Straight Talk Blog

The Scar Has Meaning

The Scar Has Meaning

By Anonymous

As a psychology major, I learned about the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — but I thought they only affected those experiencing a death or terminal illness. Was I wrong!

Three days before Christmas in 2008 I discovered my husband was gay and had been picking up men online. When I saw the emails between him and other men arranging to meet for sex, I was stunned. This couldn’t be true. Not my husband — the minister’s son, the man I married for life thirty-seven years before.

I immediately descended into denial until I became curious to know more. Soon the evidence was bigger than my ability to deny it. I felt as if I had a hole in my chest where my heart should have been.

Then logic took over. I became a detective and gathered evidence while he was at work. Anger set in and every shred of information I found fueled the inferno inside me. Initially, I could keep the hurt and sadness away by keeping busy. But when my head hit the pillow, my brain let all the feelings rush back in, and they were overwhelming.

Over the next few months, I went through the motions of daily life, pretending to my husband that all was well when I was seeing a counselor and consulting an attorney to help me prepare to ask for a divorce. His behavior was escalating, and I feared if I didn’t get out, I would be sucked into the abyss with him.

Once I confronted my husband, he initially admitted parts of the truth. But later he tried to gaslight me and deny what I knew was true. He moved in with a friend because it was “too hard to be with me.” Later I learned the friend was one of his online hook-ups.

My feelings didn’t matter. I married with an expectation of joint honesty, respect, and trust; in actuality I’d spent over half my life on a one-sided relationship. I’d encouraged his career, giving up any opportunity for a career for myself. When I learned the truth, I felt stupid and gullible.

I never tried to bargain with him. The situation had deteriorated too far to be salvaged. He tried to bargain to have the best of both worlds. By this time, I had shared my situation with my sister and a few close friends, had been seeing a counselor for a few months and retained an attorney. I felt confident enough to refuse his offer of staying married but living apart.

I never sank into the pit of full-blown depression, but I was at a point somewhere between there and sadness. I felt unloved and manipulated. I’d been his “beard,” making him socially acceptable while he led his secret life. Humiliation didn’t begin to describe how it felt to explain the situation to my counselor, my doctor and especially to my family. Our children were grown, and this was supposed to be time for us again. Now there was only me — feeling furious, worthless, and empty. At a point in my life where I’d finally begun to feel good about myself, the rug slipped out from under me, and my universe splintered into pieces. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I couldn’t focus or concentrate. My favorite pastimes became chores. And because he had found someone else to share his future with, I felt discarded — like a toy once desired then casually tossed aside.

My counselor recommended a local divorce recovery program, and it reintroduced me to the stages of grief. Life as I’d known it had died along with my dreams for the future. The facilitators helped me work through them to emerge as a whole person.

I also had a good glimpse into life’s rearview mirror and realized I’d ignored myself to the point of disappearing.

Through that program, my closest friends, and organizations like OurPath, I learned I wasn’t the shrew my husband declared me to be. I was a loving and giving person. I also discovered I had a backbone. I began to feel empowered and to believe in myself again. After completing the program, I reached a sense of acceptance.

I couldn’t accept my husband’s behavior, but I could accept that our marriage was over, and I had a future as a single person.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” In hindsight, fear was what most consumed my thoughts. How would I manage financially, physically, and emotionally if I divorced my husband? How could I manage as a middle-aged divorcee when every moment was filled with overwhelming dread of the great unknown? Day by day I learned how.

I’ve been divorced now for twelve years. I learned how to go from married to single, from together to alone. I made new friends who understood the pain of betrayal and accepted me wherever I was in the grief process.

I’m a great believer in the power of words, so I will end with these. With time, wounds will heal, but there will be a scar. That scar means you survived.


3 responses to “The Scar Has Meaning”

  1. Diana says:

    You story hits home . I wonder if you might be available to talk . I could use a friend right now.

  2. Jocelyne Tufts says:

    Your story is so similar to mine .I still grieve after 25 years.
    What makes the wound even deeper is that my ex quickly found a partner who is very obviously taking advantage of him.
    I thank God for my wonderful children.The one good thing to come out of this marriage

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