Dear Neil: Can you help me let go of my love for my ex-husband? When I finally discovered that he had been having not one, but two affairs with women along his mailman route, I honestly felt like my world collapsed.
Can you help me understand why someone would need to do that? He portrayed to our friends that he was happily married and was always telling people how lucky he was to have married me, how proud he was of me, what a great step-mom I was, etc.
I still miss him and his kids, and I feel overwhelmed with sadness. I keep reliving tender moments, and I can’t seem to let go of the pain. Shouldn’t the postal service be told of his escapades?
Hurting in Seattle
Dear Hurting: Some men are philanderers. Philanderers believe that a man has no way other way to prove that he’s a man except by sleeping with lots of women. So women are treated as if they’re replaceable and exchangeable.
This behavior has nothing to do with you. There is no way you could have given to him more—or nurtured him sufficiently—that he wouldn’t have wanted to stray, insists author Frank Pittman. He says to change philandering requires more than just stopping extramarital sex. It means living by a different code of honesty.
Sooner of later, most of us learn the painful truth that it takes two people to say “yes” to a relationship, but only one to say “no.”
Here’s what you can do to let go of your ex-husband and make peace with what has happened. Thoroughly explore the following questions:
- What did you gain by being in the relationship? How are you richer, wiser or better because of the relationship? How have you grown because of the experience? Which traits, skills or abilities did you discover about yourself by being with your ex?
- What were your mistakes in the marriage? How did you contribute—knowingly or not—to the relationship failing?
- What have you learned? What are the most important lessons you can take from the experience?
- Is there anything you are willing to let go of and forgive your ex-husband for? Anything you’re willing to forgive yourself for?
Relationships teach us some of life’s strongest and most painful lessons. What a painful way to learn that not everyone behaves honorably or is trustworthy. But it is far better to be in your position than in your ex’s position. It’s far better to trust and get burned—than to not trust at all, or to repeatedly violate trust.
There would be no harm in you letting the postal service know what he was doing on his mailman route. But don’t put a lot of time or energy into pursuing this. Your task is to heal, not to stay tied to your past wounds.
The sooner you grieve, the sooner you will be able to get on with your life and build a new dream for yourself. In fact, the healthiest thing you can do is to feel miserable for awhile.
Letting go of the dream we create about a relationship—and about the future—is a whole lot harder than letting go of the person.
Learn how to trust again. Life is about falling down and getting back up again.