In this interview, Gina talks about three people who stepped up to the plate, and were there for her when she was dealing with a trauma. For Gina, this was learning that her husband had had an affair with a colleague at work after she gave birth to her second son. Gina’s husband had been struggling with the secret for 10 years. He finally came clean when he felt he couldn’t live with his conscience any more. The affair had only lasted for about six weeks. Even so, the news was shocking for Gina. It came out of the blue, and it devastated her. Here’s what Gina shared in counselling …
1. The first person I told was my best friend, Rhona. I met Rhona at work when I was single, and we’d stayed in touch when I moved provinces after I got married. So that was around 15 years ago. I knew Rhona would be completely understanding and non-judgmental. And she was. She was totally there for me. Anytime, and all the time. I used to fire off texts to her in the middle of the night, and she would reply to them, or call me as soon as she got up the next morning. Most of the time she just listened and empathized. But a key thing that she did was to try to convince me that my husband really loved me – although she understood how hard I found that to believe at the time. The thing was, Rhona knew my husband relatively well so she was able to offer a larger perspective. Not that she ever downplayed his behaviour. She didn’t do that for one moment. However, she could see that this was not necessarily the total picture, and there may still be ground for hope – if I felt wanted to stay with him (and she emphasized that this was completely up to me.)
2. The second person who really helped me was my pastor. To be honest, I kind of thought he might push me in the direction of forgiveness and moving on. But he didn’t do that at all. He had tears in his eyes as he listened to me share. He hardly said a word. His demeanor said it all. He completely believed me, and his body language conveyed that he was broken-hearted on my behalf. Just having my story heard, believed, affirmed – and having mirrored back to me how shocking and distressing this was – made such a difference. I felt seen and cared for, and I felt that my pain mattered. I didn’t feel judged. I felt important to this person.
3. The third person was a mother at my kids’ school (Tamsin). I knew her husband had had an affair, and we were friends already, and were comfortable with each other. So I took a risk and opened up to Tamsin. The great thing about Tamsin was not only that she understood and empathized, but she didn’t make it about her, and her own pain and betrayal. It was always about me, and how I felt that day. She didn’t push me to talk. However, she was very good at reading the signs, and she was quick to pick up on little things that might indicate I was having a bad day. She also probed a little bit deeper, and she didn’t balk at the kinds of things that might sound crazy or extreme to someone who hadn’t go through a trauma like this. She kept saying things: like “That’s really normal. Anyone in your shoes would think those things, or feel that way.” I also knew that Tamsin would be around for the long haul. She had a sense of what my journey might be like, and I knew she would be there in the background for me.
These three people left a lasting impression, and really helped me cope when I felt I couldn’t cope. I will always be grateful that there were there for me.
“To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.” – Mandy Hale