How Do I Even Live a Normal Life Now?
Now that the affair is out in the open, both you and your partner will have a lot to process as you approach various situations in a new light. It might feel like no one has ever experienced the levels of hurt and betrayal that you are feeling right now, but, unfortunately, there have been many others before you, and it may be helpful for you to think through the levels of betrayal trauma that they have identified:
Shattered Inner World- Feeling that your four core beliefs (the world is benign and a source of pleasure; the world is meaningful, controllable, and just; people are trustworthy and worth relating to; and the self is worthy, lovable, good, and competent) are being threatened.
Life Crisis– The disparity between belief and reality that develops after the discovery of the infidelity.
Existential Trauma– Questioning the core beliefs around which they have created meaning and their ability to make sound decisions.
Emotional Trauma– This involves the patterns of emotional abuse (lying, deceiving, manipulating) used by the unfaithful spouse to keep their secret.
Relational Trauma– The damage that has been done to their marriage relationship.
What Do I Do Now?
- As you consider the above repercussions of this affair on the aspects of your life and perspective, you will likely find it helpful to talk with a counselor who can help you cope with the emotions that may seem to be all over the map.
- Additionally, talking with a close friend could be very helpful in finding solutions to logistical challenges such as childcare and work schedules.
What Should the Unfaithful Partner Do?
- Be aware of the multiple layers of trauma that your partner is experiencing as a result of your unfaithfulness. Practice empathy in your interactions with them.
- Pursue individual counseling with a professional experienced in situations like yours.
- This will likely involve some soul-searching to determine what caused you to have this affair and how to prevent yourself from the same temptation down the road.
- Be willing to attend couples therapy with your partner when they are ready.
What Should We Do Together?
Above and beyond couples therapy, your counselor will have some suggestions for “homework assignments” to aid the healing of your relationship, but here are a few suggestions:
- Set up guidelines and boundaries such as: no dinners alone with someone of the opposite sex, web service monitoring systems that will alert the other person of visits to certain websites, mandatory date nights once per week, nightly check-in calls when one of you is traveling
- Write a family mission statement that you review monthly to evaluate how well you have lived out your mission
- Have weekly “family meetings” (even if it is just over a dinner at the dining room table) to talk about what has gone on that week and things that are coming up
- Develop routine outings with a couple that you trust and can relate to, to build community
To hear more from Marnie Breecker of the Center for Relational Healing, listen to these two episodes of The Addicted Mind podcast here: