Once the initial couple days passed after I let my family know about my decision, Jake and I spent every waking moment we could together. I was still very much in shock and I was in survival mode. When we weren’t together, I spent a lot of time, like a stupid amount of time, reading online to see if how I was feeling was normal. Was it normal to feel like my heart was ripping out of my chest in intervals? Am I normal if I can’t get out of bed? Is it normal if all I want is him? Those searches are why I decided to share this. I don’t want someone else scouring and scouring google just to feel like they are “normal” in how they feel.
Ultimately, I want someone who is going through this and feels lost and alone like I did, to get a small bit of encouragement from my broken heart and my story. The internet helped. I found a lot of clinical information on depression (this was not anything like the depression I’d experienced in the past). I discovered that anxiety and depression is a huge problem for people who have experienced this kind of betrayal. Check and check. I have a type of anxiety that I have learned to live with over the years. It is part of my Essential Tremor issues. So those symptoms, I have learned to live with.
This anxiety, however, was an entirely different beast and I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want to just end things to find a little peace. It crossed my mind every single day while I sat there feeling the most helpless I’ve ever felt in my life. I couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be, I couldn’t take care of myself. I didn’t eat for a very long time. I still don’t have my appetite back. I couldn’t do anything. At the time, that made me feel like a weak person, but now I know that was a lie. I am human. Grief wreaks true havoc on a person. I would never leave Jake and my kids for ANYTHING, I am a pretty resilient person- but this broke my resolve. This was going to be insurmountable for me, I thought.
So after a particularly rough night (Jake was working Night Audit…11-7am) and no sleep, nine AM rolled around and I made a call to a local psychologists office. The nice man on the phone made the appointment asked what was bringing me in, I was bawling and all I got out was “my husband had an affair and I am not functioning. I have two girls and I don’t know what to do”. That was that. I had an appointment scheduled for two days later. I am so thankful for that man, because had he not decided this was quite the emergent situation I thought it was, I am not sure what would have happened. I was terrified. I found myself hoping I would just go in my sleep so I didn’t have to get up in the morning and do everything all over again. I am so thankful for that man, because I was in dangerous waters, that I couldn’t handle on my own. Jake was doing everything in his power to help me, but he had to work. The world couldn’t stop for us.
I thought maybe it would be a lot easier to get into couples therapy after I was somewhat mended, or at least on the mend. If we would have jumped right in, I don’t think I could have handled it. So my first piece of advice is this: the sooner you get help dealing with infidelity, the better. My doctor agreed that working on ME first was paramount. US could wait. We weren’t fighting, we weren’t anything but stuck together like glue. Both of us clinging to one another for different reasons I think. We are still taking a little more time before we go in as a couple. We have plans to go to the same office, just a different doctor who specializes in our situation, after the holidays. For now I am continuing my individual therapy and it is what’s working for us. I have learned so much about myself, and that will help me move forward into couples therapy.
I was shocked to hear from my therapist that many women and men who decide to stay married do not ask for any help. I wondered out load to her “HOW?! How in the actual hell do they make it through without help?”. I cannot imagine not having her to walk with me through this. For a couple weeks I went twice a week. I bawled as soon as my ass hit the couch, and I blubbered incoherently for an hour. The thing about this whole situation that was interesting is that my body would not allow me to cry in front of Jake. It happened maybe one time- and it felt like I was throwing daggers at him. I know he hated to pick me up after therapy because my face was just so red and swollen. Snot everywhere. He knew what I did in there and I think it broke his heart that it was his fault I was having to do this. So the therapist was where I cried.
Second piece of advice: find a safe place to cry. Find a person you can cry to that wont give advice or opinions. Advice isn’t important and their opinions could actually hinder YOUR healing. YOU MUST CRY. It’s like all the anxiety comes out in your tears. All the hurt drips out of you, and you feel lighter for a while. Crying is absolutely therapeutic and it’s free.
After three weeks, I started seeing her one time a week and it got to the point where I cried less and less. I was so proud the first time I got through therapy without crying. I knew that day I was making progress. Jake was so excited for me. I felt like I had done something SO AWESOME. Truly though, making it through that hour was an accomplishment. It meant that I was healing myself and that Jake and I were turning a corner. I had been waiting for evidence that the wound was starting to close, and that first non-crying session was it for me. It gave me confidence, it helped me in a tangible way. I was so intent on getting a timeline from my therapist, she never gave me one. I needed a check list or some sort of way to see I was on the mend. If you are going through this, you will be that person too. The bad part about that is, the timeline/check list doesn’t exist. Grief has stages, yes. But you will bounce back and forth between those stages many times. I still am four months later. So when you have these little victories, take them and cherish them. They do actually mean the world.
After each therapy session, Jake would ask what we talked about. I would tell him, because it gave us kind of an opening to have hard conversations, that otherwise may not have happened until much later. I would tell him how I felt, if anything made more sense, if I was feeling better. I would explain how I was feeling toward HIM, that I finally figured out what to call those feelings. Therapy has certainly given me tools for better communication in this situation. If this is a similar situation for you, you might find that you can’t quite put your finger on how you are feeling or what’s going on in your head. This is normal and it’s because you are confused and hurt and it’s also because feeling betrayed isn’t like feeling sad, it’s much more complex. Being betrayed is like fear, anger, hurt, sadness and hopelessness rolled up into a pretty little package and it sucks. So therapy can give you a little glimmer of clarity that will help you understand and communicate your feelings and your needs.
I slowly got to a point where I didn’t freak out as much when Jake was gone. Granted, he was constantly texting me while he was away, so that helped. I slowly gained some control over my feelings. I was able to do more than just sit and think and be scared. The cheating wasn’t the ONLY thing I thought about, finally. Time had been my friend. I still work through this every single day. I do have a lot to distract me. I have two girls, we homeschool, I take care of the house stuff and I work on this blog.
That said, I do have some down time- little fifteen minute intervals when the trauma plays like a movie. When anxiety crawls into my chest like black vines trying to crush my heart. It hasn’t been that long really, so I expect this will continue for a while. The good thing is, I can call Jake or send him a text and he can usually quell the feelings. I have also learned to repeat in my head “he loves you. he cares. he would never hurt you like that again. It’s over. He loves you.” Somehow telling myself these things calms me.
I believe myself and I believe Jake when he tells me those things. I listen hard and try to hear him as clearly as possible when he tells me how much he cares for me and that I have nothing to worry about. I do this so when I’m alone I can replay it in my head. Loneliness can make a person crazy, and it can make you sick with fear. Find a way to push it out. This is just what is working for me right now. As I type this, Jake is at work and I know this will be a part of my day today. It is my reality. But, I don’t fear it as much, because I know how to cope.
Obviously things are not like there were pre-affair. They never will be. Nothing will ever snap back into place like it was before, because we are changed forever by this mistake and the aftermath. Both of us. I am having to learn to trust Jake again, which I’ve discovered is much more of a two person job that I previously thought. He has to get me there alongside of me. It’s so hard to tell your best friend “I don’t trust you”. I finally had to tell him that to his face. That was hard. Trust is huge though, in the grand scheme of a relationship. It is the glue. It does not matter how much you love someone, if you can’t trust them, you have nothing.
Along with him helping to build my trust back, I also have to work to not allow those thoughts that say “He’s acting weird, he’s lying to you.” to unpack and live in my brain. I trust my instincts, 100%. I do. They protect me when I don’t protect myself. But that said, I know my husband well enough to be certain- he is not the type of person who would break me, watch the aftermath and see my painstakingly put myself back together and decide: Hey, she’s doing better, time to start lying again. No, not my husband. There is a special place in hell for those kind of people, and my husband just isn’t one of them. So knowing that, I can talk myself down a little when I start to question everything.
The last thing I have been practicing recently is to shut out the people who are negative about my situation. There are a surprising amount of people who have said some pretty horrible and negative things to me. I have been asked if I stayed because of money. (Newsflash, we don’t have a lot of money.) I have been told by someone very close to us that she didn’t see how we were going to make it through this. These people are the kind of people you shut out. My therapist told me, you don’t discuss the situation with them again. If they bring it up, shut them down. They don’t want the best for you, they are planting seeds of doubt either selfishly or because they are ignorant and the very last thing you need in your life during a time of rebuilding is more doubt.
Progress is happening, slowly. Some days I am just as hurt as I was the morning I discovered the cheating. I think I always will be to an extent, but the fact that the good days really outnumber those doubting days give me a lot of hope. We are happy, we are stuck like glue. Things will never be the same but that’s okay with me, because this is so much better than that was. We have our bad days like any married couple, we tiff but at the end of the day, we experienced losing each other. You don’t come back from that only to become complacent again. If marriage is what you both want, you become intentional and sensitive to one another. Your love deepens. The roots get longer and stronger and that is how you know hope is alive and things will be okay.
Do I still lose sleep? Yes. If Jake falls asleep before me I have a pretty hard time falling asleep peacefully. Do I still have racing thoughts? Yes, but they fade just as quickly as they came. Do I have trust issues? Obviously. I am already a skeptical person to begin with so building trust back will likely be the longest process of them all. Do I still need therapy? Probably for a few more years at least. This doesn’t just get fixed, but I am so glad I am not doing it alone. Jake is walking with me through everything, and a few more years of therapy doesn’t feel as scary as it did in the beginning.
So if you are reading this with the hope that it just takes a few months or a year like I did in the beginning, I am sorry but it is imperative you know the truth: a fix doesn’t have a time frame. With the right partner though, healing isn’t a constantly painful process. Grief is not always going to be all-consuming. It is a long journey, but so is life- and for me, four months later- I am no longer looking for a way out as much as I am enjoying the good parts of this process. I don’t care how long it takes for me to be whole again, I am just so thankful that I am healing at all. There will always be scars, little reminders, but those are important. Not just for me, but for Jake. There will never be a time where we forget that this happened, but there will be a time when we can look back and be so proud of where we are.
The story doesn’t end here, Jake and I have a long way to go, I will update on this subject when I can. I want to help anyone who is lost and helpless. If this has happened to you and you need or want someone to cry to, feel free to send me an email and I will gladly listen without judgement. Don’t lose hope and don’t stop fighting, if not for your marriage, fight for yourself. Future you will be so thankful.