2. Don't dig for details. This isn't time to play detective. I know it's a little tough when the man in question publishes a fancy new hardcover book, but it's still possible. I was glad to hear Maria hadn't read his book yet, and, as a coach and fellow survivor, I'm of the opinion that she shouldn't turn a page! Nothing good comes from having uncomfortable visual images rolling around on instant replay in your head. And, without a doubt, when our imaginations go wild, we tend to envision the affair as something far more Hollywood than it really was.
I learned this little lesson the hard way. The wanna-be private detective in me asked and asked again. Weird little details like: How many times? Where exactly? What do you love about her?
The strange, impulsive desire overwhelmed me. I wanted to fight against it, but I just couldn't. What should have been a "need to know" compulsively turned in to a want-to-know obsession that only hurt me. I suffered with this obnoxious rewind button working overtime in my head. Eventually, I learned to hit stop, but I sure wish I didn't push play in the first place.
3. Keep putting the kids first. I would commend Maria for the work she has done to protect her kids and I would exclaim, with all the passion of my heart, "Keep putting them first!" Leave them out of the middle. Their dad messed up, but he's still their dad.
For kids, perception is reality. If you badmouth their dad to them, they feel like you are criticizing their DNA. They are half of him, no matter what. They will always love him, despite the conclusions they will form over time. Yet, when it's all said and done, they will appreciate their mom for taking the higher road.
This one came pretty naturally to me. I'd been a child educator and counselor for years and so I knew the importance of protecting my babes. I did everything in my power to shield them from the grown-ups' messes.
At the same time, I decided I wouldn't hide them from the truth. (After all, the truth always comes out!) They'd know what their dad did (pretty hard to avoid that when the new chick is around) but at the same time, they would never doubt his love for them. From the time they were old enough to ask questions, they were told that their dad made a mistake and that sometimes adults have problems that have nothing to do with the kids.
We've been fortunate that although my ex wasn't a great husband to me, he has been a fantastic dad to them. There's never been an inkling of doubt that they are adored. This love has gotten them through good times and bad while learning remarkable life lessons about forgiveness, humility, and perseverance.
I can only hope that Arnold will be as big a man.
So, to you Maria, and to my fellow members of the Survivors of Infidelity Club (the one you never wanted to be invited to in the first place) I say to you: You will get through this! You will thrive and your kids will be okay.
Just take it a step at a time and know that although you aren't to blame, there is learning in this for you too. And, in the end, you will be a smarter and stronger person who has survived what many minimize, but what those who have lived it know to be one of the hardest things in life.
And, the bonus is, if you're like me, and many of the inspiring and courageous clients I coach, better things are on the way!