One of the terrible things about losing love to deceit and betrayal is that there is no place safe from encounters with reminders of that love, and those lies, and the continuing hurts the betrayer sometimes perpetrates (like refusing to break off contact with his lover, friending her on Facebook, etc.). It’s like there’s a knife in your back, and the person you loved keeps twisting it with every thoughtless cruelty. And there’s another in your heart, and life twists it dozens of times a day as you walk through the house taking memories off the walls or move through the world turning your head away from one reminder only to be faced with another. It begins to feel like a conspiracy to keep you in a state of shock, the dull ache always present in your chest, tears always ready to spring from your eyes, and utter emotional breakdown imminent every second.
It’s the video playing in the doctor’s office ostensibly for calm comfort, but the undersea tranquility reminds you of snorkeling with your sweetheart, and that you may never be able to go to Hawaii–a place you loved–again without feeling that pain. It’s the song (and the next one, and the next) that sums up your pain so perfectly that tears stream down your face regardless of where you are. Trivial things like street signs remind you of a conversation, a joke you shared, or one of the many lies you’ve uncovered since you found out about the betrayal.
And then there’s time. It is now separated into three chunks, each of which provides its own special kind of pain when you dwell on it:
- Before the Affair: This is almost the most tragic period because it’s when you might have done something to head off the catastrophe you never saw coming. This is when you might have seen the signs and been just a little more mindful, asked more questions, pushed harder to work on the things that weren’t perfect. This is when the best chance existed at continued happiness with the love of your life.
- After the Affair Began: This is the period during which you were blissfully unaware that your life was falling apart around your ears, and yet–as you visualize continually now–the love of your life was experimenting with various sexual positions in downtown hotel rooms with someone he met on a sex chat. (And let’s not even wonder how long the “chatting” went on. That’s just too much to think of right now.)
- After the Affair was Revealed: The hell you’ve been enduring since you guessed, or he confessed, and your life turned into an illusion, a lie, a place you don’t recognize, but that certainly isn’t safe. The person you trusted with everything treated you like something disposable.
As people who live with anxiety will understand, it’s not just the world that’s the problem. Your mind isn’t a safe place, either. It shows you pictures of times Before the Affair, when you thought life was good, and twist goes that knife in your chest. Worse, it creates entire tableaux of your love and his lover engaging in the kind of intimacy you wanted, but didn’t have. It reminds you of the texts and notes and emails you used to get, and points out that she’s getting them now. It speculates constantly about how far he will continue to take this betrayal during this time when he claims to be trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with him. It rages because how can he be serious about getting better if he won’t stop engaging with his addiction? And in rare moments of peace, the world steps in again with an image or a song or a slip of paper that cuts your heart to ribbons all over again. And if you’re drunk when that happens, your mind can come unhinged a bit, and you can find yourself in the middle of a golf course in the cold, wet, dark trying to wrap yourself around a tree and hide from everything.
Yes, I just wrote all that in second person. It just felt better that way. It is Day 11, and while I am numb a fair share of the time, I am discovering that my supply of tears is never-ending, and that the pain comes back stronger to make up for the numb periods. I’m trying so hard to see beauty in the world–to see a future for myself in which I’m happy again and feel ok and stop finding ways to blame myself for letting this happen. But though I catch a tiny glimpse now and then, it slips away before I can grasp it.
And then there are those cruel moments when I almost expect him to walk through the door before I remember he chose to walk away from our life. And it starts again.
One second at a time. That’s how I’m doing it. Each second becomes a minute and an hour and then I’ve made it through another day. String enough of those together, and you’ve got a life. I don’t like mine right now, but maybe I will again someday. Meantime, another breath, another second.
I just have to keep breathing.