My son has always needed to know what’s coming next. When he was little we had to literally give him a step-by-step agenda of where we were going, what we were doing, and how long we’d be there. He needed the comfort of knowing what to expect. If he didn’t have that assurance he was an anxious emotional wreck. As parents, we figured out pretty quickly that the key to a smooth trip was to ensure that he knew the plan.
My son gets it honest. I, too, am a planner. I like to know what’s coming next. There is a genuine comfort in that so it helped me be patient with my son. I understood the anxiety he experienced because I, too, experienced it. Honestly, I’m not sure where that trait came from, but it’s something I’ve had to develop creative coping mechanisms to manage.
This trait was not my friend during my affair recovery. In fact, it became one of my biggest challenges. Living in a state of obscurity whenever I looked to the future was not a life I enjoyed living. What would my future look like? How will I tell the kids if he leaves? What if we work it now and he cheats on me again? What will my life look like if I end up divorced? So many questions. The uncertainty was, at times, paralyzing.
Looking back, I see the unhealthy coping mechanisms I developed around this uncertainty. Because that uncertainty made me feel extreme discomfort, I resorted to keeping myself in a state of unhappiness to counterbalance it. Here is an example:
Staying married was risky because I had no guarantee that my husband would be faithful to me or that our marriage could survive it. But, I stayed because I loved him and I wanted to say I gave my all. However, in staying, the uncertainty of that decision made my life challenging as I tried to actually live into the role of a wife trying to heal her marriage. Moments with my husband that had the potential to be good and happy moments, triggered the uncertainty within me. Is this real? Is it safe to be happy? What if I show joy in this moment and he sees this as permission to stop working on our marriage? Even in the simple joyous moments, I struggled and as I did I chose to be unhappy instead of leaning into uncertainty.
Have you done this? Have you denied yourself happiness in a moment because you fear the uncertainty of leaning into a moment of joy with your spouse? Has the fear of an uncertain future, whether it be to stay in or leave your marriage, led you to choose to remain in pure unhappiness because uncertainty is just too scary to contemplate?
I was definitely unhappy at times during my affair recovery. Staying married to the man who betrayed you while healing from an affair is not for the light-hearted and certainly not something that brings about many moments of joy (at least during the early stages of recovery). But, I was never truly unhappy with my choice to stay. I knew that was the right choice for me. But, it was those day-to-day moments with my husband and family. Those opportunities to laugh and enjoy being with them. That was when the uncertainty showed its ugly head. That was when I decided that I’d rather just choose to be unhappy at the moment rather than deal with the uncertainty of what may lie beyond this moment.
I wonder how many moments I wasted doing that. How many precious moments with my husband? With my children? Just wasted. All because I was scared of what may come next. It was uncomfortable. So, I sacrificed my own happiness instead. But, over time, I decided that I no longer wanted an uncertain future to control my present. So, I leaned into it. I let it challenge me, push me, and mold me. This was how I grew. This was how I healed.
If you are working through affair recovery right now and you are choosing unhappiness over uncertainty, I’d like to challenge you to lean into the uncertainty. Consider the discomfort of the uncertainty as a way life is stretching you, molding you, and shaping you for the days to come. We often shy away from discomfort, but discomfort typically means we are stressed so that we can become stronger. I did this. I leaned into the discomfort. And, I’m stronger for it. Am I still anxious about an uncertain future? Yes, at times I am. But I don’t need the agenda anymore. I am able to be joyous in the moment regardless of an uncertain future. Are you ready to try?