When your man’s secret life comes to light, it rips the rug out from under your feet. Regardless of how you find out, you’re never prepared to deal with it. Hence the confusion, loss of control, and pain that led you to this article.
And although I am deeply saddened by the situation that must have brought you here, I’m also ready to help.
Why This Article Was Written
This article will help you better understand how to make the emotional, mental, and psychological shift from feeling out of control, to restoring the sense of balance and certainty you had prior to finding out about his affair. You and I are going to go over some of the best insights and strategies (myself) and others have used to survive (and even thrive) after infidelity.
Fair Warning: These insights, tips and suggestions have worked for me and countless others who have traveled in your shoes. However, they’re to be viewed as pointers, not prescriptions. It’s your responsibility to sort out which ones make sense for you and discard the rest.
Are you willing to do that?
I sincerely hope you are because no one can tell you what will work for you. The most I can do is tell you what has worked for me. It will be your job to choose what you’ll do. With that said, let’s get started by taking a look at some ways infidelity affects a person’s psyche, beginning with the moment of discovery.
How Infidelity Affects Us
Stage 1: Disbelief
“No, it didn’t happen. No, I can’t believe this! This can’t be happening!” The first wave of disbelief hits you right after discovery. It’s in this state that nausea bubbles up and a sense of dread and despair sinks in. Other emotions associated with the first stage are shock, denial, fear, anger and heartbreak.
Stage 2: Resistance
Sooner or later, a woman will move from denial and disbelief into resistance. This is when she begins to bargain, beg and try to find ways to remain unaffected. (OK, maybe it did happen, but I won’t let it affect me.) She will try to pacify or make deals. (I’ll forgive him if he does x or y.) This stage also triggers the emotional roller coaster because although she is hurt, she is also trying to resist the hurt. This will cause her emotions to swing like a pendulum between bouts of hopefulness and hopelessness. The stage of resistance also brings intense desires to retaliate, punish and blame (all in an effort to resist dealing with the pain). In this stage, she might also resist help, resist good advice, resist taking care of herself, and resist trying.
Stage 3: Learning
Eventually, a woman realizes that nothing she has done so far is working, and she can no longer deny what has happened. Punishing and persecuting him is not bringing the relief she thought it would, and living with the hurt everyday is getting to be too much. This triggers the learning stage. This is the stage where most women begin to search for answers, explanations and relief from the pain. The learning stage is also when she begins the process of learning how to let go of resistance and begins a period of acceptance and adjustment. Here’s the challenge… While going through these stages are perfectly natural, sadly, many women get stuck in the first two stages for way too long. This creates a major issue. Here’s what I mean. The first two stages (denial and resistance) are also known as the victim stages. If you’re a woman who’s ever been betrayed, lied to, manipulated, cheated on, or had your trust abused by a man you loved, then you know what it means to feel victimized. And who can blame you? Being blindsided by infidelity is definitely an act of treachery.
But here's the dilemma:
After the initial moment of discovery, the longer you hang out in the victim stages (denial and resistance) the more dangerous it becomes. That’s because every day you spend in denial and resistance increases your pain, adds insult to your injury, and prolongs your suffering. This is why I believe that it’s not surviving infidelity that presents the biggest issue. The real problem is in finding the willingness to get yourself to shift from denial and resistance to that third stage — learning.
Why is it so difficult for people to make the shift from victim to learner?
Two reasons come to mind: (1) most women aren’t aware that they need to make the shift, and (2) hanging out in the victim stages of denial and resistance can be extremely seductive. These observations suggest that a certain amount of confusion exists. Now since it’s my intention to bring you as much clarity as possible, I believe it’s important for you to understand where this confusion comes from. Most likely, it’s because there are two voices in your head arguing for two very different things.
Have you noticed… from the first moment you discovered his affair, there seems to be two voices in your head trying to tell you how to handle the situation? One voice wants you to lash out, attack, hurt, punish, inflict pain and teach him a lesson he’ll never forget. But the other voice seems to be unsure and uneasy, is more hesitant, and says things like “two wrongs don’t make a right” and “it’s not the end of the world.”
When you listen closely, you’ll notice that the two voices actually sound like two attorneys arguing.
One voice sounds more like a prosecuting attorney.
This is the voice that argues for vengeance, retaliation, punishment, and finding a way to settle the score. This voice is quick to list of all his past mistakes, flaws and imperfections. It has convincing arguments for unforgiveness, contempt, and holding on to every ounce of resentment. This voice speaks loudly. It’s angry, mean, bitter, cold, harsh, unkind and merciless.
The other voice sounds like a defense attorney.
It pleads for you to show leniency and compassion, and to pause and take a look at the bigger picture. This voice brings up a list of his achievements and good qualities. It presents arguments for mercy, forgiveness, saving the relationship, understanding and courage. This voice speaks more softly. It is kind, gentle, calm and confident.
Which voice is right?
It’s obvious that both voices are trying to guide you and tell you what to do, but they’re giving contradictory advice. This is why deciding which advice is right causes so much confusion.
Many women teeter back and forth between the two voices. It’s this type of indecision that creates an emotional roller coaster. In the moments you listen to the voice of compassion, you feel hopeful, like everything is going to be OK. But in those moments that you allow yourself to listen to the voice of vengeance… you feel anger, despair and hopelessness.
The Moment of Decision
There comes a point when it’s too painful to stay on that emotional roller coaster going back and forth between the two voices. Eventually, you can no longer put off deciding which voice to listen to permanently. Every woman must choose to follow one voice (and reject the other).
This is a pivotal decision. Why? Because each voice has completely different agendas, and like oil and water, the two shall never blend. They both lead to opposing destinations.
What are those destinations?
The answer is coming up next.