I recently re-read this blog I wrote back in 2010, and it so accurately describes that moment when you discover your spouse has cheated, that I thought I would post it again. So without further adieu, here is “What It Feels Like to Discover that Your Spouse is Cheating.”
As someone who works every day trying to save marriages that are rocked by an affair, I’ve often thought that somehow there is a disconnect between the Disloyal Spouse thinking “Yes I understand that it hurt you but I was hurt too” and the true understanding of what it is like for the Loyal Spouse when they first find out. Speaking as someone who understands both sides, I can also say that no matter what adjectives a Loyal Spouse may choose to describe it (like “devastating” or “heartbreaking”) there just are not words to explain the bomb that’s been dropped and all the harm that’s been done. Language is insufficient to convey the full depth of it and it certainly feels as if the Disloyal doesn’t “get it.” I’ve often wished there was some way to communicate to a Disloyal what it’s like to hear your spouse is having an affair, and yet every different method or wording I’ve tried has fallen short…
Dear Hubby and I are taking classes to become certified nouthetic counselors in addition to our marriage coaching. If you’re wondering, the term “Nouthetic” comes from the Greek verb “noutheteo” (or the noun “nouthesis”) and means “to admonish, to warn, to teach or to counsel.” The word is found in numerous passages of Scripture and describes the manner in which we are to counsel and help other Christians. Biblical (nouthetic) Counseling seeks to change the heart, not just alter behavior (Mk. 7:21-23; Prov. 4:23). One of our classes was given by a man who is a law enforcement chaplain and his class was basically how to tell if it is an urgent situation, an emergency, or a crisis…and what to expect in a crisis situation. For example, often the person appears disoriented, becomes hypersensitive or confused, has poor concentration, may shake or shiver, and might go into shock. It was during this class that I heard an example that hit so close to home that I realized it was very similar to the shock one experiences when you hear about the affair for the first time.
Your 17 year old gets his driver’s license and asks you for the car keys to go to the football game. He’s going to meet his friends there, but he will not be driving any of them in the car and they don’t plan to go out afterward, so you trust him and give him the keys. He’s responsible and returns home in a timely manner, and pretty soon you have faith in his maturity. One day he calls and says there’s been a minor fender bender, but no one is injured and information has been exchanged. There’s a small ding in the trust and it’s urgent but still–he handled it well and these things do happen.
A year goes by with no incident and this time the hospital calls. There has been an accident and your son was in a car accident; but he just broke his leg and the other driver was at fault. This is an emergency and is serious, but again all things considered, car accidents do occur…injuries do occur…
Then comes the day you give your son the keys and he says he’ll be home at 11pm, but midnight,1am, 2am, roll around and he doesn’t answer his cell phone. You’re worried sick and wonder what happened. At 3am you get a knock on the door and see two uniformed men, one with a chaplains badge on your porch and you know….
…and that moment right there is what it’s like to discover your spouse is having an affair. That immediate “NOOOOOOO!” and the world dropping out from under your feet. Everything you loved and lived for is dead, and the initial numbness and disbelief are quickly overshadowed with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and loss. The pain of hearing your spouse is having an affair has been reported as being greater than a spouse or child dying, and having been there, I’d agree that’s a true statement. So next time you’re thinking “…I know I hurt you but I hurt too…” just remember the two uniformed officers at the door.