People have no idea just how painful and difficult surviving infidelity really is, unless they have been there themselves. During the initial stages one seems to be literally teetering between life and death. This is not just a bad day or something you will ‘just get over.’ It is worse than death. It is living through your worst nightmare. Recently I watched a documentary on television regarding ‘the unforgivable sin.’ I wondered what the unforgivable sin according to Hollywood might be.
The program was about a man whose wife and child had been killed in a motor vehicle accident caused by the selfish, thoughtless and negligent behavior of a teenager engaging himself in streetcar racing. I thought to myself, how much more devastated would that man have been to find out it had not been a stranger who had caused his pain, but rather his own wife who had secretly gone out and given away the most intimate part of their marriage and then had proceeded to lie to and deceive him regarding this betrayal for who knows how long.
I admit the redeeming factor regarding surviving infidelity, is that people don’t usually die physically. (They certainly do emotionally.) Therefore there is hope of rebuilding life on the other side of infidelity, but this man will never see his wife and child on this earth again.
Imagine a smooth glassy lake on a beautiful sun shiny day. Then imagine that someone manages to drop a gigantic bolder right into the middle of the lake from a considerable height. Kursplash!!! Peace now destroyed, the water splashes up out of the lake and back down creating a ripple, a wave, and it continues one ripple after another getting bigger and bigger until even the outer edges of the lake have felt the effect of the giant bolder. This is the way that it is with surviving infidelity.
Chaos where there once was beauty and calm. Sure in some marriages there were problems before an affair, but affairs happen in good marriages too. However, unlike many other wrongs human beings are capable of committing, marital infidelity creates far reaching consequences of pain and destruction. It doesn’t just hurt the person who has been betrayed, it hurts children, friends and family members.
People who are surviving infidelity begin scapegoating, that is taking out their anger, frustration and pain on others who have nothing to do with it. Then there are those left to cope with STD’s including one woman in our group who saving herself for marriage, was a virgin on her wedding day. Her reward, the pain of venereal disease, a wedding gift from the man she saved herself for.
What about pregnancy? What about the children who grow up feeling that they don’t really belong, because they are the product of an affair? They are also surviving infidelity.
In the initial stages of surviving infidelity, it is very difficult to cope. We go into shock, sometimes anger, we can’t think straight. Some of us behave like obsessive neurotics, doing all we can to win back our spouse (as if it were our fault in the first place).
‘Surviving Infidelity.’ This would be an appropriate term because that is exactly what we are doing, surviving one moment at a time. Most of us reported the inability to eat or sleep and significant weight loss. We were unable to cope with our regular jobs. One woman reported being on the edge of an emotional break down. Another remembered having to go to her job, only to find herself racing out of an important meeting to vomit, and then returning, attempting to appear somewhat composed. Embarrassed, ashamed and not free to share the truth, she commented to those concerned, “I must have gotten food poisoning.”
We must live through surviving infidelity. We have no choice, but how? How can we go about the overwhelming task of surviving infidelity? One day at a time? No, even that is too much.
When I was going through it, I survived only one moment at a time.
Guide to Surviving Infidelity
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #1. Treat Yourself
Buy yourself a new outfit. If ever there was a time when you deserved a comfort purchase it is now, when you’re surviving infidelity. Buy yourself flowers too. You need to be reminded in the midst of your blackest hour, even though your whole world has become ugly and dark, that there still is beauty in the world. It doesn’t feel like it today, but there is actually still hope for your future. Visit a tanning salon, a short treatment in the soothing light is good for your mood. Doctors often recommend tanning to patients struggling with depression. Make an appointment to treat yourself to a luxury service at your local spa. This will give you something to look forward to. You may also want to consider getting your hair done. Treat yourself, today! You deserve it. You need all the mood help you can get. A nice walk in a park is not a bad idea either. Do things you normally enjoy doing, even though you don’t feel like it. Take vacations. If you have any possibility for getting away on a holiday, take it, even short holidays, a long weekend perhaps. Do not underestimate the value of mini vacations one can take in the midst of even a very busy day, like stopping to smell a bouquet of roses, to pet a dog, to have coffee with a friend or to laugh at a good joke. Word of caution: When I say treat yourself, I don’t mean junk food. You probably won’t be able to eat today, but in case you are, eating foods that are bad for you will only make you feel worse as soon as their temporary high wares off. If you struggle with weight issues, comfort food eating is going to increase not decrease your feelings of despair and depression. Treat yourself in healthy ways.
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #2. Take Care of Your Health
You may not feel like eating while surviving infidelity, but your body needs to have basic nutritional requirements met, now more than ever, because you are going to be making important decisions that are going to have a huge impact on your future. Don’t try to make these important decisions while you are starving yourself. If you can’t eat, then drink a quality meal replacement beverage and take some good nutritional supplements.
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #3. Nurture Your Spirit
I recommend some time in spiritual reading and in quiet, meditation and prayer. (Well, maybe not so quiet, screaming at God could also be helpful. If I remember correctly, I often prayed loudly during this time!)
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #4. Don’t Make Final Decisions While in a State of Emotional Trauma
Do not make a life altering decision while you are in the initial stages of surviving infidelity, still in a state of emotional trauma and shock. Even though it may feel as though there is no hope at all for your relationship, there may still be hope. Even though your spouse has done this awful thing, it is possible that he/she still loves you very much and perhaps you still love your spouse as well. You can leave your relationship if you want, no one will blame you, you have every right to do so, but I recommend you give yourself time before you create absolute finality. Many people have completely ended their relationships in the emotion of the moment, only to find themselves later in a 2nd marriage to someone who is 2nd best. Later both spouses realize that they both had actually loved each other more than anyone else and they could have worked it out, had they only tried. Don’t doom yourself to a future filled with ‘what ifs.’
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #5. Tell People Who Can Offer You Support
Go and visit a friend. Do not attempt surviving infidelity all alone.
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #6. Plan Your Time
Plan your first day. How are you going to live through this? Schedule appropriate down time, but don’t allow yourself to stay in bed crying all day, all week. The reality is that if you are in the process of surviving infidelity, you are in the middle of a war, whether you like it or not. You have no choice. You have just been invaded by a great enemy who is bound and determined to ruin your whole life. You are going to have to stand up and fight for your own survival. Do not let the enemy win. Fight to survive. So if you choose to allow yourself a down time, that’s okay. A time of grieving is quite appropriate. Schedule your down time. Plan it. How long will you allow yourself to stay in bed? A day? Three days? A whole week is probably too long. Of course you may have times of crying daily for a while, but make it that, times of crying, not whole days in bed. When surviving infidelity, give yourself permission to mourn. Something has been stolen from you. You can never get it back. Something has been lost forever. You will never again be able to know that since your marriage you are the only one your husband/wife has ever been with. The most important promise, a vow, has been broken. Life will never be the same again. And it’s okay to cry about that. Then force yourself to get up, dress nicely and do something constructive every day. I know you don’t feel like it, but I’m cheering for you. I believe in you. You can conquer this great evil that seeks to destroy your entire existence. You’re surviving infidelity.
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #7. Educate Yourself About Affairs Through Reading
There are many helpful articles available on this website, and a list of helpful books on the Resources page.
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #8. Join a ‘Beyond Affairs’ Support Group
You need all the support and perspective you can get from people who have been there and understand.
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #9. Counseling
This is a quality of life issue. Many people have found counseling to be an invaluable help in surviving infidelity. The best way to find a good counselor is through referrals. If you don’t have one referred to you, you may have to resort to the yellow pages. Just remember you don’t have to stay with a counselor that you don’t like. If you find one is not helpful, don’t hesitate to look for another. They are not all the same. This is for you. Now more than ever go with what works for you. Drop what doesn’t work. It can also be a good idea to make an appointment with your medical doctor.
Surviving Infidelity Strategy #10. Laughter is Good Medicine
Watching a good comedy or spending time with someone who’s got the gift of humor can be invaluable when surviving infidelity. This week I found humor in this woman’s honest sharing; apparently her husband had to stop by her home to drop off a check which belonged to her. He is now living with the other woman. “Don’t you dare bring that other woman to our house,” Jane (not her real name) warned her husband. Jane’s concerned friends warned her, “Jane, you’ve got to be on your best behavior.” Jane seriously considered this advice. She considered what her best possible behavior would be if her husband brought this other woman to her home. Her ‘best behavior’ would be to go out there and smash their car in with a cane!!! (She is normally a gentle, quiet and calm lady.)
We are happy to announce that her husband heeded her warning and left the other woman in the car down the street.
A final word of advice: Stay strong and be brave. Life is a continuous battle, but when an enemy strikes the hardest, it is no time for weakness. It’s a time to stand up and fight with everything that is within you. You can make it through this, but it will take time. Give yourself time in surviving infidelity.
PS – Don’t hesitate to contact us for help. We’ve spent the last 10 years doing what others have called “impossible.” We can help you achieve “impossible” too! Our contact information is at the bottom of this page!
©Copyright 2011 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.