Finding Your Best Self Podcast

My name is Tracey Lewis-Stoeckel and things haven't always gone my way. I have gone through some crazy obstacles on my road to finding happiness. Every obstacle has taught me something about myself and I want to share my story with you, and share the stories of other women who are going through or have taken themselves from crappy to happy. By sharing, I hope that we can lift up and support one another, so we can each find the positive and find our own best selves in the process.
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Finding Your Best Self Podcast



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Now displaying: June, 2017
Jun 15, 2017

In Episode 4 Tracey talks about what she would do differently if she had it to do over again and her controversial take on sharing custody with the person who destroyed your children's lives.

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

If there were two things that I could do over again.  It would be this:  1) don’t try to be nice and 2) start keeping notes. 

Now I was a girl who was raised to always be nice and amiable and polite…and when I first told my neighborhood friends at a Christmas cookie exchange that I thought my marriage was over, they all asked me why I was being so nice about it.  Everyone agreed, that if he had suddenly decided that he wanted out that he must be cheating (we really didn’t know that to be true at the time, despite the bathroom scene…because, yeah, I am that gullible) AND they also agreed that I had every right to NOT be nice.  If my marriage was over, I just wanted a nice quiet divorce.  I wanted what was best for the kids.  And I still believed that he would do the right thing.  He would support his children.  He was my best friend, of course, he would do that.  Oh, sweet innocence.  You were so….sweet.  Divorce is nothing if not enlightening. 

We decided that we would file our paperwork for the court ourselves and save a ton of money.  Sounded like a great plan to me because I did not have a POT to piss in.  I was leaving this relationship with absolutely zero savings, two maxed out credit cards and a month to month lease on a house my parents had offered to help pay for.  I left the papers with him and told him to fill out his part and then give them to me.  And I waited, and I waited.  And I waited.  He told me that he didn’t know the information, the financial stuff, and then he started talking about what he wanted, what he thought he deserved. 

It turns out, he thought he deserved, well, everything.  I told him I would wait until February the 1st for him to fill out the documents and if he did not then I was going to retain a lawyer.  On February 15th I retained that lawyer…she ended up being too nice…and I later had to find a new one.

Which brings me to the second thing, I would do differently.  If I had to do it over again, I would keep better notes.  When Gary found out that I was not going to be a push over and give him everything he wanted, for example, the majority of the time with our children, all of our savings, and the household furnishings, while I took all of the debt and no possessions but my family heirlooms…Let's just say the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan.  He was not happy.  And that was when the threats, and the insults, and the shit talk, and the overall ugliness began. 

For a while, I brushed it aside as a passing phase.  You have to understand.  He was my best friend for 20 plus years.  We had had arguments and been mad at each other before, and we always forgave each other.  In my mind, this would be no different.  He would remember that he cared about my well-being, that he didn't set out to hurt me, and he would do the right thing. 

So I didn't keep track of things.  It wasn't until later when I realized how important the little details were at making up the big story that I went back and pieced it together as best I could.  Thankfully I am a huge blabber mouth and had talked to my friends, his family, and anyone who would listen and had a trail of text messages and emails a mile long from which to reconstruct the past few months.  I should have kept better notes.  What I did have was a diary of bad behavior—his and mine—that I kept on my computer in a file called "Ugly Stuff".  Printed out for the judge it was 18 pages of mostly one-line entries.  From him refusing to bring our children home at the end of his weekend (yep, that's kidnapping) and her telling my kids that I just wanted their father's money.  And Carol texting me in the middle of the night telling me what I loser I was and how I blew it with such a "wonderful man" all while denying that she was sleeping with him, even months after we split.  This was a pretty constant thing for a while until I got smart and threatened to get a no contact order against her unless she stopped.  That worked…but then she called a cop friend of hers and told him that I had threatened to kill her…I hadn’t really, just made some cryptic Facebook posts about pushing slinkies down a flight of stairs and references to wood chippers, which my friends jumped on and had good times with.  Carol still believes I really was looking for a hitman on Facebook.  Thankfully the judge laughed that one off.  Like I said, my Ugly Stuff file was a journal of bad behavior on both sides. 

But in the end it was also evidence.  Evidence that disproved many of the lies that he tried to put past the judge in our final divorce hearing (which happened over two years after we split) which is a story unto itself) and substantiated every claim that I made.  It was invaluable to my winning custody of my children.  And that was all that was important to me…my kids belong with me.   

One thing on that subject before I wrap this up.  That is one thing that I still can't quite wrap my tiny little brain around.  I believe that children in divorce situations should have time with both parents.  But I really struggled with the concept that he should have 50% of their time.  In the end, we had to hire a custody evaluator who decided what was best for the kids and I was awarded more time.  But from the very beginning, I wanted to do the right thing by my kids, but could not swallow this one fact…  That because he decided that he wanted to be with someone who was not me, that I had to give up 50% of my time with MY kids.  I did not step out on my family, and I would NEVER have done anything to jeopardize my children's happiness and emotional well-being.  But he did.  He destroyed their reality and created so much conflict and turmoil in their lives.  And yet, at least to me, it felt like I was the one who had to pay the price by now not being able to put my children to bed every night, see their sleepy smiles every morning, and share every birthday, holiday, and exciting first with them…  It was heartbreaking for me at the time and just felt completely unfair.  And you know what?  It has never gotten easier.  It still sucks to share my kids.  I still absolutely hate being away from them for days at a time. But that, my dears, is life.  So I tell myself what I would tell you if you were whining to me about it.  Suck it up Buttercup!  Until next time!


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Jun 1, 2017

In Episode 3, Cheaters and Why They Blame Us, Tracey talks about how blaming the victim seems to be the modus operandi of men (and women) who cheat.  She shares some wisdom from Kurt Smith, Marriage and Family Therapist of The Guy Stuff Counseling blog about the cheaters mindset and why we shouldn't be expecting an apology from the men who cheat on us.  

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

Welcome back to the Finding Your Best Self Podcast.  If you listened to the first episode you know that we are just getting started and I kicked off the season with the story of my “beginnings” in my quest for finding my best self.  My divorce.  Now please, if you haven’t listened to the disclaimer in the pilot episode, please understand that I am not a counselor, a doctor, a life coach, or anybody really except a real woman who has been through her own shit and has some perspectives on it all.  When I say that I want to “help” those of you who are wading through the shit right now, I just mean as a girlfriend and a confidante, not as a professional…  A professional I am not.

So, when last we spoke I had just left my husband of 15 years.  Now despite the fact that I leaked a little of the plot, in Episode 1,  when I left our home, it was because he had told me our marriage was over because of a myriad of reasons why I was a terrible person, a worse wife, and kind of a crappy mother.  He blamed me for anything and everything that was wrong in his life including his ongoing battle with his weight (it was because I didn’t cook healthy meals for him) (laugh). But in the midst of these nightly sessions of yelling and blame, he also confessed to something I had suspected (and he had repeatedly denied) for 13 years.  Early in our marriage, he had had an affair.  She, we will call her Carrie, and her husband were friends of ours when Gary was in the Navy.  When her husband took an assignment in another state and I returned home so that we wouldn't both be transitioning into new jobs a few months later after his release from the military, the opportunity was there, and they took it.  I kind of knew, but denied it—it’s a personality trait I have, which we will discuss another time, and Gary denied it too many times over the years when I would get up the nerve to ask.  Always the same story, nothing happened.  So one night He confessed to me that he was in love with her and that if they had not gotten caught, he would have left me for her.  I felt like our whole lives had been a lie at that point, and I was out.  Done. Finished.

More than anything else though, you guys, he was my best friend.  And as stupid as it sounds, I didn’t want to lose that part of our relationship.  I really believed that we could divorce and move on and stay friends.  How nice for the kids, right?  Yeah.  I tried to keep things amicable but he was so angry, and he really hated me.  I couldn’t believe that we went from happy to hate in what seemed to me in about 30 seconds!  And he would go from his warm friendly self to going for the jugular in a flash, it was so confusing!  My friends told me he must be cheating (at the time I didn’t think he was) and that he was being mean to me because he felt guilty.  I thought they were crazy.  I might have even told them so. 

Fast forward to present day.  I friend of mine was at work one day when she got a phone call from her husband.  He travels a ton for his job and was home for the weekend.  He called her on the phone, told her he needed to talk to her, and right then and there, on the phone, he tells her that she has ruined his life and he wants out.  His main reason for suddenly wanting out of the marriage in which they shared a child?  This one will burn your butts…and if it doesn't, turn in your girl card right now because you are out of the club!!  She recently had survived breast cancer and her lack of energy and cheer was too much for him.  Yep!  Let that percolate for a minute.  Every time I say it I get more disgusted.  What a puke!   When I heard the story, everything I had personally been through came rushing back.  He was cheating!  There was no doubt in my mind.  I asked my friend, and she said (just like I did) that she didn’t think he was, but that others had asked the same thing.  I explained the blame game and my experience with it to her, and she said it did make her feel a little bit better.  Was he cheating? We still don’t know if he is or isn’t, but I didn’t find out (well at least not for SURE) that my ex-was until later on too… so, who knows.

But the question is there…

WHY do guys who cheat need to displace all of that guilt and lay it squarely on the woman that they have just devastated?? I mean WTF? 

Enter Kurt Smith, Marriage and Family Therapist and his blog, Guy Stuff Counseling and Coaching.  Kurt was not available for an interview but invited me to share his blog and any information that I found helpful with you.

I will include the link to his blog in the show notes,

Here are just a few snippets from Kurt’s blog post entitled “Why Do Men Cheat & Blame Their Partner?”

Why do cheating men re-write history & blame everything on their partners? 

I wrote, “How men cheat is by dealing with the reality that they’ve hurt another by denying it. You don’t have to deal with something that is not a reality to you.” Since denial is one of the coping mechanisms that cheating men use to mentally make it okay to cheat, rewriting history and blaming their partners shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

When cheaters rewrite history and blame everything on their partners, there’s even less that they have to deny. Men who are cheating will try anything to avoid taking responsibility for their wrong behavior, and re-writing history and blaming others is one of the best ways to do that.

 How do cheaters deal with the fact that they've hurt another?

They don’t deal with it since it’s not something that they think about (see the denial technique described above). Cheating is selfish. It says my needs are more important than anyone else’s. 

When you’re cheating, you’re in “it’s all about me” mode. The obsession on meeting your needs doesn’t allow for thinking about your partner’s feelings.   Meeting one’s own needs is at the core of the question why do men cheat.

Why do the partners who have been left become the bad guy? 

Kurt’s response to this is, “repeat” Cheating is Selfish.  They don’t care about anyone’s needs but their own.  They avoid taking responsibility for their actions, and they don’t care about your feelings, only their own…  Okay, now you have some idea of the cheater's mindset. When you're denying reality, seeking to blame others and avoid responsibility, then making your ex-partner the bad guy is really pretty easy and makes sense. Making your partner out to be the bad one, and the one who has done wrong can make your wrong behavior seem right.

Why do cheating men continue to lie, even when the affair is out in the open?

One of the core components of cheating is dishonesty. Dishonesty is what allows cheating to occur. Lying is like rolling a snowball rolling downhill. Like a snowball, lies just keep getting bigger and bigger, and they're hard to stop once started.

I've worked with cheating men (and cheating women, too) who've been lying for so long, and in so many ways, that they've created such a web of lies that even they sometimes don't remember the truth. For some people lying can become a way of thinking that's hard to stop.

Ugh, this has such a ring of truth for me. Can I get a hallelujah? An Amen? If I decide to tell the most sordid tales of my custody battle, this will make more sense to you too.  The lies! UGH!

Here is the question I wanted the answer to:

Why do they become so selfish often at the expense of their own children? 

Cheaters never mean to hurt their children. Some don't mind hurting their partner, but not their children. Sadly, hurting our kids' other parent hurts our kids too.

So if cheaters don't mean to, or want to, hurt their kids, why do they? As I described above, it's because cheaters are in “it’s all about me” mode. Cheaters put their needs above everyone else's, even their kids. Many cheaters are cheating to make themselves feel better (another reason why men cheat), and it's hard to give up something that makes you hurt less, even if it hurts your kids.

Why do cheaters not show any sorrow or remorse?

Having worked with a lot of cheaters I can tell you that many, even most, have remorse. They just hide it really, really well. And since they're cheating at least partly arises out of displeasure with their partner (why do men cheat answer), showing their partner any remorse is highly unlikely. When I help them tear down the lies, the denial, the blame they've built up, hidden beneath is often regret and remorse.

But listen up ladies!! For women who've been cheated on, these explanations may not make you sympathetic towards your man, and they shouldn't,  don’t give that bastard one ounce of your precious sympathy!  As an attorney advised me years ago, now is not the time to be nice, now is the time to think mean and be ruthless.  BUT, and this is a pretty important but, if this info can help you understand more why do men cheat, and more specifically, why did your man cheat, then maybe you can start to heal.

Healing is easier said than done, my friends.  A professional counselor or therapist like Kurt Smith can certainly help you get perspective and help you to start trusting yourself again—because that really is the key, isn’t it?  You may still trust others, you might not even have trouble trusting a man again, but you feel like you can’t trust YOU, am I right?  It can also help to talk about your feelings with friends in an environment that is safe and nurturing.  So feel free to leave a comment for me if you want to share and get an Amen or a Hallelujah or a high five or a raise of a glass.  I am here, and I have been there.  Until next time my loves…