Did I Choose Wrong?

This year has been full of doubts, flip-flopping, and wondering if I made the right decision. In one moment I am happy, confident, and blazing forward. In the next moment I am hesitant, untrusting, and overwhelmed with fear. Luckily, the latter moments are not in the majority. But the mere fact that they exist bothers me. All the books and articles say it takes two years to heal from infidelity as a betrayed spouse. But what does it truly mean to be healed?

To love is to be intensely vulnerable. To choose love means we also choose to know the loss of love. We are raised to believe that love is the antidote to loneliness, and all the emotions that accompany being alone: sadness, rejection, misery, and heartbreak. We live in a world that equates love with hope. But the truth is that choosing to love another person is the equivalent of asking them to hold a glass egg forever – at some point it will be dropped. And heartbreak is, well, heartbreaking. I believed with all my heart that my marriage was unique, our love was pure and unbreakable. The heartbreak I felt, and sometimes I still feel, was as if I lost something essential to my existence. Sometimes I still yearn to touch what I lost; to grasp it in my hands, pull it tight into my chest, close my eyes, and cherish it one last time.

Recently a friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook:

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Heartbreak is heart breaking. It is painful and it is paralyzing. But we cannot let it define our future. Love can break us into a million pieces but it can also fill all the dark places that we never thought could be filled. Love, at it’s finest, feels as though I finally fit into myself. I clearly see myself, feel myself entirely, and my confidence exudes from my being when I give and receive love. Betrayal made me doubt all of that.

Somewhere along the path of healing I asked myself, repeatedly, did I choose the wrong man to marry? What if the answer is that we all choose wrong. It’s impossible to expect I knew at 23 years old what my needs would be at 35 or 46 or 52. I chose my husband because he offered familiarity, a compliment to me. I chose him because I never felt love in the way he gave it to me. I needed him and he needed me back. For better or worse.

Is it ever possible to know if we married the right person?

Every time I begin to fall into the doubts that still linger in the shadows of my mind I remember that love does not mean perfection. Love is having hope that as we break we will recover. Love is having the courage to believe that heartbreak does not mean devastation. Loving is risky business but somehow it’s the most desirable dream we share.

Sometimes I feel as if I am stuck in a Chinese finger trap – the more I pull, the more I am stuck in the same place. I just need to push, redefine the things I cherish, and move forward.

 

 

Love, Acceptance, Belonging

A Mindfulness Objective Takes Root

mindset

I find myself craving love, acceptance, and belonging in my weakest and best moments. I want to be worthy of being loved, accepted, and to belong; and I want to love, accept, and belong to my life story. My struggle with all three became magnified in the aftermath of my husband’s affair. To understand my struggle, I identified the opposite of these mindsets:

Love – Indifference, Neglect

Acceptance – Rejection

Belong – Disconnect

There have been so many times during the last three or more years that my mind felt chaotic. I would be fine and then one stray thought about the affair sent me into a panic, making me feel neurotic. I could trust my husband completely and not trust him at the same time. I’ve spent countless hours writing mental rationalization lists of why or how my husband is not still cheating on me or lying to me. I often have to be mindful of what is real versus the triggered emotional memories that awaken in my most insecure moments. My most insecure moments were affirmations of the opposite of what I truly need and want to feel. In the movie, Pretty Woman, Vivian and Edward are lying in bed in an incredibly intimate moment and she says:

The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

Yes, I have noticed the bad stuff is easier to believe. So I’ve made a resolution for 2016: Mindfulness. For me, mindfulness means awareness and acceptance of my thoughts and feelings without judgement or belief. My goal is to bring myself closer to truth and become more objective of my experiences and see my life with greater clarity. My life choices and motivations need to align better with my authentic essence.

On Christmas Eve I sat in the back of the church sanctuary next to my husband and children. As I held my lit candle in my hand I felt a moment of complete stillness and peace wash over me. There can be so much discontent after an affair. We are left with thoughts that race through our minds when there are no distractions, and mindfulness can feel unattainable. My moment of peaceful mindfulness on Christmas Eve was comforting. In that moment, I felt content.  My mind was not wandering to sadness, anger, frustration, or guilt. Instead, as I sat in my pew, I meditated on those three words:

Love, Acceptance, Belonging

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Overcoming My Emotional Disconnection

Tyler Knott Gregson Typewriter Series #573When I was seventeen years old I would listen to this one U2 song on repeat with the volume maxed out in my car. My life was completely uncomplicated at seventeen. Yet there was something that drew me in to the soothing vibration from the car speakers. The blaring of the car stereo filled not just the car, but my mind. It was a way to abandon the thoughts, maybe even the doubts that fill a young woman’s mind at seventeen. Doubts that even a girl that seems to have the world in the palm of her hand. Sometimes it was easier to turn up the volume, let the noise fill my brain and just have five minutes where I didn’t have to think.

Immediately after D-Day I would have killed to reach that moment again. There is nothing I wanted more than to shut off the incessant chatter in my mind. I look back now and I realize how much I shut down. I pushed away emotional connections. I focused on what needed to be done: the kids, the household duties, work, commitments and trying to figure out my marriage. It actually seems like a long list now but at the time I was in survival mode. I pushed away friendships and anything that required authenticity. I didn’t want anyone to see beneath the surface, because I was broken. That same girl that once believed she had the world in the palm of her hand had been pushed down to the ground and the wind kicked out of her. I was gasping for air and there were times I questioned if I would survive the betrayal. I couldn’t allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable to anyone but myself, my husband and this blog. I erected walls around my life. I figured if everything in my life was susceptible to destruction then I would prevent myself from feeling pain.

Just like sitting in my car at seventeen with the volume turned so high I couldn’t hear my own thoughts, I was living my life without feeling anything except what emanated from the affair. Every moment since D-Day somehow related to my husband’s affair and our recovery. The good, the bad and the ugly were all connected to my husband cheating. Life was redefined: Pre-Affair and After-Affair. It’s unfortunate because betrayal does not destroy marriages as much as it destroys people.

There’s a struggle within a betrayed spouse after D-Day. We struggle with how long can we live like this; torn by the affair and feeling like life is now seen through betrayal goggles. For over eighteen months I would have given anything to eliminate, or even just dampen, the white noise in my brain. And then, it happened. A few weeks ago, I suddenly, without intention, broke out of the emotional prison that was keeping me captive. I didn’t realize it at first because I just noticed feeling lighter, freer and happier. I thought it was just a phase but after a few weeks I realized that I’ve exchanged destructive thoughts for more playful and carefree banter within my mind. I am not claiming to be free from the pain or even thoughts of the affair but I have a new outlook. Once I was able to open myself up emotionally again to my friends and family, I realized that they could fill those parts of me that were still aching.

I still have moments when I feel like there are shattered pieces of me that need to be found and glued back together. I am not “fixed” but I do feel like the cloud has lifted. I am opening myself up again to friendships, relationships and allowing myself to just live in the moment. Not everything in life needs to be defined by the betrayal. I exist with or without my marriage. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I am an individual. I live and love independently of my marriage too. People and relationships are not responsible for my happiness; I am.  I must live fully from within always.

Sometimes it’s not about letting go of what happened to us–it’s letting go of our original belief of what defines a perfect, happy marriage.

The process of healing continues… but perhaps, this is a new chapter.

Change Quote

Infidelity Trax | Katy Perry | Roar

My new battle song to start 2014.

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (hey!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready ’cause I had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Now I’m floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes
I went from zero, to my own hero

You held me down, but I got up (hey!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Roar, roar, roar, roar, roar!

I got the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Lessons I Never Expected to Learn

There is a saying that goes something like: Out of darkness, magnificence grows. Sometimes I hold onto that thought like it’s my eternal flame, the source of my hope and the promise for the future. Lately, I realize more than ever how vulnerable I am. Immediately after D-Day I erected a wall around me—every part of me was protected in some way by this wall. But it also kept people I love out. Maybe the wall went up because there is only so much pain I could manage. Maybe it’s just my own defense mechanism. Regardless, the wall is crumbling and I feel exposed… vulnerable… scared. I also realize there are lessons I never expected to learn through this chapter in my life.

1. Make peace with your past so it won’t mess up your present.

The last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about life before and after the affair. I realize that it’s almost as though I need to discard everything that happened during the affair in our relationship. My husband was not himself at that time and I was avoiding dealing with the changes I saw in him. If I think too much about the “during” part of the affair I will just end up in a cycle of pain.

I feel like the hardest thing is letting go of the marriage we had before the affair. Maybe it’s me being nostalgic but I loved that feeling I used to have deep within me. That feeling I keep trying to define. Sometimes I feel like it characterized our marriage and my love for him. I know that’s not true—that’s the pain speaking. Hindsight tells me that if this “feeling” was so special we would have protected it more. Perhaps it’s still there it’s just buried underneath the scar tissue.

Mourning the end of our pre-affair marriage has taken more time than I expected. I think I had thought I already had finished this stage. Yet here I am still trudging through it all. My therapist says it’s because my life is naturally busy with three kids and a full-time job. She says I haven’t had time to mourn yet but I am in it now. I’ll trust her on this one.

2. People you love and respect may disappoint you. Good people can fail.

Even the people that love you the most can break promises, inflict pain upon you and hurt you. Sometimes it’s hard to separate my own expectations of myself from the people I love. Sometimes good people do bad things. Sometimes good-intentions turn into the regret. Hate the action, not the person. Although, I am okay with hating Bat-Shit.

3. Stop thinking too much, it’s alright not to know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it.

I spent months trying to understand how and why my husband cheated. I spent months asking questions and finding answers. My thirst to know everything was not easily quenched because there always seemed to be one more question lurking. The truth is I will never be able to justify what he did because it was wrong.

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid filling my head with thoughts about the affair. Every so often a light clicks on and I realize something new. But mostly, I hate spending time thinking about my husband’s affair.

Accepting that there are things I may never understand or answers I may never know is difficult. It goes against my own nature to not figure out the answers. I can rationally understand how it happened but emotionally? No, I don’t think I ever will.

4. No one is in charge of your happiness, except you.

I invested my happiness in my husband and family. I was happy with my life but that happiness was wrapped up in them and the life we created. Who was in charge of my happiness? How was I pursuing my own happiness? I am the wife, the mother, the person who says: ‘when the kids are grown I’ll have time for that.’ You know my type. I put everyone else first. I take care of everyone else. I wanted my kids and husband to be happy even if it robbed me of my own happiness. I think this is also the reason it took me so long to figure out what was going on. I blamed myself when my husband was acting strangely. I could see there was something wrong within him but instead of asking him what was wrong, I stepped away. By the time I suspected anything was going on it was too late.

5. Good marriages can suffer colossal failure and it doesn’t it’s over.

I thought love (TRUE LOVE) was like an electric fence—it kept the intruders out and protected our valuable relationship. I was naïve. I was wrong. The only thing that can protect a relationship is honesty, communication, humility and courage.

For the most part, I love my life. While I’ve accepted the affair happened , I still haven’t forgiven my husband completely. I believe he has to forgive himself first before I will be able to forgive him. I am not sure when we will get to that point of resolution.

Sometimes my husband asks me if I have to convince myself to stay in our marriage. The answer is no, I have never had to talk myself into staying. I am here because I love him and feel he truly is remorseful and regrets his actions. I stay because I believe it’s possible to rebuild our marriage into something better than before (and that was a pretty f-ing amazing marriage). I stay because when I fall into bed each night, his arms wrap around me tightly and I’ve never felt anything better than that. I stay because we built this family of five. We promised these kids we would do this and I am not giving up because he did something stupid, really freaking stupid. I stay because I imagine someday I will be old and grey with my husband (older and greyer) by my side looking at our grandchildren and great-grandchildren in amazement. I stay because we do have a good marriage. I stay because my husband enhances my happiness. I stay because I believe in love and forgiveness.