Dear Chump Lady,
My husband and I have been together for almost 6 years, married for about 2.5. For the last 3 months, we have been visiting a marriage counselor almost weekly, mostly to deal with some issues related to addiction and its aftermath. (He has been clean and sober for awhile, but it’s still a process). Other than this, things had been going pretty well.
We went to our counseling appointment yesterday. That’s when he dropped the bomb. He said that he needed to finally be honest, and that for our entire relationship, he had never been faithful. Countless one-night stands with girls he met online, affairs on almost every work trip, some as recently as 3 weeks ago. I sobbed until I thought I would suffocate on my own tears, he drove off into the sunset, and I drove straight over to my uncle’s law office to start the divorce process. By the time 9 pm rolled around, pretty much all of my family and friends knew, and the support I have received from them has been wonderful.
I woke up this morning and had almost forgotten. Then it hit me and now it’s fresh again. I walked around my house and took down my wedding photos and tried to hide anything that reminded me of him.
But I still love him. And that’s the worst. I wish I could hate him, and people have informed me I will get to that point. But I already miss him. I heard something funny on the radio this morning and my first thought was to text him, but I can’t. The loss I feel is overwhelming, and I know I’m going to be sad for a very long time and things will never be the same.
My friends tell me I’m smart for not hesitating with filing, although I would be lying if I said I haven’t second guessed myself at all. I am trying to go no contact because I don’t want to make a stupid decision in a moment of weakness. But it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Can anyone who has somehow dealt with this insurmountable loss help me? I just don’t even know how I’m going to make it through the next hour at this point, let alone the rest of my life. My heart is heavy with grief and I need reassurance that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.
Sleepless, but not in Seattle
You may not feel like it, but you’re mighty. You’re doing all the right things now. You’re telling people. You’re reaching out for support. You’re protecting yourself legally and financially by filing. And you’re grieving.
Do you know how many people get tripped up following through on any one of those things? Read here. Chumps can spend a lot of time in limbo, eating shit sandwiches, keeping secrets, and trying to love all the hurt away with a toxic partner. So give yourself some props, Sleepless. How are you going to make it through the rest of your life? With MIGHTINESS, because that’s how you’re dealing with the worst crisis of your life. Mightily.
It’s okay that you still love him. That’s totally normal. Chumps love with their whole hearts, they commit. There’s no shame in that. It takes a lot of grieving work before your heart catches up with your head on this. The important thing is to detach, even though you love. To pull yourself out of harm’s way. To love yourself more than this person who is willfully hurting you.
The crucial thing right now, to get through these awful days, is stick with no contact. The longer you maintain no contact, the stronger you’ll be. It’s like kicking a drug. You’re understandably vulnerable, so don’t subject yourself to his manipulation and your own second guessing when you’re with him. Just stay the course.
You’re going to cycle through the stages of grief. Staying no contact helps you skip the bargaining and denial stages of grief, which lie in your ear and say “maybe we can stay friends,” “maybe this was all a terrible misunderstanding,” and “maybe this can be salvaged if I just try harder.”
Embrace the anger stage, at least until you’re at a safe place divorced and out of danger. Anger will keep you lucid. Anger will kill the hopium. Anger forces you to look at his actions — a guy who cheated on you through the ENTIRETY of your relationship. He never entered into the sacrament of marriage, Sleepless. He’s a fraud.
And that’s part of getting to the other side too — realizing that the love you feel is for a figment. This man did not present his true self to you. If he had, I assume you would not have married him. (Hi! I’m a drunk and I fuck around indiscriminately! Marry me!) You loved a hologram. This is it’s own particular kind of mindfuck. It’s not the same for every chump — some people have some good faithful years to look back on, but others like you (and like me) married deeply disordered people who were NEVER faithful. You need to keep reminding yourself that by loving him, you’re essentially having an emotional hallucination. There isn’t a real person here to pin this “love” on.
And you’ll grieve that too.
What you hoped your life was going to be. Who you hoped he would be. And what that shared life together was going to look like.
But here’s the good news — YOU are real. You love. There are people who aren’t frauds and who will love you back. Invest in those people. I’m not just talking romantic relationships — I’m talking about ALL your relationships. Value substance over superficiality. Value actions over words. Give yourself to the people who bring out your best self, who show up, who challenge you, who love the things about you that you love, who GET you, who do empathy.
Your husband isn’t one of those people, and this cannot be a relationship of equals. You guys don’t share the same values. He’s never going to bring out your best self — if you took him back, you’d be a twitchy mess. He doesn’t show up — he’s been out fucking around for the duration of your relationship. He cannot challenge you, because he doesn’t respect you. He doesn’t live with even modest amounts of self-respect, being a liar, an addict, and a cheat. How could he ever honor you?
And you can never feel safe with this man because he lacks empathy. He put his addiction first, he lived a double life. He never “loved” you, because he doesn’t have the raw materials to love in a healthy way.
Some love isn’t a healthy kind of love. I’ve said this here before, but pedophiles “love” children. Alcoholics “love” vodka. Slave masters “love” their slaves. Abusive, paternalistic, addict love isn’t love — it’s some other weird shit. It’s power, fear, and loathing. It’s the toxic sludge at the bottom of a barrel of nuclear waste. It’s high fructose corn syrup (tastes great! totally natural! ignore the diabetes!)
You don’t have to hate this guy, but you need to recognize that he’s BAD for you, and act accordingly. Next you have to do the work on yourself — were you codependent? Did you accept lopsidedness? Did you stay in a relationship that didn’t reflect your core values?
Sleepless, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel — it’s a better life without this chaos and pain. The hurt is finite, but you’ll get to the other side. You’re on the right path, just ride out the grief. And welcome to Chump Nation.