How can we be part of a greater solution?
Can we just talk about Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani for a moment?
Blake and his new wife Gwen have been all over the news as of late. Everyone is excited to hear about their "super secret" wedding, how many dresses Gwen had, how Blake built a tiny chapel just so he could marry her there, the ring, the guests, the ranch...
But what people don't seem to be discussing is that Gwen probably has only a few years (if history is to be our guide) before Blake meets yet another platinum blonde and cheats on her as well. Most people seem to know how the couple met, but it seems like very few people care one way or the other, and their opinions of Blake and how often he cheats, seem untarnished despite his actions. Blake's track record goes like this:
* Married Kaynette Williams 2003
* Cheated on Kaynette with Miranda while working with Miranda
* Divorced Kaynette 2006
* Married Miranda Lambert 2011
* Cheated on Miranda with Gwen while working with Gwen
* Divorced Miranda 2015
* Married Gwen Stefani 2021
Look, I honestly don't give a darn about Blake Shelton one way or the other, I'm not a fan of his, and I'm not the type to follow Hollywood relationships and gossip, however since this has been in the news lately, I thought it might be a good topic to bring up for general discussion.
All of us know the media is obsessed with infidelity. You can't watch a drama, a soap or even a comedy without the storyline heading in that direction at some point. In fact, shortly after D-day, my wife and I were watching Chopped on the Food Network and one of the chefs started talking about how they just cheated on their spouse... it's a cooking show for goodness sake!
I'm not about to suggest that social media "caused" anyone to cheat, but I do think it has an influence on how we (as a society) view infidelity as a whole, how we respond to it, and what our expectations are. I believe that many active WS's subconsciously feel that what they are doing just "isn't that big of a deal", and one of the reasons they often feel that way, is because that seems to be society's view of cheating. No one blinks an eye when people get divorced anymore, now we don't blink for infidelity either.
What is frustrating is that most of this media exposure paints infidelity in a very, very, trivial manner. Often the issue is merely glossed over and forgotten within moments. In almost all cases, the amount of damage done seems minimized and trivialized, and then fixed with a simple "I'm sorry, I fucked up, forgive me?" at which point the entire incident is forgotten and never mentioned again. Or people simply divorce and move on, as seemingly easily as changing an outfit.
I realize that we probably can't change the media. Sure, we can choose to not watch those shows, but let's face it, the reason it is one of the most common scenarios on TV is that it sells, and as long as it sells, they will keep portraying it at every chance they get.
So what does that leave us with?
Well, we can be influencers too.
When the topic comes up and others are around, we can add a point of view to the conversation. We can point out how devastating this is in real life. We can talk about how it affects the kids long term, and can damage their ability to have a healthy relationship themselves. We can share how unrealistic it is to think that this is something minor, or something that "a good cry, followed by dinner and flowers then make-up sex" is going to fix. We can point out how it robs the other spouse of their choice, and how it destroys our own dignity. We can be anything other than silent.
I'm just curious how others feel about this? Have you ever had a chance to say something to another person before they did something they will regret? Do you think there is more we can do together to get the message out to others before they go down the road we did? Can we paint infidelity with a brush that exposes what it really is? Not a TV plotline, but more like an emotional bomb going off?
How can we be part of a greater solution?
24 comments posted: Thursday, July 8th, 2021
Can we discuss FOO trauma and the WS?
I know this is a potentially very hot topic for some, and so I will try to address it as gently as I can. It is something that means a great deal to me personally however, and a topic that I feel directly affects the ability of WS's to change/heal, and by extension, the ability of any couple to successfully R. My hope is to share my point of view with you for your consideration, and also to create an opportunity to solicit and better understand other points of view.
There is a common thought/phrase that I see quite often on SI (not pointing a finger at any one person or post) regarding WS's and their attempts to understand, and ultimately fix themselves by examining, understanding, and resolving trauma from their past, most commonly as part of FOO. The phrase goes something along these lines...
"I don't buy that having FOO trauma caused someone to cheat. I had FOO/trauma issues and the opportunity to stray, and yet I didn't choose to cheat."
It is pretty much "WS 101" to blame-shift and look for excuses and justifications for their actions, and when a WS finds something/someone else to blame their bad behavior on, they tend to do so while washing their hands of the matter and absolving themselves of all blame. This is understandably infuriating and damaging for any BS, and only further exposes the WS's lack of willingness/ability to own their choices and actions.In the same way that there is nothing about the BS or the marriage that can "cause" the WS to cheat in the first place, there is also no FOO trauma that will "cause" the WS to stray. It is always a choice. Always. I just want to make that clear.
Full disclosure for those that don't know my story, I blamed my actions on my FOO and other emotional issues for roughly 4 years straight during R. It resulted in me being incapable of accepting full accountability in the infidelity because I was too busy pointing fingers at everyone and everything else and trying to make myself feel better by shifting the blame off of me and on to my own victimhood. It is difficult, maybe impossible, to see yourself as an abuser when you identify as a victim. Until the WS can honestly accept their responsibility and culpability as an abuser, no growth or healing can occur. I mention all this, because I want you to understand that my point of view is based on my own failures and experiences. I have lived the process, and seen firsthand how much damage this can cause, but have also managed to work my ass off and come through the other side, and heal. The process has changed my life for the better, opened the door for R to occur, and removed a significant barrier to my wife and children's healing as well. These are the goals we are all shooting for in R.
For me, the bottom line is this. As long as the WS blames their past for their present behaviors, they will never heal. However, I believe it is also true that if the WS never resolves their past trauma, then they will never be able to heal in the present. They remain unsafe to themselves and others.
Okay, all that being said, let's address the topic at hand, which is quoted above... the belief that FOO and past trauma are simply excuses for a character flaw, and should not be tolerated.
The problem with this general train of thought is that it is "false logic". False logic is that which seems reasonable and factual on its face, while in truth, only applies to certain viewpoints or situations. To better explain this, consider these two statements:
"I don't buy that having FOO trauma caused someone to cheat. I had FOO issues and the opportunity to stray, and yet I didn't choose to cheat."
"I don't buy that having unprotected sex caused you to get pregnant. I've had unprotected sex lots of times and I didn't get pregnant."
I'm hoping that the false logic in the second statement is obvious. I hope that the comparison is also obvious. While it is true that people have unprotected sex all the time and don't get pregnant, that it in no way invalidates its truth. Unprotected sex is (generally speaking) the ONLY way to get pregnant, and so denying that fact based on personal experience is detrimental to those trying to get pregnant, by being told that there is no causality between the two. Nothing could be further from the truth. And a couple trying to get pregnant would fail spectacularly by not having intercourse. In that very same way, a WS who is trying to repair the broken parts of themselves that "allowed" (not mandated) them to have an affair, would most likely fail to recover if they stopped looking at their life and what factors contributed to the faulty decisions they made. They MUST dig deep into who they are, and why they are that way, in order to understand what's broken in the first place, so that it can be addressed and fixed. That is simply a step that can't be skipped or removed.
Next, please consider the following statement:
All people who have committed adultery lack self-respect and healthy boundaries, but not all people who lack self-respect and healthy boundaries will commit adultery.
This is simply another way of expressing this idea, but it might resonate with some people better. It is simply one of those things you cannot turn inside-out and expect it to look the same. Your spouse's faults and weaknesses were not the direct cause of the infidelity, but they were certainly factors in how your spouse became who they are, and how/why they react differently than healthy people do when they are facing stress and challenges in their lives. They need to learn healthy coping skills, develop healthy boundaries, and in some cases, build integrity within themselves from the ground up. That is no small feat, even with the best of tools and support. It is almost impossible when the tools needed are denied or delegitimized.
Here is one more example, to make things clear:
When examining past trauma in order to better understand present paradigms and behaviors, and how they relate to infidelity:
It can be a cause while not being an excuse.
It can be a reason while not being a justification.
It can be a factor without being redeeming.
It can be a catalyst without exonerating.
It can be a basis without being an acquittal.
The takeaway from all this is... when a WS starts to go down a road of self-exploration and seeking to understand themselves better in order to heal, I personally believe this should be a REQUIRED and encouraged habit. HOWEVER, it should also be made abundantly clear to the WS that it will NEVER be acceptable as an excuse or justification for their choices and actions. They own those things. Rather, they need to understand why they made the choices they did, and gain the skills necessary to prevent making unhealthy and detrimental choices again in the future.
If your life was so awful that it turned you into a broken person, that is horrible, but the culpability of that trauma is only applicable to the person who experienced it. In other words, the WS can hold the people who hurt them accountable for their own trauma, just as you can hold the WS accountable for the trauma foisted on you. However they cannot foist that trauma on you and then blame their past. In that same way, if a BS was cheated on, then remarried and cheated on their next spouse, they can't blame their own affair-trauma. It certainly might have played a part, yes, but we still own our choices.
Last thing. I can't tell anyone what to think or feel or do. You need to do what is right for you. I am offering this opinion for your consideration, and if you feel it doesn't apply to you, then disregard it. If you think I've missed the mark somewhere, or have more to add to the conversation, please reply and let's work through it together.
54 comments posted: Thursday, April 15th, 2021
1 comment posted: Thursday, March 18th, 2021
Just curious if anyone has heard from him? His inbox is full. If anyone happens to keep in touch with him, please just tell him I was asking about him, and really appreciate all he did to help me. Zug is a very straight shooter. He never told me what I wanted to hear, only what I needed to understand. I could have built a house from all the 2x4's he threw at me, and I am grateful for every single one of them. I hope he and his wife continue to do well.
23 comments posted: Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
Has anyone heard from her? It seems she hasn't been on since April. I know a lot of people are taking a break from SI during Covid but she was very active, and hasn't yet responded to a PM. Just hoping all is okay.
10 comments posted: Monday, August 24th, 2020
Quote - This should be the WS mantra
I saw this quote (Okay, it's from Skyrim, but it is no less true) which I think epitomizes the struggle and the goal of every WS. This is the message that every WS (in my opinion) needs to hear and understand. It is the way we conquer the shame spiral. And it is the way to get past your own bulllshit so that you can be present in the world, be there for your spouse and family, and stop the endless cycle of selfishness and shame and start living instead. Stop labeling yourself. We all have done things in our life that we regret, things that will never be okay. The answer is not to crawl under a rock and hide. The answer is to change, to become someone you are proud of and that you can respect. Then, and only then, can others respect you back.
However it also makes a nice screen background. :)
4 comments posted: Friday, March 6th, 2020
How to best advise newcomers
When new WS's first come to SI and tell their stories, the first advice that we respond to them with is usually the type that I refer to as "damage control" advice. It is very situational in nature, and is focused primarily on the BS's initial needs. So for example, we often recommend things such as:
* Establishing NC right away
* Telling the betrayed spouse about the affair
* Being transparent (expose passwords and any evidence)
* Being honest, no TT
* Reading things such as HTHYSHFYA and the reading library
* and so on...
All of these items are very good advice of course, and for reconciliation to even be a possibility, they are the first steps that most likely need to be taken.
What causes me to bring them up is that, in my own experience, while I was still in the mindset of newly minted WS, I ended up focusing on these things and seeing them as a long term strategy to "fix" my relationship. In other words, it reinforced the internal mantra of "do what's needed to make others care about you so that you will feel valued again" that was already cemented in my head, and key to the reasons that I had an affair in the first place.
Just to be clear, it wasn't the recommendations themselves that were a problem, it was how I framed them in my head. As an overwhelmingly selfish person, I could only see these things as steps to take in order to arrive at the outcome that I wanted (or in even clearer terms, how to manipulate my spouse into loving me again). More importantly, I could not see myself, and so my internal dialog was that I was doing everything I could to save the marriage. The internal lie, the one that I believed with my heart and soul, was that I was a good guy who loved my wife and would do anything for her. The truth that lie blocked from me, was that I believed that I was a person with no intrinsic value, and that the thought of losing my sole source of external value (my wife) was more terrifying to me than death itself. I just could not see it.
Over time, while reading posts on SI, I have come to the conclusion that this sense of no intrinsic value (not loving oneself) is something that it seems all WS's have in common. The reasons for it vary from person to person, but when I read and respond to others, it becomes clear that anyone who cheats, by definition, does so because they lack the healthy boundaries and coping skills that a person with intrinsic value has. If they had it, they would never have considered cheating in the first place.
I am still in the first quarter of year four, and only now beginning to "get it" to the point of actually understanding who I am and how this whole thing started in the first place. I floundered for so many years and caused so much additional pain and trauma to my family because of that. So naturally, it makes me wonder how things could have been "setup better" in the first place? What might have helped me to get "out of my head" and realize that, long term, what I really needed to do was not focus on the "damage control", rather, I needed to focus on myself, and to understand that the affair was simply a result/symptom of a much deeper problem, one that has been growing since childhood, and one that would continue to hurt me and everyone in my life unless it was dealt with.
As an analogy, if a person hit a parked car while driving drunk, our first advice to them would be "damage control". For example, "offer to pay for the damages" and "get a good lawyer" and even "Be prepared to go to jail". But these things don't change anything long term, because the person is still an alcoholic, and will most likely just get into another accident next time they go drinking. The real solution is to stop drinking, and if we are to be honest, even alcoholism is eventually traced back to trauma and avoidance and loss of self-value and coping skills, right?
So here is my question... how can we help newcomers to understand both parts of what they need to do and what to expect? We've nailed down the damage control advice, which takes care of the short term things they need to do. But how do we help guide them to understand that if they do not do the work on themselves, and if they do not figure out and tend to the trauma (or other conditions) that led them to feeling so devalued in the first place, that they will likely remain "stuck" in the mindset that got them here in the first place?
New BS's tend to have a much healthier (IMO) mindset usually. They usually ask, "How do I survive this?". WS's by contrast, tend to ask, "How do I fix this?" If we can help them to escape that mindset (because it can't be fixed, it can only be survived) then maybe they wouldn't languish in the fog for so long?
1 comment posted: Friday, February 21st, 2020
The things I had to accept
I know I tend to write "books" so I'll try to keep this intro short and get to the meat of things. I've spent the past several years "spinning", having all the right information but unable to process it in a way that would allow me to heal and move forward. This also had the added effect of continuing to harm my spouse and others in my life. I made some realizations along the way that I hope will help others, if even in some small way, so I am sharing these things here. Please take whatever works for you.
I had quite literally destroyed our marriage and our entire relationship along with it
I fought this concept like all hell. I could say the words, and in concept I knew it to be true, but in my heart, the old marriage still existed and I still wanted it back. I thought she really still loved me and that everything was going to be okay once some time had passed. I thought I could resurrect our marriage from the dead. I thought what I did was forgivable on some level. I was wrong on all counts. I had to accept that what I did was not only unforgivable, it was also permanent, and real. When I had the affair, the impact and consequence of that choice meant that I had left her. I spent the next several years under the illusion that she might leave me or choose to end the marriage. The truth was I had already beaten her to the punch. I had already done both things to her. I just couldn't allow myself to face that truth. Somehow I felt entitled to be forgiven. There was simply no reason for that to happen. I was sorry for her, yes, but I was more sorry for myself. And when you are busy feeling sorry for yourself, it is impossible to truly be sorry for anyone else. So even though I was there with her 24/7, she was utterly and totally alone, because the only person I was capable of seeing was myself and my own fear.
Takeaway: Your marriage is over. You are not the person your spouse once knew, and your spouse is now changed as well, from the trauma you have inflicted upon their entire paradigm of what truth, love, loyalty and honesty are. For the first time in your relationship, your spouse now sees you for who you truly are, and sadly, now they likely doubt who everyone in their world really is, including themselves. There is nothing you can do to make things better, period. Why? Again, your marriage is over. There is nothing to make better. The "you" you are now, the one who thought it was acceptable on some level to have an affair, is not someone worthy of, nor safe enough for, a relationship. If you are to have any relationship moving forward, with your spouse or otherwise, you will need to accept who you are, and just as importantly, learn to be someone better. You also have to accept that if your spouse chooses to move forward without waiting around for you to get your shit in order, then you should be feeling more sorry for them than for yourself. Because this wasn't their choice. Their choice (you) did this to them in the first place.
My choice had been made, so I needed to learn to be okay with it
On some level, whether I was willing or able to accept it or not, I had left my wife. I had betrayed her, I had betrayed myself, I had betrayed my family and most everyone I knew. And for reasons that were mine to figure out through hard work and determination, I had made that choice and acted on it. I did what I did on purpose, and absolutely knew what the consequences would be. When it came time to face those consequences however, I refused to accept them. At least, I tried to. I felt so damn sorry for myself that I did to myself exactly the same things that I did to my wife during the affair. I lied to myself, I gas-lighted myself, I tried to bargain with myself, anything, everything, to make myself feel better, because facing the reality of what I had done was simply too painful to feel. I had spent most of my life avoiding feeling pain, and I was an expert at going numb or going to pieces. I had no coping mechanisms that involved feeling the pain, dealing with the pain, or stepping up to the plate and being responsible for the pain or what caused it.
At the end of the day, I think the time had come for me to grow the fuck up. And perhaps that need is where the affair itself was born? Maybe my marriage was a skin that needed to be shed, because it was based on a lie, my lie, the one I told myself. It was the lie that I was someone other than who I really was, that I was someone who would never cheat, someone loyal, someone happy with themselves and capable of true love and joy. I was not. I was a sad, hurt little child who never got over his own demons, and chose to live life as a needy individual, rather than as someone who can love themselves and be strong for others. Instead of reaching out for help, I chose to repeat the abuse that was dealt to me. I needed to accept, as a fact, that I had chosen to be alone, and to be hated, because that's what I thought I deserved, what I felt I was worth. I don't think I was actually capable of understanding that at the time of the affair. It is, nonetheless, exactly what happened.
Takeaway: This was a choice you made. You wanted something other than your spouse, and now you have it, whether it is still what you want or not. You need to be prepared to move forward WITHOUT your spouse, and more importantly, you need to be OKAY with this. Not because it is what you want now, but because it was what you wanted when you had your affair. Unfortunately, since you already made your choice, you now have to live with the consequences, and part of that means learning to accept moving forward alone, as a possible outcome. I am not saying to give up on R! Rather, I am saying that part of being able to be someone that your spouse or anyone else can ever love or trust or depend on, you must first be someone who loves themselves, who can carry their own weight in this world, and is worthy of being loved back. Yes, we are all worthy of love, but the only way others can show us that love is by us loving ourselves first, otherwise, the love of others cannot get through to us, and the love we hold inside cannot get through to others.
My spouse had no part in this. This was my shit-show the entire time.
Part of "the lies I told myself" (a great book title, no?) was that my spouse had anything at all to do with the affair, the aftermath, or the recovery. No, my spouse was the victim, collateral damage, and she was simply doing her best to stay alive after being stabbed in the back and left in the gutter, by me. This was my show, from the get-go. There was nothing my wife needed to "get over" or "forgive" or do or say for my benefit. I spent years trying to manipulate her actions and decisions in order to achieve the outcome I wanted. The truth was, my behavior during R was in many ways the same as it was during the A. I was dictating what I wanted/needed from her and doing all I could to make it happen, she was just responding to my continued selfish behavior. Her actions were responses to my actions. I continued to be selfish, and so she continued to be hurt by that. As long as I continued to be selfish, she continued to be hurt, and pulled further away from me. I had no idea that I was still "driving the bus", and convinced myself that pulling away from me is what she wanted. All she really wanted was to stop hurting, and for me to stop being the one hurting her.
Takeaway: Your spouse doesn't need your love, your apologies, your excuses, your reasons. What your spouse needs is your honesty, your integrity, your remorse, and your empathy. More than anything, they need for your selfishness and "the fog" to go away. There is nothing that your spouse "needs to do" for your benefit. In fact, if there is to be any hope or reason to build a new relationship together, it must come from you to begin with. Your spouse feels as if they trapped in a meat grinder and are doing everything they can to stay away from the blades. You can help the most by simply turning off the grinder, which is you.
It all comes down to self-love and self-respect
We said above that the destruction of your spouse and your marriage are simply "collateral damage" from the affair. In that same way, the affair itself, is also collateral damage. Its root cause was you. The affair did not happen to you, it happened because of you. Everything that happens from here on out will continue to be because of you. Yes, your spouse will now need to make decisions for themselves based on what feels safest for them, however they can still only operate within the boundaries of the choices they are given. If you are still a selfish and harmful person, then building something new with you is no longer an option for them to choose, so they will be forced to choose an option that doesn't include you.
Shortly after D-Day, my wife told me that the real root cause of everything was that I simply "did not love myself". At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about, but in truth, this was the key, the sole reason, for everything. Not just the affair, but my entire life, how I built relationships, how I handled jobs, how I saw myself and others, my addictions, my loves, my hates, my politics, my beliefs, how I dealt with and processed things - everything. The damage done to me by my abusers left me feeling unworthy, so my life was a constant struggle to justify my own value through the eyes of others. As Brene Brown puts it, I was "hustling for my own worth". I was a funny, loving, supportive and intelligent person, and so I thought that meant that I was okay, that I was great in fact. But all those traits were "faulty coping skills" that I learned in order to make other people love me, because deep down, I could not value myself. My only value came from others, and when others didn't shower me with praise, I felt ugly and worthless inside. This would prompt me to only try harder to impress people, because their approval and love were like emotional oxygen to me, and I could not live without it. When it was taken away from me, I would get angry, because that is how the fear manifested itself, and because I was mad at them for not giving me what I needed, what I could not provide for myself. Here is a simple fact - you cannot love or respect others when you cannot love or respect yourself. In other words, you cannot give what you do not already possess. There was no way I could love my wife, not because she wasn't worthy of my love, not because I didn't care, but simply because love was something I was not capable of feeling, not really. Love, to me, was a reflection of myself. Every day I hustled for my worth. Every day, I wondered why anyone would have any reason to love me.
Takeaway: Every WS must do a "deep dive" into their "why's", and then do the hard work to make corrections to their broken perceptions. It is my personal theory that all WS's, for their own reasons, lack self-love. I believe this to be true, because I believe that it is impossible for someone capable of self-love to have an affair in the first place. A person who has self-love would have the boundaries, integrity and decency that would never allow them to disrespect themselves and their loved ones in such a way in the first place. They would never allow themselves to hurt and use others in such a way. In fact, the mere thought of betraying, lying to and hurting others in such a way would not even be considered an option, because they could never live with themselves or the thought of doing such a thing. It would feel like committing murder, something so far past the bounds of what is reasonable that it is not even a thought to begin with. Once the WS is able to discover the origins and reasons for their own lack of self-love, they can then take steps to correct this, and to develop healthy coping skills and personal integrity that will help guide them to a better life, and to better versions of themselves. It will make them a safer person, for themselves and others. Their decisions and actions will now be guided by a belief system, healthy boundaries and integrity. This is not an easy task. It will take courage. It will involve pain and growth. There will be loss. There will be enlightenment. More than anything, perhaps for the first time in your life, you will need to discover not only who you are, but why you are who you are. And most of all, you will have to do this alone. Of course there may be people along the way to encourage you, but like healing a broken bone, the only person that can do the actual healing is you. You will have to be your own cheerleader, your own coach, your own shoulder to cry on, because at the end of the day, the person you are today lacks these critical skills, and leaning on others (in their entirety, without any support from yourself) is what got you here in the first place. It is time to grow and change, or wither and rot. The choice, and the effort, is yours to make. Until this is done, nothing else can progress.
I had to be willing to lose the marriage in order to save it
Someone said this to me early on, and it made no sense to me at the time. How could I accept doing anything other than fighting for my marriage? Wasn't my willingness to let the marriage go the real problem in the first place?
The fact is that the marriage we had was lopsided and based on a foundation of quicksand. There was one person who was constantly emotionally needy, and another person was constantly picking up the slack and being made responsible for everyone's happiness and security, at the loss of their own. As long as I continued to cling to the already dead marriage, nothing new could grow. It was like keeping a dead plant in the flower pot and watering it anyway.
Marriage is not an entity. It is not something you deserve, nor is it something you own. Marriage is a decision, and it is one that you make every day, every moment of every day. Marriage, a real marriage, is made by two individual people, who have made a commitment, not to each other, but to themselves, that this is what they want, and what is right for them, and that it is what they are willing to fight for and believe in. We cannot commit to others if we can't commit to ourselves first. If you are not strong enough to make it on your own without the relationship, then you are not strong enough to be a partner in a relationship. A selfish person has no concept of self-sacrifice or empathy, and yet, these are things that a relationship is founded on.
Takeaway: In order to have a marriage, a real marriage, you must be willing to accept that you must be a healthy individual in order to be a healthy partner. If the relationship is more important to you than your partner or yourself, then there is no relationship, because you are deriving your self-worth (and your partners worth) based on your happiness (or lack thereof) with what you are getting from, rather than giving to, your marriage. Love and trust are earned through giving. Your needs are your own to meet, as are your partners. Helping your partner to meet their needs is where love grows, however requiring your partner to help you meet your needs is where love dies. Meeting your needs at the expense of your partner is how love is murdered.
If you and your spouse (or someone else, if it comes to that) are to have a relationship moving forward, it MUST be built from the ground up, as if you had never met before, as if nothing had ever existed, because in truth, that's what is needed. You must change and your spouse must change, because what you had before was a lie anyway. As I said before, you cannot get back what you never had to begin with. So move forward with that in mind. Be someone worthy of being loved, and be someone capable of loving back. Love may indeed be a "need", the only real question is, who is responsible for fulfilling it?
[This message edited by DaddyDom at 10:42 PM, December 16th (Monday)]
36 comments posted: Monday, December 16th, 2019
Name 3 things people don't know about you on SI...
Simple enough. Share 3 things about yourself that people on SI don't know but might find interesting. I'll start:
1) I'm a part-time professional photographer and have been lucky enough to do some red carpet work and meet some celebs. Once I had the opportunity to photograph Jamie Lee Curtis (who later that day publically called me out because she was upset that I didn't use a flash to take my first photo of her), and also met and photographed Prince's wife and little girl two days after his death.
2) I was a true nerd as a kid, and learned to program in assembly language on a TRS-80 Model I when I was 13 years old. I was and still am self-taught. I learned by using an ancient technology called "books" which were fascinating at the time, but that later became extinct.
3) When I was in my early 20's, I was going 110mph in my 70 Mach I Mustang when a cop pulled me over. It was blazing hot out and the cop was in full uniform and sweating like mad. I had just picked up an ice cold 6 pack of Cokes beforehand. When I saw how hot he was, I apologized for driving so fast and then handed him a Coke to cool off. He let me go with a warning. True story.
82 comments posted: Monday, January 22nd, 2018
The process of discovering our true "Why's"
There are some posts that I keep finding myself wanting to write, simply because I felt so damn lost and clueless after D-day and couldn't understand the advice people were trying to give me. I was offered advice such as, "Fix your own shit" and "Sit in it for a while", however these statements didn't make much sense to me at the time. How exactly does one "fix their own shit" and what does that even mean? Is there a "fix your shit" support group in my area? :) My hope is that WS's who are asking the same questions that I did can get some sense of what these things mean and how to start approaching them.
One of the first questions that enters every BS's head on D-day (and pretty much every day from there on out) is "Why?" and "How?".
"Why did you do this?"
"How could you have done this?"
A lot hinges on answering these questions, and getting down to the real, core issues behind them. A WS can't really begin to work on themselves (i.e. fix their own shit) until they understand themselves better, and know what truly led to them making the choices and decisions that they did. I would also suggest that reconciliation in the marriage can't really begin either until this process of discovery has at least begun and gotten some traction. In order for the WS to become a safer partner and a better, less dangerous person, they need to first understand how and why they got themselves into this mess in the first place, and that my friends, is going to take determination, courage, humility and a whole lot of effort.
The how/why question is a popular topic on SI and I'm sure it will pop up again, but I'd like to throw my hat into the ring and share with you my experiences and opinions on the subject.
A very common response to this question (from WS's) is "Because I wanted to". This is a popular response because it is hard to deny, seems reasonable, encompasses a sense of ownership and provides an end point to the topic that all roads seem to lead to. But in my personal opinion, it is none of those things. It is step one on a road of a thousand steps, and ultimately removes all responsibility from the WS to dig deeper and figure out what's broken. It is like reading the last page of the book and finding out the answer to the mystery, but leaving out the all important steps needed to figure out how we arrived at that answer, and how we are sure that's the correct answer to begin with. In other words, it's a little like suggesting that taking an aspirin is the correct step to take regardless of the ailment. It's not, and just because it helps make the pain go away temporarily in no way means the cause of the pain has been dealt with.
In order to get to our true "why's", there needs to be process of self-discovery that involves questioning and re-questioning our motives, particularly our coping skills for dealing with grief and stress, and our relationship values and methods. More importantly, an open and inquisitive mindset is needed in order to look beyond the obvious. Every affair starts with a justification, a reason we give ourselves that makes the affair "okay" to have. Initially, we tend to blame our spouses, our relationships, our families, our jobs, a lack of happiness, a lack of sex, whatever... there is always some excuse that precedes an affair. Here's the thing however... and new WS's, you probably aren't going to like this... even if your excuse is completely valid and real (and it usually isn't) it doesn't matter. At all. You could be in the most loveless, sexless, toxic and meaningless relationship ever. If so, that is a very valid and concerning problem that needs to be addressed, however it has NOTHING to do with your choice to have an affair. Period. The sooner you understand this, the sooner progress can be made.
A good example of this is a riot mentality. Take a look at any riot footage you can find on the internet or in publications. The riot always begins in response to some social or political injustice which leads to protest. You'll see a lot of people with signs full of statements and slogans, people shouting and trying to make their voices and opinions heard, people full of emotion, ready to fight for what they believe to be fair and right and true and good in this world. While messy, all of that is a perfectly rational, reasonable and even healthy way to deal with conflict and injustice. BUT... that's not all that is going on. There are also people in the fringes who choose to flip over cars, break into stores and steal merchandise, or beat people up in the streets. What does destroying or stealing property have to do with solving an injustice? The answer is... nothing. Absolutely nothing. The people that do these things allow themselves to go down a path that is completely illogical and self-serving. How does an injustice in any way necessitate stealing a TV? How does flipping a car solve any problem or debate? It doesn't. In that same way, how does having an affair, lying to your spouse and children or risking an STD meant to improve, resolve or repair the problems in your marriage? It doesn't. Yet, it is what you chose to do. The trick now is to figure out what line of thinking and feeling got you there.
An affair is always a symptom of a larger problem. Regardless of the length or type of affair, there is still a core defect in the WS that allowed them to justify and pursue a physical and/or emotional relationship that was wholly inappropriate. How did you get from, "I'm unhappy" to "The best thing for me to do is to lie to everyone and have a tawdry relationship with an outsider"? The answer to that question lies somewhere in the way that you view yourself, your own worth, your own needs, the way you cope with stress and grief and loss, and the ideals and values you carry. Affairs are always about YOU, the WS. They are not about your spouse, or your marriage or the AP's. An affair is a choice. It is an action. Short of someone putting a gun to your head and making you do it, there is no external justification that makes that choice okay. You need to own that.
Which brings us back to the "why". No one has an affair simply because they were bored and nothing was good on TV that day. We become vulnerable to an affair (or any bad decisions and behaviors) when we allow ourselves to compromise our own self worth and dignity. Every affair starts with a need that, for whatever reason, is unfulfilled. Whether is it an EA, a PA, a ONS or an LTA, we each begin with some need that we believe cannot be fulfilled on our own. Maybe we need love or attention? Maybe we need to feel attractive or special? Maybe we hate ourselves and need to self-punish? Maybe we feel entitled to more than we have? Maybe we are just that selfish and uncaring? No matter what the reason however, there is a deeper meaning to search for. That deeper reason is whatever path and circumstances that led you to this point.
The minute you hid your first text or email, the moment you decided to not tell your spouse about that flirty conversation you had, the second you lied about where you were and what you were doing... you knew what you were doing was wrong. Even if you had yourself convinced that your actions were totally justified, you still knew it was wrong. Having an affair isn't like picking up a gallon of milk at the market. It is not something everyone does. It is not okay. Despite the lies you told yourself in order to make yourself feel better about doing it, it still felt wrong, and with every step taken to conceal, hide, lie and betray to cover up your secrets, the "wrongness" compounded exponentially. Why did you allow this? What made you care so little about your own integrity and the welfare of the people in your life that you love, that you still decided to carry all those lies and betrayals?
In order to figure out how we got here and what drove us to this point, there needs to be a reckoning and an understanding of ourselves, our true authentic selves. Looking in the mirror is hard. Owning the fact that we did horrible things is even harder. No one wants to be the bad guy. No one wants to think of themselves as any less than a good and decent person. We tell ourselves that we love ourselves, our kids, our spouse, our neighbors. We tell ourselves that we are good people despite the affair, because we donate to charity, or coach little league, or go to church, or cook dinner for the family. We look for proof of our goodness by pointing out how wonderful we are, how our co-workers think we're great, how our priest says we're a pillar of the community, how our kids hug and kiss us goodnight. So how did such a great, stable, wonderful pillar of the community end up living a double life and doing things that no reasonable person would view as wonderful in any way?
Start by acknowledging the reason that first comes to mind. "Because I wanted to" is fine, but whatever reason you told yourself during the affair is best. Brene Brown (Rising Strong, get it, read it) calls this the SFD (Shitty First Draft). Now, once you have that reason in mind, ask yourself "Why?" you came to that conclusion. There may be more than one answer to that question, and if so, good! Write them all down if you need to. Once you have all your reasons to the original "why", ask "why" again for each of those reasons. Rinse and repeat.
In order to better explain this process, I'll give a simple example using a much more simple question.
Why did I eat a big breakfast this morning?
* I wanted to (why?)
* I was hungry (why?)
* I was bored
* I often confuse thirst with hunger
* I'm used to eating in the morning (why?)
* The people around me were eating - peer pressure - conforming to norms
* My family always ate breakfast in the morning, that's how I was raised (why?)
* I was taught it was important/required to eat in the morning for health and mental awareness
* I convinced myself that if I didn't eat breakfast then I couldn't function all day long
* I was made to feel badly if I didn't eat (e.g. kids are starving in Africa ya know)
* Guilt - my mom worked hard to cook that meal
* Guilt - my dad worked three jobs to make ends meet
* Respect - how does it make your mother feel when you don't eat what she worked hard on?
* I paid for the food and don't want to waste food/money
* I eat my feelings (why?)
* I wake up feeling down (why?) and eating makes me feel happier (why?)
* I feel down all day long (why?) and so I overeat every meal in order to soothe myself
* Why do I feel down all day?
* Does eating all day make me feel better or worse about myself? Why?
* My parents gave me a lot of guilt about food and money and I took that guilt on myself (why?)
* I ended up eating even when I wasn't hungry because of the guilt, and that made me fat
* Being fat made me feel inadequate (why?)
* Feeling inadequate made me feel down about myself
* Feeling down about myself made me eat more, which started a cycle of eating to feel better while making things worse
* I lost confidence in myself because I felt fat (why?)
* I started to feel inadequate in other parts of my life as I retreated into myself
* In order to deal with the feelings of inadequacy I blamed others for my problems (why?)
* Blaming others for my problems turned into a coping skill
* I learned to avoid stress in my life by avoiding guilt and shame and conflict
* Not dealing with my real feelings made me angry and resentful and I started to hate myself
* Hating myself made me want to self-punish (why?)
* A great way to self-punish myself is to keep up, or even increase my overeating, proving to myself and everyone else what a fat loser I am
* Now that I'm an adult and a parent, I see myself teaching my kids to overeat just like I do
(Bonus)(Holy shit, I'm passing down the same guilt and shame my parents laid on me to my own kids, along with my own insecurities and hang-ups. I've literally come full circle and I'm repeating the abuse that I struggled with all my life, on my family)
I think that's far enough for now. The point I'm trying to illustrate here is to KEEP DIGGING. If we were able to get this far just talking about why we ate breakfast (and I assure you that's hardly the end of the things to consider), then I assure you there is more to be had in the effort to figure out why you had an affair. When you were a kid, did you see yourself being married someday? If so, did you see yourself being a cheater, a liar, an abuser? How did that happen? What went wrong? DIG!
This process of self-discovery needs to become a daily habit, a constant pursuit. As you uncover secrets about yourself, look for reactions within yourself, both emotional and physical. Are there issues that immediately make you cry, or cause you physical pain? Strong reactions usually indicate that a pain point has been encountered. Pain points are part of the framework on which our egos are built, and represent the weak links in the chain. Don't run from them, instead, lean into them, for they hold the clues to who you are and how you cope with grief and stress. If you get to a point where you aren't sure about your reasons and motivations, ask for help! Our spouses, friends, family and community often know more about our true selves than we do. Part of the process that turned us into liars in the first place was lying to ourselves in order to make ourselves feel better. It can often be hard to see past those self-lies. That's where other people can help immensely. For example, you tell yourself that you still loved your spouse during your affair. An outsider may help however by pointing out that running off and having a relationship with your co-worker doesn't seem like the actions of someone who loves their spouse as much as they profess to. Make it a habit to consider, really consider, everything proposed to you by others, especially your spouse. Even if you are 100% sure they are wrong, the mere fact that they mentioned it should be a clue to you that you are missing something vital. Assume, even if just for the moment, that what they said is true. Then with that in mind, figure out what "whys" led to that.
I'd like to take a quick moment here to talk about defensiveness. At many points in this process, you may find yourself getting angry and upset, and when that happens, we often get defensive. Please please please pay attention to your own defensiveness! It often means that there is a barrier that you need to breakthrough. Often that barrier is a lie or a justification you told yourself and that hurts too much to acknowledge. Here's the thing to keep in mind... a wayward mindset is a self-centered mindset. In other words, even when we think we are being empathetic (e.g. I want my spouse to be happy again) it is still really about ourselves (e.g. I can't be happy until my spouse is happy, then I'll feel better). By comparison, a remorseful mindset might focus on the spouse alone and your ownership in their well-being (e.g. Whatever my spouse needs to heal from my abuse, I'll do, even if it leads to my own detriment). Defensiveness is always about ourselves, what we want, what we believe. Defensiveness means that we have a new "why" to uncover! If it is important enough to get defensive about, then it's important enough to dig deeper on.
Since this post is already just shy of "War and Peace" in terms of length, I'll stop here, and save the "how to fix it" part for another day. For now, keep working on your self-discovery. When you do find what you feel to be an important "why", talk about it. Share it with your spouse, or on SI, or in IC/MC. Honestly, most of the time, just knowing the "why" is most of the battle. Once you understand your true motives and coping skills, then intercepting and changing them is easier.
Good luck in your search!
[This message edited by DaddyDom at 2:27 PM, January 26th (Tuesday)]
104 comments posted: Thursday, January 18th, 2018
Admitting it vs. Getting it vs. Owning it vs. Living it
My progression through WS-dom thus far has been both difficult and frustrating, certainly for me, and most painfully for my wife. There is a progression that a WS must make in order to heal and more specifically, in order to "fix themselves" and become that safer partner and better person that we talk about so often on SI. The progression is very linear in definition, but far from linear in practice. Each step in the progression gets exponentially harder to achieve, and back-sliding is a very real challenge. As the WS, I'm not sure that I'm the right person to define at what point I am at in the process. That's sort of like a mental patient telling the doctor, "I'm cured now!". I find that I am often positive that I am at one point in the progression when in fact, I have actually back-slid to an earlier state.
This is how I see the progression - this is just my personal opinion and observation by the way, nothing clinical. If you have other opinions or ideas about this, I welcome them.
Admitting it: The most basic first step but hardly the easiest, especially when still "in the fog" of wayward thinking. Many WS's never really get through this step. Simply put, it is admitting, to both yourself and others, what it is you've done. Simple enough in concept, but as most of you know, WS's struggle with TT and denial. Since infidelity by definition includes things such as lying and gaslighting and sneaking, the WS really ends up lying to themselves before they lie to anyone else, and the lies we tell ourselves are the most powerful. Admitting what we've done is hard. No one wants to be a liar, betrayer and abuser. All those justifications and compartmentalizations that we created in the first place (in order to enable this to happen) now have to come down. But those rationalizations are our armor... taking it off means we are now not only vulnerable, but also wearing a target on our backs. That's a scary thing to deal with. Which is why some WS's choose to stay in la-la land regarding their true selves and what they've done.
Getting it: Once admitting it, the next hurdle is "getting it". This is the point where empathy and compassion start to come back for the WS. Getting it can mean a few things, but generally speaking, it means that the WS is capable of putting themselves into their BS's shoes (at least to some degree) and actually understanding the outcomes and consequences of their choices and actions. Empathy and compassion were lost during the affair for the WS, they did not really exist. This again is a protection mechanism for the WS. What you don't acknowledge cannot hurt you and does not exist. Getting it is the first step in which the WS begins to truly understand that there were victims of the crime(s), and that your loved ones and even themselves are counted among them. In my personal experience and opinion, this is also the stage that often allows the BS to begin their healing journey if R is being attempted. At this stage, the WS is able to at least somewhat acknowledge and empathize with the pain of their BS and their family. Since WS's are selfish and self-protective by nature, coming back to this step over and over is often necessary.
Owning it: At the "getting it" stage, the WS is usually more fully out of the fog, and is able to say, "I did this, on purpose, to you, and it hurt you". At the "owning it" stage, they are also now able to say, "I had no right to do those terrible things, so I now need to put others needs before my own needs, accept the consequences of my actions, stop trying to control the outcomes, and do what I can to repair the damage I've caused". The WS starts to feel a little more "human" at this point, and is more self-motivated to take corrective actions. They are now "walking the walk". They usually start to realize that, not only are they broken, but how and why they likely came to be that way and begin to take corrective steps to fix themselves and be more accountable for their actions. They can be less defensive and more proactive about helping their spouse and family heal. Even if separated or divorced, a WS can get to this point and start to better themselves. In my opinion, this stage is crucial for R. Feelings can really begin to be shared between BS and WS, and often there is now a sense of "this happened to both of us" as opposed to "this happened to me" feeling.
(Fixing it: I didn't list it, but generally speaking, there is a pseudo-phase in between owning it and living it. This phase is where the WS, along with the BS, is taking steps to fix themselves and their marriage. This stage involves a shit-ton of work, patience and stick-to-it-tiveness, and is part of why healing from infidelity takes so long. This part is marked by huge gains and losses as both spouses struggle to come to terms with the reality of the situation, and acceptance of both what happened, and what is. Generally speaking, I don't think this stage ever really ends, it's a journey, not a destination.)
Living it: The last and most crucial stage, although I can only guess at what it involves as I am most certainly not there yet. It is a goal stage. At the living it stage, the WS knows exactly who they are, what they did, and the affair is now a part of their story. That is not to say that it is forgotten nor forgiven, more simply, it is part of who they are now. Back-sliding is now rare or non-existent, and the WS is living a more honest and authentic life. At this stage, the WS should be capable of self-love and empathy. The work done to get here is now a habit. I think that self-forgiveness would also mark this stage.
(Follow up - this post was part of some heavy journaling the past few days. I know it's a little more clinical and dry than my usual stuff, but I figured some folks might find it either interesting or worth discussing, so here it is)
87 comments posted: Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
I have read some Brene Brown and really love what I've read so far. (Rising strong).
I've seen a lot of people recommend Pema Chodron as well, and I'm not familiar with her books. I looked on Amazon and there are a LOT of them. What do you recommend I start with?
I am a WS and struggling with gaining empathy and poor coping skills, as well as fairly severe abuse and neglect in my childhood, if that helps any in recommending what to read.
4 comments posted: Friday, June 16th, 2017