One of the first pieces of advice I received from another betrayed spouse was to start a gratitude journal. She told me to write down three things at the end of each day that I am thankful for in my life. I didn’t start the journal but valued the advice. Months later when I went to my first support group meeting I was advised, once again, to journal this experience and write down three things to be grateful for every day. I wonder why the number three? Is it not enough to be grateful for one or two things each day? Is four too many?
I had a “friend” post her gratitude list one by one on Facebook every day during the month of November. While I saw the value in her life of expressing thanks, I was annoyed at how happy she was with her life. I was about six weeks from my D-Day and couldn’t see much to be grateful for in my life—and sure as hell, I didn’t want to read about her bountiful life each day. I avoided Facebook for the month of November.
As far as I was concerned, it was obvious what I was thankful for in my life. My kids, my family, our health… I could add to the list but you’ll probably stop reading. I look back at the first few months after D-Day and imagine my list at the end of each day would be a record of each of my children’s names. I was grateful for my children. They saved me from drowning in the quicksand of hate, self-pity and fear. My D-Day was in September—which may have been a blessing in disguise. School had just begun and the flurry of a new school year kept me going when all I wanted to do was die. I discovered the affair around 3 a.m. and at 7:00 a.m. I had to drive my son to his soccer game. On top of that, it was my turn to bring oranges for the team. There I stood in my kitchen that morning with an 8” chef’s knife slicing oranges into wedges. I couldn’t let the soccer team down. I wasn’t going to miss his game. Ironically, it was a miserable game and his team lost for the first time in a year. My kids gave me a reason to keep living.
Sometimes I get caught up in a thought that has no significance or meaning. I was in the car last week, feeling sorry for myself and allowing the pain to cascade down in a barrage of thoughts. One of those stupid thoughts:
She took that from me. The purity of my marriage, the totality of my love, a part of my husband I cannot get back.
I call it a stupid thought because it’s not true. I had to stop the thought and remind myself she stole nothing from me. My husband never stopped loving me—in fact, our love is stronger now than ever before. My love for him has been proven to be stronger than I ever knew. And the part of my husband she had—she can keep because it wasn’t him. She asked him to be someone he wasn’t and she only got him to do it through lies, manipulation and deceit. If their relationship had been based on mutual attraction, true friendship and respect then I would have to accept and validate what they shared. This is not the case for us—and I am grateful. [Crap. Sorry, I promised I wouldn’t make you read a list.]
Lesson learned. The power of our thoughts is more controlling than we know. The further I get on the calendar from my D-Day, the more I recognize how his affair didn’t take anything from me. Sometimes I slyly grin and revel in our love now. Isn’t it so much better to love someone in spite of their mistakes and faults? Isn’t it so much richer to feel love from someone who understands the value of you, life and love? Last week I read an article about how to have a happy marriage. [Btw, there was no mention in the article that infidelity negates a happy marriage.] A contributor to the article wrote about accepting that the average human life spans 77 years. That translates to 77 summers, 77 Christmas mornings, 77 winters, etc… And if you are lucky enough to be married for 50 years… you can do the math. At the end of my life I don’t want to regret lost time. I want to be grateful for the years and moments we spent together. I don’t want to waste a moment.
I am not sure I would have done this soul-searching at this point in my life if it wasn’t for my husband’s [stupid] affair. Life is so busy when you work, have three kids and are involved in the community. Before the affair and while it was going on, it was too easy for both of us to ignore what we were grateful for in life. We probably should have been making these “gratitude” lists since day one of our marriage. I realize that when I identify what I am thankful for in my life, those facets prosper and blossom.
I haven’t yet started my gratitude journal but I am consciously aware of what is good in my life. Not only am I aware of it but I am sharing this happiness with the people I love. The path isn’t always perfect but I am happier now than before. I am listening to the whispers within my heart and living more authentically.
You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.
Sarah Ban Breathnach