Your spouse isn’t the only one who might seem like a stranger in the wake of learning about his infidelity. You’ll have moments in which you won’t recognize yourself (or sometimes your neighbor...or your kids. But that's another post.). We wives agree that being betrayed changes who you are. And most of us kinda like(d) that person. We were fun and funny. We were kind and compassionate. We were, for the most part, good wives, good friends, good moms.
Being betrayed can change all that, at least in the short term. Enter the Seven Dwarfs of Betrayal, who will move into your body like something out of Sybil.
Move over Snow White; I present: Weepy, Angry, Bitchy, Fearful, Jumpy, Clingy and Nuts
Weepy: You’re probably crying. A lot. It may even cross your muddled mind that you’re dehydrating yourself with all the tears. Don’t worry. Drink a glass of water…and cry some more. Cry until you can’t cry anymore. It may feel as if the tears will never stop. But they will. We promise.
Angry: I consider myself a card-carrying pacifist. But the rage I felt in the wake of learning about my husband’s affair was so strong that I felt capable of homicide – something that inflicted maximum pain with a blunt instrument. Rather than risk life in an orange jumper (I’m a “summer” – orange is NOT my color), I channeled my rage into running. I could run far and fast, fuelled by my anger, until I was exhausted. Forget steroids. I learned that serious athletes just need more emotional pain in their lives.
Carol turned to the gym, working out with a vengeance.
Susan turned to Shamanism and getting in touch with her “spirit animal”. One day she pictured a tiger taking a swipe at her husband and taking his head off. In that instant, she says, her anger vanished. Hey, if it works and it’s legal, who am I to argue?
Whatever outlet you find, ensure that it’s healthy. Channeling your anger through Chardonnay isn’t the best bet. Nor is furiously attacking a tub of Ben and Jerry’s.
Angry might stick around for a while. Or just when you think you’ve seen the last of her, she’ll resurface when, say, someone cuts you off in traffic and you find yourself hurling expletives at a confused senior in a Buick Regal. The problem with Angry, say the sisters, is that it’s all too easy to get comfortable with her. To let her take up permanent residence in your brain. There’s safety. A feeling of invincibility that keeps you from moving forward.
As the sisters say, whatever feeling you’re feeling right now is the right one. But keep in mind that anger, as the experts say, is a secondary emotion. Which means that behind it is usually another of the dwarfs – usually Weepy or Fearful.
Bitchy: I loved this dwarf so much that I kept her around for a bit longer than was healthy. Bitchy is a close cousin of Angry – the city sophisticate to Angry’s backwoods redneck. Bitchy allows you to express anger but to do it in a way that seems more in control. More clever. Bitchy can be empowering. She can help you tap into that part of you that always thought self-care was selfish. It can sometimes be a good thing to get in touch with your inner Bitchy. However, Bitchy can be deceiving. Like Angry, she helps you hide enormous pain and fear. Send her packing and discover the feeling beneath. (But make sure she’s close enough to pull out when necessary…such as when your spouse suggests it's time to "get over it".)
Fearful: It makes sense to feel scared. Your foundation, on which you’ve likely built your family and your life, has been seriously damaged, if not destroyed. It takes time to sift through the rubble and determine whether it can be rebuilt…or whether to salvage what you can, pack up and start over somewhere else. But that decision can wait for now. The sisters recommend you give yourself a year before making any major decisions. That’s not to allow your spouse more time to cheat. In fact, it’s time for you to establish some very clear boundaries about what you will and will NOT tolerate. The time is to give you the chance to work through your swirling emotions until you get clearer about what you really want.
Jumpy: Consider this: You’ve been as traumatized as anyone who has been raped or suffered a near-fatal accident. Many of we sisters minimize our own pain, thinking there’s something wrong with us that we’re not handling it better. I found myself so startled by everything from the mail falling through the slot to the dog barking, that when my friend Marilyn suggested I was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, it suddenly made sense. Infidelity has been referred to as a “life-quake” and just as earthquake survivors are pretty damn jumpy in the weeks and months following, so are we lifequake survivors. And when there’s a minor tremor – you find out another detail, or God forbid, another affair – it retraumatizes us.
Some of us get over it more quickly than others. Recognizing it and being easy on myself helped me evict this dwarf quickly. Be patient with yourself. It will take time to feel safe again.
Clingy: This dwarf moved into quickly and stealthily – and before I knew it, I was performing sex acts worthy of a contortionist on a round-the-clock basis. I held my husband's hand non-stop, couldn't get enough of him. I hadn't heard of hysterical bonding and was baffled by why I was offering up my body to the man who had just shattered my soul.
Clingy is a surprisingly common visitor in the early days following discovery of a spouse's betrayal. Some attribute it to a primal need to lay claim to what we feel to be ours. Others suggest it's a healthy way to reconnect.
She says to-may-to; he says to-mah-to. All I know is that, once the clothes were back on and the chandelier stopped shaking, I was left in pieces. And putting myself back together took more than a roll in the hay.
Nuts: Betrayal is crazy-making. There's simply no way around it. Even those who manage to hide this dward in the closet, can't deny that she's there. Nuts will have you awake at 3 a.m., plotting how you'll expose the Other Woman on Facebook. She'll convince you that taking a drive at midnight to see if your husband's car is in the OW's driveway is a good idea – and that the baby probably won't wake up while you're gone.
Nuts will insist that another drink is a splendid idea and that everyone you've ever met, including your new boss, really does want to hear about your bastard of an ex and how his new girlfriend spent her kid's support money on breast implants.
Nuts is...well...nuts. Don't listen to a word she says.