Fan the Flame – Part 1

Confidence.  It’s near and dear to my heart these days.  Confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgments.

I was reminded recently as to the importance of confidence and being proactive in my own life to grasp more of it (more on that in the next blog post).

Confidence is stripped from women (along with dignity and honor to name a few) when they are betrayed.

I have worked with women for more than a decade now and while there are some things I expect to hear that are right under the surface – the level of grief, trying to understand the why behind his addiction (or sexual integrity issue), grappling with trust and forgiveness (the list goes on) – there are other deeper and more insidious effects that sometimes we don’t think about at first blush.  I believe these deeper effects can really rattle our self-confidence.

Unaddressed Shame –

Early on in our recovery – we spent a lot of time focusing on the shame that Jason experienced, starting in childhood, that eventually became triggers that led him to choose to act out.

I as well was dealing with shame – and my shame had layers.  There was the shame of coming to terms with the fact that I married a man with sexual integrity issues.  The shame of this being my story.  This caused me to hide and not want to share my ugly truth with anyone.

I also experienced shame because I really thought Jason only had eyes for me.  And he was the first boy that I finally felt chosen by.  Grappling with the fact that he chose me and many others caused me to feel unloveable and worthless.

The layers of shame look different for each of us.  Sure, it almost always surfaces because of his choices.  But it also can come up as women try to figure out if she should stay married to him.  There can be shame in choosing to stay with someone that treated us this way – and even more so if he isn’t doing good recovery work.  “Am I this pathetic to stay with him after all he has done and he is still treating me this way?”

Confidence wanes as the shame layers start to mount.

Financially Stuck-

While this wasn’t so much the case for myself (we didn’t have children yet and I was the bread winner) – this is a massive issue for most of the women I support.

Working recovery is oftentimes a financial hardship. I remember stressing over how we would pay for the therapist that we were seeing twice a week.

Women affected by betrayal already feel powerless.  If finances are tight – it limits the choices available and can cause her to feel even more stuck and powerless.

In addition, most women that reach out to me have sacrificed their careers in the name of their families.  Some women could go back to their careers but have young children at home which makes the choice feel really hard.  Others have been away from their careers for decades and would have to do loads of training to return to their professions of choice.  It’s a hard call to make.

Feeling stuck from a financial standpoint can have massive effects on self-confidence.  When we have agency – we have confidence.  But without that agency – confidence can plummet.

Intuition Violations –

I know for myself – deep down I knew something wasn’t quite right when I was dating Jason.  This persisted on our wedding day.  I loved him, I knew I wanted to spend my life with him.  But something deep down didn’t feel right.  Ladies – our intuition doesn’t lead us astray.

During the first 3 years of our marriage – I continued to dismiss my intuition.  I continued to experience an unsettled and nagging feeling that something was amiss.  In order to stay sane – I either had to trust my gut and insist something was off or I had to divorce my gut to keep the peace between he and I.  I chose the latter.

Once the ugly truth fully came out – my confidence in trusting my own judgement was completely shattered.  How could I have done this to myself?  How could I have married someone that would treat me this way?  How did I not know?

My self-confidence crashed to an all time low.

Ladies – it’s not all bad news, though.  Why, you ask? (I’m so glad you did!)  Because I truly believe that each of us can walk through betrayal and toward our future with more confidence than we ever thought was possible.  As Maya Angelou said – “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”  As I think about this quote – with all due respect – I’d like to revise it.  The light might dim, for a season, but ladies – it will never go out.  We must fan the flame.

I’m curious if you can relate to any of these three areas that affect our confidence post betrayal.  I’d also love to hear what else comes to mind for you that has made an impact on trusting yourself.

Stay tuned for some strategies to help us start to rebuild the confidence we so desperately need to repair.  While this might be life work – I do think if we are intentional – we can make huge strides in this area rather quickly.

Love you ladies!

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

Strategies to go into Thanksgiving with Confidence

I’ve talked to a handful of women in the last couple of weeks begging the question – help me with Thanksgiving!!!  What am I going to DO?!

I hear you.  Navigating extended family and recovery work is freakin insane.  Some of the strategies Jason and I used early on in our process we still use today.  If I’m honest – which I will be – I still struggle with the holidays.  #workinprogress  It isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be but it still takes intentional effort on our parts and a lot of conversations before, during and after.

Before I get to the strategies that can help us navigate the holidays with greater ease – let’s talk about why the holidays can be so hard.  I’ve narrowed it down to four big reasons and I want you to see if any of these hit home for you.  I know there are others out there and would love to hear what they are in the comments section below –

The pretend factor – Questions abound for us women as we are working through the early and middle stages of betrayal – Will what has happened to me be the elephant in the room?  Who knows what?  Will someone say something that will either embarrass me or send me to my room crying?

The space factor – Will I have space to grieve and to feel the emotions I need to feel with so many people around and so many activities going on?

The little boy factor – Will my husband assume the role he played in his family of origin once we are with his family?  Will he become enmeshed again with his mom while we are there?  Will he do whatever it takes – even throwing me under the bus – to get love and acceptance from his dad?

The we are changing factor – Just because we are changing (and aren’t we so glad that we have the capacity to do so!) doesn’t mean that anyone else around us is changing.  Unfortunately when one person changes in a family system – it can cause a disequilibrium and others in the family will react (for better or worse) to this change.  I hear a lot about negative reactions to the positive changes women are making which can be confusing for women that are working so hard to set boundaries, understand their limits, use their voices, etc.

As I tell the women I work with in my groups as well as in the one to one sessions I do – Having the insight and awareness is half the battle.  Being able to name what is going on is HUGE.  So if none of these factors above hit home – think about what might be playing in.  Name it.

So now for the fun stuff.  Let’s talk about what we can do to go into Thanksgiving week being grounded, more confident and less stressed.

Strategy #1 – Honor your feelings + name your reason.  Be real with yourself and at least one other person that you deem safe (preferably your husband but depending on his recovery work and where you guys are at in the journey – this might need to be one of your go-to girls or a friend or mentor, etc.) as to how you are feeling.

I am not saying that you are going to base your every move on your feelings.  No.  But I want you to stay connected with yourself.  Honor what you are feeling, name it, and share it.

Sometimes we go to a holiday gathering not because we are excited and looking forward to it.  Instead – we might feel scared, dreadful, sad – but we do it anyways.  And there is a reason.  Name it.  It might be that your kids get to spend time with their cousins or grandparents.  It might be that you want to honor your parents or his parents.  Keep the reason in mind and continue to honor how you feel as you walk through the event.

Strategy #2 – Ask yourself what YOU think, want, need and feel.  I talk about this briefly in the Rescued workbook in the self-care chapter.  I think it’s important to put everyone else’s needs and desires in a box when we do this exercise.  All we are doing is exploring what we think – want – need – feel.  And then after we explore – we can start to piece together the best way to move forward.

For example – recently I was talking to someone that shared she and her husband are separated and she didn’t know what to do about Thanksgiving and navigating his extended family and her extended family.  As we talked – I asked her – what do you need?  And what she really wanted and needed was permission to not have to go to her in-laws.  She knew it would be too difficult for her heart.  What this meant was she would have her littles with her family for part of the day and he would have them with his family for part of the day.  Oh the grief that she felt.  No momma wants to be without her kids for thanksgiving – and she also knew what her heart could tolerate and heading to the in-laws and faking it – not tolerable this year.

Strategy #3 – Have a plan.  Before the gathering (or before you leave for the trip or before your guests arrive for the week) – sit down with your husband and talk about the best way to stay connected and work as a team.  Jason and I still do this before every trip or holiday – whether it’s going to be just the 5 of us or the 5 of us plus the rest of our crazy family.

For instance, we plan out good times to step away and do a check-in (for us, it’s usually on a morning run).  Jason likes to get away for some alone time (introvert alert!) almost every day and I step up and watch the boys.  We talk about how we might need to protect ourselves emotionally and what our limits are in conversations, etc.

My hope is that each of you can approach next week feeling empowered, connected to yourself and more confident than in years past.  You can click here and here for some other posts that I’ve written in the past as you prepare your game plan.

You got this girl!

And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or answer your questions – just comment below and I will respond.

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

Course Corrections + Encouragement to Keep Going

There are days – few and far between – when I wake up and I am on it.  My boys are being little angels, I’ve gotten up early and had some alone time, I even include veggies in my breakfast.

And then – there are the other days.  Yesterday was one of them.

Two of my boys were having it out with each other, the third was complaining of a tummy ache and didn’t think school was a good idea.  I finally had to sequester one of the first two until it was time to go to school – it was a mess.  And it wasn’t even 7:30.

Once I got them to school – I realized that I forgot to pack their inside shoes.

I had them stay in their snow boots and jogged home to grab them.  I then shuffled in the snow back to school to drop off their tennies.

By 8:15, I was drained, weary and reflecting on what I needed to change.

Mentally, I went to a place of hopelessness.  I started to think of all the things that were going wrong.  My boys need to go to bed earlier – then maybe they wouldn’t be so cranky in the morning.  My boys need to learn to be more chill and not run around the house like crazies – then maybe I could think and actually remember important items like shoes.

After venting to Jason – I realized I had a choice to make – was I going to let the morning ruin me?  And ruin the day?  Or was I going to take a small step in the right direction in the hopes that I could get back on track.  Several small steps = one big step – right?

It’s these course-corrections that become defining for us on our journeys.  It can take a day that appears to be going down the drain to a day filled with purpose and hope.

I ended up pushing my to-do list to the side, bundled up, and drove my car to a trail close to our house.  It was about 15 degrees outside and there was a good 8 inches of snow on the ground (but a cleared trail) – not the most ideal of running conditions but I was determined to course correct and felt a run would be the thing to make that happen.

I slowly got out of my car and couldn’t believe what I was facing.  I reticently took off my coat.  And started down the trail.  It was cold, it was uncomfortable, and I had to keep telling myself that it would be worth it in the end if I could just get a little further down the trail.  Make it to this tree, make it to that sign.  Initially, that was my goal.

It’s the things that we work hard for, the things that we dig deep to move through even when it’s uncomfortable – yes – these are the things that God can use to teach us, refine us, and cultivate in us character traits that are priceless.

I realized on that run that I wasn’t going to be able to change everything all at once.  But also that change needed to happen.  So I picked one thing that I could do different.  And it was this – get my boys in bed at an earlier time.  We all know the definition of insanity and that’s exactly what was happening – I was doing the same thing but expecting a different result.

I’ve been a runner for 29 years – so I know on those cold mornings that if I can just push myself to engage in the pain of the cold – it will get better.  My body will heat up, my toes and fingers will start to thaw out, and I will actually enjoy the process.  But it’s never enjoyable initially.

My run yesterday morning in some ways resembles the recovery process.  The recovery process is painful, unnatural and completely uncomfortable, especially at first.  It brings up a host of insecurities and frustrations – it feels never ending.  And oftentimes, it’s all we can do to just do the next little thing.

I know many of you are sitting here reading this and asking yourself – is this recovery process even worth it?  Will there be an end in sight that is more beautiful than what life was like before?  You’re sitting in the uncomfortableness of it all and you don’t know if it will be worth it.

I finished my run and I felt like a warrior.  Nothing could stop me.  I was out there on a blistering cold day doing the thing I love.  But it wasn’t easy, especially at first.

The same applies to this process of transformation.  You WILL look back and see the good.  Sure, there are tears, there is grief, there is pain – it’s not easy.  We will wrestle and struggle our way through – looking for the hope.

It’s coming.

Keep going.

You got this.

xo – Shelley

Staying in my Lane

I was reminded of a clip from the 1987 Blockbuster – Baby Boom as I wrote this post. In the movie, Diane Keaton plays this high-powered corporate executive in New York City. She happens to inherit a baby girl from a distant cousin and I remember at one point in the movie – she is trying to keep up with the other women power walking to work.

As I recall, for a moment, she tries to keep up with the other high-powered exec’s but then realizes – she can’t do it anymore. So she slows down and this look of resignation comes over her.

It’s crazy that I remember that clip so well from a movie that I watched when I was just a kid. Maybe because I find time and again that I’m that woman. Trying to keep up, to be the same, and then realizing I just can’t.

Case in point, I’ve been on the treadmill lately. Running around like a crazy mama to sports practices and games like no. body’s. biz. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that we have 11 sports practices and 10 games this week ALONE. And my 2nd half is headed out of town. Oh my.

With the marathon that has been my life over the last 6-7 weeks, I have slowly started to slip away from some of the habits that continually keep me grounded. Namely spending time reading my Bible (being connected to God), journaling (being connected to myself), and working toward staying connected emotionally to Jason (being connected with others).

This fraying of the cord that anchors me has started to infiltrate other areas of life. I have started to feel pressure “to be the same”. To do whatever it takes to “fit in”. The problem is – fitting in changes with every situation.

I’ve also started to get super caught up in what other people (both near and far) are doing with their time (I hate social media in this way) while I have just gotten more and more frustrated and disappointed with how much I am NOT doing. Discontent is the word that comes to mind.

And this, my friends, is NOT how I want to live.

So on Sunday night – after a day of feeling pretty much anxious and powerless – I took some steps in the right direction. I ran a couple of errands to better help me be ready for the week (self care people). I wrote Jason a note and left it by his keys. I dusted off my Bible on Monday morning and picked up where I left off months ago.

Then yesterday, while I was prepping for this talk – I picked up this book that I read a couple of years ago – and flipped to a page speaking to what I have been struggling with. He mentions differentiation and this is what he says:

Differentiation involves the ability to hold on to who you are and who you are not. The degree to which you are able to affirm your distinct values and goals apart from the pressures around you while remaining close to the people important to you helps determine your level of differentiation. People with a high level of differentiation… can choose… how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others.

Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality p 82

Ironically – out in the margin, written in my hand writing from 2017 – it says “I think I have some work to do.” (You don’t say!)

This, my friends, was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. I need to get in my own lane and stay there for a while. I need to get super clear with God on what my next steps look like. I need to go back to my values and what makes me unique. I need to think boundaries and seeing myself apart from others while also being connected to God, self and others. I’m not running someone else’s race. I’m running my own race and God hasn’t forgotten about me.

Here is the deal – I know I’m not alone in looking at others, seeing what all they are doing or not doing and wondering – what went wrong. {Heck, I was texting with a sweet soul yesterday and we were talking about what we thought this season would look like versus what it actually looks like. I told her – and I’m serious – I thought by now I’d have another book in the world (um, not happening), I’d have a well-thought-out designed home (bahaha), and I’d have time to take a shower and wash my hair on a daily basis (for the love). She as well was sharing where she expected to be by now, but wasn’t.}

We all have big plans. And for a lot of us – those plans went into the porta-potty when life blew up before our eyes. (And for some of us, we had big plans and then we had a baby.)

Either way – know that God hasn’t forgotten about you. Know that if you are in a season of barely keeping up, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and exhausted from recovery and from life – He is doing a good work in you and through you even in the wait.

Let’s stay in our lanes. Let’s be ourselves, be different. Let’s encourage one another, support one another and cheer each other on. And let’s take a lot of pit stops – preferably with comfy restrooms and not porta-potty’s.

On the journey with you – Shelley

On Belonging

Back in May, I did a number on myself by over-committing primarily at my boys’ schools. Summer came and I needed a break from civilization. I checked in with myself toward the end of June and nope, I still felt like I needed a break. So I plodded along, keeping to myself (well, let’s be honest – keeping to myself + Jason + my boys + my work + well, you know…)

Fast forward to August and my balance was off once again, but in the other direction. I felt alone and lonely. I was reminded of the sacredness of having a place to belong. I was reminded of the fact that it’s HARD for me to belong – I have some serious roadblocks to getting there (see below). I was reminded that belonging is a value of mine and one that is important for me to nourish.

I started to wonder – who feels like they belong? Who feels like they have people in their corner that they can count on? The ones that will pitch a tent and keep it warm inside, the ones that will see us and hear us and do life with us? Isn’t that something we all yearn for? And yet, it seems so few of us truly have that.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Roadblocks to Belonging

Before we can make progress toward belonging, I think it’s important to identify what holds us back. This might look different for each of us – maybe it’s the pain of betrayal that holds you back – not wanting others to know what is really going on behind closed doors. Maybe it’s shame from past experiences that hold you back – thinking it’s safest to keep them all tucked inside. Maybe it’s fear of rejection. Maybe it’s the pace of your life and all the things you are working to accomplish. All valid reasons for not being able to fully press in to relationships and belong.

I’d say for me, while this list changes, depending on the season, there tend to be two things that consistently hold me back from belonging. One of those things happens to be the limits I have on my emotional bandwidth. Between raising these sweet littles (turning into bigs), running a ministry that helps those that are hurting, and trying to keep my marriage to Jason a priority – my tank tends to run low.

Second, and probably more of a problem, is this fear that I won’t be accepted if people really really knew what I was like – aka – a fear of rejection. While I realize we live in a culture of covering up and while I realize the importance of taking off masks (I preach on this) – I STILL struggle with this.

It’s like there is that little girl, still inside me, that so badly wants to be liked. No. matter. the. cost.

Unfortunately – that cost is high and not worth it.

I have been very very aware over the last month of how I have been tempted to be who I think people want me to be, versus firmly grounding myself in ME. I’ve had several fails where I have walked away and realized – I have some work to do.

And – the good news – I have also had a couple of successes. Where I have walked into a situation or experience (I can count two recent times) and I committed to myself to be me. No matter the cost. It was hard and scary and freeing.

What about for you? What do you see as the things that hold you back from belonging?

The Key to Belonging

What I have realized as I look back on these experiences – is first, I have to belong to myself. What I mean by this is – I have to truly accept myself – my quirks, my differences, my opinions, my fears, the things I love, the things I hate. All of me (hmmm…this is beginning to sound like a mix of boundary work + self care) or as much of me as I know – has to be acknowledged and accepted – in order for me to belong to myself.

As we begin to accept ourselves and find belonging from within – we are then able to show the true and real version of ourselves to others. And when we share the real and true with others – this my friends is when we will start to experience belonging.

So Who are You?

There is something about the death of a marriage that forces one to figure out who they really are. We are all handed this {opportunity} as we face the heartache of betrayal. It’s been a big part of my journey and a big part of what I do as I walk with women via groups and one on one.

And it’s also super scary to dig into who we really are. The pain of betrayal can in the short-term cause us to fit more tightly into our masks and what we *think* we need to look like, act like, be like. If you resonate with this – know that it’s a big part of the the healing process. We don’t want to be hurt again – so no wonder we self-protect with the masks.

The masks we wear, however, lead to isolation, loneliness and death at a soul level.

Below are some simple suggestions for getting to know you. Think of this as gently peeking out from under the mask.

You can look in the Rescued workbook in Chapter 3 and start to explore the things that fill you up and the things that deplete you. You can also start to explore your healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Both of these things are simple ways to start to get to know yourself better and what makes you unique.

I love the Enneagram and here is an inexpensive test (click on the RHETO) you can take that will help you figure out your type. I also like this book and this book which will help you explore the Enneagram even more.

Know that if you struggle to accept yourself, to know who you really are, to belong – you aren’t alone. I am on this journey with you and I’m figuring it out, too. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

Restore Workshop – won’t you join me?

Ladies – I want to personally invite each of you to join me at the next Restore workshop. It’s less than two weeks away in Dallas, TX and I am so so excited to come sit with each of you that is attending and talk you through the highs and the lows of this journey!

It’s important to remember that this workshop is not only an excellent way to gain support, which I believe is one of the most critical components for success when it comes to recovering from betrayal. But it’s also a place to learn and grow. You will leave with tools and hand-holds to help you as you move forward in your journey. And you will also leave a different person than who you were when you arrived.

Restore is an experience and the ladies that lead the break-out groups are phenomenal at what they do.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions. Would so love to see you there.

xo – Shelley

A letter to you, dear brave woman.

Last week, I received a voicemail from a friend that I initially met here on the blog. She later joined an RLFW support group and is now in a place where she is helping women at her local church. She was preparing a letter to women in her community that reach out asking for support. She wanted to know from me – what are the 2 or 3 things that I think might be valuable for women to hear when they reach out for help.

It got me to thinking about all the things I would want a hurting woman to know after she realizes her world won’t quite ever be the same – the moment she realizes that her husband has betrayed her. I wish I could meet for coffee with each of you. To sit across from you and tell you these things…


Dear Brave Woman –

I know your heart is hurting. Chances are, it’s the most painful thing you’ve experienced to date. Your husband wasn’t who you thought he was. You chose someone that you were convinced would protect you. Someone that only had eyes for you. And now you are faced with the truth that he has betrayed you.

There are a several things you must know as you move forward on your journey. First – please know that you didn’t do anything to cause this to happen. Chances are, your husband has blamed you. Possibly in subtle ways and possibly in more explicit ways. It might be that he told you he wished you’d have more sex or different sex with him. Or maybe he complained about how you dressed or wore your hair – all under the guise of – “I’m not attracted to you anymore.” All these hurtful things, chances are, were said well before you even became privy to his problem.

And if your husband hasn’t pointed the finger, well then, it doesn’t help that our culture points the finger on the woman that has been betrayed. Your friends might even make comments about random women on TV or in real life that go through the heartbreak of infidelity and say {stupid} things like – “no wonder he cheated on her, given the way she treats him…”. This is so incredibly hurtful, damaging and inaccurate.

Trust me when I say this – betrayal has no proclivity to one woman over another. Women of all backgrounds, shapes, sizes, colors, statures (the list goes on and on) are affected by betrayal. Fill in the blank – if only I had _________ or __________ this wouldn’t have happened. Well, let me tell you – it’s not true. Even if you had __________ or _________; it wouldn’t have prevented this from happening to you.

Your husbands choices were just that – his choices. And those choices were informed by the wounds from his childhood. They were informed by his inability to be intimate with others and his choice to cope in an unhealthy way that ultimately hurt you.

Please don’t change who you are, how God created you, knit you together in your mother’s womb because of his choices. It’s so easy to want to fix it this way but learn from my mistakes – it won’t fix a thing.

Second – There is a lot (I mean a LOT) of grieving work to do. This might be your first shot at grieving or maybe you’ve had experience in this area. For myself, it was my first big shot. I want to encourage you to buckle up and get ready for the ride. It’s intense. It’s crazy. It’s unsettling. Some women find they don’t want to go to the deep dark places (I can’t blame them) and they hope to get through it as quickly as possible. Others deny it and skip over it all together. It’s been my experience that while we can try to bury our grief – it won’t ever completely go away until we work through it. But how? Well, similar to how you’d eat an elephant – it’s one bite at a time.

Not only can it feel insurmountable and like the most daunting of tasks, but it’s also difficult to grieve if your husband isn’t capable of giving you the empathy and compassion that you need (this is very common early on in the process because he hasn’t had a chance to do his work yet). One of the most painful things I’ve seen in my work with women is when she has to carry the grief alone. It’s antithetical to how we grieve best – which is in the presence of others. So if he won’t create space for your grief, find a trusted girlfriend or group that will. And be clear about what you need – you need someone to sit in the pain with you. To listen and not fix. To encourage you and pray for you.

It would also be nice if we had a road map for the grief. You know what I mean – an A to Z process for how to get over it in a timely manner (pretty please) and only at convenient times (NOT when my children need me or when I’m giving a presentation at work). You know, we could check boxes and see our progress as we move forward?!

I hate to burst your bubble but this is not how it goes. Grief is unpredictable, it ebbs and flows, it takes us by surprise and then when we are ready and willing to grieve – it won’t join us.

“Emotion is rarely convenient and often intolerable…”

– Josephine Barry (Diana Barry’s great aunt in Anne with an E)

When the grief did wash over me in those early days, I feared it would take me out. What I didn’t realize is this: the cleansing work of deep grief is actually just what I needed to breathe lighter and easier. Going to the dark places moved me closer to healing. I couldn’t check a box or see some great improvement week to week; but when I looked back over the months – I saw that the work was paying off.

So give yourself permission to grieve. Find someone that will hold you in your pain (a girlfriend, mentor, therapist, coach or husband, if he is capable) and know that it’s the most unpredictable thing ever.

Third – Self Care. And I don’t mean the things you think you ought to do but don’t want to do. I’m talking about the things that will help you survive this season that actually bring you a sliver of joy. For those of us that are energetic, it could be a run or a walk in nature. For those of us that get energy from tidiness, it could be organizing a closet. And for those of us that yearn for comfort, it might be sitting on the couch with a cozy blanket and watching a NetFlix show.

I can’t emphasize this enough – finding those couple of things to help you get through the day. Every day. Your life is dependent on it.


Much love – Shelley

Image #1 – Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Image #2 – Photo by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash

Image #3 – Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

Moving through the pain

I’ve had a couple of gals email me recently asking about a particular part of the process that they are really struggling with. It’s something that I know many of you can relate to. It’s summed up in these questions – how will I ever move past the pain? How can I look at him, touch him – without thinking of her or without thinking of what he has done? Will I ever be able to look at him and not think about the pain and the hurt?

After Jason shared his ugly truth with me – my new reality set in slowly. There was the usual shock and denial that helped me absorb the weight of his actions. Anger was soon to follow with bouts of further shock and denial; as well as hopelessness and depression. It wasn’t long before I realized – I was in the thick of grieving.

As I continued to grieve – the pain never quite seemed to leave me. It was always just one trigger or one thought away.

I was able to busy myself with my career or with socializing with friends. But it was always there. Like a heavy bag around my shoulder with contents I couldn’t seem to unload.

And it would meet me at the most unexpected of times. I might be talking with a friend and boom – something would remind me of Jason’s infidelity. Or I might be minding my own business driving down the street and bam – out of nowhere, it would hit me like a ton of bricks.

These crude reminders that yes – this is my life. My husband was unfaithful and now I am broken – possibly beyond repair. As one woman this week said – she is haunted by what he has done.

I wondered during those times – would the weight – the heavy bag I was carrying – ever go away? Could I ever live a normal life again? Free from the constant reminders, the constant pain, the weight of it all?

Below are three things that helped me move forward through the weight, through the constant reminders, through the thoughts that held me down –

Three things I needed in order to move forward

Validation

The first thing that I needed was validation. Keeping the thoughts and the feelings bottled up inside did me little to no good. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t handle it anymore and I needed to get it out. Sharing with Jason was potentially most helpful. Receiving validation from the one that has wronged us can really do wonders but Jason wasn’t always in a place to do this. If Jason was in a place of humility and was willing to listen to my pain – then sharing my pain with him was fruitful. But there were times when I had to rely on a group of women that God had placed in my life.

When it came to my go-to girls – early on, I didn’t need someone to fix me. I didn’t need someone to tell me what to change. I just needed someone to sit in the pain with me. To be empathetic and to hear the depths of the pain that I was experiencing.

Born out of the validation and empathy I received from others – I was able to validate myself. And this, my friends, was huge. To not minimize or shame myself but rather to say – yes, this pain is unbearable. This weight is too much to carry. The hurt is real and these women I trust say it’s brutal, too.

Brain Stops

Girls – I had to get really really good at stopping my brain from being on the hamster wheel. This. Well… it was a process.

I had to work HARD to set down the bag of hurt and pain and walk into an exercise class and just tell myself – I’m leaving this at the door and it will be here when I come back out. I can pick it up then.

I’d be driving around in my car in those early years (I worked out of my car) and I’d have to say out loud – “BRAIN STOP. Just stop. I’m going to take a break. I’m not going to think about this right now.”

I’d focus my mind on memorizing Bible verses in my car (my mom would be so proud if she knew this!) or immersing myself into a good book – just to get a break from the constant that was in my head and heart.

Transformation

If I were to stay married to Jason – he had to allow God to transform him. God transforming my husband = the weight in the bag became lighter. Jason not doing the hard work God needed him to do = I’m carrying the bag. And while Jason couldn’t fully ever take away my pain – he could work toward cultivating character traits that would help me drop the bag and run back to him.

And when I say change – I’m not just talking about living with integrity. I’m talking about the deeper heart change that had to take place. Trading the pride for humility, switching out hopelessness and resignation for determination and leading the way, exchanging a posture of unforgiveableness to one of being forgiveable.

In effect – what Jason was able to do was to pick up my bag of pain and give me the respite I needed to keep going. When he was humble and I came to him with my hurt – he was in effect saying – I see you, I hear you and what you are going through isn’t okay. I should have never put you here in the first place. And I’ll sit with you in this for as long as it takes and help your heart heal.

This transformation didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of waiting and watching on my part, not knowing what the future might hold – would the marriage be restored? Or would I heal on my own?

I’ve heard it said – “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for.” (John Ortberg)

It was through the wait that I learned to lean on God and trust Him before anything else. It was through the wait that I learned what it looks like to surrender my life to Him. It was through the wait that God started a good work in me, cultivating character and strength, hope and love; and born out of the suffering – immense joy.

xo – Shelley

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