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.
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
But before you read on, just watch this video (4+ minutes) to understand infidelity in the context of the history of marriage...
Now, let's talk about how to survive the initial crisis after your partner has owned up or been found out.
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!
Ìt'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 traumatised will pass. For immediate help, you might find a hypnosis download useful. For more information, see my page Hypnosis Downloads and FAQ.
“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...
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. (You can watch the video on my page on dealing with an affair.)
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...
It's also possible that the affair hasn't really ended.
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.
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. Therefore I’d want you to do something about it now. Have a look at my page Hypnosis Online FAQs and Downloads for further details.
In any case - take good care of yourself. Nurture your body with good food. Take some exercise. Make sure you sleep enough. Have a look at my page on dealing with depression for plenty of useful ideas to help you really take care of yourself right now. And get as much support as you can muster.
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! See my article on how to get the best relationship advice.
Let's now take a look at what needs to happen for your recovery, assuming this affair is a first transgression…
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…
Have a look at my Positive Communication Kit for Couples - it can help you accomplish all of the above.
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.
What about your personal recovery?
Human relationships can be unpredictable at the best of times - because we’re all human! Perhaps this is a time that you can accept your own 'fallibility' as a human being. But that definitely doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for your partner’s affair. However, you do play a role in what happens in your relationship.
There's no point in telling your husband, wife or partner that they should 'sort themselves out'. Perhaps they do need to address some things about the way they think or behave - but you can never ‘make’ another person change.
Instead, the good news is - you’re in charge of the choices you make. That means whether you choose to stay or walk away. You are in control of how you deal with your hurt, anguish, anger - and your recovery. You can get over this - even if you never forget completely what’s happened.
If you still think there’s hope for your relationship, check out the Magic of Making Up. This was originally written for people whose partner had already left, but they wanted him or her back.
However, under the circumstances, I think you’ll really benefit from learning what you can do for yourself. Right now, you need to focus on things that make you feel better. Bringing some stability and things that make you smile back into your life can really help your recovery. Don’t forget - it’s a step-by-step process, but here are some ideas to get you started:
You may find it helpful to keep track of your progress and how you feel. It really helps to get things off your chest by writing about it - just for you, with no one looking over your shoulder and judging you. Writing a journal can help you get started. Are you surviving the affair? Are the two of you really on the right track?
Nevertheless, you may find after a while you just can't get over it and want a bit of help. In that case...
It's perfectly normal to want advice and support to help you survive infidelity at any time after the affair.
I totally understand, for example, if you're having trouble getting those disturbing images of your partner with that other woman or man out of your mind. You can chose to set up a counselling session with a professional, licensed therapist - online. For further information, see my page: Online Relationship Advice.
However, you absolutely need professional help if after about 4 - 6 weeks:
Know that whether or not the two of you stay together, you'll get over this period in your life too. By surviving infidelity, you'll amass strength and coping strategies - maybe even beyond what you'd ever expected you were capable of.
Your relationship may be stronger for it too - if it survives the infidelity. If not, have faith that you will find happiness again. You didn’t ‘deserve’ to be betrayed. You do deserve to find a committed, stable and loving relationship that fulfils you and your new partner too. I’m rooting for you!
Warning Signs of a Breakup
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
Dealing with infidelity
Dealing with jealousy
Dealing with a jealous partner Part 1, Part 2
My Partner's Children Don't Want to Meet Me
How to End a Relationship
My Husband Doesn't Find Me Attractive Anymore