First of all, this is a “do as I say, not as a I do guide” though I try my best to follow my own sage advice sometimes I fall short.
Below are 6 things I found helpful in healing after my husband’s affair. I hope you do also!
1. Acknowledge the hurt. An affair sucks. Finding out about the affair is like a physical punch. Even if your marriage was less than ideal, you were still part of a couple and maybe you kept your dream alive for the white picket fence and the happily ever after. The betrayal of the most intimate parts of your being hurts beyond imagination. It’s been just about a year and my ex can still expertly sucker punch me especially when he extols the virtues of his girlfriend: the one he moved in with the day I kicked him out of the house.
The end of a marriage, especially the sudden and abrupt end, is a true loss, and needs to be mourned as such. The grieving process is characterized by denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance (in no particular order). You’ll cycle through the grieving process and just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, you don’t.
Wallowing is permitted and encouraged. Get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, watch Netflix, read trashy novels. Anything to distract yourself if only for a few hours.
2. Get therapy and get medication if you need. Prior to my latest bout of MS I “self medicated” by regularly running four and five mile either solo or with a good friend. It was the best therapy. My walking is shaky now so running is out of the question. After several weekend bouts of tears when the kids were first visiting their father my therapist suggested a low dose anti-depressant. I have no side affects and feel much calmer, I think more clearly and I’m less volatile.
3. Be good to yourself. Easy to say, hard to do. Eat. I lost tons of weight during the height of our fighting because I choked every time I tried to eat. My dear friend, who is a doctor, made me oatmeal with cream and nuts and all sorts of goodies and watched me eat it while explaining that one’s brain and body can’t function at a high level without proper nutrition.
Sleep. Again, easier said than done. This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself because it will improve your mood, your thinking and your ability to cope with the betrayal.
Understand that it takes two to tango but the affair is not YOUR fault. Whatever flaws your ex finds with you–I was told I was ugly, unattractive, unlovable, he never really loved me, don’t know why he married me—the affair is about HIM, not you. The affair is way more exciting than figuring out the kids’ carpools, especially the sneaking around, the illicit sex, secret texts and phone calls. Planning a vacation behind my back. It’s powerful stuff.
And things DO get better. The person you are today is not the person you will be in six months or a year. You will make a new life for you and your children. Maybe it’s not the one you planned on but it’s YOURS.
4. Social support. Find your friends, circle the wagons and accept all their help. Whether it’s a meal, carpooling a kid or two, a shoulder to cry on, agreement that the ex is a total creep, find the people who will support you through this. Be warned. Your social support may not be your family. Help comes in all directions and in all shapes and sizes. If you are reluctant to accept help, think of it as a “pay it forward.” Someday YOU will be in a position to help. Today is not that day. Today is the day to ask for and receive help.
5. Love your children. Sometimes the least lovable children are the ones who need the most love. Be generous and kind to them. This is NOT their fault. Depending on their ages they may know about the affair, they may not and it’s up to you and your ex to handle it. Some exes are more tactful than others.
Personally, I hate the word co-parenting. It smacks of bullsh*t psychobabble. Some moms are great parents, some dads are great parents, but the dude who threw his kids under the bus to live with his girlfriend so he could “live a life of freedom” and “live my life on my own terms” is not a parent.
The latest slap came today when the ex suggested that I meet with him and girlfriend to discuss the kids and the activities they are going to be doing together. Not my idea of a good time…sitting in a room with him, his girlfriend and discussing our children and how to best integrate the girlfriend into their lives. I passed on the offer but I know I’ll be slammed for not being a cooperative co-parent.
6. Bonus advice. Have a plan for yourself when the kids leave to visit the ex. It took a few tries but I’ve got it down to a science. Instead of going home to a weirdly empty house I drop off the kids and head straight to Target. I don’t actually buy much, but I do wander. Having a plan in place ahead of time makes your end of the transition easier.
Time is magical. I just passed the one year mark of the ex moving out of the house. Am I still hurt? Of course I am. But I look back on the past year and reflect on how I have changed and grown. It is not easy and will never be easy. I ache for my children. But life goes on and I’m finding my “new normal.” And so will you.