I had many reasons for our divorce. Infidelity wasn’t one of them until, suddenly, it was. The moment I found out is forever emblazoned in my mind. I didn’t catch them sleeping together. I didn’t find hidden love letters. Much less dramatic. I was in a car wash, and I got a call from her.
She was a friend of mine from Rotary, that truly selfless service organization with the motto: Service Above Self. I expected her to tell me about our club’s contribution to the worldwide eradication of polio. Instead, she told me about her lover, my soon-to-be ex-husband. I heard it in clumps since my ears were having trouble absorbing it. She wanted me to know “before I heard it from anyone else…meeting clandestinely for three years…she was finished…she is sorry…it won’t happen again.” (Shocker: it did happen again). Numbly, I thanked her (thanked her! I couldn’t think of anything else to say). I drove all the way home screaming, “YOU F------ SON OF A B----!“
I took the path most of us take: I confronted him. He lied and said it only happened once.
It was incredulous that I hadn’t seen it anywhere along the way. How did I miss it? I felt blindsided. I was furious. Embarrassed, humiliated, hurt, stupid, too. Wasn’t I good enough? What was wrong with me that he went to her? Why didn’t my friends tell me when they must have known?
I wanted to kill both of them (seriously), but then I thought of prison, and what my kids would think, and decided maybe not. I wanted vengeance. I wanted him to get some twisted disease where he’d die a painful death. I wanted her drive her car off the Golden Gate bridge by accident.
I talked to my friends about it day and night. How could he do this? What did they know? What kind of woman could see me each week and look at me when she’s sleeping with my husband? All unanswerable questions, of course, but they needed to be asked – over and over. My friends got tired of listening to it.
The amount of my mental real estate that his illicit relationship took up in my head was staggering. It was all I thought about day and night. I called my therapist. Her words changed my course. She said, “I guarantee you he’s not spending the energy that you are putting out on this. He’s not thinking about you at all. Or the family. He doesn’t care. Stop giving away your personal power to him.”
She was right, of course…and that’s my first tip for moving on after a spouse cheats:
1. Outsource your anger and frustration. Get yourself a good coach or therapist who specializes in divorce. He/she will listen to you tell the story of your spouse’s cheating over and over again, as you process it. Along the way, their guidance will help you move forward. At the very least, they take the burden off your friends. The best part is, they help you get perspective and understand that you can live a happy new life at the end of this – and that his actions are never your fault. He’s a big boy. He made his own decisions. You didn’t cause this. He decided to do it. Don’t own it. Let him own it.
2. Bombard yourself with messages, night and day, that make you feel better. Important: your brain believes everything you tell it. If you hang around your life in pity parties, you’ll always be the victim and you’ll never move on. (OK, a little self-pity at the beginning is normal. Allow yourself to be hurt and angry for a few months. Really get in there and cry hard, often. Watch sappy movies that make you bawl. Then pick yourself up, dust off, get back with your therapist, and promise yourself to move forward.)
Here are more thoughts and quotes that you can transfer directly to memos on your phone, or to sticky notes all over your car and house. Pick the ones that help you right now.
3. It’s an old adage but worth repeating: Staying angry is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die.
4. “Out of the ashes, the roses of success grow.” – Kat Forsythe. Out of this scorched situation, a new, more successful you will bloom. I promise.
5. “The only person you become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
6. “If you don’t have faith in yourself, you’ll spend the rest of your life in self doubt.” – Kat Forsythe. You must believe that you’ll get through this. Millions of others have, and you will, too.
The following quotes come directly from the source that helped me the most. My refridgerator door!
7. “Sometimes you have to put on your big girl boots and show you can use the pointy end.” (greeting card)
8. “It’s OK to be brave and scared at the same time.” (greeting card)
9. “To change one’s life, start immediately and do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.” – William James
10. This is what I tell my clients to post everywhere. It’s simple and it keeps you from ruminating in the rear view mirror: “FORWARD!”
Most importantly, always remember that his/her infidelity is about them, not you. You’re perfectly capable of a fabulous trusting relationship after this is over. For now, one step at a time.