I read a lot of books, blogs, and articles about personal development and listen to endless hours of podcasts with women sharing their stories about divorce and surviving an affair. I guess I appreciate hearing how other people dealt with the pain and got through the hard times. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. That my continual journey with remnants of the scars left behind is not in vain. It helps me to realize that everyone deals with their pain in their own unique way, yet our stories intertwine.
One path is no better than another’s really. If you want to dwell on the pain longer than someone else did, then do that. If you want to move past it and find a new partner right away, then do that. If you want to party your ass off and forget your pain, then do that. Your path is yours and yours alone.
What I’ve come to realize, is that whichever way you choose to deal with your divorce, someone will be there to judge no matter what. It’s so easy to judge when you haven’t been through it. You really have no idea how deeply it hurts until you’ve been through it yourself. At some point, we all have to move on, but no one should tell you when that time should be. Only you can decide that. I’ve been judged for my way of dealing with my divorce every step of the way. In the beginning, I hid the affair from everyone. I lived a lie. I was too scared to leave and I spent three years pretending everything was okay when in reality I hated my husband for what he did to me. I was a shell of the person I once was. I felt trapped in a marriage of disdain. Faking it. I was judged for staying and then when I left him, I was judged for that too.
I started going out with friends more to escape the pain. I started dating men that weren’t good for me or pushing away the ones that were good for me because I was terrified of being hurt again. At least the assholes were safer because I knew what I was getting. I even caught feelings for some of them only to be reminded over and over again that they were indeed assholes.
I made every mistake in the book. My journey has been a long reflection of self-discovery. My writing is my mirror. My truth. My understanding of others journeys that are different from my own. Never meant to be judgment, but a more of a mirror to shed light in the darkness. An understanding with compassion and genuine empathy because I was in the darkness for so long. We are the wounded hearts that walk like ghosts in our own lives until we wake up and want more. We want love again. We wake up and realize—how can someone love me if I don’t even love myself? Who is going to love me if I’m a shell—lost in the fog of pain and wallowing in the past. That is the moment of awakening. That is the moment when we have to decide to take our life back and live in the light. We stumble along the way, but we make small steps of progress and walk away from things that may pull us back into the darkness.
The darkness is the place of self-loathing. The place where we aren’t respecting ourselves enough to say no to what chips away at our self-worth. The quick fix makes us feel good in the moment but doesn’t last past the next morning. It’s regret. We all do it…every day. Some with food, some with alcohol, some with sex, some with shopping, some with meanness and judgment. It’s so easy to point the finger and not look at your own shit. I am completely guilty of this. We all are.
Surviving a divorce—especially an affair is a long process of healing. I hate the word “affair”. It sounds as if it’s romantic or a damn love story. It’s most typically a betrayal of the worst kind. A selfish act that in the moment never considers the person you vowed to love and protect. However, I understand why people fall into “affairs” too. I get it. It is a feeling deep loneliness in your marriage. You feel invisible…unseen, unheard, unappreciated, undesirable and unloved. No, this doesn’t justify it, but I do understand it. It hurts both the person being cheated on and the person doing the cheating. Once caught, it results in immediate regret and shame. They may justify their actions, but deep down they knew they were wrong and they are sorry for hurting the person they loved. They may not understand the depth of the pain they caused, but they carry the shame—unless they are a complete narcissist. If that’s the case, then they don’t have the emotional capacity to feel another person’s heartbreak which is even more painful to realize. Self-awareness is an impossible thing for a narcissist to grasp never mind validating the pain they caused their family.
Everyone’s story is unique and everyone copes differently. If you have someone in your life that is clearly in pain, no matter what the loss is…try to be compassionate and love them through it. You cannot fix it for them. You cannot shake them out of it. You just have to be there for them and love them without criticism. None of us is perfect all the time, so put judgment aside and work on your own shit. I know it can be hard to do when you love the person and it is hard for you to see them self-destruct, but all we can do is support each other and have their back. That was another lesson I had to learn.
I spent my entire marriage trying to fix someone that didn’t want to be fixed. Sometimes you have to learn to let go. Sometimes you have to focus on yourself and let others live their own experiences. You have a choice to grow together or grow apart. The choice is yours. You won’t change them, you’ll only compromise yourself. Make the choice that brings you closer to your truth and let go of the things that prevent you from healing and growing. You’ll know what that is in your own time…no one can tell you because all you’ll hear is the noise of feeling criticized. You’ll hear it in your thoughts. You’ll feel it when something or someone doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. Your intuition has been whispering in your ear all along—all you have to do is start listening to it and make the decision to change. The people who matter will be there to love you along the way until you learn to love yourself. I know this because I lived it.