If there's one thing we're certain of on D-Day, it's that we'll never be happy again. Ever. Our life is over. Our marriage is over. Our family is broken. Our choices are between shitty and shittier. We want to run. We want to stay. Mostly, we just want to turn back to clock and get a do-over where we either don't marry this guy, or if we do marry him, he doesn't cheat on us.
Cause there's no way we're going to get through this with our heart intact.
Which is, in many ways, true. Our heart is changed. Our life is changed.
But I can promise you that you will feel happiness again. When? Wish I could give you an exact date and you could just tick the days off, like a prisoner awaiting release.
I can't, of course. But it will happen. In your future.
You probably don't believe me. Right now, you can't imagine a future that doesn't feature this pain, front and center. A future that puts you in the center of it, happy and productive and living your best life. That feels more like fantasy, doesn't it?
You've been waiting on this promise for six weeks. Six months. Three years. And still you feel a sadness. A heavy blanket that dulls any pleasure. Surely, if you were going to find joy again, it would have happened by now. Is this as good as it gets?
Most of us are poor judges of our future selves, a career counsellor once told me. It requires imagination that is in short supply right now to picture ourselves rising from this ash heap. (Though our imagination seems to work overtime to supply us with plenty of mind movies about our spouse and the Other Woman.) Far easier on our minds and our hearts to assume that this misery is our new reality. Today and tomorrow.
But "the future arrives first as a feeling."
Which is a beautiful way of saying, if we can imagine it, we can create it.
It requires clear eyes. A sober assessment of your marriage. What's worth saving. What needs to go. There's opportunity in a marriage in which everything has fallen to hell. Opportunity to leave, if it has long stopped being healthy for you. Opportunity to rebuild if it's worth it.
If D-Day is recent, then this is something you can come to once you've stopped the bleeding. I don't recommend any major decisions in the first few months unless he refuses to stop seeing the Other Woman and unless the marriage is abusive and dangerous. For those further out, consider the control you have over the future.
After betrayal, so many of us are obsessed over the past. We mine our history for evidence that we didn't see at the time. We reconsider every choice. We analyze every interaction. It's not surprising, of course. We desperately trying to make sense of a non-sensical situation. But it's also disempowering. There is nothing – nothing! – we can change to un-do his cheating.
Where we have power is in the now. And that power in the now will shape our future.
"The future arrives first as a feeling."
How do you imagine feeling?
Safe? Loved? Liberated?
How will you create that in your life, based on what you can control? What can you do now to lead you into a life that reflects how you want to feel?
Glennon Doyle describes heartbreak like this: First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.
You're in the waiting stage. But it's not a passive one.
Remember? "The future arrives first as a feeling."
Those feelings are signposts, pointing you toward the life you want.
Notice them. Interrogate them. Let them lead you.
We hurt. We wait. We rise.