When you discover that an affair has hit your relationship, it can be an unpleasant surprise to also discover that you no longer know how to be yourself.
It’s not uncommon for people to lose themselves in their marriage (or long term committed relationship), focusing on children, partner, household, and finances. Somewhere in that mix your individuality can become blurred, as your life merges with your partner’s and your family becomes your primary focus.
We are so often taught that self-sacrifice, compromise and selflessness are the keys to good, healthy and loving relationships, so we invest ourselves fully, putting our family and partner before ourselves, making them our priority. We are taught that selfishness is bad, and putting others first makes us good people. We are assured that if we do all this properly then our relationships will be healthy and strong and enduring.
It’s easy to lose touch with old friends and make new ‘couple’ friends instead. The dangerous white water rafting that you did in your early twenties? Life insurance and financial planning takes its place. That jewelry making business you were going to start? Replaced by a steady job with good prospects and security. The decompression time that you took, to draw or read to feel sane? Now it’s filled with racing after the toddler and ferrying your daughter to karate class.
Affairs can leave you feeling that you’ve lost everything in the loss of the relationship you believed you had. Often, your identity has become one of parent, or partner, or breadwinner … and your life has been built on that role, and you feel that the affair has destroyed it. You invested, you prioritized your partner, and it didn’t protect or save your relationship from infidelity.
When an affair hits, our advice here at Infidelity Help Group is to start acting in your own self-interest. Healing from an affair does not happen by fixating or obsessing about your cheater, or their affair partner. Healing from an affair happens when you, and your own self-interest, become more important, more valuable, and takes up more of your time, than the affair.
If I have to choose between you and me - I like me better.
~ Charlaine Harris
Focus on you and your own life, not on your cheater and their affair. Reconnect with yourself (who you were before you immersed yourself in your relationship) and start doing the things that bring you happiness in their own right.
It’s time to decide that your happiness is NOT contingent on someone else, and that you can still find joy, laughter, and contentment by doing the things that YOU love to do.
Self-interest is NOT selfishness … and even if it was, I’d still say that you should indulge a little.
Happy (Un)Anniversary to Me
Six years ago today I had a picture perfect wedding in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The weather was a mild 75 degrees, sunny and breezy, and my nearest and dearest were there to celebrate the beginning of a lifetime of wedded bliss. It was exactly how I dreamed it would be.
Three years later, we celebrated our anniversary at a trendy Washington, D.C. restaurant. As we toasted our love, I asked, “Are you ready for another 50 years?” After a pause, he answered, “I hope I don’t live that long.” Such a cynical remark in that context was out of character for my normally romantic husband. It was just one of the many clues that would lead me — two weeks later — to suspect something was amiss, read his email, and discover that he was having an affair.
In the three years since we split, our non-anniversary has taken on varied significance for me. The first year, I distracted myself by planning a trip to Sweden and Iceland with two close friends. I spent that day flying in and out of time zones. Traveling made it easier to forget. Last year, I was melancholy. There were no cards, flowers or funny Facebook posts — things that others would receive on an anniversary. Instead, I had memories of the glass shattering beneath his foot and the marriage shattering just a few years later.
This year, I still noted the date on the calendar, but vowed not to wallow in self-pity. Instead, I marked the day as a new kind of anniversary. Once again, I am making a commitment to love and cherish someone. I am making a commitment to honor and respect someone. And, this time, I am certain, that this someone will be around until death parts us.
I’m making a commitment to myself.
This commitment to myself means doing things I’ve always wanted to do, but never done. It means taking better care of my health. It means treating myself with as much compassion and tenderness as I would a boyfriend or a husband.
For so long, I put my energy into relationships with others. For seven years, I was devoted to my partnership with my boyfriend/husband. Then I put my energy into mourning that relationship and shortly thereafter I started looking for another one. All the while, I neglected the most important one of all — my relationship with myself. It’s the only one that truly will last forever, so it must have a stronger foundation than any other in my life. That’s not to say that I want to be “married to myself” indefinitely. Eventually, I hope to be in a healthy relationship with a man, but I will be a much better partner to someone else, if I remain committed to myself.
I realize that, as in any relationship, there will be times when it will be hard to stay committed, but I intend to remain faithful… ’till death do us part.