Sometimes, Survival is counter-intuitive.
Remember, the gut response is not necessarily the right response. Just as panic and struggle are the two most common wrong responses to surviving quicksand, feeling victimized and seeking revenge are a man's two most common wrong reactions to surviving her affair.
Maybe you're wondering…
…how could any man not feel like a victim and want some kind of revenge after making the painful discovery he was being played for a fool?
Notice: I'm not saying your gut reactions are wrong. What I'm saying is that staying in that state of mind won't help you survive. In fact, it will do you more harm than good. Before the end of this article, I will show you why.
The right strategies get the right results.
When it comes to surviving infidelity, having the right coping skills, tools, and strategies makes all the difference in the world. It's like a mechanic having the right tools when your car breaks down. He might be able to diagnose the problem; he might be able to tell you what caused the problem and how the problem started. But if he doesn't have the right parts, the right skills, and the right knowledge to fix the car… you aren't going anywhere. If you want to get the right results, you must use the right skills, the right tools, and the right strategies. Let's talk about having the right coping skills and strategies.
The right coping skills: Coping skills help you deal with the unexpected. Because of the level of unexpectedness of betrayal, it tends to throw your world out of whack. So, having the right coping skills is like having a bridge to help you get across this gap.
The right strategies: Strategies help you get the results you want. There are only two types of results: (1) The right result (the one you want); and (2) the wrong result (the one you don't want). An important key to surviving infidelity is being able to get the right results in the fewest steps possible. Using the right strategies is the only way to achieve this goal.
Surviving infidelity is a process, not an event.
Surviving her affair is not a one-time event; it's a process that takes time to unfold. In other words… infidelity recovery is a journey, not a destination. It's important to let go of any ideas that you're going to wake up one day and suddenly everything will be back to normal. More than likely, what will happen is that day by day, little by little, you will return to normal. This process of recovery happens so gradually that when you get there, you usually can't remember how you got there (and that's ok).
Some men will be on the path to recovery longer than others.
There's no timer on infidelity recovery. The process is highly individualized. Some people move through recovery at warp speed, some at average speed, and others do it on turtle time. But when it comes to surviving infidelity, speed is not as important as success.
Here's what I mean:
In their haste to put the bad taste of infidelity out of their mind, some men suppress the hurt, hide the anger, and bury the pain. However, buried pain is not gone. It lives in the basement of the mind, and like a vampire, it tends to rise again. For these men, speed does not lead to surviving; it leads to delay. On the flip side of the coin, you find men who allow themselves to hang out in the pain, hurt, and anger for so long, they get stuck in it. Like children, they pick at the scabs of their wounds so much, it never actually heals. In their case, slow does not lead to surviving; it leads to prolonged suffering.
You know you're a true survivor when:
- Your wounds leave scars, but they no longer hurt.
- You no longer carry the painful reminders, hurt pride, and sense of loss… either in the basement or the attic of your life.
- When the story of what happened is no longer told to caution, warn, or torture others, but to inspire and celebrate your own resiliency.
- When you can teach others what you've learned, because you have found a way to turn obstacles into stepping stones.
- When you have freed yourself from feeling like a victim to feeling grateful you survived.
And of all those signs, the last one is the real game-changer. And that's why it comes in as Rule #4 for surviving infidelity.
Shifting from “victim” to “survivor” changes everything.
Making the shift from victim to survivor is the single most important thing you can do to achieve true recovery. I believe it's so important that I'm going to spend the rest of this article helping you make that shift.
Why is it so important to make the shift from victim to survivor? It's important for the same reason you shift the gears in your car from reverse to forward, because it's what takes you in the direction you want to go.
Here's one of my favorite stories to explain what I mean:
In my opinion, the 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 roadster is one of the most beautiful cars ever built. It has the sleek elegance of an English Rose and the brute force dominance of American muscle under the hood. Now, if you own one of these cars (reproduction or not), you're bound to get some looks. Because like dating a supermodel, driving a Shelby Cobra is a real attention-getter. But don't be fooled by her beauty; when it comes to driving this car, she's a beast. In fact, the Shelby Cobra has a well-earned reputation as one of the most difficult (and dangerous) cars to drive. It's street legal but not driver friendly. There have been numerous instances where celebrities (Bill Cosby, for example) found out the hard way that they were unable to handle the car.
What makes the Cobra 427 so difficult for the average driver to handle? Well, a few things come to mind. It could be because the car's designer, Carroll Shelby, spent a large portion of his life as a race car driver. Therefore, he didn't think like the average driver. Another reason could be because the car has abnormally heavy wheels. As you throttle through the corner, the rear wheels are spinning much faster than the car is moving. Not a lot of everyday drivers know how to handle a car that corners like that. Or maybe it's because the Cobra requires constant attention, constant correction, and constant awareness. And for the average guy, handling the steering takes two hands, the pedal takes both feet, and shifting the gears from notch to notch takes quite a bit of muscle. So it could be that some guys just don't have the mental and physical energy to handle all that.
Or it might all come down to one skill: perfect shifting.
Here's the thing: When it comes to shifting the Shelby Cobra 427, timing is everything. It's not enough to know how to shift. You must know when to shift. Perfect shifting is a combination of timing, awareness, and skill. Alas, many of us never went to race car driving school to learn how to execute this with ease.
Of course, you could easily point to any one of these reasons (and many others) to explain why the car has been rumored to kill a high percentage of those who have dared to drive it. But in the end, I believe that mastering the Shelby Cobra 427 (and any other powerful car) comes down to these three things: your ability to respond, adjust, and shift at the right times.
What does all this have to do with you? (quite a bit, actually)
Although surviving her affair is not the same as surviving a road trip in a Cobra 427, some of the same skills apply.
Here's what I mean:
Because her betrayal is one you never saw coming, you were caught off guard. This would make anybody feel vulnerable. It makes you feel taken advantage of, foolish and violated.
So far, this all makes sense. Your gut response is to feel victimized. I think we would be hard pressed to find a man who's ever felt the sting of a woman's betrayal who didn't feel a lot like the victim of a hit-and-run accident. But feeling like a victim is not where the challenge lies.
The real problem happens when you fail to make the shift after a certain amount of time has passed.
When this happens, a man remains a hostage to the hurt for much longer than necessary. Maybe you've heard the statement that more harm is done after the affair than by the affair itself. One of the reasons this is true is because so many fail to mentally and emotionally make the shift from victim to survivor, and so, they mistake the bend in the road for the end of the road and fail to make the turn. The result? A tragic loss of self-esteem and self-respect.
Think back to the Shelby Cobra 427.
Remember the key skills a driver needs to survive the beast? He must possess the ability to respond, adjust, and shift at the right times.
Well, those are exactly the skills you will need if you want to survive her affair. You need to be able to respond, adjust, and shift at the appropriate times. Making this shift is not a “should”; it's a “must” for your survival. And failure to make the shift is a tragedy so horrific, it's not even worth thinking about.
So let's move on.
Remember the story of the two wolves that represented two ways of coping with infidelity? Remember we talked about whichever wolf you feed is the one that grows? Now, you have a key decision to make.
The Key Decision
What's the key decision?
You must decide which wolf you're going to feed and allow to grow. In other words, you must decide which coping strategies you're going to follow. The first wolf uses the victim's coping strategies; the second wolf uses the survivor's coping strategies.
The thing to know is…
…you cannot feed both. You must choose. And to choose one is to reject the other. That's because like oil and water, the two don't mix. The way the victim copes with infidelity is the exact opposite of the way the survivor copes with it.
Here's what I mean.
I know that for many of you, her infidelity feels like a descent to a hellish nightmare you'd like to end as soon as possible. Well, following the victim's coping strategies is like taking a slow, winding road through that hell — one filled with setbacks, roadblocks, distractions, and detours. On the other hand, following the survivor's coping strategies is like booking a flight on a G-6 and getting out as fast as you can. This is why men who have effective coping strategies survive and thrive (and move on), while men who have ineffective (victim) coping strategies regress (and get left behind).
By now, you're probably thinking that following the survivor's coping strategies is a no-brainer for any guy dealing with infidelity, right? Not so fast. Remember I talked about the power of instinctive reactions that tend to take over when we're faced with adversity? Well, that's how most victim coping strategies get established, and once established, they're fiercely defended.
I don't want you to be at the mercy of your instincts.
I want you to have a wider range of tools and skills. I want you to be aware of what works and what doesn't work… and why. Sounds good to you?
Let's keep moving forward…