Thursday, May 11, 2017

Your Worst-Case Scenario Handbook to Surviving Infidelity

If I had a mantra in the early days post D-Day when my world imploded, it was this: I have three healthy children. 
No matter how bad things seemed – as lie piled upon lie, as each new bit of info shredded my heart into ever smaller bits – I would remind myself that, no matter how awful this was, my children were alive and well. 
Turns out, I was on to something.
As Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg reported in an episode of On Being, considering how things could be worse is a key survival strategy. It's akin, said Sandberg, to the stereotypical hand wringer  always considering new potential disasters but there's wisdom in it. Look on the bright side can feel impossible when you're going through hell. Most of the time, it seems as if there is no bright side. The trick, as psychologist Adam Grant explained, is that because it can be hard to replace bad with good, we fool ourselves by replacing existing awful with potentially worse, which actually helps us in that moment find gratitude. So, while my marriage felt as though it was an utter sham and my best friend had betrayed me in the worst possible way, I had three healthy children
My existing awful was discovering my husband's infidelity. My potential worse would be losing any one of my children. Consequently, the fact that my three kids were alive and well became something to be celebrated because I could imagine that not being the case. 
I also reminded myself that my husband's partners had been consenting adults. He hadn't engaged in anything illegal. Things could have been worse. Relatively speaking, infidelity seemed...survivable. 
Your potential awful might be: I could be dealing with cancer (which was the case for a woman I know.
It might be: What if my parents were dead? What if we lost our home? What if I contracted AIDS? And on and on. You can always ALWAYS, as long as you're still breathing, find a worse-case scenario.
And that worse-case scenario can keep you rooted in perspective.
This is not to diminish your current pain. In Sandberg's situation, her beloved husband was still dead. No amount of worse-case scenarios was going to change her brutal and painful reality. And, at first, she resisted. Grant's recommendation that she try to imagine a worse scenario – What could be worse? she asked – was met with her scorn. Grant's response? Your husband could have been driving your children when he had his heart attack. 
As much as some of is wish we were dead after D-Day, we don't really want our life to end. We want the pain to end. And as long as we're alive, there's the possibility – indeed the probability – that things will get better. 
Those of us further down the path of healing are proof of that. 
My kids are still alive and well. We have our challenges, of course. But they are manageable.
My marriage is good. I consider my husband my closest friend and our relationship is stronger for the storms it has weathered. 
There has and will be more pain. I lost my mother a decade ago in the midst of this maelstrom, and my father celebrates his 88th birthday today. Like everyone else, I grow older daily.

But things can (almost) always be worse. 


  1. Elle, you nailed it again. I look back on the things that ran through my mind in the moments and days immediately following D day. I remember feeling so glad my H wasn't already dead when I found out. That I could ask him all my questions. (I know there are some on here who have faced that! My heart celebrates your strength!) I was so glad my H wasn't emotionally involved with any of the OW (again, I celebrate the strength of all of you walking that road!) I know some of you have read my story and thought, "I'm so glad my H is not a pilot who is gone overnight (with flight attendants) 1/2 of every week!" Or, "I'm so glad there aren't 5 Ow!" and I can say... You're right about both! My story sucks, but it could always suck more. So could yours. It does help to remind yourself of that, especially early on when you think death might be better (it is NOT.) I think of Anna Dugger a lot. Her public status caused her to go through this in PUBLIC. I remember feeling for her at the time. My H was cheating when all that went down, but I had no idea. I watched all the footage and felt so bad for her, but so certain that she HAD to leave. I discussed it with my H back then!! Now that I know about the other side, I'm ashamed for having chimed in like that to "discuss her options" (when I saw only one). At least after my D day the entire world wasn't talking about me and what I should do!

    1. Ann,

      I literally grew up in Crazyville with my schizophrenic father and never learned to look on the bright side. Kinda hard do when I had to hide under the bed to keep from being dragged into some godawful physical battle between my parents. And my mother, she couldn't see the bright side either when he was holding a gun to her throat or cleaning out the bathtub after he had slit his wrists. No money for bills and the world falling apart, I can't relate to Sheryl's pain. its a different world. I can understand the pilot world tho. But people handle grief differently and when my husband left on a trip I was estatic! After 2 flight attendants, I didn't much care if he did it again. I did care in the beginning when we were going thru it in the first 6 mos. but having the fatal attraction FA come to the house. Well, that witch did me a huge favor. Didn't think so at the time but it brought me up off the floor. When people say look on the bright side, I think it denies your feelings. Your pain is your pain and you need to look for healthy ways eventually to handle it. Don't patrol their husband's iPhone, have him checking in like your his mother. That's just me. I couldn't have stood being in the public eye and I hated his parent's knowing about what happened. It screwed the dynamics of our family and 30 yrs later, it's still messing it up now that our SIL did the same thing to our daughter. OMG, I hate the SIL more than my husband when he did it to me!!!

    2. Pilot's wife,
      Your story, and your resilience through it, are inspiring. I agree that the constant checking must taper off. At first, it helps to feel safe, but it needs to be slowly released over time or, as you say, you end up being the morality police for someone who's supposed to be your partner. Being a pilot's wife is helpful in that way I guess. I can't possibly fool myself into thinking that I could check enough to prevent this from happening. I'd have to have a private investigator tail him 24/7 since he's gone so much and there is so much opportunity and so many aggressive flight attendants. Don't think I haven't considered that! In the early days I certainly wanted to! I have to surrender control a little bit. Scary, but necessary. If he were home all the time, I might not let go of the checking and convince myself that I was safe because there would be NO way it was possible. False sense of control. I do still check some. I probably always will. Not constantly, and not with nearly as much desperation.

    3. Ann,

      Another thing I did was to keep 2 suitcases packed in the closet with clothes, money, passports, and travel passes. Every time he came home from a trip, he saw them and realized I could just leave while he was gone if I wanted to. I did this for a year just because it made me feel safer to have my own exit plan. A long time ago I read something profound-marriage ends either in death or divorce but it always ends. So much truth in that. Women need to keep some part of themselves separate and not morph onto one single entity. Yes, FAs are aggressive but true of many career fields. If people wish to cheat, you can't stop them.

  2. Part of me wonders if this is a big difference between my husband and me. I have always been this way looking at the bright side and seeing the best in a situation. Where I do not think he sees it that way at least deep down. Or he just suppresses his feeling.

    The main mantra I heard was your words of make the next decision. Not to get caught up in worrying about the future. This helped me a lot to focus on the here and now. That also allowed me to appreciate all that I had even more. I slowed down and still even now choose to only do what I want. Not what I should do or feel obligated to do.

    I posted about this in the feeling stuck spot but funny story related to this is just yesterday on of the ow contacted my husband randomly after two years. Of course I was not thrilled about it. I was happy with how serious he took it, how he handled it and how he told me. He did think of just erasing everything for a blip of time. When he told me he had gotten calls/voice mails and texts I was like what did they say. And he was like nothing just dumb drunk messages. I was relieved since I was thinking does she have some STD, AIDS or did he father a child or something. So when it ended up being dumb voice mails and texts I was slightly relieved. In the end still annoying and I hate that this is part of my life but that is where my mind when that it could be worse.

  3. This is so true. I've often said if my husbands betrayal is the worst thing that happens to me then I have been a lucky woman and I've had a good life. I'm always grateful for what I have, who I am and how I've been blessed.

  4. Great post. I, however, am married to a man who used prostitutes which is not only illegal but in Colorado, where he had a couple of his whores, if he got arrested he would have been labeled a sex offender. Although much is good with me, the fact that I know I'm married to a man who knowingly paid for sex, knowing that it was illegal, will stay with me. That eight year "lapse of judgement" is not a forgivable offense even if it can never be changed. It is something I grapple with in therapy. Just because he says they were of legal age, which he admits he did not ask for proof, makes me blanch. Given some of the places he frequented, I doubt some of the women were "consenting adults" as I've read about the busts in some of those places for human trafficking. It is impossible to even know at this point if I will ever come to grips with that. I will grieve the memory of a man I thought I knew and work to accept this very flawed and human man I have. Overall, I am grateful that things were not worse, especially since he thought he had AIDS when he told me. He is really a different man and I believe him when he says he never wants to go back to the way it was again. I'm doing my best to make sure I'm doing all that I can to do things that make me happy and that give me joy. Happy Mother's Day to everyone. There are so many mothers in my life who never had children but I've loved each and every one of them as my mother. I feel that love from many and claim twelve kids as my grands even though only a few are actually the kids of my kids. I embrace my role as a mom but more than ever, I am reflecting on the woman I was as I came of age back in the 60's and I'm going to do my best to reclaim her in all her joy and optimism. I am sharing a link to an old post from Martha Beck. It is pretty profound for me. I'm working on not regretting my decision to stay married and I think it's going to be OK. Peace to all.

    1. Beach Girl,
      I loved that article. It was really so insightful and helpful. Thanks for sharing it. I made both lists and found some surprises there! I grieve the old me and the old him I thought he was, but I'm pleased with the current version of both of us too. As far as what I can reclaim after making both the sadness and anger lists... feeling like a success, self-respect, dignity, pride, peace.

    2. Yes Happy Mother's Day to everyone a day late. Thanks for that link to that post. It was a good read. I have different circumstances than yours of course but feel similar. For 10 years I know my husband drove when he shouldn't have. He could have gotten a DUI or worse hurt or killed someone. Thankfully that did not happen. One crazy part to this story I have never told anyone is he was breaking up with ow #2 in a parking lot. An officer came by and realized they had been drinking. They were not out together but she was pushing to meet him I assume for sex since he said that was how it went down and they both got a breathalyzer. They were both over the legal limit but the officer got called away on an emergency. No one drinks and drives one time. Oh and the unprotected sex too. Even though he dismissed this. He had reasons since she was a nurse they must test them for work. He actually said that to me. He thought they regularly tested medical workers for STD's. It took me two seconds on google to see that they only test for HIV if you have been pricked by a needle of someone that has HIV/AIDS or is at risk. But he really told himself that she was regularly tested. And she said she never sleeps with anyone else too. In the end he told himself whatever he needed to. I struggle with all of this though. How could he tell himself all of these things and put himself and ultimately me and our family at risk for 10 years. No wonder he hated himself. Oh and the possibility he could have fathered an illegitimate child too he dismissed. Some days I cope with all of this easier than others. I think can he really change for good. Or is this change surface and could he slip back into any of this or something else? I mean this is bad stuff. I found it odd too when he told me these things he defended himself at first but he quickly admitted that he scared himself so bad. I think that is what perpetuated the drinking, nights out, distance, and in the end his ability to lie to me. Things have changed a lot but this is all mind boggling. I wish I had a poor memory and could compartmentalize. Even this weekend with family people reminisce and it is hard for me to be happy. For me it brings back bad memories or reminds me of other times. He rarely remembers or sees it a different way. I am so much better if I can focus on the here and now or even the future. The past and memories are so hard for me!

  5. Hopeful 30, things have changed a lot at my house too. Unless I am thinking about a specific event that excluded my husband pretty much everything before June 2015 is written off in my head. The exceptions are my kids weddings and even that is really painful. The wedding pictures are hanging in the dining room and every single time I look at them and see our smiling faces I fight the urge to hate him. My kids and grandkids adore him. His is the first name they learn to say and they seek him out. He does not deserve this blessing in my opinion but he gets it all the time and now, he seems to really recognize and appreciate this gift I've given him. The gift of secrecy. My silence buys him joy, love, adoration, respect and the opportunity to get it right. He is doing a great job too. Me? Well I'm not really buying into the fairy tale anymore. I'm just doing my best to move forward and learning a lot more independence along the way. I am doing what I can to be happy and grateful for my life and making sure whatever I do now is exactly what I want to do because it brings me joy. I can't say that my marriage brings me joy. I do enjoy doing things with my husband but I suspect there are others out there who would enjoy my company too. It is hard to consistently be happy with the only person you ever trusted who blew up your life and now has regrets. Well, I have regrets now only I never really thought I might want to take the opportunity to do anything other than what I was doing all along while he was doing his thing and pretending things were fine. They were not fine. I am trusting that if I keep moving forward with my Mindfulness practice, meditation, yoga and healthy lifestyle that he will come along side of me and continue to show me that he is a better man than he was. Elle's punch line about wanting the pain to end but not our life to end is so true. I'm holding on for "My marriage is good. I consider my husband my closest friend and our relationship is stronger for the storms it has weathered." My husband is far from my closest friend and I still do not trust him but it is so much better than it was. I hope I do not seem ungrateful in my posts as I truly feel so much gratitude for the positive things in my life. I expected so much better but so did everyone else here too.

    1. No I don't think you ever sound ungrateful. I don't think anyone on here does. I think we are all navigating and working through it all the best we can. It is such an challenge. The strongest sense is what he recognized that I am left to cope with these secrets and lies that he did for 10+ years. He feels free and happier than ever but he feels like I am not weighed down by it all. We have had a lot of conversations about if we should tell anyone else. And in the end he leaves it up to me. I just do not feel like it would benefit our relationship or even us individually. Especially for my kids at their ages. I think for any kids even adult kids it could be hard. The good side is like you said he is not taking for granted this second chance. For me it is the same thing seeing the photos or hearing memories. They just are not happy for me like everyone else. And they all laugh and think about these happy times. I get sick when they talk about how we met, got engaged and got married. It all seems so false. I honestly wish we could either erase all of that or even just not bring it up. I could deal with the pain of the affairs easier even. It is all the fake happy regarding the memories that is hardest for me.

    2. Hopeful 30, the saddest part for me is that I don't even think my husband realizes how weighted down I am by his behaviors and lies over 35 years. Since he lived that life and I never knew about it, he does feel free and light now because he has no more secrets yet I am left with this new secret. I'm so uncomfortable with this but I have no plans to tell anyone else unless forced to do so. I've told him that I really don't want him talking to anyone about his "story" of how we met and got engaged. It is just too painful for me to hear. He gets defensive when I call him out on that but honestly even though he probably really did feel all those things and once upon a time I felt like the princess in my own movie, I now see it as a lie. I am so glad I have new wedding rings. When I look at them I only see bling and no "history" from him. It is hard for me to fake the happy memories too. I really do my best to minimize my words and excuse myself from the conversation. I can't go back and neither can he. He still has all those memories that he cherishes and I see red when he even starts to say something. I'm willing to give him those memories because they come from his marriage "box". I don't have a "box". I have my life and I just can't, at this point, look back fondly on much that involves him prior to June 2015 including all the times and events where he really was "present and accounted for". I'll never really know what they were because when I ask him to recall for me some happy times it makes him so sad because with the exception of the times he was having sex with other women, planning to have sex with other women, seeking out places to have sex with other women, viewing porn, jerking off, objectifying women, he says life for him was good. (those are my descriptions of his secret life and I have no actual idea how many years they involved) So unless I chose to look at any particular photo of him/us/family/vacation/ and give him the benefit of the doubt, each of those photos is only a question for me and not a happy memory. Nothing is real anymore if it involves him prior to June 2015.

  6. My husband has always been my closest friend. I am so grateful that during this mess with the OW that he never lost his life driving under the influence of the drugs she gave him and the antidepressants that he mixed by mistake. Our situation may not be the normal way that affairs happen but the pain is still the same not only for me but for him too. This affair had only lasted days but the OW had already been planning to have a baby, she was planning her wedding and as she quoted " they were going to be together forever and ever" just like a fairytale. After all of the text messages between her and I, I realized that she still doesn't live in reality where my h is concerned. She seems to think that her knight in shinning armor, who she had to drug get him interested in her, is someday going to be with her. Was she going to keep him drugged his whole life just to keep him? After she spiked his coffee she would whisper to him, "don't you just feel alive." I have never met someone like this before and I hope that I never do again. Someone who believes so much of their own lies. She blamed me for the drugs in his coffee after I told her that he had a blood test done the day I kicked him out of the house, I had flushed his medicine down the toilet, my daughter had told him what I had done and he called the Dr to try and get more. Thank God they didn't give him any. I am glad that I had the strength to seek out the truth and put these pieces together. She told me that I would never know the truth of what she had done but every time she sent a new text I would catch her in lie after lie. I know that we all feel like this is a nightmare that we can't escape but it does get better for most of us.

    1. Cathy,

      Good for you to seek out the truth and to be able to make sense of such a twisted situation. Your strength is impressive. I know for me I had no idea what I could handle/endure and push through in the end. It is sad how many broken people there are in the world and to what length they will go.



Related Posts with Thumbnails