Pick Yourself Up Off The Floor: Surviving Infidelity
When you are going through the pain of infidelity people have a few different ways of responding. The first is to just ignore it entirely, make casual conversation, being extra careful to avoid the topics of marriage and the future. This is the easiest and, in my experience, most common way that people handle it. Sometimes they will give you a look of pity that you aren't really sure is pity for the fact that you've been cheated on or pity for the fact that, in their opinion, you're not handling the situation correctly. I never blamed them. It's awkward and, frankly, I didn't really want to talk about it either.
Then there's those that want to talk about how they went through something similar and made it through with a stronger marriage. They are well intentioned and encouraging. Letting you know that there's hope you could make this work if you both really want it. They want to give you the name of their therapist or marriage counselor. The truth maybe that you actually have no idea if you really want to make it work. You barely have the energy to get out of bed in the morning, much-less commit to doing all of the work to save a relationship that, right now, is the source of so much pain.
The third kind of person is the ever so passionate "leave his lying ass" type. This group is also well intentioned and encouraging. Telling you that you are better off without them and that they never deserved you. In my experience, these are also the ones who offer to help you plot revenge. "I know someone in the FBI. Want me to get the dirt on this mistress chick? We could ruin her." Someone actually said those words to me at one point. Obviously, I declined, but I'd be lying if I said the thought didn't bring me some twinge of joy. The thought of revenge was something reared its ugly head once in awhile. I even considered mailing a glitter bomb to her at one point. I mean, that's harmless, I thought to myself. The thought of her cleaning up glitter for days made me smile. But no matter how much people told me that I'd be better off or how many creative vengeful things they suggested, none of it made me feel better. None of it fixed the ever present ache in my heart.
The thing that all of these different people's approaches had in common was that they were all rooted in a sort of pity for me. Pity for the betrayal, pity for my potential loss of a love, pity for the embarrassment of being cheated on, pity that I had to deal with the pain. All of them responded in different ways, but all out of pity and sadness for me and my situation. Most of them really wanting to help would say and do things out of love, but at the root was sorrow for me and how I was suffering.
When you have been a victimized by someone else's actions and especially when that someone is the person that promised to love you completely for the rest of your life, it's very easy to fall into constantly playing the part of the victim. Then, when you throw in a bunch of well meaning people who genuinely feel sorry for you and consider you a victim, you have a recipe for the kind of self pity that is sure to bring anyone to their knees, or in my case, all the way to the ground. I found myself there all too often, paralyzed with fear, self loathing, anger and a sadness that I felt was so deeply rooted into my core that it was a part of who I was now.
What I lacked at that point in my life was anyone giving me any sort of tough love. I mean, who wants to give tough love to someone going through one of the most devastating times of their lives, but that's actually what I needed.
So...I'm about to tell you what I wish someone had told me then. Would I have listened? I don't know. All I know is that if I could go back and talk to myself, this is what I would say to the me who was laying on the bathroom floor feeling lost, crying dinosaur tears, wallowing in self pity and drowning in my own thoughts of "why?"
"Pick yourself up off the floor right now. Stand up and look in the mirror. Who do you see? Do you see a victim? More importantly, who do you want to see? You have a choice right now as to who you want to be and how you want the rest of your life to go. Yes, something bad happened to you and the truth is, you may never really know why or understand how things got this way and that is ok. Dwelling in the how and why of things will only keep you stuck on the floor and won't change what happened. You have every right to feel every emotion that you're feeling, but you are not alone. You are not the singular person in this world that this has happened to, and just like every other person who has been dealt similar cards, you have a choice. You may choose to stay and try to make it work or you may choose to leave. You may choose to not do either of those things yet. All of that is ok and none of it you should feel guilty about. What's not ok is being miserable in the hopes that it will help you. Please believe me when I tell you that keeping yourself miserable will solve no problem. Telling yourself that you didn't deserve this and spending time commiserating about how awful your spouse and the person they cheated with are will NEVER make you feel better. In fact, every moment you spend on this floor being a victim is a moment of growth that you are stealing from yourself. Every moment you spend pointing fingers and being angry is a moment of self reflection you are missing out on. I'm not telling you it's gonna be easy. I'm not telling you that you should bury the pain. I'm not telling you that you don't have a right to be sad and angry. What I am telling you is that you have a choice to let that pain make you better or make you bitter. Whether you end up choosing to stay and rebuild or leave and move on, and you may go through both of those decisions multiple times, neither will work if you are bitter. You will not be able to rebuild a relationship or move on from a relationship if you insist on being the victim and being bitter. If you wake up every day with a chip on your shoulder or go to bed at night reminding yourself of all the ways you're hurting, you cannot move forward. Look at yourself in the mirror right now and decide who you want to be. Who will you be proud of? Being cheated on is something that happened to you, but it isn't who you are. It is something painful, but it doesn't define you. So you get to choose now if it will drive you to be a better, stronger version of yourself or if it will drive you to be a sad, bitter victim. Cry your tears. You need and deserve to, but then turn around and take a step toward healing, toward growth, toward a place where, instead of the victim, you are the hero of your own story. Instead of pointing fingers, being angry and planning your revenge, you take time for introspection, growth and things that bring you peace and joy. You don't have to make major decisions, just know who you want to be, take one step at a time in that direction and before you know it, you will be running and you will be proud of the person looking back at you in the mirror. Not only can you survive this, but you can thrive because this is not your entire story, this is only a chapter."