Today as I was making my usual rounds – checking out posts on the SI forum and reading some of my favorite blogs – I came across something that really resonated with me. One blogger, Repairing Shattered Pieces, responded to a question she found in a forum – Is infidelity the worst thing (pain) you’ve ever experienced in your life thus far? Her response expresses exactly how I feel. I couldn’t figure out how to re-blog her post since she uses a different blogging platform from me. But I really wanted to post a link to it because it is very powerful. Here it is: Is This the Worst Pain You Have Ever Felt? I agree with her that infidelity is the worst hurt I have ever experienced.
My last post was about the pain I still feel over the death of my grandfather (See Remembering Pa). It is obvious that I still have a lot of sadness and a mix of other emotions regarding his death. I feel a great sense of loss. And even though I knew he was very sick and would probably pass away soon, the sudden fall was unexpected and traumatic. Still, death is a part of life that we know is coming and that we prepare for, in some ways, our entire lives. We can understand death as part of the natural cycle of life. Death happens to everyone – no one can escape it.
On the other hand, my husband’s infidelity is something I never saw coming. I wasn’t anticipating that the person who I loved and who professed to love me more than anything or anyone else in the world would betray me. I was under the impression that he was just as faithful and committed to the relationship as me. It was shocking when I realized that wasn’t true. And it is something that many people never have to experience. I envy them.
Death hurts, we grieve, and we do carry the loss of important people with us forever. At the same time, though, we have all of the positive memories about that person to help us through. I have the legacy of strength, perseverance, and deep love that my grandfather exuded every day and passed on to me. He left a void in my life when he died, but he also gave me so many more things that I will carry with me forever. His death is painful, but it is a pain that is tinged with happiness. When I think of my grandpa the hurt of his death tugs at me, but it is tempered with good feelings, gratefulness over the time we had, and the knowledge that he isn’t hurting anymore.
By comparison the pain of infidelity is fierce and brutal. There are no good feelings or happiness associated with it. In fact, it tears at the positive memories. It distorts the good times. It taints my whole world. Now when I look at pictures of us taken during the time he was cheating, sneaking, lying and breaking promises I don’t see a happy, smiling couple. I see a naïve woman who was being duped by the man next to her. When memories come up of things we did during that time I feel sick that he could act so loving while simultaneously hurting me behind my back. It is devastating, and the hurt doesn’t go away.
Death is world-altering. It removes someone from your life who was very important. But it is also final. The loss puts a period on your relationship with that person. It closes the chapter of your life that they were a part of. That can be very hard, but it also offers closure. In stark contrast, infidelity brings along its friends gaslighting, trickle truth, doubt, and uncertainty. It is also world altering, but in a completely different way. It adds a huge question mark to your relationship. It brings into question all of the chapters of your life that you thought you had right.
Here’s a small example. A few years ago I went on a cruise with my family. While I was gone Mr. Mess told me he was going to a friend’s birthday party. When I asked him how it went he lied to me effortlessly about what happened – saying they just hung out at the friend’s house, got drunk, and all crashed there so no one would have to drive. I discovered the truth 2 weeks later when I got our bank statement that showed he spent over $200 at a strip club that night. After I had already told him how strip clubs made me feel. After he had already agreed not to go to one again. After his 2 month affair that had ended only 7 months earlier. I explained to him then that his lies changed my whole perception of those 2 weeks. The ground shifted under my feet. Every touch, kiss, and “I love you” that I remembered made me feel ill. Because it was all based on his lies. He stole those kisses by being deceitful. He also destroyed the trust in him that I was just starting to build back.
Another big difference is that death is something the other person has no control over. When someone dies it is something that happens to them. In most cases it is not something that they choose. I know that my grandpa’s last few months were really, really hard. It would have been a lot easier for him to give up and accept his fate – to not choose chemo and all of the pain associated with it. But he fought. As much for my grandma and those who loved him as for himself.
A cheater chooses to cheat. They make the decision to betray the one they love. They make a conscious effort to lie, hide, and sneak. They make promises that they have no intention of keeping. They break vows. And the whole time they know that it will hurt the other person. Still, they choose to do it. They pick their own fleeting pleasure over the feelings of the one they purport to love. This is probably the hardest part for me to understand. I was raised to put others first. To love other people with my whole heart. To make sacrifices if needed. The “Golden Rule” is something cheaters disregard completely. The pain they cause hurts all the more because it was intentional.
I can also share the pain of death with others and they can really understand. Everyone has had someone they love die. There is a grieving pattern that is well-documented and socially accepted. There are others that you love who are in the process with you – sisters, brothers, cousins, your mother and father, and all of the family members and friends whose life the deceased has also touched. There is support.
Dealing with infidelity, however, is a very solitary process. You are the only one dealing with the specific pain that your partner has inflicted. Infidelity carries with it a stigma that is completely backwards and lop-sided. Often the person who was cheated on feels embarrassed, shameful, worthless, and discarded. They have to agonize over who to tell and how to tell them. Whether the decision is to stay and work on things or cut that person out of your life there are always people on the other side of the fence who will criticize your decision. People get fed up with hearing about it – they have no sympathy past a certain point. They wonder why you don’t “just get over it,” a sentiment that is not preached at someone who just lost a loved-one.
Thankfully I have found an outlet and a good support system. I have forums, my blog, and an online community of people who know just how difficult this is. I also have outside support from my Mom who is the most level-headed, compassionate person I know. I am getting through this pain. But it is the worst thing I have ever experienced. And it will have a lasting impression on my life. It has shaken my whole world and shattered my perception of myself, my husband, and relationships in general. I am slowing picking up the pieces and finding a way to get through this mess.
- Life After Infidelity (venusgenus.com)
- Marital Infidelity – What Would You do? (marcia-richards.com)
- Preparing for Grief (everydayhealth.com)
- Working through stages can mend betrayal, UT psychologist says (knoxnews.com)