"You are 'Not a Casserole Widow'. What do you want people to know? What do you wish you could tell them?"
1. "Stop telling me to move on and forget about him. Trust me, I would if I could."
Why is it so hard for women leaving abusive men to forget and move on?
It is not safe. Would you intentionally forget if you thought you were being stalked by a wolf? Only time clarifies if the betrayer is a wolf or a wounded individual willing to heal.
It is not a physical possibility. Complex PTSD (See Your Sexually Addicted Spouse) is a real issue for women who have discovered the secret life of their betrayers. It requires support and education to move on. We don’t ask our soldiers to just "get over" their battle experiences. Why are we asking for that from partners clearly suffering from complex PTSD?
It is not in alignment with values taught in our society. How many times are we told to “Wait for that miracle” or “Don’t give up on God” or “There is always hope.” These partners want to do what is honorable.
2. "I am ashamed and can’t tell anyone. I’m sorry to hide this secret from you."
Why don’t women just tell the world the truth that their husband/partner is leading a dishonorable life?
Fear: They won’t be believed. Some of their stories are so egregious, you won’t believe it. They are afraid of retaliation by their partners, being accused of parental alienation or defamation of their partner's character.
Shame: They don’t want to embarrass their partners, the betrayers. And they feel ashamed to have been a part of the relationship, even though they didn't know.
Grief: The immense sorrow of losing a dream shatters their soul. They are afraid you won’t be able to handle their gut wrenching pain with love, tenderness, and empathy.
3. "Don’t ask me what you can do for me. Most of the time I don't know. Just do something."
What do partners need?
Support. Give them space. Text without expecting a response, send cards knowing they will be met with silence, drop meals off understanding that each bite she feeds her kids or puts in her mouth lets her know she is not alone.
Love. Smile without pity. She needs to feel you lifting her up, not feeling sorry for her.
Understanding. All she wants is for this pain to pass so she can be back to her old self. But it may take a year or two. Be patient.
To you, my wounded warrior: "Courage, dear heart." C.S.Lewis
To you, the support team: “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.'" C.S. Lewis