Discovering that your spouse has been cheating is an incredibly painful time in any relationship. The suspicions you may have had are real, and you must make a decision. Should I stay and work it out or move on? When children are involved the decision is even more difficult.
First of all, you must arm yourself with facts and set aside your emotions. Going for counseling at this juncture is very important. You need to sit down and talk to someone who has your best interests in mind. Your counselor can help you identify whether your relationship is worth salvaging or not.
If you are serious about moving past infidelity, be prepared for the psychological issues you may go through.
1. You may review scenes in your mind over and over again of the two of them together.
2. You may question your own sexual attractiveness and ability to keep your spouse happy.
3. You may wonder what else he has been lying about in the relationship.
4. You may worry that you will never be able to trust again.
In Dr. Shirley Glass’ book, NOT Just Friends, Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity after Infidelity, she notes that in the couples she researched and treated, most didn’t walk into an affair, but rather had formed friendships with someone of the opposite sex. She observed that of the eighty-two percent of the 210 unfaithful partners she treated, most had had an affair with someone who was, at first, “just a friend.” Well-intentioned people who had not planned to stray betrayed not only their partners but also their own beliefs and moral values, provoking inner crises as well as marital ones.
Whether it was intentional or not, the incident has similar effects on the other spouse.
People who have been cheated on often feel depressed, cry often and need to talk about it a lot. In my experience as a counselor, the symptoms are the same, disbelief, anger, sadness and perseveration. The last symptom requires work to overcome. When you cannot stop thinking about this subject, when it overtakes most of your waking thoughts, you know that you have a problem.
The decision to forgive is probably the hardest one you can make after such a collision in your relationship. Your boat has capsized in that once delusional calm sea of life and you wonder if things will ever be the same again. Why the affair happened is another story, and for now, all you want to do is see if you can achieve the trust again that you once had with your partner. All the “I’m sorry’s” in the world do not make things better. Watching the reformed partner come home early every night, bringing flowers or showing more affection does not heal the pain.
Your work on yourself has to happen outside of the relationship. A short time apart may help. Writing about the pain in a journal, drawing or working out, talking to friends, a pastor or a counselor will help to get you going on the right track. The longer the affair took place, the longer it will take you to recover. It is akin to a huge physical injury, and your wounds must heal in their own time. Recovery from infidelity cannot be rushed.
Even if your partner did not intentionally go out to seek an affair, you must be intentional in your forgiveness. Your determination to let it go is a true test of your own character. To forgive your partner, you must be willing to forgive yourself for not seeing the signs, for not being as receptive to love, for being too critical or distant or for even having a roving eye yourself even though you may not have acted on it.
One forgiveness exercise I suggest to clients is to write down everything their mate have done to hurt them. After getting down on paper all the injuries, in the column next to the injury I have the clients write the words “I forgive you for:”
Even though you don’t really believe or want to forgive, do it anyhow. The action of saying or writing “I forgive you” for each of these incidents gives you the power now. Today, in this moment of time you are the one who can make the decision to let go of your resentment and anger and occupy your mind with the rest of your life’s important thoughts and activities. Having set aside your anger on that piece of paper you can remind yourself, when your ego wants to bring it up again, “Oh, that’s right, I forgave her” and “I don’t need to hurt myself with those thoughts again.”
I wish you great healing. You deserve it.