An affair can detonate a marriage (or relationship) and unfortunately, the damage is rarely limited to the interpersonal connection between the cheater and the faithful partner.
Infidelity reaches into the whole family and causes upset and disruption, leaving a trail of damage through children, parents, and extended families.
It’s common for many faithful partners to invest their lives devoting themselves to their relationship and their children, and when an affair hits their relationship it can feel like an assault on their entire being. When someone’s sense of self worth is so intertwined with their sense of spousal or parental identity, seeing that shredded by an affair can feel like a whole life has been negated by the cheater’s selfish choices.
The darker, colder days brought by winter can make it harder to cope with the sense of loss, depression and helplessness. When national holidays like Thanksgiving come around, it’s a further painful hurdle to negotiate.
However hard it is to accept, the Days of Thanksgiving Present aren’t going to be the same as your Days of Thanksgiving Past.
It’s natural to feel nostalgia and warmth for happier times, especially when days of national celebration mark the occasion for you: It’s easy to forget the tensions, the arguments and the problems that were part of your relationship during past Thanksgivings and in general.
This rosy retrospection can be magnified by images of ‘happy families’ on television etc, and it’s all too easy to let sentiment smudge away the harsher edges of the reality of Thanksgivings gone by.
Don’t Make Comparisons
When you see couples together going about their business, seemingly perfectly happy, that stab of longing and jealousy you feel is being fueled by your comparison between your circumstance and the story you’ve imagined for these strangers.
Comparing your current situation to your selective memories of your past, and the fiction you’ve conjured up for other people, feeds negative thinking and self-pity. It can lead you to disaster thinking where you tell yourself that you’re going to be unloved forever, alone forever, and miserable forever. However much your misery wants you to believe the worst, your future can be happy, fulfilled, and fun … if you choose it for yourself.
Instead of comparing what you have today with what you think you deserve, try to identify areas of your life for which you are grateful.
Rewrite the Story
Finding ways to mitigate what you’ve lost with what you could gain is a way to move yourself forward from misery into a more positive mindset. Yes, you might not be able to spend Thanksgiving with your children and that is distressing. You could choose to be miserable, sitting alone in tears, wallowing and jealously imagining the wonderful time that they’re having without you. Or … you could make excited plans with your kids where they get to have TWO Thanksgivings, and you get to plan your own celebrations with them, building new traditions for your new life.
When you find yourself negatively comparing your life to strangers or TV fiction, rewrite the idyllic story you’ve created about them. Rather than imagining them as perfectly happy, and perfectly in love, and destined to grow old together in a warm glow of setting sunshine, have some fun creating a new tale for them. Maybe they’re in a marriage of convenience where he’s after her money? Perhaps she’s secretly plotting her escape because he’s a controlling miser who supervises every cent she spends? They could be spies who hate each other, but who are thrust into a sting where they have to pretend that they’re in love when really they want to set each others hair on fire? Or maybe, more realistically, they just had a massive fight and would rather be anywhere than together, but the family is coming over for Thanksgiving, so they’ve put on their best fake happy faces …
Other people’s lives are never as rosy in reality as we imagine them to be. In all likelihood, your past wasn’t as rosy as the picture you’ve painted for yourself either.
Accepting that your life has changed when you didn’t want it to, is extraordinarily difficult. Finding things to be thankful for, and reasons to laugh, love and be happy in the moment is far easier than desiccating into a pinched, unpleasant, ‘life’s-not-fair’, affair-misery. Find the good things in your life, write them down and tack them to the fridge if it helps you … and know that life is only wholly miserable if you make it that way.
When you’re hating Thanksgiving Present and wishing for Thanksgiving Past, instead dream for a Thanksgiving Future that is joyous, healthy, and filled with love and happiness. Your cheater cannot rob you of that unless you help them do it.
Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
~ Louisa May Alcott
Wishing you a peaceful, positive and mellow Thanksgiving.