By Lauren Linhard – firstname.lastname@example.org
“You’re a gem. You are a freaking unicorn in a field of horses.”
And with that, Jamie Schafer took another sip of wine and proceeded to flip through her Tinder matches.
It took three months, she said, for the positive thoughts to actually sink in since finding out her boyfriend of four years had been cheating on her for two of them.
No, not just cheating, but also secretly married during the last six months of their relationship. Cue gasp here.
“I did, ironically enough, find his wedding band once, but you’ve been with someone for four years so why would you think the worst?” Jamie said, rolling her eyes at the memory. “It was hooked on his car keys. He said he found it, without flipping out or anything, said he was going to sell it.”
Right, ‘cause that’s totally normal behavior. But besides this particular circumstance, everything was normal. That was the problem.
From the time Jamie and Brandon (or as we refer to him – shitbag) met he was attentive, loyal and wonderful. She was smitten with the handsome, tattooed firefighter from the minute he smiled at her across the bonfire.
He never missed a family vacation, a weekend together or any holiday celebrations. The couple never fought and Jamie was never given a reason not to trust him – shitbag.
It wasn’t until a weekend in February 2015 , that things started to get shady. Brandon was sitting at the dining room table with the Schafer family, talking about the ring he bought Jamie and the house they were about to buy when his phone rang – a call from Lisa; a “friend from the firehouse”.
It wasn’t until the next day, when the radio was giving Jamie some not-so subtle hints – Sam Smith’s song “I Know I’m Not The Only One,” followed by Meghan Trainor’s “Your Lips are Moving” and Carrie Underwood’s “Two Black Cadillacs” were hitting way too close to home. She knew something had to be up.
“I took it as a sign,” Jamie said. “I found her on Facebook – Lisa Shepperd, which is Brandon’s last name – and up popped two years worth of photos of them together. I couldn’t get out of my skin fast enough. I was a mess.”
Between sobbing in the work bathroom, calling her best friend and begging forgiveness from her boss, Jamie immediately deleted Brandon from her social media accounts, her phone contacts and then her life.
Take a deep breath – this isn’t a murder mystery. She didn’t kill him, but she dumped him on the spot as soon as he showed his cheating face. The goal, she said, was to stay strong … and then cry uncontrollable when she got home.
And that’s what she did. For three days she cried and screamed, thankful for the feet of snow outside that kept her from having to go to work.
“You feel like a skeleton, just so empty,” Jamie said. “Meanwhile you’re busy asking yourself how you could have missed something like this. Why wasn’t I worth marrying? What is wrong with me?”
Three months later she finally understands: there is nothing wrong with her. It was Brandon that was the sick one, she said, adding that she now knows anyone would be lucky to marry her.
How she got there:
Letting it out – Crying does not make you weak. Refusing to feel what you are feeling only delays the inevitable breakdown. Dating Brandon, or anyone really, was risky business because he became integrated into Jamie’s life, family and friends. It’s alright to mourn what was taken from you.
Finding a shoulder – Jamie still has texts and letters from friends and family saved to remind her that she has value. It was the late night visits from friends, the crawling into bed with mom (even though she felt too old) and the support from her sorority sisters that got her through the worst days.
Using a mantra – Whenever the emptiness felt suffocating and the negative thoughts started to take over, Jamie would say to herself, “You’re a liar. I’m not going to believe your lies, and I’m not going to entertain those thoughts.” Say it as many times as you need to remind yourself of what is true.
Getting help – You know things are serious when all your therapist can say is “Oh my god” on repeat. Once the initial shock was over though, Jamie was glad to have someone who could talk her through the mental minefield that had become her life. Now on the other side, Jamie said she is stronger for facing things head on than burying the experience.
Just doing you – If you want a tattoo, get it. If you want to go on a trip, do it. If you want to have sex with a bunch of people, go for it … just use protection and get checked regularly. Jamie bought the jeep she has always wanted, booked a tattoo appointment and is going on her first trip to Disney World. Remind yourself what having fun really is.