When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

I have travelled through madness to find me..PNG

The following is based on actual events …

For 25 years Karen absolutely knew that she was the centre of her parents’ world. How wonderful it was to be loved like that.

And they’d always been her rock … when the mean girls had been mean …  when she’d lost her confidence, and had zero self-esteem.

And they’d raised a glass with her when her hopes and dreams came true, and she won a scholarship to the university.

But a strange thing had occurred at that time in Karen’s life. She couldn’t get a loan or a credit card at all. Further digging then revealed her credit rating had been trashed – which didn’t quite make sense since she’d never been in debt.

Fast forward several years to a hospice in her town, when Karen said goodbye – way too early – to her mom. She felt her heart would break at this devastating loss, and wondered how on earth she was going to survive.

But in time she found the strength to go back and help her Dad to sift through all the stuff that was left in her mom’s room. There were clothes and jewelry; there were books and photographs; and also a locked safe with surprising documents …

These documents revealed a stolen, false identity which Karen’s mom had used to amass extensive debts.

And the debts were linked to Karen. It was absolutely true. Yes, her mom had used her name – and had hidden everything.

No, it must be a mistake.  She would never have done that. And, yet, here was the proof. It was clear for all to see.

But what did all this mean? Was her childhood one big lie? She felt sick and confused. Who on earth had her mom been?

I think that many partners experience the same thing when they first learn the truth of their partner’s secret life. They can’t believe their ears. It is shocking beyond words. They never thought their spouse would have hurt them in this way.

And what about the past? Was it all fantasy? Was any of it real? Has their whole life been a lie?

Perhaps we’ll never know. For we can’t tell what is true.

There are no grounds for trust when you’ve been deceived like this.

Try Saying Nothing

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Everybody has that well-meaning friend who quickly and frequently offers advice. The kind of advice you could well do without.

You’ve discovered your husband has had an affair, or is addicted to sex or pornography? Well, she knows the reasons. She’s an expert of course. And, of course, she’s an expert on what to do next.

Has she sat by your side? Has she wept as you’ve shared? Has she listened to hear just how awful you feel? Can you tell that she’s hurting because of your pain – the shock, the rejection, and sorrow you feel? Has she just let you talk, or be silent, or cry? Does she seem lost for words – for she’s horrified too?

If not, then avoid her. She’s not what you need.

And then there’s the friend who appears lost for words. She wants to convey that her heart’s broken, too. She’d love to say something. But nothing can help. Yet, she tenderly listens, and weep while you weep.

You know that she cares, and is offering her strength. A presence that tells you: “I’m in this with you.”

And though she says nothing, you feel the pain ease. This friendship is healing. A gift beyond words.

“Splendid Isolation is for Planets, not People.”

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One of the things about a sex addiction is it’s generally an isolating, taboo topic. And that makes it very hard to talk about.

So where can you turn when you’re in a state of shock, or you’re hit by a tsunami of intense, unwanted feelings?

How about your family? For some that might be helpful. But maybe you are hesitant to say too much to them. After all, you have to see them every Christmas or Thanksgiving. And if they’re in “the know” they’ll remember this forever. And chances are they’ll never feel the same about your spouse.

Well, what about your friends? That is complicated too. They’re bound to have opinions and might tell you what to do. And often they’ll expect you to adhere to their suggestions. Yet often they don’t understand, or truly empathize.

You could join a self-help group. That is not a bad suggestion. At least these other people have gone through what you’ve gone through. And though it might feel awkward sharing with a group of strangers, you might find you’ll feel better for opening up to them.

Of course, it’s very likely that you’re talking to a counsellor. That’s helpful and supportive, for they meet you where you are. A counsellor won’t judge you. They expect there to be dark times … But they are paid to be there, and it’s often scheduled help.

And, so, it can be lonely when you’re carrying this burden. It feels like a life sentence. A heavy load to bear. But please know there are others – even if it’s word press bloggers – who understand your trauma, and genuinely care.

Please reach out for support. You’re not meant to feel alone.

Note: The title is a quote by Sue Johnson, from the book Love Sense.

What to Expect When You’ve Been Betrayed

comforting words

In previous posts I have talked about the pain, and the various effects of living with betrayal. It will dominate your thinking and take over your life.

And if you’ve been along this path, then you know that it is true. There are no shortcuts. You just have to plow on through. So be patient with yourself, and allow yourself to heal.

Some of things you will struggle with are likely to include the following:

  • A million questions will plague your mind
  • You will want to know all the facts (what, when, how often, with whom etc)
  • You will want to know all the details (even though the research states that details make recovery slower and longer)
  • Every question will lead to more questions
  • You will never be sure that you have the whole truth
  • You will doubt everything your partner says
  • You will constantly ruminate on all the lies they told you; the pain that you have suffered; the way you have been treated; on how this could have happened; and why they didn’t love you
  • You’ll be plagued by anxieties and fears for the future
  • You will constantly be fighting powerful feelings and lies related to not being enough (not being pretty enough, not having a good enough body, not being interesting, smart or funny enough etc)
  • You will struggle with shame and a loss of respect
  • You will feel you have lost your identity
  • You will fear and dread being judged by others
  • You will have poor or broken sleep, or will be wakened constantly by anxiety attacks or panic attacks
  • You will have no energy
  • You will lack enthusiasm
  • You can’t think, plan or set goals for the future.
  • There will be constant triggers – everywhere you look.

However, eventually you’ll start to recover your old self. There will be times when you “forget” and normality returns. But even then, there will be times when the past will hit or haunt you, and you’ll feel that you’re a mess, and “you can’t get over it.”This is all part of the journey, and it doesn’t mean your crazy. And although it is frustrating and discouraging, hang in there, keep believing, and let the process heal you.

But the Times They are A-Changing

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60 years of marriage and never a cross word, and never a serious argument. We never went to bed without making up. We always sorted out our little differences. And any differences were, really, insignificant.”

So said my Dad when he and my mom were celebrating their ruby anniversary.

Now I grew up in that very same home, and my recollections differ somewhat from my Dad’s. But, to be completely honest, their marriage is inspiring. It would be hard to find a couple who have loved so honestly. So, I’ll allow my dad to have his select memories.

But, still, it leaves me wondering how many young adults will be able to look back and say they, also, knew true love. Is it still possible to be so faithful to another, and to always love that person, and treat them with respect? I’d really like to think that the answer is yes.

But today we all have cell phones, and we have the internet … and I fear that this has altered and changed relationships. But maybe that’s not true, and there’s room for idealism. Perhaps there is no need for that dash of cynicism.

So for my daughters, and the daughters of my friends and relatives, here is what I still wish, and hope, for you:

I hope that you will marry, or partner, with someone who will always be faithful – in every way – to you.

I hope that you’ll find someone who cares about your heart, and chooses not to hurt you, or damage, or betray you.

I hope that you’ll both choose to admit if you feel tempted – because you have resolved to keep the promises you made.

I hope you won’t have secrets that hurt and separate – but you will choose to value and practice openness.

I hope that you’ll feel cared for, protected, safe and loved.

And I hope that you can say that your partner was your friend, a lover who was loyal and caring to the end.

 

The Problem with Little White Lies

 

tell me lies.PNGI once heard the story of a guy whose wife divorced him after he lied to her about putting out the trash. He said he had when he hadn’t – and that was enough to tip the scales.

Over the top? Maybe. I suspect a lot of people would see it that way. But you might feel differently if you’ve been betrayed. Why is that the case?

If you’ve been betrayed then you’ve been deceived. And that betrayal was a serious breach of trust. It’s also very hard to recover from.

If you are the betrayer then you’re likely to think: “I never deceived you about anything else. It was only about sex. And you can understand why. I was afraid to be honest. I was afraid that I would lose you. That’s why I didn’t have the courage to tell you earlier.”

Yes, it makes sense on some level, and perhaps we understand it. But that doesn’t change the effect that lying’s had on us. And if you chose to lie about the really big, important things I don’t feel I can trust you with anything at all.

Rational and reasonable, wouldn’t you agree?

That’s why you must be honest, and absolutely honest. Even when it seems either ludicrous or petty.

The sex therapist, Rob Weiss, puts it this way[1]:

Relationship trust is not automatically rebuilt just because you stopped cheating, nor is it rebuilt because you managed to stay stopped for a certain amount of time. Instead, relationship trust is regained through … being rigorously honest about pretty much everything, all the time, from now on … With rigorous honesty you tell the truth and you tell it sooner. You keep your spouse in the loop about absolutely everything: spending, trips to the gym, gifts for the kinds, issues at work, needing to fertilize the lawn, and, on yeah, interactions she might not approve of. If your spouse would want to know, then you tell her. Period.”

So, after betrayal you can’t peddle in white lies. If you do, then prepare for the relationship to end.

[1] Weiss, R. (2017). Out of the dog house: A step-by-step relationship-saving guide for men caught cheating. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

You will Know the Truth and the Truth will Set you Free

the most beautiful people we have known.JPG

Last night I watched a movie on Netflix called “Tell me who I am”. The film tells the story of a set of twins: a young man who lost his memory after a motor bike accident, and his devoted brother who helped him to remember everything again. Everything from learning to eat and tie his shoe laces, to recalling what their shared childhood had been like. Everything, that is, except one painful truth.

*Spoiler alert

The truth that was hidden, for the best of motives, was both of the children were repeatedly abused, and their mother was the person behind the abuse.

Shocking – absolutely … And maybe you would have hidden that painful truth as well, to protect your twin, if you were in their shoes. It would be easy to believe you were doing them a favour.

Fast forward several years ….

Eventually events caused the truth to come to light. (That is, the twin told his brother they’d been sexually abused). However, he refused to share the details – despite relentless pressure – and that was hugely damaging to his twin. He felt his existence had been based on a lie, as his sense of who he was had been based on partial knowledge.

I suspect this story resonates profoundly with many betrayed partners who’ve learn they’ve been deceived. They need to piece together a new narrative as the story they’d been living is now a fantasy.

Hence, perhaps it’s not surprising that their mind is full of questions. Everything about the past must be reinterpreted. And they feel that they’re relating to a person they don’t know, who’s concealed the truth from them “to protect them from being hurt.”

Returning to the movie …

Eventually the twin finds the courage to record all the horrors of the past – which are then shared with his twin. Of course, it’s very painful, and it’s hard to take on board. But he, for one, would say that he’d rather know the facts. For now he knows the truth, and is able to move on.

 

The Reverberating Pain of Betrayal

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Who of us hasn’t been there?

The day is going well and you are feeling quiet and calm. Then out of the blue you start to sense a deep unease. The terror starts to surface and engulfs your mind again. Your heart is racing wildly, and you’re feeling terrified.

But what if things are not exactly as they seem to be? What if you’ve been deceived, and he’s returned to his old ways? What if those sincere promises are just another lie? What if he cannot do it, and your trust has been misplaced?

Or, you see a happy couple who are in the throes of love. You wonder “Will they make it? Will their early love survive? Will they retell our story? Will they know betrayal too?” You feel a stab of pain for you had had high hopes like them.

Or, a friend puts up a post about their anniversary. Their love has grown and deepened; they’ve been faithful through the years. They haven’t known the trauma of infidelity. It breaks your heart to read it – but you “like” it just the same.

I think that betrayed partners never have the peace of mind that faithful couples know – because they haven’t been decieved. I wonder if it’s possible to fully trust again. To not feel anxious, worried, or to live with disturbed sleep.

I wish we could be carefree. That we never had a doubt. But that may be a pipe dream – for betrayal changes us.

More on Ending or Salvaging the Relationship

It’s important not to make a knee-jerk decision when you have discovered infidelity. Allow some time to pass, set your feelings aside, and when you feel you’re on a more even keel think and weigh up the past, the present, and the future.

Some questions to mull over as you think through your decision include

The Past

  • What initially attracted me to my partner?
  • What did I enjoy about being with him or her?
  • Are those qualities and characteristics still there, even if they are obscured by what has happened recently?
  • Has he or she fundamentally changed?
  • What would I really miss, or even grieve over, if that person was no longer in my life?

The Present

  • Despite what I’ve learned, do I actually still love him or her?
  • Do I like them as a person?
  • Do they make me laugh?
  • Do I feel better when they are around?
  • Do I enjoy doing things with them?
  • Is the life we have built together important to me?
  • Am I willing to accept what has happened, go through the pain, and do the work that’s need to process this?
  • Do I want to rebuild my relationship with them?

The Future

  • What do I want my life to look like one, five, or 10 years from now?
  • Do I want my future to include my partner or spouse?
  • Would I prefer to be alone, or to be with someone else?
  • Do I honestly think they will do the work, have the ability, and be invested enough, to be faithful to me for the rest of our lives? (Do I believe they are trustworthy)
  • How will ending this relationship affect our children (if we have any) in 6 months, a year, 5 years, for the rest of their lives?
  • How will staying and rebuilding this relationship affect our children?

Try to answer all these questions in a truly honest way. They will help you to decide what is best for you.     

Is it Worth Rebuilding the Relationship?

This is a question that only you can answer. But it’s best to do it in a clear-headed way, perhaps with the input of a counsellor or coach.

Aspects to consider include:

  • How much do you trust your partner or spouse? Clearly, discovering that they’ve led a double life is going to rock and undermine the relationship. However, you might still conclude that this person would be there for you if you needed them, and they are someone you can trust with your children and finances, or with your worries and concerns.  At the end of the day, those things count for a lot. 
  • Do you basically respect them? Do they respect you too? 
  • Do you have children? It’s essential to consider the impact on them – both if you stay or decide to go. There are lots of lives and futures that are going to be affected by what you decide to do at this time.
  • How much do you like, and enjoy spending time with your partner? Is it fun and rewarding, or tiring and a bore? Are you comfortable around them? Do you wish they weren’t there?
  • Do you have the same core values and beliefs? Of course, you won’t agree on every little thing but there must be common ground in the key areas. Also, the relationship won’t last or be truly satisfying if one of you is forced to believe certain things – for fear of rejection or abandonment.
  • Do you share common interests and hobbies? If you really are companions and enjoy the same things then this can be a glue in the relationship. However, if there’s little overlap in the things you like to do then, perhaps, you’re really going in the opposite direction.
  • Are you free to be yourself in the relationship? Is this a smothering, fear-based relationship, or do you have your own, separate identities?
  • Are the partners adaptable and willing to change? The relationship is going to have to change a lot to recover from betrayal and deliberate deceit.
  • Does the partner have a history of infidelity? Is this first time? Has it happened before? Are they able to come through when they say that they will change?
  • How invested are you both in the relationship? You need to take a long, and a cold hard look at how much you both want the relationship to work. Will you both do the work that allow it to survive?

These are useful starting points for talking through what might come next, and whether it is wise to rebuild what has been lost. They are questions that both partners should consider honestly – and perhaps gets the output from some others that you trust.