I sit on the rigid, metal chair in the dismal clinic and wait. The air reeks; it is a stale alliance of disinfectant and rubbing alcohol. No one here smiles. Soon, the nurse will call my name and have me follow her into what I assume is another uninviting room where I’m to have my blood drawn. Then, it’ll be mailed off and tested by strangers wearing lab coats and latex gloves.
“Why can’t they offer some sort of reassuring setting for the brokenhearted—infused waters, spa music, aromatherapy… something?” I think, “Don’t they know the hell some people are enduring that brought them here in the first place?”
I am numb, raw, and well, scared-you-know-what. It’s not the clinic’s fault I’m here, and they certainly don’t owe me comfort or reprieve. Yet, it’s comfort I vehemently seek. It’s an ounce of understanding. It’s for the pain to subside, even just for a millisecond. Right then I decide if I’m ever going to help women like myself in the future, I will create an environment that feels like a haven for their souls.
20 minutes pass.
“How many sexual partners have you had in the last year?” I am asked by the nurse once I’m finally called into the back room.
“One,” my voice shakes.
I hate crying in front of strangers.
“But my husband… well…”
My blood is collected and my urine, sampled. I will wait a week for the results of a test I never thought I’d have to take.
Three Months Ago
My husband confessed to engaging in an emotional and sexual affair with another woman. Though there was some relief on both our parts after his disclosure—for me, having sensed for a while there was an invisible barricade between us, and him, relieved to have the double life he was living out in the open—it didn’t last long. Shrouded in the fog of emotional and physical connection with another, he was no longer sure he wanted to stay with me.
In an instant, the life I thought I was living, shattered a million times over. The man who I had given my heart and bore children with had betrayed me.
I heard recently that the grief associated with infidelity is second to the grief one experiences after the loss of a child, namely because the betrayed parties are often holed up alone in their despair. Many keep it a secret from friends and family, and thus lack the support and care that is often given to one enduring other traumatic events. No matter the circumstances, loss is loss; grief is grief, and pain is pain. It’s counterproductive to compare losses and pain with that of another. Personally, though, betrayal of this magnitude cuts to the core like nothing I’ve encountered in the past.
Accepting What Is
Affairs are like a drug, though I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it neuroscientifically speaking. Even through a lens mired in deep hurt, I’ve been able to objectively see how the gnarly tentacles of the connection with another clouded my husband’s judgments and actions during his affair and immediately after he fessed up. Just a few months out from when his affair ended, the death-grip it had on his thought processes, words, and desires have loosed enormously. Yet, we aren’t close to healing through this by any means.
Accepting my new reality is proving to be quite arduous at times. I want reconciliation in our marriage one day, but presently, I’m in a liminal space. This is a place of transition, a place of limbo, and of learning what it looks like to truly live in the present which can be a difficult spot for a person who prefers to know how the story ends.
No matter the circumstances, loss is loss; grief is grief, and pain is pain. It’s counterproductive to compare losses and pain with that of another.
Yet, embracing this uncomfortable place is what’s enabling me to better wrap my mind around what is my new normal, and learn how to accept it. I remind myself that recovering through infidelity is not a linear process, and as the leader of my recovery group stated, it is a full-time job that I didn’t apply for nor am I getting paid for.
As the shock has worn off, I’ve begun accepting my circumstances and my present reality little by little. As I attempt to accept what is, oddly enough, I experience glimmers of hope, peace, and strength. I will get through this, no matter what happens in the future.
Moving Forward to a New Life
I can’t rebuild on the rubble of our marriage. It has to be paved away and then a new life rebuilt where the rubble once was. In other words, I can’t pretend like none of this happened in attempts to relive the same life I once had nor go back to the way things were before this happened (besides, I’m a lousy faker, so sure, I put on an act when we’re in front of strangers and people who don’t know our story, but acting like this didn’t happen while in the safety of my own home? No way, not happening).
The rubble has to be cleared—which is a big part of my recovery work—and as I process and embrace my emotions, I can choose to move forward, one baby step at a time.
For me, moving forward looks a number of different ways, depending on the day and the head-space I’m in.
When I’m feeling low, depressed, and weepy, I speak to myself with compassion and remind myself of who my Maker calls me. I have a plain sheet of notebook paper that I hung in my closet one rainy morning after a sleepless night. I spent time writing down truths of who I am. I wrote things like:
—I am an overcomer.
—I am fighting for my family. I am brave. I am strong and I’m confronting the pain head-on. I am in the arena.
—I am unique, beautiful, chosen, beloved, because the Author of my life says so.
Pinning these words before me in various corners of my house enables me to speak life over myself—even in the moments when they don’t feel true.
When I’m feeling overcome with anger, I go workout (and yes, I’ve also lashed out in anger at my husband. I, in no way, want to paint a picture anything close to me acing this whole ordeal). Lifting weights, sweating, and moving my body have become modes for working the trauma out of my body. The mix of sweat and endorphins keep me physically and mentally strong, while slowing down and breathing through yoga poses helps keep me focused on healing. Running on adrenaline, my body has taken a massive hit as it’s felt the effects of emotional trauma, lack of sleep, and going through the motions.
Some days, I have to allow myself to sit in the pain and just feel it for what it is. Journaling is my free therapy. Meeting with my counselor also helps me release the hurt. Praying is my lifeline. Visualizing myself in the future gives me hope, grounds me, and propels me forward. All of these are the balm to my aching, hurting soul right now.
And as crazy as this might sound, there are even moments where I experience enormous gratitude and happiness for this unexpected jolt in my life. Maybe it’s the expectation that God will bring beauty out of ashes; maybe it’s the feeling of being awakened by every possible emotion; maybe it’s the fact that I’ve joined a special society for really strong women—I don’t know exactly, but I relish in those fleeting moments.
Moving forward looks like being devoted to my recovery each day. It involves allowing myself the space to react and process the emotion. Mostly, I just try to take things one day at a time (sometimes one hour, one minute), and feed myself spoonful after spoonful of grace.
Recovering through infidelity is not a linear process… As I attempt to accept what is, oddly enough, I experience glimmers of hope, peace, and strength. I will get through this, no matter what happens in the future.
I once heard someone say that pain that isn’t transformed will be transmitted.
I agree, and am one who believes with all my heart that the tough stuff in life can either make or break us. I can choose to grow, change, and transform through painful experiences, or I can allow pain’s colorful—and often crippling—accouterments to grow deep inside me, spilling out resentment, bitterness, and hardness toward those around me.
It is a daily battle, which is normal considering what has taken place in my life. I allow myself the moments I need to take in order to heal.
Rebuilding a marriage after infidelity requires unmeasured grit, grace, and courage. I recognize that not everyone is in a marriage where both parties are desiring reconciliation after betrayal. It can take years to recover through this, and I’m only a few months into the process. I am positive there will be more unexpected, painful moments to navigate through in the days to come.
But, this is my story now, and this is my husband’s story, and I trust God with both of our lives. I am choosing to walk through this with my head held high, through the good days and the bad, and keep reaching toward the healing and wholeness I know is there for the taking.
I’m not the woman I was before all of this happened. The following words sum it all up for me:
Some women are lost in the fire.
Some women are built from it.
Because we know that suffering produces perseverance—perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Looking for more encouragement in hope and healing? Check out this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: What I Learned From Making the Hardest Choice with Shannon Barbosa – 110