So your spouse had an affair…
What are you supposed to do now? How are you supposed to feel? Is it OK to feel angry, sad, confused, guilty, and numb all at the same time? What’s the next step?
Now that the ugly truth is out in the open, you find yourself forced to deal with a very harsh reality; your spouse was unfaithful. Maybe he or she was just looking to have an affair and never actually went through with it. Maybe it’s been going on for years. Maybe it was a one time thing. Maybe they were chatting online. Maybe it happened years ago and you are just now finding out about it. The scenarios are endless, but the reality reminds the same — Your spouse was unfaithful, and you have lost trust. Now you are wondering if you will ever trust him or her again.
Just like losing a loved one, the loss of trust must be grieved. Let’s review the five stages.
- Denial/Shock– “This isn’t real. This isn’t my really my life. I will wake up soon and this will all be a dream. He/she couldn’t possibly have done this to me.”
- Bargaining– “If I had been different, he/she wouldn’t have cheated. If only I could go back in time and give him/her more love, time, money, sex, etc., he/she wouldn’t have cheated. I just wasn’t enough.”
- Anger– “How dare he/she do this to me! This is outrageous! I can’t believe I’ve been so disrespected, and my family has been ruined!”
- Sadness- “I’m so hurt and heartbroken. I just want to sleep and cry. I have no appetite. I feel so depressed.”
- Acceptance– “This is my reality: my spouse was unfaithful to me, and I have been severely wounded by this breech of trust. I have grieved my pain, and although I will carry a scar from this betrayal, I am able to move on with life.”
Grieving and surviving must come first when trust has been broken. Breathe in and out each day; sleep, get support, journal, talk, eat, and don’t try to make any big decisions right away. You have experienced a tremendous loss which needs to be processed and grieved. There is no quick fix for loss, but here are some ways to help take care of yourself:
- Talk to a Counselor – These people are trained to listen and help you grieve. They will keep your sessions confidential and never shame or judge you.
- Journal – Even if you are not a writer, journaling slows down your brain and makes you aware of your emotions. Try completing this sentence once a day: “I feel….. today because…. ”
- Be Healthy – Sleep, eat, breathe; take care of your body so you can take care of your soul.
- Don’t Isolate – Get support from safe people around you.; don’t try to do this on your own.
- Pray – Even if it feels like God is not listening, He is. Pray your anger. Pray your tears. Don’t try to be eloquent, just pray your heart.
Big decisions lie ahead — Should your spouse seek counseling? Do you both need to go to marriage counseling? Do you need be remain married? What do you tell the kids, and what does your life looks like now? I would encourage you to get support and accept all the love you can hold. You are not alone and do not have face this heartbreak alone.
By Michelle Hitchcock