Nothing prepared me for how to deal with the pain I experienced when I realized my marriage and friendship with another person would never again be the same.
“You are broken inside.” Sitting in front of a psychic in her apartment with my close friends a few years ago, on a hot and humid July day, this woman, who didn’t know me and whom I had just met, said I was broken inside. I was broken; she was right. He had left for another woman.
As she was making note of the lines on my forehead to indicate the hardship I had recently been faced with, my thoughts immediately started to race back to when my ex walked out of our marriage and of our home while I was holding our daughter tightly in my arms, crying inconsolably, scared and in shock, not knowing how to handle the situation of grieving a lost husband, caring for my 3 children who were so young and getting myself through this unbelievably challenging time
The sun had set, the next door neighbor was pulling into her driveway, coming home to find me outside standing on the front lawn, looking at my husband get into his car and drive away with a defeated and scared look on my face. She knew what had just happened and like me, she was at a loss for words. Tears coming down our cheeks, she held me and my daughter. Her hug meant the world to me at that moment and I didn’t want to let go of her embrace.
Getting to know me throughout the process of being cheated on and ultimately left for another woman, was so frightening. Nothing prepared me for how to deal with the pain I experienced when I realized my marriage and friendship with another person would never again be the same. For almost 20 years, I had been someone’s partner and as such, many of the things I did and the way I thought about my future was very much centered around another person.
After spending months crying over a failed marriage, mourning the loss of a future I had imagined for our family, I came to realize that I had defined much of who I was based on this partnership and I felt lost. “What now?” “How do I move forward?” “Who am I?”
For months, after I found out about the affair, I hated that my mind arbitrarily drifted to thoughts of the affair and that it made me feel like these thoughts had taken over my emotional and mental sanity. I couldn’t make sense of what was going on, with him and with myself. He was a completely different person than the person I had known and loved for all of these years.
What had happened to him, to us? I also, rather quickly, felt like I was becoming a crazy person … I couldn’t recognize myself and the things I was doing. For some reason, I was convinced that I could somehow make sense of it all by rummaging through his cell phone and computer. That I could uncover evidence that he did still love me and would not leave me for another woman. Convincing myself time and time again that we would be okay and that all we had to do was to figure out how to get through this bump in the road.
All I ended up finding was more evidence of his love and affection for another woman and the growing distance he was creating from me and our life together. I felt unsettled and frustrated a lot of the time. I was constantly replaying events in my head, pictures, email and text exchanges between them that I had found on his phone. None of it was helpful but I didn’t know how to stop myself from these thoughts, from trying to uncover evidence of his love for me and that he would leave her and realize that he and I could have a happy life together.
I felt like I was spinning out of control and I couldn’t stop the madness that had settled within me.
One of the most difficult things for me to wrap my head around was the betrayal of trust that had attacked my inner peace to its core. I struggled with the emotional trauma or reconstructing what happened between them while he and I were together before I found out about the affair. Painfully putting pieces of the puzzle together with the things he told me he did and said to her while he was with me; this haunted me day and night for such a long time.
Not only was my mental and emotional state declining, so was my physical health. Struggling to eat and take care of my body, I quickly lost 35 pounds over the period of only a few months. I’ve always wanted to lose weight but this was not how I wanted to go about it. The worst part of it all was his comments to me of how “hot” I now looked after having lost so much weight. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Who was this person and why was he talking to me in such a crass way?
I also had some fainting spells during the first few weeks after I had found out about the affair and was dumbfounded at how annoyed and unsympathetic he was when I would faint. He saw my pain but for some reason, he was unable to help me or pick up the pieces of my broken heart.
Despite the small steps to finding my way again, there was still the daily struggle of caring for the kids on my own and dealing with the separation. On most days, I felt like I was in survival mode. I would often come home after dropping off the kids at school and go back to bed and hide under the covers and cry. It was terrible. I felt extremely guilty that I was hiding in my bedroom and not being fully present with the children. The lack of energy made it difficult to keep up with the kids on the weekends but I managed it as best as I could and by the time Monday morning rolled around, all I wanted to do was sleep. I was physically and mentally exhausted.
I knew I had to get out of the cycle I had created for myself, one that was spiraling out of control. I had to do it for myself and more importantly, for the children.
First thing I did: I asked for help. Many (well-meaning) people had advice for me and encouraged me to meet new people, and get out of the house and find a new hobby. Easier said than done … Imagine you’ve just jumped out of a plane, you’ve landed in the middle of nowhere and you’re afraid and panic-stricken. You have to get yourself up and figure out how you’re going to find a way that will lead you to where you want to be. This was me, I was lost, frightened and didn’t know how to find my way. I needed a plan.
I knew that before I could make new friends or do all of the things I was encouraged to do, I had to get to know myself. Not myself as a wife, long-term companion to someone or a mother. I needed to date myself, push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things. I took myself out to dinner, the movies, walks on the beach, tried new restaurants, joined online women’s groups and went to therapy–a lot of therapy.
Through all of these experiences, I began to have a voice that was my own–I literally had not heard myself speak so much in my life as I had in only a few months. The sound of my voice was actually a little foreign to me. I began to gain confidence and to think about what kind of future *I* wanted to have. I could see myself coming out of my shell.
This is also when I started to realize how confined I had been in my marriage, how much I had given of myself to another person and how much I had allowed myself to stand aside to allow someone else to move forward on their path and because of this I had lost myself along the way.
Although a great deal has happened to me, I can see how much I have learned about myself and the world around me in only a few years. I now know that the events that once broke me no longer define me and who I am. They have led me to where I am now; standing strong and feeling whole.