Very early on in our recovery journey, two months to be precise, I wrote in my journal how I felt that I was trying to piece together a jigsaw, in order to make sense of what had happened to me. Little did I know just how accurate that anaology was.
In my book and in this blog I often refer recovery to having a million piece jigsaw, teeny tiny pieces, that both the betrayed and the unfaithful spouse have to piece together during their journey to recovery.
At the beginning it is so, so hard as the betrayed just tries to make some kind of sense of what happens. Looks at all the things they ignored, all the little tiny warning signs, and I needed to do this to ensure that I was not lying to myself again.
But now as the years have passed I have come to realise just how complicated that analogy is. Imagine the picture of your life: with blue skies, happy relationship, the kids laughing, us laughing, the memories, the good times and there it is smashed to smithereens on the floor. Tens of thousands of tiny little pieces.
You try to put it back together quickly, but soon come to realise that this is not possible you find the corners and you piece them together, you find a piece of blue sky here, a fluffy cloud there, some solid ground (just a small piece and you are not even sure where this fits in on your picture any more.) You find pieces of the jigsaw that you didn’t even know existed.
For Danny he was looking at that picture with the knowledge that he had smashed it, and he just wanted to pick it up and put it all back together, just the way it was.
But here is the crux: The picture has changed.
The blue skies and fluffy clouds now have rain clouds as well. Some of the blue sky will no longer fit in the jigsaw, it has to make room for the rainclouds. It has to make room for reality, because no sky is ever blue every day.
The happy laughing people are now crying, often; as are the kids at times. The people who were in the picture have now changed forever.
But there is nothing we can do if we want to try and to recover other than continue to put together the other pieces of the jigsaw the ones around the periphary, the normal life things: holidays, normal days that sometimes feel like blessed days when you don’t talk about ‘the affair’ anymore, the small tiny things that are happening in the here and now. We hold on to them and we piece them into our jigsaw of our life, trying to form a road that will lead us out of the pain and fear that we feel. We fight tooth and nail but we learn, over time, that we also have to piece in the pain and the tears, and the sorrow and the sadness, because they are part of our lives. We accept that and we know to truly rebuild they have to be included in the picture, and suddenly the pieces start to fit together.
Over time, we realise that all the times of the gaslighting and the lying and the deceipt have taken up too much space in our jigsaw, they are stopping other things that life has sent our way from being included in the picture. So, if we allow ourselves, we take those parts, the parts about the affair, and we make them smaller, realising that actually they were stopping us from completing the jigsaw because they belong in the periphary, because they are the past.
The good memories are there, they have always been there in pieces on the floor, because the betrayed felt at the beginning that they could no longer look at them, because they caused too much pain.
At the beginning, for us, Danny wanted to put them back in our picture right away, but over time he came to realise that they would be added back over time, they were probably one of the last things to be put back in, but they did go back, just not all of them. Not all of them fitted in the picture now, and there were new memories that we wanted to include. To do that we had to let some of the old ones go.
What makes it all so hard is that it takes time. At the beginning there are huge gaps where your life once was, and when you realise that, at times the feeling that you have stepped into a huge hole is overwhelming. The hole where the pieces have not been replaced; and it is at those times we feel overwhelmed.
But slowly, over time they start to be filled in with new things: new adventures, conversations, a smile here, a song there, a new job, a new house, and there are not as many holes to fall into. And eventually you come to realise that the jigsaw is ever changing and that there will always be parts of it that are left on the floor, and some that are taken out of the picture because you need to make room for the new. That is life.
I believe that recovery can be achieved, but that to truly do that understanding that change is inevitable, that your jigsaw is constantly changing, is the key.
‘Imagine it as a jigsaw of tiny, tiny pieces and when you find a piece, something small that can give you hope, place it in the jigsaw until in the end it makes a bigger picture. That’s what I did.’
Making This Better the book is now available including the journal entries for the first 5 years of our recovery & the whole 21 days of ‘The War’. Available internationally in paperback and ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble also available at Xlibris and Apple Books for iPad and Waterstones Bookstores for click & collect
Small steps, for sure, with the occasional back-sliding thrown in just to keep it interesting. When even the small steps seem too big, micro steps will do. Interestingly, I read recently that a part of elite military training is to learn to break seemingly impossible tasks (like crossing a wide expanse of hostile desert territory on foot without necessary supplies) into tiny component parts. Then, as a part is completed or achieved you move on to the next. You make it to one point, and then you figure out how to get to the next spot, and so on. I think the same thing can be helpful in the betrayal recovery process. Some days may fly by, but I know I’ve had days where I’ve had to think “Just make it to lunch. If you make it to lunch, the day is half over.” And then, “OK, made it to lunch, now let’s get to 3PM… .” And yes, one of the benefits of that is that you can really observe how things are changing around you – how the puzzle is shifting – and respond in real time.
And I completely understand your comment about Danny wanting to put the puzzle together exactly as it was. My husband would like to do the same, but the picture has indeed changed.
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Thank you BA. Many years ago my sister’s fiancé left her for another woman. In her depths of despair someone told her to get through 15 minutes, just 15, and then another 15 and so on. She speaks of that technique often, it helped to save her. I look at it now and it makes total sense, because it is a concentrated form of living in the here and now.
I thought of this blog: about the corner here, and the piece of sky there,and it evolved, because I realised that the jigsaw is always shifting, just as it should be. ❤️
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On the other side, there is a new picture. It has a different family…one with only one parent.
The old puzzle is still there…I look back at pictures and remember the fun times, the good life. Those memories were real and valuable. I cherish them.
But I don’t want tears and hardship and, for me, that meant I needed to enforce my consequences and am divorced. Life is different, but it is absolutely not worse.
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Absolutely, it is a jigsaw of life. Your jigsaw was broken and you rebuilt it, as you say with only one parent. You still had to go through the process though, a piece of blue sky here, a cornerstone there, whether people reconcile or not the jigsaw has to be rebuilt, and for some time there are the gaping holes that are often painful. I write about reconciliation because we did, but I am under no illusions that it could have easily been a very different picture. I am glad you are able to look back on memories fondly A, so many people lose them completely .
I agree. It is sad when people feel their lives have been a lie.
There are many paths. Many options. All are right if they bring you peace.
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