The trauma of discovering the betrayal of infidelity can be devastating. Trying to describe the pain is impossible, because literally nothing in the world is as emotionally painful as a betrayal of that magnitude. Although no two couples recover exactly the same, we have found generally seven stages in the healing process.
The first stage is “Shock and Denial,” and as we mentioned it can last hours, days, or weeks.
The second stage “Pain and Guilt” begins as the numbness wears off and is replaced with unbelievable pain.
The third stage “Anger and Bargaining“ finds you may lashing out in irritation at those around you–and laying all the fury and condemnation for adultery on your disloyal spouse!!
The fourth stage is “Depression, reflection and loneliness“. Just when your friends are telling you that you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage dealing with a major traumatic event, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. In fact, it is best if you embrace that this is an appropriate time to be sad, that it’s is circumstantially reasonable to feel depressed, and that this is the time to TAKE some time to look at yourself and what you may want to change about yourself or your life. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of what you have lost–even if you are reconciling, your marriage will never be the same. It rightfully depresses you, and this isn’t clinical depression but the kind that is brought on by your circumstances–you’ve been through something SAD and it is normal to feel that way. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things your spouse did or said to you during their affair, and focus on “the past” or “mind movies” while having difficulty living in the present. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair, and it seems like the world keeps rolling by whereas you get very tired.
What you might be feeling:
- Loss. People deal with loss in different ways, but it’s common to feel very sad, to want to be left alone but also wish there was someone you could talk to who understood, to feel depressed or think you’ll never be the same or never be able to trust again, or to think about what you’ve lost. It is very common to think and feel that you’ve lost that specialness of being your spouse’s “only” and to think and feel that the image you had of your marriage was just a mirage…it wasn’t real.
- Loneliness. During this time people can get and feel lonely for a couple reasons. For one, since it is a time of quiet and sadness, being around other people isn’t helpful! They just try to cheer you up, encourage you, or say “You should just move on!” So you probably are avoiding people to some degree. For another, the person you WANT is no longer there. Even if you’re reconciling it’s not your innocent spouse laying next to you, but the flawed person who hurt you. Finally, it can often feel like those who are supposed to know you–your family and friends–don’t understand at all! Maybe they haven’t been through it…maybe they have and being with you triggers memories for them. But no matter what the reason, this particular time can feel very lonely!
What you might notice:
- Isolation. You don’t WANT to go to the holidays at Aunt Mabel’s house. You don’t WANT to answer the phone. You don’t really want to get out of bed! Being with other people just feels like you aren’t recovering fast enough. It’s exhausting, so you just decide to skip it.
- Like you are walking through molasses. The world keeps rolling along at its speed, barely registering a blip on the radar that your world has fallen apart, but for you it feels like you are walking in deep sand or molasses. It’s a struggle. It’s tiring just to do the everyday things.
What to do:
- Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. Even though your well-meaning friends and family may tell you unhelpful things like “just let go” or “move on,” this is the stage when what you’ve lost hits you and it hurts. Even when a couple reconciles after an affair, that initial innocence and naivete is forever lost…that sureness of “We’re special” “That won’t happen to us” or “S/He is my only one” can never be returned…and once there’s been infidelity the marriage will NEVER be the same. So don’t avoid or try to bypass the feelings of sadness, the feelings of loneliness, or the thoughts of reflecting on the past, what you did, and what you could have or would now do better or do differently. Even though it hurts and it’s hard, it’s best face them honestly and embrace that’s how you feel and what you think.
- Reach out when you need it.
I link up with this godly link-ups:
- Why Women Cheat (everydayhealth.com)
- Anger & Bargaining – the 3rd stage of dealing with an affair (affaircare.com)
- How to Handle Loneliness (everydayhealth.com)
- Fighting Loneliness in Small Steps (psychologytoday.com)
14 thoughts on “Depression, reflection & loneliness–the 4th stage of dealing with an affair”
Thank you for the post. I am stuck between steps 3 and 4 with diminishing chances to move on.
So you’re saying that you are going back and forth between “Anger” and “Depression”, is that right? And at this time it feels to you as if the chances of moving on and getting past this are slim to none… and that depresses you even more!
Dan, are you a Christian? I don’t mean the kind that goes to church on Sunday and sits in the pew and then goes back to regular life Monday to Saturday–I mean a follower of Christ, the Savior, whose death paid the price for your sin and saved you, and put you into right relationship with God. A person whose life is forever changed because they are growing more and more godly and want to behave in a godly way every day all the time. Is that you? Okay maybe not perfectly but God’s working on you?
If so, then I have encouragement for you: your feelings are betraying you! I know that may not sound like encouragement, but here’s what I mean: in the Bible God has told us what He will do and what He wants us to do, and He is God. We can absolutely, positively 100% depend on Him. However, since we are humans, sometimes “what we know 100% we can depend upon” and “what we feel like” are in conflict. Dan, that’s because our feelings are changeable. Our feelings change based on stress or physiological reasons like lack of sleep. We can feel happy and loved when we are warm and full–and then hurt and lonely when we are cold and hungry. Up and down, hey for ladies feelings even change every month depending on “the time of the month”! So “feelings” are not a solid thing on which we can build–we can’t depend on them to stay the same!
But we CAN depend on God, and in fact we should! God tells us things in the Bible so when you read it in the bible, it is TRUE and you can build on that because it doesn’t change. So what does the Bible say about anger? I can say this: there is some anger that is right because it says that God is angry with us! Also remember when Jesus was in the temple and he got angry and used whips and everything to drive money changers out of the temple (John 2)? They had turned God’s dwelling into a place to cheat each other and that was righteous anger, and based on these two examples and others we can tell that being full of God-given boiling energy due to unrighteousness is right.
So is that the kind of anger you are experiencing? My guess is no. I would venture an educated guess that the anger you’re feeling is partly the anger that comes to a victim after a traumatic event as they process the pain and damage of the event…and that’s the kind of anger I wrote about in Part 3. Anger can become sinful when it is motivated by pride (James 1:20), when it is unproductive and thus distorts God’s purposes (1 Corinthians 10:31), or when anger is allowed to linger (Ephesians 4:26-27). One obvious sign that anger has turned to sin is when, instead of attacking the problem at hand, we attack the wrongdoer. Anger becomes sin when it is allowed to boil over without restraint, resulting in a scenario in which hurt is multiplied (Proverbs 29:11), leaving devastation in its wake. Anger also becomes sin when the angry one refuses to be pacified, holds a grudge, or keeps it all inside (Ephesians 4:26-27). This can cause depression and irritability over little things, which are often unrelated to the underlying problem. Sound familiar?
So how do you handle the anger in a godly way? Well here are a couple ways:
1. We can handle anger biblically by recognizing and admitting our prideful anger and/or our wrong handling of anger as sin.
2. We can handle anger biblically by seeing God in the trial. God is sovereign over every circumstance and person that crosses our path. Nothing happens to us that He does not cause or allow.
3. We can handle anger biblically by making room for God’s wrath. Genesis 50:19 and Romans 12:19 both tell us to not play God. God is righteous and just, and we can trust Him who knows all and sees all to act justly
4. We can handle anger biblically by returning good for evil (Matthew 5:43-48).
5. We can handle anger biblically by communicating to solve the problem (the sin).
6. Finally, we must can handle anger biblically by working to solve our part of the problem (Romans 12:18). We cannot control how others act or respond, but we can make the changes that need to be made on our part.
Did your spouse ever have an affair? It doesnt sound like it because if they had then you would understand the feelings he’s trying to coach us through. Im in seminary and I know everything you just said yet……theres a process that happens after an affair that is difficult to navigate. We can speak life over it and repent a million times but its still real and it hurts.
You fail to mention the movies that go through your head and the hatred you feel toward the other woman. Particularly when she is someone you know and you know she and the person you love the most conspired against you. And particularly in the aftermath of discovery, she tried to be your “friend” who would fill you in on all the details and let you know in uncertain terms that she and your husband are destined for one another and that he said mean things about you.
I would seriously celebrate her torture.
I hate it when the Betrayed person isn’t allowed to feel their emotions. I’m a Christian. And I hurt big time!!! While I appreciate what Cindy is trying to say about feelings, we have to walk out real life admist the pain of triggers, mind movies, tv commercials, real tv shows/ movies, and stupid things people say.
Put that together with any coexisting or health problems such as mental/physical health add PTSD that we have our children may have and POW!!!!
That’s me. That’s the gift my husband because he refused to deal with his addiction and the other woman whom was divorced (so she says) gave me!
Now, I’m fighting to get my life back! He’s in recovery now, and doing well. Born again in Church Bible Study, spends hours with our Autistic teens and adult son. Can’t get the years(decades) we lost😰
I’m mostly in bed. It’s taken a toll on me, and having Cyclothymia didn’t help only aggravated it.
I pray there is a special hell for everyone who knowingly cheats. I will be able to forgive someday. I won’t let the other women or the devil steal everything. God is good because I should not be here.
It’s gonna take as long as it takes. Pray, cry, scream, curse if you need to and Most of all Trust God.
A few years back when I had gotten married my spouses ex moved in next door intentionally. My spouses friends and family favored the ex. Being that I moved In with my spouse a city away from my family, it was me against them. I was hoping for love and acceptance. But what I got was shunned an the ex was invited to all the family events,celebrations, birthdays..all of them. Even when we went out, the ex was there at the place we were out at (club, any hangout).On a vacation miles away, the ex would attempt to ruin plans with any excuse an disrupt it, in an attempt so my spouse would come home (next door to the ex). Because the ex was persistant and they had memories. They ended up dating and seeing each other. All cheered on my my spouses fam an friends. I lived almost a year like that. It had gotten so bad that my spouse didn’t want me sleeping in the same bed an i was pushed out. I left. Left them, gave up an moved on. We did end up back together but their was still texting, sneaking with the ex. The ex would not give up an kept playing my spouse. (The ex was the one who walked out on my spouse to begin with an my spouse was deeply hurt for a year untill we met) an now it was a game to the ex since we married. We ended up moving away and changing our numbers. My spouse wanted us to work. We moved close to my family. Two years later… an the ex still tries, even with us blocking social medias(the ex makes fake profiles or has friends try to add my spouse), we changed phone numbers & relocation twice.
My spouse and I had a baby and all is good an happy now (aside from my grief of the first year). However, the ex tried to have a baby the same time we did (just because we were) an was successfull. It feels like we still can’t have a life together with out some attempt, any attempt for attention or hope of again calling out to my spouse from the ex. The ex tries to stalk our marriage an my spouses fam, (my spouse cut off the bad friends, still everyone is for the ex) My spouse and I are so annoyed an fed up. We are doing counselling, meds, attend church. But the grief is unreal. An i have a hard time. It feels their is no end.
I feel just as you do. My husband has many affairs. He is an artist, and so has the lifestyle some women crave.He travels teaching all over the world. mainly married wealthy women. They say he makes them feel like real artists. They seem to fling themselves at him but not the real man who is just a plain man. The flings never last except the online ones.. I’m worn out with it and so have pulled away from my husband as he now revolts me, but do not want to destroy our family. At times i feel the pain is so great that it is unbearable, but i carry on even though I know nothing will change, My husband has no idea how dreadful it is for me nor it seems do these women except for one whose husband found out and divorced her. i feel sorry for her 14 year old son I feel exactly as comes out here Cry, Scream, and blind fury at the stupidity …
Pray cry scream and trust God. God is good because I should not be here. Thank you for this and I been dealing with this kind of pain I feel so broken.
Hello I’m a mother of 5 and I’m 3 months pregnant for our 6th baby my husband has been having an affair with a women who has already 2 kids I am so depressed I caught him a lot of times cheating on me but he keeps on denying it I always cry 😭 and does not know what to do. I talked to him and make him chose he choose me just because I was in front of him but then again I saw his phone exchanging text with that women and both saying I love you my heart is broken we’ve been married for almost 12 years.