Is it possible to heal after an affair ... alone?
Many people take the time to share their stories with us through this website. Some are able to heal their marriages and some are not (and some choose not to). Is it possible to heal after an affair if your spouse leaves the marriage? And marries their affair partner? Somehow you must slowly heal from the affair pain, from the feelings of rejection, and move on with your life. But how??
I was particularly inspired by Ruth Ritchie’s story because she answers the question; is it possible to heal after an affair alone? She and many like her, who have come through Take Your Life Back, have done it with dignity, peace, and strength. I know many who find themselves in Ruth’s situation feel that they are unable to heal because they are alone, but this is not the case. Ruth has generously contributed this article to inspire all. She shares the pain … and yet the power to rebuild a life and family alone. Thank you Ruth for sharing.
All my fears and intuitions were answered. My husband said he loved someone else and had slept with her. He said he didn’t love me anymore. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me! We looked like the perfect family. Having a spouse leave, I believe, is one of the most devastating emotions; death is its twin. For the next few months I felt like I was standing outside my body looking in to this nightmare.
Shame: If I could have worn a paper bag over my head or curled up in a corner I certainly could have. My husband had been in Christian ministry and I felt I had failed. Everything I had believed in regarding marriage and family looked like a joke. I was a ‘living visual’ of failure. It was shame I felt when he’d openly walk in the mall hand-in-hand with his new girlfriend instead of with me, or drive around town in her car, or tell me they had been secretly meeting for a number of months and she was his ‘soul-mate’. It was shame I felt that I had disappointed God. It hung heavy on my already broken heart.
Self-worthlessness: I blamed it all on me. I thought it was my entire fault-- If I had just been a better wife. I had suspected it for a few months and tried everything from exercising twice a day, by trying to agree with him on everything, and even tried to be ‘more fun’ (he said I wasn’t fun). In working so hard, I felt worse. I couldn’t even make a simple decision anymore because of the fear of making a mistake. When I found out about the affair, it made me feel even more like a ‘reject’ and it nearly destroyed me.
Survival: This became my theme during the following months. I had to do this to look after my two children. Each day I had to wake up and make life as ‘normal’ as possible and keep them on a schedule. The children’s counselor told me later that that was what helped them heal after an affair. Someone quoted me the phrase, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” So, I allowed myself to grieve, and to cry a lot. I should have bought stock in ‘Kleenex’! Survival meant I had to return to the workforce full-time for income.
Eventually, I was working two part-time jobs, raising the children, and taking computer evening courses to enhance my work. The hardest part of survival was the emotional strain. The hurt and pain some days were unbearable, and all I could say to God was, “Just hold me tight”. My mind would play games with me and I would wonder if my husband was out with his girlfriend. It was truly breaking my heart. A dear friend told me when I couldn’t pray, to remember they were doing that for me. Survival meant living for today. I had to focus not on the past or the future, but just for today.
Strength for significant changes: I asked for help to heal after an affair. Unfortunately, there were well-meaning people who gave very unwise advice. I found a small network of very close trusted friends who I could talk to about anything. I read helpful books to IMPROVE MYSELF. I learned that it was not all my fault (a hard lesson for me to learn). I took responsibility for my actions in the marriage, and asked my husband to forgive me. I found when I started to realize some of these things, I began to heal and grow.
I began to believe in myself instead of the lies that kept coming into my head. I learned that everything he said to me to justify his actions weren’t necessarily true. The Psalms were my comfort, and I let my relationship with God grow to new heights. I went for professional counseling and worked on trying to be the best person I could be.
My children and I made new memories. I had many firsts: No Wedding Anniversary, Christmas, celebrating children’s birthday parties, Valentine’s, summer holidays, the list goes on and on. I learned to be alone and found out it was OK. I faced the gripping fear that I may never re-marry again. I don’t have to prove anything. My two girls and I now have new memories and traditions. It doesn’t always ease the pain or the loneliness, but I can always open my imaginary memory book and rejoice how each step of the journey has become a small victory. My feet don’t always feel like they are imbedded in cement. It’s good to laugh again. My sister told my mom that it was good to ‘have the old me back’.
Life is tough. It isn’t a fairytale romance. My story didn’t end with us getting back together. He walked out the door and never returned. I tried hard to get the marriage back and for that I will never feel shameful for trying. I would never wish it to happen to anyone, but I can honestly say that I am glad of who I am today because of it. I am healed after an affair.
I had to find myself (and still doing that), and rely on God’s faithfulness despite my ex-husband’s unfaithfulness. We all make mistakes in our relationships, and I grieve that. Affairs are never excuses or ways to escape. My children carry heavy scars. But God always ‘blesses in messes’ and our little threesome team has gained new insights into Life.
It says in Psalms 71:20, “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me from the depths of the earth.” (NLT)
- Ruth Ritchie (lives with her two girls near Toronto, ON)
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