I had a talk with my daughter the other day that profoundly affected me. She ended up telling me that “you are not broken, you are a bad A!” It sort of shocked me into a remembrance of my former self. I was a bad A! At least, I used to be. I knew I needed to get back there somehow, but how? I long to be me again. I have been on the journey of recovering and rediscovering me for four years now. Its been a long time and I haven’t felt like I was making any real progress. Until this week…
I signed up to take a class online. The class is called “Solar Plexus Initiation.” The premise of the class is igniting the personal power of the 3rd Chakra or Solar Plexus. This is the power center of the body. The idea was intriguing to me because I know I have lost my power. Some of it was stolen from me, some of it, I just relinquished. It was a surrender of sorts, me giving up. Giving up is not who I am though. So I thought this class might give me some ideas of how I could reclaim my power. So I looked forward to watching the class videos for week one.
Week one. I knew this sort of transformational work would be difficult. I had no idea how hard, but I was invested, so as long as I was doing this I was going to go ALL in. My first assignment was to create an alter ego. Someone I really wanted to be, who would show up for me, when the broken me wouldn’t cut it. I like the idea of an alter ego. The instructor said that all of us have fears and insecurities, even celebrities. He said that most of them have an alter ego that they can access to power-up their energy to pull off a performance. The problem with this is that I had no idea what my alter ego, could or should be? It turns out that I have been already laying the foundation for an alter ego all along this journey. It started with my name change. Taking back my birth name was a huge step for me, along with the decision to go by Deborah in my professional life. Another piece to my alter ego was to think of myself as a warrior. A champion for all betrayed women, hence, the Cupcake Warrior. Being strong without becoming bitter, staying sweet. I never wanted this process to allow a door of anger and bitterness to open that I would be willing to walk though and never come back from. That was never an option for me, so I opted for a warrior spirit, with a kind and gentle heart. So with those two things already established I would use them as the beginning of the search for my alter ego. The Warrior Deborah. It turns out she was emerging all along…
With that in mind, I turned to the great and powerful Google for ideas. The search for my alter ego had commenced. Who knew that I knew right where she was all along? I began with a search for the meaning of the name and the story of Deborah. I knew I was named for the Prophetess Deborah in the bible and I was very familiar with her story. However, in the context of my current circumstances her story took on a depth I had not seen before. I found a book online that was intriguing to me. The Deborah Anointing, by Michelle McClean-Walters. It’s not unusual for me to read books, but this is my first foray into mainstream Christian authors, besides C.S. Lewis. Mostly I read LDS authors, but I wanted to know what a Deborah Anointing was. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I am on a quest to find me, so I went all in. I’m so glad I did. Because in the introduction I found my alter ego. The woman who I could count on to show up for me. A woman who has always been there for me. A woman I knew I could count on with unflinching faith;
The Old Testament describes Deborah as a mighty combination of judge, intercessor, prophetess, mother of Israel, and military strategist. Deborah broke outside of her culture—not out of rebellion, but in obedience to God to set her people free.
As in biblical times God is calling today’s women to a purpose greater than themselves. The Deborah Anointing shows you that although you may have been trapped in tradition and locked into captivity by cultural and gender prejudices, (or a careless, cheating, and abusive spouse) God desires for you to break through these barriers. Now is the time to embrace the fullness of your purpose!
Whatever your sphere of influence at work, at home, or at church—will you accept the challenge to be a modern-day Deborah, stand for God, and boldly lead others to Him?
I knew that if I could count on anyone it would be the woman who had the courage to wage warfare on Canaan in a time and place when that was NOT how women behaved, and drive Sisera to the tent of Jael who then nailed Sisera’s head to the ground in his own tent. Gruesome, I know. But that is the great, unwavering faith I was looking for in order to power-up my solar plexus, to light up my world, with conviction and determination strong enough to fulfill my purpose. And at my age, I have no time to lose! I need that kind of power.
Deborah, it is. My Alter Ego.
It wasn’t an easy choice on the surface, but it was the only logic choice in the end. I searched, briefly, for a more mythical persona. Zena, Warrior Princess was appealing for a minute. Or Galadriel, the Elven Princess of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But Deborah, she is REAL! And her accomplishments are extraordinary! If you don’t know the story you can read it in Judges 4 and read the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. Deborah’s resume’ is nothing short of impressive:
She was called to be a spokeswoman for God, a prophetess
A mighty military strategist
A Judge in Israel
A Mother in Israel
She was a woman of conviction, influence and power
She was a great leader
She was a woman after God’s own heart
All the things I want to be.
Debbie is weak, afraid, anxious, betrayed, and broken. Deborah isn’t any of those things.
Modern-day Deborahs will be able to stand for righteousness in the midst of a wicked world. The point of Deborah’s story is that it exposes the corruption of the human heart. Israel had trouble with staying the course. Over and over they would promise to repent and then the second they were delivered they went right back to their wicked ways. That is when Deborah said, “I, Deborah, arose.” Judges 5:7.
In the times of crisis, women of God need to arise:
To arise in a hostile sense means that Deborahs will confront the powers of darkness with the powers of God.
To arise also means to become powerful. Power that comes from the gifts of the Spirit – faith, healing, and miracles.
To arise means to be true to oneself. Take a stand. Be steadfast and immovable.
All of these things that mean to arise, to say, “I, Deborah, arose,” have been a confirmation of my purpose, to stand up and be a voice for women who have been betrayed by their husbands through pornography and sex addiction, espeically when it is not acceptable to talk about it.
The Deborah Principle is to confront the powers of darkness though the gifts of the Spirit, and to be a voice for the voiceless, by taking a stand. Sounds like a worthy purpose to me.
Now it is time for you to find your purpose. What is your alter ego? What is powerful enough in your life to move you to act? Here are some questions to help you figure it out:
What is your alter ego’s name?
What does it feel like to be your alter ego?
How does your alter ego look, or dress, what is her body type?
How do you move or speak? How do you think?
What emotions do you feel when you are in your alter ego character?
What is your character summary? What is the essence of your character?
What is your purpose? What do you stand for?
What makes you really angry? If you could change something in the world for the better, what would it be?
What gets you inspired?
Do you have a theme song?
What is your alter ego’s back story?
Think about what you would consider if you were creating a character for a book. Your character would need to have a belief system, moral framework, a family, friends, likes and dislikes. Be as detailed as you can about writing down everything you would want to be if you could reinvent yourself. This is a process that just might help you discover your true purpose in life.
This is a pretty interesting exercise, if you will take the time to do it. You don’t have to share it with anyone, unless you want to. But it is worth at least exploring the possibilities of what you could be. Finding your alter ego means building a life that is purpose driven. It means to show up. It means to live mindfully. Who knows, you just might find that you can create a new life for yourself that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning!
Leave me a note and tell me about your alter ego. How does your alter ego help you to power-up and show up in the world when you feel too broken, too weak, or too afraid?
Meditation came into my awareness because it was suggested to me as a way to quiet my mind and body once I found my way to Addo Recovery. Shortly after I found out about my ex-husbands affairs my body went into such a high level of panic that I entered the ‘fight, flight and freeze response’ almost immediately, and because of his lying and gaslighting me, I stayed there for nearly two years. I blew out my adrenals and my body was just in a constant state of panic. I was flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function, and I could not get my mind to shut up as it tried desperately to make sense of what had happened to me.
Addo Recovery suggested I take a yoga class to learn to quiet my mind so that I could give my body a rest from the flooding of chemicals I was experiencing. I learned that, over time, this constant state of stress was dangerous for my mind, body, and spirit. Intuitively I knew all of these things, but I did have the knowledge I needed to pursue a solution and had no idea how to make it stop. Meditation was the solution. It was a solution that was so profound that I began practicing meditation twice a day, morning and night, almost immediately. I have been meditating daily for almost two years. In the very beginning it was the only peace I got during the day. But, over time, I learned to bring my meditative mind with me through the day, and into a peaceful, restful sleep at night, with no medication.
The reasons we meditate are as varied as the many ways there are to meditate. In America, most people are drawn to meditation to quiet the internal chatter of the brain and to reduce stress. Meditation is, indeed, a very effective stress reducer, but its benefits – sometimes mysteriously hidden – are far more plentiful.
According to the Chopra Center for Meditation there are 3 reasons meditation is not only good for us, but it is necessary, especially for those who are suffering from betrayal trauma:
1. Because It’s Good for Our Bodies
According to Scientists gathering data on meditation have found that a consistent practice not only boosts the mind, but it also bolsters the body. Studies bear out that meditation can help reverse heart disease, reduce pain, and support the immune system, better enabling it to fight disease.
The mind-body connection between stress and disease is abundantly apparent as science is finding that meditation can lower production of the stress hormone cortisol. This means meditators are better able to adapt to stress in their lives and its common physiologic responses, which can include:
2. Because It’s Good for Our Relationships
Paradoxically, while meditation helps us tune in and turn inward to our true essence, it also helps us detach from our own egos to connect with others in more meaningful ways. Couples counselors have found when they assign their clients meditation, the couples become less angry, more self-reflective, and more loving.
When we become aware of – and honor – our interconnection with other beings, we are able to recast our perspectives, see our worries in a different light, and embrace gratitude, which is the heart’s memory.
3. Because It Can Change Our Lives
In a world rife with never-ending fast fixes, crash diets, and get-rich-quick schemes, it’s nice to know there is a proven practice that really can change your life (or at least bring about dramatic effects) in just a little time each day.
Yogis and doctors both agree: meditating – even just a few minutes of deep breathing – relaxes the brain, reduces anxiety, and decreases depression. When we feel as though we can’t afford the time to meditate, the truth is we can’t afford not to.
I can attest to the deep breathing thing. Learning to breathe deeply and properly was life saving for me. I was so stressed out in the beginning of this journey that my resting heart rate was over 100 beats per minute. It was as if my body thought I was running, even if I was sitting still! I literally felt like I would climb out of my own skin. I was jittery and nervous and I felt scared…all…the..time. This was the state of my body and mind for 2 years without a break. I even started to wear a device to measure my heart rate because my doctor was so concerned about me. She told me that if I could just take deep breaths and count them I could lower my heart rate and calm my mind. Breath in, 1, Breathe out, 2, Breath in, 3, Breath out, 4, and so on, until you get to 10 and then start over. After a couple of minutes of this I could lower my heart rate down to 80 beats per minute, a more acceptable rate, still too high, but better. At least it gave me a little bit of control over my mind and body, something I desperately needed because my whole life was out of control. It helped. Breathing became a saving grace. I took a breathing timeout all day long. Now I am so in tune with my body I recognise the signs of stress immediately and I can just take a minute to stop and breathe to bring it all back down before I spiral out of control. But it takes practice. Everyday.
What I can tell you is that there is no fast fix for betrayal trauma. It will take you making some permanent changes in your lifestyle to feel good again. There is no way around it. So just wrap your brain around the idea that you will have to do some things differently, probably for the rest of your life. Meditation is one of those things. But I have found that isn’t a bad thing necessarily. I know that if I skip a day of meditating, I pay for it the next day. Heart rate goes back up, anxiety drops by for a visit, and I quickly find myself not in a good place. So I agree, with what is at stake, we cannot afford to not meditate! I am happy to report to you that there is hope to be found, a quiet mind is possible again, and a calm body is within your reach. My resting heart rate is now somewhere between 60-70 beats per minute. That is physical, hard evidence that mediation and deep breathing (which is part of it) works! It works for me, and it will work for you too. And the good news is that you can get started… right now, today.
You do not have to take a class to learn to meditate, although I highly recommend it in order to learn from someone who is experienced and knows how. However, YouTube is a wonderful place to get tons of guided meditations for free. Some of my favorites are:
Kenneth Soares (is Norwegian, and I like his voice, some people don’t though.)
Check them out. See if you like them, if you don’t try someone else! It will ruin the meditation if the person you are listening to has an annoying voice. Find one or two that work well for you to start with and explore more options. Many of them have meditations for anxiety, letting go, fear, and sleep. You can start there. I recommend that you do the 21/90 rule. 21 days to form a new habit and 90 days to make it part of your lifestyle. Most of the meditations are 20-45 minutes. So it’s not a huge time drain. Start out small. I will warn you though, I have loved this so much that I now will frequently do 1-2 hour meditations. Once you are able to do well with guided mediations then you can branch out on your own. There are a lot of ways to mediate and the internet is full of good information on this topic. Just google “beginner meditation.”
I can give you suggestions but if this is something that interests you then it is best to go on your own journey of discovery and enlightenment. At some point I will write about my personal meditation practice, but I would rather you do you. It will be more helpful to you and more fulfilling if you find what works for you. For example; I really, really like Tibetan Singing Bowls, but it took me forever to find a video that I loved. Some of them were too high-pitched for me, some of them had drum beats I couldn’t stand, others had certain Binaural Beats* that made me feel more anxious. Until one day I found one that really is perfect for me! I love it! But the point is, you may not love it, you may hate it, and it could cause you to hate mediating as a result because I told you that you should love it, and you really hate it. So go find what works for you, trust me, there is something on YouTube for everyone! Find what speaks to your body, mind, and spirit. Meditating is deeply spiritual and personal. If you don’t like something, don’t give up, find something else that works better for you. I save videos all the time that I end up deleting a week later because they just were not as good or helpful as I thought they would be.
I usually meditate sitting up in the morning and lying down on my bed at night. At night I use mediations that are meant for sleep so I don’t feel like I am missing something if I fall asleep, because that is the point. So do what works best for you. That is the great thing about meditating, you don’t have to worry about getting it right, just do it. I also mediate with my headphones on so that I can benefit from the sounds many of them use in their mediations. Here is some information about the sound frequencies and beats. I love the idea that different frequencies can entrain our bodies to resonate with that frequency and helps our bodies to heal. I need all the healing I can get so I opt for the headphones. There are meditations that are meant for deep healing with the Rife Frequencies**. Some of them get on my nerves, but I learned from reading in the comment that listening for 10 minutes a day was enough to reap the benefits. So read the comments too, it helps to learn from others who are also in the process.
Here are some of the meditation YouTube Channels I subscribe to:
I hope this will get you started on your own mediation journey. It is something that has made a life or death difference in my life and that is not an exaggeration. It is one reason I chose to start with sharing mediation, it is something you can do immediately and see tangible results in a matter of days, or even hours, depending on how much you do it. All I can say is try it, you’ll like it. You will like how you feel, and it will give your mind and body a break so you can cope with the un-cope-able.
Share with me in the comments your own experiences of meditating. I’d like to know what works for you or if you have any cool tips, tricks or meditations you have discovered.
Stay Strong, Be Sweet
The Cupcake Warrior
* “Binaural Beats” is a term given to playing one sound frequency in one ear, and another sound frequency in the opposite ear, creating a two-tone effect in the mid-brain that is actually perceived to be one tone. This causes an “Entrainment” effect in the brain that has a variety of results depending on the frequency.
** These frequencies are based on the work of Royal Raymond Rife was a 20th century inventor who through frequency was able to cure many ailments of the body, including most common illnesses that we seek medical assistance for today.
I have been kind of silent the last few months because I have been working very hard at my own recovery (I hate that word) coping skills. I have also been busy writing a book for you! I have been trying to come up with a healing plan that works for me, and possibly, it might work for you too. I am still trying to figure it all out, but I think I have it figured out well enough to start sharing what I have discovered. So from now on this journaling blog is going to have a different focus….
The focus on coping.
I was talking to my therapist the other day and she said something interesting. “I still have to get up every morning and start over in my recovery work. Sometimes it feels like sleeping undoes everything I did the day before. I wake up feeling anxious.” My question to her was, “even now, after 7 years?” “Yes,” was her reply.
It’s depressing, but, oh so true! Recovery coping after betrayal trauma is something you will probably have to deal with everyday of your life for the rest of your life, at least on some level. Sorry to be the one to break the bad news to you. It’s the truth, and the truth will set you free. Just know, you will have to deal with this…for…the…rest…of…your…life. There is no complete and total healing from this. You will never wake up one day and say, “Yay! I’m healed!” It’s not going to happen. Ever. This is not like having someone die, a break up, losing your best friend, or even a “normal divorce.” In those cases you can go through the steps of grief and move on, eventually. The only way back from something that is so devastating and life changing like a soul destroying trauma is through COPING. You can call it “recovery” or “healing” or whatever you like, but what it really is, is just coping. You have to learn to COPE with what has happened to you in the same way you would have to learn to cope with, say, losing an arm. You would never be the same if you lost your arm, you could never grow your arm back, you would never recovery from losing your arm, you would never heal completely from losing your arm, but you would learn to cope with it. Betrayal trauma is the same thing. You don’t ever heal from it, you don’t every recover from it, but you do learn to cope with it.
What our selfish, mean, lying, cheating, gaslighting, unfaithful, Ex husband’s did to us changed us. Forever. You are forever changed. Your brain changed, your body changed, your emotions changed. You were changed at a cellular level. Betrayal trauma is, for the cheated on, the equivalent of PTSD or C-PTSD. Do you ever hear of war veterans “getting over it?” Nah, me either. What can happen is that you can choose to fight it, and learn to lived with it, or you can die, roll over, and succumb to a complete and total breakdown of epic proportions. Those are your only two options. But, I am not going to lie, it will be a struggle to overcome it. I know it will be. I struggle with it every damn day of my life! Even today; after 3 therapists, two recovery centers, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness classes, energy work, EMDR, and countless books, I still woke up with a giant panic attack. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen everyday, not anymore, but most days I wake up with a sense of foreboding, like something bad is about to happen to me. I feel unsafe, insecure, and anxious…for no particular reason whatsoever! Welcome to PTSD ladies! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Now for the good news. You can learn to cope. Coping is very do-able. It’s hard work, I’m not going to lie! Lot’s of hard work. It’s like exercise, nobody really wants to do it, but it makes you feel better if you do. Coping skills are like that. What I resent the most is being MADE to do it, by someone who did not even stop to think of what he was doing to me. I resent having my life changed to this degree through the choices of someone else! I cannot live my life the way I want to, on my terms, because of the choices of someone else. Because of what was done to me I have to get up every morning and go through a routine that takes me hours, just to feel “normal.” I lose precious hours working on something most people never have to deal with. And then there are the things I cannot do anymore. I cannot watch anything on TV like I used to do, I cannot listen to the radio anymore like I used to do, and I cannot participate in politics, which I loved, like I used to do. All these things and others, too numerous to mention, bring me added stress, anxiety, and pain, which I cannot afford to bring into my life when I am working so hard to remove all stress and anxiety that I can. It just doesn’t make sense to add stress, when you are trying to decrease it. So I spend my days trying to achieve a “zen like” state JUST TO FEEL NORMAL! My kids think I am turning into a hippy, and they are right. Meditation, yoga, tai-chi, qi-gong, prayer, scripture study, affirmations, and others, are my new best friends.
Ladies, welcome to your new normal, whatever that is for you. What you thought was your normal in your old life will probably never be your normal, ever again. But a sense of “normal,” can be achieved again. It just won’t be that same normal. It will be different. Not necessarily bad, just different. I just want to help you set up realistic expectations for yourself. You have been through a war, of sorts, you are traumatized and your systems have been compromised or even shut down. It’s hard to wrap your brain around the severity of it because, physically, you are the same. You LOOK the same, you may even ACT the same, but you are not the same emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or even physically, to a certain extent.
Frankly, it would be easier if you had been hit by a truck (because emotionally you were). If you had been hit by a truck you would have been taken to the hospital, you would have probably been put on life support for a while, had surgery, maybe several of them, you would have spent time in the ICU, and maybe even sent to rehab after you left the hospital. Family and friends would have come to see you, taken care of you, helped you recover, and been there for you. Everyone would see that your recovery was going to take a very long time. They would have stood by your side as you learned to walk again, and helped you find new ways to cope with your new normal. Nobody is going to do that in this case, because nobody can see just how badly damaged you are. You look fine, so you will be expected to act fine long before you are ready. It’s not fair, but it is reality. That is why you have to find other systems of support for your recovery coping. Unfortunately, you will have to set up your own triage, nobody else is going to do it for you. Under different circumstances it would have probably been your husband who helped you cope with this horrific experience! But now he is the one who did it to you! He is the one who hit you broadside by an emotional 18-wheeler! It’s not fair, but it is what it is, as my Ex used to like to say to me.
Think about it, did you have any idea how hard this was for other women until it happened to you? Did you have any clue? No, you did not, because nothing in any of our life experiences could possibly prepare us for the impact of betrayal! Nothing! You cannot fault or resent your family and friends for not understanding what, you yourself, could not have understood either. It’s not their fault they don’t “get it.” They can’t. So it is up to you to go find places and people that do get it. Support groups are everywhere, you just have to find one that fits your needs. Clinics that deal with betrayal trauma are popping up like dandelions! Let your family and friends love you the way they have always done. Let them tell you that “you should be able to move on by now,” and then go to your support group and complain to them about how they just don’t “get it.” Surround yourself with women who do “get it.” Unfortunately, there are way too many of them. Because of pornography and sex addiction there is an epidemic of men who cheat, abandon their families, and ruin their marriages, leaving a path of devastation and destruction in their wake! You are not the only one! There are hundreds, or even thousands, of women just like you in your city. Trust me. And WE get it! We are banding together in support groups all over this country to help you. And if you cannot find one in person, there are groups online. I personally belong to two facebook groups that deal with just this topic. Find one. You cannot do this alone! And you cannot expect your family and friends to do what they are incapable of doing.
This is what I am trying to tell you about a “new normal.” Being betrayed takes your whole world and dumps it on its head. You are left reeling and nobody is going to rescue you. You hope someone will come and rescue you, after all you are in pain so excruciating that you feel like you just might lay there and die! But nope, you have to get up and rescue yourself. It doesn’t seem fair, and it’s not, but knowing the alternatives, what are you going to do? So you have to ask yourself the following – are you just going to lay there and bleed out and die on the spot, or are you going to get up and fight like hell to rebuild your life? At one point in my journey I was suicidal. I did just want to die! I even ended up in the hospital. When I told that to one of my therapists, he said to me, “Well that would have been convenient for your Ex wouldn’t it?” His words shocked me! He then explained to me that if I had taken my life that it would have made my Ex’s life a whole lot easier. He would not have had to pay alimony or deal with me at all. If I took my life, the Ex would have been on easy street, and he would be silently rejoicing at my demise! Well ladies, it is not your job to make his life easier! It’s not your job to give him the satisfaction of ruining you. It’s your job to get up and to fight for your life! Nobody is going to do it for you. It’s hard. I know it’s hard. It’s not fair. It is a struggle for me every day! It’s true that your life will probably never be the same again, but it is also possible that it can turn out to be something better. There is a popular video going around where Will Smith explains the difference between fault and responsibility. This is not your fault, not your fault at all! But it is your responsibility to deal with it! That is the straight up truth! I wish my Ex would see what his actions did to me and the kids. I wish everyday he would Be 100% Responsible for his actions (like Elder Lynn Robbins describes in his talk), but he’s not going to, he could care less! I can wish for justice (the karma bus WILL pay him a visit, it always shows up, eventually) all day long for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t make my life any better, it just makes me bitter. I can either remain in victimhood, or I can thrive. I choose to thrive! “The road to power is taking responsibility!” It’s time to take the power back!
I can tell you now, after 4 years, the struggle to learn to cope with my new normal is worth it! It’s hard! But oh so worth it. Four years ago I never thought I would be where I am today. I still have a long way to go, but I am finally finding myself again. I like who I am again, life is worth living again, and coping is possible. I can finally see the light at the end of a very long tunnel. I have peace again, I have to work for it everyday, but it’s worth the effort. I have happiness again, I have to work for it everyday, but it’s worth the effort. I have joy again, I have to work for it everyday, but it’s worth the effort. Every good thing in life is work, it always has been! And, ultimately, it is worth it! I may have to work for it everyday for the rest of my life, but if that means I get to live a life of peace, joy, and happiness, then it will have been worth it!
Over the next few months I am going to document my personal journey of coping; what has worked for me, what doesn’t, how I am healing, what my daily routine looks like, etc. I am going to teach you my own healing modalities and how to do them for yourselves. Everything I have learned, I will share with you! This is ground breaking stuff! The journey through betrayal trauma is so new that the healing from it is also new. First of all, I think recovery is not the right name for it. Coping is what it really is. It is like learning to live with losing an arm – you learn to cope without that arm. I have learned some things that have really helped me cope. So I want to share them. My own journey through betrayal trauma becomes significant when I can turn around and share what I have learned with others who struggle to cope with their own lives. Suffering becomes meaningful when you can use it to help others. It helps me to feel like I didn’t suffer through this for nothing. So join me on my journey to of healing, of coping, of finding my our new normal…
People will ask me how I am doing these days. I usually just say “l’m fine.” It’s been more than 4 years since I discovered my husband’s betrayal. We divorced 2 years ago today. I should be fine by now, right? And I am fine. But fine doesn’t mean what you think it means…
“…in a satisfactory or pleasing state; very well.”
For what I have been through, and where I have been, I am doing fine. Sort of. It has been worse after all. Being fine it seems, is a relative term.
I thought my perfect life was fine. I thought my perfect marriage to the perfect man was fine. I was just starting a new business that was going to be more than fine. Our children were fine too. We were all doing well at life. I felt we had made it. After all the trials and struggles in life, we had made it. Retirement and a life of bliss and church service was just around the corner. Life was more than fine, life was good. We were living downtown in a fancy apartment, hubby was driving a nice car, we had two Harley’s, and a good job. Life was just fine. I was in denial. I’m not anymore so that makes it fine, I guess.
Son was about to enter his last year of college. He was taking finals when his life exploded that left him unable to finish school. He just lost his drive. That’s fine, right?
Daughter #1 was the mother of 4 small children who was navigating her new role and feeling overwhelmed with life, but her Dad’s choices left her fine, didn’t they?
Daughter #2 was starting a new career and living on her own after years of struggling with her own disabilities. But she was going to be just fine too, right? How could all this devastation possibly derail her?
Then our lives blew up. All of our lives blew up. Not just mine. Our children suffered at least as much betrayal as I did, if not more. But in the fallout, I was shattered so badly I couldn’t help my kids, no matter how much I wanted to do so. They say when you are drowning in the depths of the sea or on a plane careening towards the earth that you have to save yourself first and then go back for the kids. Put on your own life vest first, or put on your own oxygen mask first. It seems like a good idea, in theory. In practice, not so much. I never knew what it would be like to be so broken that all you could think about was your own survival and how much it would hurt to watch you children struggle and be able to do nothing to help them, while the parent who caused the damage just runs away from the scene of the devastation.
I am fine now, because at least now I can be somewhat helpful to them. I can do things for them, finally. And that is important because I’m all they have for the moment. Dad has dug himself in so deep with his children that he may never find a way back to them. His choices left everyone with hardly any choices in response except to be estranged. Anything else isn’t safe. But we are all fine.
I hope my kids will be fine. We think we will all be fine, eventually, but at what cost? Almost nothing in life for the last 4 years happened like we thought it would. While our perfect lives were being blown apart, so were our dreams. Not just once, but over and over again. Just as we would get our footing, some other bad choice was being made for us and our lives, while we had to stand by helplessly and watch and pray for a miracle that never came. It was a struggle for any of us just to get through the day without dying inside. But we are fine, we are all still alive. The dreams we once had are gone. But we are here. We’re fine.
We all struggle to make ends meet in every way possible. So we do what we have always done, we rally together and support one another. Sometimes I help out, sometimes I can’t, so the kids pitch in. It’s what families do. Sometimes I feel like I am the one being helped more often than not. While the Ex drives a fancy sports car, lives in an expensive apartment downtown, this time with someone else, she rides in my spot on the back seat of what used to be OUR Harley, and he goes out doing all the fun things with his “wife-stress” he used to do with us. We have been replaced by a better model, she must be, because he didn’t even bother to fight for us, he just walked out of our lives without even a backwards glance, so he must be doing fine too. He doesn’t give us, or our lives, a second thought. How does he reconcile any of this? Yeah, he’s just fine.
I would tell you how all of us are doing just fine now four years later. But it doesn’t sound fine to most people when you say it out loud. We are fine by all outward appearances now, and that’s what matters most, doesn’t it? The watered down version for public consumption is that we get up everyday, we go about the day in much the same way we used to, and we have developed new dreams and goals. The difference now is that there is a very big hole where our hearts used to be, and it is covered over by a very tender, very large, somewhat healing, scar. But we are all fine. We are not on emotional life support anymore. Healing is happening. Finally. Slowly.
All my life I have been able to dream in sleep. Very vivid dreams. I used to be able to recall at least one dream a night most of the time. Then after the discovery of my husband’s affairs I stopped dreaming. It was as if there had been this whole inner life of beauty, fantasy, and imagination one day, and darkness the next. I was to learn later that my brain couldn’t process what happened to me, which was one reason I developed PTSD. It seems my brain couldn’t process it in sleep either. So the dreams just disappeared. Something else taken from me. Last night, I had my first real dream in 4 years. It was horrifying. Now I know why I wasn’t allowed to dream, my brain was protecting me from myself.
Like most dreams, not everything makes sense, dreams are spoken in the language of symbols and are usually a metaphor for something that is far more significant than it appears at first glance. We dream to process the events of the day. For the first time in 4 years, here is how my brain was able to process the madness of what can only be described as a sociopathic act…
I had just found a taxi to take me home, from what must have been a trip because there was luggage. We were heading down the beautiful palm tree line coast towards home when all of a sudden there was a traffic jam just minutes from home. I could even see my house from here. We were the first car stopped in the traffic jam. So I had a front row seat to what we were all about to witness. I looked up from the back seat of the car to see my house begin to slide off the edge of the cliff it was built on. It was a gorgeous house, perfect in every way. Large and beautifully landscaped, with a view I had longed for all my life of the beach and the crystal blue ocean below. It seemed to be my dream house. I sensed that it was something we had worked all of our lives to build together. But it seemed to be on rollers. Easily moved. And it was moving now towards the edge of the cliff, ever so slowly. As the house was sliding towards the edge of the cliff the outer wall gave way to reveal my children inside the house. They were scared and clutching each other, I couldn’t tell for sure from how far away I was from them, but their body language told me they were sobbing. I screamed for someone to save them! “Please save my children! Oh God! Do not let them die!” As I was screaming, emergency vehicles suddenly appeared out of no where, and they all seemed baffled about what to do. Nobody seemed to know who, or what, was causing this disaster, which kept them all paralyzed from knowing where to start to help. My children were terrified. Finally, a hook and ladder fire truck lifted a fireman up to them from below. I was relieved as I saw them being rescued! But as he was loading my children on to the ladder to save them, more of the house was now being pushed over the edge on top of them, burying all of them alive. I was crying hysterically at this point. I tried to get out of the taxi but the doors were locked and I was forced to watch what happened next as friends, family, and neighbors all came to help save my children and my house. Everyone who tried to help was either driven over the edge by the moving house or buried under the rubble from below. My husband was nowhere to be seen. Was he missing? Was he in the house? Did he die in this disaster too? I kept trying to get out of the taxi, my hands were now bleeding from the attempt. I watched helplessly as each and every person who mattered to me was buried alive by my house as the last wall went over the edge on top of them. When the dust settled I saw my husband standing at the edge of the cliff with his hands on his hips. It was so chilling to that he would do such a devastating thing to so many people. I just stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds and then I passed out.
I startled awake with tears running down my cheeks. It was the first time I had cried in my sleep for over a year. And then following wakefulness, came the familiar pain gripping my heart that I had felt everyday for at least two years. I thought I was having a heart attack again. No. It was only my heart breaking in two…for the millionth time.
Then I remembered it is the 2nd anniversary of the finalization of my divorce from him. It’s funny what the body remembers when the mind would like to forget. I don’t know if I love that my dreaming has returned. But I am grateful. It’s a sign that healing is taking place. It will be interesting to process this dream and trying and figure out what it all means. I am sure you can probably guess some of it. At least my brain is finally healing enough to process the terror I have felt over the last 4 years. At least my brain thinks it’s safe enough now to dream and to process. I have, at least healed that much. Maybe that does mean I am fine after all. At the very least, I am headed towards “fine” so maybe when someone asks me how I am, now I can say, “I’m fine,” without feeling like its a lie.
To celebrate my healing, I think I will have a cupcake for breakfast. And that is fine!
Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal
I found this book and website from a friend on facebook. It turns out this is a thing! Men who just decide out of the blue to run off with other women and abandon their wives and families isn’t a fluke. I just could not believe there were so many women in my same boat. And what’s more, there was an over abundance of these men who have addictions. If you are new in the process of betrayal, this is the book for you! There is also a facebook support group. Come join me there.
Based on a study of over 400 women worldwide, Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal, is the first book to explore and offer healing strategies to women whose lives have been turned upside down by Wife Abandonment Syndrome. Wife Abandonment Syndrome is a pattern of behavior on the part of a husband who leaves his wife out-of-the-blue from what she believed was a happy marriage. Following his sudden departure, he replaces the caring he’d typically shown her with anger and aggression. He often moves directly in with a girlfriend, leaving his bewildered wife totally devastated. Written by family therapist Vikki Stark who was herself affected by Wife Abandonment Syndrome, Runaway Husbands helps women understand what motivated their loving husbands to turn into uncaring strangers and provides them with the tools they need to move forward and rebuild their lives in new and unexpected ways.
Written by family therapist Vikki Stark, who herself experienced Wife Abandonment Syndrome, and chock full of stories from the women in the study, Runaway Husbands has three main goals:
•Explanations – It helps women understand how a man who appeared to be a loving husband could morph overnight into an uncaring stranger
•Strategies – It provides women with the tools they need to push through the suffering and move forward to rebuild their lives, often in new and unexpected ways.
•Prevention – It will help women who are in happy marriages learn how to safeguard their marriages and recognize warning signs that may indicate trouble.
The focus of Runaway Husbands is on helping women turn the crisis of abandonment into an opportunity for empowerment and growth. Although it describes the difficult experiences of abandoned wives in detail, it also provides tools for recovery and recounts many stories of women who fought their way to a better future.
I have been a hot mess this week. Lot’s of crying, anxiety, panic, and fear. I feel as if I have been sent back to where I was over a year ago, to relive it all over again. I couldn’t figure out why until I stopped to think about it. You may not remember traumatic events, but your body knows. Your body remembers EVERYTHING that ever happened to you. I am learning this from doing emotional healing through the “Emotion Code.” (BTW, I highly recommend it!) My body remembered it was the 1st Anniversary of my divorce long before my mind remembered it, and my body has been sending out distress signals.
This is so distressing to remember because it is something I never wanted. I would have never imagined that I would ever file for a divorce. Ever! I loved my husband. I still do, the old him, anyway, the him he was before he cheated on me.
I hated it that he cheated on me and kept his addiction hidden for so long, it had been going on for over a year before I discovered it. I hated it that he lied to me, over and over and over and over. I hated it that he pretended to be a loving husband and father when he wasn’t. I hated everything about what happened after I discovered his multiple online affairs. But I learned enough from when he did this the first time, yes it happened more than once, that he had an addiction. So I was “prepared” somewhat, and it was always in my mindset, after I got over the inital hurt and shock, that we would work it out, and, eventually, we would be back together. I love him. I want him back. I will always love him and want him back. When I married him he was the choice of my heart and the love of my life! He was everything to me! Not the “him” he is today, but the “him” he was before all of this happened. I want my family back. I will never stop wanting my family back together. That is who I am. My family means everything to me! It always will. If I could have my heart’s desire, it would to be with him again. I will always wish that. He is NOT who his addiction has made him to be. I am not angry with him for having an addiction. I am angry with him for not admitting it and getting help. I am angry he refused to fix himself! Had he done that, he would still be married to me.
This is the thing about these addicted men that I do not get! Most wives are so willing to forgive! Too willing sometimes. They want to work it out. I have only personally met one woman who did not. Guys! Your wives are more forgiving than you could ever imagine! For crying out loud, give us a chance! All you have to do is admit you have a problem and get help, and you could have everything you ever wanted. Why in the world would you not choose to get into recovery and stay there?
Therein is the real tragedy of addiction! Sadly, my story is not unique. It plays out in the same way in thousands of marriages and families all over the world. Addicts simply do not see they have a problem! The denial is slaying the hearts of wives and destroying families right and left! My story is only one of many. What makes me unique is that I am among the few who are willing, or able, to step out into the sunlight and expose our common experiences for all those women who cannot because of shame, guilt, or to protect themselves. their children, or their husbands. My ex-husband lost my protection when he withdrew his protection from me.
The two years we were separated were nothing short of a neverending nightmare I could not wake up from. His infidelities pale in comparison to what he did to me during those next two years. The several therapists I have seen all say, I was emotionally tortured. The same way a POW is tortured when captured by the enemy. So much so that I ended up with PTSD, or betrayal trauma. Mine is a pretty severe case. I suppose that is partly my fault, because I let him torture me far longer than I should have. I wanted to give him every opportunity, every chance I could, to come back. I wanted him to choose me. I wanted him to fight for me, for our family. I had EVERY faith in him that he would…eventually…If I just gave him enough time…I told myself. Boy, was I ever wrong. This time, being wrong, nearly cost me my life.
That is the funny thing about agency, no matter what you want, you cannot make another person want the same thing. I could not make him choose me. He had to decide that for himself. And I had to decide how long I would allow him to abuse me over it. He had the power to make his own choices, but I learned that I could choose too. I could choose how long I would allow him to continue to cheat, lie, and abuse me. Over those two years, I begged him to get into recovery. He would not. He said he would. But it never materialized into anything other than words. I used to be able to take him at his word, so it was hard for me to understand why this time was any different. I wanted so much to believe him! I even set up appointments, I paid for his counseling, I followed up with his Bishop, I tried talking to his counselors. I begged. I pleaded. Nothing worked. His final analysis was that he did not have an addiction, and I was crazy for thinking he did. He was even angry at me for trying to seek help for us, and he drug his feet and belittled me for my efforts. But, in spite of his resentment of me, I would put myself out there for him to come back to me again and again, and each time I would discover another affair.
All in all, six women, contacted me (there were others I didn’t know about at the time) during those two years to let me know he was cheating on me with them. Why? Because he was cheating on them too! It seems cheaters don’t like to be cheated on, so they’ll go tell the wife to get back at them. These contacts were humiliating and excruciating. I learned, over time, I couldn’t trust ANYTHING he said to me. It is horrific not to be able to trust the one man you relied on to protect you from all harm. He became so unsafe for me because of his lying. I could deal with the truth easier than the lies. A lie comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face, you do not see it coming. When the truth is exposed and out in the open, you can see it and deal with it. With truth you can fix any problem. When there is no truth, it becomes impossible to fix anything.
My therapist told me at the time, that a man has two tongues, one in his mouth and one on his shoes. He advised me that I was to stop listening to the one in his mouth, and just pay attention to the one on his shoes. In other words, I needed to just watch what he does. I needed to see if his walk matched his talk. It did not. The proof was in his actions not his words. It took paying attention to his actions, and not listening to him, for me to really see what was in his heart. It was shocking for me to wake up to the reality that he did not really want me anymore. He liked his life of addiction more than he wanted me. That was something that had never crossed my mind before, and it was devasating to see the truth of it.
This is where I found myself last April. Between the man I love, and his lies. There is no more unsettling or profound “rock and a hard place” scenario. I was already unbelievably fragile. The October before, I was so messed up from his crazymaking that I could see no way out, other than to take my own life. Luckily, I took myself to the hospital instead, where the doctor said I needed a long vacation, so I took a cruise. That turned out to be the best advice I had ever gotten from a doctor. It saved me and gave me some peace and perspective I so desperately needed. My husband never believed I was in such a dire situation. He still doesn’t. He was mad at me for going on the cruise over his birthday. Nevermind that my life hung in the balance. He has no clue what his addiction has done to my mental, emotional, or physical health. He doesn’t care either. Someday, probably judgment day, he will know, and he will care. That day is a day of clarity that I am looking forward to witnessing.
The impact of the behaviors of my husband’s addiction left me in “fight, flight or freeze” mode 24/7. I lived, trapped, in this space for those two years we were separated as I was being whipped around between lies and more lies, deceit and what someone referred to as the “mindf**kery” (sorry, there is no other way to describe it) that comes from constant gaslighting. My adrenal glands were shot. I lived in a heightened state of danger that never eased up. Imagine being caged with a hungry lion that you know wants to eat you, it’s only a matter of time, you don’t know how or when, but you know you will be eaten alive eventually, that is the kind of fear I am talking about. “Fight for your life” kind of fear!
I never knew when another woman would come out of the woodwork. I never knew when he was seeing someone else or sleeping with them when he should have been with me. My heart raced. My mind was in hyper-drive. My breathing was shallow or heavy, my resting pulse was 107, I couldn’t eat or sleep, throwing up and diarrhea were constant companions. In short, I was a wreck. I could not calm my body down! A person cannot survive in this condition for very long. I am surprised I survived two years of it. My reserves were, by now, past empty, and I knew I could not go on like this for much longer. So I finally laid down a strong boundary. I asked my husband to come up with a plan for how he was going to provide me with enough safety and connection so that I could move back home with him. I knew if we were going to save our marriage and family we needed a plan. I wanted to move back in with him and it was taking way too long! He didn’t like any of my plans and refused to even entertain them, so the most logical thing to do was for him to come up with his own plan. I was prepared to do whatever he decided, within reason. I gave him 3 weeks to come up with a plan. If, after 3 weeks, he still did not have a plan, then I would file for a divorce. I was done being the mouse in his endless game of cat and mouse.
Three weeks passed. There was no plan. I knew I couldn’t keep giving him chances that he only squandered, I didn’t have the bandwidth, so I filed for the divorce. I was heartbroken. Inconsoleable. It is the most devastating feeling I will ever know – having my husband, with 38 years of life, love, and history together, not choose me. I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind or rejection. It is a betrayal of love that was worse than his cheating on me. Pure anguish of body, mind, and spirit.
Then, to my shock and amazement, he turned around and blamed it ALL on me! He said, I am the one who wanted the divorce, I filed for it, it was my choice. He really thinks this. Talk about adding insult to injury? How he could come to this conclusion is a mystery to me, and always will be. All I can do is to chalk it up to “addict brain.” Addicts have no ability to employ logic or reason, that part of their brain is swiss cheese. You know what I mean if you have ever talked to an addict for more than 5 minutes. Their grasp of reality is just nonexistent. It’s pure nonsense!
Not wanting to really give up on him, I continued to give him even more chances that he refused to take. There was a part of me that kept believing that he would come around. I would go through with the divorce, but I was also willing to work on our relationship while we went through the 90-day waiting period, but I needed to see real improvement! It was my intention to stop the divorce if he showed any real progress, and I told him this. I learned later that he had already just moved on. He was dating other women and going to singles activities before the divorce was even final. Not knowing what he was really doing, I even felt that if he got into recovery that I would, and could, marry him again! However, he never had any intention of choosing me or our family. I was to find out how totally he was willing to toss us all aside when he remarried 6 months later. It seems I made the right decision, as excruciating as it was at the time. His addiction killed any love or connection he may have had for me and our children. He never really tried. It was easier for him to go find someone else than to do the work to save his life-long marriage. Porn really does kill love. That is not some cutsie slogan. It’s real.
As for me, I have been in an emotional and relational “time out” for the last 2 1/2 years. I need to be healthy enough, and recovered enough, to even consider being in a stable relationship with anyone. When all of this began I believed that I would never marry again. I still do not know if I will. But now I am at a place in my healing where I am willing to entertain the idea. I started going to single adult activities in my church, at least. I even signed up for an online dating site. I am slightly overwhelmed by the reaction I got. Within the first 2 hours I had over 250 views on my profile and 65 messages in my inbox. It seems that some men, think I am a catch! It was a much-needed boost to my self-esteem. I have yet to go on any dates, not that I haven’t been asked. ( One guy even wanted to take me to Italy to meet his Mom!) I figure I can afford to be very, very picky. When the right man comes along, I will know it.
A sign that I was healing is that I have gotten my intuition back, I missed being able to trust my instincts. It serves me well. I am still working my recovery everyday; I see a therapist weekly, have EMDR sessions, I go to 12-steps, I attend classes, and I will continue to do so for as long as it takes. I am moving towards becoming the person I was always meant to be. I study my scripture daily and pray earnestly, relying solely on Him who is mighty to save. Little by little, I am healing. (One day I will write a book about my experiences.) Sometimes it feels like I take two steps forward, and one step backward, but the direction is what matters, not the speed. I am still working hard at self-care. I need to be gentle with myself. I have been in an emotional war for my heart, mind, body, and soul. I am battle weary. I still get bombed by my ex from time to time, but he no longer has the power over me he used to enjoy. I mostly feel sorry for him that he is still stuck in his unhealthy behaviors, and an unhealthy relationship.
Ultimately, what I am most proud of myself for, during this experience, is that I never lost my core values or beliefs. I stayed true to myself. I stayed true to the Lord. I stayed true to the church. I kept my covenants. And, to me, those are the greatest accomplishments of all! Too many women do not make it out of the hell-hole of addiction with their integrity intact. I am one of the lucky ones, and I understand this. I used to want to just wash away all of the pain in drugs or drinking, but I knew if I went there it would never stop, and ultimately, it would not slove anything. But I get it. I get why addiction destroys both the husband and the wife. It is devastating for families, and children are the ulitmate victims.
Once I realized what was happening to my body this week, I was able to employ my tools of recovery and get my emotions, and my body back on track. “Earth body – Body body – Mind body” as my yoga instructor likes to say – all in alignment. I will be forever grateful that I chose recovery for myself, and for those people who helped me, and continue to help me, you know who you are! It has made all the difference in my healing. The next step on my journey is to recover my physical health. I am looking forward to being a much smaller, healthier version of myself this time next year! Best of all, I have a swelling of optimism growing in my heart. I am starting to look forward to the next day, and what the future might hold. That is a new thing for me. Good things are starting to happen! I am reclaiming myself. I am reclaiming my life. Addiction may have destroyed my husband and our marriage, but it did not destroy me. Here is to a better year! It is more than about time, it’s past due.
Love is a choice not a feeling. Think about it for just a minute. When you love someone you choose to commit to them. You choose to serve them. You choose to have their safety and best interests at heart. You choose to walk life’s journey with them. Romanitic love is a flash in the pan. It is what get’s the process of love started. After that, love is a thousand steps through life with that person you chose to go through life with. Like President Monson said,
“Choose a companion carefully and prayerfully; and when you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another. Priceless advice comes from a small framed plaque I once saw in the home of an uncle and aunt. It read, ‘Choose your love; love your choice.’ There is great wisdom in those few words. Commitment in marriage is absolutely essential.”
-President Thomas S. Monson.
You choose to love someone. You choose to be faithful to them, or not. When a man chooses a woman he is taking on a sacred responsibility to care for her, to protect her, to provide for her – to love her. For his entire life. Real men know how to make important choices and how to honor them.
I don’t buy the excuses. “I just fell out of love.” It is a lame excuse and is nothing more than a flimsy paper cup that cannot not hold water when these conmen have to tell it to the all-seeing gaze of the ultimate judge. God will not be mocked. Period. The covenant of marriage is serious business, it deserves serious work and commitment. Real men do not make lame excuses. Real men honor their covenants. Real men don’t cheat.
“I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.”
-President Gordon B. Hinckley
When a man’s focus is on the anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of his spouse he will simply not be of a mind to stray. It is only when he takes his focus off of her and puts it on other things, is when he allows his mind to drift into forbidden paths.
“Being happily and successfully married is generally not so much a matter of marrying the right person as it is being the right person.”
-President Howard W. Hunter
When a man cheats it says so much more about his character, discipline, and focus than it does about his wife’s. When he cheats it says he is not a man of commitment, responsibility or integrity. Real men, above all, have character. They don’t take their focus off their wives and children. They are men of honor who work consistently to be the right person for their wife and children. A real man works hard to insure he is doing his part to lead his family in righteousness.
“Some think of happiness as a glamorous life of ease, luxury, and constant thrills; but true marriage is based on a happiness which is more than that, one which comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness.”
-President Spencer W. Kimball
Real men understand that marriage isn’t easy. But a real man is up for a challenge and isn’t a quitter. He will find ways to improve his relationship when things seem a little bit off or start to go wrong. He will not refuse to do what is necessary to fix a problem. He will work selflessly to find a solution. Real men work on their relationships. Real men go to marriage counseling with the intent to improve, when needed.
All in all, it takes a weak man to cheat. A selfish man cheats. A cowardly man cheats. If the truth is really said out loud, any man has the potential and ability to be a coward under the wrong circumstances. We are all subject to temptation and sin. Anyone can fall. This is the nature of life, especially if we are foolish enough to let our guard down. So if a man cheats does that mean he is past the point of no return?
The epitome of a real man, a real man that deserves our highest praise and honor, is one who has made serious mistakes, but who can own up to it! He admits his weaknesses, confessed to them, willingly, he tells all of it. For him, there is no confession that is too hard or humiliating, because he cares more about reparing the damage than he does about his own weaknesses. If a real man can confess his weaknesses then the Lord will take his weakness and make them become strong! His infidelity will lead him to become absolutely faithful in all things, because he will have learned how!
“Love is a fragile thing, and some elements in life can try to break it. Much damage can be done if we are not in tender hands, caring hands. To give ourselves totally to another person, as we do in marriage, is the most trusting step we take in any human relationship. It is a real act of faith — faith all of us must be willing to exercise. If we do it right, we end up sharing everything — all our hopes, all our fears, all our dreams, all our weaknesses, and all our joys — with another person.”
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Then he works hard to rebuild his breech of trust. A real man will go to his wife and humbly seek her forgiveness. He will do whatever it takes to repair the damage he has done. He will identify what caused him to cheat. Often finding the cause takes working through a 12-step program and/or counseling. Then he will develop a plan for himself to make the required changes. He will set up clear boundaries for himself so that it will not happen again. He will share these new boudaries with his wife. Then he will check-in with her everyday to let her know he is committed to her and serious about repairing the damage. She will know how he is doing in his repentance because he will tell her! She won’t need to ask him.
“Converse with each other, thereby never letting little things become big things.”
-Elder Robert D. Hales
He will do everything he can to help her feel safe and work hard to rebuild her trust in him. He will ask her often if there is something more he can do for her. Her comfort, well-being, and safety are his primary concerns. If he violates his own boundaries, then he will go to her immedately and confess the breech. Then he will rework his plan to shore up the weak areas. She won’t have to worry about relapses because he is already on top of it! He will make himself accountable to her and to others who can help him. He will seek advice from experts. He will read up on cheating and how to avoid it. He will educte himself and share what he is learning with wife. He will not give her cause to worry any further, because he wants to be responsible to himself and to her.
“Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity.”
-President Henry B. Eyring
He will lead her in daily prayer and scripture study. He will make sure they do it together. He will show her in everything he does that he has chosen her and is committed to her. Every action will But more than that, he will show he has chosen God and that he is committed in leading himself and his family back to Him. Everything he does will reflect his committment to God. And that commitment to Him, will show more than anything else he does, that he has re-committed to her. This is what real men do.
“Once I married her,” Elder Andersen said, “the standards in my life went way up — being totally consistent in prayer and scripture study, keeping the commandments with precision. She has a pure and disciplined faith.”
-Elder Neil L. Andersen
This is what recovery from betrayal trauma really looks like. It takes work, real work, willingly done by a real man! Incidentally, this is also what real repentance looks like as well!
This what a real man will do if he makes a mistake and cheats.
This is what cheaters do when they want to be real men again. This is how you will know you have a real man worth standing by.
Anything less than this is cowardly.
If you have cheated on your wife, it’s time to man up!
“Both men and women need righteous desires that will lead them to eternal life. Let us remember that desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.”
-Elder Dallin H. Oaks
As I mentioned in another post my ex-husband burned our family down. He burned me down. He burned us down. There is literally nothing left of me or our family except ashes. Just when I think there is nothing more he can do to destroy our family any further, he finds another way. There isn’t any end to his nonsense.
Since I went “no contact” with him, he has turned his attentions to torturing our adult children. Our oldest daughter asked him to break up with his girlfriend so he could turn his attention and time to healing the damage he has done to them. It seemed to be a reasonable request to me because it is basically the same request I have been making of him for the past two years; to turn all of his attention and time to me to heal our relationship. This is what a normal person would do. They would gladly do everything they could to heal the breach, especially before “moving on” to ruin some else’s life. Someone who does this to their family needs serious counseling in how to develop healthy relationships. But apparently, he wants to move on now, keep his girlfriend and have his adult children be ok with it, not just be ok, but to give their blessing to his bad choices. (I don’t even want to discuss what kind of idiot woman wants a man who is this messed up?)
His insistence that our children be ok with his decisions was met with a strong boundary for him, “You need to spend your time healing the damage between us before you move on with any other relationship, or we cannot have a relationship with you. Period.” But rather than understand or respect the requested boundary his children gave him, he kept insisting that they do it his way. It’s not unusual for him to want it his way. Most of his responses in the past dozen years or so are very selfish. But this serves as an example of how Addicts do not respect boundaries. They do not respect what their loved ones need. Most of the time they don’t even have a clue how to figure out what their loved ones need! It’s all about them. Wisdom and common sense would dictate that when someone destroys another persons wellbeing, they would want to do whatever was asked of them to repair the damage they have done. This is what healthy people do. And if they are not healthy they would, or should, want to GET HEALTHY! First. Before they do anything else.
I can only speak from my own experiences. It’s what I know. It’s why I write – to share my experiences to, hopefully, help others. The purpose for sharing this situation is not to vilify my ex-husband, but the purpose is for a concrete, instructive situation that both the addict and their family members can understand:
Unhealthy people with unhealthy relationships cannot form new healthy relationships without learning new patterns of behavior that allow the addict to repair and restore the damage they have done. First! There is no “moving on” until the addict chooses to act in healthy and responsible ways. These new patterns are learned in the 12 Steps Program. This should be a basic place for the addict to start to repair relationships.
Choices and accountability matter!
In his present mindset, my ex-husband’s prospects for healing his relationship with his children seems as abysmal as his chances for his healing our relationship. He hasn’t made the choice to do the hard work of real repentance. He hasn’t chosen me. He hasn’t chosen his children. He hasn’t chosen God. Until he makes the right choices he will continue to feel the adverse consequences of his choices.
And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. 2 Nephi 2:5
The consequences for his most resent choices are that his children now want nothing more to do with him until he can make better choices. His children want him to CHOOSE THEM! Just like I wanted him to CHOOSE ME!! For now, he has chosen the girlfriend, not his children. I cannot fathom this choice! Just like I couldn’t fathom his choice to not choose me. Somehow this seems worse to me though – they are his own flesh and blood! What kind of monster does this??? If I were in this same situation, of course I would choose my kids! Of course I would choose my family! I would have chosen our relationship in the first place. But that is me thinking with a non-addict brain. Who the hell knows what he is thinking???
In order to come to this decision to have no contact with him, our adult children met with a counselor to get advice on how to handle this situation. They discussed the disrespect their father has for them by refusing to honor their requests of him. They talked about when is it appropriate to cut off contact and for how long. When does a relationship become so toxic it requires cutting off the relationship? (Google the ‘no contact rule’ it is a thing and it makes a lot of sense!)
What it boils down to is this: Hitting Rock Bottom
Addicts will not change until the pain of what they have lost because of the addiction becomes greater than the “high” they get from the next hit of chemical dependency. In bottomline terms; what does it take for the addict to hit rock bottom? Hitting rock bottom is different for everyone. Some can hit bottom just by being horrified at themselves for what they have done. For others, it will mean losing everything; job, marriage, children, family,community standing, religious excommunication, self-respect, and some go so far to lose even basic freedoms to live in society.
As it turns out, cutting off a relationship with an addict may be one of the best things you can do for them if they will not come to terms with their behavior on their own, because it requires them to face their own demons on their own. The enabling of the addict stops. He has no one to blame but himself. Hopefully, he will be forced to hit bottom faster. As the addict loses more and more of the things that matter most to him this serves as a wake up call. At some point the addict needs to wake up one day and say, “Gee, maybe I am the one with the problem!” Only when this happens will the reality of the addicts behavior begin to set in:
Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds. Jacob 2:35
What will it take for him to see the sheer magnitude of pain his choices has caused his family? Who knows. We can only withdrawal to a safe distance until he figures himself out. Nobody can do it for him. Helpless. That is how we all feel. It is anyone’s guess how far he will have to fall to hit rock bottom. After 3 years of hell, he still isn’t there.
The challenge we face now is to figure out how to rise from the ashes in spite of him. It is clear he doesn’t want to assist in the healing. So it is something we must do for ourselves. This much I know, we had a great family. He walked away from one of the best families a man could ever have. Our children are great! I was a great wife and mother! If anyone can do this, we can. We can and we will succeed in our own healing. We will, like the Phoenix, rise from the ashes of our lives.
Upon completion of its life cycle, the famed firebird builds its funeral pyre. After setting itself alight, it burns until nothing but ash remains. From that ash and flame, the Phoenix Rises!
Note: What do you think ex-husband’s reaction was to his children telling him that he cannot have contact with them for now?
It was blame.
It’s ALWAYS about the blame! He blamed me. (And I am not even around him anymore!) Never mind that our children are all grown adults who can think and act for themselves. But still…It was all my fault. I brainwashed them all against him. I love how he phrases it too; “I see you have decided to follow in ‘Your Mother’s’ footsteps and….” Doesn’t he know how offensive this is to his grown children? He is outright discounting that they have a single brain between them and that one brain that they all share is controlled completely by me! How offensive can he be???
What he should have said is, “Gee, I guess you are really serious about how you feel. I didn’t understand that it meant so much to you that I break off this relationship with Girlfriend. I thought you were kidding, it appears that you are not. So after rethinking things I have decided you are more important to me and I will break up with her, no contact at all for the next 6 months and spend that time just on you guys to try to rebuild our relationship. I won’t even talk to you about her. In six months we can revisit this subject and see where we are at that time. Does that sound ok to you?”
This is just way too healthy a response for him though!
This is just another witness in a long line of examples that denial is alive and well and has found a home in him, a host parasite that sucks all the brains and common sense right out of him! He couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.
His denial disgusts me. I don’t want to feel this way, but there it is.
Last night I was studying my scriptures. And as often happens to me, one reference leads me to another and I ended up on this General Conference Talk from October 2016: Repentance: A Joyful Choice by Dale G. Renlund. I highly recommend it to you for a clear concise explaination of what true repentance looks like. It is one of those moments when you know the Lord is guiding you to a place you needed to go and I definently needed to go to this talk. It was so validating. I need that.
Lately I have been struggling mightily over my Ex-husband’s failure to repent, at least he is not doing it in the way I have been taught to understand that repentance looks like. But everytime I mentioned to him over the past two years that he is not fully repenting, I am met with a constant barrage of accusations of being judgmental, critical, nonsupportive and mean. These kinds of accusations can take a toll on a person after a while, especially when I am already so hurt, wounded, and shattered. His failure to fully repent has left deep wounds in our family that keep getting torn open again and again. He doesn’t understand that if he truly repented it would provide a healing balm over the entire family, especially me.
Instead we get resistance, subborness, and stonewalling. He ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to repent. It feels like he refuses to repent so he can prove he isn’t really an addict, that he just made a few “bad choices.” So he treats his repentance as such. He expects to just say he is sorry and we will all forgive him and that will be that. This mindset, that what he has done is not that bad (minimizing) causes him to be astonished that I would have the nerve to divorce him, because why would anyone divorce a spouse that they love over a few “bad choices?” So he is able to rationalize in his mind that I am really the bad guy. He feels I bailed on him, not the other way around, which is really the case to any other rational human being.
Don’t get me wrong, he IS sorry. But it the “sorrow of the damned,” not “sorrow unto repentance” or “godly sorrow.” There is a huge difference. Just being sorry doesn’t cut it in the case of adultery and infidelity, not by anyone’s standards, and certainly not by the Lord’s standards.
“The word repent connotes “to perceive afterwards” and implies “change.”4 In Swedish, the word is omvänd,which simply means “to turn around.”5 The Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote about the need and the method for change. He noted that repentance involves “being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right,” he said, “but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”6Changing our behavior and returning to the “right road” are part of repentance, but only part. Real repentance also includes a turning of our heart and will to God and a renunciation of sin.7 As explained in Ezekiel, to repent is to “turn from … sin, … do that which is lawful and right; … restore the pledge, … [and] walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity.”8
“Never by simply going on!” This is exactly what my Ex wants to do! he just wants to go on from here! he refuses to go back to the beginning of he errors and working forward from that point. This is the crux of the pain he has caused and is continuing to cause within his devastated family. He had the audacity to tell my daughter last week, that he is moving on with a different woman, in yet another relationship, because ” HE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY!” My daughter was agasted at his extreme selfishness. Her response; “You took a baseball bat to our family and destroyed everyone, but you deserve to move on and be happy, while everyone else is left broken and bruised?”
Does this sound like real repentance to you? No. Me either.
He will tell anyone who will listen that he is repenting. But he is not. It is not possible to say you are repenting, and at the same time, continuing in sin. If he were truly repenting we would all be able to tell, we would all see it, we would all know it. He would change. His behavior would change, his words would change, his countenance would change. The righteous can clearly judge this mighty change of heart. It is as clear as the daylight from the dark night. Elder Runland continues:
Yet even this is an incomplete description. It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives. When we “perceive afterwards” and “turn around” with the Savior’s help, we can feel hope in His promises and the joy of forgiveness. Without the Redeemer, the inherent hope and joy evaporate, and repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification. But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.
All sorts of lightbulbs went on in my head! My Ex is just in “Miserable Behavior Modification.” He is trying to do this on his own, without help from anyone, using his own wisdom, and he is failing miserably. He has not made his repentance real because he isn’t following the steps for real repentance laid out by our Savior in the scriptures. With, what my therapist Home Teacher calls, “cheap repentance,” he will NEVER have joy. He can seek for “happiness” all he wants, but he will never find joy! This is the lot of the damned. No joy.
Elder Packer explains:
“The Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.”9
“The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, [the Savior] has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. …
“… The Atonement … can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated.”10
“The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us. As the prophet Lehi explained, after we “are instructed sufficiently” to “know good from evil,”11 we “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.”12In other words, repentance is a choice.”
We must choose to repent. Stunning in its simplicty. Profound in its appliction! This was another place in the talk that struck me. Hard. A few months before I made the decision to divorce my husband I spent days in the temple, praying and seeking for guidance on what I should or needed to do next. I had some very sacred experiences during this time, but one thing stands out above the others. The Lord said to me, very clearly…”Your husband has not chosen you.” As I think back on this now I understand that the Lord was also telling me, “he has not chosen me either.” My Ex did not, and has not chosen US; the Lord, his family and me. He has not chosen any of us. If he would choose all of us, everything for him would change practically overnight. He would be a changed man, with “no more desire to do evil [to his family], but to do good [to his family] continually.” He doesn’t want to do the hard work of repentance, real repentance, so he believes it will be simpler to just walk away. Not so.
Remarkably Elder Rutland list a few things that keep us from choosing to repent. To my astonishment they were the same symptoms of denial! He says:
“We can—and sometimes do—make different choices. Such choices may not seem intrinsically wrong, but they prevent us from becoming truly penitent and thus preclude our pursuit of real repentance.”
For instance, we may choose to blame others. But blaming others, even if justified, allows us to excuse our behavior. By so doing, we shift responsibility for our actions to others. When the responsibility is shifted, we diminish both the need and our ability to act. We turn ourselves into hapless victims rather than agents capable of independent action.13
Another choice that impedes repentance is minimizing our mistakes... It would have been easy to say that there was no reason to repent. But minimizing our mistakes, even if no immediate consequences are apparent, removes the motivation to change. This thinking prevents us from seeing that our mistakes and sins have eternal consequences.
Yet another way is to think that our sins do not matter because God loves us no matter what we do. It is tempting to believe what the deceitful Nehor taught the people of Zarahemla: “That all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.”14 But this seductive idea is false. God does love us. However, what we do matters to Him and to us. He has given clear directives about how we should behave. We call these commandments. His approbation and our eternal life depend on our behavior, including our willingness to humbly seek real repentance.15
Additionally, we forgo real repentance when we choose to separate God from His commandments…We should be wary of discounting sinful behavior by undermining or dismissing God’s authorship of His commandments. Real repentance requires recognizing the Savior’s divinity and the truthfulness of His latter-day work.
My Ex-Husband has used all of these excuses, and others, to shirk his responsibilites to himself, to me and to his family to do the hard work of real repentance. It is interesting that these excuses are also the behaviors of an addict in denial.
“Instead of making excuses, let us choose repentance. Through repentance, we can come to ourselves, like the prodigal in the parable,16 and reflect on the eternal import of our actions. When we understand how our sins can affect our eternal happiness, we not only become truly penitent but we also strive to become better.”
When faced with temptation, we are more likely to ask ourselves, in the words of William Shakespeare:
My Ex-husband has a new “toy.” That will not bring him lasting joy. True repentance will. Healing the wounds of his family will. Binding up our broken hearts will. But he would rather play with his new toy instead of repairing a family he has spent a lifetime in building. This makes no sense to me.
Elder Runland explains:
“If we have lost sight of eternity for the sake of a toy, we can choose to repent. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have another chance. Metaphorically, we can exchange the toy we so ill-advisedly purchased in the first place and receive again the hope of eternity. As the Savior explained, “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”18
My Ex-husband still continues to make bad choices, including refusing to do the hard work of real repentance. It’s nice to know, I am not the only one who thinks so.
I came across this article today. I thought it was fantastic because it lays out the problem I had with my husband’s refusal to get into recovery very susinctly. This article gets right to the heart of the matter and is super easy to understand! It makes perfect sense too! See the whole article here.
Call me cynical, but I have learned not to trust what clients say about their commitment to recovery.
News flash: addicts have been known to lie. In fact, you may have heard the old joke: “How can you tell if an addict is lying? His/her lips are moving.”
But I think that’s only part of the issue. Addicts aren’t simply trying to deceive you when they express commitment to change, but don’t follow through. They really believe – in that moment – that they are committed to change. But later, they will not be committed to change.
This drives spouses crazy. The most common question I hear from the spouses of sex addicts is this: “How can I trust that my husband is getting better?” Another way of phrasing that might be: “How can I trust that my husband is really serious about recovery?”
Conventional wisdom is that you can’t. You just have to hope that if your spouse expresses commitment to recovery, that this commitment will last. But it’s time to challenge conventional wisdom. Of course we can’t know anything with absolute certainty – we can’t predict the future. But there are two things we can look at to determine whether or not someone means what they say.
1. Calendars never lie
If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at how they spend their time. If you want to know whether recovery is important to someone, consider how much time they commit to recovery actions (going to support groups, doing recovery reading, making contacts with recovery friends, etc.). It’s as simple as that.
Recovery takes time. The pattern of addiction developed over years – even decades. Countless hours have been spent over the years in fantasy and various acting out behaviors. Habits were formed, neural pathways were forged. These processes will not be changed without diligent, ongoing effort.
If someone claims commitment to recovery, but isn’t willing to make time for it, they are not being honest with themselves or you. If someone claims commitment to recovery, and skips (or drops out of) their support groups, slacks off their recovery work, stops seeing their therapist after a few months, they are kidding themselves.
Recovery will take huge amounts of effort – read “time” – and during the first year it’s always too soon to take your foot off the gas pedal. There might be exceptions to this, but they would be exceedingly rare. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone I have ever observed who went to too many meetings, made too many phone calls, or spent too much time doing recovery work during their first year. It just doesn’t happen.
So stop wondering if your husband “has what it takes” to recover. If you’re an addict, stop worrying about whether you’ve “hit bottom” or whether you’re “really ready” to recover. Just look at your calendar. How much time are you spending doing recovery work?
If you are not making enough time for recovery work, then change your commitments. Make sure you schedule the rest of your life around recovery, instead of scheduling recovery around the rest of your life. Put your recovery commitments in first, then build the rest of your schedule around them.
This might raise the question for someone: how much is “enough time” for recovery work?
That’s impossible to answer for a general audience. It depends on a host of factors. It’s best to talk this through with a counselor who knows about addiction, and/or someone who is further along in recovery than you.
Do not ask fellow group members who are struggling themselves with recovery whether or not it makes sense for you to back out of some recovery involvements because you are too busy or don’t need it anymore. They will most likely sympathize with you, remind you how busy you are, and commiserate with you about how hard recovery is to fit into our crowded lives. Talk instead with someone who has built significant, long term recovery.