It’s very normal to scrutinize your appearance after your spouse cheats or has an affair. We wonder if we are not pretty enough, thin enough, alluring enough, or playful enough. We wonder if the other woman looks better than we do and, as a result, we can be very hard on ourselves.
Worse, in the days after the affair, we often just don’t have the energy to worry about or focus on our appearance. We barely have the energy to function, much less worry about things that are non-essential. And so, we can “let ourselves go” a little at a time when we are overly conscious of the way that we look.
A wife might lament: “I found out that my husband had been cheating on me about four months ago. I asked him to leave. I did not want to see him. Lately, we have been talking but not living together. And this time period has been very lonely and difficult for me. I often walk my dogs in the morning and just think about things. Because I don’t want to go to an empty house, I usually stop at a coffee shop and grab a coffee and danish. I also haven’t made it to the gym in a while because I just do not feel like being around people. As a result, I’ve put on a noticeable amount of weight. This makes me feel even worse about myself. The other day, my husband came over unannounced. I answered the door in no make up and ratty clothing. My husband made small talk with me, but then left shortly afterward. His facial expressions made it pretty clear to me that he was shocked by my appearance. And now this whole thing makes me feel as if I have taken a huge step back.”
I want to suggest that you be more gentle with yourself. As anyone who has had a husband cheat well knows, this is pain unlike any other. This is not a time where you are expected to be at your best. And struggling is absolutely understandable. More than any other time, it is important to be supportive of yourself. Calling yourself a fat pig is not in alignment with this and it is probably not accurate either.
It is also very normal to go on a search for flaws in our appearance and our personality in the hopes that this will tell us everything that we need to know about why our husband cheated on us. Here is what you need to understand about that. The answers don’t lie within us. They lie within him. And nothing in our appearance or personality may have lead to this at all. Men with beautiful, sweet, and supportive wives cheat. And this has nothing to do with the wife.
So if you are looking for a reason, look at him. Not at you. Now, if improving your appearance will make you feel better, than I encourage you to do it. Getting more fit was actually very empowering to me during my recovery. And I have maintained this change in lifestyle because after the boost in my self confidence, I just noticed a huge benefit in stress reduction and a general sense of well being. I feel much worse physically and mentally if I do not work out. I want to keep those benefits going and this doesn’t have much to do with my marriage, but it has a lot to do with me.
And it doesn’t have to be huge changes or efforts that you make at first. You don’t have to take on anything that feels overwhelming. Maybe you just have coffee with skim milk and you skip the danish. Maybe you power walk home from the coffee shop or you extend your walk by a little. I found Yoga and Pilates extremely comforting during my recovery. During that time, I tended to hold so much stress in my shoulders. And I found myself literally stooping and slouching. Yoga and Pilates fixed this problem and strengthened my core so that I had a flat belly for the first time in many years and the stress reduction benefits were enormous. This made a huge difference in how I looked and felt. And I never felt that I was exhausting myself or punishing myself. It felt like a treat for my body, actually. Learning how to lean into my breath and breathe into my pain just released so much tension and let my body relax at a time when it drastically needed this.
But if you are going to make any changes or improvements, do it for you – and for your own self esteem. Do it out of love for yourself, but not out of a desire to change yourself because you think that you are not good enough or quite up to snuff. Because you absolutely are. If you think you could use some improvement in your fitness level, by all means pursue that because there are benefits to this other than just the way you look. But do not beat yourself up or tear yourself down. None of this is your fault.