This article is about surviving infidelity when you’re the wronged partner or spouse. I’ve written it especially for you if you’ve only just discovered the betrayal. And I’m assuming it was a total shock to you.
Are you having an affair?
How you deal with infidelity as the betrayed person depends, without a doubt, on whether the affair has finished or not. Suspecting that your partner is (still) seeing that other woman or man is an awful place to be.
If that’s happening to you, my best advice is to sit back and wait! Calmly keep an eye out for the signs of infidelity. Amass enough evidence before you challenge your partner. He or she may otherwise try to convince you that you are the one with the problem. How dare you not trust them!
Only when you’re sure your partner isn’t still cheating on you can you really start your recovery. Surviving infidelity means getting back in the driving seat of your life again – making decisions (in good time) and healing.
How to survive the initial crisis after your partner has owned up or been found out
Now, let’s talk about how to survive the initial crisis after your partner has owned up or been found out.
How to recognize a normal reaction after being emotionally traumatized
When you’re dealing with the fall-out of your partner’s affair, it will help you to know which perfectly normal reactions and feelings you can expect.
These will depend somewhat on whether or not the discovery of your partner’s disloyalty came as a shock. You could, after all, have been suspicious for some time.
See how much of the following applies to you. And be reassured that you’re not alone!
10 Normal reactions after discovering your partner is/has been having an affair
1. You feel shocked – as if the rug has been pulled from under your feet. That can happen even if you only suspect there’s something going on.
2. You have trouble thinking, concentrating and retaining information.
3. You feel a deep sense of loss – the loss of security, trust, your relationship as it used to be and the partner you thought you knew.
4. You cry at the drop of a hat – you may think that you’re never going to get over it.
5. You spot ‘reminders’ of the history of your relationship everywhere whilst you get on with your daily tasks on autopilot.
6. You feel like everything is too much of an effort – you haven’t got a clue where to even start when it comes to surviving infidelity.
7. You feel consumed by a sense of hurt and anger, and a deep sense of betrayal.
8. You avoid people who you don’t want to have to tell about the affair.
9. You feel irritated and angry with ‘trivia’; everything is too much of an effort.
10. You feel tired all the time and have sleep problems as you can’t get thoughts of your partner with the ‘other person’ out of your head.
It’s no wonder you’re feeling out of sorts. During the initial crisis, I’d want you to be very gentle with and accepting of yourself. Observe how you respond – and let it happen.
Don’t expect too much of yourself for anything between a few days and a couple of weeks. Start by trying to manage only essential and familiar activities and responsibilities – such as doing your job or seeing to the children.
The healing process will start all by itself as your brain adjusts to the new reality. Coping with not coping is the only realistic expectation during this time.
That terrible raw feeling will fade gradually – I promise! You won’t be out of the woods for a while, but that sense of having been traumatized will pass. For immediate help, you might find a hypnosis download useful. For more information, see my page Hypnosis Downloads and FAQ.
Why did they do that?
“Why did he/she do that?” is the question you’d probably want me to answer most.
This is invariably asked of a partner who has either disclosed an affair, or whose cheating has been discovered
While I can’t tell you exactly why your partner has been unfaithful (because I don’t know your specific situation), you might find this helpful…
The brain in love
Prof Helen Fisher is a biological anthropologist and she says that there are three circuits in the brain: one for lust (testosterone), one for attachment (oxytocin) and one for romantic love (dopamine).
Theoretically, anyone can feel romantically and addictively in love with someone. At the very same time they could think about sex with someone else and feel really close and attached to another person. In reality the three are likely to overlap to some extent
However, often the answer you’ll get from your partner, wife or husband is: “I don’t know; it just happened – we were just friends – it made me feel good about myself – I could talk to him/her” or – “it didn’t really mean anything”. It may have started with an emotional affair, which you may find equally upsetting.
In any case, a ‘reason’ or explanation for infidelity is not the same as an excuse. Betrayal and deceit are often the most painful aspects of infidelity.
It is possible too that your partner may totally deny that they’ve ever had an affair.
Why does he or she avoid talking about the affair?
If the affair is over, your partner may shut down every time you try to talk about what happened, for several reasons…
• However much you’re unlikely to be sympathetic, your partner may too feel bereft. Whilst you need them to be fully present in the moment, they may well be grieving for the loss of someone they felt they truly loved. I’m not asking you to be sympathetic. Far from it! I’m merely mentioning it so that you’re better able to put their behaviour in context.
• They may feel guilty for what they’ve done to you. Even more so when they’re confronted with the devastation they’ve caused, and your distress.
• They may think it’s better to focus on the future and doing something “positive”.
• They don’t realise or understand how much you need to talk it all over and have all your questions answered.
• They’re afraid of upsetting you even more by answering your questions (you, of course, will need and want to know the answers, because they can indeed be upsetting!)
• They’re trying to avoid you finding out who the other man or woman is. You might know them. He or she could be a family member or friend. This means dealing with a double betrayal and a double dose of distress.
It’s also possible that the affair hasn’t really ended.
Should you stay or should you go?
If your partner has had extramarital affairs before, all the hurt from the previous occasion(s) will immediately have been triggered again. You now need to consider if it’s worth staying in the relationship when your needs are so clearly being trampled on. This also counts if your partner has cheated on any previous partners!
However, it’s never a good idea to make life-changing decisions in the middle of a crisis. Your brain is simply incapable of doing all the work necessary to make a well-thought out decision. So hang fire, and wait until the dust has settled a little before you make any big decisions or plans.
Once you’ve recovered from the initial shock and allowed yourself time to process what’s happened, you can then start thinking through your options. From a calmer place, you can also spend time figuring out what you really want, and where you feel your happiness really lies.
How to survive that affair
It’s very natural and normal to feel down right now. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suffering from depression. However, if you were already suffering from depression it could complicate your recovery.
In any case – take good care of yourself. Nurture your body with good food. Take some exercise. Make sure you sleep enough.
Decide who you can trust and ask for their support. Some of your peeps will be able to offer much needed emotional support. Others are better at practical support and advice. Choose your friends wisely though!
Let’s now take a look at what needs to happen for your recovery, assuming this affair is a first transgression…
Surviving infidelity when your partner has had an affair
How do you start healing infidelity as a couple?
Surviving infidelity does mean that you both need to work hard at making the relationship work again. (If, that is, you both decide that you do want to rebuild your partnership.) However, the ‘work’ that needs to be done is different for each of you in the early stages.
As mentioned before, you’ll need a little time to just get over the shock. You also need to know that the affair most definitely has ended. Right from the start, therefore, you’ll find yourself wanting to ask questions and needing lots of reassurance.
When you’re dealing with infidelity, you can help your relationship to survive by giving and receiving attention…
8 Tips to help the healing process after an affair
1. Talk about the affair, and start getting to know each other again.
2. Go on outings together – picnics in the park, concerts, gigs, walks along the beach, walk to previously unexplored parts of the town (for more ideas, see my page on how to relieve boredom in your relationship).
3. Change your everyday routines. There’s nothing so refreshing as throwing out some outdated ‘stuff’ and designing a new way of doing things.
4. Have fun. Start doing something completely new – a way-out hobby for example. This has been proven to increase the release of the bonding hormone.
5. Remind yourselves of all the good times you’ve had.
6. Tell each other what you’re particularly grateful for.
7. Explain to each other what makes you feel loved. What you think your partner needs to feel loved can be very different from what he or she really needs.
8. Tackle long-standing problems head-on. It’s time to deal with any underlying problems – those you’ve been aware of but avoided until now.
What you may have to face together
It’s important to take time to reflect on whether there are any specific factors underlying the infidelity that need to be addressed.
The following may be underlying ’causes’ (not excuses) of the affair. You’ll want to address any of these if the relationship is to survive. Remember though – they’re in no way an excuse.