After an affair, your life doesn't belong to you anymore. For over a year, I couldn't control my own thoughts.
The turmoil in my head was viciously repetitive but savagely random. With this blog, I began to exorcise the demons holding my head hostage.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Define Normal...

In June of 2010, BDD (Before D-Day) Richard and I took our kids to New York.  We both lived in the city when we met in 1980.  We wanted them to see it all.  We did everything from Central Park to Ground Zero.  While on this trip, BDD, I was blissfully unaware that Richard was texting photos of all the city's highlights to Jaymie back in San Diego.  At that time, BDD, they were becoming such close friends he didn't want to leave her out of all the fun.
But, this post isn't gonna be about Richard's seduction of Jaymie.  That was BDD.  I wanna talk about ADD (After D-Day).   So, back to my chosen topic of the day....

During our visit to the Big Apple, we stayed in Time's Square and saw a few Broadway shows.  One of those was The Addam's Family Musical, starring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia.  Fan-freakin-tastic fun!  The tag line for this production was, "Define Normal".   This is a phrase I have contemplated frequently ADD.  Our normal ADD sure as hell ain't what it was BDD, but it's OK, most of the time it's not bad at all, I'd even say pretty damn great more often than not.

Sometimes, ADD, we have to evaluate our new normal.  I want to share one of those times with you today because I'm hopeful it will help some of you that are fresh into the mess believe that life after DDay, while certainly different, can be very good, very happy.   You might just find yourself surprisingly comfortable in a new normal.

Richard seems to be quite a popular guy among his peers.  He often receives invitations to lunch, happy hours and dinner parties.  ADD, he never readily accepts the opportunity to socialize without me.  He has been very good about only attending events that include me.  This has been exceedingly helpful in our recovery.
This past week, while discussing his office holiday party plans,  I said I appreciated the fact that they were having the festivities in their office instead of going out for a long lunch elsewhere.  Since my Manic Meltdown in his office, we don't hang out with his staff like we did BDD.  Richard wants that to change.
"It's been three years.  When do we get back to normal?"
Without missing a beat, I said, "We have a new normal."
He laughed out loud and readily agreed with me.  He had acquiesced so easily yet I became a bit melancholy as I thought of Morticia and her ponderous, burdensome words:


I let myself feel the pain of our loss of BDD normal.  Even though I am well on my way along the Road to Happy, the pang of heartache still grips me now and again.  I saw our BDD normal as that of the spider, and this betrayed fly wants nothing to do with that!
After my quick contemplation of normal lost, I forced my mind to focus on normal now.  This kind of shift in thinking takes practice and at times an iron will.  The shift in this instance was fairly simple.

My husband is no longer the spider.  Our new normal is defined by many more positives than chaotic negatives.  As I began to embrace the affirmative aspects of our new normal, such as greater, more honest communication, deep respect and gratitude for a love nearly lost, passion and affection openly shown daily and a unique understanding of each other's needs, my heart became light again.  Instead of dwelling on the loss of trust, the gallons of tears spilled or the fact that I still have not forgiven Richard, I counted myself among the very lucky to have such a love and a marriage so strong it survived an extended trip to hell and back.

I know the phrase, "Define Normal" is rhetorical, but I wanna give it a shot.
Normal is what you perceive as your comfort level.  Normal is the space in your life that feels commonplace but not necessarily unexceptional, ordinary but not average.

How many people really take the time to redefine their normal?  ADD, we have to redefine it.  Since we gotta do the work, create the new definition, we might as well make the new normal better.

27 comments:

Kate M. said...

What an excellent post. I resonate so much with what you're saying here. Almost a year in, it's hard sometimes not to grieve for the old normal... but the new normal does offer much in the way of deeper communication, renewed appreciation for our relationship and family, defining healthier boundaries, and so on. I do try not to look back too often and mourn what once was. It's easier some days than others.

Elle said...

Love this. We do have to create our "new normal" and acknowledge it. Trying to hang on to the way things were is recipe for pain.
And absolutely love the spider/fly quote. How true.

Elle

shawn thewife said...

I knew on DDay my life was gonna change forever. I even said that to Richard the day I found out about Jaymie and he confessed. (not to everything, just what I knew about)
I said, "You ruined everything. Our lives will never be the same."
I was only partially right. He didn't ruin EVERYTHING. He sure as hell ruined a lot, but not the core of our marriage, not the commitment and the years we spent loving one another.
I was so afraid of the new normal. I shouldn't have been. It might be a better fit than the old normal.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

Kate M. said...

I too feared at first that he had ruined everything. What you said about the core of your marriage being preserved reminds me of something my oldest son (21 at the time) said to my husband on Christmas night. I had broken down and told him about the affair earlier that day when we were alone. It was clear to them all that something was terribly wrong no matter how we tried to hide it. He said, "Our house has been burned to the ground. But the foundation is still intact, and we might be able to save a beam or two from under the rubble. As long as you're willing to do right by my mother and do your part to rebuild what you've destroyed, I will support you and do whatever I can to help us heal and keep our family together."

He had other noteworthy things to say, but that's the part that will always stand out in my mind and heart. His love, maturity and strength blew me away that day.

hopeful said...

I found out about my husbands affair almost a year and ahalf ago. It has been such a painful journey to today and it really is helpful to see how other people have handled it. Thank you for sharing.
The new normal is better. My husband is trying so hard to put himself, our marriage and our family back together with the real values that I alway thought he believed in.
But I am still so sad and hurt. I cannot really seem to forgive him. Does this ever end?

BS said...

Shawn:

Yes, the new normal is much better for me too. I, too, try to focus on that.

I still feel that sadness and hurt that Hopeful mentions, but when I do I focus on the positives, as you do.

When, I sit down and actually access the situation, there are far more positive than negatives.

The positives are all the same as you mention and some others unique to my personal situation.

The negative is a huge one, though, (the hurt, sadness, pain) of trusted spouse being so deceptive, so I do think it will never go away, but only dampen to a greater degree with time.

So, along with the positives, I have accepted that the periodic longing for the old normal is now a part of my new normal.

Thanks for your empathetic posting.

BS said...

Kate M.

I was so blown away when I read the words your then 21 year old son spoke to his wayward father.

The words were so mature and sensitive, particularly coming from a young male who has grown up in the land of hook-ups and F buddies.

I loved it when he sad to his father "as long as you do right by my mother and do your part to rebuild what you've destroyed."

Wow, just wow, he sounds like a father talking to an errant son, rather than a son talking to a father.

Those words brought tears to my eyes.
What a wonderful supportive thing for you to hear your son say in the aftermath of such devastation to your life.

Please tell your son, I so admire him for those words he said to his father after learning of the affair.

Anonymous said...

15 months ADD. We aren't married, but we've been together for 13 years. The OW was married with 2 kids. I found out when her husband called me at work. I still have rages and melt downs.I know he's tired of it and that makes me want out. He talked me into giving him a second chance and much of the time I think he's trying very hard, but sometimes when I don't get the consideration I think I deserve I go off the deep end. Yesterday was my birthday and it didn't go well. Today I wonder if I'm going crazy that I can still have such low-lows.

shawn thewife said...

Anonymous: You're not crazy because you still have bad days. The key is as you work to heal your relationship, that was broken by HIM, your good days continue to multiply and the bad days diminish.
We all have a different healing timeline. We have been injured severely. The wounds eventually heal, but we always have scars.
Have you tried counseling? Marriage counseling (it still pertains to you marriage certificate or not) and individual counseling can be so helpful when dealing with infidelity.
Give yourself time to grieve if you have a bad day. Lick your wounds when you must, but then focus on the good things in your relationship NOW. Its a brain shift that really helped me
You can choose happiness. You deserve it.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

shawn thewife said...

Hopeful: When you ask "Does this ever end?" If by this, you mean the pain...Yes. I think it might always be there, but below the surface in a place we don't feel it everyday.
Infidelity is a huge loss in your life. We grieve the loss deeply for as long as it takes. Then, we begin to notice we're having more good days than bad. We're laughing so much more than we did just a few short months ago. We begin to plan for a truly bright future that we had begun to think would never be possible.
It happens.
About forgiveness...I don't put a whole lot of stock in that word. It's just a word. I don't forgive Richard, but it doesn't matter. I accept that he made a gigantic, idiotic, selfish mistake and I know that he regrets it everyday.
That's enough for me. Maybe it could be enough for you, too.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

shawn thewife said...

BS: I get the longing for the old normal. The old normal thing I miss most..... I miss being the easy going wife. The "wife on guard" takes a lot more energy! I'm hoping I lighten up as the years pass.

However...that being said...I know Richard yearns for the old normal WAY more than me!
Too bad for him! ;-P
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

shawn thewife said...

KateM: You raised a very insightful and compassionate young man! Nicely done!
Hope & Hugs, (with a big hug thrown in for your amazing son!) Shawn

BS said...

Shawn:

I agree with the entire post you wrote to me.

Yes, I too see that often my husband misses the old normal as much and often more than I do.

Yes. tehe, too bad for him.

He had an easy going wife, who gave him too much freedom and he did not appreciate that.

Now, I am the on guard wife, and he understands why and even admits, he would be on guard too, if I had done to him what he did to me.

One thing that irks me as much as the sex issue is that he spent marital assets on the outsider.

When I ask him to put the shoe on the other foot, and consider how he would feel, If I spent marital assets on an OM, he admits that it would enrage him.

TryingHard said...

Fantastic post!

Des said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It will be my year on the 20th of this month. So much is still good - but in such a different way. I'm so happy to know I'm not the only one that sees this new life the way I do.

Kate M. said...

Thank you Shawn and BS, for your kind words about my son. He's been in a committed partnership for over 3 1/2 years now, and definitely seems to be the monogamous/long term relationship type by nature. It did feel as if their roles had been reversed in a way; my son standing as he spoke while my husband sat with his head bowed in shame. Another standout in my mind: "You do understand, that no good can ever come from your association with that woman?" Her bunny boiler harassment after being dumped had made an already train-wrecked holiday even worse for everyone. My husband and I both jumped at the slightest odd noise... it was awful. The poor kids. He also said that while he felt communicating about the situation was necessary, he would not accept her name being spoken in his presence. He's since relaxed on that, but for a while, she was our Voldemort. ;-)

Like both BS & Shawn, I was also an incredibly laid-back and trusting wife. I miss being that person... it's such a part of my inherent nature. But there's just no way to continue being that person within the context of this marriage. I can't imagine that I would ever be that easy going with anyone, even if we had split up and I had moved on with someone else. This shit changes you. Accepting all of these profound changes is taking a while, but it is happening. And Shawn, I agree with what you said about forgiveness. It's just a word, and really doesn't feel like a factor our situation. For me, it's about acceptance and moving forward in spite of the fact that forgiveness, as most people define it, will probably never happen.

And yes, I'm sure our spouses miss the old normal in some ways more than we do. Oh well. It's hard to muster sympathy for that, although I do sometimes notice a tinge of guilt about it. I just swat it away when I notice it. That aspect of the "old" me has no place in my new life.

Anonymous said...

Well said KM. Well said.

I've decided forgiveness, as you point out, is really more about acceptance of what happened, the fact that it cannot be changed, and the active choice on my part to stop playing the what if?, should've, could've game. Definitely a longh ways off still, but working toward it.

TL xx

BS said...

Kate M. :

I agree with you about being changed so profoundly due to be cheated on that we likely would be on guard in any and all future relationships, if we ever choose to leave the present marriage.

That is sad but true.

I do think we never ever should have been so trusting from the get go. In this society, it was very naive.

It's interesting to note that the Married other women in my husband's affair, mentioned in an email to my husband that she had put a tracker on her husband's car and monitored his phone and emails with spyware to know whether or not he was cheating.

He wasn't, according to her.

In a voice mail she said this so proudly, as if it was some kind of reflection of how desirable she was and how stupid I was to not check up n my own husband.

In various Emails, voicemails and texts, the one loud and clear message that came through was that this rather vacuous, and average looking women had an UNREALISTICALLY high opinion of herself.

I read in a book about affairs that people who cheat often have their self images heightened in their own minds.

The book said this was due to the fact, that most women can get a better looking mores successful married male to have an affair whereas in real life they would not get any interest from a single male actually looking for marriage of the same quality.

Her emails constantly talked about how unattractive and socially inept her husband is/was.

This women really needs to find a realistic mirror to examine herself in.

I think most OWs overvalue themselves and that is likely why they try to get the husband to leave his wife no matter how many times they tell her they are ONLY looking for an affair.

IMO, that is why so many of them turn into stalkers when dumped.

Kate M. said...

It was naive of us to be so trusting BS... sigh. I hate it but that is one of the realities I'm learning to accept. It is so darned easy for folks to cheat in this day and age, easier than ever before. There are even phone apps made specifically for cheaters, to hide their calls and texts and so on... or they can just get a secret pay-as-you-go phone... and social media doesn't help. There is spyware to catch cheaters, like you mentioned... but can it catch the info if the cheater using technology of their own, to hide their activities? It exhausts me just thinking about it all. Sometimes I'm tempted to use some of those methods, because I don't trust him the way I used to of course... but I don't want to live that way. I'm afraid I'll become obsessed with tracking and watching his communications, and that doesn't feel like healing/moving forward to me. What is it you say, Shawn- Trust but verify? I guess that's what I'm working toward, and doing a pretty good job of getting there.


BS, often our stories sound so similar. Our OW also has an unrealistically high opinion of herself... as a matter of fact, I believe she may have narcissistic personality disorder. She's pretty in a very average sort of way, but truly believes she is an amazing beauty. She often photographs better than she looks in person, but not always. She is younger than me but in person looks older than her age. She's obsessed with exercise; she lost weight a few years ago and it did make her more attractive, but she seems to believe the change is a much bigger deal than it actually is. I'd love to read the book you mentioned- do you mind sharing the title? What you shared from it sounds very much like our experience of her.

To those of you struggling with the relative newness of grappling with the hell of betrayal: hang in there, and I'm so glad you found Shawn's blog. Her wisdom and advice have made a huge difference in my process. Our 1 year DDay anniversary is later this week, and I know for certain that I wouldn't be doing as well as I am at this point if it weren't for her and this community of survivors. The holidays can be tough, but we'll all make it through.

Kate M. said...

And TL- I like the way you put that, about it being an active choice to accept what can't be changed and to stop with the what if's and all... ugh! Why is it so hard sometimes not to torture ourselves in that way? Still working on it here too... probably will never be completely effortless, but looking forward to the day when it's easy.

BS said...

Hi Kate M:

I am not sure which book I read the comment about cheaters having a high opinion of themselves.

I have read so many books on affairs I don't remember all the titles or authors.

I think almost all the books mentioned something to that effect.

Here is a portion of an article I found at a link that mentions the concept. I will include the link after it:

{ FROM ARTICLE: One critical quality for 'trading up' is a woman's own perception of her personal 'value' in the mating market. In other words, having an affair can boost a woman's self-esteem, perception of her physical attractiveness, and sexuality. If she has raised confidence gained by having an affair, than the chances of her leaving her current mate for a better one, are increased.

Moreover, in recent studies it was found that this increased confidence and self-esteem were rated by women who have affairs, as one of the most beneficial results of having an affair. END]

http://www.drmillslmu.com/sexdiffs/spr00/panel6.htm

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty.I'm 3 yrs ADD & still in recovery mode.I just want you to not doubt yourself or what you're doing with your blog.It has helped me immensely.I can't think of much of what you've done that I haven't dreamed about doing myself.I like you, stayed in the marriage & now have a new normal & it's not so bad.

Lynn Evans said...

My DD was April 4, 2012. Six days after we celebrated our 20 year anniversary. My perception of my husband, our relationship and marriage completely changed. I am learning what was broken, what led to the affair and what really is important to me. His affair has been life changing for me. I don't wish this on anyone because the lies, betrayal and deception almost destroyed our family. We our a "work in progress" still having trust issues!
The OW forwarded from her iPhone an advertisement to my husband's work email about a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas for the week of Nov. 9-16. She is a troublemaker! We take steps forward and then boom! Right back to where we were turmoil, chaos and arguments. I feel like an open wound just as it starts to scab something scraps it and the wound begins to bleed again. Hoping someday to be healthy again.

BS said...

Hi Lynn:

I wonder if it would be possible to sue the OW at this point, for intentional infliction of emotional distress, for sending such a letter.

I think her sending and ex affair partner an invite like that would be seen by any jury as an intentional attempt to inflict emotional harm.

shawn thewife said...

Lynn: I think all of us are a work in progress. After DDay, its like starting over. The walk on the Road to Happy is littered with numerous speed bumps and some massive sink holes! A pain in the ass OW would fall into the sink hole category for sure.
However, I don't agree with BS in this instance. I say ignore the bitch. I'd also see about getting her blocked from your WH's email. Maybe he could change his cell number and his email??
Engaging her will just feed her need for attention. It rarely pays off.
Just focus on what your WH is doing for you now and healing will happen.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

mary said...

Dec 10 th was one year since D-day for me. I still have so much hurt from the things I read between the OW and my husband of 25 yrs. The promises he made her,the things he gave her that should have gone to our children one day,the fact that he gave her his heart. The lies,deceipt, sneaking around, Even after being confronted.The fact that he left me to be with her( he was only gone 4 days total because he has a health condition that made him come back,promising her he would return after his surgery). Yes he is still here. We were seeing a counselor,but he always said he didn't know what he wanted,if he wanted to stay married. He has not talked to me about his affair or answered any of my questions to this day. He acts as if we don't discuss it,it didn't happen.

His life has been dedicated to his military carreer and my life has been dedicated to him( his carreer,his assignments,his life) and raising our 3( now grown children). His medical condition forced him to retire from the military before he was ready( now he gets disability retirement,va assistance and ssdi). Mind you he is still capable of having an affair. I actually looked forward to his retirement even though we are both still young( I am 42 and he just turned 47 a few days ago). Yes his health limits him from some things,but its like he just gave up when he was forced to give up his life as the " go to guy". He even said when I confronted him about his affair that morning...."I don't know who I am, I haven't been happy for a long time. I'm tired of the stress our kids finances put on me,I'm tired of never having the money to go anywhere and I'm tired of always worrying if I'm going to get zapped( he has an ICD inplanted because of his heart). So I guess these are his reasons for doing what he did to our family.

I'm sorry,I'm just rambling. I just can't seem to move past the lies he told her about me and our marriage. The fact that I gave up dreams for him to have his and he has no remorse for what he did. I pray every night I go to bed,that tomorrow will be the day he .....hell I don't even know. Because he CANT make it right,he CANT take back what he has done. I Love him,but I don't trust him.

Thank you Shawn,your blog and everyone that comments helps me see I'm not alone. I hope you have a Merry Christmas( I'm still not to that point). And a Happy New Year.

Melnz said...

I suspected but found out my partner (not married at the time) and father of my three children (youngest just two), was having an affair in April 1998.
You never forget, you think you have forgiven and then you look at him and think about how much you love him, but the last time you loved him this much he hurt you so badly, so I can never say those words again, they just don't come out of my mouth, I can't bring myself to say "I love you".
The hurt is still there, he apologised but did he apologise for the pain he caused, I don't recall that. Did he apologise for putting his family at risk, no. Did he ever apologise that he invited her to our house to spend Christmas with us and our children, no he did not. But he apologised, is it enough?
We stayed together and yes things were good, we even got married 1999. But I left with the children three years ago (October 2010), not because I no longer trusted but because I could now see fault in him.
Although we live apart we still see each other.