Obviously, I can’t address every question in your email. So my response will be like an emergency room doctor and tend to the most urgent concerns first.
Let’s begin with a metaphor about the nature of relationships.
I’m convinced that relationships are a lot like flowers. Some relationships are like roses — sweet, affectionate, and loving… with an occasional thorn on the side. Some are like desert flowers — they spring up without warning, bloom overnight, stay strong for a time, but fade within a short while. And some relationships are like orchids — they’re difficult, long-suffering, hard to please, impossible to control, and YET, when they bloom, they give you the sweetest of all satisfaction.
In my opinion, your relationship is a lot like an orchid.
Difficult. Challenging. And ultimately hard to walk away from. Obviously, without knowing more about the details of your situation, I can’t give you specific advice, but what I can do is share with you my opinions (based on your email), as well as provide some general guidelines.
So let’s jump in, shall we?
You wrote: “How do I go on after finding out he cheated with over 50 women?!! He has a band. Married 32 yrs, then I find out he had been cheating the first 10 yrs.”
When it comes to dealing with the harsh reality of betrayal, there are two paths you can take. One will lead you out of suffering and back to happiness. The other leads you deeper into suffering and away from happiness.
What are those two choices?
Choice A: See yourself as victim (the most popular choice)
Choice B: See yourself as a survivor (the path less traveled)
About Choice A: The Victim Path
Now, I will tell you that the “victim path” is a highly-seductive path (I know, because I have traveled it myself many times). It comes with some really cool benefits, loads of support, and a wealth of instant gratification rewards.
What’s the “victim path”?
It’s the path of bitterness. It’s the path of powerlessness. It tells you to personalize his poor choices and see his bad behavior as a part of your own identify. It tells you to keep a catalog of all the ways you were “wronged” and make him responsible for how you feel. It tells you, you cannot be happy unless he pays for what he’s done.
And when you think about it…
…given the harshness of your situation, the overwhelming negativity and deception, you of all people COULD very well justify taking this path.
Payoffs of the Victim Path:
- You get to stay angry for as long as you want.
- You get to keep score and rehash the past.
- You can set the price of punishment.
- You can withhold anything you deem fit.
- You can exact revenge as your rightful due.
- People will support you and identify with you, and help you carry out justice.
The downside of taking this path? It leads deeper into emotional hell.
About Choice B: The Survivor Path.
What’s the “survivor path”? It’s the path of learning. The survivor looks for the “lesson” behind the circumstances, and takes power, strength, and growth from adversity. To take the survivor path, you have to shift your point of view: NO, you can’t change what happened. But YES, you can change how you respond to what happened.
Payoffs of the Survivor Path:
- You recognize that other people’s mistakes are not personal. So you stop identifying with them.
- You learn the difference between “mistakes” and “mistake-makers.” Why is this important? Because now, you can forgive because you’ve separated the mistake from the mistake-maker… the behavior from the person.
- You stop feeling “singled out” because you can see that unfairness falls into everyone’s life (and that’s what makes life fair).
- You change your language from “it’s unfair” to “it’s unfortunate that this person squandered away so many valuable years and made these poor choices.”
- You shift the focus from “what they did to me” to “what I can do for myself.”
- You look for the lessons, not the hurts. You focus on the LOVE, not on the loss in your heart.
My suggestion? Get on the survivor path sooner than later. Because as seductive as it is to feel like a victim, this type of sentiment does you more harm than good.
You wrote: “I feel like I’m drifting so far away… and I am a changed woman… My eyes have suddenly been opened.”
My answer: I agree you are a changed woman. You’ve met with adversity, and adversity changes you forever. But, you can — and you will — survive this with your dignity and self-respect intact.
Tips on Overcoming Infidelity
Take care of yourself. This means getting extra sleep right now. Take naps. Take walks. Pamper yourself. Do what you need to do to stay healthy.
Stock up on goodness. Dealing with this type of intense emotions can deplete your energy and immune system. Go out and stock up on the following: Vitamin C, fruits, oatmeal, green vegetables, orange and apple juice. Take care of your health daily.
Love your way out of pain. You can’t hate your way of out pain. Be compassionate toward yourself because nothing (and I mean nothing) could have prepared you for this crisis. Be accepting toward your disappointment, toward your anger, your sadness, your shock and disbelief, because it’s totally normal. Be loving toward your healing process. This is going to take a while, because recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.
I have an intuition about you.
I suspect you’ve begun to heal already. You might not know it, but your journey back to wholeness has already begun. The fact that you’re asking “what should I do” and “how can I get over this” are signs you’re headed in the right direction. Ask, and you shall receive. Knock and EVERY door will be opened. It’s by seeking the way out of suffering that the way is opened to you.
- Get some personal counseling (separate from marriage counseling). At this point, it really helps to find a safe environment to get all these hurt feelings out.
- You both go to marriage counseling to help you decide if this relationship can be saved, and if you want to put the energy and effort it takes to do so. Be sure to find yourself a counselor who has knowledge and experience dealing with infidelity and working with infidelity, and I highly recommend you do it this week.
- Join a support group for partners/wives. If you Google it, you will find a group in your area.
- Start a healing journal. You say you like to read (or you used to, anyway). Well, since you’ve lost the pleasure of reading, maybe now it’s time to write. The famous author Stephen King has a theory that all avid readers are writers. Just from reading your email, I sense you’re a good writer. I suggest you use your writing as a tool to survive this experience. Years from now, when you look back, you’ll be able to see how much you’ve grown… and then your work can be passed as a testimony to others who will walk this same path.