Absolutely!!! Do this. Make it a ceremony. Burn it. Wear black, and a nice colored silk scarf representing your new life. I threw my OM's ring over the bridge he said I'D jump off of if I ever left him, and it was symbolic and beautiful and the beginning of my new life without him.
Your affair, however wrong, hurtful, and illicit it was, was still a relationship. There'd be something wrong with you if you could just end a relationship with no emotion, no feeling, no loss.
Here, please read this article I wrote and tell me if it helps you.
Good luck, be well, and please take time for yourself when you're not busy helping your husband.
So, you’ve had an affair. You’ve ended it, and have either confessed to your betrayed partner or been caught. The truth is out. It’s early on, only a few weeks out from D-day, and you’ve been reading, posting, and studying everything you can get your hands on about how to help your Betrayed Spouse heal from your affair. There are thousands of books for Betrayed Spouses about surviving their partner’s selfish decision to be unfaithful. There are dozens of books written to Wayward Spouses about what their broken-hearted, shattered, traumatized Betrayed Spouse needs from them right now. You know they need you. You know you’ve done a horrible thing and that you have to change. The following advice will assume you’ve already read these articles.
In my search through half a dozen books, hundreds of articles, and thousands of forum posts on multiple websites dedicated to recovering from infidelity, I noticed that something was missing. There was a wealth of good advice on how to comfort your Betrayed Spouse, but very little on how to comfort yourself. So many Wayward Spouses, whilst trying to navigate the mess they made, find themselves biting their tongues in a herculean effort not to wail, “But what about ME?!! This hurts ME too, you know!!”
And if you, as a Wayward Spouse, have ever actually said that aloud, you’ve probably been made aware of how selfish it sounds. Almost everyone who finds out about the affair, from your Betrayed Spouse to their friends and family to your co-workers to strangers on the internet, are going to be judgmental and quite possibly a little hateful towards you. They couldn’t care less if they tried about your feelings, and might even want you to suffer. This is to be expected. After all, you broke your Betrayed Spouse’s heart and very likely traumatized them for life. At the same time, though, your needs are still valid. Your pain is still valid. You may not have a right to say so out loud to your partner, but you have a right to feel how you feel. You can’t control other people’s criticism or insults. But you can still control you, and if you treat yourself well you can make this a little less agonizing on yourself.
1) Take time for yourself if at all possible. Schedule time in. Mark it on your calendar.
Most people probably don’t have this much time, but an hour on weekdays, 2-3 days a week, and several hours on Saturday or Sunday is ideal if you can spare it. You should use 2/3 of your free time to focus on helping your spouse and rebuilding your bond, and the remaining 1/3 is yours to process and heal. For example, if you have 2 hours free on a certain weeknight, 40 minutes should be dedicated to processing and healing.
This will be easier if your spouse has done the 180 and you're currently living alone. If you haven't been kicked out of the marital home, you will need to inform your Betrayed Spouse that you would like to spend X amount of time a week alone, thinking about what you've done. The fact that you’re asking for time to process will prove to them that you're trying, but you SHOULDN'T spend that time whipping yourself. Use the time to deal with the consequences of your actions, yes, but also to process and honor your emotions, and to relax and have some much-needed downtime.
You probably have restrictions now about where you can be and when and with whom. But you can work within them and carve out space for yourself even so. For example, your Betrayed Spouse might not want you to leave the house by yourself for anything other than work or errands. That’s okay. You can take up a spare bedroom with just yourself, a relaxing hobby, and/or a marriage book specifically for Wayward Spouses. Shut yourself in the bathroom and have a bubble bath with some relaxing music playing. Watch a light-hearted movie (No romances for now). If you ARE going out, offer to check in every hour, and send a text or a photo of yourself. In between check-ins, take the time to relax, pamper yourself, and process your feelings.
2) Take time to prepare for big tasks. If your spouse asks you to do something that makes you feel overwhelmed, hopeless and terrified (e.g. write a timeline, take a polygraph, or have a long conversation about the A) plan out when specifically- date and time- that you will be able to fulfill said request. Tell your spouse, "I will (insert request here), but I need some time to prepare. Can I (insert request here) for you on (date) at (time)?” Then take a break.
Process your feelings and relax until the specified time. Having a deadline or a specific time set means you can't avoid your partner's request. No excuses. It has to be done on time, but since you've taken time beforehand, you will hopefully be as relaxed and prepared as you can be when the time comes.
3) Validate yourself. During this time where it may feel like no one is there for you, be your own best friend. Be kind to yourself. Don’t lie to yourself or minimize what you’ve done, but don’t be overly harsh either. Heaven knows you get enough vitriol from everybody else. So acknowledge your successes, even if you’re the only one who will.
Validation does not mean that the affair was okay or that you should act on your feelings, only that you recognize the feelings are there. Address yourself comfortingly and soothingly without justifying the affair. For example, if you’ve gone two weeks without talking to your affair partner, you could say, “I’ve been through two weeks of missing my ex, and I survived! Someday soon, I won’t miss them anymore.” Or if your Betrayed Spouse lashes out at you, you might think to yourself, “This is really painful and difficult for me, but I’m doing the best I can, and can get through it.” If you miss your affair partner and want to call them, you might say to yourself, "It's natural to miss someone I've had a romantic/sexual relationship with, but I can't call them because I made a promise to my spouse not to hurt them anymore by contacting my ex."
4) Grieve. Most of the advice on infidelity websites states that you should never allow your feelings of sorrow to get in the way of helping your Betrayed Spouse to heal. That you should never allow your grief to be an excuse to resume the affair or to avoid personal accountability for the affair. This advice is absolutely correct, but despite what anyone else says, you do have a right to be upset.
The truth of the matter is, you’re grieving the loss of a relationship. It was a wrong relationship, an illegitimate relationship, a relationship you should never have had. But it was still something you lost. You broke up with your affair partner; it’s a breakup. Your Betrayed Spouse could very well divorce you in the aftermath of your infidelity, so you may be grieving the loss of your marriage as well.
So take some time for yourself (Preferably, the aforementioned alone time) to process your own pain. Go ahead, indulge. Eat half a pint of ice cream, play that one sad love song over and over, write your affair partner a letter and burn it. Break out the tissues and cry until you're totally spent, then wash your face and have some tea. Do all the things people do to move past a breakup, so long as nothing you’re doing is harmful (such as drinking, drugs, or texting your ex). This is a breakup, and you’re strong enough to get through it.
5) Name your feelings. An unfortunate part of being a Wayward Spouse is that you seem to forfeit the rights to your own feelings. You can’t go to your ex for comfort, your friends and family will probably be too furious with you to help you identify and process your emotions. Commonly, the advice is given that whatever you do, you can’t expect your spouse to be considerate of your feelings. Since you and your feelings for your affair partner have caused so much pain and suffering to your Betrayed Spouse, chances are pretty good that they couldn’t care less what your feelings are about your infidelity. That is valid. They have every right to be hurt, and it's a very bad idea to talk too openly and too much with your spouse about how you miss your affair partner.
BUT, your emotions are valid too, and you have a right- indeed, an obligation to yourself- to feel them in their entirety. During your aforementioned alone time, it can really help state your feelings out loud into a voice recorder, or write them down in a journal- especially if they are the sort of feelings that aren’t socially acceptable to share with others. Go into detail about your feelings. Examples might be, “I feel angry with my Betrayed Spouse because s/he isn't sympathetic towards me over the loss of my affair partner” Or, “I feel grieved because I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of my affair partner and I wish I could go see him/her”.
Your feelings may not be socially acceptable to talk about, and they may be wrong to act upon, but feelings, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad. They are what they are, and you have the right to feel them.
If you are having trouble identifying or expressing your emotions, it would be VERY wise to get an individual counselor with experience in infidelity to vent to. They will help you process without judging you, yet still hold you accountable for your actions.
6) Practice empathy. Sometimes self-care means doing difficult things, things that you dread doing, because you know it will make your life better in the long run. Once you have labeled your feelings and felt them, do your best to imagine what it would be like if the person you loved romantically cheated on you. Try to develop empathy for your Betrayed Spouse. Imagine if they felt for their affair partner what you feel for yours. Imagine if they told you they wished you’d stop complaining because they’re suffering too. Think about how this would make you feel. This is not to shame you, but to develop empathy and remorse. Yes, you’re hurting because of what you’ve done, but your Betrayed Spouse is hurting as well. They need you. So put yourself in their shoes, and go read all of those other books, the ones that tell you how to help your Betrayed Spouse, and take the advice on board. Even if it feels miserable to face up to what you’ve done or to have to comfort someone else when you’re in pain, it will make your marriage better in the long run.
7) Separate shame from remorse. So much of the counsel in infidelity circles chastens the Wayward Spouse to become remorseful, and fast. The same advisors will tell the betrayed to look for remorse in their partner- and leave if they don’t see enough of it. But remorse isn’t shame. Shame involves self-loathing and it considers the fatal flaw to be you as a person, not the infidelity. Shame says, “I’m a terrible person. I’ll always be a terrible person. I’m worthless. Why even try?”
Remorse, on the other hand, knows that the flaw was in what you did, but not in who you are. Remorse says, “I made a terrible choice. I devastated my spouse, and that will take a long time to recover from. But I can and will recover from it because I am capable of being a better person than my actions have shown. From now on, I’m going to be the good person I know I can be.” Remorse is determined, rather than defeated. When you catch yourself calling yourself names or condemning yourself, try to re-frame the thought as hating your past behavior rather than hating who you are as a person.
8) Reward Yourself. You probably don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel right now, and the horrific reality of where your marriage now stands coupled with the pain of loss might make it that much harder for you to find motivation to do what’s right. You can light a candle or two in that tunnel yourself, though. Every week you don’t text your affair partner, every time you take a major step towards healing your Betrayed Spouse and yourself, every hurdle you overcome is cause to celebrate your progress. Reward yourself for sticking with it.
Perhaps give yourself X amount of money every week you don’t contact your ex affair partner, and save up to buy something extravagant. Examples might be a spa treatment, a new device of your choosing, or a new playlist from iTunes.
Another thing you might do is to reward yourself with something special after you’ve overcome a hurdle such as taking a polygraph, or reached a milestone such as 6 months without your affair partner. Especially when no one else is willing to acknowledge your accomplishments, do so yourself and treat yourself after doing something especially emotionally taxing.
The worst part about being a Wayward Spouse is that no one seems to care about your suffering. The Betrayed Spouse comes first, which leaves precious little room for your own hurt and healing. While it’s true that you must now put your spouse’s needs above your own, the good news is that you don’t have to neglect yourself in the process. If you have cheated on your spouse and are now trying to navigate the chaotic despair, I wish you good luck, better guidance, and healing. As an end note, please remember that this too shall pass, even if it looks from all angles that your life will be like this forever. It won't. As you and your Betrayed Spouse heal together, you can take comfort in knowing that you were part of their healing.
I hope you keep posting here and tell us about how it went.