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

brokenness whole.jpg

This too shall pass and you will be okay again

Immediately after my D-Day I was searching for the answers to questions I didn’t even have yet. I wanted to be validated, heard and know that there were women that survived infidelity. In the beginning I felt isolated and alone. I had no idea that I was joining a silent alliance of betrayed women. I had no idea infidelity was so commonplace. It’s possible I just had the misfortune of discovering the truth. Up until September 22, 2012 infidelity and betrayal was foreign to me. Affairs were reserved for the covers of magazines at the grocery store and the few broken marriages I knew of in my town. Pre-D-day, affairs = divorce. It had been ingrained into my head that an affair breaks the couple and eventually ends the marriage, women should not forgive a cheating husband because their behavior will repeat itself in time.

Betrayal Healing After My Husband's AffairThen, my D-Day happened. I was hurt, destroyed, and in pain, and I wasn’t sure if my marriage was over or not. I Googled questions and words and finally found a women that instructed me on what to ask my husband first: 

Did you do this because you wanted to end our marriage?

My husband’s answer was: “No.” I think he was actually shocked that I asked him that question. I imagine in his mind he was afraid that my knowledge of his affair was the end of our marriage for me. We sat at our dining room table when I asked that question. He sat with his shoulders down, fear and shame covering his face. I sat with blood-shot eyes, anger and sadness upon my face. I look back now on that moment and realize we both had no idea what to do next. We both wanted our marriage to continue but both of us feared the worst.

My Google searches eventually brought me to WordPress. I found countless blogs about betrayal. I found blogs written by betrayed wives, affair partners and wayward spouses. I had to learn a new language (AP, BS, OS, OW, D-Day, etc). I learned all the acronyms. Infidelity recovery is an underground movement. One that is amazingly strong but entirely clandestine. I wrote my first words about my husband affair on this blog. I hoped someone would hear me, respond, and let me know there was life after an affair. I needed to know I was not alone. Just like so many of my readers, I felt like I was treading water and I was afraid I might drown in my pain and sadness. It took the writer a few days to respond to me. She gave me a list of five things I needed to do and one item my husband needed to do on his own. I read her list repetitively and soaked in every word she wrote. I felt her instructions were my new Bible. Luckily, her advice was solid. [I only hope that I can give half the advice she succinctly gave me in five bullet-ed points.]

Eventually, I started my own blog and followed a few blogs including Surviving an Affair and Rescuing My Marriage. Months later, I saw on my reader feed that the Rescuing My Marriage blogger was going to be a guest on a conference call with Anne Brecht, the author of My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me. I marked my calendar and told my husband I had to participate in this conference call. The night of the phone call I gathered all the house phones in the house (so that no child could listen in accidentally on this call) and sat in my bedroom. I was half excited and half afraid of what I might hear on the conference call. I recall Anne talking about affair recovery being one of the most challenging traumas to overcome. She spoke of women who have dealt with incurable disease diagnoses, tragedy and death before infidelity. Each of these women claimed that the betrayal from their spouse’s infidelity was the most difficult. At the time those words seemed a bit far-fetched but they were comforting to hear. What I was feeling might be the worst thing I will ever experience in my life. Ever since I heard those words I have questioned the validity of that statement. Perhaps it is true but I hope to never know.

Infidelity brings out the worst in people. Infidelity shames the couple. My husband’s affair made me feel as though I was an incompetent wife. If I had only done “XYZ” then he wouldn’t have cheated. Even as we try to rebuild our marriage I receive messages from Other Women telling me I am a fool for staying in my marriage and that my husband will never be faithful. Infidelity made me hide from family and friends. I didn’t want anyone to see my pain, depression and the uncertainty in my life. I didn’t want anyone to know my husband cheated. I hid my suffering to protect my marriage. Infidelity divides people. For some reason, people feel inclined to take sides and make judgments on the couple and their marriage. Infidelity is difficult to forgive so I chose to tell no one in order to not have to manage other people’s perceptions, opinions and advice. Infidelity pushed me into a dark hole and made me feel more isolated than ever before in my life. The one person I thought I could always trust was suddenly and inexplicably untrustworthy. 

Moreover, I no longer trusted myself. I believed with all my being that my life was what it appeared to be. I began living in safe mode. It’s like I pressed F8 the morning I woke up as a betrayed spouse. When I discovered my husband’s affair I was devastated and even if I discovered another element to the affair or received bad news, I was already suffering. There were days I thought I would welcome death. While that statement is absolute truth, I feel self-conscious admitting it. I never wanted to hurt myself but in the beginning stages of discovering my husband’s affair I felt dead inside, numb to my life. It took time but it’s difficult to live in a box. I feared living outside of safe mode to avoid being vulnerable again. As my life moved forward the pain subsided.The haze lifted and I believe now, perhaps, this is my new normal. 

I write this post for every woman (or man) that has just discovered the affair. The betrayed spouse who has just discovered this is their new identity. The pain you feel will subside with time. You will know what to do in time. Trust yourself.

Empty Spaces Healing After My Husband's Affair

Infidelity Trax | I Wanna Get Better | The Bleachers

I heard this song a few months ago. I asked my husband to find the song and put it on my iPod. Little did I know he put the song on his own iPod too. He says this is his song now. He wants to get better.

Hey, I hear the voice of a preacher from the back room
Calling my name and I follow just to find you
I trace the faith to a broken down television and put on the weather
And I’ve trained myself to give up on the past ’cause
I frozen time between hearses and caskets
Lost control when I panicked at the acid test

I wanna get better

While my friends were getting high and chasing girls down parkway lines
I was losing my mind ’cause the love, the love, the love, the love, the love
That I gave wasted on a nice face
In a blaze of fear I put a helmet on a helmet
Counting seconds through the night and got carried away
So now I’m standing on the overpass screaming at the cars,

Hey, I wanna get better!

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

I go up to my room and there’s girls on the ceiling
Cut out their pictures and I chase that feeling
Of an eighteen year old who didn’t know what loss was

Now I’m a stranger

And I miss the days of a life still permanent
Mourn the years before I got carried away
So now I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself,

Hey, I wanna get better!

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

Better, ’cause I’m sleeping in the back of a taxi
I’m screaming from my bedroom window
Even if its gonna kill me

Woke up this morning early before my family
From this dream where she was trying to show me
How a life can move from the darkness
She said to get better

So I put a bullet where I shoulda put a helmet
And I crash my car ’cause I wanna get carried away
That’s why I’m standing on the overpass screaming at myself

Hey, I wanna get better!

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

 

Infidelity Trax | Ingrid Michaelson | Sort Of

Baby, you’ve got the sort of hands to rip me apart
And baby, you’ve got the sort of face to start this old heart
But your eyes are warning me this early morning
That my love’s too big for you my love

Baby, you’ve got the sort of laugh that waters me
And makes me grow tall and strong and proud and flattens me
I find you stunning but you are running me down
My love’s too big for you my love, my love’s too big for you my love

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I would leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Baby, you’ve got the sort of eyes that tell me tales
That your sort of mouth just will not say, the truth impales
You don’t need me but you won’t leave me
My love’s too big for you my love, oh, my love’s too big for you my love

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I would leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Tell me what to do to take away the you?
Take away the you, take away the you
Take away the you

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I would leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

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.

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