The right side of an affair

I have learned a lot in a few short months. Sometimes I have this idea to write a cheeky post to the men and women that cheat on their spouses and give them tips on how to not be stupid and get caught. But I don’t want to help them. I want to help the people that are on the right (albeit unfortunate) side of an affair.

It feels funny to type it. Is there a right side of an affair? Of course there is.

We say vows. We make commitments. We make promises. We make families. To lie about our actions and our thoughts on such a deep level is wrong. A wise friend once said an ugly truth is better than a pretty lie. He lived his life by that and I personally wish more people in this world would.

Of course we all lie a little in a marriage. Right? Yes, that chicken was delicious. Yes, I care whether your football team wins. Go football! Of course it is okay that you ate the last cookie (argh!). I mean, we all lie a little to get by. Marriage is one big compromise with (hopefully) the right person to which we give a little to and take a little from. It all comes out in the wash, or at least that’s how it should feel.

But seeking another partner, emotionally and physically cheating with that non-spouse partner, and continuing to build lie upon lie… that isn’t about the last cookie or the burnt chicken dinner. It isn’t about putting up with that stupid football team, which shade of blue heels looks best for date night, or listening time and time again to those dumb fraternity stories from 20 years ago. It is about the deepest of deep things that make us all human – faith, trust, loyalty, and risk.

But how did I wind up here? How did I get into this situation? I can of course look back through my relationship with my cheating bastard of a husband and see a million red flags. But that’s not being fair to myself.

So how did I wind up here? How have I found myself a single mom with a husband that lives four hours away and is banging another woman (or other women…) as I type and doesn’t give a darn about his son? What went wrong?

In all truth, it really doesn’t matter what went wrong. The fact is that something went wrong and I am here. There is no going back. No fixing things. This is one diddle that can’t (and shouldn’t) be undone.

But what does matter is where I stopped protecting myself. At what point I stopped looking out for myself. When I stopped contributing money to my privately funded nest egg. When I stopped giving myself credit for my gut feelings about people. When I thought forever meant forever and that the more love I gave to my relationship the quicker I could fix everything.

Watering a rock does not make it soft.

As I’m reflecting on the things I feel are critical for my survival, I thought I’d list it all out (I love lists) and leave it right here for the truth seekers, for the suspicious spouses, and for anyone that finds themselves on the right side of an affair. It is a personal list that most definitely won’t fit anyone’s situation completely, but hopefully will help.

  • DO always keep some money stashed away that no one knows about. Cash, secret account, co-account with your parents or siblings. Someone you trust that is not your significant other. It is not being petty or untrustworthy. It is being smart. Want to know what you can use it for? For absolutely anything that will protect you and your children. And it’s never too late to start.
  • DO always play the detective. We don’t know what we don’t know. Are they suddenly being suspicious? Is your gut trying to tell you something? Listen to your intuition. Look at that Facebook account, look at the credit card statement they threw in the mail. Keep a finger on the pulse of your marriage.
  • DON’T assume you are in the 50% of marriages that will survive. Proceed with love and trust, but be ready for hurt and lust.
  • DON’T let yourself be emotionally abused by your spouse. Physical abuse is relatively easy to define for ourselves (although not easy to endure). It is defined physical violence. Psychological and emotional abuse is defined differently by everyone. Unless you know someone who has experienced it, you’ll find yourself playing down the insults and vulgar criticisms and violent arguments. Just because he comes home most nights, is home for dinner on some nights, and doesn’t beat and rape you doesn’t make him a good man.
  • DON’T lose yourself if they leave you. Don’t get caught up in the rejection. Try to focus on the freedom. They likely left for some one-sided reasons they have explained thoroughly in their own heads, but you should focus on moving on, because there is no going back. Cheating spouses cause us to question ourselves, not them, for some reason. Don’t lose yourself in that.
  • DON’T go back. Always forward.
  • DO protect yourself and your assets. Many lawyer consults are free. Broaden your knowledge of your situation via Google and Bing and then make 4-6 appointments with lawyers. Some you’ll need to pay for, some will be free. You will find out many different facts and lots of information about your situation from each lawyer. You are the central link. You are the only one that is invested in your (and your children’s) future. No one has motivation like you do to survive this.
  • DO exercise and practice self-care. For yourself. Tip: Warm up, but once you’re ready, blast some good angry music and just get it out. Run as fast as your feet will carry you on that treadmill. Lose control a little and just madly run for a bit. Flail, run, breathe hard, lose that breath, get sweaty, and push yourself. Let the anger in and then run it out. After falling off the treadmill, get back up and congratulate yourself. Trust me. It will feel good.
  • DO go outside every few nights and look up at the stars. There is something bigger than you at play. The universe is huge. We are in this world, but we cannot allow ourselves to be of this world. We just can’t.
  • DON’T obsess about the other woman. Don’t obsess about her looks, her big feet, her personality or her kissing him. Don’t go there. She is being tricked by the same jerk. Say a prayer for her. And let it go. Unless you see her alone in a dark alley. Then maybe you can throw yourself at her like a rabid monkey, scratch her face, take whatever you can grab, and run off into the night (just kidding… I think).
  • DON’T obsess about what could’ve been. Obsess about the next steps and plan for them. This will likely be one of the most important games of chess in your life.
  • DO remind yourself that your cheating spouse is cruel and immoral. Recognize it. You are living on higher ground by not sinking to their level. Raise your head and throw your shoulders back. Always forward.
  • DON’T believe a single word they say. There is likely a 1% (or less) truth in everything they tell you. You have the home team advantage in that you know them well, their mannerisms, their language, their expressions. Give yourself credit. You can decipher their bullshit better than anyone.
  • DO try to start learning to be enough for yourself and your children. Because you are.

It’s a long list. And it is a very personal list based on my own experiences and my own cynicism. Everyone’s story and choices are different. I scour the Internet daily and read the veteran articles on cheating narcissistic spouses and I an in awe of the lengthy (and sad) advice they give, and the numbness with which they give it. But this blog is meant to be a journey for me, and I hope to help others that are about to go through this, are going through it, or have gone through it. It isn’t easy, like most things in life. But the more we share the raw, honest emotions that we have, the more we see each other as humans. No one’s life is perfect – we all have stories, and this is part of mine.

Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash