Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

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“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”This quote by the tennis player Arthur Ashe appears quite a lot on social media. It’s the kind of cute quote you might expect to see there. It’s the kind of cute quote I’ve posted myself when life has been happy, or at least humdrum.

It’s the kind of cute quote that can give you a lift, and inspire you to try, and make a start on your dreams.

But it’s not the right quote if you’re curled up in a ball, and you’re dealing with a trauma, and you think you’re going to die.

No! It’s not the kind of quote that you want to hear just now.

Then, one day you decide that your life must go on. You are going to survive. You are made of stronger stuff. Yes, the pain’s unbearable, and you don’t know what to do. The options all look bad. None of this was in the script.

So, you rip up the old script and you start where you are.

But your self-esteem is shattered. You have lost your confidence. It is hard to open up and to trust anyone.

Work and hobbies? What are those? They hold no interest all. And because you never sleep you have zero energy.

Still, you make some kind of effort to retain a normal life. You turn up at the office, and you take your kids to school. You try to act the part – even though you’re in a mess. But you find there are reserves.  You can manage minor tasks.

Step by step you’ve been choosing to use what you have.

And let’s be honest about things. You won’t “just get over this.” No, you’re going to be limping and bleeding for some years. You can wear a plaster cast, get some stitches for the wounds, replace the bandages, apply ointment, take some pills … but, still, it will take time. You can’t rush this process up.

But you’re caring for yourself. You are doing what you can. And those small acts of self-love help to change you bit by bit.

Then one day you catch a glimpse of the old self you had lost. You can’t believe it’s true. You had missed that self so much. You’re much stronger than before. Yes, it’s true, you have moved on.  Who ever would have thought there was truth in that cute quote!

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Please don’t Tell me to “Forgive” Again

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Forgiveness is a difficult, and somewhat touchy, topic. It’s something we are ‘told’ that we ought to offer others. But ask anyone, and you’re likely to hear that forgiveness is a struggle if you’ve been hurt and betrayed.  And perhaps its not surprising that this should be the case.

Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

  1. Feeling that it’s hard to forgive and start again (even if, in your mind, you really want to forgive) is a primal, instinctive, self-protective response. The reason’s not surprising: if we let the barriers down and open up our heart, then our trust could be betrayed. So our brain seeks to protect us from further injury.
  2. We fear that forgiveness – or too quick, or forced, forgiveness – could have the effect of minimising the betrayal, and the extent of the damage and the pain that it has caused. Irritations and annoyances don’t really damage us so it’s relatively easy to move on, and let those go. But betrayal devastates us, and changes who we are. It’s a wound that’s hard to heal, and a serious injury.
  3. When we’ve been wounded by betrayal, it is not a single wound. Yes, there’s a major breach of trust; but there are other losses too. There’s the loss of hopes and dreams, of reputation and respect, the loss of peace of mind, and the life you thought you had. Also, there may be serious risks to health due to unwanted STDs, to PTSD, or stress-related illness. So the losses can feel endless – which makes them hard to forgive. It can feel too overwhelming when you’re in a fragile state.
  4. Related this, there are triggers we are battling, and which stop us in our tracks. They remind us of the fact that our healing’s NOT complete.

Although being able to forgive is liberating in the end, as it means we’re less attached to the emotional pain, it’s ridiculous to think that it should happen “just like that!”

It’s going to be a journey, and will take a lot of time, and it won’t mean that the anguish won’t resurface constantly.

Let me finish with some final thoughts from the book Out of the Doghouse:

Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It doesn’t happen all at once, and it is usually given only when earned, rather than when it’s requested. So if you want forgiveness, you can apologize a million times hoping it will appear, but you won’t get it until you’ve earned it … Forgiveness is not something you should ever expect or demand from anyone, let alone your betrayed spouse. Forgiveness will come when she has done hating you and when trust is restored.

For you, forgiveness may mean, ‘Phew. She loves me again and we are moving on.’ To her, though, it means letting you back into her heart that once again puts you in a position to either love or hurt her. That’s a pretty big difference … You will have to feel the pain you have caused, experience your consequences without becoming defensive, and become rigorously honest in all aspects of life. If you can do that, she will eventually forgive you.”

Maybe …. Hopefully …. Eventually.

“And They All Lived Happily Ever After”

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One of the things I like about “The Buried Giant”, a novel by Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, is it explores married love across a couple’s lifetime. So it’s not about romance, or the early dizzy years. Its subject is a love that has been tested in the fire. A love that has survived some really serious hurts and trials.

One of the interesting features of the book is a mist that envelopes and permeates the world. This is both frightening and comforting. Essentially, the mist hints at buried memories, and the need to forget, and the decision to forget (for otherwise relationships could not survive.) You see this in the fear that the characters display when they sense that the mist is beginning to rise, and they start to worry about what they might learn.

Indeed, as the story progresses, we learn of the betrayal that is part of the narrative of Beatrice and Axl, the two main characters in the book. Nevertheless, they have managed to renew and rebuild their love; and on the journey that the novel mainly focuses upon, they display a tenderness that is somewhat enviable.

At the end of their journey, and the end of the book, when they’ve reached the river, and the final crossing point, each is questioned individually about their love. The questions they are asked leave the other wondering, “Has our live been sufficient; have we loved enough?”

I would venture to say that there’s no couple on this earth who’ve loved perfectly and who don’t carry buried wounds. We have all known betrayals – and some of these are serious. But maybe this enables us to build a stronger love. A love that is informed. A love that’s deep and genuine. A love that can forgive, and can accept forgiveness, too.

And maybe this is actually a truer kind of love.

 

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

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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.

 

How Could I Not Have Known?

I’ve just started reading Malcom Gladwell’s recent book “Talking to Strangers”. Amongst other things, this book looks in depth at how top agents can work for years beside other agents – with amazing reputations – only to discover that they’re really double agents.

How can this be? How could they be deceived?

Gladwell would argue that we shouldn’t be surprised. And here are some reasons he cites for this:

1.Gladwell says that we all function in a truth-default mode. That is, we are wired to believe that we’re hearing the truth. Hence, even if something seems to be a bit off, we generally quieten our apprehensive thoughts as we’re primed to believe the reassurances we get. This is simply a function of being a flawed human. A suspicion or some doubts will not be enough (and we may well be suspicious and be plagued by many doubts).

2. Indeed, we only stop being deceived when the facts become so clear that we cannot explain them away anymore. The truth is just so stark that it cannot be denied. We have now crossed a threshold where we’re triggered out of doubt. This is summed up well in the following statement[1]:

Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them … Just think about how many times you have criticized someone else, in hindsight, for their failure to spot a liar.  You should have known. There were all kinds of red flags. You had doubts … But the right question is: were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of belief? If there weren’t, then by defaulting to truth you were only being human.

3.The threshold for snapping us out of our default (to believe what we’re hearing, and accept that it’s the truth) is actually very high. It takes a very long time to accumulate the doubts, and then the evidence, that can trigger this deep change. Instead, we naturally accept all the reasons we are fed which seem to explain away the inconsistencies.

When you start to realize this, then perhaps it’s not surprising that we’re so deeply shocked – and are even traumatized – when we learn that a partner has a sexual addiction.

Also, trusting those we love and are vulnerable with, is actually innate, and has clear survival value.  Hence, breaching basic trust has deep and lasting consequences. It will be hard to give your trust to another individual. And if you’ve been betrayed then you’ll know how true this is!    


[1] Gladwell, G. (2019). Talking to strangers: What we should know about the people we don’t know. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

A blog for partners of sex addicts

No-one expects to learn their partner or their spouse is addicted to sex or pornography. It’s completely devastating and it rips your world apart. You can’t believe what you are hearing; and you wish it wasn’t true. And how do you make sense of a discovery like this? It messes with your head. You just don’t know what to do.

You then start to wonder if your whole life’s has been lie. You had given them your trust and they cold-bloodedly deceived you. You didn’t think they’d do that. You thought they cared for you.

Also, if it was alcohol or drugs then you could talk about the pain. You could open up and share everything you’re going through. But a sexual addiction’s in a different category.

You know there would be judgement. Everyone would start to talk. You’d be attacked, not supported. You’d become the source of gossip. And that’s more than you can cope with when you’re dealing with this news.

I’ve talked to many women who’ve experienced this trauma. It’s completely isolating, and you feel alone and helpless. That is one of the main reasons we are setting us this blog.

We want to offer you support when there’s nowhere you can turn. We want to give you information, and walk this path with you. We will tell you what is normal; what the researchers have learned – so you start to feel empowered, and can find fresh hope again.