"Steam" often comments on posts and shares her hard-won wisdom with others on this site. She's got such compassion and common sense that I invited her to contribute more regularly. Here's her inaugural post:
There are many of us on this site who have been in this state of knowing what we know for many years; there are others, like me, approaching my first holiday season armed with a lot more sad knowledge than I had last Christmas. I am prepared in case I take a nosedive but I don't feel like I will.
It seems, though it might just be that I notice, that a lot of us find out about our spouse’s affair close to the holidays. Why, I don't know (there is a lot I don't know): new phones? New devices left unlocked? Too much holiday cheer leading to carelessness on the cheaters’ part or boldness on the part of the OW.
With a new year looming and, for many, without the “happy” to preface it, maybe it's time for a refresher course. Or for those just finding out…a how-to guide. Survival 101.
Not definitive, and your suggestions and thoughts are totally welcome.
You, in the moment of discovery, may stay focused in the moment, that moment your knees buckled and you ended up on the floor, or you opened your mouth but no sound came out and you quite literally could not breathe...or you may have immediately jumped to thoughts of your life alone, your first homicide (kidding) your 2nd (kidding) and how you are going to make though it at all – so let’s just look at what you can do to get through right now, and then maybe one more day.
This is how it happened for me: My H had gone to the store and I needed to download photos onto the laptop we were sharing (as I spent most of my time with a tablet.) As my photos were downloading, many many others were quickly drawn from the laptop into the photo program I was using. Due to the nature of my H's business, none of them really shocked me –they were going by me at a rapid blur. It was logging onto my OWN Facebook page to post when a dropdown menu appeared with a name I had never seen before, and a saved password. That led me to snoop for the first time ever, in 14 years, only to find an e-mail under the same name also with a saved password. Wow, was he screaming to get caught or what?
I demanded, within one hour of finding out (longest hour of my life waiting for him to get back) that my H write ONE last e-mail to the woman he cheated with. Telling her that I knew (she didn't even think he had a GIRLFRIEND) and that this was OVER, he was deleting the e-mail account (which he did) and that I would have passwords to all of his accounts online (which I did). Ha! I'm writing like I did this all very rationally. I am leaving out my complete and utter insanity, profanity, slaps, threats of destruction of the laptop held high over my head.
Do Not Expect to Think Rationally
What do you do if your husband is not ON HIS KNEES begging forgiveness, crying, swearing he never meant to hurt you, telling you he wasn't thinking clearly? I don't know. That was not my experience, but let’s just say, by the time he got home, I all but had his bags packed, I was ready to kick him out without a doubt. I had made arrangements in my head already that I would without a doubt, have carried out that day. I also would have taken his phone, work laptop and Kindle.
This was a deal-breaker for me. It might not be for you. But if I thought for one second that he was going to spend one more minute online with her as he had that last two months, he was not going to do it while he was under the same roof as me.
What do you do then – what do you do after that first fitful night when you sleep or you don't, and the sun rises and you know it was – sigh – not just a bad dream.
I wish there was a one-size-fits-all fix.
I guess much of your survival depends on your situation.
Do you have kids? Is there ANYWAY at all you can fake the flu, and give them to a relative for a day or two? I really don't know because I am not a mother.
Maybe being mom can help you feel grounded and give you something to keep you out of your head and all of those horrible thoughts that you cannot control.
If you have those thoughts, BTW, you are completely normal.
I don't have kids, but I faked the flu anyway. I looked like HELL frozen and then boiled over. My eyes were puffy, there was no way to hide the history of tears and sleepless nights. So I said I had the flu. Everyone bought it.
I canceled New Year’s plans. I could not be festive.
While I was breathing via hyperventilating, I really did have to stop and really breathe – those big breaths everyone tells you about? Take them.
Do your best to count to 10 before lashing out because chances are good you are going to lash out. I was lucky if I got to 3, but at least it got me somewhere.
You might think about next week or six months from now but it's really not the time. You will have emotions you did not know you had in you and just making it through the day, or the next hour should be your biggest concern.
You might want to stay away from the “once a cheater always a cheater” websites. I was angry as HELL and I could not even tolerate them THEN. I had enough anger to last my own lifetime and I did not need more.
Avoid most 'reformed cheaters' websites, although you might be surprised at what you learn – that cheaters have a LOT of shame and remorse, they even take responsibility and don't blame their spouse but you might also read accounts of how much a cheater misses their co-cheater, and that's about the last thing you want to hear. You have enough fuel in your fire already. And watch out if you Google celebrity cheater’s names in the comments sections – EVERYONE has an opinion on EVERYTHING and it was probably, in the end, Obama or Bush's fault anyway. :o)
Download or buy a copy of “After theAffair” and start reading NOW.
Come to websites like this and realize you are NOT alone. It's amazing the compassion you might feel for others. It's nice to know you can feel something other than anger.
Take your anger and do something with it, even if it means just writing it down. Journal your broken heart out...put that unanswerable question on there – the WHY in big bold letters. Maybe when you get your emotions down on paper they will come to you, the questions you really want to ask.
This next one is going to seem impossible...
Be nice to someone
I don't know where it came from but suddenly I was connected to the great suffering of people around the world (I know – hard to believe there was suffering greater than mine) and realized that I never knew really what was going on with perfect strangers, acquaintances and even friends.
When I left my house after two days, it was the night of New Year’s day and I saw a few acquaintances coming into a restaurant, each alone, where I had agreed to go out to dinner with my husband (after of course, spending New Year’s Eve NOT celebrating). I had the urge to go over and wish every one of them a happy new year as they came in. These were all acquaintances, not people I would normally hug. I still don't know what they thought about it or me, but I remember a huge sense of gratitude that I was able to give something when I felt that I had nothing at all to give.
Again, it was a horrible way to spend the remainder of a vacation, but my D-Day was during a vacation, so I was able to sleep in and answer to no-one.
Grab sleep whenever you can.
I can't give medical advice of course but there are over-the-counter remedies that can help. I was fortunate enough to have the Big Guns due to a slight insomnia issue. They are not Ambien but I will add, do NOT try to stay awake on Ambien. You will most likely live to regret your actions, and you have enough going on. Please be careful how you use any medication as the temptation to overuse them was incredibly strong.
Be careful who you tell
I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! I wanted to tell his family! I wanted to tell my FRIENDS. Selfishly though, I worried that they might secretly wonder just what it was that I DID to “drive” him to this.
That ended up being a great self-defense mechanism because now, almost a year later, only two people know and that was one too many. Unless someone has been through this, his/her automatic reaction is to think your husband is scum and you might be teetering on the edge of foolishness to stay. You know, the way YOU might have reacted had the same been done to them prior to your own D-Day and they told you. You don't need to defend your actions to anyone and, one way or another, you will be asked to in blatant or subtle ways
It's good if you are able to lean on and cry on your friend’s shoulder. Friends can be a godsend, but they are sometimes going to give you advice and a bunch of platitudes and sometimes it feels like they are patting you on your poor little head. They cannot always know what to do...not only with your life in general but NOW.
By the way, what you will find out is if you choose to stay is that it is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength, compassion, forgiveness and even love. Not now – you don't need to feel compassion or forgiveness or love now – but love is probably the deeply hidden driving force that eventually leads to compassion and forgiveness.
Strength, you have always had, it just probably has never been tested like this. Women who get that surge of adrenalin to pick cars up that have rolled onto their kids? Yup, we're strong like that.
Don't make long-term plans right now.
Everyone who has gone on this unplanned journey or studied the travelers on this well-beaten but rarely-spoken-of-rationally-in-public road says to wait. Wait six months to a year before making this big decision or any other big decisions.
Things will change. He will change, you will change. And the 3rd entity in this – your relationship will change. The one you thought was going pretty well can thrive and MUST change so that you are not in this situation again.
I often say “if you're lucky” these things will happen, but it's not luck. It's work. You will eventually have to work (and so will he!) but right now…
You have just received a terrible blow. You can rest a while. You need to. This was like a surgery to rip your soul out. Your doctor would tell you to rest after having a tooth removed. This is a lot more painful than that.
Find help for your recovery
I am sure there are people who can make it through without therapy. I don’t know any of those people. Nothing in your life, hopefully, has prepared you for this. What do you do with the anger, sadness, not to mention that shame that is NOT yours (so stop feeling ashamed)? How do you eventually learn to talk without screaming and crying? A good marital counselor will gently help you regain your balance and remind you that this was not your fault (I mean, come on, did he tell you he was doing this ahead of time? Or even considering it? Or perhaps mentioning he was a bit bored or restless? Give you a chance to 'fix' what needed fixing? No? There ya go, no wonder you felt like you were slapped upside the head.) Your spouse should go, of course your spouse should go, not that you asked me but that's a must in my book. If he won’t go, then YOU go. None of this “but he refuses and gets upset if I go”. To this I say “too effing bad.” Does he not realize if he doesn’t go that he's going to be talked ABOUT behind his back for an hour at a time? Come on – he's got to go. But if he doesn’t, you MUST. You might cry your way through the hour but you may be doing that anyway, and every counselor’s office has already paid for the big box of Kleenex. Take advantage of at least that.
You do not have to accept that time heals all wounds. That’s just something people say when they have no idea what else to say. The reality is that the more time between you and discovery, the less and less it hurts. I'm not saying there won’t be a scar, I'm saying that time will somehow work some magic, like it or not.