Finding out that the person you love and have committed to, has been unfaithful, can be one of, if not the most devastating experience one can have. The disbelief, the shock, the wrenching feeling in the pit of your gut – nothing can truly describe it; but it is a feeling that we all share when we do find out.
I don’t believe that any of us go into a relationship expecting the other person to unfaithful, even if their past indicates the high possibility of it happening. We still hold on to the hope that our relationship will be different from the previous relationships we were both in; and of course there is that underlying hope and expectation that we can change the other person. Yet, when the unfaithfulness is revealed or discovered, it is truly a crippling feeling. It shatters our every hope and trust; it destroys our self-esteem in a single blow; and we are brought to our knees in pain and disbelief. Not to even mention the anguish of the public humiliation and the thought of the end of the relationship.
There are also so many questions that plague us almost instantaneously.
- Why did you do this?
- How could you have done to me, something that I’d never do to you?
- How could you do this to me…period?!
- How is he/she?
- Why him/her?
- How was I not good enough?
- Who else knows?
- What did I do wrong?
- What did I do to cause this?
- What happens now?
The way in which we find out only affects how we receive the news and thereafter how we feel, in small ways. If the other person in the relationship tells you of their adultery, it helps to preserve a semblance, even if a false one, of dignity. There is the feeling that your entire social circle does not know, and thereby makes reconciliation a bit easier. If, however, we find out from a third party or witness it on our own, somehow the betrayal seems to be deeper, at least at first. It makes reconciliation more difficult because we then feel judged since ‘everyone knows’. Regardless of how we find out that we have been betrayed, our world really does come crashing down around us and the hole in which we immediately find ourselves, seems so deep that ever getting out is impossible.
The overwhelming feeling of anguish and betrayal causes us to react in various ways. I am almost assured that there is only an extremely small percentage of people who actually handle this revelation with true grace and dignity. The worst in us is uncovered and unleashed. The mistakes we make after hearing or seeing the worst thing possible in a relationship, become as overwhelming as the feelings themselves. The reasons why we handle things in the most unbecoming ways, are obvious. We are suddenly dealing with a situation that we never anticipated, expected or hoped for; so it is an impossible one to handle.
We have all been there, regardless of which side of the adultery we fell on. It hurts everyone involved and destroys parts of us that can probably never be repaired. However, for those of us who have survived it, or watched someone survive it, we know a thing or two that we so wished we knew before. We know now, in retrospect, what we should and should not have done, and most of us feel an inherent need to warn others of these potential ‘mistakes’, in the hope that someone, anyone, can just not go through what we did in the aftermath of such a disaster.
Being a woman, it is only honest to share what I know to be true from our perspective. Not bashing our men in any way, I really cannot, should not and will not speak for them and their experiences. Even other women may not agree with me in what I share, but that’s the joy of this being my blog – I can pretty much write my opinions at all times, regardless of potential approval or disapproval. These ‘blunders’ that we make are forgivable, for the most part, but avoidable if we try our best to keep our heads on. An impossible task at the time, I know.
- Unless it is a very special friend or relative who loves you to the end of the earth and is loyal beyond a shadow of a doubt, no one actually cares about your happiness or your misfortune. Do not let Facebook, Instagram and other social media ‘likes’, or thousands of smiling faces or admiration for your beauty, success or happiness, ever make you think that people will not apologetically laugh behind your back. This is the ugly truth of the human condition. We laugh at celebrities, therefore, you and I and everyone else, are just as easy to laugh at. Your business is yours, not the world’s. So as best as you can at the time, refrain from instantaneously telling anyone and everyone of your unfortunate experience of adultery. Think long and hard before you decide with whom this delicate but heavily judged information should be shared.
- We have all been there. At some point in time or another, we all felt loved and respected enough to fall into a false sense of security, and believe that it couldn’t happen to us. Adultery is inevitable, depending on with whom you decide to share your life. Some people are inherently prone to disloyalty or are attracted to it along the way. Either way, it is not your fault, neither are you responsible for the actions of others. Their actions are theirs to own. You are only responsible for yours. But at the end of the day, none of us are too good or beyond disloyalty. We have all been there. It’s a learning experience. Never give in to the haughtiness that you are better than that or that it can’t happen to you. You are just lying to yourself and setting yourself up for a harder fall from a higher height.
- The support that you think you get and the accolades you feel you deserve at your darkest hour, come from people who are willing to feel for you and feel for your current experience. The problem with sharing every intimate detail with others about your betrayal, is that when you decide to forgive and forget and reconcile, they don’t. They don’t forgive him for what he has put you through and they won’t support you in the way you need them to, just because you have decided to forgive. Therefore, please refer to point #1.
- Grace and poise cannot simply be learnt by modelling or dancing. These are skills that are developed through time and experience. The joy of youth is that repercussions are not the priority when actions are decided upon. However, the frame of mind in which we make certain decisions, tends to change and pass, but our actions are already done, and we are judged by them. They cannot be taken back, just because you don’t feel that way anymore, or because you have decided to now handle things differently. Reacting with grace to a horrific realisation is difficult for us, the older ones. We understand, way better than our younger sisters, how we would feel in the morning, after a disgraceful display, and we are still learning how to get it right. Learn from us, take our blind advice even. But whatever you do, please refrain from making yourself look foolish, in an attempt to make the perpetrator look foolish. Because then we simply end up with two fools instead of just one. When we say that ‘this too shall pass’, we mean it. Most times, ‘stop and stfu’ are your best bet, especially if there is even a remote chance of forgiveness and reconciliation. Don’t make a permanent mistake over a temporary feeling.
- Do not contact ‘the other woman’. This is a big one – a hard one from which to refrain but an extremely important lesson in the making. Remind yourself that the misdirected anger at her is only going to make her see you as foolish, insecure and juvenile, after she already had no respect for you to start with. Do not waste your time or energy on her. She cannot help you. She cannot give you closure. She cannot undo her actions. She may be the enemy, but one that must not be attacked. Misdirecting your anger towards her is simply going to give her more ammunition to use when she tells all her friends about you and what you did when you found out. Let her be and let karma take its course. Remind yourself that you were not in a relationship with her. You were in a relationship with him. Therefore, he is the one who owed you respect. He is the one who owed you loyalty. He is the one who owed you honesty. Not her. She really doesn’t matter because if he was unfaithful, it means it would have been with someone else, if not with her. She is not the reason he was unfaithful; he is. Therefore, do not contact ‘the other woman’.
- No one can ever tell you whether or not you should reconcile with him after disloyalty has occurred. That is and always will be your and his decision. Never feel guilted into not hearing him out or into not reconciling. That is a very personal decision that cannot and should not be judged by anyone. That having been said, there are some extremely important, yet difficult factors that must be considered before certain decisions are finalised. Before deciding to reconcile, you must accept that if he has been unfaithful before this, the likelihood of him doing it a third time is very high. While people can and do change, you must ask yourself exactly how many chances must you give before you start feeling like a fool. If you decide to still reconcile, that’s on you, because you know how this adultery feels; you know how the last one felt; but you are willing to possibly go through this again. Remember what continues is what is allowed to continue. You already sent the message after the first reconciliation, that adultery is forgivable; he is forgivable. Therefore, the message he may receive is that he will be forgiven again. He is not wrong to have received that message, whether it was the message offered or not.
- Never ever believe that you will not get over or get through this. That is the feeling that overwhelms you at the time, but it is a false sense of self-inflicted hurt. You will survive this. You believe that you are too old or too worn or too damaged to start over. This is utter nonsense. Unfortunately, the pity party of which you are the guest of honour, prevents you from realising this. It is never too late to make a better decision for yourself. It won’t be easy – that cannot be sugar-coated. There will some impossible days ahead if you decide to cut ties for good. These impossible days may even make you doubt if you made the correct decision; or if you should go back and try again. But these days pass, as do those feelings of desperation. Blind faith becomes your best friend. I say ‘blind’ because you don’t know what lies ahead for you and you go forward, away from your comfort zone, with no guarantees. However, that blind faith is worth it. The self-respect you feel and the dignity and grace that you enjoy, cannot be qualified by anything or anyone. There is a future for you – not right away, maybe even not for a long time, but that’s ok. You will be happy and healthy and complete again. You must believe us. We all came through the dark and lonely tunnel into the light; with some cuts and bruises, but all limbs intact. This too shall pass.
- In your response to adultery, never believe that all men are dogs; they really aren’t. It may seem so at the time, but it is an unfair and irrational mentality to believe that because some…or many men are dishonest, that all will be. In time, you will learn to trust again and have faith in people. It takes time and conscious effort. We never want to be painted with a broad brush as a gender. We don’t want to be compared to the women who have hurt us. Therefore, why should we compare all men to the one that betrayed us? That behaviour is on him. He did it. The world of wonderful men out there didn’t. Take time to yourself’ hate men for a while, if you must; but you can dust yourself off and eventually believe that men and even other women aren’t as bad as the ones who just hurt you.
You will all get over whatever has been dished out to you. I know this, because I have; we all have. We survived. We moved on. We lived to tell about it. The most important thing is that when you tell about it in a few years, or even in a few months, ensure that what you do now, doesn’t make you cringe at yourself down the road. Ensure that you can hold your head high in the face of this demeaning experience. Whoever you think MADE you do it, really didn’t. You did it. You lost yourself and you were disgraceful. A lack of poise and self-respect is never an appropriate response to hurt…it is simply the easiest one.
And sometimes, just taking the blind taking advice from someone who has been through it, can save you much regret, disrespect and humiliation in the months to come.