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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lessons Learned in the Trenches of Adultery

I need help from those of you that have followed my escape from Crazy Town.  You made it out, too.  You all have Walked the Road to Happy.  Many times it was my readers that pulled and pushed me along the Road.  I'm asking you to help those that may still be reading.  I'm not enough.
Here's what I hope to hear from each of you....
After you rode the tsunami of betrayal, after you struggled to survive the rough, raging breaker all the way to safety on the shore of reconciliation, did you feel like you learned anything from the traumatic experience?
At the very least, we learned we are stronger than we ever imagined.

 I feel like I learned a royal shit-ton.  I spent years on this blog writing about the tumult of my life A Year After the Affair.  The writing opened doors of my psyche I needed to explore to find a way to walk ahead on my Road to Happy.
Now, nearly 5 years after DDay, my marriage is good.  I wouldn't say great.  We've started to fall back into a few less than desirable patterns.  I still have walls that need to be torn down or at least pushed back, and I know Richard wants more than I am able to least for now.  But this post isn't about that.  I'll write more about that later.  I didn't mean to venture off and don't mean to leave you hanging.  Sorry.
Suffice it to say...we're good, just not great right at this juncture on the Road.

Back to the purpose of this post:
I wrote, people read (still shocks the crap out of me!), they commented and I absorbed the sage advice offered and was often enlightened.  I really want to spread some of that love around.
Even though my blog has been dormant, I still receive email almost daily asking me for advice.

Why do they read my story and then ask ME for advice?? I chalk it up to desperation.  We all felt it after DDay.
When the life you thought you knew so well turns out to be based on an inconceivable lie, the downward spiral begins.  We grab at anything to gain a momentary toe-hold.
Reaching into cyber space for help from the likes of me....A former resident of Crazy not gonna slow your fall for long, but if I can moderate the momentum and maybe alter the direction of the descent, I'm gonna reach back every time.

For any of you still reading, today I'm reaching back with a couple of knowledge nuggets that feel valuable to me.  Let's call them Lessons Learned in the Trenches of Adultery.
Forgive me if I sound like Captain Obvious from the battle of Infidelity.

1.  My marriage will always be a work in progress.  I know that the Road to Happy is a journey...not a destination.  So damn cliche', but accurate nevertheless.
2.  I am responsible for my own happiness.  No one can give it to me and if someone tries to take it, I'll find a way to get it back.
3.  Trust is an illusion. Boundaries are tangible and necessary.
4. Normal is not definable.  Everyone has their own normal.
5.  Yesterday only matters if we learn from it.  I'm all about today, tomorrow and gratitude.

I guess that's it.  That's really all I've got since I'm kind of talking general, constructive attitude adjustments.  I could bather on about Let the Bitch-Whore Go, but I'm loathe to bore you further unless specific questions are asked.

Help a girl out, will ya?  What did you learn, my friends?  What can you share that might just speak to another broken hearted spouse sliding into the abyss after DDay?  My contributions will never equal the wisdom of my readers.  Please, if you can, take a minute to post an encouraging word or a practical warning.  When you start thinking about it, you might be surprised at all the lessons you've learned.  The lessons never cease to amaze me.


TigerLily said...

1. My marriage will always be a work in progress. I know that the Road to Happy is a journey...not a destination. So damn cliche', but accurate nevertheless.
2. I am responsible for my own happiness. No one can give it to me and if someone tries to take it, I'll find a way to get it back.
3. Trust is an illusion. Boundaries are tangible and necessary.
4. Normal is not definable. Everyone has their own normal.
5. Yesterday only matters if we learn from it. I'm all about today, tomorrow and gratitude.

Oh my goodness Shawn, these are absolutely golden! Totally on track with 1 - 4. In fact, on the first point, we also say reconciliation is a very that should be used in the present progressive, not the past perfect. Really, it is that damn number five with which I struggle! Ah, who the hell am I kidding? I know number two rationally, and even my heart gets it on most days, but some days, some days I lose my motivation to try and look to Mindless to help fill that gap. But, then it really does come back to number five, for me anyway. And, that is the realization that there is absolutely nothing, at all, anyone in the world could do, including Mindless, including me, to change the past. It cannot be done.

You know what my oldest child (OC) was telling me today? OC was telling me that there was a discussion group at camp where they were talking about determinism. All opinions and thoughts being welcomed and discussed. OC said to me, "Mom, one thing that really struck me is when someone said, 'if any of us were able to go back in time, without any learning or knowledge of what was to come, we would all still make the exact same decisions." I was taken aback by this, thinking, "nah, that just cannot be true." But, then I realized, why wouldn't it be, if we had no new information or perspective, why would we make a different decision. We wouldn't. I always wonder about how "knowing everything I know now, would I make different choices?" And, ultimately anything that would have prevented me from having these very special individuals in my life, my beautiful children, no, no way in hell would I do anything to jeopardize the possibility of their existence. But, I never even thought about looking at from the perspective of going back, but not knowing anything new. I don't know, it just struck me some how.

So, yes, ultimately one lesson I've learned is that the past can never be different, can never be better and even if it could be, I wouldn't risk it, because it would mean risking the very existence of my beautiful children. Now to find some of my own damn happiness in the present. Why is it so damn elusive?

Anonymous said...

Tiger Lily,

"OC" on the infidelity board doesn't usually mean "oldest child", it means "other child" as in the child born to the OW. Just a heads up.

Hey Shawn, would love to hear more of the bumps in the road at 5 years out.


shawn thewife said...

TigerLily: Going back? A do-over? I've used up numerous minutes of my life doing that. I try so hard not to go there, as it is truly the ultimate exercise in futility. But there is one thing I would change even if I had to more knowledge of what was to come then than I do now. I would NEVER have involved my kids. Not even that first night. They did nothing to deserve being drawn into our drama.
BUT...would've, could've, should've....nothing productive in those words!!
I'm sorry to hear happiness is elusive in your life, but I think you hold the key in your attitude of gratitude. Your children bring you great joy. There is your inspiration! That's a wonderful place to start. The best Mama is a happy Mama!!
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

shawn thewife said...

Patty: I wouldn't really call them bumps. I might say the scenery on the Road ain't what I know it could be.
I opened the door, so I'll walk through, examine the contents of my current marriage and then I will write about it when I figure some of it out for myself. If I was going to share today...the post would be about "Expectations".
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

TigerLily said...

Patty, good point. I hope that my defining within my writing will prevent confusion. In the future I will use first child (FC), though neither my husband nor I are the POTUS and, given all that has happened, certainly never will be. :)

Shawn, I will admit to having moments of happiness. Most recently was our vacation back home. We loved spending time with the family, then sent kids off to camp, then MC and I had a week together alone on a lake and it was BLISS. So, at least I know it is possible and, even better, possible with MC. But, coming back to the day-to-day tedium, well it impacts my ability to recognize and experience happiness.

I did note my time of bliss included a lot less screen time, which does make me wonder if I spend too much time on the blogs pain shopping. I don't want to, perhaps a bit of my own OCD or fear of getting on with life. I don't know. Working on it.

I am back to school myself now and will actually have this Masters done in two terms. I am very excited and scared. But, also, hopeful that it will open some doors for professional opportunities after years of being a SAHM. We will see. I hate pinning too much hope on something in the future as I really just want to learn to enjoy the day, today. I think you are right, being grateful for my blessings is something that could help me get there.

And, you are most definitely right "would've, could've, should've" have no place on the road to happy.

Thanks as always.

TL xx

elladisenchanted said...

I am almost two years out from D-Day. We have been separated for over a year-in different states.He calls everyday. We FaceTime a couple times a week. I don't know where we are going BUT something happened in me the past couple of months. Suddenly (really-felt like overnight) I am stronger. What I have learned-Focus on today ONLY-the good I can find. Understanding he is just broken but that doesn't mean I have to be. Trust God with him-I can't and SHOULDN'T try to fix him. Don't stalk the cum bucket. really. Who is she in the whole picture? A cum bucket. That is all she is. If it wasn't her, it would've been someone else. The problem is in him. She has no character or morals and will gladly torture you IF you allow it. Let pig she go. Learned to give myself a break on bad days. Learned to prepare myself for holidays (Father's Day was one I didn't see coming and whoa I really paid for that!) . My adult children have to work through there own pain with their dad. I no longer worry about trying to facilitate healing in my family. I just need to worry about my healing. Don't listen to judgy family/friends. They don't have a freaking clue what this is like and therefore cannot have a opinion on how you should handle it. I always thought I would Lorena Bobbitt and divorce if this ever happened to me. Instead I was a puddle in the floor and still loved my husband and wanted to save my marriage. Who knew?? Lastly, I learned that you don't know that your not going to find the answers in the bottom of a wine bottle unless you look!! Haha but you can't stay there forever. Lastly, I learned I can smile again. For a long time, I didn't think that would ever happen"
Keep writing Shawn! I miss you!

Radlady said...

The biggest lesson I've learned 8 months post D Day is one I've learned from you Shawn, and that is the mantra "I do not have to think about this right now. It will not help me to think about this right now. I will not think about this right now. "

While in the beginning, I used it to stop the pictures, and images that flooded my senses (some real that they took of each other or sent to each other and some in my imagination). Today I use it to stop myself constantly thinking about the affair in general itself.

Sadly, while my H is making good strides overcoming his addiction, once the walls of pretense came down, he simply seems to have no idea how to honestly love another human, whether it be me, his kids, or his family.

So, the next lessons I'm learning is self care followed by patience. Neither of which I have been good at in the past, but which truly are lessons that have helped me to stay sane. (or at least somewhat sane).


Still recovering said...

Well it is almost two years since I first discovered my husband affair with my ex friend. But it's just two weeks since I learned that he has been in contact with her all the time we were supposedly 'working on our relationship'

That said. I have learned a lot. I'm sure I have much still to learn.

Here's my list for what's it worth:

1. You can still love someone after they have done everything you ever thought would make you stop loving them.
2. The only person you can truely rely on is yourself.
3. Everyone's path to the road to happiness is unique and whilst all the books, blogs and advice from friends is all well intended we each need to discover our own path.
4. That everything I thought I knew about myself prior to this experience was an illusion.
5. Betrayed spouses can recover (there were so many days when I thought I'd never function again). I am stronger, much more in tune with myself and my husband.

And finally the most important thing I have learned: trust yourself and your instincts.

Shawn thank you for sharing your story, you will probably never fully appreciate how many people you have helped.

You made me laugh when I thought I had forgotten how too. But mostly you stopped me feeling helpless and alone.

I'd love to give you a big hug.

The journey is not over for us, but I know I will be happy again.

shawn thewife said...

Ella!!! I loved your list! I just knew there were amazing fonts of knowledge reading and willing to share!
For the record...I was one of those horriblly, ignorant judgey people before my DDay. Such an ass.
Just one more lesson learned on the Road to Happy, right?
Thanks for checking in. I miss you, too.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

shawn thewife said...

Still Recovering: Awesome list! #5 may be what has been the most eye opening for me.
I still need to work on being present much of the time.
You can't stay in tune with your spouse if you can't stay in step. I often let life trip me up.

And you're so much more than welcome.
I always hope someone out there can smile at my Crazy Town experience.
So many betrayed spouses helped me. I just want to pay it forward. What's better than that??
I'd love to hug you, too!
Hope and HUGE hugs!!

Julia said...

I can't really tell you anything I've learned, because sadly, everything I come up with is depressing. Which I find strange, especially considering I've been doing so well. But I guess for me, I know that my life is my own, and I need to worry about me first. This makes me happy, but it also makes me a better partner.

Glad you're back. I am also so ridiculously grateful that I found your blog.


Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog in my desperate search online for how to make it through one day without a meltdown. 3 weeks ago my husband admitted to an affair with a close family "friend." Our families spent Friday's together, our kids had sleepovers and attend the same school, we even vacation together. 3 weeks before our 25th wedding anniversary I find out that we had reached a pivotal point in our marriage, just not one to celebrate. I don't even know which way is up right now. I just want to feel like I'm not crazy and I am not losing myself in all of this. Parts of my body that I didn't even know existed are twisting in pain. I have spent days sifting through advice and rules on repairing and surviving. Thank you so much for just sharing the ugly reality that is my life now. For a moment I feel like Im not the only one and that I might make it through.

Wrecked in Reality

shawn thewife said...

(((Wrecked))) I wish I could offer more than just letting you know you're not alone. So fresh into the mess, you have a very long road ahead. For now, your focus should be on yourself. Try to take care of you. Give yourself time to process and consider your options. There are many different Roads to Happy.
A good therapist can be a lifesaver. It helps to have support close to home.
There is hope of saving a wrecked marriage. There is the possibility you and your wayward husband (WH) will find a stronger bond with more honest communication and understanding than ever before. I would never have believed it for a full year after DDay, but miracles happen.
When you have questions, when you need to share with people that get it or when you just want to vent, we are here for you.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

Patty said...

Waiting patiently for the "expectations" post. XoXo

shawn thewife said...

Done. Thanks for motivating me.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

Anonymous said...

My counsellor says my marriage has healed much faster than most...why? My kids were involved in this and I felt as though they were laying on the ground wounded and bleeding and I could not lead them into another war. As I picked myself up I knew I couldn't leave. I was determined to heal my family, myself and learn to be the person I wanted to be in or out of a marriage. I thought I had a good marriage and I didn't, I knew my marriage would have to change and I knew no matter who I was married to I wanted to be a different person. Here is what I told my husband:

1. I want us to focus on our home and update it. **Change this place together into our new home.
2. I am going to be home and we are going to be together. **I was gone a lot for work and changed my hours. We were going to suffer through this together. There was no getting out of this. I was going to take my time to make my decisions and would base it on how we proceeded together.
3. I am changing our sex life. I am going to give and get what I want when I want from you. Probably the hysterical bonding kicking in, but I went and bought videos and learned so much that I did not know.
4. I have on a file a court order with a lawyer and will proceed with a divorce if you continue to talk or see her. I will not hesitate or blink. **Setting Boundaries.

So here is are my lessons learned:
1. If change is needed, change it. Don't wait for it to happen.
2. Don't make any quick decisions.
3. Learn to be the partner you always wanted to be, if you thought you were the perfect partner read more about how to improve yourself.
4. Take time to learn about your spouse. The 5 love languages opened up a whole new world for us. Change feels good.
5. Have a back up plan. Mine is a court order and a place to go if needed. Its like a security blanket for me.
6. Set boundaries, mean it and stick with it.
7. Learn to look for the things the betrayer is doing to keep you. Make a list and read it. I am amazed at what he has had to do, I really never thought he had it in him.
8. Pray.

Anonymous said...

Shawn i have always enjoyed your post, has helped my road to healing.

Anonymous said...

Ella that must be so hard ro live in different states and try and work on your marriage it would be so hard to trust. I hope you guys are able to work things out if that is truly what is in both your hearts, at least you two talk and facetime every day/week. Hopefully you also make time for eachother together.

Anonymous said...

Hello I am 10 months post D day. OW was my friend. In addition to dealing with all that, the OH (other woman's husband) has been stalking and harassing my husband and also me!?? (WTH??). He's sent us hundreds of texts and voicemails threatening to expose my husband, threatened to rape me as revenge, and even showed up at our house drunk. Because you see, no one else knows. I'm trying to hide it all; from our friends, from our kids, from our parent groups we know through sports. I'm so tired of living a lie and have no one to talk to..and I feel so lost. I've really enjoyed your posts I feel they capture how I feel. The first few months post D day were pretty good. Lots of crying and dates and declaring his love. Not really so much anymore now I'm feeling taken for granted again. He's started drinking again which is what lead to the affair. I'm losing love, respect and hope. I'm not sure I can stay but for today I will because its Christmas and I love my kids. I used to be 110% sure of how I saw
My future. Now I can't see past today.

shawn thewife said...

Anonymous: You must be very strong. You have managed to avoid Crazy Town after DDay. Please give yourself the credit you deserve. The OH obviously doesn't have your courage. He's living in a high rise condo on Main Street, Crazy Town. Not good. You can't heal when the OW or the OH remain in your life.
I'd go the restraining order route. At the very least, please be sure you document every single threat or contact made by OH in case you need to file a RO at a later date. It will bolster your case with the authorities.

For now, please visit the Healing Heart message boards. The link is at the bottom of my blog.
It is a safe, comforting place filled with compassion and non-judgement. Plus, some very smart folks that totally get it.
Even if you don't want anyone in your life to know, you do not have to Walk your Road to Happy alone.
The Healing Heart saved me. Let the angels of the forum help you, too.
Hope & Hugs, Shawn

Anonymous said...

Thank you!! Your kind words mean so much xoxox best wishes to you on your journey to healing. Some days are better than others arent they? xoxo your comments about crazy town made me giggle. It's such a perfect analogy

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am a few days shy of the 2nd anniversary of D-Day. This is my first time commenting on a blog, ever. It's a little scary, but also freeing and comforting to know I'm not alone. The first year was as described and I'm grateful not to be there. My mantra in that year: "It's not here now; it will never be here again" helped in the triggered moments - which were multiple times a day - when my body and brain were hijacked with the exact feeling at the time of revelation. It's brutal and there's no way around it but it helped:

1. To pick an image and share it Together to help get through triggered moments and put them in perspective, our Road to Happy is a sailboat with course set the Lighthouse. This destination is a safe place and you can hear it even if you can't see it. It's always there.

2. Another image I used and he used to deal with triggers is a common one- a big wave. We love the water (see #1 above) and are great swimmers. So when the waves Of emotion came I pictured facing them and diving under them - like in big surf at the beach. They crashed above but under the water I swam forward and through them. I felt free.

3. Restorative images helped too. If I started obsessing over the details around that first time when he intentionally chose to have sex with this other person- that's still a place I can get stuck - I purposefully changed image to one of him holding me while I vomited after finding out, the devastation on his face and in his soul for having hurt me in such a way. This was so I didn't grow to hate him for what he had taken from us. For me only, I had an image of myself at a time I felt strong and beautiful. I could go there and connect to that feeling.

4. Knowing that I hadn't violated my personal value system. Yes, there were things to improve on myself and in our marriage, but that's true for everyone, and everyone doesn't cheat. This gave me personal strength. I had a lot to deal with but kept shame and guilt to a minimum knowing my word was still intact.

So year 2- I still think about it every day, but the pain isn't always there and when it is it's less. I don't regret staying, but feel there's lots still to do to THRIVE not just survive. While we both love each other deeply, we're both afraid at times that the better, stronger, more intimate relationship we are striving for is a fantasy in the aftermath of an infidelity. But we have hope that it's not and are willing to do anything it takes to get there. Hope that helps someone else out there. 🙂

Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you. -Walt Whitman