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Loss


The devastation of an affair brings about a sense of loss like none I have ever experienced.  In that one moment, when I’d realized that my husband had been with another woman, I felt like I’d lost everything that was important to me.  I lost our intimacy, the trust, the sense of ‘knowing’ the man I thought I’d married and started a family with, the loss of my identity as a loved and cherished wife.  It was all gone.

In many ways, I think death would have been an easier loss to handle.  When you lose a loved one, you have the comfort of knowing that their life was full, and hopefully they lived it well.  You miss them, and it is a daily struggle.  With death, you hopefully have many happy reminders of the one you lost which help fill the void.  With infidelity, you have flashbacks to the disclosure of the affair, images burned into your mind of their bodies intertwined while you were at home tending to the children, songs on the radio whose lyrics speak so completely to how you feel, or once felt when you were whole.  It is like being slapped in the face on a daily basis, the losses accumulating as you learn more details of the deception, the sequence of events, the lies you were told to cover up their actions, and the ways in which the mistress humiliated you, belittled you, and attempted to steal all that is dear to you.  It is an ongoing loss that stretches out so far ahead of you that you have no idea if there is an end to it – you just have blind faith that there might be.  Hopefully this blog will show others reading this who are going through the same thing, that there IS an end, and it WILL be found.  You will be whole again, and you WILL recover.  It takes time, there is no roadmap, you can’t compare your progress to others – everyone’s journey is unique.

I knew going into this that I was experiencing loss.   What I didn’t realize was that my loss wouldn’t be restricted to my relationship with my husband.  As a result of the disclosure of my husband’s affair, I’ve also lost the support of friends, and the enclosure of family.  It sounds weird, I know…how do you LOSE friends when your husband cheats on YOU?   Shouldn’t friends gather around you, support you, and love you?  Shouldn’t they try, in their own ways, to ease the pain for you?  You would think so, but this process has taught me that people react to crisis in varied ways, and the coping mechanisms that people have, whether healthy or unhealthy will either draw them towards you, or away from you.  You will only be as supported, as your friend’s/family’s minimal coping strategies will allow.

The first friend to learn of the affair was a family friend.  This woman has been a part of my family since before I was born.  She’d babysat me as a child when my parents needed relief, attended major holidays at my home, and was married in my childhood home. I was her flower girl.  We’ve always been close, but it was once I’d married and started to have children that our relationship bloomed.  We’d started having lunches together, celebrating Christmas with her and her son, dinners at our place, overnight visits for my kids at her place.  How beautiful, I thought it was, that she used to babysit me, and is now babysitting my children.  It was a neat cycle-of-life thing, and I enjoyed her company.   She was the first to learn of the affair because my husband assumed I would kick him out, and called upon her to come and spend the night with me.  I didn’t kick him out, so that was never needed, but in making the request of her time, he had to explain what had happened.  Within a week, the phone calls stopped, the visits slowed, and the emails (even the ones that were just jokes) vanished.  She was gone.

The second friend I told of the affair was the day after the disclosure. She was a relatively new friend of mine, whom I’d met in an exercise class.  We both loved fine dining, running, and drinking wine.  Really only one of our vices was healthy so we did it as often as possible to counteract the other two.  She has marital issues of her own.  For reasons unknown to her (or perhaps that she is not ready to share with me), she hasn’t had any sexual contact with her husband for 6 years.  Her husband moved into the guest room many years ago and while they are friendly, flirty, laugh together and co-exist under the same roof as parents, they haven’t slept together in a  long time, and neither one of them feels comfortable talking about the WHY, or the HOW to get back on track.  Her initial response in the first month after learning of the affair was that of support, caring and compassion.  She felt badly for me, and she made herself available, sometimes dropping everything to come by and check up on me.  That was mostly in the first week.  Beyond that, the calls started becoming less frequent, our runs more sporadic, and the interactions more widely spaced.  It will soon be a year since we’ve run together.  I miss that. She is drifting away, and I am not sure why.  Now, it is entirely possible that she would have drifted anyway.  New friendships need some time to settle in, and sometimes one or both parties discover that the relationship isn’t working for them.  It is entirely possible that it is all coincidental timing, but I am not convinced of that.  My therapy brain tells me that for her, talking to me about MY relationship issues, makes her think about her own, and she doesn’t want to – it hurts.  So, she is keeping her distance, and it hurts.

Long before friends were even made aware of the details of what had happened, my parents found out.  The mistress has taken it upon herself to email them the details, under the completely transparent guise of suggesting that I may need support.  My parents, with whom I have never been terribly close with emotionally, were now aware of a reality that I wasn’t prepared to share.  In fact, had it been entirely up to me, they would still not know.  We just don’t have that kind of relationship.  My mother suffers with a chronic disease which will eventually take her life.   I knew that this news was a stressor that would have far-reaching implications for her overall health and well-being.  Learning that her daughter was going through something so painful, she immediately started exhibiting signs of declining health, was hospitalized several times over the course of that year, and the therapeutic dose of what she is taking to stay alive increased three-fold.  The disease which is slow and progressive was suddenly kicked into hyperdrive, and she plummeted more in 6 months than she had in the last 5 years. It was a full blown crisis of epic proportions on a far reaching scale, and my mother was swept up into its vortex, against my will.  If my mother is to succumb to her illness within the next short while, I will be able to add to the mistress’ list of accomplishments that she also killed my mother.  I don’t think that will faze her in the least.  The heartless cannot feel.

Within weeks of the discovery of the affair, the checking-in that had been so pervasive in the beginning started to slow.  People started to resume their every day lives, and yet mine was still in shambles.  Where had they gone?

I am not one who asks for help easily.  Raised by two parents who were emotionally unavailable to me, and who taught me from an early age that you can’t rely on anyone but yourself, I am not one to come out and ask for help.  Watching my friends and family slowly recede was like the end of days for me.  Afraid to ask them why they were doing this, I just sit back and watch it happen.   At the encouragement of my individual therapist (yes, I have two; a marital therapist and an individual therapist), I will be asking them what is going on, and asking for an explanation.  My fear in asking why they’ve abandoned me is that I may hear things that hurt me further.  On the other hand, it is also possible that the reasons I am ascribing in my own head are far worse than what is actually going on, and I may be causing myself more undue harm by saying nothing.  It is something I aim to do…just not sure when.

This post would be incomplete without mentioning the friends who HAVE stood by me.  Two friends who were made aware of the circumstances never left.  They’ve listened, they’ve dropped by unannounced with wine, they’ve asked with genuine concern how I am, and I am forever appreciative.  My eyes are tearful as I type this because it feels good to have their support, and I am thankful for them.  If anything ever happens to them that rocks their world in the way that this has rocked mine, they need to know that I have their back and will share the load, not simply because of what they have done for me, but because it is WHO I AM. In the sea of loss, they have been my beacons, and I am thankful.

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Comments

  1. Foolish Woman says:

    I very much recognise those feelings of loss. Something has gone for ever and despite our relationship being hugely improved by the catalyst of his infidelity, I’d still rather it hadn’t happened.

    My mother, who was widowed in her thirties, once said she felt the loss of a husband through death was probably easier to contend with than losing one to infidelity because in the former case he hadn’t wanted to go.
    She’s a wise old bird, my Mum. Another thing she told me, which I ignored to my peril, was that if I didn’t look after my husband, there would be another woman who’d be only too happy to do so. Had I gone abroad with my husband, the infidelities wouldn’t have happened. Of course, we might then have returned to this country to find our son completely off the rails and the house razed to the ground!

  2. Your mother is wise indeed. It is true that when your husband strays, one of the initial pains is that he WANTED to leave, and WANTED to be with someone else. It isn’t always that simple though, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, and in my case, was not the case. He wasn’t looking for an affair, and he wasn’t unhappy. He was going through a devastating personal issue and felt reckless. He felt trapped by work, by finances, by life, and just needed a vacation – he refers to her as his vacation which soon turned into a nightmare. It seemed fun at first – a diversion for him from reality, but once he got to know WHO and WHAT she is, he was repulsed, and by then it was too late, and he was trapped in the quagmire she’d built for him. This isn’t an excuse that I use to make myself feel better, as I’ve had plenty of time to feel like crap, and it isn’t him excusing his behaviour by calling her the aggressor and him the innocent victim – not at all. He takes complete responsibility and knows he should have known better. But, you are right when you say that it hurts differently than a death – agreed 500%.

    In your case, I guess you salvaged one at the expense of the other, and while it seems you’ve tried to turn around things with your husband, the same may not have been the case had you gone abroad and your child suffered.

  3. On d-day I said numerous times “I wish he was just dead”. I didn’t wish him dead, of course… not even in the light of what he’d done. It was the thought of losing him, and him being somewhere else, living a life with another woman. I din’t know if I’d have felt that if he hadn’t said he was leaving me. Maybe if he had said from the get-go that he wanted to fix us… but knowing that my best friend and soul mate was off to willingly spend his life with another woman, tore me apart. I feel nauseous thinking about it even now a year on.

    I understand the loss you felt, I do wonder if that feeling ever goes away. For me, I felt that I had lost EVERYTHING before the affair… any moments we’d had, special times, memories we’d created… were all tainted with the fact he’d gone on to cheat. Tomorrow will be our 1 year anniversary of being together, and I think I feel the same way about it than I did when we’d only been together 1 year at the beginning. The fact we’re approaching 13 years married, doesn’t have the same feeling of achievement than it should have. Yes, we got here… but he was with someone else. It’s not 13 years of us… there’s that other person, another sexual partner. How does that ever go away? I hope I find out. xxx

    • Lookingforward, your words made me tear up. I am so completely sorry. It does taint it, it does feel ruined, it feels stolen. I find myself looking back at the calendar at all those days he came home late, wondering if those times that I was frantically carpooling the kids back and forth to activities, struggling to get dinner on the table alone, or putting them to bed with stories by myself were the times that he was with her. I look at those special times that you describe in the same way. I replay christmas in my head, except now when he comes over to hug me in the video I am playing in my head, he is doing so knowing that he is currently cheating on me. When I look at pictures of us taking during the year of his affair, I now see a liar, not a husband. It pains me to replay in my mind any birthday, celebration, event that happened then, because I now see it through new eyes, and it hurts. I can’t listen to songs on the radio that were popular during that time without thinking “when this first came out, I remember bopping to it as I drove down the highway on my way to _____”, and then I realize that the moment I am remembering, I was unaware of what was happening around me, naive. I look at that person in the car, bopping to the music, and I feel SO SORRY FOR HER. I want to yell to her, to call to her “HE IS CHEATING ON YOU!” akin to what happens in “The Chtistmas Carol” when he thinks he can communicate with himself in the past. It is almost an out of body experience. I look at pictures of myself in that year, and I feel humiliated for myself. Another person HAS been a part of your 13 years, you are right. It is not pure. It is no longer “clean”. It is tainted – I completely get that. I hope, thought, that if you are working towards recovery together, that you can look at D-day as the BEGINNING of a new 13 years – and beyond. I hope that for you.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I have felt well supported by friends. but my family is a worry. Hearing of my husband’s affair has created so many painfull memories for my mother, as she too was a victim of a cheating husband. but I hadn’t realised all she’d gone through til now. My father cheated for 15 years of their 20 year marriage, including openly having affairs and encouraging her to do the same. All these wounds have re-opened for Mum and she can’t bear to look at my husband and thinks I should leave him. Our adult children are also staying away. They’ll only visit when their father is not around. We no longer gather for family nights at home here. I had to have a birthday lunch with my daughter and a birthday tea with my husband cos they can’t be together. My daughter thinks that me staying with him is sending the wrong message to her future husband. The message that you can have an affair, then go right back to playing Happy Famillies and all will be forgotten.

    • I know what you mean. Affairs dig a trench down the centre of a family, dividing it into pieces. It is hard for your mum to see you go through the same pain, and she sees herself in you. Perhaps she wished she’d left, and regretted it, and wants you to avoid the years of regret where you could be making a fresh start. My mom was the same way, also a victim of multiple affairs of my dad’s. None that bore children, or that lasted a long time, or were even remotely significant as far as I can know, but hurtful all the same. My poor mom. My mom passed away this fall, and we never had the chance to talk as women, not as mother and daughter about this. I wish we had.

      My friends too are plagued by this, not fully connecting with my husband, keeping him at a distance. Many of my family members no longer speak with me, and a friend has distanced herself as a result of this. Sad when you are cheated on, and then abandoned by friends. I am glad you feel the support of yours. I think it is crucial.

      I do hope that the kids can find their own way of rectifying their feelings for their dad. They will grieve what he has done as it has now impacted their family life, but it doesn’t have to. They are angry for you – after all he cheated on you, not so much on them. Perhaps some counseling for them around the anger and feelings to get a relationship back with him. If you have chosen to stay, that is your choice, and your kids can learn to respect it, if they are old enough to understand why. Your daughter’s point about this impacting her future husband….why does he need to know? Also, you aren’t the only one he will see doing this – celebrities, the media, and other friends who will go through this will find women choosing to stay and fight for their marriage instead of abandoning ship and giving up on what they’ve built. You won’t be his only experience of this. I wish you well 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] days after the affair came to light, and hasn’t made a single attempt to offer any support.  My description of the loss of that support and friendship can be found here.  I think it can only be called a loss if you had actually something to lose.  She left a long […]

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