The Cycle of Anger, Hate, and Forgiveness After the Affair

Recently I’ve experienced these surges of anger that take hold of my emotions. It’s almost like a visceral hatred rises out of nowhere and fills my brain. I was sitting on the couch saying good-bye to my husband as he left for work and as I watched him walk out the front door I was angry. But not just angry, I was vexed with idea of him having sex with Bat Shit. As I stared at my husband I was internally infuriated, but on the outside smiling and wishing him a good day at work. He closed the door and it took everything inside of me to breathe out the hatred and let go of the past. Two weeks later, that same feeling swelled inside me as I watched my husband getting ready to go to a meeting.

During the first two years of this blog I regularly received comments from women (some OWs) that pointed out that my anger was misdirected. I was seething with anger for Bat Shit and there was a huge part of me that wanted to prove that she was a horrible woman and my husband was a pawn in her game. While I think that my mindset during that time was essential in order to move forward and continue to care about my husband, I know Bat Shit is not part of my marriage. Her intentions and actions have nothing to do with my husband’s decision to cheat on me.

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Is it possible that all of those emotions just caught up to me or is this just a normal part of forgiveness?

During the first few years it felt like it was up to me to forgive my husband. He apologized, showed his love for me, and met me more than halfway. He did everything I needed. He answered every question I asked. He was opening up and bringing me back into his world. I was falling apart and trying to find my balance in a world that seemed more foreign than I ever imagined. Loneliness took over after D-Day and I still have to remind myself not to completely disengage from the world. It’s easier to be sad when you are alone and sometimes I have just wanted to feel the pain.

I just read a quote that said:

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.

A few years ago, I might have pinned that quote on my Pinterest board and agreed. Forgiveness has been largely about me needing to make peace within myself and not continuing to fault my husband for his actions. It meant letting go of my hurt. But what if forgiving my husband for his actions is superficial serenity? Obviously, my anger means that I haven’t dealt with something.

cd04430dcf9befa46df1f3dad0d4727bBoth times I was able to let go of the anger and fill my mind with loving thoughts of my husband. I had to tell myself that I am happy with our life together. I focused on our future and thought about how much I love not just our life but the way he loves me. Maybe angry emotions are normal post-affair but I am not comfortable with them. Even in the beginning, I was uncomfortable hating or being angry at my husband. Is it possible I buried all these emotions so deep that they are now just surfacing? I know anger is a response to my problems. I just need to figure out where those problems are arising from and why am I still angry about the affair? I thought I was over that part.

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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.

 

 

Am I harboring resentment from the way he treated me during his affair?

The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do? 

-Nick Dunne, Gone Girl Movie

Last night my husband and I watched Gone Girl. I started reading the book the summer before my D-day, but for some reason I never got further than the first two chapters. I might be the only woman in America that didn’t realize the movie plot was surrounded by infidelity. If you peel away the movie layers and focus on the infidelity – it hit a little close to home for me.  I think my husband and both froze when Amy said: “Want to test your marriage for weak spots? Add one recession, subtract two jobs. It’s surprisingly effective.”

As we walked out of the theater my husband said: “I guess I’m lucky.” And I responded: “Lucky, I’m not a psychopath? Yes.” I changed the subject, not because it was uncomfortable but because I didn’t want to change the mood of our evening. There are times when I really don’t feel like talking about the affair.

This morning as I woke up and the movie was still fresh on my mind I thought about the affair portrayed in the movie. It was relatable. Feeling used for sex. Feeling like something that was “ours” was no longer private. I could feel myself almost go blank, if that makes sense. It’s as if in order not to feel sadness or depressed about the past I need to go numb to the pain of the affair. The movie evoked feelings that still make me uncomfortable even if our marriage no longer resembles the shell it was during his affair. Why? I am still vulnerable to the way I felt during his affair. Not his affair, not the affair partner, but the way I felt about my marriage and my husband, and the way he treated me during the affair.

I amresentment not sure if I am harboring resentment or it’s just some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. I have made peace with what he has done and his relationship with Bat Shit. What I am struggling to let go of is the way he treated me. I felt diminished, I felt unappreciated, I felt disregarded, and I felt used. And it still haunts me. There are days when I just feel this divide – whether it’s real or imagined, I don’t know – but it renders me defeated. I don’t know how to function when he is having an off day or maybe he just needs time to himself. For me, it’s a trigger to the past, how I felt during the affair. And I question how I manage this too because I approach it as a mind-over-matter issue. Just focus on what is real, what is important, and not how you feel in this moment. I assume I am projecting his mood onto my own fears and emotions I would rather leave in the past. Then I fear, that’s how I dealt with those emotions during the affair – I didn’t acknowledge them then.

Resentment. I honestly don’t know if that’s what I feel or not. Do I resent my husband for what he did and how he treated me? I want to say no but I can’t say for certain. I just looked up the definition of the word resentment as I am typing. It’s possible I am.

resentment

/rɪˈzɛntmənt/

noun

the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person,etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.

Merry Christmas

My first Christmas after D-day I found new meaning in the song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The line that got me was:

From now on your troubles will be out of sight.

That line was a promise of hope that my struggles and problems would fade in the new year. That happiness could negate pain. I didn’t know what to believe anymore but I was holding on to this hope that a new beginning was possible.

It’s difficult to not know what to believe anymore after discovering a spouse’s affair, especially during the holidays. My husband’s affair was unsettling. I didn’t know if I believed in marriage, love, happily ever after, anything.

Two years later I have a new perspective. I do believe in marriage and love. The reason I got married and chose to stay in my marriage after D-day are the same. I love my husband. I believe we are a good team. I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else. He loves me. He supports me and encourages me when I doubt myself. He laughs at me. He knows all my idiosyncrasies that make me quirky. He listens to me sing One Direction songs and smiles when I dance like a 12 year old in the kitchen. He embraces me. I want to grow old with him.

But marriage isn’t really about all the lovey-dovey stuff. It’s not about all the amazing things that made you fall in love with each other. Marriage is about staying together even when you want to throw in the towel. Marriage is seeing your partner at their lowest and holding on. Seeing it through.

I’ve watched both our parents age and realize that life and marriage is not always going to be “great”. It’s not always what we expected when we got married at 23 or 30. More often it’s about taking care of each other when we can’t take care of ourselves. A few years ago, I watched my husband’s uncle care for his wife during her last few months. She was in the hospital and he was there to feed her, sit with her while she slept, read to her when her eyes were weary and change her when she became too weak. Watching him made me understand that marriage is so much more than love. Marriage is a commitment. Marriage means sometimes being selfless.

I believe in marriage. I believe I am with the right person even when my husband drives me crazy and makes me want to scream. I know that I made the right choice to stay.

I hope that everyone struggling to understand their life and what has happened, can believe once again in love and marriage.

Merry Christmas.

Grateful

Shift your focus. It’s impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.

Since my D-Day I usually feel uncomfortable when I read my friends lists of their blessings on social media. I understand the value of writing down what you are thankful for but I’m not sure about how I feel about public postings on Facebook. I’ve watched enough Oprah in my life to understand that expressing your gratitude will bring more blessings into your life. It will shift your focus to the positive. Two years ago I had friends posting their blessings every day leading up to Thanksgiving. Then the 100 Day Gratitude Challenge took off and I read through my friend’s posts for what felt like endless months. I have two friends at work that spent the summer writing down what they were thankful for every day. I would walk by and reluctantly read their board.

thankful struggle strengthIt’s not that I dislike or resent reading the blessings of my friends but it stirs insecurities within me. I would read their comments and think about my husband’s affair and that seemed to cloud everything. I could make a list of things I am thankful for too but there was so much uncertainty in my life that it seemed daunting. It felt like a lie to tell the world I was thankful for a life I was so unsure about. A life I wasn’t certain I wanted anymore. So I tried to be happy for my friends and their ability to publicly tell the world what makes them happy. Secretly, it made me question my life more. Then something happened. A few days ago one of my coworkers asked to take a picture with me. I didn’t think twice and then he told me he was participating in an eight days of gratitude challenge. Each day posed a question that he needed to answer with gratitude. The day we took our picture he was asked to be grateful for someone that is plays a small but big part of his daily routine. And so there I was reading why someone who barely knows me is grateful for me and it made me realize how much I have to be grateful for in my life.

My life is not perfect. I’m not always certain that I love my life every moment of every day. I’m not always certain that the path I’m on is right or the words I’m typing are expressing what I feel or want to say. Sometimes I fall short in paying myself a bit of gratitude. So I’ve decided to torture you (my readers) with my gratitude list.

  1. I am grateful for my children. They are my lifeline, my greatest loves and inspirations. They are the reason I was able to get up out of bed after my D-day, they gave me a reason to live. They made me smile again and made me remember why family is the core of my being.
  2. I’m thankful for lifelong friends that celebrate life’s big and small moments. For friendships that pick up right where they left off the last time we were together. For my best friend that calls me every single morning to check in. I am grateful for her knowing almost the whole affair story but never pushing to know everything. I’m grateful for new friends. Women that help me live in the moment. Women who will dance with me until 4 a.m. in the kitchen or in a bar. Women who don’t judge. I’m grateful for all my friends who have given me strength during the past two years.
  3. The unexpected friend. I am grateful I found you. You are the only person in my life that knows my story, reads my blog and never judges. You’ve given me strength, insight, criticism (when I needed it), and love. You fill a space that would be empty otherwise.
  4. I’m grateful for the parts of my life that did not changed because of the affair. We stayed in our home and work at the  same jobs. In the beginning I didn’t know if I could live here with the affair “ghosts” haunting me. I still don’t want to ever bump into Bat Shit when I’m out and about. I still have mixed emotions about my husband working a mile from her home. But I’m glad that we didn’t have to leave the town we are raising our children because of his affair. I’m grateful for the community I live in.
  5. I’m grateful for my husband. I’m grateful for all the nights he held me in his arms. I’m grateful for his honesty after I discovered the affair. I’m grateful for his willingness to do whatever it took to rebuild our marriage. I’m grateful for amazing sex. I’m grateful for a new found intimacy.
  6. I’m grateful for my imperfect marriage. It seems impossible but my marriage is stronger now. The intimacy, both physical and emotional, between my husband and I is deeper, spicier, and better than ever before. I’m grateful for a marriage that didn’t break. I’m grateful that in the day and age of broken promises and marriages that mine is weathering the storm.
  7. I am grateful for my inner strength. I am grateful for being able to trust myself and life. In a time where I could have given up, I didn’t. I won’t. Some days are more difficult than others but I’m still here. I still want to be here.
  8. I’m grateful I started this blog two years ago. I found strength and clarity not just in writing but in reading comments from you. When I couldn’t sleep at night I would come here for solace. This blog has helped me understand I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. Most of all, I’ve realized that I’m not an island. I couldn’t do this without the perspective and support from all my readers.

If gratitude lists make you cringe, I apologize. Thanksgiving is only a few days away and it’s a time to reflect on our life’s blessings. I know that holidays can be difficult as we heal after infidelity but I hope that everyone can see their life’s blessings. It may be a struggle to say this every single day but I am grateful for everything I am.

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Trying to find the right words.

I hate my last post. I won’t delete it because I think this is all part of the process.

The truth is being at the two-year mark means the honeymoon is over. Strange to think of the first two years as anything special or celebratory but there was a renewal in my marriage during those first two years. Immediately on my D-day I had to make the decision: fight or flight. I chose to stay and that means that mixed in all the pain, sadness and anger, that were clearly present, there was also hope. There was a revitalization of our love. We had to remember what was at the core of our relationship and take solace in a belief that we were still special and our love was worth the fight. The first two years may have been a nightmare (that I would never want to relive-ever) but there was also a tremendous amount of love, honesty and support.

Letting go-Healing-After-Husband's-AffairTwo years later we fall back into our old habits again. We don’t always tell each other our needs because we fall into the trap of not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings. I don’t bring up my doubts or fears any longer because I feel like I need to push forward. So when I fall apart, I keep it to myself. Don’t get me wrong, most days are good and I don’t harbor any resentment or sadness. But how is this different from our relationship before his affair? We were happy then. We spent time together. The only difference is our sex life was “normal” then and now it’s more than healthy. Keeping intimacy at the forefront of our marriage is one of the best results from this mess. I realize how much I need to feel desired, wanted and feel that closeness to my husband.

The biggest struggle with entering into this new phase of our relationship is realizing the riptide of sadness and depression can still pull me in. I know how easy it could be to drown in the pain. There’s a hole in my life. For two years, I’ve searched for the missing pieces or a way to fill the cracks. I wanted to believe that I could fix my brokenness. In the first year it was a search for information. If I could understand and figure out exactly what happened then I would feel whole again. During the second year, I accepted that what was missing may be gone forever and I tried to fill those empty spaces with other people, other activities, ignite a new passion. I’m just starting out into year three and I have spent that past month looking back at my life. I’ve analyzed my marriage and how our relationship began. I’ve pinpointed warning signs and recognized that I chose my husband in spite of those red flags. I chose him. I wanted our relationship and I fought for him. Our relationship did not come easily. There were obstacles but I was young, in love and I believed we were invincible. I loved him.

I love him. I define love differently now.

I’ve spent my entire adult life with my husband. He’s been with me as I grew from a teenager into a young woman into a mother. He’s nurtured me and I still believe he is the love of my life. I do not think I will or could ever love anyone more than him. Yet, I am beginning to believe the strength of our love is a result of time, children and family. We choose our spouse. We choose to continue to love even when we feel empty. And I am beginning to wonder if that’s what makes a marriage last, a trust that no matter what shit is thrown in your face you will come home, eat dinner together, clink wine glasses, and kiss lips before falling asleep at the end of each day.

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Light for the Way

I was digging through a bin of my old college papers and mementos and I discovered a speech I had written. I wrote this at nineteen years old and re-reading it now has new meaning. I thought I would share some of it with you (I won’t torture you with the entire piece). 

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There are moments in each of our lives when our personal world is filled with darkness. Tragedy, loss, rejection and failure are all common experiences. It seems as though during the days following Christmas the Light appears distant… and shadows easily block our sight.

There is an art to learning how to live with life’s challenges and hardships, to discover light amid darkness, and to heal ourselves and the world around us. Like any other art, the art of peace calls for both great love and discipline. We must be willing not to shun the shadows in our lives but to turn toward them. This is the first and most significant step for in-turning, we begin to cast away our fears, despair and self-doubt. It is not darkness that is our opponent but our rejection and denial of it. It is in our greatest difficulties that we can find the sense of what is everlasting light. As Saint John said:

If a person wishes to be sure of the road they tread upon, they must close their eyes and walk in the dark.

As the Christmas seasons endures and we look to a new year, we turn toward the specific shadows in our lives with an open heart and a clear and mindful focus. We cease reacting and resisting and begin to understand and to heal. In order to do this we must learn to feel deeply. It is not done so much without eyes open as with the opening of inner senses of the body and heart. It means to listen closely to the mystery that is right in front of us rather than the ideas we have about things. The listening, feeling, and seeing sets our life free. As long as we resist it, seeking for light someplace else, we are separate from what is and unable to see that all that exists is filled with the Light. Learning to listen with this same sensitvity inwardly, we discover new depths of calmness, new resources of energy and effectiveness. The shadows that we have previously related to as adversaries become our most profound teachers. We learn to meet them with grace and serenity, and it is then we can begin to heal not only ourselves, but the world.

So as the New Year approaches let us remember that God created the Light out of darkness. Although they are separate, each one is necessary for the other to exist. We discover through the darkness and the Light that we have the energy and the faith to begin to heal ourselves, and the world through an openheartedness in this and every moment. Because we shall be beacons of light that are illuminated by an inner light, exuding radiance in a fundamental way. Our true nature, our basic goodness, shines when we stop looking elsewhere and discover that what we seek has been here all along. What we are is Light.

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