Grappling with my husband's betrayal has been a long journey, one that led to years of self-destruction, chaos, and eventually a book, Revived: Life After the Affair. It all started over a decade ago when my Prince Charming dropped to one knee in the very spot we had first laid eyes on each other and asked me to be his wife.
Once I had that ring on my finger, I thought I was well on my way to having everything all of those other families had when I was growing up. Everything had fallen seamlessly into place. We were going to have a future full of laughter, love, and happiness. Filled with vacations, holidays, family gatherings, big feasts, and fabulous celebrations.
It was a gorgeous summer day, just months before the wedding, and I received a phone call from my fiance asking me to come over because he had something to tell me. I knew by the tone of his voice that whatever it was, it was really bad. The drive to his house was excruciating as I waited to find out what could be so awful. I sat down next to him on the bed as he began to reveal to me the nightmare I had never known was possible but was about to take over my entire world. He went on to describe that this was not just a one-night stand or a horrific mistake.
He had been with multiple women through the entire course of our four-year relationship.
There was nothing I wanted more in that moment than to be strong enough to get up and walk away. The truth was, I was too weak to leave. I sat there numb at the edge of the bed as everything flashed through my mind at rapid speed, my main concern: the invitations. Two hundred and fifty invitations were out in the mail. The venue was booked. The gifts had been registered for. The embarrassment and shame of having to tell our friends and family who had watched our fairytale romance over the last four years that none of it was true. The pressure was too much and I made a choice that day. I made a choice to stay.
I went through with our "dream" wedding, and as I stared into the mirror that day, dressed in my Cinderella ball gown, flawless makeup and hair, I released the girl from my dreams. And I welcomed the broken, sad, and lonely girl who was wearing a dress that so eloquently covered her scars.
One year into our marriage, history repeated itself, and after my husband was away at a bachelor party I found out he had been unfaithful once again. He begged and pleaded for me to let him stay and promised for a second time that it would never happen again. For whatever reason, I caved. Something inside me kept saying, This isn't our first time here, and I was able to move past it before, and so I will do it again. And so I chose to stay. Again. At this point, without realizing the depth of pain and anger that had been buried deep inside me for so long, I subconsciously started my journey to leaving him. Three more years continued of highs and lows, "working on it," and his unhealthy relationship with porn, and I finally found the courage to ask for a divorce.
When I left my husband, I thought that everything was going to magically get better since I'd had the strength to leave. But divorce is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and the next four years of my life were consumed with shame and embarrassment about who I had been and who I had become. I let what had happened to me control my circumstance and keep me in unhealthy relationships. I turned to a woman who became my drug, and when that high wore off, I found myself in and out of every bed I could find.
My own life was a dirty little secret, it was a lie, and it was a sham. I just kept expanding my closet so I could fit more skeletons in it without anyone noticing. I didn't believe that I deserved better, and I didn't believe that I was worthy. The chaos of my life was a direct result of the behaviors I allowed and put up with in my marriage. In my mind, it wasn't anyone else's fault. I put myself here, and I was the only one to blame.
And then, for the first time in so long, I felt that little flame of hope light up again. I decided that I didn't want to live like this anymore, and I took control back. I knew that it was time to start making real changes, and that's when I felt things really shift.
The first step was deciding that the most important person I had to forgive was myself. I needed to let go of the pressure to be perfect and remember that I am human. I deserved a break. I promised myself that I was not going to allow my past to haunt me anymore. I was confident that the things I did moving forward were the only ones that mattered. It was as simple as that. And I wasn't willing to settle for anything less.