Are you dealing with betrayal and wondering if you'll ever feel normal again? Finding out your husband is having an affair is one of the most devastating things a woman can face. As the overwhelming anger, endless questions of why and how this could have happened, and thoughts of revenge start to shadow every aspect of your life, it's hard to even think straight. If you're at this stage, the following tips can help you get through this difficult transition.
Infidelity is one of the most devastating experiences a person can face in a marriage. It's often described as a shock, a punch in the stomach, "having the carpet pulled out from under me". One client said, "For three months I felt like I couldn't breathe".
Naturally, the knowledge of an affair raises a multitude of questions. Should I stay or go? Can the marriage be saved? Will I ever be able to trust again? In my experience providing divorce support, the flood of deep, raw and new emotions is often overwhelming. Here are some guides for helping you journey through this difficult event:
Give yourself permission to just "be" and feel
In the earliest stages, you may be experiencing such a range and wide variety of emotions one moment, and feel paralyzed and unable to breath or feel anything the next. Accept this. It may feel unpredictable, chaotic and uncomfortable, and that's ok. This is where you are.
Before you can make any clear decisions, you need some space and time to sort through your emotions. When we are at the height of emotions, we can be in "fight or flight" mode, which isn't necessarily the best for long term, important, thorough decision making. Giving yourself permission to ask for space and time is a gracious gift to yourself that will serve you in the long haul. Be firm, especially with your spouse, that time and space is what you need, expect, and deserve right now.
Let go of expectations
Many women are very hard on themselves after an affair because they have unrealistic expectations about how they "should" feel, and how they "should" respond. As much as we like to think that we know how we would handle an affair, before we are "in it", it's just not real.
Let go of the expectation of what "should be", take a breath and practice accepting "what is". There is no prep school for this life experience. Be gentle with yourself. Your range of emotions may go from shame, anger, guilt and even sympathy for your spouse. Everything you feel is valid, and ok. Take note and perhaps spend time journaling as you notice various emotions surfacing.
Seek selective support
Many friends and family members will be at the ready to rush to your side with advice and opinions out of loyalty to you. Almost always this is well intended and loving; however, it may not be what you need. Along the lines of tips #1 and #2 you need to be dealing more with how you feel, and less of others opinions and advice of what to do.
Gently, yet firmly, let them know that you appreciate their love and support. If they are willing to uncritically listen as your sort through the emotional experience, welcome that, and if you have questions or need advice, you will explicitly ask for their thoughts. Therapists or coaches are great neutral third parties that are skilled at listening and helping you to uncover the layers of emotions so you can achieve clarity on your own.
Keep up your routine
All the things that you did before you became aware of the affair keep going with it. Get your hair done (get an extra conditioning treatment), continue to work out, schedule time for fun with friends, get outdoors and more.
This isn't about "faking" what is going on with you, it's about taking the best care of yourself when you need it most. Many people excuse not keep the routines going because they "don't feel like it". Accept that you might not "feel like it", but that your health and well-being are a top priority, especially under stress. It is amazing how doing the routine, or getting a regular manicure, can promote a sense of well-being. Try it!
Schedule time for humor
Laughter has a wonderful chemical effect on our bodies. Sometimes, it's in our darkest hours that we need to be reminded that there is another side of the coin. There is a side of life that is light, funny, ridiculous and hysterical. You may not be there in your own life yet, but you can watch a movie and laugh at someone else! Laughter boosts the immune system, protects us from the harmful effects of stress, increases energy and diminishes pain.
With my clients who have sought divorce support after an affair, they have learned that you WILL laugh again. You WILL smile again. Yet, there is a process to getting there. You can't rush it. Honor yourself and the space you need. Be choosey about how you spend your time and who you spend it with. Love yourself through the process and you will emerge hopeful again and beautifully equipped to handle the next phase of your life.
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Coping with infidelity and dealing with betrayal isn't easy. The following articles can help you understand what you're facing and begin the healing process: