Dealing with infidelity in a marriage
Twelve years after saying “I do,” I discovered that my husband was in the midst of a two-year-long affair.
We had school kids. He wanted desperately to keep our marriage intact. He apologized, begged, cajoled, negotiated, and even asked my friends and family to pressure me to stay.
But all I had in mind was – he cheated, my husband cheated and I can’t get over it.
His desires had led him to share confidences and to seek his intimacy with another woman.
I’m trying to put this behind me. Now he is so kind to me, but I fear that certain things cannot be changed.
I have to deal with my feelings that the relationship with my husband must be over.
Sometimes I want to pack my bags and leave.
But what will happen to the children and our family?
I stayed… Trying to survive the Affair.
I didn’t sure I still love him.
Losing love is no joke.
And although it’s true that the very intense “in love” feeling does fade, generally lasting less than a year,
sustaining a long-term relationship requires love and some degree of lust throughout.
“My husband cheated and I can’t get over it …”
I could not handle the thought of being dumped and became disoriented and confused.
Once I seriously considered suicide.
Barely able to sleep for more than a few hours, I needed medication to fight against depression and then tranquilizers to deal with anxiety.
It took three months for the worst of my symptoms to disappear, but I needed a year of determined efforts in exercise, meditation, recommitting to work, and making new friends to successfully emerge from the blow, healthier than ever.
At the end of it, not only did I feel better, but I also embraced life in completely new ways.
How could I have wound up better off following such heartbreak? Because with hardship comes enormous growth.
How to overcome infidelity in marriage
Three important things to do with your husband’s affair:
— Accept it
— Manage it
— Move beyond it
If you are part of a couple living after an affair, you have seen some difficult times too.
Your boat has been rocked, and there is no going back.
Yet humans are resilient and have evolved to endure.
Sometimes we function best when our backs are against the wall and we are forced to reinvent ourselves and reconfigure old relationships into more meaningful, loving, and, yes, even sexy relationships.
This nightmare can be the first step of your hero’s journey.
If you and your husband dedicate yourselves to rebuilding your relationship after cheating, you will become stronger than ever.
Infidelity in marriage is often not a personal failure. It is the result of common human failings. Most marriages can get over Infidelity.
And even if yours is one of the roughly 40 to 50 percent of marriages that end in divorce, you are very likely to have a good life. You will survive and can even thrive.
How to move past infidelity
Like most betrayed spouses you want to know everything, sometimes including the details of the sexual liaisons.
You find it extremely difficult not to dig for the damning and salacious details that will only make your heartache worse and inhibit your healing.
STOP! Don’t do it
Your constant surveillance of emails, credit card bills, and so on will turn you into a surveillance monster, searching high and low for examples of betrayal despite the fact that your efforts bring anguish to everyone, particularly yourself.
You may find yourself searching retrospectively for the clues that you missed:
— How much did s/he lie to me?
— Where was he that night?
— Where was I while they were in bed together?
— How many were there?
Cheated-upon partners are desperate to understand – why
You seek understanding and a renewed sense of safety.
You are not JUST trying to retaliate; you are probably actually hoping to find nothing incriminating to reassure yourself that you can trust again.
You can’t get the betrayal out of your mind.
Sleep is difficult.
The quiet darkness of night invites images of the affair, which you may have gleaned through texts and emails or your own imagination, replaying over and over through your mind.
Perhaps you want to memorialize your spouse’s misdeeds for friends, family, or your own understanding.
Or maybe even for the possible divorce lawyers.
You will spend sleepless nights reviewing the records. You will sneak onto your cheating spouse’s phone and computer.
This activity will create a great deal of misery, not just for your spouse but also for yourself.
By the way, in the sex-addiction literature, when betrayed spouses are constantly looking for detailed information on the sexual acting out, it is called pain shopping.
If you proceed to divorce, your record keeping will achieve little more than lining your lawyers’ pockets when they charge you for each minute spent combing through your many incriminating files. Most states do not consider infidelity a crime.
Your husband’s cheating will have little impact on the court’s determinations.
Being Sherlock Holmes on the trail of your cheating spouse has little merit
and is more likely to destroy the marriage than to help it.
It is also likely to interfere with your mental and physical well-being.
You will probably want to review the basic facts of cheating more than once with your partner. But try to exercise the self-control necessary to keep yourself from digging for painful details.
Alternatives to overcome infidelity in marriage
Let’s discuss alternatives for how to overcome infidelity in marriage
Stop acting impulsively.
You can prevent enormous damage to yourself and your family if you can keep yourself together.
My most important message to you is Chill. This is prescription number one.
Although discovering an affair most often happens by chance and the initial confrontation is usually unplanned, full disclosure of and recovery from an affair should be thoughtful, planned, and carefully executed.
To get to a point where you can think clearly, you’ll first need to understand what you’re dealing with.
The betrayed spouse often feels alone and bereft
You can have endured combat, lost loved ones, and suffered incredible challenges in life, but nothing prepared you for your spouse’s infidelity.
It is a terrible experience to feel rejected.
That’s not because their spouse was so great or the marriage was so splendid;
Rather, it’s because the betrayal and loss have occurred outside of their control. Something indelibly human has been disrupted: the need to feel loved and securely connected, which is etched into our DNA.
Betrayed partners often wind up questioning themselves, their past relationships, their place in the world, and even their sense of reality.
Possible health problems due to cheating husband
As a betrayed spouse, you may develop a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociation (meaning you feel unreal or out of it).
You might experience signs of clinical depression, such as weight loss, depressed mood, and sleeplessness.
You could have fleeting thoughts of suicide.
Or you may experience a milder mental disorder called an adjustment disorder with anxious and/or depressive symptoms.
Past mental disorders that are otherwise dormant may become active again.
For example, an otherwise mild and unnoticed bipolar disorder may suddenly become so acute that you require hospitalization.
Aside from your mental health, your physical health may deteriorate, and preexisting conditions like asthma and stomach problems can get much worse.
Although it may be impossible to hide your emotions and keeping your troubles a secret may be ill-advised, you need to check your motivations at every step along the way.
Are you looking for support? – That’s good.
Or are you seeking revenge? That’s destructive!
How to treat a cheating husband
If you’re the betrayed, avoid spreading trash talk about how big a creep your spouse is.
That kind of dialogue will not help anyone.
People love to tittle-tattle about other people’s romantic and sexual losses to help them feel better about their own problems and conflicts.
Your tale of woe may make for great gossip in your community, but how can that be helpful in the long run?
Similarly, creating a negative media campaign against your spouse will further polarize you, and is likely to backfire.
Divorce your spouse if you want,
but creating a battlefield with opposing troops cannot help you, your relationship, or your kids.
Betrayed spouses are angry and traumatized
They often seek revenge.
They may unconsciously and unknowingly involve their children in seeking revenge.
You may feel that the child should know immediately that this was bad behavior and your spouse is not to be trusted.
Perhaps that’s true, but you’ll have a lifetime to speak to them about it.
Once you let the cat out of the bag, however, your children will never forget your words—that I promise.
It is the norm, I’m sorry to say, for even the best-intended and most altruistic parents say hurtful things.
If you tell your child something bad about their other parent, more often than not the child unconsciously hears it as something bad about themselves.
Children identify themselves with their parents. An insult against any parent is often interpreted by the child as somehow revealing the child’s own defects.
Dr. Stephanie Carnes also cautions against saying or doing anything that puts a child in the position of having to take sides.
“You always want to give the child permission to love the other parent,” she says.
“The betrayed partner might feel like wanting to tell the kid everything, but it’s never in the child’s best interest to damage the relationship with their other parent.”
In addition, children will sometimes unconsciously learn bad behavior. If they are traumatized, they often repeat that which upsets them.
Remember: the damage the affair has done to you and your family may be terrible. But the last thing you want to do while in the wake of this affair and possibly on the brink of divorce is to traumatize your children or have them go through the pain that in any way approaches your own suffering.
Affair partner of your husband
Even though the trust was broken, there are boundaries that need to be respected.
If the affair partner was a close friend or a relative, you should probably know their name(s). Otherwise, even if the affair partner acted like a dirty, low-down scoundrel, their privacy still needs to be protected, so it may not be wise to insist upon knowing who they are.
As the betrayed spouse, you might want to give the affair partner a piece of your mind
You may want to talk to their family or their spouse. You may want to call the affair partner or go to their home to tell them to leave your man or woman alone! Maybe you’ll even want to kill them. (More than one homicide has been attributed to a vengeful spouse.)
Or you may want to call them and say, “Take the asshole—he’s yours!” (with a few other choice expletives).
That attitude of “take him, he’s yours” may actually not be such a bad attitude for you to have when dealing with your spouse at this point. But in general, and with few exceptions, the less contact you have with the affair partner, the better off you will be.
If you are the betrayed spouse, then just spotting the affair partner in the neighborhood, let alone engaging with your spouse or family on an ongoing basis, will likely infuriate you.
Many affair partners are people known to the couple and may even be your friends or relatives. In these cases, it may not be practical or desirable to exile them. Here you will need to swallow your pride to do what is best for yourself and your family. Try your best to forgive the affair partner for their transgressions with some assurance that they will no longer secretly engage with your spouse.
Don’t blame the affair on the affair partner. To put the responsibility on the affair partner may be convenient,
but it is untrue.
Confronting the affair partner may give you a false sense of confidence,
a false belief that you have solved the problem and gotten rid of the competition.
Sorry, so far from reality. The problem was never with the “competition” or the affair partner; the problem was—and is—with your spouse.
Contacting all the potential partners in your neighborhood won’t help and will just create an aura of insanity.
Manage Your Anger and Focus on Your Health
Anger is destructive! When we are angry and upset, we lose our higher functioning (remember the discussion of how the traumatized brain works), we lose track of our intentions, we may doubt ourselves, and we forget our strategy. The surest way to lose in life and love might be to allow anger to drive us. The greatest fighter in the history of boxing knew that.
People worry that they need to cling to their partners for dear life
What they ought to worry about, in my opinion, is strategizing for the success of their lives, their families, and their future. In my experience, jilted spouses who are willing to lose a relationship are actually more likely to keep it.
That is one of the ironies of relationships: if you hold onto a long-term relationship as though your life depends on it, chances are you’ll either hold onto an overly dependent, unhealthy connection or you’ll lose the relationship altogether because of your intense neediness and anger.
That’s why my number-one rule for recovering from the discovery and disclosure of infidelity is to chill.
The affair was bad enough, but how you behave in the aftermath can ruin your lives and—if you have them—your children’s lives forever.
The pain of infidelity never goes away: How Long Will This Hurt?
If your husband cheated for the first time, he repents and answers all questions honestly. He said goodbye and left the affair partner, a quicker resolution may be possible.
If you are open to reconciliation and forgiveness after a due diligence period, that’s a good sign
But there is no telling how long a wronged spouse will take to heal.
There is no statute of limitations on their hurt and anger.
If you rush reconciliation, you will fail and likely fall into some attempt at a resolution that is half-baked and harmful.
In fact, if you’re expecting to quickly settle emotional matters, you probably aren’t prepared for the work that a mature, long-term relationship requires.
How long does a marriage last after infidelity
It is up to you and your cheating spouse.
Cheating may be a sign that you need to move on.
Life after the affair doesn’t always work out happily ever after.
But sometimes it can work out for the best.
Even when an affair ends a marriage, it can nonetheless be the catalyst that allows couples to begin a new one with separate lives.