Getting Past Betrayal
“The most important thing about me was that for quite a chunk of my life I was divorced. It was a fact that stayed with me even after I remarried. I have now been married to my third husband for more than 20 years. But when you’ve had children with someone from whom you’re now divorced, that split defines everything; it’s the lurking fact, a slice of anger in the pie of your brain.” Nora Ephron
Last year at this time I was sitting next to a woman I met on a plane with whom I had much in common: We both had husbands who had cheated on us and broken our hearts. I felt the connection until she noted that his affair with her best friend – with whom he was still a couple — had been about eight years ago. I was nearly three years into the healing process, angry, sad, and philosophical by turn. I realized that, even though what Nora Ephron had noted about divorce was true – “The most important thing about me was that for quite a chunk of my life I was divorced” — if I did not want to feel as raw as my seatmate five years down the road, I’d better get busy letting go.
Today I have a reasonable relationship with my ex, although I have not seen him for more than a few hours in the last four years after seeing him almost every day for 38 years. We text and email about our two children and four grandchildren and mutual financial matters (a tax audit, the house we co-own that is now rental property). We have even tackled some of the hard issues that broke up our marriage. It helps that he isn’t still living with the woman for whom he left me. But if it hadn’t been her, it would have been someone else – and it had happened before.
I still get teary when I hear certain songs or feel like doing our comfortable silly dancing with him, or forget we’ve been estranged and want to share a piece of information with him about something I saw or did. But now I have the sense to turn the music off, dance by myself, and call someone else.
Just as I don’t want to be defined by the drugs I did in the sixties and seventies, I don’t want my own sixties and seventies to be defined by the loss of my ex, who isn’t who he used to be either. We have all been tempered and forged by change and challenges. It takes time to recover from trauma. But it is not OK to continue feeling bad when you reach the point where you are capable of doing things to make yourself feel better.
Here are some suggestions for letting go:
Cry it out: Letting go with tears is a genuine detox. Let those feelings become fluid, as in water under the bridge, instead of holding them inside like blocks of ice.
Lots of therapy: At one point I was seeing a psychiatrist, therapist, life coach, and spiritual guide. I scaled back to only paying the people who were really helping me, but every bit of therapy got me a little bit further along to where I wanted to be.
Let your friends help you: There’s a tendency to isolate when you’re feeling humiliated and flawed. Good friends will know when to leave you alone and when to break down the door and drag you into the sunlight. One friend flew down from Chicago to South Florida and took me to a James Taylor/Carole King concert, and reminded me that she would never divorce me.
Exercise beyond your limits: Never an athlete, I was extremely uncomfortable to commit to exercise. But I found that when I was doing abdominal curls or trying to keep up in Zumba class, I couldn’t dwell on my problems, which gave me a welcome break.
Massage, facials, and manicures: Treat yourself because you’re worth it.
Meditation: This is the most authentic way to refresh and relax; and it doesn’t cost a thing.
Gratitude: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For a long time I could not think of what I did have rather than what I had lost. But the time came when I woke up happy every morning just because I felt lucky to be alive.
Judy Kirkwood provides content for Facebook entries (with a specialty in positive affirmations); writes articles for print and web publications – national, regional, and local; is a contributing writer to Simply the Best magazine in South Florida; and plays on the beach and in the pool year-round. Please visit www.judykirkwood.wix.com/judy-kirkwood.
Judy Kirkwood, ThirdAge’s Contributing Editor and Forum Director, was lucky to land in South Florida, where almost everyone has or is getting a divorce.