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)