Surviving Infidelity – Steps for Surviving the Emotions

There are three main types of infidelity but they have one thing in common – they are each enormously painful. So too are many other experiences in life but the emotional impact of infidelity is quite different, and therefore difficult to deal with.

    Woman distressed by emotions surrounding infidelity

  • Firstly, like an unexpected punch to the stomach, the emotional impact of infidelity hits hard and fast –out of the blue. Even when there have been suspicions of infidelity, the truth – hard cold reality – packs a punch.
  • Secondly, emotions surrounding infidelity are unlike anything experienced before. We have no prior experience to help make sense of and deal with them. We can’t, for example, reassure ourselves that this or that emotion is “normal”, or will change. And we certainly can’t predict or take comfort from how we will feel in the future. We have no idea.
  • Thirdly, the emotions are frustratingly paralyzing. Most people are very clear “in theory” about how they would feel and react if their partner was unfaithful. In reality, we find that emotions are considerably more complex, at odds with our former clear-cut confidence and beliefs. It is difficult enough to make sense of what we feel, let alone our future.

At some time you will certainly need to make a decision regarding which direction to take – whether to end your marriage or try to salvage it. However, you will first need to deal with the pain and other emotions resulting from infidelity. Unless you do this, you will not be able to make a sound decision – a decision you won’t regret.

Four Steps for Surviving Emotions Raised by Infidelity

1. Accept your weaknesses and vulnerability

A good first step to surviving the emotions raised by infidelity is to fully accept the three points above. That is:

  • You’ve been hit hard.
  • You lack coping skills.
  • Your confidence and belief system have been undermined.

This may not seem to be a helpful first step but it is. It is important in these early days to give yourself a break from yourself. That is, from any self-imposed – and unrealistic – expectations and pressures about how you “should” be feeling, “should” be coping and reacting, and so forth.

Your decision for the future needs to be based on how you actually feel. Discovering how you really feel takes time and will be hampered by constantly thinking in terms of “shoulds”. Give yourself this leeway, and give yourself this time.

2. Accept that all emotions surrounding infidelity are valid

Tied in with step one – getting in tune with your real feelings – a second step is to accept that each emotion is valid. This is important because certain emotions will be conflicting, and several may surprise you. You may be tempted to push them aside because they don’t feel right or appropriate. It helps then, to be fully aware that infidelity usually brings three very different but equally valid sets of emotions into play.

  • On the one hand there will be great depths of anger, bitterness, hurt and resentment.
  • On the other, loss, sadness, uncertainty, self-doubt and loneliness.
  • Thirdly – and confusingly – positive feelings for your spouse, such as love, pity and tenderness.
  • This last group of emotions may seem utterly impossible and many people are ashamed to admit to them. But they are perfectly natural and almost inevitably surface at some point. After all, there is a reason why infidelity hurts.

    Accepting “gentler” feeling for your spouse does not amount to “making a decision”, “forgiveness”, or anything of the sort.  It simply means allowing them a place in your emotional landscape. With time, these types of feelings will fade into the valleys, or rise up to the hill tops.

In the meantime, allow all your feelings full play rather than judge or suppress them. The idea is to see which emotions prove to be enduring, and therefore a sound basis for a sound decision for the future.

3. Make sure others give you emotional space

As you can tell by now, it is essential to allow yourself time “just to be” and strip away any expectations you may be imposing on yourself regarding feelings and decisions. It is essential to draw a line in this respect with other people too.

While it is wonderful to have supportive friends and family, they will most likely have plenty to say about what they think you should and shouldn’t feel and do. Accept this support but make it clear that at this stage you are focused solely on coping with how you feel, not making a decision. There are three good reasons to make this plain:

  • Your emotions are complex enough, without others stirring them up, and judging them.
  • Your decision, when you are ready to make one, must be based on your true feelings, not theoretical “shoulds” – whether your own or other people’s.
  • Whatever you ultimately decide, others won’t have to live with your decision. You will.

The person who will be least accepting of giving you space will be your spouse. They will be anxious for clues about the direction that your thoughts are taking. Explain that at this time you are not interested in making a decision, only in dealing with your emotions – and that you need space to do that. This will help them relax – so far as they can! – and give you that space.

4. Finally, be kind to yourself

Indulge yourself. Be kind to yourself. Spoil yourself. If possible, do something you’ve always wanted to do. Enjoy a change of scene, be a tourist in your own town, buy a load of great books.

Whatever it is that you personally enjoy will of course be tinged with a great deal of emotion at this time, but being yourself and valuing yourself as an individual will help your real feelings fall into place.

An original Surviving Infidelity article, exclusive to this site

Posted in: Infidelity Advice

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