Affair Help for Thanksgiving
The darker, colder days brought by winter can undoubtedly make it harder to cope with the sense of loss, depression and helplessness when an affair has affected your life. When national holidays like Thanksgiving come around, it can be a further painful hurdle to negotiate.
It’s not surprising that Thanksgiving can be incredibly difficult to cope with after your relationship has been detonated by an affair. It’s easy to idealize your memories of past Thanksgivings, focusing more on the rosy glow of the memories than on any upset that might have been present in reality. You might even feel that being with an abusive, manipulative cheater would be better than being alone.
However hard it is to accept, the Days of Thanksgiving Present and Future aren’t going to be the same as your Days of Thanksgiving Past. And that might be a good thing.
It’s natural to feel nostalgia and warmth for happier times, especially when days of national celebration mark the occasion for you: It’s easy to forget the tensions, the lack of being valued, and the problems that were part of your relationship during past Thanksgivings, and in general.
This rosy retrospection can be magnified by images of ‘happy families’ on television etc, and it’s all too easy to let sentiment smudge away the harsher edges of the reality of Thanksgivings gone by.
It’s tempting to put aside the issues that come with infidelity when you’re feeling lost, lonely, and rejected. Being in an intact relationship -regardless of the issues- can feel more important in the moment than issues of safety, respect, and value.
When you’re tempted to wish back the relationship that included gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, deceit … and screwing someone else behind your back, remember how you felt when it all exploded in your face. Don’t wish that back for yourself. Don’t wish back the doubt, the tears, the feeling of wanting to vomit with upset, or the constant obsession with whether your cheater is being honest with you … this time.
Don’t wish for yourself a Thanksgiving where you share your spouse with someone else, where time with family is given to the affair partner, even if it is just a single text message. Don’t wish for yourself that feeling of not being good enough, that sense of being totally valueless to your cheater, or that gnawing doubt about your whole history. Don’t wish for dysfunction as the price of company.
Remember what the affair highlighted about your cheater. Remember that your equilibrium, your worth, and your contentment should not be contingent on their willingness to behave ethically towards you.
Don’t Make Comparisons
When you see couples together going about their business, seemingly perfectly happy, that stab of longing and jealousy you feel is being fueled by your comparison between your circumstance and the story you’ve imagined for these strangers.
Comparing your current situation to your selective memories of your past, and the fiction you’ve conjured up for other people, feeds negative thinking and self-pity. It can lead you to disaster thinking where you tell yourself that you’re going to be unloved forever, alone forever, and miserable forever. However much your misery wants you to believe the worst, your future can be happy, fulfilled, and fun … if you choose it for yourself.
Instead of comparing what you have today with what you think you deserve, focus instead on areas of your life that nobody else can take away from you.
Rewrite the Story
Finding ways to mitigate what you’ve lost with what you could gain is a way to move yourself forward from misery into a more positive mindset. Yes, you might not be able to spend Thanksgiving with your children and that is distressing. You could choose to be miserable, sitting alone in tears, wallowing and jealously imagining the wonderful time that they’re having without you. Or … you could make excited plans with your kids where they get to have TWO Thanksgivings, and you get to plan your own celebrations with them, building new traditions for your new life.
When you find yourself negatively comparing your life to strangers or TV fiction, rewrite the idyllic story you’ve created about them. Rather than imagining them as perfectly happy, and perfectly in love, and destined to grow old together in a warm glow of setting sunshine, have some fun creating a new tale for them. Maybe they’re in a marriage of convenience where he’s after her money? Perhaps she’s secretly plotting her escape because he’s a controlling miser who supervises every cent she spends? They could be spies who hate each other, but who are thrust into a sting where they have to pretend that they’re in love when really they want to set each others hair on fire? Or maybe, more realistically, they just had a massive fight and would rather be anywhere than together, but the family is coming over for Thanksgiving, so they’ve put on their best fake happy faces …
Other people’s lives are never as rosy in reality as we imagine them to be. In all likelihood, your past wasn’t as rosy as the picture you’ve painted for yourself either.
Change it Up
Celebrate the relationships that you do have, with people who value you and treat you accordingly. Find the good things in your life, reasons to laugh, love and be happy in the moment; write them down and tack them to the fridge if it helps you … and know that life is only wholly miserable if you make it that way. Enjoy what is good in your life, and know that singledom isn’t a curse unless you choose it to be. Decide not to desiccate into a pinched, unpleasant, ‘life’s-not-fair’, affair ‘survivor’. Be more.
Instead of wishing for your idealized version of Thanksgiving Past, perhaps there are ways to make new new traditions, or to focus on something other than what you’ve lost? Videos like this from Molo Nation might inspire you to do something new this year:
Your cheater cannot rob you of your love of life unless you help them do it.
“Thanksgiving reminds us that no matter what befalls us in life, we can take the charred remnants and we can reconstruct a life unimaginably richer than that from which the shards and pieces fell.”
~ Craig D Lounsbrough
Wishing you a peaceful, positive and mellow Thanksgiving.
(This article was originally published 26 November 2014.)