One Saturday night, I was watching Love Actually, alone, stuffing my face with peanut butter blossoms and trying to get in the holiday spirit. There is a scene in the movie where a woman finds out her husband bought a fancy necklace for a co-worker. They have been married for a long time and have two kids. Upon realizing her husband has purchased an expensive gift for a beautiful younger woman, she goes in the bedroom and stands there and cries for about one minute.
Then she bends over to straighten the comforter on the bed she shares with her husband, and pulls herself together as her family waits for her to join them at a Christmas pageant.
When I saw that scene for the first time (before I learned my husband had cheated), I didn’t understand it in the least. Where was the rage? Why didn’t she confront him? Why isn’t she crawling in bed and pulling the covers over her head for two weeks or at the very least, going to find the woman who had the audacity to sleep with her husband?
But then it happened to me.
Infidelity was staring me in the face one Sunday evening in October after our kids were asleep. My husband confessed his affair as he sobbed, tried to comfort me, gave half-ass excuses, and tried to make it all okay any way he knew how.
And believe it or not, I didn’t want to rage on the woman he was fucking. I didn’t scream and demand answers. I didn’t crawl in bed and stay there.
My mind and body weren’t capable of any of that in the moment. Those feelings came later, yes. They came on hard and fast, and there were moments when I felt out of control with rage and fury. And there were times when all I wanted to do was regain control, and it was scary and therapeutic all at the same time.
But the moment you find out your life might change forever, and the person you trusted and built a life with and created a family with and have loved with your whole being has betrayed you, you feel like you are being taken apart with a crowbar.
You hit the survival button. You allow yourself a moment and then you bend over to smooth out the blanket on the bed before you re-enter your family life. You try to carry on because you cannot physically and mentally process working through all the emotions while still caring for your children. It’s overwhelming, and you go back to what you know because it’s comfortable there.
You reign it in and try to proceed as normal because in the flip of a switch, your life has changed and you have changed, and you no longer look at your partner in the same way you did before.
And taking all that in fucks with you in a way you have never been fucked with before. Suddenly breathing and talking and walking feel arduous. Everything looks different, and things you found beautiful at one time pull at you and are just reminders of a time when you didn’t have to worry your partner was cheating on you, on your family.
You are in shock. You don’t know how to be you, so little mundane things like folding laundry or washing your hands for too long or ignoring the phone and staring at yourself in the mirror are ways of taking a moment, of settling in, of getting to know this new person you are becoming because infidelity forced you to take a ride you never had any intention of getting on.
The rage, the hurt, the anger, the sorrow, the guilt — it all comes in-between the everyday living because that feels like a safe way to let this truth seep into your life.
It might not look and feel how you imagined it. You might hear of your friend going through this and wonder why she isn’t taking as much action as you think she should, but that’s the thing about getting devastating news: Survival looks different to all of us.