The name of the blog
"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.
Thursday, 12 December 2013
Why can't I get angry? It has been over six months now, and the anger still hasn't surfaced. I am waiting for it, even hoping for it to the point that sometimes I re-read some of his emails trying to egg the anger on. I know that anger is one of the five stages of grief, and it is inevitable that it should come at some point, but it mystifies me that I have felt so little anger. The anger has come in quick flashes, like a firework that sparks and shoots into the sky suddenly andy then dies out too quickly. Perhaps I am too exhausted from depression to sustain that amount of fire within myself right now. I feel defeated, squashed, and worthless, and I imagine until I can rid myself of those feelings I won't get too worked up about anything.
I took a cruise in September and when I told my story to a friend of a friend on the cruise, her first question to me was "how angry are you"? And I wasn't then, and I am still not. And just weeks before that, when I had seen my hairdresser and friend who knew what was going on, she commented something along the lines of "you really have taken on the victim role haven't you?" And I have. Most of the time I feel very sorry for myself. Most of the time I cry and grieve my losses, both real and expected. Most of the time I miss him and worry about him. Which is not to say I don't worry about myself too. My hairdresser told me I needed to put on my shit-kicking boots. I can't even find those boots let alone try to pull them on.
Am I so out of touch with my anger that I don't even recognize it? Is it lurking under the surface of other emotions getting ready to blow at a really inopportune time? Ironically, in the months, and almost full year, leading up to my husbands disclosure, I had been working on my anger with my psychologist, who said I was a very angry person. So, did everything she do to help me appropriately deflate my overwhelming anger actually rid me of the ability to get angry completely? When I look back over the last six months, I have felt very little anger in any situation; it doesn't seem to be a response mechanism anymore for me. Again, like my reaction to my ex-husband, in my day-to-day life I have experienced very brief flare-ups of anger of little intensity, mostly irritation or frustration, which is usually replaced almost instantaneously with another emotion like sadness, shame, longing, or fear. Those, along with joy and contentment when I am happy, are my primary emotions these months.
I could probably count on one hand all the angry moments I have had since June 4th. That day I threw the wedding picture that sat on my bedside table across the room. It banged up the frame and dented the closet door, but remained relatively intact. M cleaned that up without saying anything. The day I found out he had cheated on me I pushed his humidor, which I had bought him, off the top of the liquor cabinet where it sat with such force it cleared the small room. It didn't even break; the glass top chipped in one corner, and some of the cigars got ruffled up or broken. I ended up cleaning that up because he didn't come home that night. I don't know if he ever figured what had happened, and sometimes I wonder if he has any trouble getting the humidity correct. A couple of times I called him an asshole, and then I always apologized. A couple of times I said mean things about her, and he always defended her, which deflated my anger and started me crying again. And the last angry thing I did, after going into his email a couple of times (he had given me the password months before), was forward him back an email he had sent to her with my two cents on the topic. And that was our last communication. I told him in anger that he was a liar and manipulative and I didn't need to see him ever again. I later apologized for going into his email, and he wrote that he forgave me and he understood. Truthfully, most of my vile thoughts and glimpses of rage are directed at her.
I want to get angry because I think it will be crucial to my healing. Anger can be a motivating force to correct what is perceived to be wrong. I want to get angry because I deserve to be angry for what that man did to me and has put me and my son through unjustly. And that was my primary trigger discovered through months of counselling; nothing burns me hotter or faster than unfairness. When I perceive something is unfair, my back goes up faster than you can say what happened. Or at least it did, not so much anymore. I want to get angry because it seems to be a normal part of the grieving process, and I am concerned that I am stalled somewhere. After my Mom died, unexpectedly, when I was 27, the anger was intense and almost immediate. Within a week or so of her death I remember being angry every time I saw someone who I perceived was older or in worse health than my Mom. I was angry that they got to keep living, and my Moms life was cut short. The world felt unfair and I was an angry young woman for several weeks, possibly a month or two before it passed.
My girlfriend, who is going through a similar situation, also doesn't have an appropriate amount of anger for the way she has been treated. She was also cheated on and abandoned for the "other woman". I encourage her to be angry. I want to see her get motivated by her anger to move on and forget that ass. I have the perspective to see how cruelly he treated her and how she has every right to be angry and not so sad. I am afraid for her that if she doesn't get angry she will be vulnerable to him if he were to attempt to come back into her life. Is that what is tripping me up? If I get angry, will I, in fact, then want nothing to do with him, thus negating any hope of a reconciliation? Perhaps.
Or is all the self-help books I have read in the last year and a half that have tempered my internal volcano? Books like The Saint, The Surfer, and The CEO teach and promote compassion, empathy, and unconditional love. After I read that book in July, I made the conscious decision to love M unconditionally. I understood unconditional love to mean I accepted him for who he is and focused on his behaviour, not the person. And while I could not accept his behaviour and therefore could not have a relationship with him, I could still love him. The book How Can I Forgive You is all about either accepting what has happened if you cannot forgive, or actually working with the offender to generate authentic forgiveness. Well, if I either forgive him his sins without his participation, or accept what has happened, there is no point in being angry is there? Is it my spiritual practise of meditation which promotes letting go which is hindering my anger? It is hard to be detached from your thoughts in your mind and get angry at the same time. So really, it doesn't take much reflection on my part to see what I have contributed to my inability to get angry with M. Perhaps it is time for me to read the highly acclaimed book The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner.
Some quick research into anger and infidelity suggests that my reactions are perfectly normal, but since no time frame is ever offered with regard to moving through the various phases, I can only guess at that. A 1999 study reveals that almost 60% of people who have been cheated on suffer emotional problems and depression after the revealing of the affair. And while earlier I commented on anger being a part of the normal grieving process, as part of the theory about the five stages of grief popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, in which anger is the second phase and depression the fourth, and last, before acceptance, I learned a new three phase model regarding infidelity based on a qualitative study conducted in 2002. That research suggests anger comes in the first stage after infidelity, the roller-coaster stage. And stage two is a moratorium period which seems to be more where I am at emotionally; however, that stage was forced on me by my ex-husband, so I may not have truly moved into that stage of my own volition. You can read more about typical responses to infidelity at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infidelity#Responses and about the five stages of grief at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kübler-Ross_model. To note, the Kübler-Ross theory about grief has been proven to hold true to many forms of intense personal loss, including: divorce, natural disasters, incarceration, addiction, and infertility. It is also commented on that not everyone will move through all five stages; that is just the norm.
In the months to come, I wonder if I will look back at my journey and be able to assert that I did not need to get angry to deal with the betrayal and move on? Will I be able to challenge the status quo on what grieving the end of a marriage and your future looks like, and say there is another way? I really don't think I am that special. I am still assuming the anger is coming. I am probably still in shock, based on my timeline. I know that after my Mom died the shock lifted somewhere around the six month mark. And the interesting thing about shock based on my experience with her death, is that I didn't even realize I was in shock, until it had worn off. I saw that again with my Sons serious car accident. Talking to him right after the accident, he could not even articulate what had happened or how serious it was; his brain wasn't grasping the severity of the situation because it was too busy protecting him. It took a few days for him to actualize that someone had died, and he had very nearly died. So, l think it is safe to assume that the game might change once the shock has lifted.
The expression "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" didn't materialize in modern language for no reason. And in case you have ever wondered about the origin of that saying, here is what Wikipedia taught me: nothing. There was no origin noted, no date the expression became popular, nothing at all. However, the website www.phrases.org.uk credits a 1697 poet and playwrights tragedy The Mourning Bride with the quote. The full quotation from William Congreve is: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." And from www.englishclub.com, that breaks the phrase down word by word, I learned that fury, in Greek mythology, is a female spirit of punishment. That sounds to me like there could be some interesting times ahead if I can find my inner bitch that used to live so near the surface.
I really would love to hear from anyone who has any personal experience with the emotions and the grieving process after infidelity.
Monday, 9 December 2013
Hope seems like a delicate and dangerous entity to me; like a poisonous jellyfish that, while beautiful, must not be touched lest you die painfully from its poisonous sting. It seems to me that hope, in my current situation with my ex-husband, could very well kill me. A lack of hope, or hopelessness, will also kill me though. I know because I waffle back and forth between the two extremes, sometimes daily, and the days where I feel hopeless are the darkest. Days where I have hope for my future and all it could entail are the good days. Balance with hope seems to be the way to go, but how to do it? How can I balance my hopeful dream and wish that my husband and I can heal the pain between us to have some sort of relationship, without that same hope hindering my personal healing journey, letting go of what is no more, and generally moving on with life? And what about the hope that he will decide he was dead wrong about polyamory and want to heal the marriage? That is a wish I can barely articulate, let allow much sun to shine on. How do I hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and have no expectations for anything? For that seems to be the message I am picking up from my spiritual beliefs and the various counsellors in my life, professional or not. I am struggling daily to integrate these three seemingly different concepts into my thoughts.
For me, right now, my best approach seems to be to suppress all hope when it comes to M. For the last six months any hope has inevitably led to crushing disappointment. Every time I have opened my email hoping to hear from him, or I have gotten an email from him and I have hoped it would say something positive or kind, I have been disappointed. That hope is not helping me, so I have learned to temper it. And the one email I did get from him in mid-October that created hope quickly turned into a heartbreaking disappointment. He wrote me to advise that he would handle the financial situation I had emailed him about, the following week, as he was out of town taking a self-improvement course. His words exactly: "Right now, I'm on Gabriola Island at a retreat called The Haven. I'm taking a course call 'come alive' and so far it's been so good for me. I'm finally learning who I am. I think that it would be great for you to come and do this yourself. It is rather expensive, but I'd be willing to pay for it as a gift for you." I was so hopeful that this course would open his eyes to his accountability, humanity, and love for his family. I hoped he was telling me about the course as a way of reaching out and starting a conversation. So I sent him back an email that I thought was positive, and I encouraged his growth, asked him some questions about the course, and accepted the offer of the gift. I didn't hear back from him. The next day I sent him another email asking more questions: "there are a few questions I have about your email: Are you there with Stephanie, or on your own? How did you find out about this course, was it recommended to you by someone? Why do you think this course would be great for me? What is your motivation for offering to pay for it for me? I am curious to know more about this experience and how you got to it". This time I got a response, and not the one I was hoping for: "The reasoning and motivation for my offer is because its been a really positive and rewarding experience for me and I think you'd benefit from it as I have. My offer to you still stands, it's up to you to accept it". I again responded that I would like to take the course, and that was the end of the conversation.
There has never been any follow-up from him to actually arrange for me to take the course, and by that time, I was starting to get some of my dignity back and wasn't going to force the issue or beg him for something. When I talked to my psychologist about my confusion and hurt the way the open door quickly slammed shut again, she told me that he had contacted me in a moment of weakness, and then his refusal to discuss the matter further was him retreating back into his other life. She further advised me not to engage with him on any personal level because he is not trustworthy right now. So, it seems like hope is a foolish man's game for me to play under my ex-husbands set of rules.
As for hope for my future, of course I have it. I hope to have love again one day, with or without M, and I hope to find peace and acceptance with the dissolution of my marriage. I hope to get to a place, sooner rather than later, where I can find joy in the time I did have with M and not have unpleasant feelings about the situation. I hope to find a career that fulfills me and I enjoy. I hope to continue developing an adult relationship with my son. I hope to continue my volunteer work. I hope to get healthier by losing weight and quitting smoking, and I hope to travel the world. I have many hopes and dreams, and most of them do not cause me the angst that my hopes about M. do. Is this because the situation with M. is so out on my control? Is that where hope becomes a dangerously slippery slope? Is it because I am too emotional right now regarding the way the relationship ended that it seems best I quash the hope? I think that a lot of the other things I feel hopeful about are within my control, so it is not so much a hope as a goal. And I can enable my goals with my choices and my actions. I seem powerless to enable anything with M.
My girlfriend and I have talked about hope on two separate occasions in the last week, with regard to two separate topics. When I asked her about her feelings on the Christmas season, she told me that she finds it to be a season of hope and possibility; anything can happen she said. She also has hope about men and relationships in a very different way than I do. Not that either is right, good or bad; I am not passing judgement, just commenting. I believe that a good relationship is one where you love and/or accept everything about your partner, and you hope to grow together, and challenge each other in a manageable way. She has hope that a partner will change, or you will change, to suit the other persons needs or wants at the time. If he is attracted to redheads you colour your hair red. Sure, I guess that can be done if you are amenable to walking around with red hair. I would rather find someone who loves the colour of my hair right from the start. We just have two different perspectives on relationships. I generally don't hold out a great amount of hope that people will change, or at least not significantly change. Which lands the joke squarely on me when I think about how significantly my ex-husband changed!
I wanted to research the origins of the saying "hope springs eternal," and by going to Wikipedia I was shocked to find that hope is linked in Greek mythology to Pandora's box; I had no idea. When fire was stolen from Zeus he was enraged and created a box that held all the evils and ills of the world, which would not be known to the receiver of the box. Although Pandora was warned not to open the box, curious woman that she was, she did, and out came the evils, with hope staying at the bottom of the box. The expression hope springs eternal is taken from poet Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, the phrase reading "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always to be blest." Reportedly, this poem was "the centrepiece of a proposed system of ethics." The poem is overtly religious and is meant to be affirmative of religious faith: "hence man must rely on hope which then leads into faith".
Nor did I have any idea that within psychology there are actually two scales to measure hope. There is a hope theory developed by Dr. Charles Snyder after observing and interacting with people; he defines hope as "the sum of the mental willpower and waypower that you have for your goals". Doctor Snyder then reportedly states that “the goals involving hope fall somewhere between an impossibility and a sure thing." I like this quote of Dr. Snyder's: “we can best understand emotion and self-esteem as a by-product of how effective we are in the pursuit of goals”. Reading on, it was asserted that hope and optimism are quite different concepts. Which makes me think my friend is optimistic rather than hopeful. Hope is action directed and goal orientated while optimism is a general expectation of the best without critical thinking of how to effect the desired outcome.
Dr. Barbara Frederickson is credited with the following quote: "With the sense of hope come positive emotions such as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment." She describes these “positive emotions” as coming from four different areas of one’s self: from a cognitive, psychological, social, or physical perspective. Further, Dr. Fredrickson, argues that hope "...comes into play when our circumstances are dire," when "things are not going well or at least there’s considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out".
So, is the feeling of hope the inevitable by-product of life's misadventures once we move beyond feeling hopeless? Is hope only reserved for the truly misfortunate amongst us: the homeless, the terminally ill patient, parentless children, third world country occupants, natural disaster survivors? Do the most blessed in our communities lack hope because they don't need it? That could make sense to me as a possible reason why my hope seems so fluid and skittish, why it won't stick around consistently for a good span of time. I am incredibly fortunate to live in Canada during this time in history. I know I have much to be grateful for. I am appreciative of clean water, electricity, my car, my money, my friends and son, my pets, my apartment and my health. I don't want for much, except what I lost when my marriage fell apart. My hope is absolutely centred around my losses.
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
I’m one of four siblings, we all have children, and my mother celebrates her birthday within days of Christmas. So stress, guilt, obligation, uncomfortable familial patterns, and financial pressure were as much a part of our winter holidays as the joy of being together. I’ve had my share of holiday interactions that were based far more on tribal guilt and a sense of obligation than peace and good will towards men (and women). Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I’m sure there is a special holiday, wedding, or annual family reunion that springs to mind when you read this. And I hope you will relate to what I’m about to share. At a time when I just wanted to relax and go within, I found myself feeling overwhelmed, obligated, and worthy of blame. And this grew with each passing year, until recently.
Read more of this great article at: http://www.drnorthrup.com/blog/posts/view/guilt-obligation-and-the-holiday-season