A spouse’s reaction to suspected infidelity can leave one wondering if they are imagining things after being informed they are misinterpreting a casual friendship.
People may overlook tell-tale signs to keep the status quo, avoid acknowledging adultery and divorce or because they have been put down so many times, making it difficult to differentiate fact from fiction.
In Serena’s case, her philandering spouse put the blame on her, saying she was not trusting him.
Serena had a baby and a toddler and felt as if something was not quite right in her marriage.
Her husband John, was between jobs and Serena thought getting him some paid handyman work would be beneficial.
Her friend was opening a bookshop and required assistance in painting, putting up shelves and so forth. John later told his wife that her friend yelled at him and helping her was not a good experience. He became more distant and pursued activities late into the night, such as “skiing under a full moon” (five nights in a row). She asked if he was seeing someone and he accused her of being too controlling.
Then John asked for a short trip as his birthday present – by himself. He also wanted to take it a month before his birthday over Valentine’s Day weekend.
Being sleep deprived contributed to her not getting to the bottom of this bizarre behaviour.
Two months later John asked “How would you feel if I was interested in someone else? Could we still be married if I slept with her?”
Serena answered “No, that doesn’t work for me.” John said “okay.” Serena said she wondered why she did not take those questions as a clue.
The holy woman from India, Amma G, had been Serena’s spiritual guide for over a decade. Amma G did a blessing for the family and her husband felt badly and came clean. He had watched Serena going down a dark tunnel before this and told her about having an affair with her friend. A shocked Serena thanked her husband for revealing this and said “now I know what I have to do.”
She called this friend at her shop and said that she would be there soon. Her friend was giggly, nervous and refused to make eye contact. Serena told her that she knew about their affair and stated “I need you to leave my family alone. Don’t you ruin our lives.”
Serena learned through this experience to stand up for herself. She also took the high road and did not report the affair to the other woman’s husband.
Serena said that she felt betrayed by them both with this double whammy. The rug was pulled out from under her and she hit rock bottom.
She realized that she could lose her job if she did not get help. She went into survival mode and was not capable of doing all of the necessary daily tasks. Serena did not cook for months and took the kids to Whole Foods five days a week. Her therapist said not to feel bad because Serena was providing nutritious food. Serena said that she “feared so much” and did not want to show that mummy was struggling.
Serena found that having a therapist who gave unconditional support was critical for getting through divorce.
There was a period during the divorce when Serena was clinically depressed, but refused pharmaceuticals. After barely being above water, Serena gave anti-depressants a go and was amazed at the difference in her life. She was so grateful for this major positive change.
This was for short-term and she needed that boost to feel better. At a retreat, Serena went off the medication and still felt great. On her return, Serena called her doctor, who agreed to taper her off these pills.
Serena said that exercise helped her to feel so much better, including stabilizing her emotional state. She felt much depleted, so having good nutrition helped her get back on track.
She eventually started cooking again, especially comfort foods like chicken noodle soup. Having a close circle of friends was supportive, but they did not know what to do or say. Serena learned to make the first move and makes a meal now for friends who are in a trauma.
Serena was getting validation from others who told her that she was looking so much better. The outer world was seeing a composed Serena when internally she thought she was a mess. This enabled her to realize that she really was getting better. Serena said it is like building muscle – you do not notice it at first and then you feel it.
People reflected back to her that she seemed better, which was like building that muscle and she felt the positive change. Meditation was invaluable during this turbulent time even if for only ten minutes. She learned to honour herself and built treats into her schedule.
Two years after Serena confronted her former friend regarding the affair, she had a strong feeling to return. Serena told this woman that she forgave her. She also stated that she is a much stronger woman and her life is better now. Serena felt it was time to get this episode over completely and closed this chapter of her life.
Serena went from being withdrawn and sad to vivacious, and enjoying life.
(There’s an interivew with Dr Bisbey on “Can a marriage survive infidelity?” You can watch it here – after-the-affair)
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).
Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.
She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.