Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
On August 18, the hackers who call themselves the Impact Team started to release details of more than 30 million users of the dating site designed for extra-marital affairs.
Prior to the cyber hack, Ashley Madison was not a household name. Mentions of the company were taboo or shared only in secret. Currently millions of couples are finding themselves in a difficult place as names of members are released. When news of the hack first came out in July, I felt a familiar sinking sensation in my stomach.
The name Ashley Madison and the devastation it can bring to a marriage was not news to me.
I first learned of the website a few years back while I was reconciling my credit card bill. I came across a charge that didn’t make sense. It was a string of letters and numbers.
To figure out what it was, I typed the letters and numbers in to Google and up popped several pages suggesting that this string of characters was a placeholder to disguise a charge for an Ashley Madison subscription.
My heart sank. I didn’t want to believe it. I hoped it was a mistake, but in my gut I knew it wasn’t.
Learning about my husband’s behaviors was painful. He had a whole secret life. I felt I didn’t know him. I couldn’t trust him; I didn't feel like I could trust anyone for that matter. My world was collapsing and I was all alone.
My husband and I went straight into intensive therapy where I dove into the process. Looking back at that experience, I can see it was a time of great personal transformation. While I never would have imagined it at the time, I can now say that I am grateful for the lessons I learned along the way.
At the time I felt like I was living in a tumble dryer, never knowing which way was up, constantly being tossed around. My world didn’t make sense at the moment, but what I didn’t realize was that a great journey was unfolding ahead of me.
These are the 3 things that I learned that changed everything.
1. I am responsible for my own happiness.
My husband’s actions do not dictate my happiness.
I could choose to stay or I could choose to leave the marriage. It was hard to see this in the beginning.
Slowly, I started to realize that I had the power to respond to the situation and practice self care. I am the gatekeeper of my happiness. If there is something I need, I can ask for it, and if something isn’t working, it is in my ability to fix it.
The other side of this coin is that I am not able to dictate anyone else’s happiness. Knowing this helped me understand that I was not responsible for my husband’s actions.
2. I am an amazing, worthwhile person, and I can create the life I want.
I felt sad. I felt hurt. I felt angry. I was a victim of betrayal. My pain became a self-identification. I was the girl whose husband serially cheated on her. By attaching my identification to my husband’s actions, I shut myself off from the innate ability I have to create life I want.
I internalized the immense pain I felt, wondering how this could happen to someone like me? How did I not see it? I started doubting myself.
After many hours of therapy, I realized my worth had nothing to do with my husband’s behaviors.
More than that, I get to be the author of my own story. I had to let go of what I imagined others thought of me. My worthiness is not connected to another person. I still get to be an awesome and totally worthwhile person.
3. I have a side of the street, and I was part of the problem.
I am hesitant to write this last point. I don’t believe that anyone deserves the betrayal, lies and cheating that go along with an affair. But I do have responsibility for my own actions, and by looking at my own behavior, I had the opportunity to change the way I do things. Cleaning up my side of the street has been profoundly empowering.
Once I stopped looking at what “he did” and took a look at myself, I found there were some not-so-pretty behaviors that I engaged in. Perfectionism comes in at top of the list. My life needed to look “just so” and I couldn’t bear anyone finding out that I was struggling.
Control was another issue. I liked things my way and had a hard time letting go of things that were not mine to control. My self-esteem wasn’t great at the time either, and it was easy to put someone else down so that I could feel superior and righteous.
I took a good hard look in the mirror and committed to consciously working on myself. I now embrace my imperfections and know it is OK to make a mistake. I love learning about myself and invest time daily in deepening my personal growth. I have learned to trust and love, starting with myself. I am much happier with how I show up in my life.
In the end, my marriage didn't survive, but I am grateful for my life and the experiences I have had.
My world was thrown into deep chaos, and I had no other choice than to find a way out. Today I experience great joy in my life. I practice vulnerability and strive to live a wholehearted life. I walked through fire and came out the other side.