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How Am I Supposed to Live Without Him?
Dear Suzie, My biggest fear was that somehow I would never feel whole again. He had filled a great big part of my life… a part that I never even knew I had. How am I supposed to live without him when I feel so empty inside?
And believe it or not…
There will come a time when this will all make sense to you. When you will look back at this time and see it for what it really was — a learning experience, nothing more and nothing less.
However, when you’re in the storm, sometimes it can be hard to remember that behind all these dark clouds, the sun still shines.
So, keep in mind as you go through the dark days that may lie ahead…
Dark clouds do NOT put out the sun.When you end an affair… in the short term, it feels like you’ve lost. But in the long term, you’ve actually won. You’re like a lottery winner who has hit the jackpot but don’t know it yet. The emotions stirred up by the end of the affair are simply dark clouds. Don’t let them frighten you.
Like a fast and furious summer storm, they pass, leaving behind some amazing rainbows.
Where you thought you lost, you’ll be rewarded. Where you felt empty, your cup will be refilled and renewed. And where you thought you would never feel whole or normal again, you’ll discover a strength, a maturity, and a level of self-esteem that surpasses anything you could have imagined for yourself.
The Paradox of Affairs
The ending is really a beginning.
In other words, the affair might be over, but your life has only just begun. As you close the back door to the affair, you automatically open the front door to the rest of your life.
As Confucius said:
There are three methods by which we learn (and thereby earn) our wisdom: (1) by reflection, which is noblest; (2) by imitation, which is easiest; and (3) by experience, which is the most bitter. Yes, this learning experience was a bitter pill to swallow. However, just because the medicine is bitter doesn’t mean it isn’t healing or helpful.
Here’s what I believe.
If you let them, your wounds can be transformed into wisdom. Rather than being something you go through, this experience becomes something you grow through.
So, to answer your question…
How do you live without the wrong man, without the wrong relationship, or without the wrong situations taking up space in your life?
The answer is simple but not easy: you have to let go.
You have to trust that as you let go and take that leap of faith, the net, the wings and the right person for you, will appear.
But don’t simply take my word for it.
I want you to test it out for yourself.
Allow yourself to let go of the fear, worry and doubt… that the holes in your life will never be filled.
Let go of the attachment of trying to fill them with inappropriate relationships and see how quickly life surprises you.
Because here’s the bottom line: you can’t have the “right relationship” while the “wrong relationship” is taking up so much space in your heart and in your life.
Discover the art of letting go after the affair and watch the goodness of life rush in to fill the emptiness inside.
Thank you for your question.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!
How do you think extramarital affairs are like hurricanes?
The first way is… hurricanes begin harmlessly as relatively small disturbances. However, if the conditions are right and these little disturbances get the fuel they need (mostly warm air and wind), they begin to grow.
The more fuel, the more growth. The more growth, the more powerful. The more powerful, the more dangerous they become.
Just like hurricanes, most affairs begin as harmless little flirtations.
Without additional attention or energy, they simply fizzle out. However, if conditions are ripe and the right fuel is given to these flirtations (namely attention, deception, and secrecy), they begin to grow. The more attention, deception, and secrecy they’re given, the more they grow; and the more they grow, the more dangerous they become.
The second way extramarital affairs are like hurricanes is the fact that the most dangerous part is the part you least expect. Here’s what I mean:
Hurricanes have four universal characteristics.
- The Eye — At the center of the violent winds, there is a clear calm area called the eye.
- The Eye Wall — Around the eye is the dangerous eye wall. As the eye wall passes over land, the storm surge is brought ashore, flooding everything in its path.
- The Rain Bands — Another part of this storm is a series of dense clouds and heavy rain squalls.
- The Outflow Shield — As the warm air rises, it must eventually reach the top. This out-flowing air creates a roof of clouds called the outflow shield.
Of these four, which do you think is the most dangerous part of a hurricane?
If you said the eye wall, you’d be correct, because it brings on the storm surge. Of every ten persons killed by a hurricane, nine are killed by the storm surge. Because of these powerful waves, boats sink, cars get washed away, beaches get destroyed, and bridges get buried. The sad part is, most people never see the storm surge coming.
And just like a hurricane…
Extramarital affairs also have four universal characteristics.
- The Conversations — All affairs begin with some type of conversation (texting, emails, chatting) that eventually crosses a line.
- The Excuses — The arguments and rationalizations used to justify actions, thoughts, and feelings.
- The Deception — Affair partners must be willing to use some type of deceptive tactics in order to keep the secrets hidden.
- The Emotional Arousal — Things that stir up pleasurable emotions, desires, and feelings (the driving force behind our actions and decisions).
Of these four things, which would you guess to be the most dangerous? If you said the excuses, you’d be correct. Because the excuses (like the eye wall of the hurricane), is what clears the way for the most dangerous part — the emotional affair.
Let me explain…
All affairs arouse pleasurable emotions.
They trigger excitement, release adrenaline and give us a rush that makes us feel high. This is why you find yourself thinking about them all the time — day and night. Because thinking, imagining, and fantasizing deliver an intensely pleasurable payoff… which becomes addictive.
When you get caught in this heaven-and-hell pleasure trap (where you want to stop thinking about him, but you can’t), this is what’s known as… an emotional affair. And like the storm surge from a hurricane, the emotional affair is the part that most people never see coming, and yet it’s the thing that causes the most grief, suffering, and devastation.
What can you do when you find yourself trapped in the web of an emotional affair?
Unfortunately, in your case…
It’s too late to shut the door on the emotional storm surge. The good news is, it’s not too late to allow the feelings to subside.
What part do you play in all this?
You’re going to have to make one very important decision: you have to decide which is more important — the fictional partner/relationship, or your real husband and family?
Notice, I said “which is more important” (not which is easier, not which you like better, and not who is a better lover). I’m asking you to make a true assessment and then to take a stand, to decide once and for all what’s more important — your husband and family, or indulging in the pleasurable emotions triggered by the affair partner.
To help make your decision easier, I want you to keep these two facts in mind:
#1: Fictional lives should never be given priority over real life.
The reality is that you have a wonderful family right there in front of you who are craving your time and attention. Any time you spend indulging in the fantasy of “what could be” is delusional and doesn’t deserve to compete with reality (because it’s not real). At the end of your life, you won’t regret the relationships you never had. But what you might regret is not being present, not showing up, and not being fully engaged in the relationships you did have.
#2: Romance is a feeling, but true love is a decision.
M. Scott Peck (author of The Road Less Traveled), describes true Love as “the willingness to extend yourself on behalf of someone else’s growth.”
Keeping this definition in mind reminds us that true love comes from our decisions to extend and open our hearts in ways that allow others to grow.
** Notice that true Love is NOT a feeling. It’s a decision. It’s a choice! **
So, when you think about it, how can you possibly extend yourself to your family while caught up in the emotional payoff of an inappropriate relationship? Answer? You can’t.
Just like you can’t ride two horses at once, you can’t have a fictional relationship and a real one at the same time. You MUST decide which gets your attention, your affection, your loyalty and your mental and emotional energy.
Choose your REAL LIFE!
This means you must stop indulging in that part of your mind that’s still wishing, wanting, and imagining life with the affair partner.
This means letting go of the emotional payoffs and pleasurable surges that come with the “fantasy” of what could be (or could have been).
I suggest you become loyal to reality and turn away from any thoughts or fantasies that act as temporary substitutes for reality (no matter how pleasurable).
Like one famous poet once said…
“Although reality leaves a lot to be desired, in the end, it’s really the only thing we have.”
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!
I understand how you feel. When my father died, I was 15 years old.
I can still remember sitting on the sidewalk outside of his office and thinking to myself, “How can the world still continue? How can people be laughing and talking? Don’t they know the world has fallen apart?”
I had to get up off that sidewalk and live.
It’s the same for you. Although you’re in an emotional free fall, your schedules, your commitments, and your routines are still here. Welcome them all because surprisingly, these are the very things that can become therapy for you right now.
To further help you heal your broken heart, here are five helpful tips:
- Allow the past to be over. Letting go of the past is simply a matter of recognizing that what you’re holding on to… is gone anyway.
- Take it one day at a time. Only focus on what you have to do, say, and think TODAY. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Move through life one day at a time.
- Remember, there are no ordinary moments. Your whole life is a gift. Your routines and your rituals are your blessings. If you let them, every task can become therapy. Doing the dishes is therapy. Walking the dog is therapy. Anything that distracts you and keeps you busy is therapy. Don’t resent them; love them and welcome them.
- If you want to mend your heart, open your heart. Don’t passively wait around for your broken heart to mend itself. It’s time to get reengaged with your life. You can volunteer, help out, serve, focus on other people. Nothing heals you faster.
- Practice turning down the emotional thermostat. When your emotions get overwhelming or the memories feel like they’re getting the better of you, picture those emotions like a thermostat on a wall, and in your mind’s eye, mentally turn them down. (You may have to practice doing this several times. But I promise, after a while, the feelings WILL return to neutral).
And, perhaps the most important piece of advice I could give you:
Trust your inner healer.
Whether you know it or not, there’s a part of you that knows. If you will just listen, it will teach you how to live, even while you’re falling apart.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!
Thoughts (voices in your head) can be random, spontaneous, and irrational. Just because a thought or a voice is in your head doesn’t mean you have to obey it or that what it says is true.
Think about it this way…
You can visit the Grand Canyon, and the thought might occur to you, “What if I jump in?” Does that mean you should do it? Not at all.
We all have lots of thoughts that are irrational, distorted (crazy), far-fetched, illogical, and foolish. The content of our thoughts is not usually under our control.
However, the decision about which thoughts to believe (and act on) IS under our control.
Now, back to your question.
What should you do when those desperate thoughts (voices) start chanting their doom and gloom verses?
Here’s what you do:
Question them. Ask, “Is that really true? Can I really say beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’ll never experience a legitimate romance again?”
When the thought occurs, “What if I have just walked away from the biggest love of my life?”
I suggest you question that thought. Ask yourself, “What if I have walked away from the biggest mistake of my life?”
Here’s what you’ll discover:
When you question irrational thoughts, they don’t stand up. If you can’t be sure that a thing is true, then there’s as much chance it’s a lie.
Now, you have to ask yourself…
Why is that voice so sure? What makes it the authority in your life? What does it know of your future? Your potential? And why are you so quick to believe what it says? Is that the voice of God speaking to you? If you can’t be sure, then don’t be too quick to accept its predictions as gospel. Sounds to me like it’s the voice of sabotage more than the voice of success.
You’ll need to watch out for that kind of voice. It has a way of distorting and twisting reality. One of its favorite tactics is convincing listeners that what is right is wrong, and what is wrong is right.
That’s why you must question the negative voices in your head.
Check its predictions against your sense of integrity and honesty. Ask yourself, Is this true? Can I be sure that what this voice is telling me is absolutely true? If you can’t be 100% sure it’s telling the truth, then don’t be so quick to believe.
It’s your decision.
Are you willing to limit your future based on random negative predictions? Or are you willing to leave the door open for a legitimate, romantic, passionate relationship to come into your life? The choice is yours. And now that you’ve ended the affair, you certainly have the time and space to welcome such a relationship, don’t you?
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!
I don’t know if you have children yourself, but here’s the thing:
When your child cries… it has a way of slowing down the world around you.
And when my daughter cries, it’s not the loud wailing type of cry that comes with a lot of tears running down the cheeks. Nope. Instead, her cry is more of the silent type, with huge clear liquid drops that crawl slowly and with much reluctance down her cheeks before making a giant splash on the front of her shirt. I swear, if you were to catch one of these teardrops in your hand, you could see the reflection of your entire head in it.
I’ve always felt like I would be better prepared to handle raging tears, but these slow creepers tug at my heart so deeply, I find it hard to breathe when I see them.
“What’s wrong, sweet girl?” I asked gently.
“I have a big problem,” she told me. “I just got my feelings hurt, and I wanted to talk to you about it and you ignored me, and then I got my feelings hurt even more.” (More giant tears.)
“I’m so sorry, Sydney. I had no idea you needed my attention right away. Remember, we talked about the fact that Mommy can’t read your mind, and so it’s important that you use your words?”
“Yes,” she said, “but I did tell you I wanted to talk to you, and you didn’t listen to me. And then you started laughing, and it felt like you were laughing at me.”
Now, at this point, I had a choice.
I could continue to invalidate her perspective on what just happened.
I could say, “No, that’s not exactly what happened.” and I could retrace our steps, and give her the same situation from my perspective and insist that the way I saw it was closer to reality.
And that’s exactly what I almost did.
Until I remembered that she said she had gotten her feelings hurt before she walked in the door. So maybe this wasn’t really what it was about. I had to back up the timeline in order to discover what I was really dealing with.
“Well,” I said, “I’m very sorry about that. I was laughing at something Daddy said, not at you. If I had known your feelings were hurt, I would have probably put that conversation off and come right over here and asked you to tell me what’s going on.”
“But since I didn’t do it then, can you allow me to do it now? What’s going on? How did you get your feelings hurt?”
Then she proceeded to tell me what was really going on. Here’s the story in a nutshell:
She has two friends, Paige and Pooja.
Paige leaves every summer to visit her father in Nebraska.
While she’s away…
Sydney and Pooja decided they would become each other’s best friend.
Now, it’s the end of summer and Paige has returned, only to discover these two have now formed an exclusive bond that she’s been left out of.
So, Paige decides to do something about it. She pulls Pooja to the side and complains to her, “You shouldn’t be playing with Sydney so much because we were friends long before she moved here. I want you to play with me more.” And apparently, Sydney overheard this… and got her feelings hurt.
Without saying a word to the other girls, she got on her scooter and rode home, hurt and upset.
When I asked Sydney…
“What is it about the incident that’s causing the most upset?”
She said, “It’s because Paige is trying to take Pooja away from me.”
And then I asked her, “Well, what would it mean if Paige takes Pooja away from you?”
She said, “It would mean I wouldn’t have a best friend any more, and I love to play with Pooja the best. It’s not the same with anyone else.” (Now the tears are coming down faster and faster, the shoulders are slumped, lips are quivering, and the pain and hurt is written all over her face.)
Of course, as a mother, my heart is aching.
I struggle to remain objective and I fail. A part of me (the emotional part) wants to march down to Paige’s house and say to her, “Hey, little miss, get your own best friend.” But another part (the more evolved and rational part) was asking this question:
What’s the real lesson here? (I firmly believe that everything that happens, happens FOR us.)
So how could I use this teaching opportunity to be a better mother?
The funny thing about the brain is that it works like a computer. It always gives you the exact answer for the exact question you put to it. It never fails.
And in a flash, a thought occurred to me!
It’s time to tell Sydney the true and unedited version of the Cinderella fairy tale.
So I asked her, “Do you remember that fairy tale about Cinderella? The girl with the wicked stepmother and the three mean stepsisters?”
“Yes,” she said.
“And do you, by any chance, remember the names of the three wicked stepsisters?”
After thinking about it for a while…
“No,” she answered.
“That’s OK,” I told her, “Because in most fairy tales, their names are never mentioned. But their real names are Envy, Jealousy, and Possessiveness. But because fairy tales are pointers, the wicked stepsisters weren’t really people but qualities that every Cinderella has to deal with in life. You met two of them today.”
“Which two do you think you met today?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Well,” I said. “If you think about it, weren’t Paige and Pooja best friends before we moved to this neighborhood?”
“Yes,” she said in a very small voice.
“So before you showed up, they used to play a lot together, and now that’s changed for Paige. Now she doesn’t have anyone to play with. How do you think she feels about that?”
“She’s hurt.” (Sydney’s listening more now.)
“Exactly. And what is the name of the hurt people feel when they’re afraid of being left out?”
“Jealousy?” she said.
“Yes, and what do you think jealousy is made up of?”
“Being afraid?” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed, “jealousy is mostly about fear. And what about that second stepsister? Which do you think it was?”
“Possessiveness?” she said tentatively.
“Yes,” I said, “but on who’s part?”
“Mine?” she asked.
“Exactly. And what is possessiveness made up of?”
“Being afraid,” she said.
“You’re right about that. So when you think about it, both you, and Paige, are dealing with the same thing… fear. On the one hand, Paige is afraid of being left out. And on the other hand, you’re afraid of losing a best friend. Now, here’s the thing about possessiveness. It always comes from confusion — the confusion between things that can be owned, and things that are just on loan to us. Only objects can be owned. People cannot be owned.
“Think about it this way…
“The things you buy at the store are objects. You own them. However, people are more like books you borrow from a library; you don’t own them. They’re not yours, and they’re not your possessions.
“This is true for everybody in your life. Nobody belongs to us; they’re all on loan to us. Like books you borrow from God’s library.
“That’s why every friendship is a gift to be cherished, and not a prize to be competed for. Neither you nor Paige can own Pooja’s friendship. Her friendship is a gift that you appreciate.
“Now, do you think you could find a way to include Paige more, now that you know that it’s fear of being left out that’s causing her pain?”
“I guess I could,” she said. (By now, about 15 minutes have passed. The tears are gone. The energy is back. And she’s off the couch… putting on her helmet.)
“OK, Mommy, I’m going back to play now.”
With that… she dashed out the door, and I went upstairs to my office to answer your question and share this same lesson with you.
You might also be experiencing some confusion of terms. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
You haven’t lost, because he wasn’t an object to be competed for. He is a living, breathing, sentient being — not an object or a prize to be won or lost. Put the idea of winning and losing people out of your mind. It’s illogical.
Letting go is a key life skill. Because every relationship is temporary, learning to let go is an important life skill. It seems to me this experience brings you a valuable opportunity to practice that skill.
We’re all on a collision course with goodbye. Why? Because anything that has a beginning must also have an ending. You don’t have to feel envy, anger, or jealousy towards anyone. We’re all on a collision course with loss, pain, and separation. I suggest you bless him. Bless her. Bless their family. And move on.
Here are my final thoughts:
The end of the affair is not the end, it’s actually a door opening to a new life. Therefore, it’s OK to close that chapter of your life, because the book of your life has many more chapters.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!