I started this Hub as a way of dealing with the roller coaster of emotions that I experienced after my husband left me for his affair partner. I have always found journalling and writing to be therapeutic and I thought if I could try and work out what happened and write about it, it might benefit other people. I am honoured by the responses that I have received but also deeply saddened that so many women have experienced the gut wrenching heartbreak that I have.
It is sad that there seems to have been a shift in social norms that it is now acceptable to flit from one relationship to the next not caring about the emotional devastation and turmoil left behind. We have become a culture of broken people chasing the next high and living for the moment.
Neuroscience explains a lot – I have written before about the dopamine rush that occurs with the illicit excitement of infidelity. The brain chemical reactions that occur during an affair are the same reactions that occur in people that are struggling with any addiction. The spouse having the affair becomes trapped in an ‘affair fog’- they are obviously not thinking rationally or about the consequences of their behaviour and one of their most painful behaviours is the desire to rewrite the dynamics of the marriage. They are convinced that they have found the love of their life and that their marriage was a terrible mistake. Every waking moment is consumed with planning the next rendezvous with the affair partner and in the comparison with the boring old wife; the new, shiny, exciting woman wins hands down.
So the affair is an addiction to a person and it is impossible to talk a person out of an addiction. I tried to make my husband understand what he was giving up but he wasn’t listening. I remember him saying, “I love you, I just love her more.” I remembered when he was head over heels in love with me, when the dopamine rush was about me, but he didn’t. I screamed, shouted, ranted and slapped him but I just made myself look like the crazy ex, which made the new woman look even more desirable. So off he went to start his new life with his new ‘soul mate’ – soul mate Number 2, as he told me I was his soul mate at the start of our relationship, actually probably soul mate Number 3 because he probably told his first wife the same thing.
I have spent this year, angry, broken, and bitter but determined to move on. The first three months were the worst, I couldn’t eat or sleep, I went to hell and back. For me, anti-depressants were a life saver. They took the edge off the pain and helped me to start decision making again. Think of it like this – you are in a dark hole, anti-depressants don’t get you out of the hole, they just give you a torch so that you can start to see your own way out. I weaned myself off of the tablets after about six months. I found I did have some dark, weepy moments and some weird ‘tingly’ brain sensations but I had no issues coming completely off of them once they had served their purpose. For the last six months, I have been doing all the right things – eating properly, trying to get enough sleep, going to the gym regularly, getting hobbies, keeping busy.
I realise now that although we loved each other and were happy together, there were some issues. I realise now that I looked after him, like a mother looks after a child – I took responsibility for everything while he drank himself into a stupor and talked to women on the Internet. He got attention from other women because I was too busy to give him the attention he craved. Our marriage wasn’t an equal partnership, he was just a passenger and I am doing a lot of reading to understand why it was that I found that arrangement an attractive proposition.
He had no respect for me or himself and the affair was a distraction to the misery his life had become. The addiction of the affair enabled him to focus on a woman who made him feel good and thus allowed him to ignore his inner emptiness and self loathing. A year ago, all I could see was that my life had changed suddenly and dramatically, in a way that I could never have predicted and I was angry and scared. Now I can see that his treatment of me was actually emotionally and psychologically abusive.
So there is light at the end of the tunnel – the anger subsides and the pain becomes manageable – it’s always there but you can learn to live with it. It becomes a scar, a reminder that life throws curve balls, but it’s up to you what you do with them. You can hit that sucker over the grandstand roof into the car park or you can curl up into the foetal position and hope that it doesn’t get you on the way past. I am determined to educate myself on how to become the best version of myself possible – I owe that to myself and my children.
As for Him and the Other Woman – statistically it doesn’t look good – only 3-5% of relationships that start as affairs actually become a long-term proposition. A relationship that is founded in lies and deceit is difficult to sustain. It was all about the thrill of sneaking about and the high of not getting caught and now it is as mundane, or probably more mundane than our marriage was. If he had a clear conscience, there would be photos of them on Facebook together and he would want the world to know how in love he is, like he did when we got together. But their relationship started as a secret because it was fundamentally wrong on so many levels, and it has remained a secret because he knows that. I know she thinks that she rescued the poor man from an unhappy marriage, because she needs to justify her actions somehow. But if our marriage was unhappy, surely it was our responsibility to work on it, not her duty to help hasten its demise.
We had plans and goals – we were paying off a mortgage together, we had faced adversity, we had got through various dramas with our children – we had all four of them living with us at one stage. He doesn't have that same glue that held us together, with her. They don't have the history or the future that we had. They are not living together and I think that for the first time in his life he is taking responsibility for his life – he is paying bills and putting the bins out and realising that he doesn’t need a woman to look after him. Hopefully he will become a better, stronger person because of the experience too.
Time does heal – you can’t rush the grief stages, but here are some things that helped me and are worth a go.
Letting Go - a Beautiful Meditation which gives you a safe place to go to when it all seems too painful and difficult. I recommend doing a letting go meditation every day. Type 'letting go' into You Tube and try them all out.
Heidi Di Santo Heidi is a power house of ideas and strategies. She coaches people in 'emotional fitness' and her website has some free resources.
Get into mindfulness. Z Meditations Mindfulness App This Mindfulness App has lots of meditations from 5 minutes upwards. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes a day.
Calm No Matter What This book teaches you a simple meditation technique which helps you develop a sense of calm which you can become part of the way that you live your life. The basic steps are as follows but the book goes into more detail.
Step 1: Direct your attention to where your body makes contact with the chair, floor or cushion.
Step 2: Broaden your attention outwards - using your sense of hearing, stretch your hearing as if you are listening for the most distant sound, while listening to all sounds, but none in particular.
Step 3: Direct your focus inward to the sound of your breathing.
Step 4: When your attention wanders, or thoughts crowd in, direct your focus outwards again to the sounds, and then gently bring it back inwards to your breathing again.
One of the biggest myths that we live with is the idea that romantic, 'I can't live, if living is without you' type love is what a relationship is all about. It is too easy for people to decide that there is no spark anymore, and how easy is it to just get on Tinder and start swiping to get that feeling back. The news is that spark does go, but in it's place is trust and attachment, the whole 'I've got your back, and you've got mine'. It's being proud of each other's achievements, it's celebrating the milestones and getting over the hurdles together, its holding hands and sharing the ordinariness of the every day. That my friends, is what a relationship with another person is all about. Maybe one day, he will realise what he has given up, or maybe someone else will come along who realises how fabulous life with me would be. I'm not holding my breath for either of these events though because I'm focusing on developing the most important relationship of all - the one with myself.