The Infidelity Black Hole
Your partner’s affair can become an all-encompassing black hole of pain and upset that consumes every available ounce of your time and energy. It taints every thought, interaction, and activity and keeps you exhausted, but unable to get a moment’s relief from it all.
Focusing on the affair can feel necessary - you want to know the details of how they met, where they met, what they did, what they said, how they felt. It all seems so important, so pivotal, so necessary to your own existence that you invest your whole being into trying to understand it, to rationalize it, to comprehend what this means for you and your life.
That desire to know is what makes the pull of the affair difficult to withstand. It can suck you into the blackness until you’re so severely debilitated by the emotional injury that you may become clinically depressed and struggle to function in your daily life. This total investment of yourself in the affair drama is entirely detrimental to your well-being. Furthermore, it can feed the affair (and your cheater) with drama and angst and upset, doing nothing at all to bring the affair to a close.
“The problem with feeding the Infidelity Monster is that the bigger it grows, the smaller you get. You lose so much when an affair hits your relationship that often it seems that there isn’t much left to hold onto. Everything else has gone, so sure, why not, let me just toss the remaining part of myself into the abyss too … that will show them!
After you’ve ridden the tide of the initial shock and upset, you can either continue to lose yourself to the other person, the affair, and your cheater, or you can reclaim all that energy and time and redirect it to yourself and your own future.
Relearn How to Be You
We often make changes and compromises to our lifestyles to accommodate new relationships and the new responsibilities they can bring - children, home, finances etc. Discovering the affair may have you clinging to an idealized version of your life with the cheater, because that version represents your history and your self-perception. It can be distressing to realize that when you committed to the relationship you sacrificed parts of who you were, and that what you thought was forever could actually end tomorrow.
Use the affair to spur you into refocusing your life away from your cheater and towards things that YOU enjoy, that make YOU happy, with or without their participation. If they’re there to enjoy it, great, if not, you’ve built something for yourself that will bring you happiness anyway.
When your cheater started their affair they weren’t concerned with how you would feel about it, they didn’t seek your permission, and they didn’t consider that they ‘should’ be doing other things with their time. Whilst you can’t disregard your responsibilities to your children and your job etc, you CAN switch the focus from your cheater and instead apply your time and energy to YOU and things that you can enjoy in your life.
- Have you lost touch with old friends?
- Have you given up a hobby that you used to find fun and energizing because it was a solitary pursuit, or it didn’t interest your partner, or it was time consuming?
- Do you no longer cook foods that YOU love, because your cheater/family don’t like them?
- Did you pass up the opportunity to go to that Punk Rock Revival weekend, because your cheater grimaced and didn’t want to go?
- What about that interior design business that you wanted to launch but never had the time because you were supporting your partner’s dreams?
- When was the last time you went out with your friends from work, without rushing home at 8:30pm so that your partner didn’t have to spend the evening alone?
- Why DID you say no to the weekend away at your friend’s house for your school reunion?
- When was the last time you took a few hours out of your evening for yourself?
Being truthful, you’ve probably sunk more time into your partner than you have into yourself and the pursuit of your own interests, hobbies, and activities - after all, it’s difficult to juggle work, a family’s schedule, and your partner, AND find time to take that kayaking class.
Your cheater’s affair can be an opportunity to decide to regain some control in your life and release time for yourself (they can pick up their own dry cleaning, take their own car for an oil change, cook their own meals, buy their own pork chops, get a taxi back from their LARPing weekend …). Plan to do things you enjoy and that you want to do, instead of running around after your cheater.
The affair can drag you into a sticky bog of negative thinking and inaction. It can rob you of any drive, motivation, and sense of joy, and wallowing around in it is self-defeating.
Take this new reality as an opportunity to re-imagine your life. Yes, you might hold out hopes for a reconciled life with your cheater, but what if that isn’t in your future? What changes in your life will make you happy, whether you end up single, or not?
“The man who went into the cave was not the man who came out again;”
~G. K. Chesterton
Decide your dreams for yourself, and only act in ways that move you closer to them. If you don’t have dreams for yourself without your cheater, get some. Dare to dream for yourself, dare to believe in yourself, dare to want more for yourself than your old life gave you. Know your worth.
“And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again”
~ Mumford and Sons, The Cave
Get strong, get independent, and make a life for yourself that you would want to live, with or without them. Find ways to augment your life to bring you joy and happiness, regardless of your relationship. Start doing things you stopped doing, or that you’ve put off, or that you’ve never tried but that interest you, or bring you pleasure or peace and contentment.
Ask yourself what you stand for, what you’re passionate about, how you want to leave an impression on the world, what your values are. What compromises have you made in your life that you regret, what did you do that you weren’t proud of, what didn’t you do that you wish you had? What classes, experiences, support, or interactions do you need to help you be the person you wish you were? Figure it out, and start working towards it - work towards the life that you deserve to have.
The Post Affair You
You may find yourself under considerable pressure to satisfy familial, religious, or societal expectations of you after the affair. It can be easy to lose yourself and your own self-interest in seeking to satisfy all the people who have opinions about your life and your relationship, but who are not living it. Be authentic, be true to who you are and who you striving to be. Don’t live a life directed by someone with their own agenda (be it a religious doctrine, or a friend’s bias).
If your life turns out to be on a path without your cheater, doing things for yourself will sustain you, keep you energized, and bring fulfillment and fun to your life. Feeling empowered in your own life, feeling confident in working towards your own defined goals and dreams, will refocus you towards the potential in life and away from the loss and negatives that you’ve experienced in your relationship.
If you do harbor hopes of your cheater returning to you, remember that people (your cheater included) are more likely to respond positively to your energy and your zest for life, than they are to sobbing, needy moping. Living a new life filled with new people, activities and attitudes will lift you up from the mire of the affair, and (as a side effect) will create an element of mystery and intrigue around you, which can be enormously attractive to others.
Decide to reconnect with yourself and start doing things that bring you happiness, regardless of your relationship’s outcome. Be open to discovering that being single is more exhilarating, more validating, and more satisfying than tying yourself to someone whose choices demean, disrespect, and hurt you.
“Single is no longer a lack of options – but a choice. A choice to refuse to let your life be defined by your relationship status but to live every day Happily and let your Ever After work itself out.”
― Mandy Hale
Live life with gusto: Be interesting. Laugh. Thrive. Grow. You are more than your relationship. Your happiness is not contingent on your cheater.