Many people tell me they wish they’d found Chump Lady sooner, before their ex inflicted another affair/ran off with the 401K/impregnated the schmoopie — but alas they were googling “How to save my marriage” instead of “How to leave a cheater.”
So, all you sleepless 2 a.m. chumps, who just got pummeled by a D-Day, who want to save their marriages after infidelity? Rest here awhile. I know you’re not ready to hear it, I know it’s not the message you were hoping to find, but hey, I’m not going to charge you $399 to “affair proof” your marriage or bullshit you.
Here’s some real advice about How to Save Your Marriage After Infidelity:
Recognize that it’s dead. No! It’s all a terrible mistake and they’re really sorry! I hear you. You’re just going to try harder and be stalwart, and it’s all going to turn around. Sorry. That’s not how it works. When someone betrays you, in the most intimate and humiliating fashion, you cannot trust them. You cannot feel safe or intimate with someone you don’t trust. Sure, you can stay married to such a person, but you won’t feel connected to them. You know that movie Gravity, where Sandra Bullock is floating in space, untethered from the obliterated space station? Millions of miles from years from earth and the oxygen is running out? That’s your marriage.
But you DO feel connected! You have all this shared history! And you’re going to fling yourself at the cheater and FORCE the goddamn connection. LOVE ME, YOU BASTARD! That’s the Humiliating Dance of Pick Me. Stop it. You don’t control dead things.
Don’t I have some secret recipe to give you control of dead things? What, do I look like a wizard? No. And anyone who promises you such a recipe is a fraud. WE DON’T CONTROL OTHER PEOPLE. What other people do and how they feel is utterly beyond our control.
I’m sorry. I know the powerlessness sucks.
Realize it’s not your fault. Pay no attention to the blame-shifting. You didn’t hold a gun to their head and force them to create dating profiles. You might actually suck, but you did not make your cheater cheat. That’s completely on them. People have agency and many options including therapy, divorce lawyers, and honest conversations. They cheated because they wanted to. It’s that simple.
If you have any hope of saving it (assuming you think resurrection of dead things is a desirable outcome), you have to be prepared to enforce your boundaries, even if that means leaving.
Yes, that’s totally counterintuitive — to save this thing you want so badly, you have to be prepared to walk away from it cold. But that’s exactly what you have to do — you have to love and respect yourself enough to have deal breakers. If you won’t enforce your boundaries (such as “break up with Schmoopie,” or “show me a credit report,” or “get an STD test”), then you’re sending the message that you and your boundaries can be trampled on without consequence. Let it ride? That’s essentially sticking a sign on your forehead that says, “ABUSE ME.”
But they would never do that!
They already did.
Finally, know this — you’ll survive. You’re more than the stupidity and appalling judgment of your partner. Infidelity is no measure of your worth. Whatever some fuckwit dished out, you’re still you. Don’t internalize their crazy.
I’d also suggest not staying married to it either.