A few weeks ago, when I was recording our podcast with my friend Anna, she and I were chatting afterwards. She told me something that was a real game changer, and I can't believe I didn't think of this before. We were talking about some of the prominent people who were extremely judgemental about me and who I was, before they had even met me, based on the gossip that my husband was having an affair. Turns out one of them had an affair with their current wife, behind the back of his ex-wife. Interesting, right?
I wish I had known this sooner, because it's so hard when you're at the bottom of that brutal abyss, to not turn it on yourself. It's exhausting trying to deflect, ignore and rise above so much judgement and false perception. It's deflating attempting to stand firm when so many people are projecting their shit onto you, when you're in a position of weakness and vulnerability. Knowing it's not you provides very limited solace if any at all, when you've been betrayed so severely, disrespected by so many people and left to pick up the pieces of your life while someone else was having the time of their life indulging in gratifying their own feelings, as bystanders are using you as gossip fodder. It's immeasurably difficult to rise above and see it for what it is when you're being pounded and pounded by the most overwhelming and intense emotions you've ever experienced in your life. It's impossible not to collapse under the weight of everyone else's bullshit.
I have never felt so helpless and insignificant in my life. The profound and prolonged bewilderment of why people were doing this to me was crippling. I couldn't understand how I had suddenly become the enemy by simply living my life. All I wanted was to be seen. For anyone to see who I was and what had happened to me. I wanted people to recognise the unjust and despicable way I had been treated. I wanted justice and retribution, compassion and support. I damn well knew it wasn't about me, but I wanted everyone else to see that too. Instead, I felt like I was in the middle of a battlefield where I was everybody's targeted scapegoat. The perfect direction to aim their deflected poison artillery at. If I reacted, defended myself or threw anything back, then it just made me look even worse. It felt like the most impossible, unfair and helpless place to be.
Hearing what Anna told me, about one of those arseholes, made it suddenly click! No wonder they were judging "the wife" in the negative way that they were, as it fulfilled the narrative that justified their own past behaviours. What they were saying and how they were behaving wasn't about me at all, it was all about them. I was so low at the time, so beaten down by the gossip and the situation I had been thrown into, so far down the hyper-vigilance warrior path, it never even occurred to me, that it was never about me. I wish I had been more with it at the time to realise this as it may have been easier to see it for what it was. I wasn't aware enough at the time to see the difference between their response to the situation I was in, and the people who were very respectful, compassionate and understanding.
Why are some people wonderfully supportive, understanding, extremely respectful and caring, when others just gossip, judge and make coarse and callous comments? Why could my husband manage to spend time with plenty of women who respected he was in a committed marriage and not even consider going to a place they shouldn't with him? Why did someone take it upon themselves to decide my husband was fair game? In fact, why did my husband choose to take the path that he did, when faced with feelings of unhappiness about his life and relationship at that time?
Because, people make decisions based on who they are, NOT who you are. It's all about them, how they feel, who they are, what their moral compass and internal sense of integrity looks like. It's about what they're gaining from making those choices, whether it be how they feel when they're caring about another individual or when they're bitching about them to others. If they feel better about themselves by lapping up the attention from someone of the opposite sex, treading all over another person when they're down or actually choosing to help someone else feel better. It's all about them and very little about you at all. How a person behaves speaks volumes about what kind of person they are, regardless of how they are trying to portray themselves to others.
The people who moaned all I did was talk about my husband's affair, had been other women themselves and felt uncomfortable knowing how much pain they may have caused another person. The people who judged me as a wife, had cheated on their own wife and had to paint me with the same brush as they did their own wife when they were justifying their own shitty behaviour. The other woman who said I was intimidating, was simply intimidated by my presence and strength because of what she had done in her life, by her own free will. When my husband hit a wall when he had to face the man he was, versus the man he always thought he was, he knew he had no one to blame but himself. He knew his behaviours where because he had been a coward, that he had succumbed to his own arrogance and ego, that he had been, in his own words "a total fuck-head".
Humans are often fucking awful to each other and it's incredibly difficult not to lose faith in all humanity when you are seeing the very worst of people. I ended up at the point where I fucking hated humans and didn't want to be around people at all. I felt like I needed a protection shield to simply leave the house, as anywhere other than my home, I felt like I was opening myself up to the possibility of being projected onto by someone else's bullshit. I was sick of it. Sick of being a target to make other people feel better about themselves. I definitely had to go through a long process of healing to readjust myself back to allowing people back into my life.
But I have now mostly healed and I can see that it's not me, it's them. I can appreciate the people who smiled at me with warmth and without judgement and, despite the rumours and gossip, understood my pain and with compassion. I am grateful for the handful of people who took my side and fought my corner, regardless of the consequence to themselves, and had empathy as someone who could see what I was going through but only imagine what it was like. It doesn't make it any easier to go through, but it does help to be able to understand.
It also makes me more determined to stand up and help those forced into following this path behind me. To point out to those cheating, whether it be spouses or affair partners, that their behaviour is all them. Any reasons they might spout blame shifting to the wife are flaky, bullshit justifications for their own actions. Yes, they maybe unhappy, yes they may need to address things in their life or their relationship, but absolutely NO, an affair is NOT the way to deal with any of it. It is simply a way to self-indulge.
The way people treat you is a statement about who they are as a human being. It is not a statement about you.
Repeat, repeat and repeat that again. Repeat it until you believe it.