So, Part 2 on over-sharing.
I think there are different kinds of over-sharing. Sharing stories on a blog forum like this is not, IMO, over-sharing. It’s anonymously telling your story to help others and understand it yourself. Over sharing as I understand it, is that word vomit stage you have right after discovery. When you’re in shock, staggering around, trying to make sense of your nightmare.
I don’t think this stage is much different than those people you see on television after natural disasters, who stare dazed into the camera, and recount each detail. How the tornado approached, what it sounded like, what happened when it hit, what their neighborhood used to look like, what it looks like now, who was hurt, who survived. Chumps are like those survivors, trying to make sense of the morning after. The difference is when a tornado hits, everyone knows it’s a tragedy. When infidelity hits, only the chumps sees the wreckage. Tornados, however, are random weather events. Cheating is totally deliberate.
So why do I think we over share?
1. Because we need to believe it and saying it makes it so. Like those tornado survivors, we have to give a voice to what happened. And the more we repeat it, to others, to ourselves, the more it starts to sink in that, yes, this is our reality. This really happened. I wasn’t dreaming it. Especially if you’ve been gaslighted, had your reality continually denied, you feel compelled to blurt out the truth.
2. We need the reality check. More than just saying it until we believe it, we need others to see it too. It’s validating to see the horror and compassion on another person’s face when you tell them you’ve been cheated on. You internalize — wow, it IS horrible. This person is angry for me. It’s okay to be angry about this.
I remember one time having dinner with a girlfriend and her husband, and telling them my sad D-Day story. They’d just been at my wedding less than a year before. My friend’s husband got really upset and said, with such emotion, that this guy should be on his knees begging for forgiveness! He looked shocked to his core.
Perhaps because this reaction was from a man, it just really hit me. My cheater doesn’t seem appropriately sorry. These good people are horrified. Why isn’t he as horrified as they are by what he’s done?
After discovery, cheaters tend to minimize. It’s not what you think. You’re overreacting. It could be worse, etc. When we tell, and other people react in solidarity or even shock,we can feel so starved for that kindness that it’s a wake up call. Why is this perfect stranger showing me more compassion than my own spouse?
I think over sharing in the early days is a good sign. It means you aren’t going to keep their secrets. It means you’re reaching out for help, even it’s to total strangers. It means you know enough to search for a reality check. You’re not as deeply pickled in the mindfuck as you could be.
But over sharing past a certain point in recovery does get weird. You don’t want to be a pity vampire. You do want to maintain some dignity. Where’s the line?
Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them… We don’t just lead with “Hi, my name is Brené, and here’s my darkest struggle.” That’s not vulnerability. That may be desperation or woundedness or even attention-seeking, but it’s not vulnerability. Why? Because sharing appropriately, with boundaries, means sharing with people with whom we’ve developed relationships that can bear the weight of our story. The result of this mutually respectful vulnerability is increased connection, trust, and engagement.
Well, Brené, someone has to go first on this vulnerability thing. It’s hard to know if people can “bear the weight of our story” unless we lay it on them. While I agree with having boundaries, and working our way up to intimacy, I do think the miracle of some over sharing is finding compassion in the oddest quarters. Vomiting our sorrows on some stranger, we discover people who can not only carry the weight of our horror story — they’re lugging around a few of their own. It’s those random connections that are so meaningful. Dat’s Irish woman at the Xerox, my pipe fitter, the woman in the waiting room at the courthouse.
These people have their own buckets of emotional slop, they know the pain, and they’re standing tall with it anyway. They’re further out, but they see themselves in us. And they’re not afraid in that moment to walk into our pain. It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s a lesson to take forward with us. If someone emotionally vomits all over your shoes — give them a hankie and an encouraging word. Don’t walk away. Welcome another member of the chump collective into the fold.