Dear Marital Affair Survivor,
How do you go about creating a happy life after an affair? That is exactly what I have been able to do and I believe it is possible for everyone, whether they stay in the marriage or not, but it will definitely take some time and some hard work. I like to equate surviving an affair to natural childbirth. To describe that feeling I am including a brief excerpt from the book My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me!
“You can make it through this”, Lori told me, “but it will take time. Give yourself time. And give yourself permission to mourn. Something has been stolen from you. You can never get it back. Something has been lost forever. You will never again be able to know that since your marriage you are the only one your husband has ever been with. The most important promise, a vow, has been broken. Life will never be the same again. And it’s OK to cry about that.” I didn’t feel like I could live through this, but it reminded me of childbirth. I wanted out really bad. But like a friend of mine who had actually jumped off the delivery table in the midst of childbirth and assertively announced to the doctors that she quit, sometimes in life try as you may you can’t quit. You are in it, so you have to make it through. She encouraged me to go to God for comfort and strength. Sometimes in life it feels as though things are so bad, that even God can’t do anything or say anything to help. Those are the very times, when if we do go to him, miracles take place and indeed he does carry us, when we cannot carry ourselves.
I was so devastated, unsuspecting and shocked when I discovered my husband’s affair (we had been married for 18 years) that I was unable to eat for 25 days. My husband actually left me for the other woman for two weeks, after which he came home wanting to work things out. I went from what I thought was an exceptionally good marriage to no marriage at all literally overnight. For three months I remained numb and in shock, behaving something like an obsessive mad woman running around doing every crazy thing I could think of to win my husband’s affections back. (As if it was all up to me!) Together with my teenage daughter we even devised a plan of revenge towards the other woman that wouldn’t get us in trouble. We were going to accidentally “drop” chewed gum in her hair making sure we got it in her bangs and the top of her head. If our husband and father were going to leave us for another woman, let him have a bald woman, we reasoned! I’m happy to announce that we did not actually do this.
From 4 – 6 months after the affair, my husband and I began to deal with the issues which meant we fought unbelievably for 3 months straight. One night I even got so mad that I phoned 9-1-1! After 6 months we were on our way to healing but there was still a lot of pain. At 2 years I recommitted myself to the marriage. Before that I was only giving it an honest effort, unsure whether I really could get over this and trust him ever again. 2 1/2 years after I distinctly remember feeling the feeling of happiness and joy for the first time since discovering the affair. In our case we have been able to heal our marriage because my husband, as well as I, was willing to do the work.
I have become a much stronger, happier and more fulfilled individual. It has taken courage to face myself, heal the past (and for me that included discovering how some baggage from my childhood was having an adverse affect on my life which I hadn’t really identified before). Before the affair I was living in a fairytale (and that was a problem). I like to describe the experience like this “I was Cinderella, but the clock struck twelve and it was time for me to wake up and face the reality of who I really was, and who my husband really was as well.”
I have created a happier life on the other side by taking advantage of counseling, books and the many other resources that are available (like the Beyond Affairs Network) and by working on discovering who I really am as a person and what I was created to do. What is my God given destiny? Each and every individual has a unique set of gifts and talents different from everyone else. Nobody else can do your job quite the way you do. When you discover your gift and find a way to add value to the lives of other people by using your gift, you will experience joy. And when you can even make a career of helping others by doing what you naturally do well, you will experience a high level of individual fulfillment. The greatest happiness in life comes from understanding and fulfilling your purpose, living a purpose driven life. When you have a “why” for your life, it gives direction to all of the “how's”. There are many books and seminars available on topics like this. Understanding who you really are (what’s right with you) helps to build your self-esteem.
I feel that I have no guarantees about my future (although I have come to understand and I do trust my husband again). At least I do not have a guarantee that my husband will NEVER have an affair again. He says he never will. I hope not, but I have learned to be truthful and realistic. I cannot be guaranteed what all of his future choices will be. But I can be guaranteed that I will always have lots of love in my life, because I have discovered that I am a lovable person and worthy of the love that I receive from my friends, family and others. It doesn’t matter to me whether I am married or not. My fulfillment doesn’t come from my marriage. It comes from knowing who I am and understanding my purpose. I am fulfilled in myself. I am very happy in my marriage, but I no longer NEED my marriage, which has enhanced my marriage tremendously. We are having unbelievable fun together.
I love my husband now more than before. I’ve been able to understand, and I understand that it wasn’t about that he didn’t love me. I have grown so much as a person and so has he. Our marriage is so much better, and we are so much happier, having so much more fun. I wish we could have gotten here some other way, but I would not want to go back to what I call my pre affair marriage for anything. At this stage, I can honestly say that I’m glad it happened.
We all have to cope at times with change. There are 2 types of change that take place in our lives. There are times when WE decide to change something and that’s usually positive, because we WANTED the change, but there are other times in our lives when someone else makes a decision, we have absolutely nothing to do with it and suddenly our lives get turned upside down and that does not feel very good. (Such as in the case of a spouse who decides to betray their marriage partner).
When this kind of a negative change takes place we human beings go through normal stages, as we learn to cope with the new reality. First, we go into shock. We can’t believe it is happening to us. This looks different for different people. Some people might go into depression. Some people laugh all the time. Some people become despondent and start neglecting their responsibilities. Whatever it looks like for the individual, it is shock. Second stage, and again this is human nature, we all tend to do this. I call it the bargaining stage. We try to get our lives back to what they were before, fix it so to speak. But once a major change has taken place in our life, we can NEVER go back to what it was before. An example: Let’s say someone is working in a job and they are wrongfully dismissed from their position, so they take the company to court, win the court case and are reinstated back in their position….like it’s going to be the same as before. Most likely it will be worse, but let’s be optimistic…perhaps it is better…perhaps restoration has taken place, issues have been resolved and positive resolutions have been found for the differences…then it would be better. What we know with certainty is that it is not the same. (And this is definitely true of marriages and affairs.)
So we eventually come to the third stage. I call it the ‘choice’ stage. We can either carry around a chip on our shoulder for the rest of our lives, and say ‘poor me’. If it wasn’t for what this jerk or that person did, I wouldn’t be here today, and we can blame others for where we are in our lives…OR…we can CHOOSE to find the opportunities that ALWAYS present themselves in the midst of change. If you choose to find these opportunities one day you will find yourself saying “I can’t believe I’m saying this. I never thought I would ever be able to say this. As awful as that situation was back then…I am SO glad that happened to me, because if that hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t be in this great place today.
After discovering my husband’s affair, I would think about my marriage in turmoil, all that I had lost and I would wonder if I still believed this truth…Well I can tell you today, that now I own those words about the affair…as awful and painful as it was…I am so glad that happened to me, because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be in this great place today. I would still be bumping along in my pre affair life, all about responsibility, not having fun or really enjoying life, still so much pain from my past, haunting me in my subconscious and affecting the way I related to others, preventing me from experiencing true freedom and joy in my life.
There are opportunities for you in this miserable, painful, difficult journey you are being FORCED (the childbirth analogy) to walk through right now. You too can have a better life as a result of this awful unfair situation. You can and will make it through this. The choice is yours…bitter or better.
I am cheering for you (like you are a marathon runner in a long race). You can make it. You can win.
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