07 May Coping With Infidelity in Your Relationship
How do you carry on after infidelity has been discovered in your relationship? Are you feeling numb one moment, angry another and experiencing a roller coaster of emotions? Surviving infidelity is never easy but I can say that there are general patterns that people tend to follow.
The feelings tend to be similar to the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Being aware of these stages doesn’t mean that you will instantly feel better but they are tools to help you frame and identify what you may be feeling. You may not feel all of these emotions and they may be experienced in a different order. Your heartbreak and loss is as unique as your love and life.
Often times, learning of an affair is so shocking that one can go into denial as a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings. Your life is turned upside down and the vision of your future has changed. You no longer feel secure, and denial or minimization may be a coping mechanism.
Anger is a protective response to a perceived hurt or threat, and anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, as the more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and you will begin to heal. Underneath the anger is pain, and it is natural to feel abandoned and betrayed.
Bargaining after infidelity can often come within yourself – how much are you willing to live with? Can you accept or ever trust your partner again? You may find yourself wanting to go back in time or ruminating about “what if … and if only” type thoughts. You may be willing to do anything not to feel the pain of this betrayal and loss.
Depression is a common reaction after infidelity because your sense of basic trust in the world may be violated and you may feel powerless in dealing with the crisis. Empty feelings present themselves, and sadness enters your life on a deeper level, deeper than you ever imagined. You may feel hopeless and feel that this stage will last forever. It won’t.
Finally, comes acceptance. Acceptance occurs when you come to terms with the affair, you feel in charge of your life again and begin to realize that you can deal with this. This can take weeks, months and even years. This doesn’t mean that you will ever necessarily be “OK” with what has happened. This stage is about accepting the reality, learning to live with it and find happiness again. You may not ever replace what has been lost, but you can make new connections, and new meaningful relationships.
You will begin to live again, but you cannot do so until you have given yourself time to process your pain and loss.