I’m not the first woman or spouse who was ever cheated on and I know I won’t be the last. That’s why I think it’s important we share our stories and how we’ve dealt with it, because it’s not anything you cannot get past. You can, and you will if you experiment with the coping mechanisms that come natural to you.
Because as motivational speaker Brian Tracy says, “The more things you try, the more likely it is that you will try the one thing that will make all the difference.” So here are 10 things you can try.
While this wasn’t my initial gut reaction—not even my second or third—eventually, I had to face facts when Bonnie Raitt lyrics kept playing in my head, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t. You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.”
Rather than carry on with such dramatic overtures, I met with the woman who would become my divorce attorney. She told me to file when I felt the timing was right. Ironically, I happened to be vacationing with his parents the day he was served. I just quietly told them what I’d done, and they nodded in understanding. It was my 39th birthday, and I saw it as my empowerment gift. It would do you good to find one—or 10—of your own.
Hop on a Bike
When my spouse came home one day and confessed his indiscretions at our kitchen table, I didn’t immediately know what to do. What he shared with me was downright unbelievable. But after taking a moment or two to feel sorry for myself, I knew it would do me no good to stay in bed and cry.
I hopped on a bike to release the anxiety. In the process of my healing, I lost extra weight, gained valuable inner strength, and heightened my sense of awareness. Wheels (or some other form of exercise or meditation), I found out, do wonders for a woman scorned.
After I got over the shock of learning how often he’d been cheating—and realizing what that meant to me personally—I demanded we both take an HIV test.
He was offended, but I didn’t care. You better believe he called Planned Parenthood. I expected it to be the most miserable experience we would ever share together, but when I told the nurse why we were being tested, she asked me, “Do you want me to poke him a little extra hard?”
When she told me where she’d be poking, I laughed and nodded a big emphatic, “Yes!” It gave me peace of mind.
For one who is used to writing down her sorrows and joys in a journal or diary, I naturally took to pen and paper to record what was going on in my daily life.
Horrible thoughts, sad discourse, and fear of what was to happen to my broken family spilled out, along with many, many tears. The meditative writing process gave my weary mind time to rest and the space to plan out a different future than the one I’d imagined.
Toss Some Eggs
When my older sister came to visit and offer comfort, I took her with me on an expedition my therapist suggested. We hiked up the mountain near my home to toss fresh eggs out into the desert, one egg at a time. Organic, yes. Wasteful, no.
Because my husband had left home, moving out one month after his confession, I couldn’t lash out in anger at him but needed a way to let those feelings go. The eggs, my therapist said, would serve as a safe substitute—much better than punching him in the face.
Read a Good Book
An avid reader, this diversion proved to be an enjoyable way to heal my pain. I practically lived in the self-help section of the nearest bookstores, burying myself in page after page of advice on whatever topic fit my mental state at the time, anything I thought might help me cope.
I learned how to let go of the past, take back self-responsibility and set healthier boundaries from all the top experts of the day. By the time I was done, I’d become the next expert.
Talk to the Chair
While this wasn’t my favorite, or that effective for me then, my therapist’s suggestion to talk to the empty chair, pretending he’s sitting in it, was something I thought I should at least try once.
I couldn’t do it in front of her, though. I thought it was too silly. So I set up my own empty chair at home and started telling “him” off in my living room. But I just couldn’t get over the fact that he wasn’t actually there. It was like my “long list of angry”—ten pages, single-spaced—I was assigned to write.
I never got the chance to share it with him, so what was the point? Oh, yeah. Experiment and find what works.
Take an Improv Class
Betrayal hurts deeply and emotionally. From the initial story my husband told me, to the intimate and embarrassing things he’d later say to excuse himself for his bad behavior, to the realization of what I’d allowed (on some level) happen to me—all of it pecked away at my sense of self.
To reconnect, I went out of my comfort zone and took an improvisation class. The choice to do something that challenged me—on my terms—proved priceless for my self-development. And it was way more fun than what was going on at home.
My husband’s aunt gave me a book on how to deal with divorce, written by a woman who’d gone through it already. In it, the author suggested being very cautious as to whom you told your story. That bit of advice might make sense for most, but not for me.
I’m a storyteller. I cannot keep words in my head. They have to come out, and out they came. It was a healing experience for me to share my story.
And when the feedback from others showed me it was helpful to them as well, I took to the stage, scripting out a 10-minute story for my Toastmasters group, an hour-long presentation for pay, and then a four-week self-development workshop: my own lemon into lemonade stand.
Pack His Things
I also found a way to reclaim my sense of personal power by packing—his stuff. To keep it from being a regrettable chore, I turned on my favorite dance music. Loud. Then I grabbed a box and started pulling his things out of the closet, off the shelves and out of the drawers.
I didn’t worry about wrinkles. I didn’t bother folding anything. I just tossed and shoved, letting him have all the wire hangers. I kept the good ones. After taping the box shut, I grabbed a plastic bat from my son’s room and started whacking the crap out of that box.
Pack and whack. It opens up space to spread out your belongings, helps you accept the reality of being newly single, relieves a little more of that anxiety, and it made a great story to tell my friends.