The Pivot: Moving Forward After My Husband's Affair
Remember the Friends episode where they’re moving the couch? “Pivot….Pivot!!”
That is exactly what my brain was yelling at me for years of my life. Pivot….just Pivot! You don’t have to know where you’re going after you pivot, but just go the other way! We’ve all heard of pivotal moments and they sound so wonderful and inspirational and cliché, but in my experience, the process getting to that pivotal moment is anything but wonderful. The process of pivoting is also painful, but once you round that corner and turn all the way around, it really is the most gratifying and empowering experience in the world.
Before I tell you about my pivotal moment let me give you the reader’s digest version of why I needed to pivot my life. I’m gonna try to make it short…really. The shortest version is that my husband fell in love with another woman and broke my heart to pieces. The long version, well I’m saving that for a Lifetime movie, so we will just go somewhere in between. As with anything bad that happens to us in life, we know we are not the only ones who are going through that particular pain, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I can tell you that I absolutely was not prepared for the downward spiral my life was about to take when I saw the email that changed my life forever.
I was walking through the grocery store, not really shopping, in a daze, talking to my friend. “He’s not really going on a trip with her right? Why would she be copied on the confirmation email for his all inclusive guys trip? Why do our phone records show that they text hundreds of texts per day? Surely there’s an explanation for all of this. No one would ever cheat on me! I am an AMAZING wife!“
Cue me singing Adele Rolling in the Deep in the bubble bath and crying until my eyes were raw. How could this be happening to me? Who is this horrible woman who thinks it’s ok to destroy a marriage? (She would later tell me that it was obviously already destroyed and he didn’t truly love me or he wouldn’t have been able to fall in love with her. –that statement obviously didn’t help with the depression in stage 4). The strange thing was that I wasn’t really angry at my husband. I just wanted to fix him and us. I was angry with her and mostly myself for not seeing it sooner and also I felt like an absolute fool. I was played for a fool and I was pissed about it.
Stage 3- Bargaining
Now…ladies and gentlemen…this is a stage that I stayed in for awhile. In fact, I stayed in between stage three and stage four for about five years. Yep…that’s what I said, FIVE YEARS. I tried all kinds of things. Saying at one point, “If you’re gonna be with her just don’t lie to me about it. I just can’t take the lying.” This turned into about six months of complete and utter misery for me, with them going on dates and me pretending like I was ok with it. Obviously that’s not what I wanted, but in my twisted mind I thought maybe he would realize he just wanted/needed me. All because I wasn’t willing to risk losing him and just saying…It’s me or her. Complete rejection was not an option, so I settled for partial rejection. After a few months of that I said, I CANNOT do this anymore. It’s killing me. I met with her and talked to him. I said enough is enough, but I wasn't really prepared to face reality and what it meant yet. So, for the next three years we went back and forth. Him saying it was over and then, it wasn’t, him spending half his time at her house and me just allowing it for reasons I really will never understand other than just fear of complete failure or rejection. Them going on vacations together and me wallowing in self pity and complete disdain for my life at home. I was bargaining with myself at that point. Why wasn’t I stronger? Or maybe I WAS strong and that’s how I could deal with the non-sense that was my life. I should probably mention that right after I said I can’t do this anymore I found out I was pregnant. We both agreed to work on our relationship and were wrapping our minds around having a child. Then three months later, on a street in Mexico, while I was four months pregnant, he told me that she was having his baby as well. Cue stage four.
If you’ve ever had an out of body experience then you can imagine how I was feeling as I sat on the street corner in Mexico. I felt as if all the life had been drained out of my body and everything was moving in slow motion. He was talking and talking and I was just frozen. That night, as I lay in bed, crying silently and starting to feel the gravity of my reality, something happened to me. I went into protection mode. I think my mind knew that my body couldn’t handle dealing with the emotions. I was carrying a baby. I needed to make it another healthy five months, not slip into an unhealthy spiral of depression. So I buried it. It would come up here and there, but I just refused to talk about it. Life moved forward. I told NO ONE, not a single soul. I refused to acknowledge that that was my reality. My son was born. I was in love and that’s all I saw and all I cared about until one night in January.
I heard my husband leave in the middle of the night and I knew that she was having her baby. When I say that every emotion I had buried came to the surface, that is putting it mildly. It was like a volcano of emotions erupting from my body. My world, as I had fabricated it, came crashing down. I have never felt as low and as out of touch with my true self as I did in that moment. For the next two years I lingered here in stage three and four. Bargaining with myself as to why I was staying and bargaining with him trying to make things work. I wanted to be able to tell my son that I tried everything, but I lied to myself constantly. Then there was the depression, the insomnia, the constant feeling of failing myself. Don’t get me wrong, I paint a grim picture, but there were also amazing times. Because contrary to what I was told and partially believed, he did love me and I did love him and we did have something rare and special. All of those good times and all of the love that I knew was there made the pain all the more poignant and all the more difficult to deal with. It's easy to let go of something you don't love. So I was in limbo all the time. My guard was ALWAYS up and that wasn't fair to either of us.
One day I was having a moment and crying to myself in the kitchen, not because of anything that had been done to me. At this point, my tears were from what I was doing to myself, not what had been done to me. My two year old son came in and I didn’t want him to see me cry so I turned around. He walked up to me and said, “Hold you” which was his way of saying he wanted to be held. I picked him up and he hugged me and patted my back the way I did him when he was crying. In that moment everything changed for me. The pivot happened. Just like that! I realized that by not accepting my reality and by not loving myself, respecting myself and owning the truth that was my life, I was stealing time and energy from being the best I could be and therefore not being the best mom I could be. By not being everything I needed and deserved for myself, I wasn’t being everything my son needed or deserved. So right there in my kitchen….I pivoted.
Fast forward to today…a little over a year later and I can tell you this.
I don’t have all the answers. I am learning more about myself every day, but I do know that there is strength and joy in meeting yourself where you truly are and accepting that reality. What’s been so cool is that, when I opened my arms to the pain and allowed myself to feel and mourn the losses, I was then able to open my arms to the joy. When we numb ourselves to pain we are also numbing ourselves to joy. My journey is just beginning and I am learning that allowing yourself to face the pain and deal with it means that you don’t have to stay in agony, in limbo. Pain is inevitable, but misery is a choice. I am learning that I can fail and that those failures can be stepping-stones to my greatest successes. I am learning that people will hurt you and when they do, it’s usually because they are hurting. We can be angry. We can want revenge. Or we can acknowledge the pain and then thank it. Yes, I said thank it. We can thank the pain and those that caused us the pain because that pain will serve us well if only we will let it. We can learn and grow from it, but first we have to feel it.
I am at the point now where I can say truthfully that I am eternally grateful for the pain that I have experienced. And as strange as it sounds...I can say I love my ex more than I ever did because I see him and I see his pain and I am thankful for the ways that he has helped me grow into the woman I am today and our son will grow up knowing that I love his dad immensely. The joy, the pain, I feel it all and I am grateful to all of it because it is part of my journey and it has served me well.
When I was at my lowest, I spent countless nights on the Internet looking for someone in a similar situation to me that was willing to talk about it and found next to nothing. This is part of why I am here telling my story, because there is hope. And if you are feeling stuck and in need of a pivot, please know that the pivot won’t be easy at all, but I can promise you that on the other side of it is hope, joy, self awareness and the strength that comes from doing what you know you need to do and surviving. Because, my dear, you will survive. Mark my words. Don’t think about what you should or shouldn’t do, think about who you want to be and be that person. The rest will take care of itself.