So many things we share are universal.
The shredding of our souls.
The entire life we thought we were living that now feels one big sham.
We don't understand.
We don't feel loved.
We are sad.
We are angry.
We come to know our bed, our pillow, the floor very well.
We become one with the tears and the despair.
We feel helpless.
But of of this there was one other thing that I found.
Although my husband has never in his life uttered an unkind word to me, he did have issues – a drinking problem – and for years I had made false threats (which felt real to me despite me using them repeatedly for seven of our 15-year relationship).
I was going to kick him out, I had had enough, blah blah blah. BLAH.
But when I found out about his betrayal? Everything changed. No longer were my threats false.
I did not know at the time that I would have "rules". I didn't know I was allowed to have any.
But when I got off the floor after D-Day – and I really was on the floor – I said:
Write her an email NOW, tell her it's over NOW or just fucking GO to her. NOW.
And I meant it.
Thus, my first rule. And I didn't ask anyone permission to have it.
Something PRIMAL just kicked in.
You go to her or give her up NOW. Rule number one.
Not so extraordinary right?
Next, I didn't ask for, I demanded the passwords to all of his e-mail accounts, fake and real. And later his bank and Amazon and Paypal accounts.
Part of me felt hopelessly needy for wanting these things. I felt bossy and controlling.
I demanded them anyway.
That was rule number two. I was making up rules as I went along. I just knew what I needed to have to survive
Later I learned that I did the right thing. I needed that information to build trust again. He might have needed to give it up to stay honest.
Had he refused, he would have been gone.
He knew that this time I was not toying with the idea of kicking him out.
My foot was poised.
I had hit my limit.
My heart had been shattered into a million pieces.
I had my heartbreak.
I could also have rules.
My heartbreak, my rules.
Growing up in a repressed household where "what do you have to be depressed about?" was a family mantra, admitting all these years later that I needed constant reassurance was not easy.
Admitting that I needed some (but not all) details of his encounter was torture.
Admitting that I felt weak and needed help was excruciating.
But finding out through my therapist that everything I wanted was reasonable was a game changer.
I could have rules!
I could have boundaries.
I could ask him – even demand – that he give something up (the women and the drinking and the deception).
Yes I could!
To find that out was astounding.
I could say "screw this 'free to be me' bullshit.
If you think you are free to sleep with others – well sure but not while you are with ME.
To find I could ask him for support and reassurance and demand passwords was a revelation.
To find out that I was not completely off the mark was shocking.
To insist on talks, walks, dates, time, time, time, help, talk, reassurance, touch, talk, listening, help –
To find out that feeling needy or crazy wasn't unusual, these feelings after betryal are almost universal.
That needing support wasn't weakness – it was normal.
That wanting proof and the truth was not out of line – it was necessary.
Asking for complete transparency was not being selfish.
To not just find this out but believe it was empowering.
Healthy people, I came to understand, lived by these rules every day. They just often don't have to spill them or write them down. Healthy people just know!
I often say that had my husband not been remorseful, honest and incredibly sorry I don't know where "we" would be today.
But he was, and we are doing remarkably well and maybe it's because he didn't run and I didn't run.
Instead I immediately put my foot down, firmly in place and firmly grounded, asked if he wanted to work this out, and if he did I proclaimed in my heart and later aloud "my heartbreak, my rules."