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

Dear Me – A Letter to my 26 year-old self on Valentine’s Day

This is a letter written to my 26 year old self – it’s how old I was when my life turned upside down.

Hey You – yes you!

I know you’ve been dreading today, Valentine’s Day.  You’ve never loved this holiday – except for those homemade sugar cookies your mom would always bake for you.  That’s really the only thing about Valentine’s Day you ever liked.

Looking back, Valentine’s Day was always the day when you realized there was absolutely no boy on the planet that was interested in you.  Ugh.  And this didn’t even change after you graduated from braces to retainer gear.

Any who, now Valentine’s Day is ruined forev – or so it seems.  How can you celebrate cupid’s special day when your husband hasn’t been faithful to you?  This holiday will never ever ever ever feel the same.

That innocent love – gone in what seems like a poof.

I know you feel like here will always be a black cloud over Valentine’s day, Birthday’s, Christmas, heck – even the Fourth of July.  And you are right, it’s gonna be hard for a while.

Breathe deep and don’t expect so much from yourself.  For goodness sake, your heart was just ripped out of your chest and it’s going to take a while, a long while for the mending to be complete.

When you try to pick out a Valentine’s card a couple of years into your recovery, well, don’t even try it.  Because there won’t be a card that fits the bill.

Where are the cards that say “I think I love you but the ache hasn’t gone away and I don’t know that it ever will.”

Or “I’m thankful you’ve done some work but I don’t love you to the moon and back and I don’t want to have sex with you tonight just because it’s Valentine’s day.  If I’m honest, I’d love for you to remove yourself from this house for the entire day.  That’s what I want.  The end.”

Sadly, those cards don’t exist.  Note to self: you should seriously write down all the sentiments you feel and start making your own cards for women with a similar story.  I bet they’d be popular.

But you’re a fighter.  And you want so badly to like Valentines day.  Every year, you keep going to the card store to pick out a card that will work.  Every year, you walk away with a pit in your stomach because you can’t identify with literally any of the cards.  Another blank one on the inside will have to do.

Don’t believe the lies that you are too different.  That you are too broken.  That every holiday is ruined forever.

You so desperately want to feel normal on this day.  Pssst – forget about normal.  Normal is over-rated.  Just be confident in how you feel today and honor yourself, m’Kay?

Because it’s going to take a long while, like seven whole years, before you start to see the light.  You’ll walk into that card store and for the first time, you will read a card that fits.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not one of those sex cards.  Just a sweet simple “I love you” card.  And you believe it.  It’s a sweet moment – because you realize you’ve come a long way and your heart is softening.  Finally.

It will continue to get better.  You’ll start to roll into the card store and laugh at all the silly cards.  You will also laugh at all the over priced flowers, chocolate or even the lingerie begging to be purchased.  You will pass it all by as you kick your head back and laugh out loud!

Because a decade in, you will realize that Valentine’s day is really just another day.  Sure, it’s a chance to say “I Love You”.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s just your relationship isn’t hinging on what you do or don’t do on February 14th.  Your relationship is hinging on what you do the other 364 days a year.

So remember this – you must go through the pain and the heartache in order to get to the other side.  You can’t skip over it, not even the pain of holidays, you must bravely move through them.

Thirteen years after your first post-betrayal Valentine’s Day, you will be so thankful that you chose to stay.  You will be so thankful for the way Jason has led this recovery.  You won’t be able to believe the love you feel for that man, your husband.  The way you two will laugh together and cry together.  It’s redemption at it’s best.

So breathe, be true to how you feel, and take the pressure off.  You and God – you’ve got this.  I pinky-swear-promise.

Love, me

 

Surviving the next 72 hours

Hi girls!

Um, where did 2016 go?  Are you kidding me?!  Quickest year ever.

I want you to know how much I’ve been thinking about my readers this week and as much as I’ve wanted to connect with you via a blog post, it seems so many other things have been pulling me away.

What I’ve been dying to talk to you about is this – surviving the holidays.

For some of you, you might have just found out about your husband’s affair or porn use.  If this is you, chances are, you don’t even know which way is up right about now.  I get it.  Been there.

Or, you might be a couple of years in and feeling like the good times will never return.  I think this can be the hardest part of the journey – the newness of it all has worn off and you are TIRED.  I get it.  Been there.

Or you might be seeing, finally, the fruits of all you’ve been through.  Your pain turned into something good.  For this, you are so grateful and breathing such a sigh of relief to have made it to the other side.  I get it.  I’m there.

All that to say – no matter where you are on your journey, here is a quick survival guide to make it through the next 72 hours:

Remember what we talked about all last month – connection with God, self and others is key on this journey.  This, dear ones, is critical over the next 72 hours.  As a bonus, I learned recently that our brains are most receptive to information the first 30 minutes of the morning as well as the last 30 minutes before bedtime.  This would be a great time to connect with yourself via journaling and connect with God via reading scriptures.  As for connecting with others, well, chances are, most of us will do much of that over the next couple of days.  Just remember to intentionally connect with someone that you feel you can be yourself with – even if that means making a phone call to one of your go-to girls.

Remember to detach as necessary from your husband and from his (or your) cRaZy family.  With detachment comes a lot of watching and waiting and yet trying not to get tangled up in the emotions of it all.  A sweet woman, Tam, on one of my calls explained it this way – it’s sitting in the stands, with your popcorn, observing what’s going on below you.  Not on the offense and not on the defense, simply observing and taking it all in.  Another wife told our group one evening that detachment meant enjoying his company when she felt safe.  I love this concept and want to encourage you to give yourself permission to enjoy yourself if you feel safe and secure to do so.

And last, remember over the next couple of days that absolutely nothing is impossible with God.  This takes us to Luke chapter 1 when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would give birth to Jesus.  I can only imagine how terrified Mary must have been.  How much she might have doubted even for a split second.  Gabriel reassured her, telling her not to be afraid.  He then told her – “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Ladies, I LURVE this part of the Christmas Story.  How impossible could it be – to become impregnated as a virgin.

Likewise, how impossible could it be – to heal from the pain your husband has caused.

Remember, nothing will be impossible with God.

There is hope.  You will heal.

For now – connect with God, self and others (that you deem safe); detach if need be; and dwell on God’s truth – nothing is impossible.  Oh, and if at all possible, I encourage you to allow yourself to laugh and to enjoy some of the delicious food that comes your way.

xo-Shelley

 

 

Making it through the holidays (you will have to read on to understand!)

I found this blog post recently.  I intended to send it out just before Christmas.  But we all know how craZy December can be.  And it never made it out.

I was reminded that I had it after a gal in one of my groups courageously opened up about the array of emotions she felt when she went to the store to pick out a card for her husband’s birthday.  Her husband has worked hard in his recovery.  And so has she.  And yet, looking for a card that would mirror how she feels in her heart was, well, impossible.  I can SO relate.  Keep reading for more…

jesusbridgesthegap

Special events including birthdays and holidays can be especially difficult for us wives, whether you are two weeks in or two years into your process.  I’ve had the chance to dialogue with some of my groups about this over the last month.  How do we enjoy the holiday season yet still be true to our current feelings?  How do we go to special gatherings with the man that has betrayed us and pretend like everything is fine?  How do the holidays not sting and hurt more than any other day?

This is hard.  Really hard.  For the longest, I used Jason’s birthday as a gauge for the condition of my heart towards him.  It was for many many years (probably around 7 to be exact), that I’d go select a card for Jason and as I looked through them, never could find one that didn’t make me want to rip him (and it) to shreds.  All that to say, early on, Jason didn’t get a birthday card.  And at some point, as my heart started to thaw, I was able to find a simple card that would do.  It’s only been in the last four years or so that I’ve been able to select a card for him and felt wholly in agreement with what the card said.

If you find yourself feeling like you are having to wear a mask this holiday season, here’s what I’d like to tell you:

  • Listen sweets (this is a name I use with much adoration and affection), it’s not going to be this way forever.  I pinky-swear promise.
  • You’re in good company.  I’ve been there and so has every other woman that shares a similar story.
  • Depending on your life stage and the family and friends you are going to be with, it’s okay to give yourself permission to unplug from your present reality and allow yourself to enjoy the day (with or without your husband).
  • Even this (see preceding point) will take a lot of work.  You may have to do a “brain stop” every ten seconds. (A brain-stop is when you stop yourself as your mind starts to wander and conjure up the past.  You can say “STOP!” out loud, or to yourself.  Just know that your family may give you strange looks if you say this out loud.)
  • It’s also okay to open your hands wide and grieve hard.  Get it out.  Know that God meets you where you are.  He’s kept a record of your every tear (psalm 56:8).
  • Gently speak truth to yourself:  It’s because of Jesus that we don’t have to be perfect.  We don’t have to forgive perfectly, grieve perfectly, or go through this process perfectly.  Jesus bridges the gap for us.

Wishing each of you a very merry Christmas.  I’m so thankful for YOU.  And I’m so looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

Love – Shelley

I guess I should say, wishing you a happy summer!  And I AM so thankful for each and every one of you.  What about you – have you found it especially difficult to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or other holiday?  Does it give you peace to know it took me 7-8 years before my heart was aligned with the birthday cards I perused at the store?