So many of you seem to know that intuitively. You know that, yes this is a horrible painful experience but it will not determine the rest of your life. And I envy you that ability to understand your own strength.
Like most lessons in my life, I've had to learn the hard way that I am stronger than I realize, that I'm more resilient. And yes, there are many of you here also that are like me.
The ones who "can't do this any more."
I know that fear. That if you stop treading water for even one second that you'll certainly drown. That if you stop fighting for more information, that if you stop watching his every move, that if you just...stop, that it will all come crashing down. It's not true, of course. But it feels true.
But here's what's really true. You cannot stop him if he's going to continue to cheat. You cannot force him to answer questions he doesn't want to ask. You cannot save your marriage if he isn't interested in saving it too. But you can save yourself. And that starts with feeling the incredible pain you're in and sitting with it. Rest.
2. Accept the unknowingness
Ugh. I hate that this is part of it. Unknowingness is jet-black terror for me. Not knowing why he did this. Not knowing if he's still doing it. Not knowing if he will do it again. Not knowing if my marriage will survive. It all felt so unfair. Just yesterday, I knew. I knew my husband would never do this to me. I knew I'd married the right guy. But...see my point? What I thought I knew was wrong. Cause here's the thing: There are some things we can know and there are many many more things we can't. That we never will. And the better able we become at accepting that, the happier we will be. I'm not suggesting you become a fatalist about your marriage, that you accept that he just might cheat at any moment. But I am suggesting that there are things that we will never know about another person. And here's something else – there are things we may never know about ourselves, unless we're faced with certain situations. Unless we know ourselves deeply, though few of us ever do.
So...we face the unknowingness. We determine what we can and cannot know and we determine what we need to know and what we can release.
3. Stay small...and keep your world small.
Remove anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Build that "no" muscle. Cull the toxic people from your life. Get rid of social media if it's making you miserable. Turn off TV shows if they're triggering. The day will come for expansion again. But it's not now.
4. Gather your tribe
There is no shame in seeking help, in telling your story, in gathering those who can hold you while you weep. In fact, one of the surprising gifts in this horrible thing that happened is the incredible people I've come to know. Many I know only from their pseudonym on this site, or their Twitter handle. But you are friends. You are my tribe. I watch you gather around others' pain, even when you're feeling it yourself. And it affirms what any of this – life, to sound grand – is about. Loving each other through the storms.
5. Search your heart...
- What do I want? A therapist can help you with this. It's a big question. Most of us want this to have not happened. But since time-travel isn't an option, what does your future look like? What do you have control over and what must you accept that you don't?
- Have I had enough? You have not "wasted" time if you tried to reconcile and changed your mind. You have not "wasted" time if your marriage is over. Letting go can be a brave act of self-love.
- Are my actions moving me toward what I want? I know the pain is intense. And the temptation to numb that pain is huge. To pour a third glass of wine, to buy another outfit that only briefly distracts us, to flirt with that new guy at work. But if healing is our goal, then consider that our actions need to move us toward it. Self-care. Radical kindness. Healthy habits. And yeah, probably therapy.
It might seem inconceivable that you'll arrive at a point where the thought of his infidelity isn't a stab to your heart. But rising is about having learned to trust yourself, having learned to love yourself, having learned just how strong and incredible you are. Rising is your destiny.