Seventeen years ago (May 15, 2000) I walked through what was (up until just recently), the darkest time of my life. Like a caterpillar goes into a dark cocoon (for what seems like forever at the time), so I seemed to be surrounded in unrelenting darkness, wondering if it was even sane to believe I would ever know another day of happiness in my life.
It took 2.5 years, 2 seminars, 1.5 years of counseling, a stack of books, hundreds of hours of conversation with my husband, and determination, but I can honestly say, that I emerged on the other side of the darkness like an unstoppable butterfly, afraid of nothing, free to be myself, and free to really love.
Once healed, together with my husband, we looked back on the journey and wondered, what is wrong with the world? This is such a common problem and no one is addressing it head on. So we added education to our personal experience, wrote a gut honest book about the journey, and started assisting others through affair recovery, whether reconciling or divorcing, whether the wife had the affair, or the husband did.
I am so glad I didn’t give up on life back then (even though I felt like it), because since then I’ve known some of the most pleasurable moments life offers. I’ve known much love, laughter, and heart-to-heart connection, with my husband, children, and many wonderful friends, both old and new. I’ve experienced the sheer joy of being an involved grandmother. I’ve travelled much of the world, built and decorated a beautiful new home, stood on the top of mountains, met Oprah Winfrey, gone snorkeling, scuba diving, zip lining, white water rafting, and horseback riding. I’ve watched my book become a best seller, received a prestigious award among other marriage experts for running one of the programs having the greatest impact in saving families in America, and I’ve experienced the thrill of addressing large audiences.
I’ve also encountered unbelievable setbacks, betrayals in business and in friendships. My heart has at times sored, and at other times been broken. I’ve experienced prosperity and I’ve experienced financial troubles. I’ve been loved, and I’ve been hated. I’ve been praised and I’ve been criticized. I’ve been tested, I’ve rested and I’ve nested. Doors have opened and doors have closed.
One of my greatest joys has been you. Yes, you! Not your pain … but being a part of helping you move beyond your pain to get the life you want. The victories of those I’ve been privileged to walk alongside have been my victories too.
After all, life is short and there are no do-overs, so it’s important to live it well. When we fall down, we simply get back up. That’s the only thing that separates the winners from the losers in this life. The truth is winners lose far more than losers lose, because the winners are out there doing something.
As in the sport of boxing … “A survivor is a person, who when knocked down, somehow knows to stay down until the count of nine and then get up differently. The non-survivor gets up right away and then gets hit again.” – Joy Joffe
We are talking about the grieving part of the affair recovery journey, because whether you lose your marriage, or you lose only the innocence of your marriage (turns out you did not have the marriage you thought you had), or if you are the unfaithful partner, perhaps you are grappling with a loss of respect (including loss of self-respect), and/or loss of your reputation, we all are grieving the loss of our dreams, how we thought our lives should’ve been – how it should’ve turned out.
So we go through stages of grief: shock, sorrow, craziness, heroism, anger, denial, and hopefully, in the end acceptance. In affair recovery these “stages” may not go in any particular order, and we can cycle through any of them in any order many times, sometimes all in the same day, especially in the beginning.
Knowing how to grieve DOES make a big difference. Make every effort to get your sleep and to eat, and say “yes” to help – the right help.
It’s important to give yourself room to be sad and angry – just make sure you don’t hurt anyone (including yourself), don’t damage property and don’t do anything you may later regret. But it is definitely okay to simply say, “I am so angry!”
In the long run, your recovery will depend a lot on the narrative you tell yourself about all that has happened.
In the beginning you might say things like …
“There must be something wrong with me.”
“He/She deliberately did this to me.”
“I can never recover.”
“I can never forgive.”
“She/he will never be able to get over it.”
“There is a black spot on our marriage, that can never go away.”
While these narratives are understandable, they keep us unhappy and stuck. Some better narratives (for example) might be:
“Everyone experiences hardship, injustice, trials and tragedy’s in life. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Affairs are part of a bigger picture of the sickness of our culture today. What matters is not so much what has happened to me, but rather how I choose to respond to it. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced, but I am not staying down. Somehow, someway, I will find a way through this.”
“I can hold my head up high, because I am a woman/man of integrity and dignity. I am not defined by what someone else does, but rather what I do … and right now, I am clearly being tested.”
“I have failed, but I am not a failure. I will face my failure with courage, and I will do what is within my power to make things right, to learn and to grow, and to be a better person on the other side of this.”
“My mess is going to be a message.”
“No one but me has the keys to my soul. Someone may have wronged me or hurt me, and they may never give me what I need to heal, but if I stay down, that’s on me, not them.”
“He/she didn’t do this to me. They weren’t thinking about me at all. That’s exactly the problem. If they had been thinking, they would’ve made different choices. He/she acted selfishly, and my hurt is a byproduct of that selfishness.”
“I will look for what is good in my situation, what my spouse might be doing right, rather than what they are doing wrong.”
“I take responsibility for me, for what I do – not for what others do.”
“I am a smart person. I am going to learn what is healthy and not healthy in relationships. I will not allow myself to be mistreated.”
“I may be afraid, but that’s okay. I will do the right thing anyway. I will act in spite of my fear.”
“A great evil tried to destroy us, but our love was stronger than that. We conquered it! We win!!!”
What matters the most in life are not the big moments we’d expect, but rather the hidden moments that we think no one sees – how we treat a stranger, a child, or an enemy. Who will we be in the face of injustice and suffering? Will we repay evil for evil, or will we do good?
There is far too much hate in this world. That should be obvious. And never are we more likely ourselves to hurt people than when we ourselves are hurt. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. The real winners are those who love, and sometimes that’s tough love.
Such perspectives can give you the power to face life’s losses, as well as your failures, in a way where you allow the pain to grow you, rather than sink you.
What if your life is a story, still being written, and you get to live each chapter. While you are in one chapter, you think it’s the only chapter and you will always live there. Then one day, sometimes suddenly and without warning, a chapter ends. And in your story, once a chapter ends, you can never go back?
But the ending of that chapter, is not the ending of the book, but rather the beginning of a new chapter and that chapter is largely determined by how you choose to respond the betrayal, the loss and the disappointment you face now. Your ending is yet unwritten.
Why has it been so long since you received a newsletter? What did I mean darkest time until just recently? On May 13, 2017 our precious son died tragically at the age of 31. We are grieving well, and in many ways, now again, get to “practice what we preach,” because while it is a different kind of loss, and different grief, there are also many parallels. Yes, it’s hard. But knowing how to grieve helps.
Having done the work of healing our marriage seventeen years ago, has given us a priceless gift and strength for today. In the face of such tragedy, how wonderful to cry together, and to hold each other, and to know that it is OUR son we lost.
In the face of our tragedy, we find ourselves growing stronger (not weaker) in our resolve and purpose and love for others. We look forward to helping you also move beyond your pain and get the life you want!
We look forward to hearing from you…please contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 360-306-3367…we are here for you.
Believing the best – Anne