When I first got married in my twenties, I knew exactly how I would handle infidelity if it ever occurred. I would certainly, most definitely, unquestionably leave immediately.
Nearly a decade later, the unthinkable happened. I found some emails I wasn’t supposed to see, and my world came crashing down.
A week earlier my husband had told me he wasn’t happy with our marriage but couldn’t articulate why. I wondered if infidelity was complicating the picture, and he assured me it wasn’t. Even so, I surprised myself with my thoughts. If it turned out that he was cheating on me, I would consider staying and going to couples therapy.
Then the night that changed everything happened, and I ran. Not once did I look back and consider trying to repair the marriage. I spent the next three years surviving single motherhood and bouncing in and out of support groups looking for a path forward to recovery. I watched as other women struggled through the hard work of staying, and I patted myself on the back for skipping that part.
But then I tried to love someone new. And that’s when I discovered the hard truth: nobody gets to skip out on the painful work of learning to trust again.
Into the Trenches
While the other women in my support groups trudged through the common side effects of betrayal with their spouses, I faced them head-on with a new partner.
Whether the women in my groups had decided to stay or go, we all had a hard time forgetting the past. We often felt the urge to play detective and snoop through personal information to be sure we weren’t getting duped again. Many of us experienced self-worth issues, believing our bodies weren’t good enough or our love not big enough.
Although I don’t regret my decision to leave, hitting the wall on my healing journey gave me a newfound respect for the many women who make a different choice than I did. I discovered how inhumanly strong and vulnerable you have to be to let go of negative coping habits and conquer deeply seated relationship patterns.
Show me a woman who chooses to love after betrayal, and I’ll show you bravery like you’ve probably never witnessed in real life.
A Return to Wholeness
Ironically, after divorce it took another unexpected betrayal in my dating life to catapult me to the next level of recovery, and I survived. Actually, I did better than just survive. This time I learned that I have razor-sharp intuition and that my real work was learning to trust myself.
I had to shift my focus from scanning my environment for signs of infidelity to opening my eyes to the true state of my partnership. I had to trust that I’d see what I need to see when I need to see it. I had to make a decision to either fully engage or consciously step away from the relationship, and allow my intuition to guide me through that difficult decision.
The same inner voice that led me away from what could have been a decade-long repeat experience of my marriage, led me home to myself and a life partner who exceeds my expectations in every way. I couldn’t see him or choose him until I became aware of the self-sabotaging patterns that had been inviting betrayal into my life. And I couldn’t see that I deserved him until I became more aware of my own self worth.
So to the moms out there who are struggling through the aftermath of infidelity in silence or in hushed tones, you’re not alone. It’s hard work no matter what you decide. But you will survive. And once you’re ready to pick up your work and own your pain, the fullness of life and love will be there waiting to welcome you back.
Melissa Gopp is the owner of BlueVenusRising.com, where she writes about parenting, love, and healing from trauma. She is a beach bum at heart and passionate about giving women an anonymous, safe space to share the things they think they’re not allowed to talk about.