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Stop playing the victim card!

That phrase, “Stop playing the victim card”, really gets me! I do not know how many times in the first year I heard that phrase from well-meaning individuals. As we now know I suffered from Bryans infidelity for nearly two years. Guess what? I WAS A VICTIM! Not just from his infidelity, but with infidelity comes abuse! There is almost no way that a cheating spouse can not abuse you! The lies, the gas-lighting, the anger, the cheaters own guilt, obsessive behaviors, the cold shoulder: no matter the exact type of abuse, there is abuse.

During that first year, I kept telling myself that I must be a real whiner, loser, and an all-around horrible person because of those that chose to label me with the “playing the victim card”. Well-meaning people can cause more damage and suffering than you can imagine. Some of those were in the middle and they played that middle ground perfectly. They quite honestly betrayed me too. Of course, that was not the intention, but that was the outcome. They did not know of the abuse, the suffering, the ongoing affair or they did but did not like how I chose to handle the pain. They made assumptions and in doing so caused me much pain. The low self-esteem of the betrayed is already fragile and add a label, and contempt from so called friends and the esteem drops even further.

For some, an affair is not serious. They think that affairs are just a part of life. That, well you fell off that horse, you just get a new one, saddle up and off you go. Maybe that is because they have not ever experienced the pain, maybe it is because their relationships are all surface so affairs and divorcing are no big deal, possibly it’s that they always come out of any conflict fighting and flighting running from the pain. Whatever the reason it is easy to call someone else out as a victim card player. It is much more difficult to be a true confidant and friend and simply love someone in their suffering.

It was not until I finally began going to counseling that I could see that there is a definite difference between playing a victim and being a victim. I truly was a victim. By living in the humiliation that others thought I was “playing the victim”, my self-esteem plummeted, I thought that I was not worthy, that my feelings were somehow over exaggerated. So I stuffed my feelings, I was numb, I was scared to share and release my emotions because somehow they must be wrong. Only through counseling was I able to release my emotions freely.

My wish is that we can start a conversation about infidelity and help others to see the pain and have some understanding and compassion for both the victim spouse and the betraying spouse as well. It is so easy to assume that you know what someone else is going thru but often we only know bits and pieces. And until we have lived someone else’s pain the best most of us can offer is a listening ear and a genuinely loving heart.

If you are living with an added label during this horrific time. Stop and hand that label back! Take on nothing that does not help in your healing. Protect yourself! Know you are worthy! Worthy to be heard, to be loved, to be comforted, to find joy and peace again!

Merry Christmas and other holiday festivities may not feel very cheerful!

This is such a crazy time of year. Don’t you agree? We get so wrapped up in action, from parties,  Church activities, decorating, having the perfect meals, perfect pictures, perfect gifts, and perfect lives we can kinda go momentarily insane. And these activities start at the end of October and do not stop until after Jan. 1. Then for some crazy reason, we all start to look at ourselves in the mirror and the depression and psyco-obsessive fitness and diet routines take over. Top all of this chaos off with the devastation of a cheating spouse and well it can really take its toll! Our poor self-esteem is already at negative before these crazy holidays enter into the picture. It does not even matter when you found out, somehow the holidays can take on a totally different reality, a nightmare of a reality. And we lose sight of not only the meaning, but we loose more than just the desire but truly the ability, to appropriately take care of ourselves.

During the first few years of healing from Bryan’s affair, the holidays were really difficult, honestly unbearable. The first season I had found out November 6, 2012, that Bryan was having an affair. He had promised that the affair was over and dedicated himself to our marriage and our family, or so I thought. The truth was that not only did our little family have Thanksgiving in Colorado, so did his “fake” family, just a few miles down the road. He had managed to lie again to the boys and I. He even had us believing that he had business associates at the other resort and that was his excuse to go visit and us be none the wiser. Honestly, my body did not buy it! I was violently ill the whole time he was gone. And Christmas that year was Bryan fleeing to take care of business out of town when in truth he was going to celebrate with his “fake”family. Of course, we did not know about the continued affair until it was revealed in June 2013.

The next year Bryan was at home or work, really we both were. Ironically we had moved to the very resort we had stayed at the year before at Thanksgiving. Resort work is 24/7, 365 days a year. It was our sabbatical from the real world and a way for us to begin to heal and give him distance from his affair partner, he was beginning to recognize the addiction. But the healing still did not begin for almost a year. He was still addicted to his affair. Though we had no money for him to gallivant around and impress, and see his affair partner as often as before, he still managed to  do so a few times during that first year. So even that first holiday season in Colorado was very hard but he was with us. Luckily I was so involved in work and we were all so excited to live in snow and the new environment  that it was almost like the holidays just flew by with no real meaning. Numb would be a good way to describe that year.

The second year living in Colorado was in so many ways both the hardest and yet the best. Bryan had finally broken free of his affair partner! By this time I had actually spoken to the other woman and had texted with her briefly and knew that no doubt things were over. But you still flash back the details of the previous devastation associated with each holiday. Though there was relief and joy, there also was this question about Bryan’s previous holidays, what were his thoughts and feelings, how could he keep up two lives, two families? Was he truly where he wanted to be? The relief of the affair was fabulous but it left us needing to rebuild our traditions and find the real meaning behind the holidays again.

Because of the way my body has handled the affair, even when my heart would not believe the deception, the extreme illnesses, from pneumonia, flu 3 different times, gallbladder disease, every possible cold, bladder and kidney infections, high blood pressure, my body still reacts during this season of joy. It is getting a little less noticeable but it is still there. Even this year I noticed a slight depression and cold coming on. When I choose to acknowledge the time of year and make a gratitude list and really think about how blessed I am to have come out on the other side of this enormous pain have I regained my health and happiness!

As I have often stated this journey will bring you to your knees. You have choices to make each and every day. Choices to sit in defeat or get up and conquer the devil’s schemes and nasty plans. The holiday season, unfortunately, compounds the pain and unfortunately the devil takes full advantage of that! This is the time you need to just STOP and remember exactly what it is we are celebrating. If you are on your knees cry out to Jesus, he is the only one who offers true peace and unconditional love.

This has finally become a season that I have been able to put into a different perspective because of Bryan’s affair. We have changed the way we “overdo” each and every moment. We have chosen to focus on the gifts that are given to us by a God in control and whom can offer so much more that we could ever imagine for ourselves. The peace in our hearts does not come from another human, it comes from Christ! The love of God does not leave us if we allow it, it will flow through us.

But if this is a new season for you, just breathe! Do only what is necessary. Take care of yourself. Hydrate. Eat. Exercise. As you are now more aware than ever, life is not perfect. The perfect pictures, parties, lives do not exist. No one will remember that you were not perfect for this season. If they do then that is their issue, not yours! Take care of you. Find the joy of grace that we were given in this season of Thanksgiving and wonderful gift of the birth of Christ! It’s His party, not ours anyway. I doubt he cares about our perfectly overdone holiday season. Just the way we love Him with all of our hearts in our imperfect mess!

You can not shield your kids from this!

“Kids are flexible”,”kids are oblivious”, “don’t worry about the kids, they do not even know what has been happening”, “do what makes YOU happy”, “kids love having two families”, ” more brothers and sisters”, and “kids are resilient, they will bounce right back” and that’s just the beginning. Oh, my goodness, it is absolutely CRAZY the way we have tried to minimize the pain and suffering we cause our kids that go thru the tragedy of having front row seats to a once loving Mom and Dad, to the suffering of the catastrophic damage of an affair and possible divorce. And unless you have tiny babies, your kids know SOMETHING! And if you have preteens or teenagers, take off the blinders of arrogance and/or naivete, THEY KNOW!

In a world of social media, TV, movies, communication, we simply do not give our kiddos enough credit! Not to mention if as they say, we are suffering from around 75% of all marriages having at least one affair, then odds are significant that they have watched the destruction happen in the family of someone that they know. It sure happens in music enough. Do not get me started about what the kids see on TV. And Social media is full of absolute garbage. Though they may not get all the lingo, they generally have a pretty good basic idea. Yes, Really! Kids are smarter than you think!

Let me also stress if you are the other woman or the other man, once the betraying spouse wakes from the fog of the affair, your words will haunt them. They will wake up to the devastation and realize just how selfish you were, how selfish they were and how your lies helped encourage the emotional destruction of their children.  So often the relationship began by the other person trying to “help” the betraying spouse decide what they should do with their marriage, they act like a marriage counselor though it is all FAKE and of course their advice is one sided! I know that for Bryan this is exactly what happened. I do not know how many times I heard come out of Bryan’s mouth “Kids are resilient. blah, blah, blah”, after hearing that over and over I was ready to scream! Bryan finally confessed at some point after the affair, that the statement was fed constantly to him by the other woman. And the truly sad thing is that her own children had watched an angry bitter divorce and the ensuing battles over the years and guess what? Not only do they suffer from their parent’s actions every single day, they will suffer from the pain of that anger and bitterness for the rest of their lives! Simply put Narcissism at its finest!

During the affair, it was like the kids just knew. Well before we officially had our first knowledge of the affair, Bryan and I were not really even fighting, in fact until maybe just a few months before we found out, I thought our marriage was on solid ground. I believed that we were a united force and nothing could come between us, EVER. But our oldest was acting out at school. He was acting out at home. Somewhere inside, many months before we found out, he knew something was not right. Our youngest was a little less obvious in his knowledge, but we now know that he felt everything. He internalized everything. Like a sponge, he sucked up all the negativity and pain. And if you think just by sneaking around, being quiet, having whispered conversations, making your earnest attempt to shield your kids and yet you still think  your kids do not know… you are a fool! You may think  your business is your business, but the truth is… you are playing games with your child’s life if you are the betraying spouse. And if you are the betrayed, you have no choice but to helplessly watch the devastation that the narcissistic spouse has created.

Even though Bryan and I have stayed together, the destruction that lasted well over a year has made many marks on our boy’s hearts. You can still see the skepticism and distrust at times in their attitudes towards their Dad. They talk about not wanting to hurt others the way their Dad did. One swears he will never get married, “just in case”! They see and hear things that other kids might not see and hear. It is like a hyper-alertness. And hearing from who knows where that adultery is hereditary has been a burden that they do not need, but will now lurk in the back of their mind forever.

We are now at two years affair free! But you still see tiny bits and pieces of damage if you look closely enough. However, the boys have learned life lessons that help them relate to so many other kids. They have watched a man addicted to his affair fight to overcome and come out a better man, a good man, one that they are proud of. They have watched the struggle of a Mom dedicated to the marriage vows she spoke 26 years ago begin to smile and have joy again. They now see the value of the immensely difficult decisions that our family has made to stay together. Though I  would not wish the pain on anyone, much less a child, it has happened. We can not take it back. We can only strive from this point to let our lights shine and show others the possibilities that come with the grace that God gives us.

 

Arming for battle: Steps to take

If you are just beginning your journey through this most horrific experience, I am so very sorry. For me, it has been the most horrific experience I have ever been through. I would not wish this pain on anyone. Previously my life had not always been cherries and cheesecake, but the traumas I had been through, seem so insignificant now. Not even losing our first child was as devastating as Bryan’s affairs.

I longed to hear others stories no matter the outcome. I just wanted to know that I would survive. Let me say now to you, YOU WILL SURVIVE! I am living proof right here that you will survive. And yes, no matter the outcome. There were days that I was down on my knees begging God to just let me drift away, away from all the pain. I do  not believe that I ever would have acted on my thoughts in a million years, but thoughts of just not existing just floated through my mind. I never thought about details, I simply just wanted to be vapor.

Crying out, praying, talking, yelling to God gave me a tiny amount of hope. But it was enough! It gave me the strength to take the steps to get the help I needed. Reaching out to a very select few led me to the greatest gift, that of finding several women that had been through the battle of an affair. Because let me assure you it is a battle! You must arm yourself. I also had found a support group for the victims of affairs. I challenge you to find a group, mentors, just reach out and find others that have been through the very specific heartbreak of an affair. Let me be clear, if your sounding board or main line of support has not been there, you definitely need to find someone who has. People who have not been there just do not know!

Sometimes you also need some anonymity. I actually changed churches after the second disclosure. I found great peace in not being asked about Bryan. No one knew me, I could just blend in. I actually joined an older women’s Sunday school and loved it. I walked in that first day and it was as if they knew I needed love and just embraced me with joy. Each one hugged me with such warmth, it was like God himself wrapping his arms around me. I will never forget their grace and love.  Each time I walked through those doors of that Sunday School those women just loved me even though they did not know me. I was then free to absorb God’s word and free to listen to His guidance.

Whatever your needs, be alert to how you can insert positive people, life tools, and environments into your life. Fill up with what is good and leave behind what fills you with even more negativity, hate, and anger. This is your battle, how you choose to fight will define you for years to come!

Dogs have feelings too!

“The dog has peed on my side of the bed again!!” Bryan yelled and cussed! Ranted and raved! We had a little Maltese named Titian and he was so very sweet and cute. We had rescued him from a pretty terrible living circumstance. We had taken him to the vet and he was absolutely filthy, he had fleas, worms and he was extremely weak, malnourished, really just awful shape. The vet said that his life was in the balance. So I carried him around like a baby for weeks. By doing so I had made a friend for life! Bryan however, had never really liked little dogs. Before kids, we had English mastiffs and loved them. To this day they are the best dogs we have ever had. They minded very well, housebroke easily and were honestly just giant lap dogs. Bryan loved the big dogs so much he had never really adjusted to the idea of a small dog.

Titan was mostly a perfect gentleman for several years before Bryan began his affair. He did like to mark his territory and would do so in the house on occasion. No real extreme, however. Then out of nowhere Titian started to bark at Bryan, avoid Bryan and yes, PEE on his side of the bed. Now he would not pee on the bed when Bryan was out of town only when he came back home. The first day was always the roughest. I thought the little dog was having a midlife crisis. I could not imagine what was causing his change in behavior. What did that little dog sense?

Oh, my goodness, retrospectively I should have realized that the dog was trying to tell me something! I truly believe that Titan knew, sensed something was very wrong with Bryan. He had never been so standoffish nor ugly to Bryan before. He had never peed on the bed before. I do not know what it was, was it Bryan’s smell, “her” smell, Bryan’s demeanor and attitude, who knows?  But I apparently had an affair watchdog watching out for me! Though it is quite the joke now, it was not in the least funny when it was happening. Bryan was raging mad!

We now have two dogs one very small and one quite large. Both love Bryan and stay right with him when he is home. The little dog sleeps in Bryan’s lap every evening and the big dog is right next to him or at his feet. I have definitely learned a lesson, though! From now on I will be more careful in watching our dogs and their behavior around ALL people. Any more doggie midlife crises will be looked into thoroughly. And, I will say this, if there is any more peeing on the bed, somebody has a lot of explaining to do!!  So pet those furry loves and give them a hug, treat them right and you too may have an affair watchdog of your very own.

 

Even music can be painful!

Music anyone? Well no, no thank you!

Music is a love of mine! I love all sorts of music: country old and most of the new, bluegrass, gospel, Christian contemporary, 80’s hair band, 90’s pop, today’s pop, Christmas music, hard rock, Celtic, really most music is quite fun for me! UNTIL my husband’s affair!

I will never forget taking my kids to school one morning and having the radio on my favorite country station. It was just a few days out from learning that Bryan had been having an affair. Just as the kids hopped out of the car, the music stopped and the call in story line of the day started and it was something along the line of “how badly can you trash your husband’s wife or ex-wife that you have already destroyed because of an affair?”! No, honestly I am not kidding! I will never forget the station, the longtime morning show personality that I had listened to since I was a kid, and the horrible feeling of bile rising in my throat! One of the woman’s words that called in still haunts me even today. Her words were something along the lines of “I am so much better than his wife, I am beautiful, and sexy, I deserve him, she is ugly and fat, her husband and kids are better off with me and she does not deserve him or his kids! She got what she deserved, nothing!” And the morning crew laughed and laughed, they thought it was hilarious! Since that day I have NEVER listened to that station again! I was appalled! I was humiliated all over again!

Starting that day I could only listen to Christian or nonverbal music. It has been only in the last year that I can listen to just about any genre of music that I choose. I am still very sensitive to the cheating and do change the station if a cheating song comes on. Do you realize the garbage we have all put into our heads over the years? As I have gotten my ipod together and downloaded songs for walking and pleasure I have realized some of my very favorite songs are about cheating! It is like it was ingrained in all of our heads that hey, it’s OK, go for it, you deserve better, everybody does it. Almost like a subliminal message.

The benefit of being alert to the words now is that I have shared my love for other genres of music with my kids. They now enjoy listening to classical especially when we do our school work. They even hear if a song is loaded with ugliness and most often, not always, but often choose to change it. Sadly they do know the radio station that must not be named and it is not even programmed into either my husbands or my cars. What is that old saying? “What you put in is what you get out!” Well, it is true. Music is just one more area of our lives we have decided to kick the devil out.

 

 

 

Have you told your friends and family about your spouses affair?

What a loaded question! I am sure for some of you, you automatically told your friends and families. Others  we were less forthcoming. It is a huge burden to bare alone! But I have come to believe that we must be extremely wise in our decisions on whom we tell. The biggest advice I can give you in the beginning stages of an affair is to be cautious. Though you have far more hurt than anyone could ever deserve, you could save yourself further pain by using the best possible, well thought out plan you can muster in your state of shock and choose whom you tell VERY, VERY carefully!!

I was lucky enough to find a support group during the second and third affair. It was so nice to go and sit with people who understood what I was going thru. During the second affair, I had NOT told my family and had only told very few friends what was going on. I had shielded myself not because I thought my family would not be supportive. But because I was humiliated and embarrassed. During the third D-day, I finally told my family. But at that time would have never believed that any choice I made regarding my marriage would cause total separation between my family and myself. I did not believe that was possible.

One particular night we had quite a few new participants at our group meetings. So those of us who had been going to the group for the longest shared our stories. When I finished my story. Eyes were quite wide. Why? Because I was staying with my husband! The room erupted with everyone saying, “No, Not possible, my family would disown me!”, “My friends would KILL me!” and, “My family and my friends told me to choose, my spouse or them!”. I was shocked! I mean truly shocked.

So I left the group that night not really believing that my friends and family would stop having a relationship with me, even if separately from Bryan. But in the weeks to come, I would find out that nothing could be further from the truth. It appeared that now, no matter that I was the victim, I was the one wearing a scarlet letter of my very own. I made a choice to stay with my husband. I even thought time would heal and that they would want a relationship with me sooner or later. At this point, my family(siblings and their families) made their decisions and I am not included in their lives.

I am one of the lucky ones, though. My parents have come to a place of peace with my decision. They had only ever wanted the very best for me! I am so blessed to have the Mom and Dad I have! They have loved me unconditionally my whole life! In regard to my remaining family members, I can not change them. I can not change, nor would I, my decision to save my marriage and my family.  I can, however, choose to love my family where they are at in life’s journey. Unconditionally. And I can pray for them. That is the choice I get to make! No one gets to make that one for me!