My Word for the New Year God knows that the mended heart will be much more stunning and substantially stronger than the unscathed soul. Sharon Jaynes, author I have never put much stock in New Year’s resolutions, and have even rolled my eyes at people claiming “words” for the upcoming year. It seemed artificial to me. However, now that I find myself in a reality that I really want to change, it seems perhaps assigning a word may provide a targeted reminder of where I want to be. So, since I have already done a lot of work on myself and in our marriage, my word for this New Year is RECLAIM. I intend to reclaim not just places and scenarios associated with my husband’s affair, but also friendships, activities, and doing things for myself - and being able to actually feel like I deserve to do them. Betrayal has caused me to isolate and to feel unworthy, in every possible way. Even self-care and “fun” feels foreign and ill-fitting now, like I no longer am a person who can make claims to normal or pleasant things. As though now I am just supposed to live in darkness, and no longer am I entitled to expect anything from life. No, thank you. That’s not ok anymore. It has been my world for a season, but I can’t stay there. I won’t stay there. That is no longer ok with me, and I will not allow my husband’s betrayal to define my life. Only God can define me, and He did not betray me. God has always valued me, even when my husband treated me as though I had no value. Reclaiming is not an easy task. I know I need to be intentional. I need to reclaim our physical intimacy, our friends, places, and activities. I need to reclaim my place in this world and in this marriage. I need to reclaim my life. This is my work to do. I know that. But part of me says, why should I? I shouldn’t have to reclaim anything, it should have been mine all along. This is true of course, but doesn’t change the fact that I have to deal with the reality I have been given. If I want my life back, I have to reclaim it. As much as “justice” would make it his responsibility to fix what he broke, he cannot do this for me. I resent having to do this. I fear having to do this. I struggle to believe I deserve to do this. I really wonder if I can do this. My brain says, “Yes, of course you deserve good things, and you can and will reclaim your life!” But the quiet and persistent inner voice scoffs and whispers, “Yeah right, you will never get there. You will always just be someone who wasn’t even worthy of faithfulness, so don’t even bother.” That voice has been my constant companion over the last couple years, but it is not my friend. That voice is a true frenemy, pretending to offer insight with my best interests at heart, but strategically setting me up to fail and perpetuate this purgatory of self-doubt and insecurity. No more. I am done following the frenemy’s lead. I am moving forward - I deserve to have more, to feel more, to be more. I will reach out and rejoin the land of the living. My friends don’t know about the infidelity, but they do know I have been a recluse and have not been myself in a long time. Reinstating that element of normalcy amidst all that is no longer normal will help me feel real. I will approach my days as though I deserve to be happy. Will I automatically just feel happy then? No, of course not. But I am raising my expectations. They have been so low thus far they have not allowed room for anything more. Even if I only manage to achieve improvement some of the time, it would still be worth doing, wouldn't it? I am reclaiming ME. Not the betrayed wife. Me. What does that look like? I don’t really know. I have centered my identity around “wife” for so long that I have long lost sight of me as a person. In terms of practical aspects, I will also reclaim the physical places I have been avoiding. Why should I live in fear of places they went together? Why should my world become smaller because of their choices? These are just places. What happened there was not honoring God. I will not make a monument to something that never should have happened. I will stand in those places with my chin up and take them back. My world will grow bigger and I will become more free. Dr. John Haney told me the more I avoid something because it is "theirs" (a location, activity, date, season, or whatever) the more power I allow it to have. Betrayal and deception made me powerless over my own life by creating a false reality. I’m definitely done with that. Are you? Going forward, I am not okay with having places that limit my life. I always wondered when I would know I was ready, and I have definitely felt it lately, like it won’t swallow me up. How will you know if/when you should reclaim something? You have to wait until you are ready; it can't be forced. I wanted to just get it all over with right after D-day, but knew deep down I wasn’t ready and it could backfire. I assumed I would never feel any more prepared and wanted to just muscle through it, but I’m glad it never panned out because I can feel how much more ready I am now, at a place I wasn’t sure I would ever be. My husband doesn’t really understand my need to reclaim these things, but he will do whatever it takes if it helps me. Not everyone needs this; if you don’t, that’s great (and I really wish I was more like you!) But if you do, you do. We don’t all need to handle it the same way. Understanding and honoring our individual journeys is, in and of itself, empowering. We are not all the same, nor do we need to be. Betrayal can make us question whether or not we can trust ourselves. Our judgment can feel tattered after having been fooled, so we might even have to reclaim trusting our own feelings. I am in trauma therapy (which I highly recommend). This is very hard work, more than anyone not going through this could possibly imagine. My therapist encourages me to start talking to myself in a way that I am planning to regain what I have lost, not just hoping. I am there now, ready for that shift. I will speak more firmly to myself to reclaim what has been lost and speak as if hope is possible. I am allowed to feel like I am special to my husband, and I have permission to be happy. Someone please remind me of all this tomorrow when I am in a puddle on the floor. A horrible unjustice about infidelity is what we, as betrayed partners, make it mean about ourselves. Yes, our spouse made choices that were hurtful, but the things we tell ourselves about what it means about us often does far more damage. I’ll talk more about that some other time, but for now, I have to decide, who do I really want to be? That's a harder question than you would think. My life for the last several decades has been focused on being a wife and mother. I need to be a whole person. Who do you want to be? At some point we have to force ourselves to start living, even if we don't feel like it. I have sat on the sidelines of my own life for too long, feeling like nothing more than collateral damage of other people’s choices. I might not feel the motivation toward personal growth every day, but even if I feel it for five minutes once a week, I have to seize it and start there. What do you want to reclaim? Share your thoughts in a comment below and we’ll search for the beauty from ashes together. John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” I want to invite all who have been betrayed to our Annual Hope Rising Conferences - on Demand, and gain momentum, strength, and community on your journey to wholeness. Watch Now!