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It’s been five years since my heart was absolutely shattered. One act. One moment can forever ruin and soil something amazing. I’m finally ready to tell my story, so I can begin healing from infidelity. I’ll be leaving out the gory details out of respect for others involved. This is a slow and agonizing process, but I’m ready for true healing and restoration. I’m sick and tired of the anxiety and the nauseous pit in my stomach. It’s time.
A Little Back Story
This is going to seem long, but I promise, the back story matters. Our experiences shape us into who we are today, so it’s relevant.
I come from a blended family, and my Dad wasn’t really around a lot when I was a kid. In fact, I actually don’t remember being around him until I was about 6 years old. That is an important thing to note for later.
Two weeks before I was to start my Senior year of high school, my Mom told me the family was moving to my Step-Dad’s hometown. At the time, I had a boyfriend who was five years older than me (one of many red flags), and she gave me the choice to stay with him or move with my own family.
We were being evicted from our 3 bedroom house. Did I mention that 8 of us lived in this house and my older brother had his own bedroom? We had bunk beds in the living room, and us girls shared the only remaining bedroom.
I decided to stay back and finish high school with my friends. I made good grades and planned to go to college across state lines in Oklahoma when I graduated anyway, and I felt this was the right decision.
So, at 16 years old, I started budgeting and buying groceries and “playing house”. This relationship I was in was not healthy. My boyfriend was an alcoholic, and he once punched his own pickup windshield, shattering it and breaking his hand.
He never hit me, but he intimidated me and verbally abused me, and as soon as I graduated, I broke up with him and moved to Oklahoma, with my $500 graduation money and a dream to do better.
Wild’n’Out in College
As a newly single young woman, I felt freedom for the first time. It wasn’t the kind of freedom most teenagers feel when they don’t have a curfew any longer.
I could accept romantic advances and be flirtatious and fun for the first time in my life. My high school sweetheart was actually a grown ass man with a beard and I’m so disgusted by that to this day. As a mom of two daughters, I cannot imagine allowing my girls to date someone that much older, much less move in with him because it’s conveniently one less mouth to feed.
My first semester of college, I turned to alcohol and sex frequently. I ended up with a DUI one night and not only spent the night in jail but was sentenced to five days in jail.
As a result, I lost my driver’s license and my ability to get back and forth to work. I found a different roommate, who I worked with, that would help me get to and from work.
My brother began dating her, and I was starting to feel hopeless. One day, I tried to commit suicide. I took a bunch of pills and called my Mom crying, and she called 9-1-1.
I was taken to the hospital, my stomach was pumped, and forced to stay as an inpatient at a mental health facility until they could determine that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others.
My Dad offered to drive me so that I wouldn’t have to ride in a police car for the 2 hours.
Side note: Apparently, when I entered the facility, I wore my Dad’s favorite jacket – a jacket that would not make the trip back home with me, and my Dad brought it up for YEARS after the fact. Finally, about 15 years after the fact, I told my Dad that if he didn’t stop bringing up that incident and that his precious jacket was gone, I would not speak with him again.
After that incident, my brother and my roommate had moved in together. They were living with my brother’s best friend from childhood (who later became my first husbad). He swooped in like a savior, ready to be there for me, and I took the bait.
My First Marriage
I was married for 8 years to my first daughter’s father. That marriage was completely toxic. My ex-husband was an addict and alcoholic, and he became abusive when he was under the influence.
It didn’t start out that way, but things progressively got worse and worse. Eventually, we sought counseling, and I weaned him off the Xanax, but alcohol continue to be his vice.
We moved out of state to get away from all of the influences around us and try for a fresh start.
About a year after the move, we were in our office. He was playing the guitar. My daughter was two years old, and I needed to go to the restroom – alone. It was a particular time of the month, and I needed privacy. The fact that I even had to defend myself for going to the bathroom without my daughter is insane.
I hurried out of the room, and she tripped over something chasing after me. He screamed at me, telling me what a “piece of shit mother” I was. I screamed back. His Dimebag Darrell Flying V guitar lived up to its name as he launched it across the room into the printer. Our daughter was just a few feet away from him.
I scooped her up, and we went to the park, and I quickly made plans to get the hell out of there. We moved to a small apartment about 20 minutes away so that I could have distance and feel somewhat safe as it was gated.
The Single Mom Life
As a newly single mom, I wilded out…again. I wish I could say that I had learned from my past mistakes, but every other weekend, when my ex had my daughter, I was dating and going to clubs and having a blast.
It truly was so much fun until the next morning, when I felt waves of guilt and disappointment wash over me.
I started dating – really dating – for the first time in my life. I dated so many people in such a short period of time. I told myself “I’ll give it six weeks. I should know within six weeks whether a guy is good enough to introduce him to my daughter. And if he’s good enough to introduce to her, he must be marriage material”.
Remember – I was brought up in a home with many different men throughout my childhood. So I didn’t want to introduce her to a bunch of guys, but I was putting myself through it for some reason.
It took a year for my divorce to be finalized, and I changed my name back to my maiden name.
How I Met Your Father
My husband and I worked for the same bank, and he noticed my name changed on our company intranet, so he reached out with a “Congratulations”.
I offered a “Thank you! I’m divorced now!” and he quickly began pursuing me. He lived 4 hours away, in Gainesville, Florida, while Ava and I lived in Macon, Georgia at the time.
I had fun talking to him but we both dated other people for awhile. Then, he invited me to accompany him to his sister’s wedding in Orlando. I originally said no because that would be a weird first date, I had no extra money to spend, and I had nowhere to stay.
I was stalling because I didn’t think it would ever work out. But I eventually caved and drove SIX hours to meet him at the condo where his entire family was staying.
I stayed in the condo with his parents and him, and that weekend, my whole world changed. I deleted the dating apps, and we made a plan to see each other every other weekend when Ava was at her Dad’s. I somehow told him about my “six week rule” that I cut men loose after six weeks if I didn’t see a future with them.
He proposed six weeks to the day of our first date.
We moved to Gainesville and planned a destination wedding for the following spring.
Red Flags in a Relationship
I really should have trusted my gut when I noticed a few red flags. I found some pornography on his computer, along with inappropriate messages exchanged with someone. I confronted him, and he apologized profusely and swore it would never happen again and that those messages were when he was lonely and I was not living with him yet.
I chose to forgive him and monitor the situation. That year he kept his nose clean.
Fast forward to our beautiful wedding in Jamaica with close family attending. The one thing my Dad did that I actually appreciate is that he paid $1000 towards my Mom’s expenses to come to my wedding. He wanted my Mom to be there, and she walked me down the aisle.
About 9 months later, I gave birth to our son. My mother-in-law and her sister came to town and were at the hospital with us for the labor and delivery. I was so grateful for that.
About a week later, I was up nursing in the middle of the night and had a strange feeling that I needed to check my husband’s phone. I found messages between him and a woman that had been exchanged while I was in labor at the hospital!
I was so angry, heartbroken, and not sure what to do. Again, I chose to forgive and trust that he would not engage with any women for reasons other than work-related conversations.
After that, things settled down on that front. These emotional affairs seemed to be a thing of the past.
The Traveling Job and Infidelity
We eventually moved up to Illinois, to be closer to his family, and we moved into a house out in the country. We now had three kids, and I worked from home as a real estate agent and started blogging for extra money.
He applied for a job that would require travel, but it paid significantly more than he’d ever earned, and it was a true career path. Neither of us finished college, so it was impressive that he was able to land this job without a degree.
The first year in his new role, he traveled 180 days, so nearly half of the year he stayed in hotels. I talked to him frequently, he facetimed the kids, and I didn’t really worry too much about his faithfulness.
A few years into the job, he came home from a trip and was just….different. He was overly affectionate, and it didn’t feel right. Something was off. Again, I pursued answers as my instincts were usually right.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but it’s worse than you could imagine. The week that I found out about his infidelity, my family was coming to town to visit, and it was very difficult to hold it all together.
I told him to stay anywhere but at our home. He instantly apologized and repented, saying he would do whatever it took to prove to me that this was the most awful mistake and that he would never make that mistake again.
I obviously chose to forgive him and give him one last chance to redeem himself, and it’s been five years, but it’s hard to come back from that.
Healing from Infidelity
Immediately, I started going through all of the stages of grief:
Denial – (I can’t believe this really happened)
Anger – (I’m so fucking angry)
Bargaining – (I think we both need to change – I will do my part if you’ll do your part)
Depression – (I feel hopeless about my future without him, alone, etc)
Acceptance – (I can go on with my life – I’ve been in survival mode before)
We called our Church, and they said “We don’t offer marriage counseling, but here’s a phone number of a Christian counselor we recommend…” We ended up leaving that Church soon thereafter. What kind of a Church will marry couples but won’t counsel them through the most difficult trials?
Together, we attended couples counseling with this Christian counselor. Her job is to keep marriages together, and she did a good job at helping us see each of our parts in this. I will never take blame for his act, but I know I’m not totally blameless.
The truth is, we haven’t been right for one another. We haven’t been happy for many, many years. We’ve gone through the motions. We built a pool, laid sod, attended every single football, basketball, and soccer game together.
We’ve played the part well, but we are not close anymore. We’re not connected, and I have a hard time being intimate.
My stomach dropped as I typed that sentence, but it’s just the truth. When someone you love betrays you in such a way, it is absolutely life-shattering.
I love him, and I respect him. But we are not what we once were, and although I can say “I forgive you”, I can never forget. It doesn’t go away. Those memories, thoughts, and feelings will never go away.
When to Walk Away After Infidelity
You might be wondering why I stayed as long as I did. Why didn’t I leave immediately? I think the answer is complex.
If you’re in a situation where your spouse has cheated, you may be wondering when to call it quits…when to walk away after infidelity.
There is no tried and true answer. I stayed far longer than I should have, but I wanted to give it my all. We’ve talked about the things that need to change in order for us to be happy again, and I don’t think there’s ever anything that he can do that will take away the pain, the feelings, the memories that have broken me down inside.
I am so grateful for my faith. Thank the Lord Jesus because he forgives us even when we don’t deserve it. We don’t have to EARN his love back. We can mess up, repent, and know that God STILL loves us and wants what’s best for us.
Humans are different. I don’t believe there is a perfect answer to this question. Some couples are able to move on and forgive and forget. But you have to take care of yourself first and foremost.
Post Infidelity Stress Disorder
Also called post traumatic infidelity syndrome, PISD is defined asa type of anxiety disorder you may experience after finding out a loved one has been unfaithful to you.
When I read an article about this disorder, it affirmed all of the feelings I was having. If you have experienced infidelity or unfaithfulness in your marriage, please read this article.
Infidelity Therapy – Individual Counseling
The one thing I severely neglected was counseling for myself. He saw our marriage counselor individually, to get help for his issues, and we saw her together a few times.
But money was tight, and therapy is expensive. I tried BetterHelp virtual therapy, and it was awful.
I wish that I had budgeted for and prioritized my own therapy. It seems that I have unresolved issues from decades ago that I likely need tended to.
My first individual therapy appointment is this week, and I am so nervous about it. I’m ready to talk to someone completely unbiased about my feelings so that I can start to release some of these awful feelings.
I’ve been praying for a renewed spirit, that God will give me a chance to be happy again. I know that previously, when given a little bit of freedom, I did not handle myself properly. Things will be different this time.
I am friends with my husband, and I do love him. But I don’t know what’s in store for us. I ask for prayers for myself and my kids so that we can transition however God sees fit for us. He knows my heart and how hard I’ve tried to get past this.
Pray for me to let go of any guilt and pain so that I can be the best Mom for my kids.
Life is a collection of memories and experiences. There are ups and downs. I am so grateful for God’s grace and am on the journey to a renewed spirit, free of perfectionism. Perfection Hangover offers the sober truth – no filter.