Long story short, my (now) ex-wife is in the military and was stationed in a highly populated city within our state (which included sleeping in a hotel Monday-Friday) to issue COVID tests. During this time, I found out she cheated on me with a fellow soldier in her hotel room. I found out later that this all happened in late March of 2021.
I heard that the military takes this stuff very seriously, but I guess that’s not actually the case. They swept it under the rug and moved on. Because ya know, they don’t want to lose rank or any of their perks, or make the military look even remotely bad. I have been told to report them, but I have realized that’s just more effort on my part and it probably wouldn’t result in anything, nor will it benefit me at all, even though I have proof.
After finding out about the affair, it was the worst few months of my life. I couldn’t eat without getting sick and dropped about a pound of weight every day for roughly 3 weeks as a result.
We were friends throughout high school and dated for 5 years afterwards. Then we were married for nearly 5 more years. In total, we were romantically involved for over 10 years and when I divorced her, I was 28 years old.
I blocked her and all of her family members on every social media platform, as well as blocked their phone numbers. Maybe I’m just not that experienced in relationships because she was the only real dating experience I have ever had. I truly loved her and her family and enjoyed spending time with them. It seems like a cliche, but I never thought she would cheat on me. I suppose no one dates someone “knowing” they will cheat on them.
When we first started dating, she always told me my parents’ relationship was “too healthy” while her parents cheated on each other all the time and are currently miserable. When she joined the military, she told me all about the horror stories of the high divorce rate and rampant cheating. It turns out she became the exact thing she hated.
Anyways, on to the point. It has been just over half a year since I divorced her. I realize now she wasn’t good for me. Thinking about her makes my skin crawl, but I still have nightmares about her.
My question is this; how do I officially move on? We were best friends for the longest time. How do I really get her out of my head? How do I start seeing new people?
You are moving on. By the power invested in me, as Chump Lady, I declare it Official.
You were decisive. You divorced her. You’ve gone total no contact. Now you’re grieving, not just who you thought she was, but the future you thought you were investing in. It’s been 18 months, and that 18 months has coincided with a global pandemic.
Isaac, has it occurred to you that you’re a badass?
You might not feel like one, but you are. And that’s rather the trick to getting through shit like this — do the right things and the feelings will follow. You get her out of your head by getting her out of your life. Eventually your new life will eclipse your old life. And every day she’ll become, and feel, less relevant.
But it’s a process and it’s not linear. Some days it will feel like you’re carrying a bucket of toxic slop on your head. Some days you trip and it goes splat everywhere. That’s totally normal. And you know what else is normal? Buckets of toxic slop. Many people in this world are balancing invisible buckets of grief. You’re not alone. You’re a human going through some shit.
About those nightmares. I have a theory about this, based on my own chump experience. I think it’s because you’re safe and because you’re no contact that your brain is still processing this trauma as a nightmare.
When you’re living a nightmare, it’s just all adrenaline. Fight! Flee! Legal fee! But when you’ve escaped, you now have the mental space to begin sorting it out. Even if you don’t want to. Even if you RATIONALLY know “she wasn’t good for me.” The brain is like: WE ESCAPED DANGER. DISCUSS.
Years, years after I left the cheater, I still get nightmares. It’s generally some variation on the same theme, that he’s moved in next door to me, he’s spying on me, then he’s hunting me down and is going to kill me.
As I was living it, I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the enormity of the transgressiveness. Like eating an elephant one bite at a time, my brain is still chewing.
And yours is too, Isaac. I think that’s pretty normal. The important thing is that you wake up, shake yourself off, “Whoa, that was a trippy dream,” and get back at the business of your life.
How do I start seeing new people?
Uh, swipe right?
Actually, just go see new people. Not necessarily as dates, but go throw yourself at someone you enjoy, or try things you think you might enjoy. Go be where your best self lives. Doing stuff you’re good at makes you attractive. If you’re not good at anything, well, there’s a challenge.
All starts begin with bravery. Isaac, you’ve ALREADY demonstrated bravery. What could a dating app or a meet-up or an awkward coffee date throw at you that you haven’t survived worse?
If you don’t feel ready yet, okay, honor that feeling and don’t rush. You’re 28! But as I’ve written here many times, don’t let a cheater be the last thing you invest in. Don’t give her that centrality. Your brain may blip and feature her in a dream, but okay… You could dream of turquoise sea monsters selling savings bonds. It’s a figment. An undigested bit of dinner. Dismiss it like you dismissed her.
Better days ahead, Isaac. ((Hugs))