On Quora, a question was asked, “What’s it like to have a spouse cheat on you?”
This question has been asked and answered in every way possible on that site, but this time, I was moved by the answer Desmond Hardy gave. I think you’ll like it too. It’s long, but it’s worth it.
While we were dating, my ex was the BEST girlfriend I ever had. She saw me through an estrangement from my brother, my mother, the loss of a job, and even helped me financially while I was unemployed, just to name a few. It was then that I was convinced that a woman who saw me endure such adversity should only expect to reap the benefits of my success and accomplishments. I never had a fleeting question or doubt about marrying her. Even moreso, I prayed that God would only give me eyes for her, so I wouldn’t be tempted by other women to cheat on her and mess up my blessing. It was the only relationship where I was in love with her as much as she was in love with me. Anybody who’s ever had a relationship like this knows you may only get 1 or 2 of them in a lifetime.
Fast forward 4 years, and she treats me like a transient roommate in our own home. I knew she was either emotionally separated from me, or she was engaged in another relationship, because nothing bothers you anymore when you’re getting your needs met elsewhere. She also dressed a lot better for work than what I’d been used to for a long time. She always dressed professional, but she put an extra 25% of effort into really looking appealing on a daily basis, which definitely raised my suspicions.
Although I had my suspicions, they weren’t evidence of anything other than a nadir in our emotional closeness until I got a mysterious phone call one evening. It was a woman who claimed to be the wife of the man she was seeing. My heart skipped three beats, yet, I felt no anxiety talking to her. For the next 45 minutes, she told me almost every detail about their relationship that explained the deficiencies in my marriage.
They met in college 18 years ago and developed a hot and heavy relationship. he was a newlywed, but that didn’t stop them. For 10 years they were on-again-off-again, until she finally cut ties with him. She decided to make vast wholesale changes in her life, and for the better. She committed her life to God, focused on healing, and her son, and putting behind her a relationship that was forbidden from the start.
I entered her life a few years later, and appear to be everything that she thought she deserved; hard working, industrious, God-fearing, engaged with her son, and “a nice guy.” At least nice enough not to hurt her like the other guys in her past did. I was, in retrospect, a safe business decision.
As the dirtbag’s wife told me of her experiences with my wife as the other woman for so many years, I immediately knew that virtually all of our marital problems were so far beyond me, that there was no way that I could ever compete with an 18 year relationship. I knew in that moment that NONE of our problems started with me (although I contributed my fair share of imperfection) and they couldn’t possibly be addressed or resolved without a major commitment on her part.
As I sat and listened on the phone, I also got a glimpse of what I didn’t want to be, which was the male version of the woman on the other end of the phone. She was devoutly religious, devoted and dedicated to her family, and a fighter, who refused to give up on having a real family. These are all great qualities unless you apply them toward someone who’s unwilling to change. This woman suffered for years behind this man’s selfishness, arrogance, and myriad affairs with multiple women. Having that conversation allowed me to see that I didn’t want to be that person.
Then my wife came home, and that’s when the fireworks started. Elizabeth Kubler Ross coined the grieving/coping stages when we or a loved one faces eminent death, but we also are confronted with the same emotions as we encounter the death of a marriage.
This was my first reaction after processing the truth that most of our marriage was a lie. In 5 years of being in a relationship with her, I’d never called my wife a derogatory name until that night. I had no filter. It was shattered into a million pieces along with my dignity, and she wasn’t going to come off easy after all that her lies had put me through. After trying to save face while putting up her best defense, she finally simply admitted to being “fucked up,” when she realized that I knew too much. This didn’t provide me any comfort or solace, but it provided me with enough resolve to walk away for good.
The next morning, I packed up only my clothes and what was left of my dignity as I said goodbye to that residence forever. A good friend stopped by to help me fit everything into his truck, and I didn’t feel anything until I put the last of my things into my trunk, and it hurt so bad that I fell to my knees sobbing (and I do mean SOBBING, blubbering, balling,) uncontrollably.
One of the most arduous things about dealing with your spouse’s betrayal that the cognitive dissonance of missing someone who betrayed you so deeply. You will still long for this piece of sh*t, and then feel guilty for doing so. When you commit your heart to someone, it takes far longer for your feelings to die than the time it took to end the relationship.
It’s a lot like stars in the universe; any one of those stars may have already died, but it may take millions of years for the last of the light emitted from that star to reach us before we realize it. This is when I was immediately confronted with my second emotion.
If the anger was useful for providing a needed kick in the pants to walk away from an emotionally abusive relationship, then depression was completely counter-productive. Tears would flow at the drop of a hat for anything and for everything, because you don’t realize how much of your world revolved around this person until you associate some of the most insipid things to them. Seeing her favorite cookies in the aisle at the grocery store, hearing “our song” on the radio, subconsciously taking the exit to go home, only to realize that it isn’t YOUR home anymore all act as 12 inch knives slowly drilling their way into your heart at the slowest pace possible, yet with the maximum effect for torture purposes.
You can experience waves of sadness like the changing of the tide on the sea shore; it can go from low to high, or high to low, but sadness will be a cloak that will never leave you for some considerable amount of time. I have often compared the pain to having a limb amputate with no anesthesia and with a dull knife. Regardless of the medical emergency that necessitates amputation, the pain is equal parts excruciating and constant. There is no way around this.
I couldn’t sleep for over a month. For someone who falls asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, this a HUGE deal. I couldn’t focus at work. Simple tasks would get lost in space, as if I were afflicted with no short-term memory. I also had what seemed like a million colds that waited in line to infect me consecutively for the next 6 months. With the tremendous effect of stress on your body, it only makes sense to become a walking Petrie dish.
This is the mind fuck of all mind fucks, as you, the victim, will rack your brain trying to rationalize how it’s possible that you somehow enabled your spouse to cheat on you. I’ll let you process that for a minute.
It’s like you’re constantly trying to balance an unbalanced equation, and you still cannot wrap your mind around it. You ask yourself did you show enough affection, or did you consider them enough, could you have been better in bed, or what if you didn’t do that thing that annoyed the crap out of her so much even for one less time, would it alter the course of history between you two.
You will run countless simulations in your head of how you could’ve done myriad things differently to perhaps bring out a different outcome, only to be faced with the damning reality that you’ll never know if it would’ve worked any better anyway. But here’s the mind fuck; you continue to run the simulations ANYWAY!!!!!!!!!
As you come more to terms with the amount of damage and loss you’ve sustained in this failed marriage, you won’t be able to avoid the rage that comes with the realization of how much time you wasted with this worthless $%*^**!
Your trust,your hopes, experiences you planned on looking forward to, your every big and minor plan for the future involved her, and now that’s been completely stolen from you. Now you have to start over, and you’re in worse condition than when you started the first time. At least back then you were a lot more optimistic and hopeful; now, you can’t trust the opposite sex or yourself anymore, due to the fact that you were so sure you picked “the one” in the first place.
You’ll expect her world to crumble around her feet, but it will surprisingly go on without a hitch. This makes you even angrier!!! I mean .38 HOT!!!!!!! If you’re not careful, you begin to realize that the longer you remain in this phase, not only will their quality of life remain the same, but yours will vastly and quickly deteriorate. And that’s why you have to reach a new plateau.
This doesn’t mean that you’re okay with what happened, it means that you accept that everything you used to believe about love, God, relationships, true love, and marriage don’t have to be false just because your dreams didn’t come true through this marriage. This is the place where, after performing a thorough autopsy of your marriage, you can exhale with the assurance that comes with knowing you gave it your best shot, while taking note of your shortcomings for future relationships.
It means that just because somebody cheated on you, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It means that It means that you’ve proven that you can be humble, selfless, sacrificial, patient, committed, and steadfast. And more importantly, you’ll know how to do those things even better the next time that true love comes around.”