How do we keep it together?

A fellow blogger whose pen name is Liberty is going through a rough time right now.  She is 21 weeks out from Dday and in so much pain that she was thinking of throwing in the towel.  If you’d like to see our discourse, you’ll find it in the comment section of my post last week:

http://notoverit.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/didnt-you-even-think-of-me-by-rick-reynolds/

She asked a question of all of us here, and I’d like to put it in a post so that more of you will see it.  It would be nice for us to share our answers here to help her out.  Here is her question:

“Let me ask all of you here, how do you manage to keep it together?   I am feeling like I am worse now than I was 21 weeks ago.   I thought I would be feeling better not worse!   Am I doing something wrong?  I need some advice on how to stop thinking the worst all the time!   I don’t even like myself right now, so how can I expect my H to?”

We all have our own ways of dealing with this whole mess.  What can we say to someone who needs some help right now?

Older children suffer, too

My children are young adults in their early 20’s.  I had all three in 3.5 years so they are close in age,  and they have close bonds with each other, too.  I always felt that it was a great gift that I had such wonderful kids who understood what it meant to be family.

We are one of those families where everybody rallies together immediately to help one another.  We generally all know within minutes when something happens to one of us.  Well, as I was reading all those emails on D-day, I had the presence of mind to know that I didn’t want our children to know about this, at least not until I had time to think it through.  One of our daughters, Lee, rents our downstairs apartment from us, so I didn’t want to be raising hell with my husband upstairs when she was home.  She had told me the evening before that she was riding to work with her husband the next day.  I found the emails later that night and spent all night reading them.  I heard her husband leave in the morning, so I figured Daniel and I were alone in the house.

It turned out that Lee was not feeling well and didn’t go to work early with her husband.  She was home when I lashed out at my husband.

I didn’t want her to go through that all alone, so later in the day I called the other two and told them.  They both screamed and cried and wanted to come home to be with Lee and me.  My son wanted to throw Daniel out of the house.  I told them that they needed to stay in school, but I hoped they would support their sister from there.

So my children have gone through this journey with me.  They would have found out anyway.  I went into shock and suffered PTSD and they would have known that something terrible had happened to me.  Especially in our family, since we have always been so close and have always spent so much time together… Mom had always been the optimist and cheerleader of the family… it was hard on everyone.

After the initial shock, I kept most of my pain to myself and tried not to let it affect them too much.  We celebrated each of their graduations in a big way and the whole family helped to get each one settled into their new adult lives.   But it’s not all excitement and happiness.  They are each going through their own personal turmoil.

They were so well-adjusted.  Each one had determined their initial career path and went after it with determination.  Each one knew what they wanted in relationships and had good people skills… They are all still achieving great things at work.  But something is amiss now in each of their lives.  My two girls seem to have this notion that they have to protect themselves from the cruel world.  They are no longer open and they definitely do not trust easily.  Just like me.  His affair did not just hurt me.  It hurt all of us, even though they were out of the house already when D-day came around.

My son has written off committed relationships altogether, at least for the foreseeable future.  He says that if Mom couldn’t make a marriage work, no one can.  Such a sweetheart… but that’s not the idea I wanted him to take away from all this.  He insists that family and friends are enough for him now.

And now my oldest daughter Lee is having her own marriage and infidelity issues.  Her pain cuts deep into each of us.

They are all good kids and gifted in their own way.  They will find their way to their best selves, I’m sure.  And we are all still really close.  But they’ve each taken a stance on relationships that will lead them down a hard road.   It’s sad.  Just sad.

The Emails

The Old Woman (my coach’s name for OW) lives across the country from us.  The time difference between us and her often made it difficult for them to talk as much as they wanted.  Their conversations were often cut short by work or family interruptions.  She enjoys writing, so there is a chronicle of their affair in their emails, all of which my husband kept.  All six years worth… He deletes emails from me  as soon as he reads them, but emails from her – he kept every one.

I’ve gone into detail about how I found them in an early post, so I won’t go into it here.  If you want the sordid details, here is a link to it:

http://notoverit.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/the-unveiling/

I spent all night reading them – hundreds of them –  on October 16-17, 2010 and went into physical and emotional shock.

The emails were regularly filled with songs of love and longing, quotes from their favorite songs, and frequent mentions of their special song.  One email detailed how he had practiced that song for the first time they met and he sang it to her.  He said he meant every word.  It was From This Moment On by Shania Twain.  For a long time, that song would send me into a flashback, with full mental shutdown and the inability to function in reality.  Thankfully, I have moved beyond the flashbacks now, but those songs will still send me into a tailspin.

They also developed an email game.  They would write out an acronym and the other person would have to figure out what it stood for.  SYIMD – see you in my dreams.  IWLYF – I will love you forever.  Stuff like that.  Silly, really – junior high school level of maturity.  But it gave them a little thrill.  After a while, they used these acronyms in all their emails as their little gestures of love.  I spent quite some time figuring them all out, back when I was shell-shocked and looking for details.  It made me sick to find phrases that I thought meant something special between him and me.  There were many of them.  You see, I copied the whole file.  I had three hard copies and four computer copies.

And of course, there was the talk of passion and desire and all that rubbish, too.

I wrote a while back about how I know too much and yet not enough.  I know too many details because of those emails.  But what I really want to know is what is hidden in his heart.  If I knew without a doubt that he is here because he wants me above all others, that he really and truly loves me and not just our family life, and that I am the love he does not want to live without – I could sprint through this road to recovery.  But as I posted recently, I doubt.  I have doubts about it all.

Oh, and by the way, I have destroyed – very ceremoniously – all but one copy of the emails.  I am not ready to say it’s dead and gone.  It’s stashed away in a place that I never go to, but it’s there, in case I need proof of their affair at some point.

Letter to Exercisegrace

Exercisegrace asked for help today, and I wrote a response.  After posting my comment, however, I thought that I should turn it into a post so that more of you can see it and offer your own suggestions for coping with infidelity at 5 months out from D-day.  Here is our exchange from today:

exercisegracesays:

I think I might have just driven my car straight over the edge. We seem to be reaching critical mass here and i just don’t know what to do. To be fair, he IS trying. To some extent I push his efforts away and punish him. I am just stuck right not in the hurt, pain and anger. I can’t seem to push the affair far enough away from me, even for short bursts, to have an enjoyable day. I know he feels constantly reminded and constantly kicked. That is true to some extent. I should be able to enjoy my life without letting this crap dominant pretty much every waking moment. Can someone please please tell me how to get past this point? If I don’t we are going to end up apart, and I think that would be awful. We both want this to work, we are both willing to try, we both love each other but right now it all seems like too too much.

OH EG – it’s too soon for that! Is he so convinced that you should be able to move forward already?

I was thinking yesterday when you commented about your marriage counselor that he was probably not doing justice to your marriage. It’s hard to find a good counselor for dealing with infidelity. Rick Reynolds at affairrecovery.com is adamant about that. He says you need to find someone who specializes in that. A general psychologist or an LMFT will often use generalized methods that are supposed to work for a variety of issues. The thing is they don’t always work for infidelity.

Focusing on what you want and where you want to go, controlling your thoughts and all that — sure, that all has to done, but it’s too soon to expect that from you. To your injured brain, that is ridiculous. That’s like telling a child, “That’s ok. You burned your hand on the stove yesterday, but go ahead and play there today. It’s not hot today.” It may very well not be hot today, but should you be telling your child that? Will your child immediately trust that it’s not hot? It will take proof and a period of testing it out before your child would trust that. Is it a good idea to do that? No way. We wouldn’t even consider telling a child that it’s ok at any time to play on the stove. Our brain understands infidelity at this same level. Your brain is doing its job of protecting you. It will take time to reprogram it to accept the relationship that caused such harm. Even if you know you love your husband, your brain will do its best to protect you from harm until it is convinced there is no more harm there. That takes a good long while.

Look at Linda from EAJ. She is about three years out from her D-day, and she is again going to counseling. She has lingering issues. Her subconscious brain has not let go of the need for self-protection.

All that said, you do need to get anger under control. Vent it out on things that won’t hurt your relationship. There is a time and place to show him your anger, but daily bashing is not going to help. I told you yesterday about how I vented with music. Right now, I vent with music by Adele. Her music has an anger and hurt in it that just lets me vent it all out. And then I am better. I don’t know if you can relate to her kind of music, but try it. Here’s a link to a YouTube video of her:

Another thing would be to find a new activity that you can do together without the opportunity for blowouts. For my husband and me, that was exercise class. It is good to be something new because it will not have many triggers associated with it. I still had to hold back tears in class for a long time, but not anymore.

I’m just throwing out thoughts that are popping into my head. Every relationship is different, but these are things that I have learned along the way that work for us.

Praying for you, my dear EG -
DJ

Love is a fire

“Love is a fire.  But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell.”

-Joan Crawford

I stumbled upon this quote today.  It was rather nice in that I could laugh at it.  But it is with bittersweet understanding of the truth in it. That’s how it feels to me right now anyway.

In my case the house burned down.  We have been trying to rebuild it with a stronger foundation and better materials, but it seems that the very ground under our foundation may be nothing more than sand, and it’s slipping through my fingers.  I don’t know if I can stop it.  I don’t know if I want to.

Awestruck wonder

I live in a gorgeous place.  I am sitting at my desk in re-found wonder at it all.  My desk looks out over the trees of my next door neighbor.  A gentle breeze is rustling through them and I see birds settling in for the coming evening.  Beyond the trees, down in the distance, are the high rises of the downtown area of our city, sparkling in what’s left of the sun’s rays.  And beyond that lies the sparkling deep blue of the ocean.  The sky is starting to turn into spectacular colors on the west side while still a gorgeous blue on the east side.  I am awestruck and sitting in wonder at the beauty right here in front of me.  God’s handiwork brings thoughts of how lucky I am to be alive and to live the life I lead and to live in this house.

My husband and I bought this house just before D-day.  We moved in and left just a few days after that for a big trip.  D-day was on the day we returned.  I never had the chance to enjoy the house.  This house is intertwined with his affair and I hated it for a long time.

In their emails, I found that my husband had consulted with her all along the way when we were looking for a house and sent her pictures of this house.   It made me feel sick to know that all the while I was so excited to be moving into this beautiful house, she was a part of it all behind my back.

Every room of the house holds memories of my nightmare.  I was sitting in our living room when I found all the emails.  It was in our bedroom that I confronted him.  It was in the kitchen that I told him to move out.  It was in our dining room that I hauled off and punched him the arm and fell apart, a crumpled mess sobbing on the floor.  It was in our bathroom that I cried buckets of tears every day in the shower for well over a year.  I slept in the guest bedroom for quite some time after D-day.  It was in the office that I found all the receipts and statements that told the story of their affair.  Literally every room holds some kind of memory of the pain and anguish of a woman betrayed and used and abused.

I have sat at this desk every day since D-day and noticed the beauty outside, but could not fully immerse myself in it.  But today – right now – I am sitting here in awe of the amazing view.  I am soaking it in and reveling in the picture God has painted for me right in my window.  I am not hurting.  I am not allowing anything to ruin this feeling and the peace of my favorite time of day – sunset.

I guess I really am better.  Even though my husband has been a total jerk recently, I am unmoved by him today.  God is sending little blessings down all around me and in me.  I don’t think I’m out of the woods yet, but I see the path and the light up ahead.  Besides, why should I allow her to take the joy out of my beautiful house?  I am the one living in it and enjoying it.  I am the one who owns it.  It’s mine.

There is a big difference between being sorry and being changed.

“There is a big difference between being sorry and being changed.

To be sorry means to feel bad. It’s a temporary little prick of the  heart.

But change only comes when we’re repentant. Being repentant is a deeper  conviction to actually correct and transform our behavior—our habit—our wrong  tendency.”                                                                                 

http://www.proverbs31.org/

These lines were part of a devotional called “I Quit” from Proverbs 31 Ministries.  The piece had nothing to do with affairs or forgiveness, but these lines within the article jumped out at me.  I believe this is the reason that many betrayed spouses have difficulty moving on and letting the past go.  Either the cheating spouse is not sorry or is sorry but not truly repentant.  In either case, the betrayed spouse takes a serious risk by letting go.

Truly repentant cheating spouses will make the time and do the work to affect real change in their lives and in their attitudes.  The effort resonates in the marriage and the betrayed spouse can reach out in the hope of being safe and secure in the love of their spouse.  A new foundation is poured and the new marriage takes shape.  The wounded hearts of the betrayed spouses are cared for and healed.

This has been my hope for almost 19 months.  But is my husband repentant?  It seems like it depends on the day and direction of the wind.  And that means that the answer is no.  I know he is sorry, but…

A new season

Yesterday I posted about my wake up call and how I could not let my husband’s foolishness kill off DJ as she was prior to D-day.  I have been thinking on it, and find it a daunting task.  But I need to make a start… so I’m changing the look of my blog and I’ve made some changes in the organization of my home.  This will help me to think differently.  I’ll continue to make changes as I move along, but today I am just setting myself up for a change of perspective – a new season.  I’m still whirling around some and feeling out of control at times on this roller coaster, but now recognizing the turns and loops and handling them a little better.

Will there still be backwards steps?  Sure.  For the past week I have cried my eyes out all over again, triggered by my husband’s business trip, grieving about everything, and feeling like I had fallen way, way down again.  I probably drove my coach James batty with my wild fluctuations in moods and insecurities.  But I want to start rediscovering that sense of self that I had lost in my trauma.  I WILL move forward.

Wake up call

I just found out that I am being honored for some work I did before this mess all started.  I feel humbled and honored at the same time.  It also feels like someone is shaking me and telling me to wake up.

My entire life came to a screeching halt on D-day.  I couldn’t go to work for three days, and when I did go in I moved around in a daze.  I have since been told I was in physical shock for several months.  I functioned but did not do anything I would consider exemplary… not like this work for which I am receiving honors.

There were many days when just getting through the day seemed like a monumental task.  But I slowly got back into life in some ways.  I became a part-time fitness instructor in addition to my job.  I became a grandmother a few months after D-day and I pick my granddaughter up from the sitter every day to spend a little time with her.  I continued my job and did it well.  I started this blog.  I settled into the new house we bought  just before D-day.  It’s not finished.  Some things are still just too difficult to focus on, but at least we’re settled in. Everything took longer than it did before and I struggled to maintain focus, but I got most things done.  All good things… all things I am happy about… but I did not and could not do anything that required the focused and dedicated effort that I put into my life before.

I just got by.  My brain was fried.  And then I found out that I had Fibromyalgia.  I feared that I was doomed to forever be a shell of who I used to be.

But this award has shaken me up.  What the hell am I doing?  Can I put myself back together?  I’m not Humpty Dumpty.  The stupidity and immaturity and delusional thinking that my husband showed cannot be the death of DJ as she was prior to D-day.

I know people who were never the same after their spouse had an affair.  My aunt, for one.  People always talked about how Auntie changed after her divorce.  She went kind of crazy and was rather unstable for the rest of her life.  I was too young when she divorced to remember the change, but that’s what everyone said.  Pitiful.

No, that’s not going to be me.  Absolutely not.

Bandaid Fixes

I have been mulling over this business about dealing with significant days in our partner’s affair.  As I wrote the other day, D-day for me has ceased to be a trigger because I was able to turn it around in my head.  I think of it as the day my husband turned from his evil ways and came clean.  But all those other days-  like wedding anniversaries where you know your spouse was texting her right in front of you (Angelwings – that must have been just sickening to realize) – well, those days are still difficult.  It seems impossible to turn them around.  So how then do we deal with the memories and the pain?

The day that my husband and I started going out is coming up on May 7.  We used to do it up as big as our wedding anniversary.  Now I don’t want to celebrate either day.  On May 7, 2008 he wrote her an email telling her that it was so difficult to celebrate the worst mistake of his life.  That definitely came across to me that night, too.  It brings tears just to think of it.  And that was just a minor item in the list of things he did during his affair.

I have written before about my method thus far for dealing with it- I do something physically taxing and difficult, like mountain hiking, swimming, Zumba classes, Tai Chi.  I do anything that keeps my mind focused on physical movement so that I don’t think about anything.  And I keep it up for as long as possible.  I did all four sports on Valentine’s Day.  If it seems like just a bandaid fix, it is.  But sometimes bandaids are necessary to keep from getting a fatal infection.  And bandaids do aid in healing, too.

So what else is there to cover up the pain for a day?  I’m thinking up some more.  I need them for May 7.  Nmwf1 needs it for May 2.  We all could use some ideas.  Please let us know if you have any that work for you or that you think might work.

Thank you!

DJ