When my daughter was three years old, I found out that my husband (the love of my life, who was as perfect as a man could ever be in my eyes) was cheating on me. With more than one woman. It shook the foundations of my world, shattered my hopes and dreams, and altered the way I see my husband and my marriage forever.
But I’m not here to talk about the anger, the pain of betrayal, the loss of trust, or the heartbreak that the affairs caused. Instead, I’d like to address the consequences of my husband’s infidelity on my self-esteem. Because when your spouse commits adultery, you could be the most confident, competent, physically attractive, graceful woman, and still feel like the sh*ttiest thing on the planet.
Those self-doubts remained long after the initial shock and animosity wore off.
As my mind tried to make sense of what drove my husband to stray from our marriage, I knew logically there was no one simple explanation for what he’s done. But I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t make me scrutinize every inch of my face, every flaw and imperfection (real or imaginary) a potential source for a nervous breakdown. I looked at my body in the mirror and criticized every part, more than once thinking, “If only I were [younger/sexier/thinner/...fill in the blanks...] then my husband wouldn’t have done what he did.”
Of course the reality is not as clear-cut; it is one that cannot be solved simply by altering one’s physical appearance. But women are bombarded on a daily basis by all the images, ads, and media that often conform to the fashion world’s or Hollywood’s standards. It really is not that difficult to feel insecure about our looks and how it affects our self-image. Not always ideal, but we often measure ourselves by way of comparison.
And boy, there’s nothing like having one’s husband cheat with another woman to bring all those self-doubts flooding back.
At first, the overwhelming anger and the pain of betrayal surpassed any other emotions. It’s when the rage had somewhat calmed down that I struggled. When I failed to make some sense out of what my husband had done, it was easy to start blaming myself and my shortcomings as the reason why he did what he did. If there was any doubt before that I wasn’t good enough, my husband’s affairs made those self-doubts much more real and brought a lot of past insecurities back to the surface.
I haven’t met a woman who did not at least question her physical attractiveness in light of her husband’s infidelity. I truly feel that as women, we place importance on beauty far more than we’d like to admit and it often confuses the way we value ourselves. It actually wouldn’t have mattered how beautiful the other woman is, or we ourselves are. Such comparisons only lead to self-hatred and crush our already bruised egos.
The truth is, regardless of whether or not I had a role in causing my husband to commit adultery, he had a choice to NOT do it.
We all know there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, and the current stats on men cheating (you need only to Google it) are at an all-time high. Yet, there exists that percentage of men who do NOT cheat. And as long as there is still that percentage of men who remain faithful to their wives regardless of their imperfect marriage, those who cheat are responsible for their own action. No amount of beauty, poise, or grace can guarantee a faithful husband nor stop them from making the wrong choice.
Blaming myself or believing myself unworthy because my husband cheated is a moot point, really.
While it’s never a bad thing to want to improve the way we look, especially if it involves taking up healthier habits such as exercising regularly or treating our body with more care, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re doing it for ourselves instead of being driven by self-doubts. And if it’s the relationship that needs a make-over, then make the efforts to improve your marriage without demeaning your worth.
Easier said than done, but just as I need to constantly remind myself, I would like you to remember that even if you are far from perfect, you are more than enough.