In our first article or what we will call Stage I of Infidelity in your Marriage, we discussed the challenges of confirming the infidelity, the boundary I recommend you set and then two possibilities that can result from that boundary. Now we are going to explore Stage II with both scenarios that we addressed in the first article. Scenario I is you have discovered your spouse has cheated on you, you set your boundaries:
– Stop the Affair
– We need to go to Therapy
And now you are living together dealing with the betrayal, your lack of trust, and trying to rebuild your relationship.
Scenario II is you issued the above boundaries and your spouse refused to stop the affair, refused therapy, and you are now living separately. There are different challenges for each scenario.
The challenges here are different for both spouses. Both are grieving; one as the victim of the betrayal and the loss of trust, the other/betrayer may be grieving for the loss of the “illusion of the affair”, and the consequences of his/her actions of betrayal. Although both are hurting we cannot assume that they will connect over the pain. Two good therapists can help both get ready for the “what went wrong and where do we go from here” conversations. There will be logistical questions such as:
1) How can I trust when my “cheating” spouse goes out?
2) Should I check the phone, texts, emails?
3) I don’t want to touch or be touched by him/her, will that ever go away?
4) Should I ask about the details of the relationship?
5) Should I tell the details of the relationship?
6) What do we tell the children?
7) When will I stop hurting?
8) It hurts me to see my spouse hurting by my actions.
9) How do we go back to normal?
10) What do we tell our friends?
12) Will our marriage work?
These are just a few of the many concerns you may have to address. A good therapist can guide you through the process and the answers will be different for everyone. Only rehash what is necessary to move to the next step. Remember some visuals you can’t erase and some words you can’t forget. Have the raw conversations as best you can with your therapist. Work to have the conversations that will move the relationship forward with your spouse. At some point, it is best to post quotes that help you such as “Don’t look back, you are not going that way.” Time is your friend here. It will feel less raw with time. There will be triggers and these will take time to lose their power as well.
The advantage of scenario II is you don’t have to rebuild trust, in the domain of marital love, with someone who betrayed you. You do have to forgive yourself and your partner and get to a workable relationship if there are children. So, after you set your boundary of therapy yes and affair no, and your spouse refuses, it is probably best you separate unless you want to be in a marriage with someone in a relationship other than you. The good news/bad news is you will be alone and/or with your children, if there are children. Hire a competent therapist because you will have challenges. You will have a lot of the same questions about how things happened and what happened but you must get your own answers. You will probably not find out the details of the affair except what the “gossip world” knows and shares with you. Unlike in the first scenario, you, unfortunately, will have lots of visuals of the two of them together if the affair continues. It is best to avoid unnecessary visuals, but never avoid the events that are important to you. Change your routes of travel, restaurants that aren’t important to you, but go to your children’s games/recitals. You determine what is the best way for you to heal, but initially, less contact is better until you heal.
How do I move forward when I am so angry at “them” is a question I am asked many times? Let’s imagine you wake up every morning and there is a glass of a great elixir filled with joy and the best of life and there is a glass of poison which will make you feel sick all day long. Which one are you going to pick? Every day you pick “being angry at them” you pick the poison and you get to feel sick every day and hurt your body. It is not easy and every day you stay angry, they win. Every day you pick the elixir of life you win.
Infidelity is a very challenging life lesson. It is one we don’t want to deny when it happens, but we also don’t want it to run our life any longer than it takes for us to grieve and move forward. Remember you are not the one who chose to betray your spouse, you are the one who must recover from having a spouse who betrayed you!
“Healing comes when we choose to walk away from darkness and move towards a brighter light.” ~Dieter Uchtdorf
Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No. Anne’s approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no-nonsense self-help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short-term, and long-term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, PhD in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website: www.BackbonePower.com.