He cheated and your world was turned upside down. After the dust has settled, paper work’s been signed, and your divorce is final, infidelity has the ability to continue to rear it’s ugly head – if you let it.
Here are 8 things that will help you understand the impact of his cheating on you:
1. Know that what you’ve experienced is a psychological trauma. Having the person that you were set on having in your life forever, the person that you were supposed to trust more than anyone else in the world betray you in such a way is traumatic. When we experience trauma it has residual effects that can bring on things like depression and PTSD.
We often think of PTSD as something reserved for those coming back after serving in the military, but trauma is trauma, and the response can be the same. Treating what you experienced as such will help you to understand it more clearly and take the action you need to heal.
2. Know that you are not alone in riding out the roller coaster of emotions that come along with the trauma you’ve experienced. Working primarily with women who are healing after infidelity, I often hear things like, “I felt like I was crazy,” or “I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
In the throes of discovering that your partner had been unfaithful, you may have found yourself responding in ways that you never thought possible, and doing and saying things that you were absolutely not proud of.
You are not alone.
Some women find themselves grasping desperately to their relationship, and their partner and find themselves repulsed when they look back at their behavior. Trauma can do that to a person, it’s a normal response.
3. Do the work to understand your role in the loss of your relationship. While you are leaving that one, eventually you will have a new one, and you’re going to have to take yourself with you. Working on yourself before you jump into the next relationship will give you the tools you need to create a happy, healthy relationship, free of the emotional baggage that so many women carry into their second marriages.
4. Yes, you played a role in what happened in your last relationship. Get to the bottom of that, and own it. A divorce is never ALL one person’s fault. The sooner you can take ownership of your part, the sooner you can forgive yourself and move forward.
5. You can’t affair-proof your next relationship. You likely never thought that your ex would cheat, and going into a future relationship trying to prevent it from happening can work against you. Coming off as jealous and overly-suspicious isn’t a good look.
If you feel the need to constantly check up, then that’s a sign it’s time to check out, and go back to #3 and work on yourself a little bit more. It’s completely normal to want to guard your heart, but there’s a fine line between healthy suspicion and paranoia and working on yourself will help you to recognize when you are crossing the line.
6. The way you are feeling now isn’t the way it will always feel. It’s easy to let the overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness take over and govern all aspects of your life, but there will come a time where the edges of your sadness are not so sharp.
In fact, one day you’ll have moved on and be in a place that makes you so happy that you’ll feel like it was all a bad dream.
I’m not saying you’ll completely forget about your ex or the infidelity that shattered your relationship, but there will come a time that it won’t be consuming, and you won’t have to hold back tears when you recall things about your relationship or come into contact with things trigger flashbacks of the affair.
7. Not all men are cheaters. There was likely a time when you found your ex to be the man of your dreams, and while he may not have been willing to forsake all others during the course of your relationship, that doesn’t mean that all men are created equal. Categorizing and over generalizing in this way can be a great way to keep your guard up, and keep yourself from getting hurt again, but if you’re interested in finding love again, eventually that guard’s going to need to come down.
8. Reconnecting with your strengths is the surest way to find healing. The best thing you can do for yourself in order to heal is to reconnect with your strengths. Many times in relationships there are parts of us that become lost, or overshadowed, but those parts are important, and they make us who we are.
They contributed to who you were before we entered into the relationship, and yet those parts often get neglected.
In order to reconnect with those strengths, reflection and introspection have to be involved. Start journaling and thinking about the parts of yourself that you’ve neglected that once brought you a sense of happiness and strength. Were you once an athlete, or involved in some sport that you no longer do? Is there a creative side to you that you don’t feed because you’ve become too busy? Are you great with money? Are you a great parent? Are you a great friend?
Look at those strengths and get back to them so you can start to feel like yourself again, but also more importantly so that you can begin to realize that although this relationship that you’ve lost was extremely important to, it isn’t all that makes up your life.
Women: be careful to NEVER listen to anyone, including this author, that you had a part in creating a cheater; that you have some sort of responsibility. No, you did not. It had nothing at all to do with you. Not with your age, your waistsize, your being busy taking care of the family…NOTHING.
Do take responsibility for being a good, trusting person with integrity and committee and that you made the mistake of not assuring those qualities in your ex. Take responsibility for giving up some part of your power in life to someone that abused it and never do it again.
Your ex has no insight. Selfish, self-serving baby-men are like that. You can achieve a great deal of insight learning from this to make yourself a stronger, whole person who will accept nothing but honesty and truth; authenic love and respect going forward.
It’s a painful journey, but once on the other side you will be stronger, happier, and find a type of peace that was never a part of that relationship.