Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. Confucius.
In 1995, a woman in the city where I live – let’s call her Lucy – who’d been married for 38 years, was dumped by her husband for a younger woman. As with all women of that generation, Lucy had devoted her life to her marriage, family and his career. Distraught by his betrayal and her pain, she shot him six times.
Lucy’s husband recovered and went on to marry his mistress. Lucy was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of temporary insanity and served time in a mental institution. On her release, scorned by society and abandoned by many of her former friends, she struggled to rebuild her relationships with her adult children and find a purpose to her life. I’m not sure she ever did, and, sadly, she died within a few years, aged 66.
Twenty years later, after almost exactly the same number of years of marriage, I found myself in the identical situation when my husband left me for a younger woman. Consumed by my own grief and emotional pain, I understood, in a way I never could have before, how and why Lucy did what she did. I even admired her for it.
In those first awful months after he left me, I swung between two fantasies. Ending my pain by taking my own life – that would show him!! – or taking revenge and ruining his – or hers – personally or professionally!
Thank goodness I followed neither of those paths.
As time passed, I realized (as I wish Lucy had) that a man who treats you like like that isn’t worth it. (No matter how much you love(d) him or how many years you’ve been married.)
I repeat – a man who treats you like that ISN’T WORTH IT!
And neither is his mistress.
My husband and his mistress had, I believed, ruined my life, my sense of myself and self-worth. Had I followed through with either of those ‘fantasies’ the one person who would have been hurt the most, would have been me. (Closely followed by my kids.)
I couldn’t – couldn’t – let that happen, because if I went down either of those destructive paths, he would have won in utterly destroying ‘me’.
I only had to look at the difference between Lucy and her ex-husband’s obituaries to see that. His lauded all his wonderful accomplishments, both professionally and in the charity world – accomplishments Lucy had supported and encouraged. Her obituary? The first thing after her name was the crude nickname she’d been given by the press and the details of her crime.
Did – do – I want my life to be defined by my husband’s betrayal and the failure of my marriage?
Or do I want to rise – stronger than before?
Do I want to rediscover ‘me’?
George Herbert said, Living Well Is The Best Revenge. I both agree and disagree with that sentiment.
Disagree in that it assumes the other person gives a s—t about you and your future!
Agree in that – hard to believe when you’re in the middle of the emotional agony – you’ve been given second chance.
Finding ‘you’ again, finding purpose, joy and meaning will take a lot – a lot – of hard work.
It’ll take time.
It’ll take learning to believe in your own worth and value.
Please persevere… even in the darkest of moments.
Try not to obsess about him. About her. About them together. Difficult at the best of times – absolutely impossible in those early days.
Surround yourself with family. With friends. Let their support and love help heal you.
Go in search of the ‘you’ that got lost in your marriage.
Life will get better.
You will get stronger.
Yes, there will still be times, even years later, when grief intrudes, but your ex is not worth the pain of wasting any more of your life on him.
I wish Lucy could have known that.