Does it really get better, or is that just another lie that people tell chumps to cut down on the suicide stats?
My STBX was a Boy-Scout-leading, Sunday-school-teaching, neighbor-helping pillar of our community, right up until the day I walked in on him and his skank in my guest room. He lied and minimized for a month, but eventually I learned that over the course of our nearly 25 year marriage, my cheater had 8 one-night stands, 3 long-term online emotional connections, and a physical affair that lasted almost 7 years, featured heavy BDSM, and involved my children as a cover-up. My cheater even brought this woman to our home as a guest, and I never suspected a thing. Has there ever been a chumpier chump?
I am SO chumpy that I tried reconciliation for 6 months, believing his promise that — having seen how much it hurt me — he would never do it again. Feeling nauseous when he touched me and crying every day on my way home from work clued me in that reconciliation might not be good for me. So I saw a lawyer, got a “fair” separation agreement, had him move out, and am now a shell-shocked single mother waiting the 12 months that my state requires until I can file for divorce.
I have more debts than income. I will likely lose my home. My high school senior is failing most of his classes, and may not get accepted to college as a result. My younger ones cry themselves to sleep at night, and have chronic tummy aches. All of them are angry at ME for “making Daddy leave,” even though they know HE broke his marriage vows. I am 50+ with no retirement savings. In addition to being old and fat, I am now also emotionally and psychologically damaged, so future relationships are unlikely to say the least. But I can’t imagine ever trusting anyone ever again, so that’s a moot point.
And yet people keep telling me this is “better.” Better than active abuse, sure. But better than what I thought I had? Not in million years. I feel hopeless. I work, I feed my kids, I force myself through the daily drudgery, I take a pill to go to sleep, then I do it all again the next day. There is no color in my life anymore, just bleakness. It’s like endless February with no hope of summer vacation.
So DOES it get better than this? Does anyone ever TRULY make it back to where they were pre-cheater? Or do we just settle for the grim existence we have, and call it “better” because no one is currently kicking us down the stairs? I’ll survive this, I know. But if this is what survival looks like, I’m not sure I care.
Does it get better? That’s entirely up to you.
Yes, the hand you’ve been dealt sucks. Please stand in line with all the other chumps. Maybe compare notes. With the unemployed, the abandoned while pregnant, the ones with incurable STDs…
You’re not alone in this. You have a lot of competition if you’re vying for the Chump Crown.
I could offer you sympathy — and please know you have my sympathy. Recovering from knowledge of a 25-year double life is indescribably, painfully difficult. (I’ve had a front row seat — that’s my husband’s story of his first marriage.) But sympathy alone isn’t going to cut it. You need to know this shit is not insurmountable. You CAN have a better life on the other side. Read the stories of mightiness here — you aren’t alone in your struggles and dark days. But this shit CAN be overcome.
Because, Kristen, what is the alternative?
Are you going to spend the rest of your life lamenting that your choices suck? Is that what you think your children need right now?
You were married to a hologram. You thought you had a better life. That “security” was based on a lie. You miss the lie. Kristen, we’ve all missed the lie. And goddamn it, if reality isn’t there every morning smacking you in the face when you wake up.
You can face reality and start living in it, or you can curl up and die.
If you really believe that an authentic life, without abuse, isn’t better than living a lie, I can’t really help you.
Of course, the authentic life is NOT a fully formed new life yet, it’s just a start. And that’s where you are right now — you’re starting on the journey of a new life. So it’s one small, brave step, after the next, after the next, after the next. No one gets this shit handed to them on a plate.
The journey is humbling. There is no way around that. Very few people get through divorce financially unscathed. If you’re over 50 and you have ZERO assets that can be divided, I would suggest that is a problem outside the scope of infidelity. That is the result of many years of financial decisions that made you vulnerable today. If your husband was stealing assets from your estate to conduct his affairs, that is money you can ask for back in the divorce.
But here’s the thing, Kristen — you have CONTROL over the finances in your new life. You can downsize your home, you can go back to school and retrain, you can get out of debt. You control that. You aren’t shackled to a sinking ship of a cheating husband. You’re “ugly” and fat? You control that too. If you want to lose weight, lose weight. Yes, of course it’s hard. The most rewarding things are hard. And no one is “ugly” except on the inside. Don’t internalize your husband’s betrayal as some judgement on your worth or looks. “Ugly” people are loved every day.
And as long as we aren’t internalizing judgement — don’t take shit off your kids. You didn’t “make Daddy leave.” Daddy chose to betray you. The divorce is a consequence of daddy’s choices. Don’t get locked into a narrative battle of Who Is The Real Victim Here — just live your truth. You have NOTHING to be ashamed of, and you are keeping things together for the kids. You’re the parent who is THERE, doing the work, every day. Hold your head high.
Know that when you do that, however soul crushing it is some days, you are modeling mightiness to them. You’re showing them how to deal with adversity. You’re demonstrating good character. But you have to believe in yourself to project that authority to them, so start believing it. This is NOT your fault. You did NOT make Daddy leave. You are NOT the villain.
Please focus on what you do have — your health. A job. Healthy children. Practice self care. If you feel clinically depressed please get help. Talk to your doctor, exercise, join a support group, lean on family, find a therapist for you.
Kristen, I’m sorry you can’t have your old life back. To take your husband back would mean you have to learn to live with his cheating, lying, BDSM self. Not the Eagle Scout Pillar of the Community, but THAT guy, the real him — the thought of whom makes you sob in the car every day.
You can’t go back. So please go forward. It’s a battle some days, but every liberation campaign is. Don’t. Give. Up.
This column ran previously.