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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

We Want Them to Fight For Us

We Want Them to Fight For Us

 

When it comes down to being cheated on, I think that was the hardest thing-

That he didn’t see the marriage – didn’t see ME – as something worth fighting for. 

 

I remember reading stories from people who had unfaithful partners who confessed and condemned their own actions, throwing themselves into recovery. I heard about spouses who had made mistakes and once they realized the magnitude of what they were about to lose, fought like hell to keep it. I learned about the pain of relapse and the struggle to again trust the one that betrayed you. I devoured stories of ugly screaming matches, emotions running high as both partners grappled with the magnitude of the shockwave to the relationship.

I envied those people. 

Because my husband never fought at all. 

 

We think we want them to fight for us. But what we really want is for them to WANT to fight for us.

At first, I grew desperate. Even though he refused contact, I sent emails and text messages begging for him to respond to me. To talk to me. I pleaded with him over voice mail, “Please just talk to me. Why are you doing this?”

I never got a response.

It’s natural to panic when we fear we are losing our grip. We beg, we plead, we grow irrational. We believe that if we can just hold tightly enough, that we won’t lose them. 

And it almost always backfires. 

For some, it pushes them away, desperation as repellent. For others, seeing us so panicky makes them feel guilty and, by extension, uncomfortable. And so they try to fight, putting on a good face. But they’re not really fighting for us, they’re playacting to keep us from fighting against them. It’s a hollow victory.

 

When they don’t fight for us, it makes us question our value. 

As the desperation morphed into a begrudging acknowledgement, I grew despondent. This man that fought for so much in his life, refused to even pick up a phone for his wife. For me. Did that mean that I was worth less than his job, his hobbies or, of course, the affair partner?

All I could assume was that, according to his calculus, losing me was not a loss. Which set my value at zero. 

It’s natural for us to see ourselves reflected in our partner. But when they become twisted, that reflection is no longer accurate. They benefit from projection, from painting us as being less than we are in order to pretend to be greater than they are. What they lack, they try to steal from us. 

Perhaps their unwillingness to fight, to face the consequences, is more a reflection of their character and cowardice than of our worth. 

 

When we believe that divorce is not an option, their unwillingness to fight for the marriage makes us feel like a failure. 

When I was in the midst of divorce, I had so many people say to me that, in their marriage, divorce was not an option. 

Well, it wasn’t an option to me either. Until it became a necessity. 

It takes two to make a marriage work, and only one to destroy it.

If you’re the only one fighting to save it, there is nothing to save.

But we don’t give up easily, do we? It’s so hard to accept that they’re not doing their part and that no matter how much we try, we cannot do their part for them. That sometimes, accepting it’s over isn’t quitting, it’s taking care of ourselves.

 

We cannot make them fight for us.

But we can fight for ourselves.

To believe in our worth and settle for nothing less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faulty Cheating Logic

Faulty Cheating Logic

I keep encountering people who believe the following:

If a man cheats on his wife, then the marriage was sexless.

If the marriage was sexless, then it was the wife’s fault.

Therefore, if a man cheats on his wife, it was the wife’s fault.

*I’m sticking with the male cheater and asexual wife here because this is the assumption that always gets thrown my way. Don’t worry, men, I’ll get to the assumption that gets applied to you too. 

 

There are so many problems with this line of thinking…

1 – People cheat on their spouses for all kinds of reasons, only one of which is a lack of connection in the bedroom. If it was that simple to prevent infidelity, I bet cheating would be a whole lot less common (and easier to find when it was happening).

2 – You never really know what goes on in another person’s marriage, much less between their sheets. Why make that assumption?

3- Is the husband lying about the state of the bedroom in order to gain a sympathetic ear from the affair partner or from friends and family? Remember, they’re trying to make themselves look good and paint infidelity as a reasonable decision. 

4 – If the marriage was sexless, it may not be the woman’s decision. I know it’s not culturally accepted, but men can also turn away from their sexual selves for myriad reasons. 

5 – If the woman is turning down sex, are there underlying reasons? Sometimes these may have nothing to do with the marriage (trauma or health) and sometimes she shuts down as a direct result of her husband’s behaviors or inattention. 

6- And finally, even if the bedroom was dead and the wife was the one hitting the brakes on sex, that’s still not an excuse to cheat on someone. Decide that sex is important enough for you to leave? Sure. Have a conversation about ethical non-monogamy? Cool. But lie and manipulate to get what you want while keeping them in the dark? No. 

 

I see a similar type of faulty logic directed towards men:

If a woman cheats on her husband, he didn’t provide for/satisfy her.

 

Let’s dig into this one…

1 – Again, there are many reasons for infidelity. I’m sure this is one of them. But it’s only one. 

2 – If this was her reasoning, was she looking for him to provide her with happiness and/or purpose? Because those are both things that another person can never provide for us. In other words, he’s set up to fail.

3- Was he working so hard to provide in one arena that he couldn’t give enough attention in others? For example, maybe he is put in the situation where he is working overtime to bring in enough money and also criticized for not being available. Those priorities have to be worked out as a couple.

4-Because we place so much value on what a man provides, an easy way for her to cut him down publicly is to imply that he doesn’t measure up. What does she have to gain from that approach?

5-And finally, even if she feels that he is not bringing enough to the table, that is still not an excuse to cheat. Decide that you something different and make the decision to leave? Sure. Have a conversation about needs and changes and boundaries? Absolutely. But leave him in the dark and sneak around behind his back? No. 

 

I can see where both of these faulty assumptions come from. We all want to believe that we have more control over our lives than we do. We feel safer when we can believe that if we only do “x,” we can prevent “y” from happening. But it’s not that simple, as those of us who have been through the wringer can attest. Because when it comes to cheating, logic gets thrown out the window. 

Voices in Our Heads

I’m in the process of studying data science for (crossing fingers) an upcoming career change. It requires that I learn a lot of coding and a lot of math.

It’s the latter that’s been my struggle. Every time I open a book or press play on a video, I hear my middle school math teacher’s voice:

“You’re a smart kid, but you’re just not very good at math.”

It’s been 30 years. I’ve taught math for almost 20 of those. I have exam scores, teaching awards and recognition from the school community to prove those words wrong.

But it’s still not enough to completely silence them.

Because those words came from a trusted and respected person at a pivotal time. I had not yet developed any narrative of my own around my math ability. It was an empty slot in my young brain and so those words easily slid in, like a cartridge in a tape deck. And once they were installed, they became a part of me.

 

We all have those pivotal encounters in our younger years that shape us and stay with us. Whether it’s your parent negatively comparing you to your sibling that leaves you feeling less than, a teacher that makes you question your ability, a pastor that leads you to wonder if you’re broken or a partner that makes you question if you’re lovable.

We’re vulnerable to those messages when we’re young and we haven’t fully settled into ourselves. So we look to those that we hold in esteem to help us figure out who we are.

Sometimes that goes well. I hope everyone can look back and remember that one person (or more) that lifted you up and acted as training wheels for your burgeoning confidence.

And sometimes it doesn’t go so well.

My ex-husband’s voice is still housed in my brain somewhere. I’ve mainly managed to silence it, but if I let my guard down, it likes to speak up.

“You’re impossible to live with, always negative.”

I try to throw counter-evidence at it to beat it into submission. But it’s resistant. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to completely evict it.

Those voices may speak to me.

But I refuse to let them speak for me. 

I will continue to prove them wrong. 

I hope you can do the same with your voices. 

We may not be able to silence them, but we don’t have to give them power to stop us. 

We Didn’t Have a Choice

It’s happened again.

A person who is cheating on their spouse tried to justify their actions to me.

I empathize up to a point.

I mean, marriage can be hard. And we can end up in situations way more complicated and difficult than we ever imagined when we said, “I do.” Situations that don’t always have an easy answer or even an obvious “right” path.

I don’t think that all people who choose to cheat on their partners are evil or completely callous. I get that they have their own pain that they are trying to alleviate.

But no matter how challenging their situation, and no matter how much I can empathize with their pain, I always come back to the same thought –

The betrayed didn’t have a choice.

Nobody asked us if we thought an affair was a reasonable response to the situation. In fact, so often we were kept in the dark so that we were unaware that there even was a situation that needed addressing. We had no say in the choice of the affair partner or the resources (both time and money) that would be reallocated that direction. We were never consulted about the associated health risks of multiple partners or given a choice about protection. We never agreed to be lied to and we certainly didn’t sign up to be gaslighted.

The one who cheated made all of those decisions. Decisions that had a major impact on our lives.

And they did have a choice.

 

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