“Do you think he’s cheating on you?” This sentence echoed in my mind as my world fell apart and I had to learn how to cope with being cheated on. I knew we were having issues, as my husband was struggling with mental illness and PTSD from his extra-long stint on the Texas border. He had moved out to get help from his commanding officer, or so I though. We were going to counseling, seeing each other every other day and talking multiple times a day. Our sex life was nearly back to normal, despite our fragmented living situation. I felt we were finally on the right track–after months of worry and tears.
In October, he was diagnosed with a rare skin cancer and I was sure this was the way he would come home. I could take care of him and we’d go back to our normal lives. Little did I know, that he would also invite his girlfriend, the woman he met in the guard, that he was living with, to his surgery as well.
I had been asked the question of his fidelity multiple times over the last six months, mostly by our friends, but his family too, but I was secure in our relationship. I loved my husband, and he loved me. We were working hard on our marriage, and were continuing to try to get pregnant. I thought he was sick. What reason did I have to think he would cheat?
I didn’t know it at the time, but as a list-maker, I needed a guide to follow to keep myself together. I truly hope that no one else is put in this situation, but if you or someone you know find themselves in a similar situation, here is my list of 5 steps on how to cope with being cheated on when your world falls apart:
1. Step Back. Don’t make rash decisions.
My first instinct was divorce. My next one was to throw up. That did happen, you can’t stop that. Then, I wanted a tattoo. A small one. Then, a big one. Then, to cheat and get even. Following any traumatic event, you may feel the need to spiral out of control, to feel like you have some semblance of control of your life, healthy or unhealthy. Don’t do this, no matter how strong the instinct is. You don’t know if that tattoo, that one night stand, that shopping splurge may come back to bite you. Don’t do something based purely on that emotion that you may regret later. I still did that to a point, but with no lasting scars–thanks to my friends.
2. Find your village.
When I left the doctor that day, just after finding out about his affair, I called my best friend. She answered and immediately threw on a bra and began barking instructions at me on what to do as she drove maniacally to my house. Then, she called my other besties and they came and surrounded me that night. I don’t think I was alone with my thoughts for the first week after, except when I was sleeping. Identify those people who you have been there for, and who will be there for you. That may be family, it may be friends. It may be your animals. Identify who you need to support you, with time, meals, financially, whatever your situation. Which leads right into:
3. Who is your confidant and outlet?
Your friends and family will have a lot of opinions. Trust me, mine have come up with some very creative nicknames for my soon-to-be-ex-husband! They will want to share them with you. Some may be helpful, and others will not. You may not want to share every detail of your feelings with everyone and that’s perfectly fine. I identified a small handful of friends with whom I shared my deepest and darkest thoughts to such as the aforementioned bestie, a best guy friend who was also friends with my husband and knew him in a different manner, one of my best ‘married’ girlfriends, who holds similar religious and familial beliefs, and my sisters. I continued seeing our marriage counselor alone to help me deal with my grief. Having these people who listen to me cry, be angry and mournful without judgment or commentary have been lifesavers.
If you don’t have those types of close relationships with someone who you think can provide this type of listening, get a counselor or psychologist to help you learn how to cope with being cheated on. I cannot stress how important mine has become to my life- even with my village.
4. Do things that make you happy, even when you don’t want to.
I’m not going to lie, I am a social girl but sometimes I have my ‘dark days,’ when I just want to lay on my sofa or in bed and read, watch TV or just sob into a pillow. Some days, I allow myself the time to do that. Others, I let my friends come sit with me, or let them drag me out. I have yet to regret being with people I love and people who love me, just as I am.
5. Figure out your next move.
Once you have taken the time to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically, that’s when you take your time to think about what you want to do next. For me, I wanted to reconcile. My husband did not. This sent me through this process one more time. As I worked my way out, I felt more confident in myself. I learned from many strong women who came before me, that I could be my fabulous self again one day and hopefully with someone who will appreciate it!
If you have any advice for wonderful ladies on how to cope with being cheated on, share in the comments below!
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Nicole is going through a divorce she didn't want or except- but she won't allow that to shake her ambition to live her best life. She enjoys drinking red wine and brunching with her girls, keeping her kitchen spotless, volunteering at a local cat rescue, and out-rapping literally everyone you know to the Hamilton soundtrack (no, seriously, she and her sister run HamilTUNES Dallas.)