I often hear from wives who feel very insecure and jealous after their husband’s affair. This jealousy is not always limited to just the other woman in the affair. Much to her surprise, the wife can find herself jealous of numerous people, even if she is not jealous or envious by nature. This may be because her perception of herself (and of the world around her) has been rocked by the affair.
She might say, “I am not a jealous person by nature, but since my husband had an affair six months ago, I find my nasty, jealous side coming out. Unfortunately for me, the other woman is everything that I am not. She is high maintenance and well put together. She dresses to the nines and is friends with botox. I am a very casual person who wears minimal make up. Exercise is important to me so I do stay in very good shape, but I am not someone who is going to attempt to look a runway model if I am only going to the grocery store. I have a family and a job, so I try to look presentable, but I have other things to worry about. However, since my husband’s affair, I have now started to pay close attention to my appearance. I notice I have wrinkles and am starting to develop jowls. I have tried dressing better, but I feel kind of silly and I’m definitely uncomfortable. If I am in a grocery store and I see a well-put together, pretty woman, then I immediately feel that her life is better than mine and I wonder if she is the type of woman my husband would go for if he cheated again. I also find myself jealous of women who either never had children or who don’t put their children first. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I sometimes feel like my staying home with my kids and my putting my kids first has made me less interesting to my husband and just less appealing in general. I am jealous of career women who can do nothing but enjoy themselves on the weekends or who have spa days. I would never think of doing either. Lately, I am pretty much jealous of anyone who isn’t me. I feel like a huge, unattractive loser at times.”
I can totally identify with what you are saying. I went through the same set of feelings. I will share some things that ultimately helped me over time. Immediately after my husband’s affair, I truly felt hideous. I became so critical of myself and I had some of the same feelings about the fact that I had focused on motherhood. One day I was talking with a friend of mine who is childless and I confessed about how much I envied her. Then she admitted that she envied ME because she could see how much love I had for my children and vice verse. She said that she was jealous that for my entire life, I would have two other people in the world that I loved more than life itself. This was going to be true no matter what happened with my marriage or in other areas of my life. My friend said that no one could ever take motherhood away from me, or my love for (and from) my children. I could not argue with this. Then my friend insisted that I underestimated my looks. She said that sure, I wasn’t always heavily made up, but I had a natural beauty that didn’t require heavy use of cosmetics to enhance it. I appreciated this, but didn’t always believe it.
Then, a few weeks later, something very sad happened. For about 20 years, I had this ultra competitive relationship with a friend from high school, who later went to the same college as I did. This woman was so accomplished and talented. We often competed for the same internships, jobs, etc. She almost always beat me. She never had kids and traveled the world, which was something I really wanted to do, but knew I might never have the opportunity considering my obligations. Anyway, we had a sort of love / hate relationship. My admiration of her made me see what I didn’t have. I spent a lot of time being envious and thinking that she had it all – until she got very sick. The point that I am trying to make is that you never know what life is going to bring at you. Those people in the grocery store who you assume have it all may have a sick parent at home. Or they may go home to an empty house and watch TV alone. Things are not always as they appear. Someone may always appear to have it better than you. But likewise, someone will always have it worse than you.
I learned to begin to appreciate what I had. Sure, I had some wrinkles. But I was otherwise healthy. Yes, I had prioritized my children and there were some sacrifices with that, but isn’t that true of anything worthwhile? At the same time, I did make some changes that increased my confidence level. I did change my hair, fixed my teeth, and enhanced my wardrobe. I gave myself permission to take better care of myself and to carve out some time (and maintenance expenses) just for me. I decided that a happier mom was going to mean happier children. At the same time, I was very careful to make sure that I wasn’t just chasing an idea of how I thought I should look. I focused on what I truly liked and not on what I thought my husband would like. I also took some classes and eventually began to pursue my own work. That way, if my marriage did not survive, I could have the confidence that I’d be all right.