The Fantasyland of Adultery

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”

red shoesIn a previous blog I wrote about the wastelands of adultery.  I still have preference for this metaphor but recently found myself intrigued by a blog which suggested a “fantasyland” of affairs.

This so-called ‘fantasyland’ is aligned to the strange new land that Dorothy finds herself in whilst searching for the Wizard of Oz.  Although offering a different perspective it is not incompatible with the notion of a wasteland.  It just depends on your context.  It is more from theab betrayer’s perspective than the betrayed but it is an insightful piece that articulates the weaknesses of the betrayer and the pain that is inflicted by their actions.  I was interested to note one of the post comments which said “Thank you for putting into words the actions and feelings of the unfaithful. It brings to light a new understanding of how wrong we were and how truly selfish we have been!”  Although the article was written by Rick Reynolds the Founder and President of  Affair Recovery,  I am indebted to the blog ‘Renewing a Right Spirit’ for alerting me to this particular piece which I quote almost in its entirety.

In one succinct phrase, L. Frank Baum perfectly describes the feeling of suddenly finding yourself physically and emotionally lost. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy quipped to her dog Toto. When it comes to infidelity, regardless of the type, this statement couldn’t be more true. In Dorothy’s mind mediocrity defined her life. There was no color, no excitement to be found in the prosaic little town in Kansas. The drudgery of life on the farm left her feeling hopelessly chained to a life of misery and unfulfilled expectations. Didn’t she deserve to be happy?

Dorothy spent all her time longing for a better, more exciting life, and eventually found herself swept away by an ominous tornado that sent her helplessly spinning into a strange new land of fantasy. Unlike her old life, this new life was painted with vibrant colors and was full of song. She also found she was no longer alone; now a strange troop of friends entered her life: a scarecrow that lacked brains, a tin man missing his heart, and a lion with no courage to help in her search for the Wizard of Oz. Interestingly, flying monkeys, wicked witches, [No Pig-shit] and deception left Dorothy pining away for the very thing from which she had longed to escape. She just wanted to be home again where she felt safe and cared for.

Is it possible the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was writing about those trapped in affairs or addictions? How often do indiscretions begin with feelings of mediocrity, or a desire to feel alive and understood; seeking freedom from the constraints of a life we no longer want, pursuing the happiness we believe we deserve? And like Dorothy, the dissatisfaction prompting the search for better life sparks a tornado, devastating everything in its path. Catapulted into a strange new fantasyland, the individual is left to wrestle with what to do. Only now they have to operate with the handicaps of Dorothy’s team: they have no brain, no heart, and no courage.

How do you decide what to do when somebody has lost his or her brain? If you’ve ever observed someone in an affair, it certainly seems they’ve lost their mind. I have seen successful men and women in extremely influential positions transformed into inept and incompetent individuals who seem incapable of making a rational decision. They become willing to jeopardize career, family, and future for this momentary pleasure. If the behavior of being “in love” were not socially acceptable, they would be certifiably insane. Everyone else can see they have no brain, and that reasoning and common sense are gone, but often they are too polite to say anything.

The loss of heart is also apparent. There is an illusion that if one is in love, they are finally in touch with their heart, but with infidelity, they’ve actually just lost what little heart they had. The selfish pursuits of personal gratification and self-glorification have nothing to do with heart; rather they are based on self-centeredness. Like the tin man, the person involved in an affair lacks the ability to truly love. People with heart are actually able to feel what impact their actions have on those who are connected to them. They care about the pain they are inflicting upon those they love. Love compels them to act in the best interest of another person. The total lack of love for those injured by their betrayal is one of the most astounding aspects of an affair. The path out of this dark morass definitely requires that they acquire a heart, not only to grieve for those they’ve wounded, but also to learn how to truly love.

Finally, courage isn’t a term used to describe those indulging in affairs. In fact, the act of betrayal highlights the lack of courage. Instead of exercising the courage necessary to admit what they’ve done and take responsibility for their choices, they hide behind a veil of secrecy, playing the victim and blaming others for their choices. Rather than having the courage to confront the deficits in their marriage while honoring their commitment even in hard times, they avoid difficulties of change, are afraid to face the consequences of their actions and fear releasing control because things might not turn out the way they want them. Ironically, it is this lack of courage that keeps them hopelessly trapped in the life they believe they need to escape. The only way to end the chaos is to let go. Unfortunately, because they lack the courage to let go and see what might happen, they remain immobilized, unable to face life’s realities.

Why can’t they just embrace honesty and take responsibility for what they’ve done? The answer is simple – to do so creates immediate change, as well as a loss of control. It requires courage to actually take personal responsibility for their life and actions. Frequently, those lacking the courage to take responsibility will hide behind the rationalization that they don’t want to hurt their mate, claiming they are acting in their mate’s best interest by keeping quiet. In reality, they are controlling their mate by robbing them of the information necessary to make informed decisions and to address the issues in the marriage. It takes courage to be authentic in a marriage, but like the lion of Oz, courage is a trait that is sadly missing in those betraying their spouse.

Interestingly, this trip to the fantasyland of an affair often culminates in a longing for home. Like Dorothy, betrayers often realize that “there’s no place like home.” But how do they return? It would be nice if they could simply click their ruby-red heels together, but unfortunately infidelity creates a bigger mess than a physical tornado and requires a much more elaborate journey. The journey back is difficult and can seem to go in circles, but the destination is more exciting, and ultimately more rewarding than the fantasyland. It takes time and effort, but it is absolutely our best hope for growth and happiness. Come back to reality. Rediscover your brain, heart and courage, and you’ll find there truly is no place like home.

dorothy

If you believe there’s no way back I can tell you from experience that you are believing a lie. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I know thousands of couples who’ve done just that. It does however require the courage to take the first step.

Image Credits: Doug Kline Debbie Reynolds Auction – Judy Garland “Dorothy Gale” Arabian-pattern test “Ruby Slippers” from “The Wizard of Oz” & Shoes by Africa; Wizard Like Hat by Victor Habbick; both courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Triggers

triggerI think I was expecting too much from my two year span from D-day which was  August 3rd, 2012. 

Don’t know why, but I had convinced myself that two years was going to be my duration of infidelity hell.  I reckoned that I’d be well and truly healed after this time.  Well, I have to say that I am sorely disappointed with the two year mark and sorry to have to admit this to any newly betrayed spouses just arriving at this wretched mess.  It has not gone quite to plan.  I believe that this is due to the continuation of triggers which occur at the oddest of times and in the strangest of instances.

I can’t even start to explain how I have worked to eliminate Pig Shit triggers from my life.  Some of you may say I’m mad, and I think you would be entitled to say so.  Momentarily!  When I knew where the first shag occurred – a 4 star hotel in the shit town that she lived in, I insisted that we spent the night there.  Walked the same walk around the garden.  It was hell, but good to see my husband squirm and doubly delightful to squash any remaining memories of that first night that belonged to just her.  I also insisted that he took me to Rotterdam and, again stayed in the same hotel and walked the same walks.  Luckily enough I was in the hysterical bonding stage at this time so our sex was hot, hot, hot!  Now, my husband had been to Rotterdam with me as well.

In the end, what has proved much more difficult to address has been the way that the year of the adultery (the year that my life was going on in the normal way whilst trusting that I had a faithful husband) continues to be replayed in my head following a trigger of some sort.  You would think that it was the dirty sex he was having with Pig Shit that would be the continuous hurt but it isn’t!  Strangely enough it is the thoughts of his continuous betrayal during that year (even though he only shagged it 12 times)  that keeps cropping up and derailing me.

Please be assured that it is nothing like as bad as it was.  Things are really good between us.  We have created and continue to create so many new and lovely experiences together.  We have had several holidays and in fact are preparing to go to Madeira in a few days for a week.  We have gone to lots of concerts, had lots of meals out and have thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.  We have talked and talked and talked and he has continued to show absolute remorse for his wretched behaviour towards me during the time of his adultery.

I have also had my internal dialogue with what triggers need to be eliminated.  For example I purchased a set of beautiful blue china dishes for a Greek night I hosted (during Pig-Shit Year).  When I recently went to use them I just went crazy.  Back into the “what the hell were you doing? So whilst we were entertaining that evening, you were thinking about your next shag!  Maybe texting it?”  I was so naïve!  How could I have been so trusting?  All of this going on behind my back.  All the anger came flooding back.  BUT, instead of throwing them away I have decided to keep them.  They are beautiful and I will take a deep breath every time I use them until all traces of Pig Shit have disappeared.   Instead of reminding me of my husband’s adultery they will remind me of how creative I am and how I love and treasure beautiful things in my home.

A lot of my husband’s clothes got thrown away.  He discarded any items that directly or indirectly reminded him of Pig Shit – shoes as well.  His wardrobe still looks a bit bare to be honest but it is being replaced slowly but surely.

What is more difficult to deal with are the triggers that are hidden.  A couple of weeks ago we were sitting and sharing a bottle of wine and then something (I can’t recall what) triggered my anger.  It was awful.  All my meditations, all my promises to pause between emotion and response just vanished in this resurrection of hatred for what has happened and the waste of it all.  Over two years and I still found myself  saying “I’m not sure if I can do this, we may have to call it a day”.  Then the resulting devastation of my husband.  Do you think I could make him feel more despicable than he already does?  Trust me, I couldn’t.  Equally I cannot in all fairness ask him to do any more than he is already doing to repair our marriage and make amends for his mistake.

Yesterday, I overhead him in a telephone conversation.  The content did nothing to bother me but I became aware of a tightening in my chest; a sinking in my tummy and a dry throat. Then came the triple loop of the stomach as if I’d driven three times over a sharp hill.  I wanted to explode.  Why??????  Well, this time I sat with my feelings (I was in a different room) and took several deep breaths to try and connect with what my body was telling me.  It didn’t take too long to identify that it was his tone of voice in the call that was the trigger.  I remembered the calls that he would make with his Dutch colleague in Rotterdam.  It was a trip to visit him tht provided a shag opportunity with Pig Shit.  She flew to Amsterdam to meet my husband and they took the train to Rotterdam.   I had overheard my husband’s conversations with this Dutch colleague and recall that at the time I was suspicious and started enquiring as to whether he actually needed to travel to meet him in person to do the work he wanted to do.  My intuition was spot on as it now turns out.

So yesterday was a lucky turn of events because I was able to pause between a camouflaged  trigger and my response to it.

I am exhausted by it all.  When will  it ever end!

Whatever Happened to the ‘Bit on the Side’?

labelWhat respect does the ‘other woman’ deserve?

Over the past few days I have found myself giving some thought to the names that are chosen to label the woman who is having sex with another woman’s husband.  In many quarters, I detect a certain amount of restraint.  ‘Other Woman’ is a favourite I think.  ‘Affair Partner’ is another.  All very civilised I have to say.  Now, I get where everyone is coming from with regards to behaving with dignity and recognising her as a human being with flaws of her own but I’m not sure that I buy into this civility.   Even after two years post D-day!  It’s just that I think the terms are too romantic and don’t indicate the scummy nature of adultery.  I also think that these terms afford them far too much respect. I reckon there might even be women out there who LIKE to be referred to as the ‘other woman’ as it gives them a sense of frisson!

I was wondering if we might not be able to create a more apt label that us betrayed spouses (don’t like that term either) would find more appropriate which strikes a balance between the dirty, messy and graceless business that they got up to with our husbands and the need to offer a measure of civility.  I guess it needs to verge on the conservative in order to be adopted en masse.  Can’t say that I’ve been able to curtail my enthusiasm for labelling my husband’s folly grotesquely.   I named the old trout ‘Pig Shit’ and it has stuck.  We both call her that now but I know that this wouldn’t be suitable for the mass markert – it’s much more tailored to the desperate dingbat that was dropping her knickers for MY husband.   Earlier names for her were Skank, Skanker, Dirtbag, and Whore.   I CANNOT AND DON’T WISH TO REFER TO HER BY HER ACTUAL NAME.  It makes me want to vomit!  Since reading the adultery blogs I have been privileged to read of many names, ALL wonderfully ‘spot-on’.  ‘Pit-faced Whore’  does a lovely job for me; conjuring up an ugly desperate woman eager to please with her sexual tricks like a circus monkey.

And then I remembered an idiom (I think it’s an English thing) that used to be used.  They were referred to as a ‘bit on the side’!  Now, I thought, that’s much better than ‘affair partner’ orbit on the side ‘other woman’.  Or is it just me?  You see, I can’t imagine anyone happy to say that they were a man’s bit on the side.  BUT, doesn’t it sum up their position so much better?  They are NOT a partner; they are NOT the other.  They are OUTSIDE the committed and legally recognised relationship of marriage.  They are nothing but a different sexual experience for a lazy, lying and cheating man. They can’t ring their ‘man’ when they want to; they can’t see him on significant dates like birthdays, Christmas, Valentines etc.  They can’t go on holiday with him. They wouldn’t be able to visit him if he went into hospital.  They are a dirty secret and when not with him they have to know that he is with his wife.  Sharing a marital bed and all the social events that married couples share.  The wife is the significant partner in the man’s life.   But, he wants to have sex with someone else.  Someone who is easily available and willing to have sex at his convenience.

I still wonder at what stories Pig Shit must have told herself to convince herself that my husband loved her.  It could not have had anything to do with his actions.  He treated her appallingly.  Was she thinking of herself as the ‘woman in the wings’ – the woman who he was going to leave me for?  Maybe she thought of herself as the ‘Other Woman’ or the ‘Affair Partner’.  Perhaps she would have been better informed if she had realised she was never more than his ‘Bit On The Side’.  She’d be even better informed now if she knew that he referred to her as Pig Shit. Haha!!

Image Credits: Greeting Card And Copyspace by Stuart Miles; Figure Holding Plate” by Master isolated images; both courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Cheating; a visceral response

aadDoes anyone who hasn’t experienced adultery understand the anger that betrayed spouses feel?

No, I don’t think they do.  People who haven’t experienced betrayal just don’t get it.  Friends of mine (well meaning ones) think that they understand my anger but from their comments they so DON’T!  Whatever they have been angry about in their lives will have no relationship to the anger of a betrayed spouse.  I think that betrayal and the anger that it produces is in a world of its own and cannot be likened to anything else.  In the two years since D-day, handling my feelings of anger has been my biggest personal challenge.

I have recently read David Levithan’s fascinating book “The Lover’s Dictionary: A love story in 185 definitions.  It is quirky; just individual words alphabetically ordered, one per page, with a lovers dictionarydefinition of each created by David  which gradually develops a story line of a relationship between two people.  His choice of words are intriguing and his definitions exceptionally clever as they simultaneously explain the word and build the story.  The word that really captured me by its powerfulness was the word livid.  This word is most often used to describe fury.  David Levithan takes the word livid and uses it to paint the immense fury felt once betrayal is discovered.    Levithan has gone some way in just a few words to articulate the visceral response to the act of betrayal.  I quote it here.

livid, adj

Fuck you for cheating on me. Fuck you for reducing it to the word cheating.  As if this were a card game, and you sneaked a look at my hand.  Who came up with the word cheating, anyway? A cheater, I imagine.  Someone who thought liar was too harsh.  Someone who thought devastator was too emotional.  The same person who thought, oops, he’d gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  Fuck you.    This isn’t about slipping yourself an extra twenty dollars of Monopoly money.  These are our lives.  You went and broke our lives.  You are so much worse than a cheater.  You killed something.  And you killed it when its back was turned.

Brilliant, thank you David Levithan

Image credits: Volcanic Bomb Head by holohololand via freedigitalphotos.net

 

What adultery does to us

abbbHow does adultery change us?

When I started writing this blog I decided upon the metaphor of  “Weathering The Storm of Marital Infidelity” to reflect how I was feeling about my own predicament and hint at the nature of what I was going to write about.    In part this was because I had spent a lot of time feeling as if I was in the midst of a ferocious storm in a rickety boat that I didn’t know how to operate and in part because I felt as if I had finally got through the worst of it:  That I could see land once more.  I didn’t start blogging until mid June this year which was six weeks short of two years since D-day, so much of what I have been trying to work out is being done retrospectively.  However, what I have not recognised until lately is how we have both been deeply changed by the wretched mistake he made.  He says he has changed and I feel a change in him, a change for the better.  He changed when he was having the affair and I realise now that he became a man I didn’t want to be with.  He changed when he returned and became the man I recognised.

I found these feelings succinctly put into words in a blog by Regenerating Heart  in a letter sent to the OW:

“But the man who left you is not the same man who left me. The man who left me was cold, distant, selfish, and cruel. That was the man you got. The man who left you was the man I’ve known for 20 years. That man you’ve never known. He is warm, tender, gentle, giving, funny, compassionate, a great friend, husband, and father”.

But it is also as if all the things that I loved about him before have become magnified.  Before the affair I thought he loved me.  Now, I know he loves me. The past two years have been hell at times and I can see why couples don’t survive the storm but so far we are still sea worthy.

However, I am also starting to recognise that I am not the same woman who received the textabba from the OW on D-day.  I have changed and I’m only just beginning to realise how much. It is not just my marriage that has been recovered – it’s my philosophy of life that has been forced to be rebuilt in the process.  This remains a work in progress as does my marriage but the adultery clearly has had a profound effect on my way of looking at the world.

Haruki Murakami,  the contemporary Japanese writer sums it up well:

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Image Credits: Beacon” by Prozac1; Think Different Notepad by Stuart Miles; Both Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Happy Ever After v Miserable Evermore

aaaOver the past couple of years, since D-day I have gravitated to either end of the spectrum between happy ever after and miserable evermore.  If I’m honest, I think I was more often than not drawn towards the latter even though I had made a commitment to working on my marriage and my husband was giving me no reason to doubt his remorse and determination to make amends.  Looking back, I think that my  cynicism made me view everything through a warped perspective.  The stories that I told myself were all negative and fostered toxic thoughts that made me as miserable as sin.  My marriage will never recover.  He will betray me again.  I will never trust him again.  He was/is a cheater, a liar, a betrayer.  He is his behaviour.  He should have respected me more.  He can’t love me.  I can’t be happy again.  Perhaps it’s a case of the self-fulfilling prophecy?  I believed it would be misery for me and so that’s what became the truth for me.  However, it didn’t just stop with me.  I also wanted the other people involved in the adultery to be miserable evermore.  I imagined them all going about their businesses, smiles from ear to ear, totally unthinking about the devastation that they threw at me.  This made me seethe even more. Did I have any evidence to suggest that they were all as happy as Larry?  No, of course I didn’t.  It was just my thinking and it was crippling me.

Adultery is such a wasteland.  The more I think about it the more I am convinced that it hurts everybody, even those who would argue that it is not hurting them i.e. the betraying spouse and the other person.  However, once entered it is very difficult to exit.

As the betrayed wife I have had to look very deeply into myself in order to find a road out of the wasteland.  I realised that by focusing only on him and all the crap that he had brought into ouraab relationship I was only going deeper into the wasteland.  I can see why people give up hope of ever having their marriage repaired after adultery.  Especially when I read sweeping generalisations such as the one I read on Twitter the other day ” If he loves you he wouldnt screw up what he has by cheating” (SAYS WHO?). How many of us have been told something like this?  How many of us let these comments shake our own beliefs?  What is this love that can only be defined in terms so black or white, either wrong or right?

courageIt takes a lot of courage to withstand the effects of adultery and this is the case whether we stay with our spouse or leave our spouse.  The trauma is deeply damaging and there is no quick route to healing.  It takes time and, most importantly, it takes a lot of psychological work.  I think that my husband and I have practically finished with all the retrospective stuff now, two years post D-day.  We now focus on the present and put into practice all that we have learned from this painful experience.  Love has become a process that we engage with.  It has become something that we have learned to recognise and be grateful for in ways that we didn’t before the infidelity.  So, is it happy ever after now?  No, I think that’s the stuff of fairy tales, not real life.  The only thing we can be sure of in life is that everything changes, and as Paul Simon once sung “everything put together sooner or later falls apart”.  And that does not have to be a negative perspective, it just means that you have to live in the present and somehow have faith in yourself that you will be able to deal with whatever happens to you.

Striving for happy ever after is searching for fools’ gold.  Even if you gain it (momentarily) you aacwill be frightened of losing it and this will lead to unhappiness.  But equally, miserable evermore is not an option any more.  Life might make me feel happy sometimes and life might make me feel miserable sometimes.  That’s just the way it is.  What I seek in the midst of this unfolding life of mine is inner peace and that is something that only I can provide for myself.  I know how difficult it is to deal with the thoughts that flood the mind after adultery.  I have had times when I was completely overwhelmed by livid thoughts of anger but I recognised that they were slowly killing me.  AND, they were only thoughts – MY thoughts.  I have not been able to stop them but I have become able, over the past six months or so to recognise them when they arrive and whenever possible, to create a small space where I can choose whether to allow myself to wander further into the thought or to switch my thoughts in another direction.  I am a work in progress!

Image Credits: Depressed Man Sitting by Master isolated images; One Small Green Tree In Drought Land by topstep07; 3d Colorful Joker Sitting Gold New Moon by Boians Cho Joo Young; all courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

When the media condones adultery

Over the past few years I have become increasingly aware of the widespread devastation caused by adultery, especially the impact that it has on the betrayed spouse.  The creeping suspicion that eats away like a creeping cancer whilst the affair is going on, day by day slowly consuming self-confidence, self-esteem and sanity as you are constantly lied to and betrayed.  The life shattering disclosure that confirms your worst suspicions and then turns the world you know completely upside down.  Then the isolation and sense of failure and shame.  I consider adultery as a serious form of abuse.  So I was shocked and appalled when the NY confetti2Times chose to CELEBRATE a man’s choice to cheat and divorce his wife in an article entitled Vows | An Imperfect Beginning.  Be warned, this is not for the fainthearted.

It introduces us to the  ‘love story’ between Vince Taylor and Rebekah Gordon.  Here we have them sharing their personal stories of love and life and how they overcame the obstacle they faced.  That Vince was married with kids when they met.

Rebekah has given some thought to this relationship of hers.  She notes, philosophically that people have baggage (quaint term) and that Vince was ‘complicated’ because of past relationships andluggage children.  However this fact just makes them ‘real’. Not ‘picture-perfect’ – but ‘real’!!!  They worked together for TWO LONG DAYS.  Yup!  two days!  She thought he was handsome but noticed his wedding band so confined herself to just work. (What reserve this woman showed!).  Following these two long days they corresponded regularly by e-mail and messaging.  (Who amongst us hasn’t experienced this from our spouses?).  The change from friendship to lovers (so we are told)happened when he gave her a birthday present, something that he made her, which he hoped would acknowledge his feelings for her.  He found it difficult though!  Because he was married he felt an ‘invisible boundary’ (nicely put don’t you think?).  She says it was tough but it was the ‘right way forward’.  Of course.  FOR HER!

Poor Vince found going through the divorce really difficult.  At times he says he would not have been able to get out of bed without Rebekah’s help and support.  Tell me, who was supporting his WIFE?  How was she handling this turn of events?  Where is she now I wonder?  I do so hope that she is healing from this nightmare.  Having them on television must be awful.

Apparently, Rebekah says that they recognise a ‘third’ person in their relationship.  This third person is his kids and his marriage!  Note, she never mentions his wife.  The wife has seemingly disappeared completely.  She has no name and no position within this scenario.  Instead she has just become part of the ‘baggage’ of his previous marriage.  But Rebekah is confident that what they have is worth fighting for because they are moving forward as a family unit now. Whilst talking from their couch, you hear children calling and they both call back and Rebekah decides to go see what they’re up to.  I’m presuming that these are the children from his previous marriage.

brushSo, the betrayed spouse has in one clean sweep been brushed out of the picture completely. And we wonder why we feel such isolation when dealing with a betraying husband.  We are being erased from our own lives and no one seems to give a damn!  It’s like we are being silenced.  We are the inconvenient truth of selfish and immediate sexual gratification and society’s endorsement of behaving as you want rather than behaving in a way that is right.

Of course it’s TV.  Of course it’s the media.  Of course I don’t know all the details.  What I do know is that a family unit was torn apart because of a two-day work assignment.  Why can’t temptation be handled in a less selfish way?  How can this couple’s attitude be acceptable? I am saddened and dismayed by this.

Image Credits:  Confetti” by Salvatore Vuono; Travelling Bag by Salvatore Vuono; Wood Brush by Keerati; all courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net