Processing the pain one feels after being cheated on is an emotional burden. Trying to move on with your life seems an insurmountable endeavor. Add to that the reality of the negative impact of cheating on children and extended family and other relationships and more emotional pain is heaped onto what you are already feeling.
Although moving on is painful, knowing the different phases you’ll navigate during your period of healing will help you deal more appropriately with what is ahead of you.
5 Emotional Phases of Healing from Infidelity:
1. Waiting for The Apology
You’ve been done wrong and it’s your natural inclination to expect an apology. You won’t get one and the thing that will make that more painful is the fact that he isn’t feeling an ounce of remorse for how he has hurt you. To work through this phase, you need to accept that you were married to someone who hasn’t the slightest regard for your feelings. And keep your expectations of him very, very low. He is a cheat, be honest with yourself and accept that an apology isn’t coming your way.
2. Unexpected Pain
You’ve moved on, healed your heart and came out the other side of that adversity stronger and feeling more empowered. You go about your daily life without giving him and what he did a second thought. And then, bam, out of the blue one day, your knees buckle and you feel like you are smack dab in the middle of the day you found out about his cheating.
You will cycle in and out of periods of grief regardless of how well you think you’ve recovered. The good news is, the longer you are on the other side of the issue the less painful it will become when the memory does hit you out of nowhere.
3. Damaged Self-Esteem & Self-Worth
One of the most difficult pains to deal with is the pain of poor self-esteem and self-worth. You can’t help but feel that the reason he cheated is about you, that if you had been a better wife, better cook, thinner, more sexual…he would not have cheated.
Due to this kind of thinking, your self-esteem takes a battering and your self-worth is in the gutter.
This phase will leave you sleepless because it will be the last thing you think about at night…all night long. It’s common for women to take on the responsibility for the bad behavior of men but, it’s imperative you understand that NOTHING you did or didn’t do caused him to choose to cheat.
Positive self-talk about yourself is vital in rebuilding your self-esteem and self-worth after being cheated on. Here is the bottom line, it doesn’t matter if you are 30 pounds overweight, if you wear nothing but sweats and haven’t worn makeup in a year. If you were going through a sexual slump and your libido was missing in action or, if you focused too much energy on the children, all that is irrelevant. You, just as you are, were worthy of more consideration from your spouse. What he did to you has NOTHING to do with your value as a woman. Believe that about yourself!
4. Loss of Trust in Men, in General
You end up prejudiced against men. Every man, for you, is untrustworthy. In the end, you are the one who suffers because you’re unwilling to give another man a chance. And, if you do your paranoia starts to surface and you become a clingy and overly-attached girlfriend.
Terry Gaspard MSW, LICSW , says, “The breakup of a marriage can set the stage for feelings of mistrust – even if you’ve never had trust issues previously. After a marriage ends, especially if you’ve endured infidelity, it’s normal to doubt your ability to trust yourself and others. Meeting someone new and dating again can be invigorating but scary at the same time. An inability to trust a new partner may take on several forms – ranging from feeling they are dishonest or secretive or doubting they are going to keep their promises or be dependable.”
In my opinion, the more you trust yourself to deal with whatever happens in a new relationship, the more open you will become too trusting men once again. No relationship is perfect. In every relationship, you are going to face disappointments and having enough confidence in yourself to deal with those disappointments helps build trust in yourself and others.
5. Social Isolation
Because of the many issues surrounding cheating, you may become a person who doesn’t want to socialize with others. Because of this, you are lonely AND alone at the same time. At first or right after his cheating, self-isolation is okay. It’s perfectly fine to need alone time so you can grieve.
However, if after healing you still feel the need to isolate, you will be at risk for chronic depression, deepened loneliness and a tendency to let life pass you by instead of trying to actively engage in life. Cliché as it may sound, but it’s true – No woman is an island. You need to get yourself out there because being alone will cause you to become a very dejected and unhappy person.
The trick to healing and rebuilding a happy and productive life after infidelity is a willingness to face and deal with whatever emotional pain the infidelity causes. You can’t avoid negative emotions, you can try but, regardless of how deep you bury them, they will one day come to the surface and must be handled properly.
Not navigating the phases of recovery properly will back fire and when that happens the experience will be worse than the cheating that caused the pain in the first place.