I genuinely think that when the shit hits the fan, there really is nothing you can do but own it. Hold your hands up completely and own up to how you have contributed to the current state of said shit hitting said fan. Again, it’s not about letting people off the hook, providing them with justifications or excuses, but acknowledging there are two people here contributing to the situation you have found yourselves in.
I do not condone or excuse my husband’s behaviour in the slightest, as the choice he made to cheat was his and his alone and the more I understood about how adultery works, the more I realised it had very little to do with me at all. However, I absolutely contributed equally to the shortfalls in our marriage at the time which made our relationship susceptible. When the affair was disclosed and he was forced into explaining himself and how he was feeling, I did agree with my husband's grievances. I absolutely did not agree with what he did about them and do not accept any responsibility for his choice to have an affair, but his points about why he was unhappy were valid. I didn't argue with them. I listened and agreed with him. He was right in much of what he said and his feelings were valid. Even the first time I flicked through all their text messages, I could see exactly what he was getting from it. Attention, flattery, care-taking to name a few and it killed me. It's not that I was blaming myself but I felt terrible that someone I deeply cared about was so unhappy and so desperate for attention. I had had no idea. He had never once mentioned any kind of dissatisfaction or unhappiness to me at all. I was very aware of our challenges and our disagreements, when we had them, but I was completely oblivious to how neglected and disconnected he felt. I found the summer break with him very difficult, for various reasons which I touch upon in our back story, but I felt we had resolved a lot of that with the plan we had come up with as a result. Most of our issues are to do with circumstances imposed on us, not actually our relationship as a couple. Looking back, I think I was incredibly naive to think that our marriage would weather anything and that I could conduct myself however I liked, without actually consciously putting effort into the marriage itself and feeding my husband what he needed. I was coasting and there was definitely a lot of taking things for granted on both sides. We had both made quite a mess of things.
My biggest distress was why he decided to just write me off and not talk to me about any of this. That he never even gave me a chance. I distinctly remember on D-Day saying to him, utterly distraught, "How could I do anything about it, if you don't tell me? How am I supposed to change anything if I don't even know?" I felt so dejected that our years of marriage did not give any weight towards allowing me some grace and that he'd just decided to bin it instead. That everything he knew about me, us and our life together was so easily overlooked for someone he hardly knew. Such a sucker punch to the gut. Anyway….
....back to owning my shit. I have been working pretty hard on myself for quite a few years now and when I say working on myself I mean looking at my behaviours, looking at my programming, taking responsibility for myself and the results happening in my life. It’s partly to do with the work I do, partly a deep personal interest, partly the amazing people working as coaches I meet in my life and partly a response to my life’s circumstances. It’s very much been a work in progress where some areas are easier to work on than others. This felt like a huge test of all of that, plus a whole lot more. Like everything I had learnt myself, but also taught to others, everything I had experienced was coming together to prepare me specifically for this moment right here, right now. There was no point in getting defensive, arguing my point, trying to be right, kicking off and throwing it all back at my husband. No point at all and I could feel that intensely. Humility washed over me like a……like a……..this is going to sound crazy, but did you ever have those toys as a kid where you could scribble on the grey screen with a plastic stick, print shapes and stuff, then you had a button at the bottom you could slide all the way across and back and all your drawings would be cleared away? It felt like that! Like all that scribbling was unnecessary and totally futile. I just had to clear everything off and face a blank screen, humble, open, honest and accepting. I had to take this as an opportunity to admit to and learn from my mistakes, as well as those of my husband, not fight and scream, accuse and berate. This was a fuck up on the grandest of scales and we were both responsible for it.
I had been pretty miserable on and off for years, but always tried to push through and make the best of it. I had struggled with Army life once we had kids feeling very isolated and alone with a baby, a toddler and a very absent husband. Army life can be tough. I had babies at the same time as my friends who all lived very close to each other and I was muddling through with very little support and very few friends because I was constantly moving. I had been feeling incredibly taken for granted as I did just get on with things, did the very best I could and did it well. I went out on my own and found baby and toddler groups, family centres and stay and play sessions, drove to farms, indoor play centres, sing along sessions, did picnics, play-parks and walks for the dog with streams and fallen trees for the kids to climb on. I invited people over for playdates, took cakes to coffee mornings and got involved wherever I could but I was genuinely dying inside and had been for a very long time, plus it was all so exhausting. I moaned a lot, but to be fair, without going into too much detail, there was a lot to moan about. Buying our own house was seen as a solution to much of this and to my husband’s credit, he did listen to my unhappy moans and was the main driving force behind the whole idea and the steps to start putting down some roots. I was all for it, what I didn’t realise was how putting an end to the moving would solve one problem and cause a whole lot more.
Once we moved and I had the perception that this was the end of a transitional army life for us, I got completely blinkered by my programmed views of life and where I felt I “should” be and wasn’t. I turned 40 the day we left our last married quarter and moved to our forever home. I had waited 10 years to finally actualise and nurture our own family home. 10 years to decorate, ask the kids what colour they wanted their walls and not feel bad about putting pictures on the walls. 10 years to be able to make our house exactly how we wanted it, 10 years to connect with where I lived instead of it being just a house I lived in, but despite all this opportunity, I just couldn’t be grateful about how wonderful that was. I mean, I was grateful and it was wonderful in so many ways, I genuinely loved it. However, I was also very critical and compared everything in my life to where I thought I should’ve or would’ve been if I hadn’t moved about for 10 years. I was soaked in bitterness and resentment for the difficulties I had faced as an army wife; the lack of support, feelings of isolation and loneliness, what I felt to be a lack of recognition and appreciation for what a good job I was actually doing in my life. I let all of this overshadow the gratitude I did have. I had my view of what a “successful” life would look like and in comparing my own, decided I had been disadvantaged because of being an Army wife. I let this expectation and comparison overshadow much of what a great life I actually had. Rationally I could see how lucky I was and how much we had to be grateful for, but it never seemed to connect emotionally and there was always a BUT…..followed by something negative which swiftly and expertly took out the amazing stuff at the knees. My whole life was ruled by this constant, subconscious comparison to what I felt were society’s invisible standards. Should and shouldn'ts ran my brain, plaguing me daily and distorted how I viewed everything in my life.
I should’ve been earning over £30,000 by now.
We should have half a mortgage paid off by now.
I should’ve progressed in my career. I should’ve stayed in one place.
I should be further on in my life, everyone else is.
As with everything in my life, I threw myself into doing something about it. I was determined to “keep up” with the imaginary Jones’ and surpass them with my brilliance and strict work ethic. I had been running my own coaching business since I first got married and I was fixed on the belief that being in one place and building up a local presence and reputation for myself would be the answer to a consistent and reliable income. I had my “why”. My main motivation was my husband. I wanted to provide for him so he could sit back and have some choice in his life. He had been in the Army almost sixteen years by this point and was coming up to being pensionable. It meant he could leave and have a normal life. He had worked so hard, put his life on the line, endured extensive and demanding training courses in order to progress and provide for our family. He had always shared everything with me equally and never outwardly expressed resentment for being the main earner. I wanted so much to be able to say to him “Here. I’ll look after us now. Have a rest.” I wanted to swap roles. He was ready to take more of a back seat and I was chomping at the bit to get going. I wanted to repay him for everything he had done. I was utterly convinced I could do it. I was clever enough, capable enough, worked hard enough, knew enough. I mean people do it all the time, don’t they? I was your perfect prototypical, eager entrepreneur. Enthusiastic, focused and gullible. I believed the bullshit hype that is churned out by marketers and other eager entrepreneurs all across the Internet. I bought no end of courses, read every book going, watched hundreds of webinars, had coaching sessions, joined networking groups, had this idea and that idea and “worked” on my business like an obsessed trojan. I pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed. This played out as a repetitive cycle where I would find a new “expert”, have a new idea, be super motivated and positive, knuckle down, work really hard, focus, focus, focus then crash and burn with a massive meltdown about not getting anywhere, not seeing enough results, cry about what am I supposed to do now? This would overtake me for a while (consume me would actually be more accurate), I’d then refuse to be beaten, believe in myself and my passion so much, I’d find another magic solution and go again. God, just writing that brings back the exasperation of it all. I was so “in it”, so desperately convinced I could do it, I literally could not see the wood for the trees, at all. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, but looking back, I was absolutely going about it the wrong way.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I did have some level of success and definitely built up a respected and reputable name for myself throughout the local area and the networking groups I attended. I met some amazing people in the industry, coached some fantastic clients, learnt loads, was invited to speak at events and absolutely progressed, but under my “fixed” idea of where I thought I “should” be it was never enough and the harder I worked, the more ideas I had, the more books I read or webinars I watched, the more I pushed and forced, the more frustration and anger it created for me. I felt like life was always one step ahead and it didn’t matter what I did or how much effort I put into catching up, I never, ever managed it. This was all alongside running the house, managing the kids, their school runs, homework and activities, cooking, budgeting, socialising and anything else that came along, including being a wife. My poor husband had to deal with this year in, year out. An innocent spectator, volunteering to ride the roller coaster with me, which I told him would be fun, when in actual fact it was a horror ride not knowing what mood he would be bracing himself for, what idea I was going to throw at him this time, what crazy scheme I had come up with or theory I had found which was going to change everything. Having no idea what to do with me or how to console me when the meltdowns hit and never wanting to squash my dreams by asking me if it was all worth it. My role as a wife was very practical and I did it very well, but the nurturing side of it had slipped off the radar the more consumed with anger, frustration and bitterness I became. I didn’t feel like I blamed him directly, but when the shoulds and shouldn’ts were rife I blamed the army, which may as well have been blaming him. My husband faced the brunt of the lethal cocktail of negativity, vexation and resentments I felt about my life and I felt that, as my husband, that was his job to do that. There wasn’t really any recognition on my part about how that cocktail might make him feel as a husband, as a man and as a provider. I was too proud, too stubborn and too caught up in my own ego. His needs were non-existent, not even a consideration. I had totally lost sight of what was actually important. I had stopped feeding into us as a couple and just assumed because we were married we would stay married.
I’m a great believer in life, that the Universe sends you messages about your life and what needs to change. If you don’t listen, the messages don’t stop, they just get louder. This was full volume, ground shaking thunderous noise coming at me through a megaphone connected to a microphone, attached to 20,000 Watt subwoofer speakers.
YOU NEED TO FUCKING STOP OR YOU’RE GOING TO LOSE EVERYTHING!
*Wipe a tear*
My intentions were always incredibly honourable. I was trying to show my husband how much I appreciated him by earning enough to take the strain off him and, I genuinely believed this is what I had to do to be “successful”. I just had it all wrong, so terribly, terribly wrong. I was too blinkered and proud to realise how much I was contributing to the strain and all I really needed to do was tell him how much I appreciated him and our life. And yes, I know he needed to do the same. I had deep feelings of being taken for granted too. I had adapted my life to his for years, taken up the slack when he was away, supported him in all his training and deployments etc. etc. This, I want to stress again, is NOT by any means accepting responsibility for his actions, making excuses for him or blaming myself for the affair. What it IS, is looking at the bigger picture and owning my shit. Listening to the Universe and using this as an opportunity to look at where I was going wrong, how I was contributing to what was happening in my life so I could do something about it. Take the lessons, heed the warnings and be humbled by the experience, and humbled I certainly was.
In the first couple of weeks after D-Day I was very sheepish and reflective. In between the intense waves of emotion and shock, I felt for everyone involved. I could see what a complete fuck up everything was. It really was a fuck up of epic proportions, on everyone’s side. I felt so bad for all of us. Him, her, me. We had all made poor decisions in our lives that had created this monumental mess. I think I have mentioned it already in another blog, but I did feel bad she had got caught up in our mess. In our balls-up of a marriage. The whole situation was a disaster. We had all made poor decisions in our lives that had created this monumental mess and I had empathy for that. That was, and yes, we’re back here again, until the letter arrived at my house and the antics started, revealing the last night they had together. I’m happy to own my shit, understand the bigger picture and see things from other points of view, but I’m definitely NOT happy to be disrespected and disregarded in such a vicious and deceitful way. In fact, the day one of the photos revealed he had gone over to her house, I had just sent him pictures of how I was making changes by throwing bin bags of obsessive business stuff away. I was deleting emails and unsubscribing myself from everything I had ever signed up for. Showing him I was owning my shit and serious about not making the same mistakes again. He was still suffocating in affair fog and, quite clearly, following his own path at that time. Another blog on that to come!
So, after that dastardly twist in the tale and the immense damage it produced, owning my shit also became a way to find my way through the colossal pain generated by this new level of betrayal. As I said in "Humanise Not Demonise", the truth shall set you free. I realised that as much as I had to see his truth, I also had to own up to mine. The only aspect I could control and the only person I was responsible for was me and my own behaviour, attitudes and reactions. I was in charge of how I dealt with this situation and I had chosen to move forwards with honesty and humility, not blame and bitterness. I had done enough of that over the last few years. No, I hadn't chosen to cheat, but I had contributed to this relationship too and whether I chose to stay or leave, I could still take a long hard look at myself in the process. I had been righteous, angry, spiteful at times and very unpredictable with my moods. I hadn't appreciated what I did have and instead focused constantly on chasing to fill the gaps of where I thought I was lacking. I was very negative at times, inflexible and found it very difficult to allow life to be fluid. I was the queen of punishment sulks and angry rants. I rarely apologised and revelled in making my point, usually to highlight how much worse things were for me and how much of my life I had sacrificed to be his wife. I didn't give enough acknowledgement to my husband and his work. I didn't tell him what a great dad he was or how lucky I felt to be married to him. I didn't make him feel appreciated or valued very often. I thought and felt all these things, but didn't express them to him as much as I should have. I'm sure we're all guilty of that, and remember, I know this is two way, he wasn't doing a lot of these things either, but this is about owning my shit, not blaming him for his. That's his job to recognise and change, and thankfully he is
Part of my journey involved an incredibly tearful expression of holding my hands up to everything I felt I needed to. Like surrendering it all to God, and no I am not religious in the slightest. One evening after a huge flooding episode, I got out a notepad and said to myself "Right *****, total and utter honesty. Own it all." So I did. I made a list of everything and anything I felt I need to hold my hands up to and apologise for. I wanted to show my husband I was doing my part, I wanted to be held accountable for my behaviour moving forwards and I wanted to cleanse my soul. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, as in the first instance it was an exercise purely for myself, but after a few weeks of doing it the moment naturally arose where I read it to my husband, trying super hard not to blubber. It didn't work. The trying not to blubber I mean. The acknowledgement of all my flaws and failures? Did.