I’m so happy to share some insight into my life lessons — some sad, many fun — throughout the next few months. But what I want most is to (hopefully) inspire you.
In 2010, I had everything I had always wanted. I had been happily married to my husband for nearly a decade. Because we had struggled with infertility for several years, we had a profound appreciation for our adorable twin sons, Jax and Jaid.
I was watching an entertainment show about Sandra Bullock and her unfaithful husband, and I thought, “How did she not know?” Well, it happens. In fact, it happened to me. And I had absolutely no idea.
You see, I thought I had won the lotto in husbands. Caring? Check. Attentive? Check. Loyal? Well, un-check. It only took one text message to change my life. That’s when I discovered my loving husband had been unfaithful. His infidelities ended our marriage.
The shock was like a freight train hitting me. The pain was unimaginable. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to exit my body like a character in a cartoon. I had so many questions. What happens next? Do I stay for the sake of the kids? Do I stay because, well, that’s what some women do? And oh my God, what do I do with all of this anger?
This wasn’t my first rodeo. Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to divorce. My parents split up when I was 3 years old, and I lived with my mother. (In those days, you lived with one parent, and I didn’t see my dad throughout most of my childhood.)
Then, my first marriage to Oliver’s father didn’t work out. But I still clung to my dream of having an intact family. I wanted it more than anything. I realized part of my self-esteem was tied to being a wife. But ultimately, I made the decision to leave my marriage. It was especially tough because I adored the idea of a whole family — but I love my children way more than I hate his betrayal.
With the help of therapy, time and some books that gave me the courage to face my pain, I found a way to cope with my divorce. More importantly, my ex and I put our love for our children above everything else. We have even come to a place where we can hang out together with our boys to make sure they have a solid, stable upbringing.
It hasn’t been easy. I repeat — not easy. And I admit that at first, my rage threatened to break my spirit. You may have heard about the angry email I fired off to some of his colleagues and friends of ours. (I did it hours after I found out the truth, and I never expected it to leak to the press. But in the digital age, I guess nothing is private. Lesson learned.)
After that, strangers — women and even some men — approached me in public. They told me I was so strong. But I didn’t want to hear that I was strong because I felt like it negated my pain. And pain overwhelmed me.
Adultery is the ultimate deal-breaker for me. I would rather be alone than in a relationship that doesn’t honor me. My mom had taught me to be strong. I come from a long line of women who can hold a grudge — and if my ex and I didn’t have children together, he would be dead to me! I joke, but this was one dysfunctional family tradition I had the power to break.
First, I had to mourn for the marriage I thought I had. My wonderful family and friends were there for me and did everything in their power to distract me from my sadness with hundreds of bottles of wine, spa days, and girls’ nights out.
I will appreciate them forever for taking such good care of me, but I knew that the only way to get better was to endure the rollercoaster of emotions that came with the situation.
So I got myself some excellent therapy. And I read a lot of helpful books. When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd taught me how to be still.
Being still was the hardest thing for me. It meant that I had to feel, that I had to cry. This book gave me permission to sob so much that my stomach hurt. On the bright side, those crying sessions were some of the most intense workouts I ever had in my life!
In Linda Salazar’s Awaken the Genie Within, she wrote, “Forgiveness is about you, not the other person.” That was the hardest thing for me. Usually, I associate forgiveness with forgetting and lessening my hurt. (Remember, I wanted to hang on to my pain. It was all I knew.)
As it turns out, forgiveness helped me. I had to forgive him, but I also had to absolve myself for not seeing the warning signs; for choosing this man. Achieving forgiveness lifted an enormous weight off of my shoulders. It made me light in the best way.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship was another great read. It taught me to own my life and take control. I was especially struck by this advice of his: “Heal your half and you’re going to be happy. If you can heal that part of you then you’re going to be ready for a relationship without fear, without need. You can only heal your half.”
The profound words helped me take responsibility for myself. Divorce isn’t one-sided, and I am by no means perfect. Becoming accountable for my role in the relationship was very empowering.
After doing all this work on myself, something miraculous happened. I found my strength. I found my voice. I found the real me that I hadn’t realized was lost.
With time, I have learned to peacefully and actively co-parent for the sake of our sons. It helps that my ex is avery loving and devoted dad. We share custody 50/50, and that was a real struggle for me. I adore my boys and want to see their sweet faces every day.
One day, Jaid said to me, “Mommy, when I’m with Daddy, I miss you, and when I’m with you, I miss Daddy.” It broke my heart. That’s why we spend time jointly with our boys.
We throw them birthday parties together. We both go to their karate lessons and soccer games. (Now we even sit next to each other — something I wasn’t able to do when things first fell apart. You see? Progress!)
It can take years to recover from a divorce. I still have times when I struggle with the hurt of everything that happened. But my kids are my reason for working so hard to get to the other side of this. They inspire me every day.
My ex and I put our boys first. When you have a lot of love from both of your parents, you feel confident. We’re both there for them. When I look at the boys, I know they’re okay and that’s the most important thing. They’re okay.
I hope that other moms out there who are coping with a similar situation are finding peace and enjoying their children. Please share your stories with me in the comments.
– Garcelle Beauvais http://celebritybabies.people.com