is insightful and spot-on.  The website has a little tool where they can give their take on the infidelity you have experienced if you answer a few questions.  I spent less than 5 minutes on it today and got the below result, which I think is scary-accurate.  I have highlighted the portions that really spoke to me the most.

Affair Analyzer

We’re truly sorry you’re going through this, but as difficult as this is, you’re the type of woman who will find a way to survive. As you’ve discovered, infidelity is totally disorienting, and one of the most difficult aspects of recovery is finding where to start in order to avoid prolonging the recovery process.

Although you are extremely hurt and shocked by your husband’s betrayal, you’re probably already exploring what needs to be done to address the situation. Your drive and resolve will likely carry you through the first portion of your recovery, but coping may become more difficult later on.

Your husband’s infidelity may have caught you off guard, especially if you assumed he was as committed as you. Conversely, you may have realized some time ago that you do the majority of the giving in your relationship. But you were hoping that he would, at some point, also realize what a catch you are and begin to put more into your relationship. You probably believed that love conquers all and because of that, your love should prevail.

Many people in your position are willing to give their mates another chance, particularly if the mate is truly remorseful and willing to address the problem. You may be questioning how you could have married someone like this since you are a woman of integrity and thought you had married someone who was also. In the long run, your ability to live well despite your mate’s behavior may be one of the characteristics that will prove crucial to your family’s recovery.

About what happened

Continuing a marriage while one mate has a sexual addiction requires commitment from both parties. Regardless of good intentions and strong desire, addicts do not overcome their behavior on their own. However, this presents a problem because these individuals usually experience such deep shame as a result of their behavior that it may terrify them to admit the problem and seek help. Instead, they will resolve to never do it again, believing they can overcome the problem on their own. In fact, depending on how the addiction came to light, this may be the first time your mate has ever really addressed their addiction. If that’s the case, then your mate may still need to discover their powerlessness over the addiction.

The Path Ahead

MarriageAs the hurt spouse, you will  likely find yourself in need of guidance on how to respond and cope with this  disruption of your life. Since you still may want the marriage you  should try to respond in a way that will cause your mate to pause and  consider well their own options. At the same time you don’t need to  compromise your own integrity. You are probably not only hurting from  the betrayal but also shocked by what happened.  You may also be  wondering how you can ever trust this individual or any person ever  again. This betrayal may have left you feeling inadequate and foolish  for even considering staying with your unfaithful spouse.

In fact, you may well receive contradictory counsel from different people.  Some will tell you to leave the marriage and others will advise you to  stay and work on the marriage. However, few of these people, if any,  have actually been in your situation and they have no idea how they  would really react if in similar circumstances.

Immediately  following the revelation of a betrayal, too many emotions, impressions, fears, and too much pain exist to make reliably good decisions.  It would likely be best to not leave your marriage until you can observe  changes in your mate that will indicate whether it is a safe and viable  option to stay in the marriage.

Exploring the motivations for both leaving and staying in the relationship may prove very helpful to you  both now and in the future so as not to repeat history somewhere down  the road. Your decision to stay or go may actually alter with time.  Frequently, the pain created by the betrayal will be the primary  motivation for leaving in the initial period after you find out.  Eventually this pain may subside and you may feel differently. Of  course, you may also notice a shift in your desire to stay if your mate  fails to make a serious effort at reconnecting in the relationship. If  you base your decision to stay on your mate’s promises to change, you  may be disappointed if their efforts to change do not meet your  expectations.

Since a part of you wants to save the relationship, you may find yourself trying to control your mate’s decisions and  manipulate them into staying regardless of whether this will result in a healthy marriage. You may start denying your own needs for healing and  safety in an attempt to save the marriage.  Saving the marriage at all costs would be unwise if the marriage in the end were not a healthy one.  Be careful not to compromise your physical or emotional health.  The  emotional pain of infidelity does not just go away; denying it will only compound the problems it has created.

Part of your uncertainty may be due to the fact that part of you genuinely cares about your mate, but another part of you wants to get as far from them as possible.  You will likely find yourself wanting the opposite of what you feel pressured to do.  If your mate and those around you encourage you too much to stay, then you will want to leave and vice versa.

Before you make a final decision to leave the marriage, consider your  motivation for leaving honestly and carefully.  If you actually want to  leave because of marital dissatisfaction, it would be best for you to admit that is the reason taking responsibility for your departure rather than putting the blame wholly on your mate.  If you are having trouble  with this decision because of your fears, it will help you to recognize  those fears and deal with them directly so that you can make your  decision based on reality.

It is important to understand each other’s recovery in order to learn to support each other.  Men typically want to compartmentalize and avoid thinking about things that are painful.  They need space to think about it on their own and in their own time.  Women, on the other hand, tend to process trauma verbally often wanting to talk about what has hurt them until they can touch the wound and not get an emotional charge.  She may actually ask the same questions over and over again in an attempt to desensitize herself from the pain.  Both spouses need to recognize that avoidance (from the men) and repetition (from the women) are just the ways that we typically deal with pain and give each other the patience and grace to handle this life-altering trauma in their own way.

Regardless of the outcome of your marriage, in order to heal, you will need to confront, grieve and release what has happened and then learn from the experience.  If  you are unable to sufficiently heal, then you may end up repeating the same pattern of hurt again. Infidelity is an emotional blow that cannot be ignored; however it is not an insurmountable hindrance to your future happiness.  You should give yourself ample time and grace to complete your essential healing journey.

About your mate

Since your husband’s position is unclear, your best course of action is to focus on your own healing. Make sure to allow him to take responsibility for his own recovery. You must be willing to let him succeed or fail in his recovery so that it will truly be his own. If your husband stays because of manipulation, you may feel successful initially, but it could lead to bitterness because he feels controlled instead of confident in his decision. Also keep in mind that if your husband is ambivalent about staying in your marriage, then he will not be wholly committed to the relationship.  Note that pressure will frequently influence people who are ambiguous to take the opposite position.

Unless your mate is willing to take responsibility for his actions and what his behavior has cost you, he most likely will not be able to participate in a healthy marriage.  You may need to be stronger than is comfortable or usual for you and create a list for yourself of your, at the very least, minimum requirements to stay in the marriage.  It may prove virtually impossible to know whether the relationship can be healthy and viable until you can witness your husband’s response to your needs.  You will need to be careful in determining if he is truly willing to do what is necessary to restore your relationship.  If your husband is not willing to help at all then you must understand that you cannot trust him with your heart.

Next Steps for Recovery

Recovery requires a safe and supportive community. AffairRecovery.com provides this community and is comprised of others who understand. Processing what happened is one of the most effective ways of dealing with healing and understanding what’s happened. Having others who can empathize and validate your experience helps the disorientation created by the attachment wound.  If at all possible try to find a therapist or program specializing in the treatment of infidelity.  Not all helping professionals are trained to address the issues of infidelity.

If discovery of the affair was in your recent past, you may have difficulty identifying any positive reason for working on the marriage. Frequently the pain of the betrayal clouds our ability to find the benefits.  Our culture is far more tolerant of divorce, where children are wounded and families separated, than we are of exploring the potential advantages and possibilities associated with recovering from an infidelity.  This leaves many believing that exploring the possibility of salvaging their marriage is a sign of weakness.  Those of us at the Affair Recovery believe it’s a sign of phenomenal strength.  If he is willing, then we’d encourage you to consider this possibility.  There is hope, and you can heal.  Your probabilities for having the relationship you’ve always wanted is far greater with this relationship than with the one that’s unknown.

Forgiveness in the Face of Turmoil

13 Oct

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Today has been a very difficult day for me.  Rather than blog about that, I’m going to add my commentary to another Rick Reynolds article – Forgiving Infidelity: Practical Suggestions to Move Toward Forgiveness.  He and his wife worked together to provide their own suggestions about how to forgive.  They both have very insightful advice.  It is definitely an article worth reading in full.

However, I am not going to address the entire thing here.  The only thing I will respond to right now are the tips for the hurt spouse.  Below is an excerpt from the article.  I’m also including the portion before the tips that distinguishes between forgiveness and reconciliation because I think it is crucial.  In pink are my comments and feelings as they stand tonight.

At Affair Recovery we believe there are two components to forgiveness as it pertains to forgiving infidelity. First is the internal aspect of forgiveness, which has little or nothing to do with the other person. It is a personal choice to release the other person from retribution or harm as a result of their offence; it’s coming to the point where you can wish them well. It’s not based on their repentance or merit, since it’s an internal matter. It is a gift you give yourself, which sets you free and allows you to live at peace with your memories. The internal aspect of forgiveness in marriage where infidelity is involved is important in that failing to achieve this type of forgiveness leaves you forever the victim.

The second aspect of forgiving infidelity is about reconciliation. This component of forgiveness is primarily based on safety. Does the unfaithful spouse see what they’ve done, do they take responsibility for their actions and are they grieved over what their actions have cost others? Anything short of that response potentially makes them unsafe for reconciliation. This aspect of forgiveness determines whether the relationship will continue. If they are willing to make amends for their failure, then reconciliation might be a good choice.

Practical Suggestions For Forgiving Infidelity For The Hurt Spouse:  (These are from his spouse)

1.  Separate forgiveness from the process of reconciliation. Make reconciliation optional and forgiveness not optional. People often do this backwards, choosing to reconcile rather than forgive. This leaves them trapped in the pain of the betrayal, never able to move forward to a new life. If your mate isn’t safe don’t reconcile. In the first year of recovery don’t pressure yourself to decide about reconciliation. It may take over a year before you know whether it’s safe to reconcile. Reconciliation depends on your mate’s ongoing recovery and your ability to heal from the trauma of the betrayal.

This is something I am just realizing: forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things.  I like this concept, and it rings very true to me.  I know that I did this part backwards because I decided to reconcile before I was able to forgive.  I chose to stay with my husband and work on the marriage before he was a safe person to recover with.  I can now see the wisdom in this method.  You truly have to be able to forgive before you can know whether reconciliation is an option.

2.  Make a conscious choice to forgive. For freedom’s sake don’t hang on to bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness is always in your best interest and in the interest of those you love. Only time will tell whether reconciliation has a place in your relationship.

“For freedom’s sake don’t hang on to bitterness and resentment.”  I had to type that again.  Forgiveness, or at least acceptance, is the only way to move forward – with or without the relationship intact.  Hanging onto bitterness and resentment can eat a hole in your soul.  I don’t want to be that person.  I have to let those things go.  I don’t feel bitter or resentful towards my husband.  I sometimes feel sad.  I feel hurt, especially when he lies to me.

I am actively trying to not let those feelings run my life, though.  I don’t want to resent him for his actions.  I have been an active participant in this relationship – I stayed after I found the porn, I stayed after he lied to me about strip clubs, I stayed after I discovered his cyber affair, I stayed through more and more lies and revelations, I stayed when he was diagnosed as a sex addict, and I stayed as much for myself and due to my own issues (codependent much?) as because of his lies.

I am partially responsible for where we are.  I can’t resent him for his part unless I am also willing to resent myself – and I can’t do that.  I have to keep moving forward.  I can’t become bitter and jaded, as easy as that would be.  I can’t wallow in self-pity.  I have to heal for me.  I am worthy of healing.  It is in my best interest to let go and forgive.

3.  Choose to focus on what’s helpful. Once you know what’s happened there may be diminishing benefit in continuing to focus on the past. Have the sense to ask yourself if how you’re spending your time (conversation, thought life) is helping to move you forward in your recovery. If it’s something that’s keeping you stuck, let it go. You want to choose life, not death.

Okay, what has been helpful?  Loving myself has been helpful.  Going to S-Anon has been helpful.  Being aware of my codependent tendencies has been helpful.  Going to therapy has been helpful.  Blogging and journaling has been helpful (writing my thoughts down, commenting, stretching my view of myself and others, working to really understand what makes me tick, getting thoughts out of my head and onto a computer screen where I can examine them, etc.).   Those things have all been focused on bettering myself, increasing my self-awareness, and changing – as painful as it can be.

The things that have not been helpful – shopping, eating, obsessing about things I can’t change, fighting, yelling, arguing, threatening, trying to control.  Going around and around in circles saying the same things is also not helpful.  Holding onto anger has not been helpful.  Contacting the OW at the beginning of all this was definitely not helpful.  Thinking of myself as perfect – or at least trying to be that way – didn’t help, and actually made things worse.  I do want to choose life, not death and certainly not an excruciating limbo.

4.  Maintain an attitude of compassion. If you can look at your mate through a lens of compassion and concern you may find it easier to let go of the offence. Forgiving infidelity is not a sign of weakness and it doesn’t minimize the magnitude of the betrayal, rather it allows you to move forward, free from the hurtful actions of another. Forgiveness in marriage, even without infidelity, requires compassion.

This is something that my Mom really helps me with.  I also think that when I started feeling compassion and concern for him and his addiction I also started down the path of forgiveness.  If forgiveness truly is about wishing the other person well, then I’m definitely there.  I want him to get better.  I can imagine how horrible it must be to be trapped in lies and compulsive behavior.  My heart aches for him.

I already know that forgiving someone is not weak and doesn’t take away from what was done.  Forgiveness doesn’t negate hurt.  It doesn’t discount fear.  It doesn’t exist separately from sadness.  Instead, it coexists with them.  It dulls the pain.  It acknowledges that there is another dimension to everything.  It complicates things while also making them simpler – adding different viewpoints and angles to the situation to add clarity – much the way multiple camera views of a play can make the proper call easier to determine.  Compassion and empathy are the aspects of forgiveness that make that possible.

5.  Don’t hang on to entitlements. As Charles Dickens says, “In every life, no matter how full or empty one’s purse, there is tragedy. It is the one promise life always fulfils. Thus, happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes and to add to other people’s store of it.” Your mate may have destroyed your happiness, but life is hard and often unjust. Try to keep realistic expectations.

Here is an area where I can definitely use work.  I am very guilty of hanging on to the idea that life should be fair, that I should get what I want, and that I deserve happiness…  That quote is completely true, though.  It is profound in its honesty.  It shatters my preconceived notions about myself and about life in general.  I consider myself a realist, yet I somehow allow myself to forget the simple fact that life is hard and full of tragedy.

6.  Take care of yourself. A lack of sleep, isolation, or severe depression only makes forgiving infidelity more difficult. It’s not fair since you aren’t the one who cheated, but you’re the only one who can take the necessary steps to heal from the wounds created by others. Be willing to get help.

This is really fantastic advice for anyone going through a difficult time – betrayal, loss, sickness, or anything else you can think of.  Sleep.  Eat.  Talk to someone.  Do everything in moderation, nothing to excess.  If you are on medication, take it.  Focus on yourself.

Today I had a really rough time.  I am sick on top of a number of other things.  Still, I took my antidepressants and vitamins, remembered my cold medicine every 4 hours, put 2 different types of drops in my ear for an infection, and got a moderate amount of rest.  I ate, and although it wasn’t particularly healthy (pizza) I did limit myself to only 2 pieces.  I also made sure to have carrots and other healthy snacks throughout the day.  I didn’t isolate myself – I called a friend, talked to my Mom and Dad (separately), cuddled with my dogs, and made it outside at least 3 or 4 times.  I also cleaned the house some and took time for myself to write this.  I will be going to bed at a decent hour.

As for getting help, that is definitely a must.  I look forward to my weekly sessions with the therapist.  I enjoy my S-Anon meetings.  I am going to make time to go to the doctor very, very soon.  I am finally realizing that I can’t do it all on my own, and that is okay.  It is actually quite a relief.

7.  Be aware of your own humanity. As CS Lewis says, “All saints must keep one nostril keenly attuned to their own inner cesspool.” Be willing to consider what you’ve been forgiven. Maintaining an awareness of what others have had to forgo for your sake will help you find patience for others. A self-righteous attitude will cut you off from the very thing you seek.

I have a lot of faults.  I make a lot of mistakes.  I require a lot of forgiveness.  This list isn’t even close to complete, but I can name so many things off the top of my head that need to be improved in me.  I am stubborn to a fault.  I am competitive – I always want to win, even when it has gone past the point of being enjoyable or productive.  I am disorganized most of the time – my clothes are thrown around in piles, my shoes clutter up the house, I am horrible about leaving things sitting on any flat surface available, and when I do organize it is by my own system, which is nearly indecipherable to others.  I tend to put things off (I have several t-shirts about procrastination to proudly declare that to the world, too). 

I can be petty.  I curse way too much.  I eat unhealthy things and sabotage my own weight-loss.  I say mean things to people, sometimes aimed purposefully at what I know are their weakest spots.  I yell.  I over-think.  I am a horrible pet owner.  When I am happy I get complacent and lazy, disregarding all my other responsibilities to revel in the happiness.  I lose myself in other people, especially when I am in a romantic relationship. 

I am controlling.  I am a perfectionist.  I have a really bad image of myself.  I smile at the most inappropriate times – like when I’m uncomfortable, when I’m feeling insecure, at funerals, etc.  I cry when I get really angry, which makes me angrier, which in turn makes me cry more.

I often take a holier-than-thou attitude.  When I do that it usually indicates an area that I need to examine further in myself.  I have a lot of things to figure out.  I have started working on my issues, and I will continue to do so – maybe for the rest of my life.

So there it is…  another glimpse into my mess.  It really isn’t beautiful at all.

if ever there was a time, let it be here, let ...

His “Rules” About Cheating

8 Oct

The last few days I have been trying really hard to process things.  I am realizing that it is harder to get into the mind of a serial cheater than the average person could ever understand.  I don’t recommend it at all, actually.

One of the things that shocked me are all of the non-sensical “rules” he had about things.  The way that he justified his behavior is absurd to me.  For instance, once he found a new woman to sex chat with online, he was only with her.  He didn’t seek out more than one sex chatting partner at a time.  He said that would have been too much for him…  Really?  If I wanted random, fairly anonymous sexual contact online, I would diversify.  Why only have one skank I could run to online?  Why not 5 or 6?  More chances to wank off!  More diversity!  More options!  Nope…  Not him.  He had exclusive, monogamous relationships with his random internet sex hookups.

He also had a fairly standard progression to things.  Go to chat room.  Seek out women to talk to.  Make sexual advances.  Attach to the first person to respond positively (yeah, that’s right… just the first sad, pathetic woman with no self-esteem and loose morals).  Escalate your chatting activity, phone sex, and virtual sexual contact for 3-6 months.  Verbally abuse the woman to the extent she would allow – the more often you could call her a bitch, whore, slut, cunt, etc. the better.  Once that got boring, choose a spot to meet up for in person contact.   Drive (sometimes hours) to see her.  Get drunk and high.  Fuck her a few times (as often as he could get it up).  Leave.  Never speak to her again.  Ignore all contact.  Repeat.

Yeah…  that was basically his pattern for 20 years.

Except… for when he was in a relationship.  Then the rules were different.  Don’t get me wrong, the above pattern was still basically the same.  Actually, exactly the same.  The only difference is that he had an “exclusive” girlfriend as well.  He wouldn’t see the girlfriend and the internet sex buddy on the same day.

So, if you keep following that logic…  He was more exclusive with them than he ever was with me!  That’s right!  He couldn’t have two internet skanks at the same time, but he could have one of them AND one of me.

Or, in fact, 4 of them and me.  Never all at once – THAT would be going too far, of course.

I discovered that the entire time we were dating he was maybe exclusive with me for 6 months.  He was involved in one of his fairly anonymous sexual “relationships” when we met.  He slept with his latest internet whore in the beginning of us dating.  That means he was probably close to the point in his cycle with the new harlot where he was getting bored.  Luckily, since he started dating me, he changed that plan and just kept cyber-fucking women in chat rooms.

When he asked me to be exclusive with him he got rid of his latest internet flavor of the month.  What followed was the 6 month period when he didn’t have a fuck buddy.  Don’t worry, though, he was still hiding pornography and jacking off to that multiple times a day while denying me sex, and there were at least one or two visits to strip clubs in there.  I still wasn’t alone in his head.

He can’t tell me a timeline for the other 3 – or at least he hasn’t tried to yet.  I do know that they followed a similar cycle to above except at some point he would realized how fucked up his action were, feel guilty, and stop.  He said the fact that he cared for me would trigger his guilt until at some point he felt worse about himself than good from what he was doing (as the buzz was fading).

Except for the last one.  Apparently there was nothing disgusting, nasty or mean enough that he could say to her.  And apparently knowing that our relationship was more solid and comfortable pushed him farther into his fantasy with her.  He thought I would forgive him if he was caught.  I’m so glad I lived up my part of that pathetic expectation.

When he made that revelation, I asked him  why feeling solid and safe with me would cause him to act out more.  He said in his mind he knew I would be there.  I had already discovered him hiding and lying about pornography, which crashed my laptop, and seen a few chats accidentally, and hadn’t kicked him out yet.  The more likely he could get caught, the more excited he was.  He also said it was easier for him to lie to me than to come to me and express any fantasies.  So in his mind, forgiveness = the ability to do anything he wanted to do and license to keep lying.

So how can I not expect the same behavior now?  How does that not mean that forgiving him won’t just lead to the same thing?  I thought I was at that point with the information I had, then all of this new information has again left me feeling devastated and on shaky ground.  My entire picture of our relationship has shifted.  Now I know that I was never his only “girlfriend,” although he never called the online skanks that.  Now I know that he has had about 5 times more sexual partners than I thought.  Now I know that only a week before our wedding he wasn’t committed to me.  He wasn’t committed to us.  He didn’t care about my feelings.  He lied to my face, and asked his best man to do the same (I just found that out last night).  If I forgive all of that am I just setting myself up for something much, much worse? (I think yes!)

To his credit, he did try to help me through this.  He told me all of the things that have changed for him from then to now.  He said that one key is that he knows he has a problem now.  Before (as incredibly difficult as it is for me to grasp), he didn’t think any of his behavior was a problem.  He would feel guilty and stop, yet somehow that wasn’t a problem.  When he started back up because he couldn’t help himself, that wasn’t a problem in his mind.  When I caught him, and he continued lying, he didn’t see the problem.  Now he does.

He also had medication to help him think clearer since he had undiagnosed mental conditions before.  Now he said he can think in the more linear process that the rest of us use.  He has accepted what he is, and he is going to therapy to correct it.  He also said that he knows forgiveness isn’t a given – that maybe I won’t be able to forgive him – or if I do that it will cause a lot of pain and hurt.

I still have a lot of concerns.  I still have a lot of fears.  I have a lot of questions, a lot of worries, a lot of problems with the things that he revealed.  I’m not sure what to do with them all right now, but I’m trying my best to hold on and keep going.

1 Other Woman Became 4…

5 Oct

That’s about all I’m emotionally able to say right now.  I’m still processing…

I am glad that I have a therapy appointment today at 11.  I really need it.

Why Strippers at a Bachelor/Bachelorette Party Set the Wrong Tone for Marriage

4 Oct

I found the below article yesterday, and felt so validated.  This article is a great, reasonable discussion about the stripper “tradition” at bachelor parties.  I have added some not-so-reasonable, emotion-filled commentary of my own in pink…  Sorry in advance, but I need to get it out.

What Happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas: A night of strippers may start your marriage on rocky ground

Published on September 8, 2012 by Dr. Shauna H. Springer

Despite the recent ads on TV and the age old saying, what happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas. If you know that your partner would be upset to hear that you had strippers at your bachelor/bachelorette party, this decision will affect your marriage.

I’m not speaking from any personal pain on this issue but from the distress of many a newlywed I’ve counseled who gets wind of his or her partner’s “totally wild” last night of freedom. Witnessing this time after time in my role as a marital counselor, I’ve often wondered whether there could be any wedding-related tradition more stupid than a bachelor or bachelorette night filled with strippers.

Where in the world did we get this tradition, and how has it persisted for so long?

If your goal is to kick off your marriage in a veil of secrecy and suspicion, a night of carnal pleasure with strangers would be a wonderful way to achieve it. (Thank you!)

If your goal is to undermine your partner’s sense that you only have eyes for him or her when he or she most wants to bond with you, then a trip to a few strip clubs ought to do the trick nicely.  (That’s exactly what it does.  Why am I accepting that?  His behavior shows that I don’t matter, my feelings don’t matter, and he wasn’t concerned about being close to me in a time where we should have been the closest.)

If you’d like your future spouse to see that after all that practice in high school, you still haven’t figured out how to stand up to peer pressure, then by all means, get wrangled into going to a strip club, and deflect your partner’s pain by blaming it on one of your friends (“My best man sprung that lap dancer on me unexpectedly, and she was grinding on me before I even realized what was happening”). (Really?!)  (Again….  REALLY?!?!?!?!?  I KNOW he can’t stand up to peer pressure…  How sad.  How sickening.  And what a completely bullshit excuse for a grown man!  He grinded on strippers because he wanted to – simple as that.  If it was transsexuals, shooting heroin, skydiving or anything else he DIDN’T want to do, then he wouldn’t have!)

If you want to send your beloved a message that you are entering the marriage with mixed feelings and a sense of loss, then by all means, you should participate in a custom that suggests you need to have one last go at sexual intimacy with a stranger because you’ll be deprived of such opportunities in the future. What a beautiful way to herald the sacred vows between yourself and the self-professed love of your life!  (“… one last go at sexual intimacy with a stranger…”  I’m trying not to throw up because that’s exactly what it was.)

I know that some people are more philosophical than I am about this whole stripper thing, so I’ll even take that into account. Overlooking the possibility that you could be one of the rare people who is not at all bothered by the thought of some random human potentially pressing his or her naked sexual parts against your future spouse, one question you still may want to ask is “If I told you that I have a problem with strippers at your bachelor or bachelorette party, how would you respond?”  (Well…  It wasn’t theory.  I did tell him that…)

This very telling question allows you to learn some very important things about a potential future spouse, things like…

Will you hear me and understand my concerns even if you don’t feel the same way?  NO!!!!!

Do you agree that, within reason, when one of us has a problem, it’s a problem we both need to address?  Obviously NOT!

Can I depend on you to stand up for us even if you get ragged on by some of your friends sometimes?  Absolutely, positively NO!!!!  NEVER!  (Gagging, bile rising in my throat…)

Can I depend on you to protect what we have and to treat me with respect whether I’m in the room or 3,000 miles away?  No.  I can’t.  Never could.  That simple statement is heartbreaking.

Am I, and are we, now your top priority?  Definitely not. 

Are you open to influence when I tell you about something that causes me pain?  The answer to this was obvious on so many occasions in so many ways.  Why was I too blind to see that?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of a Bachelor or Bachelorette party. In fact, my husband and I like it so much that we both took a long weekend away with our friends before we got married. When his friends have gotten married, he’s joined them for camping trips, weekends in cabins on various lakes, or time spent exploring a new city. Bachelor and Bachelorette events for us are an opportunity to spend quality time with our closest friends before the biggest transition in our lives to that point. They are a time to reflect on and get excited about what we are both about to do – a wonderful part of a uniquely memorable rite of passage.  (It’s what they should be.)

Would there be any downside to eliminating the sex-games-with-random-strangers part of this tradition? Not for us, and not for any other couples who want to start off strong by honoring the spirit of their commitment to the one they love.  (Sex-games-with-random-strangers…  What a great heading for what happened.  Gagging again.)

Being Aware of Our Vulnerabilities

2 Oct

man on a wire – by simple pleasure

Last week a blogger I follow posted about a Vulnerability Assessment from her marriage counselor.  I was instantly intrigued.  She pointed out that Vulnerability + Opportunity = Affair.  That makes sense, although the reality is probably a tiny bit more complicated.

Those do seem like the basic questions to ask yourself, though – how vulnerable are you to being led astray and what kind of opportunity do you have to act on that vulnerability.  Those two things together are important to the equation.  Having lots of opportunity to cheat doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.  Similarly, being vulnerable to an affair doesn’t guarantee you will have one.  Someone can also be vulnerable and make their own opportunity or have so much opportunity that it creates a vulnerability.  However, if you mix equal parts vulnerability to an affair and opportunity to have one, it is obviously a recipe for disaster.

That made me wonder…  Just how vulnerable am I?

If I had to guess, I would say that I probably have a fairly high score on that assessment.  My husband is a sex addict, so his cycles and behaviors have definitely put him at a high risk overall.  But what about me?

Certainly, according to the small snapshot she shared, I would answer “True” more often than I would like.  Just look at some of this stuff…  Did you know you are at increased risk of having an affair simply if:

  • you have a Facebook account?
  • you have been dealing with stress (family, illness, work, marriage, new job)?
  • you have moved?
  • you have had to deal with the loss of a parent, child, sibling, pet, close friend, family member?
  • you have dealt with or are dealing with a physical/emotional illness (stress, depression, low self-esteem)?
  • you feel taken for granted or taken advantage of at work, at home, in life?
  • you have had to deal with children that are teenagers, rebellious, or unruly?
  • you have felt self-conscious of aging, a bulging mid-section, receding hairline, sagging breasts, erectile dysfunction, major weight loss/gain?
  • you have felt sexually inadequate or second-rate in bed?
  • you confide easily in others?
  • you lack clear goals or dreams or sense of purpose for your life?
  • you have thought or spoke negatively about yourself?
  • you have a lack of self-awareness concerning infidelity, such as:
    • “This couldn’t happen to me.”
    • “I’m committed to working on my marriage.”
    • “No one would be interested in me.”
    • “I would recognize the signs.”
    • “I can be his/her friend only.”
    • “He/She is only a friend.”
    • “He/She is not attractive to me, so this is OK.”
    • “We are both married.”  [As if that totally rules it out…]
    • “This will not get out of hand.”
  • you have a high need for affirmation from others in your life?
  • you feel sorry for yourself?
  • you often see things as ALL or NOTHING?
  • you are unable to communicate your thoughts and emotions to your spouse? perhaps you have been dishonest with them about difficult issues because you fear them rejecting you or punishing you, or because you think it will protect them…”What they don’t know won’t hurt.”)
  • compared to others, you view yourself as:  morally superior, smarter than, or more self-aware?
  • your spouse embarrasses you in public?
  • your marriage is “keeping up the image” to others?
  • you have felt your sex life lacked quality, passion or adventure, and/or it has not been frequent enough?
  • you are disconnected sexually because of emotional starvation?
  • you have married friends who complain about their marriages?
  • you spend time alone?

Teetering on the brink – © Copyright John Naisbitt and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

I definitely don’t have all of them, not even half, but several of them stood out.  This is also not the entire list.  She got a HUGE list of almost 250 characteristics that can make you vulnerable to an affair, and chose just to share some of the ones that she found the most surprising or that made the most sense.

If I spent time alone I’m more vulnerable to an affair?  Huh?  If it’s on there, though, there must be a reason.  I think it is important to remember all of the little ways we can become vulnerable – to an affair, but also to drifting apart from our partner.  Each of these things is part of a bigger picture.  Too many of them together can mean that you are opening yourself up to stray, or even just to become estranged from your spouse.  The moral of the story is:

Expose your weaknesses before the lies become believable.

I am about to head into the therapist’s office to have my husband give me a full disclosure of his acting out behavior.  I am nervous.  There are all sorts of thoughts and emotions swirling around inside me.  One thing I have been keeping in the forefront of my brain is that the roles could easily be reversed.  If I had a different childhood, if I were treated or raised differently, if I had chosen to cope with sex or porn instead of shopping or eating, if any number of things had happened… this could be me today.  I am going to try my hardest to leave all judgement at the door.  We have walked down different paths.  We have experienced life differently.  The things we have been through brought us together, and we are moving forward hand in hand.

What’s that saying… “But for the grace of God go I.”  I may not believe in God, but I do believe that none of us can be positive that we aren’t vulnerable to being that person we despise, pity, hate, laugh at, etc…  I am going to try to hold onto that renewed sense of humility and self-awareness as I listen with an open heart to the things my husband has struggled with in his past.  Wish me luck.

A homeless man in Paris – work by Eric Pouhier

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