Developing Our Internal Power

After a really rough morning getting the littles to school – I trudged toward home in the snow and truly believed that it was only me and no other mother in the neighborhood that struggled so much to make life happen and it wasn’t even 8:15am yet!  (I hate it when I start to believe those lies that simply aren’t true!)

I sat down and put pen to paper and naturally started to figure out how to “fix” my woes.  I’m a one on the Enneagram (love this book if you want to look more into it!) so looking at things and trying to improve upon them – well, that’s my specialty!

I started with my little that was giving me so much trouble – crying and whining all morning long.  Then I moved onto Jason.  Then someone or something else.  Before I knew it – I realized that my “problems” had so much less to do with them and so much more to do with me.

I couldn’t fix anyone but me.  I held the power, not them.

(I hate it when I realize this!)

So often we give others power in our lives that only belong to us.  Sure – other people’s actions affect us.  We experience a lot of emotions – all across the board – based on our interactions with others.  This is a given.

But when we start to operate from a mentality that everyone around us needs to change in order for us to be okay – that’s when the slope can get slippery.

* To Be Clear *

Because most of you reading this have a similar story to mine – one of betrayal, lies, deception and manipulation from the one that was intended to protect you the most – I need to insert a caveat.  I am NOT saying that you should just ignore or move on or only work on yourself in the midst of your husband’s betrayal.  Not even close.

The absolute best way to work through betrayal is when he goes first and leads the way on doing the *hard* work of repairing the marriage.  You are working hard, too.  Grieving, finding your voice, grieving some more.  He is the one working on fixing the damage done.  His choices are not your fault and you don’t need to even begin to look into yourself for why he did what he did.  Absolutely ridiculous.  He can look into himself for those answers.  You are an innocent bystander to his choices.  (Don’t even get me started, I feel my heart pumping just typing this out.)  This is the way we have done things at Redemptive Living for the past 13 years and we stand behind the methods we use.

– Back to the Story –

What I am speaking to is more from a 30,000 foot view in the way we operate with others.  In our day to day interactions.

As I continued to journal – I realized that it was me and only me that could enforce what time my boys go to bed.  Clearly part of the morning melt down was lack of sleep and the boys going to bed too late the night before.  It was me that needed to change the bedtime routines and push them up by about 60 minutes.

I realized that I couldn’t change Jason’s demeanor and the heaviness he brought into our house this week (did I mention he is a four on the Enneagram?!).  Can I care about his heart and where he is at?  Absolutely, I can and I do.  But at what point do I need to separate myself from the heaviness and weight that he is carrying and not allow it to take me down?

These are the questions I have been pondering this week, my friends.

If you are into psychology – there is a word for this – it’s called internal locus of control (versus external locus of control). It’s something that I talk about ever so often in my groups and it’s a great way to conceptualize figuring out what we can own and have agency to change.

With that said – here are three practical tips to help cultivate and strengthen our internal power (or internal locus of control):

Get Grounded

First and foremost when I start to circle the drain in this way (think:  me freaking out in my head and thinking I am the only mom that ever struggles in the morning) – the first thing I have to do is get grounded and get some perspective.

This oftentimes mean wading through the situation and then stepping away from it to breathe a bit.  Getting outside and walking can help, expressing my feelings by getting them out of me (writing them out or processing out loud to a friend or to Jason) is also super helpful.

Vision Casting + Implementation

Don’t let this scare you.  We can set a vision for the small things just as much as the big things in life!

Once I am grounded mentally – it’s important to think through where I want to be.  For myself – I realized that I really needed to set myself up for success in the mornings.  While I can’t control if one of my boys spins out – I can control managing my time better.  I can either get up earlier to give myself more time for the hiccups or I can take a couple of tasks off my plate by making lunches the night before, having the boys set out their clothes, etc.

It’s important to note that tweaking just one or two things can often make a big difference.  I’d encourage you to start there (with just one or two tweaks) else you might risk becoming incredibly overwhelmed and aborting the entire mission – then you’ll be back where you started.  No bueno.

Detachment + Visualization

I talk a lot about detachment as it pertains to setting boundaries and also in regards to self-care in the healing process.  Think of detachment as an intentional buffer or space between you and someone or something else.  It doesn’t mean you don’t care but rather that you’re going to need (for your sake) to move forward with your day even in the midst of the crazy (with your husband, someone else, or even the crazy you might feel in your head).

Lately, I have used visualization to help myself detach.  Case in point – as I was starting to lose my internal power because of Jason’s heaviness – I imagined myself walking down a road.  There were beautiful old oak trees on either side of the road reaching their arms over the road like a canopy shielding and protecting me (I like my visualizations to be pretty, ladies) and there is also a yellow painted line on either edge of the road (not so pretty but important).  As I am walking down the road – taking the next step in my day and in my journey – there are all these distractions and things that keep crossing the yellow line.  I then mentally and visually push those things back to the other side of the line with my hands to make way for me to move forward with my day.  I then I take a bunch of deep breaths.

What About You?

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts as to how you help develop your internal power.  I would also love for you to join me at Restore which is in just two weeks in sunny California.  You can get more details here.

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

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

Sharing My Pain and Looking for Empathy – The Challenge is Real – Part 4

Ladies!  Spring is officially in the air and it makes my heart SO happy!  Never mind that it’s supposed to snow early tomorrow morning here in Denver.

Moving right along… ahem.

This series has taken on a life of it’s own so it will do you some good to read the first three posts here, here and here.  Once you’ve done that – you are all set and ready to go.

I talked to Jason briefly this morning and asked him – what did he do that Sunday evening, now many fortnights ago, that helped him get through to me – heart and soul?  How did he communicate what he was feeling without me spiraling into shame? (More on this in a bit.)  Furthermore, how did he use his anger for good?

I could sum up what he said in one word – vulnerability.  I know – not the best of news is it.

And this is where things can get super complicated – because when we are working toward expressing our hurt and pain towards our husbands – are you kidding me?!  The LAST thing on this earth that I wanted to do in the thick of my healing journey was to be vulnerable with Jason.  Who wants to get hurt and then set themselves up to potentially get hurt again?!  This is so not even natural or part of our human nature – now is it.

I love to refer to Brene Brown’s work when talking about vulnerability – what she says is pretty powerful –

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.  Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” p4  Rising Strong

And courage is exactly what we need – now isn’t it?  Because when we choose to be vulnerable – we are choosing to risk, choosing to potentially get hurt, and choosing to let go of the outcome.

To add some context to this – I want to share two things that Jason said this morning that he thinks might have helped him get to me in his anger:

He was super emotional.  Probably because he was utterly exhausted from his EMB weekend, yes.  But also because he hadn’t been honest with me about some of the parenting struggles he was experiencing.  So after several attempts of trying to communicate to me – I think he realized he wasn’t getting through to me and he couldn’t take it anymore.  The flood gates opened and out it all came – tears, anger, sadness, despair.

Keep in mind – the anger he expressed wasn’t protective, pushing me out.  The anger he expressed was vulnerable (there were tears, there were words like – “I am desperate”) and allowed me into his heart.

He was also very clear about what a big deal this was.  In fact, I think he used words like – “I’m dying inside”.  {That will wake a girl up, let me tell you.}

Do you see how Jason didn’t hold back with being vulnerable?  He showed up, he was all in.

For some of you reading this – you might know deep down this is your next step – to let down some of the walls and allow your husband in even more.  To show him what a big deal this (whatever “this” might be) is.  This vulnerability can come via tears or it might come via an intimate anger – or both.

For others, please hear me say – being vulnerable isn’t necessarily your next step.  Think this through and talk to your go-to girls and ask them what they think.

And last – a word about shame.  I mentioned at the top of this post that Jason communicated what he was feeling without me spiraling into shame.  Although there are things that Jason could have said that might have caused the feelings of inadequacy to surface, know that me holding myself above the shame pit is on me, not on him.

And the same applies to our husbands – it isn’t our responsibility to make sure that we don’t hit their shame button.  Sure, we can choose our words wisely.  AND – it’s incredibly important to work toward being fully known in a vulnerable way and surrendering how he is going to take it.  Again, it’s not your responsibility to keep him from going to a place of shame.

{This might be a topic to revisit in the next post – how the early struggles in our journey – with Jason automatically going to a place of shame with any argument, any discussion – little did we know – was laying the foundation for him to have the tools to overcome the shame in the years to come.  And remember – it’s that shame that was one of the triggers for him to choose to act out.  So working through the shame is incredibly important.  Don’t take that away from your husband!}

As always, would love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

 

 

Sharing My Pain and Looking for Empathy – The Challenge is Real – Part 3

If you haven’t read part one or part two of this blog post series – I highly encourage you to do so – you won’t be quite so lost.

As I mentioned in the last blog post, I was eagerly looking forward to writing more on this topic of sharing pain with vulnerability (versus in a self-protective way) and finding empathy (from our husbands) when Sunday evening happened and this played out at my house – except in reverse order.

Jason was sharing his pain in an ever-so-vulnerable way and I was the one responsible for humbly offering empathy.  Not an easy task for me, I must say.

What I’d like to do in this blog post is share with you five things that helped me in being empathetic toward Jason.

Keep in mind – this is most often where your husband struggles (no offense husband!) so feel free to just forward this blog post on over to him and see if it sparks any meaningful conversations.  (In addition, please note – If you are early on in your healing journey – I am much less concerned about you feeling empathy toward your husband (although this will come, in due time).  Your biggest job is to get in touch with your pain and share it in a vulnerable way (which we will be talking about more in Part 4).

Now then.  We can move on.

Below are the five things I identified that helped me engage empathy toward Jason –

I had a fresh perspective of how hard things really were so I was able to quite easily relate to his struggles and anguish.  In other words, I was fairly in touch over the weekend with my own depravity and my need for a Savior.  I had become angry with my boys more than once and then dealt with the horror of what I said and the shame of wondering – if someone saw how I was treating them – what would they think of me?!

Chances are, this is going to look different for you husbands out there.  You won’t know first hand the hurt and pain your wife is feeling.  Don’t let this stop you from missing my point – the key is to get in touch with your own depravity.  It starts with getting in touch with your feelings.  Not denying them or numbing out when you feel anything but happiness but actually engaging those tough emotions like fear.  I love this quote –

“Fear gets us in touch with our very real vulnerability, and it gets us in touch with our need for others and God.” p201 Changes that Heal by Henry Cloud

Once we are in touch with our own darkest emotions and our desperate need for a Savior – it is so much easier to relate to our spouse’s darkest emotions, even when we caused them.

By God’s grace alone – I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me.  I’m cringing because that last sentence sounds so hyper-spiritual and I might have just lost half of you but hopefully you can just cringe with me and keep reading.  There were a total of three times that Jason and I abruptly ended our conversation and I was responsible for all three of them.  And each time, I knew deep in my soul (in hind sight, I know this was the Holy Spirit at work within me) I needed to go back – keep fighting – and try to figure this out.  It was less about what Jason wasn’t doing and more about what I wasn’t doing – I wasn’t allowing myself to HEAR him (more on that in a bit).

I was still.  As I journaled out what all I learned from “the incident” what I saw time and time again is that once I found Jason in the little study – I was still.  I didn’t react OR respond.  I simply listened.  For instance, when I found him crying in the study – I stood across from him initially while he was sitting in the chair.  He was angry and stomping and walking in and out of the room.  When he finally settled back in the chair – I pulled up a stool next to him, not across from him.  Subconsciously, I was communicating – we are on the same team here.  In addition, I consciously worked at keeping my mouth shut and not interrupting or reacting to what Jason was saying.  I sat with him in his anguish.  There wasn’t anything FOR me to say.

The first words out of my mouth, when he was done venting were – “I get it.  And I’m so sorry.” And I meant it.  I finally heard him in his anguish.  I saw how torn up he was and how I had played a part in him feeling insignificant and like what he was experiencing wasn’t important enough to me.  I told him we’d do whatever it takes to get help.  Even if it meant I’d miss my favorite exercise class or even if we had to sell something we need or love in order to afford it.

I’ve continued to apologize and confess my shortcomings – up to nine days after “the incident”.  Just last night, I confessed to Jason that I KNEW I was choosing not to hear him.  To hear him meant I had to be selfless because to hear him meant we would need to get help and it would come at a cost (from both a time and financial perspective).  It meant I had to lay down my life (okay, I know that might seem a bit dramatic; cringe with me again!).  And it’s true – when we lay down our life for someone – we are humble, we hear them, and we do the right thing, even when it hurts.  My apology, even nine days later, wasn’t in a shaming way or in a self-deprecating way but rather in a – I messed up and I need a Savior refreshing and freeing sort of way.

In the next blog post – we’re going to tackle what Jason did to share his pain with me in a vulnerable way that reached me – heart and soul.

Would love, as always, to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

 

 

 

 

`

Sharing My Pain and Looking For Empathy – The Challenge is Real – Part 2

hey y’all!

I don’t know how it goes down at your house but at mine – the time change in the spring always wreaks havoc on ALL of us.  Dragging myself and the littles out of bed, rushing off to school; then bursting with energy at 10pm – all of us – while sleep escapes.  And the cycle continues all week…

I had been feeling quite frustrated these last couple of months because I’d slowly gotten into the routine of going to bed late and then waking up only about 10 minutes before my littles started to stir.  So I had this brilliant idea – why not kill two birds with one stone and while my body was adjusting to the time change – go ahead and “reset” my routine and start waking up about 45 minutes earlier than what I’m used to.

Brilliant. (Insert eye-roll emoji.)

One of the things that is motivating me to wake up earlier is so that I have a little more time to write.  And one of the things I’ve desperately wanted to loop back to over the last couple of months is this blog post that created quite the stir.

I’ve been thinking through all sorts of angles I wanted to use to attack the subject of us wives being vulnerable in sharing our pain and likewise, what it looks like for our husbands to have empathy. {‘Cause like I said – the challenge here is real.}

What I never expected, though, was how this would play out at my house – except in reverse order (Jason being vulnerable and transparent in his pain with me and then me moving toward feeling empathy for him).

It was one week ago from last night and since then, I’ve been trying to figure out – what clicked in me that helped me see his pain, feel his pain, and validate him?  And how in the world can I put this into words in order to help those men out there that just can’t seem to get there?

Likewise, what did he do that allowed him to fully trust me in his time of desperation and pain and allow me into his heart and soul?

I don’t know if I have the right words but here goes –

Jason had been gone for 4 days and as expected, it wasn’t Care Bears and rainbows while he was away.  I had run into some parenting troubles and, well, Jason had been running into some parenting troubles for a couple of months.

After several heated exchanges between the two of us – abruptly stopped by me walking out of the room and then him – I found Jason in tears in our little study.  He was clearly upset and angry and I knew I hadn’t been fair to him.  I hadn’t heard him nor validated where he was coming from.  This in turn caused him to feel insignificant and like what he needed didn’t matter.

So he started crying and talking and yelling and stomping (he got pretty close to my big toe, just so you know, but for those of you that are worried – it was spared) and I knew my job was to take it ALL in.  To listen, to let him vent, to feel his pain with him.  So I eventually pulled up a stool and just sat next to him while he sat in my office chair getting it all out.

Minutes went by before it was ALL out.  And I realized – I had made a BIG mistake.  I had COMPLETELY missed it.  So that’s what I said – “I totally missed this.  And I’m so so sorry.”

Let me just pause there and tell you – it is usually really hard for me to admit when I’m wrong or when I’ve mistreated Jason.  Call it pride or my flesh or whatever you want to – but that’s just not something that’s ever been easy.  Just ask him and he will verify!

But – this particular night was different.  Something about him vulnerably showing me his pain, sharing what he shared – about how afraid he is and how much he hates how he is parenting – it DID something to me deep down.

In addition, I’d just come off of four days of parenting and UNDERSTOOD first hand what he was talking about.  I wouldn’t have had the same “me too” attitude if the convo had taken place a month prior – but because of my hard days – I GOT it.

So I told Jason – I missed it.  I get it.  And I’m willing to do what it takes to get the help we need, even if it comes at a cost like missing my favorite exercise class (ouch) or selling my car and stuffing the boys in the bike trailer and biking wherever we go (kidding, kinda).

It’s when I said that, that Jason realized – I got it.  And I was all in.

You might be wondering – how in the world does this relate to me?  What can I learn from your situation?  And in the next blog post (which I’ve already written) – we are going to discuss just that.  So stay tuned.

xo – Shelley

 

 

The Dear Me Series – #2

One of the final exercises I instruct the ladies to do as apart of the RLFW support groups is to write a “Dear Me” letter.  Although there is a ton of trepidation to take part in this exercise – time and time again, it proves to be really meaningful.  To be able to look back and talk to your younger you and encourage and inspire her!  To look back and tell her that she’s going to make it – it’s powerful.

I was inspired to include this in the workbook after reading about others that wrote a letter to their sixteen year-old selves.  You can read a couple of examples here and here.

The letters the ladies in my groups write are to the younger version of themselves when everything hit the fan and they felt lost, without hope, and were looking for that life preserver to get them through the day in front of them – not the next week, not the next year – just the next day.  Can any of you relate?

Thank you, Kim for sharing your letter with such courage here today.

_______________________________________________________________________

Dear Me,

Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit or the protection of your angel. You were listening to that inner voice (the Holy Spirit’s guidance) on the night of discovery. The voice that directed you to check his phone despite your belief that he was totally faithful. There was no reason for you to wake up in the middle of the night and check. But you did and that started a journey you could have never imagined. God knew that you and your husband were ready to begin a new kind of healing. One that would be mostly out of your hands and in the willingness of your husband to work and to change. That is where God will show you how to depend on Him and Him alone for your comfort.

Don’t be too hard on yourself as you doubt things the first year after discovery. You will try to understand what is going on and how to address your doubts but you just won’t have the tools yet.

Continue to trust in God’s timing and the need for process, because the recovery road will be a process for you and your husband.

Good job on listening to the Holy Spirit again and for finding your voice to say that things were still not right and the connection was not there. Good job for insisting that you both seek help as you reached out for counseling. Good job on trusting your inner voice that there was more to learn and for braving through more discovery. God will be there during this time providing you a super spiritual ability to hold onto God while you fight for your marriage. God will provide even as you doubt.

You don’t know this, but your courage to reach out for help will be where God meets you with true healing. As you join Shelley and the other ladies you will think it’s a group that will provide comfort to you on this journey. It will be much more than that. It is where you will learn how to use your voice, set boundaries and gain tools for true redemption. You will work with your group and you will ultimately become closer to the women God wants/needs you to be. You will use what you learn, not only in your marriage but in your parenting and friendships. You will have a better understanding of community and the way God intended it for good. This process is ordained by God and he will meet you there to offer you protection and healing.

Dear Me, I promise that you will feel God’s presence throughout this journey.

Perhaps His closeness will be felt most as you forgive your husband on the mountain top where you married him. It is something you could never have imagined on the night of discovery or even during that first year of recovery. Use your righteous anger to get to the depths of your hurt. Don’t push yourself to forgive because when you finally feel God’s leading to forgive, it will provide you true freedom. You will feel ready to forgive your husband even though God’s work in him is not complete.

Be patient. You will understand God’s redemption like never before as you watch your husband fight for your trust and learn how to connect with you in a deeper and more spiritual way.

You could never know this on the night of discovery, but the timing for all of this is ordained by God. You know this because of the healing that has occurred over the past 3 years. Although there have been many ups and downs, stops and restarts, God has carried you. You now rest in a place of connection with your husband, trust in God’s process and true healing for yourself. Know that this will be a lifelong process of healing and keep trusting that God will show up.

______________________________________________________________________

A little about Kim – she loves to spend time with her two adult daughters and go on adventures with her husband as they enter this new phase of empty-nesting.  She is happy eating enchiladas, volunteering and searching for profound quotes to get her through the day.

And if you missed the first Dear Me Letter – you can read it here.

Image credits here and here.

Sharing my pain and looking for empathy – the challenge is real.

For those of you interested in a workshop to help work through the pain of betrayal – I would LOVE to see you at Restore in Orange County, CA next month!  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about the workshop – otherwise you can get most all the details here.

_________________________________________

I’ve been reading some great books lately – I just finished Visioneering and before that Essentialism and loved them both.  Highly recommend as books that might help give you a fresh perspective on your vision and goals for 2018.

I’ve moved on to another one that’s been sitting in my queue for quite some time – Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud.  Apparently this is the book that was the inspiration for the oh-so-popular Boundaries books by Cloud and Townsend.

This morning, I came across this while I was reading:

Since we often do what we know is wrong, rules rarely keep us in line.  Love does a much better job of keeping us moral.  We think of how we might hurt the one we love, more often than we think of some code we must keep.  p.58 “Changes that Heal”

And it got me thinking…(I know, this could be dangerous).  Reminds me of a couple of things –

First – it immediately reminds me of what Paul says in Romans 7 – “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  (Romans 7:15)  This verse has always confused me but I think I’m starting to get it.  The default setting is broken and in our sin nature – we will always veer toward that which we don’t want to do versus that which we want to do.  It is SO much harder to do the right thing and SO much easier to do the wrong thing.

Second – it reminds me of our husbands.  Very rarely is a husband able to just stop looking at porn or just stop having affairs (or anything in between for that matter).  Even when they know it’s NOT the way they want to live – that’s not enough of an incentive to “stop just because it is wrong”. (And this is pretty depressing for us wives, to say the least.)

For starters, they have to get some tools to replace the poor choices with better choices.  There is also the rewiring of their brains.  And let’s not forget there is the insight and knowledge that must be discovered as to why they do the things they do in order to turn around and do things differently.

With that said – there is another key area that can help deter our husbands from making these choices.  And that’s where what I read above in Changes that Heal comes in.

Jason has always said that him seeing my pain and experiencing it first hand in the days, weeks, months and years (yes, I said years) after betrayal has been a key motivator to not go back to his old ways.

To be clear, I don’t believe that this is his only motivation or even his primary motivation.  Jason came to the end of himself and first, for God and second, for himself, he knew it wasn’t the way he wanted to live.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the one woman on the planet that he wanted to guard and protect in this world – that would be me people – he failed to do.  And with that said, I became the face of his poor choices.  I was, at least for a while, the constant reminder that he fell short.

And that, my dear friends, leads me to a couple of questions:

What does it look like to be fully known with your husband and express your pain?  Especially if he isn’t in a place where he can or will receive it?  It takes a LOT of vulnerability and transparency to share our pain and when we are feeling raw and vulnerable from the pain of betrayal – it often feels like too much of a risk to express it to the one that caused it.

Second question :

How do our husbands get to a place where they can receive our pain? (Rather than our pain spiraling him into shame.)   Because for most if not all husbands – they have no stinkin’ idea how to give empathy much less receive empathy!  But there is hope!  There is no age limit on learning to be empathetic and Jason as well as countless other men have learned to do this.  It’s one of those character changes that is integral for men that are working toward living a life of sexual integrity.

So this is what we are going to tackle in the next couple of blog posts – how do we express our pain and how do our husbands work toward receiving our pain.

In the meantime, what is this stirring up in you?  Would love for you to share your thoughts!  Let’s make this an amazing year.

xo – Shelley

 

The Dear Me Series – #1

One of the final exercises I instruct the ladies to do as apart of the RLFW support groups is to write a “Dear Me” letter.  Although there is a ton of trepidation to take part in this exercise – time and time again, it proves to be really meaningful.  To be able to look back and talk to your younger you and encourage and inspire her!  To look back and tell her that she’s going to make it – it’s powerful.

I was inspired to include this in the workbook after reading about others that wrote a letter to their sixteen year-old selves.  You can read a couple of examples here and here.

The letters the ladies in my groups write are to the younger version of themselves when everything hit the fan and they felt lost, without hope, and were looking for that life preserver to get them through the day in front of them – not the next week, not the next year – just the next day.  Can any of you relate?

Thank you, Erika, for going first.  I hope each of you enjoys this first installment of the Dear Me series.

_________________________________________________________________

When you think of the early days and all the tears you cried. The number of times you cried yourself to sleep and even wept while you were sleeping. Only to wake up to a wet pillow, praying that it was just a dream. Know that God holds your tears. He was there crying right beside you.

You’ve come a long way since discovery. You waited many, many months for disclosure, and are still waiting for the amends letter. You constantly struggled with replaying all these years over and over in your mind hoping for a different outcome that is not going to happen. Slowly, you’ve learned to live with the facts of the past and forgive, not for him but you. Although it has been a long journey and came at the cost of innocence, you have peace you didn’t have two years ago.

You may never fully understand his choices of betrayal. But rest assured that his decisions do not mean you failed as a wife, or as a woman. Contrary to well-meaning advice, it wasn’t due to your lack of prayer, or encouragement, or availability to have sex or any other thing a Christian wife is “supposed to do and be.” Remember that no matter whom he married he would be this way. Your disability has not made you worth less than other women.

I know how desperately you wished you knew the truth a long time ago, especially before your health deteriorated. At times you have felt cheated, and that life is unfair. That’s because you were and it is. It is OK to feel this way at times. At the same time recall how God has been there with you, drawing you closer to Him.

Be kind to yourself that you didn’t put the pieces together. How could you? Who would think he was doing the things he was while at the same time having a fruitful ministry? Who thinks their husband is capable of such things? He was a master liar and manipulator who worked carefully to hide the facts and make you doubt the things you raised.

Be proud that you stand up for yourself now. That you realize you do not need to protect everyone and try to make sure everyone else is happy, especially at your own expense. As you continue to forge new patterns in your relationships, remember what you want matters at least just as much as others want. It is not selfish for you to want others to give and not just take.

As you go forward, listen to that inner voice. Let your words continue to match your feelings. Stand your ground and enforce your boundaries. It’s OK to be scared right now because you don’t know if your marriage will survive.

You’re not ready for this to be your story. That’s OK. You promised yourself that you would not let this experience harden your heart and make you bitter. Hold onto that promise.

_____________________________________________________________________

A little about Erika – she enjoys listening to audio books, working on jigsaw puzzles, and mentoring people with cerebral palsy.

Photo credits here and here.

Weiner Dogs and Cultivating Joy

{This is part one in an installment of posts on some of the beautiful things that are cultivated out of betrayal.  I know I also need to loop back to worthiness – I hope you ladies are still keeping track of the lies you hear in your head.  I’ve added a couple – “I’m alone” and “I can’t forgive”… both total lies.  Stay tuned for more.}

Last week on my group calls, I asked the ladies to share an experience that gave them the feeling of joy.  Something within the last 24 hours, unexpected or simple – something, anything that prompted them to feel joy.

It was so fun to hear of their responses – from the unexpected joy of watching a whale breach to the simplicity of cuddling with littles on the porch as the day turned to night.

Then, it was my turn to share.  I ran through some of the events of the last 24 hours and landed on the one that I felt prompted the most amount of joy for me.

I go to a post office about once a week to send off books and it happens to be tucked in the back of a Hallmark store.  Strategically placed next to the post office is not one but two rows of stuffed animals.

Needless to say, when I have my littles with me, it’s DIFFICULT for them to keep their hands off the stuffies.  (As I side note, I’m not a big fan of stuffed animals.  Strange, I guess, but they just seem dirty to me.  I know, I’m odd.)

Well, last Tuesday morning, Norman and I walked into the Hallmark.  I was dealing with a whole host of emotions thanks to the fact that I had a busy couple of weeks and didn’t take the time to be self-intimate (never a good thing).

Norman, as expected, walked straight to the stuffies and picked up this weiner looking type dog that he has picked up for the last six or so months when we walk in there.  (I’m surprised the employees haven’t just asked me to purchase it since he’s touched it so much.)  I noticed it was the last one and Norman asked, as he does every time, if he could buy it.

I’m an amazing mom and always give my children the same pat answer – “I don’t know if you can buy it, we need to go home and count your money and then decide.”  This tends to be an excellent way to avoid making unnecessary purchases because usually, by the time we leave the store, the item of interest has left my little’s mind.

Tuesday was different.  I wanted to purchase the stuffed pup for Norman and maybe, just maybe I was coping with all my emotions by purchasing something, anything.  I don’t know.

After I sent the books off, I turned around to collect Norman and when I found him, I was surprised to see he didn’t have the dog with him.  I asked him where it was and he said he put it back and pointed to where he placed it.

I bent down and looked into his sweet blue eyes, and told him I thought it was time to take the weiner dog home.  Norman was speechless.  And I was almost in tears.

He grabbed the dog and we headed to the check out toward the front of the store.  Kim rang us up and I have to tell y’all, it was the best $12 I’ve spent in the longest time!  The amount of joy I felt seeing Norman with that sweet pup, holy cow.

It’s been a week and that little weiner dog has been everywhere with us.  (I’ve even had to provide a small bowl of water for the little guy because he was thirsty?!)

{So I sit here and I’m asking myself – why was this such a big deal to me?! Read on…}

As I reflect on my simple moment of joy, I’m reminded of a couple of things –

For starters, it really is the more simple things that prompt joy like purchasing the $12 weiner dog at the local Hallmark.

Second, I’m reminded how desperately we need joy when we are recovering from betrayal.  This journey is not glitzy, this we know.  We’re not just hitting rock bottom as we come to terms with the choices our husbands have made – we’re rolling around in the muck and mire.

And last – and probably most poignant for me – I’m reminded that joy was cultivated from the pain of betrayal.  Hang with me and I’ll explain.

The feelings that each of us deals with post-betrayal are incredibly overwhelming.  I for one didn’t even know how to handle the feelings I felt when I found out Jason’s ugly truth.  For me, I didn’t have any practice feeling negative feelings.  I was taught that good feelings like happiness and peace were acceptable but feelings like hatred and anger – not okay.

So what did I learn to do?

I learned to numb the negative emotions.  From a very early age.

As Brene Brown says in Daring Strong – “when we numb the dark, we also numb the light.”

It’s true – the decade before Jason’s ugly truth hit the fan and for some time afterward, I didn’t even know what true joy felt like.  Because I numbed my emotions through working more, eating less, and a sundry of other tactics.

It’s taken sitting in the pain, learning to feel, realizing I can’t always fix the feelings – this is what has cultivated joy.

In other words, allowing the negative emotions to wash over me and accepting their reality has also allowed me to experience joy like never before.

That’s the reason the little weiner-dog-joy-story is so important to me.  Because in the past, this wouldn’t have even hit my radar.  But today – today – I am alive and feeling the good and the bad.  I am so grateful.

xo-Shelley