I wrote this article over several months, as I was going through the different grief stages, and I can see how far I have come when I re-read it. I have accepted the situation – I have my sad moments, usually when something reminds me of him, but they are no longer sad days, just sad moments. I let the emotion wash over me and then it is gone – like I’m standing in the surf and a large wave that I wasn't expecting threatens to knock me over, but I stand my ground, get wet and then it’s gone. You will always carry it with you, but eventually it will no longer define you. The grief stages are something that you need to go through, they are not necessarily linear either, you can go backwards and forwards through the stages until you one day just accept and let it go. The longer the marriage, generally the longer the grief process, but even that is different for different people – one of my friends got to acceptance of abandonment of a twenty year marriage in two years, another is still angry after five years out from a similar length marriage.
After the shock of being suddenly discarded by your spouse, you will mourn the loss of your marriage and go through the grief stages that you would when a loved one dies. For me, I was still grieving the death of my mother, when my husband decided to destroy our marriage to be with his affair partner. I became an emotional wreck as I dealt with the grief from these two events at the same time, but the grief that I experienced from the loss of our marriage was compounded by the fact that I was married to a compulsive liar, so I had to cope with trying to work out what was true and what wasn’t. I now realise very little of anything that he said to me from the day that I first met him was true. He was a conman, who walked away once he had found a more lucrative target.
Stage 1 - Denial
I found it hard to believe that he was actually gone and not coming back, at first, especially as he kept texting me, telling me that he still loved me. You have to face the fact that he has gone and he is not coming back. Sometimes he will mess with your head because of guilt or narcissistic tendencies, by still being nice to you and it is easy to read what you want so desperately to hear in what he says. This is one of the reasons why the No Contact rule is so important. Block him on your phone, email and social media, so that you can start getting used to being on your own and building other support networks and friendships.
Now I can see how much better off I am without him, but when he first left, I wanted to deny that my life was about to change in a way that I had never envisaged it could. We had been making plans for holidays, where we were going to live as we got older, we were looking at buying an investment property and the whole time he must have been planning his escape. The denial stage is about fighting the fact that everything that you believed to be real is suddenly shown to be an illusion.
Stage 2 – Anger
Once I realised that he had really gone, I spent a lot of time analysing our whole relationship. Now I believe that he used me from beginning to end. He had originally moved in with me, I realised, because he was living with his parents after his first marriage broke down and he didn't have the freedom that he wanted. Living with me, he could drink all day when he was home from work, he could sit on his laptop feeding his addiction to porn, he was living in the city, so he could freely meet women which was impossible in the small country town where his parents lived. I cooked for him, washed and mended his clothes, paid the bills, etc, and in return he knew all he had to do was pretend that he was in love with me. I was so angry that I had invested so much time, effort, emotion, money into him and essentially got absolutely nothing in return. Once he got bored he just moved on to what he considered was better pastures. The narcissist in him was impressed with a new, exciting woman with a higher status job than me, who came from a more affluent background and lived in a more expensive suburb. I was angry that I was taken in by a conman who dumped me with no warning, for someone he had been having an affair with for months. I was angry that he turned me from a strong confident woman into an emotional wreck. I was angry that he shared personal stories from my past, that I had confided in him, with her and that she threw them back at me in an angry text exchange. I am angry that I was so stupid, that I fell for him and all his lies and that I continued to believe him even when it should have been obvious to me that he wasn't the person that he was pretending to be, and never had been. I still have angry moments but I am gradually thinking about him less and less.
Stage 3 – Bargaining
The bargaining stage is about wanting your old life back and making deals with your ex, yourself, God or anyone else who may be able to turn back time. You are no longer in denial, you know that your marriage is over, but you feel that if only you lost weight, stopped nagging, if only, if only…. You take on the guilt and the blame – I must have done something wrong, for him to discard me and leave and so if I can fix that thing, we can pretend that none of this ever happened and go back to the way we were.
What you have to hang on to here is that you didn’t bail out, your partner did. In all my Internet research, I have come up with quite a lot of evidence to suggest that people leave happy marriages all the time, because they confuse love with the obsession and excitement that they are feeling in the illicit affair. My marriage was happy, I looked forward to him coming home from his fly in, fly out job, sitting outside in the evening talking and laughing over a glass of wine and a beer or two. I liked knowing that he was there for me, that I had someone who shared the same goals as me. That is how a relationship develops but now I realise I had slipped into a false sense of security that actually never really existed, he was chasing a high by trawling Internet dating sites and sex forums for other women while I was assuming that he was content to be monogamous like I was.
I didn't do anything wrong, I couldn't provide what he wanted – I did at the beginning, but relationships settle down after a while. I’m sure that it won’t take too long for the new woman to lose her shine, you simply can’t maintain that manic initial stage forever and you shouldn't need to. Therefore, I came to the realisation that bargaining is futile, I can’t change anything from my end, I didn't do anything wrong – we had a great sex life, we were friends, we laughed at the same things, liked the same music, loved the Discovery channel, etc., but I couldn't provide the fix that he got from her.
Stage 4 – Depression
Once you have realised that the marriage is over and that there is nothing you can do to fix it, depression sets in. This is understandable, your life is about to go in a totally different direction from what you had thought. I believed that when you think enough of someone to marry them you are acknowledging a long-term commitment to them, after all that’s what I had done. Depression hit me like a brick wall – the doctor put me on anti-depressants and they do help take the edge off of it, but that pain is there nonetheless.
Being rejected by somebody who you thought cared about you, is horrible, you have every reason to feel depressed – but remember one idiot rejected you, your family and friends are still there for you, and even if some of them have decided to believe his lies, you still have you, you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'We are going to get through this,' I found inner strength that I didn't know I had.
I have found exercise really helps to chase those black thoughts away too. There have been some studies that have shown exercise is as effective as anti-depressants for depression. There is an interesting Fact Sheet called Exercise and Depression available at the Black Dog Institute’s website. They suggest a 30 minute brisk walk each day, which can be done in 3 ten minute sessions. This may sound daunting post trauma, but what I did was dragged myself around the block and built up from there, in time and pace, until now where I’m slaying the treadmill at the gym!
Stage 5 - Acceptance
I have accepted that the marriage is over now and that there can be no going back. Even if he did realise that he had made a mistake, we couldn't resurrect what we had. I have no respect for him – the facts are we were married and he found a woman through an Internet dating site – there is no sugar coating that. He couldn't leave me, because he needed me to pay his bills and finance his lifestyle, wash his clothes, cook him dinner and go get him cigarettes when he was too drunk to drive. So he got bored and decided to take up Internet dating as his new hobby. If I hadn't discovered them, I’m sure he would still be conning both of us. How could I have any respect for myself and take a man like that back?
So I can only go forward from here. I have realised that after going through the grief stages, you come out on the other side and realise that this different path that you have found yourself on, is actually quite exciting. I have joined social groups, a walking group, a book club, a gym, I go out with friends, in fact I can do anything! Change is scary, when it is unexpected, and what you had planned for the rest of your life gets turned on it’s head, but believe me, there will come a time that you will say, ‘ I wouldn't be doing this, if I was still with him, and I’m having fun!’
We all experience grief differently, there is no right or wrong way, or set length of time to grieve. The important thing is that you allow yourself to grieve the end of the marriage, and recognise the stages that you are progressing through. Take care of yourself and express your feelings – don’t repress them or bottle them up. Cry and throw things if you need to. I found hurling a plastic bucket, with all my might across the backyard quite therapeutic! Make sure you eat and sleep – that feels impossible at the beginning – I lost 15kgs through not being able to eat – but I could manage ice-cream and smoothies, so I started there and now I have put 5kgs back on. Sleeping is hard too, I would sleep out of exhaustion for a few hours and then wake up hoping I had dreamt it all. I found a guided meditation app called iSleep Easy which really helped, it has a number of different sleep meditations including ‘Wee Hours Rescue’ for if you wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious, agitated or emotionally overwhelmed. Above all make sure you are not alone – if you don’t have family or friends, get to a counsellor, send me a message through the comments function or use an online forum, remember, you are not alone.
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