When you discover your partner’s infidelity, a horrible sinking feeling washes over you–followed quickly by a wave of denial.
“It can’t be true!” you try to reassure yourself, even as another wave of realization pummels you with the truth: This is actually happening to you even though you never thought it would.
Being the victim of a cheating spouse is a heartbreaking sucker punch to the gut.
It’s also terrifying because if the person you trusted to be faithful to you isn’t, that calls everything into question. What’s the point of anything if the love and commitment you thought you had are a sham?
Your happiness and hope are sucked out as though you’ve crossed paths with a dementor from a Harry Potter book.
Is there really hope that you’ll ever stop feeling like a complete fool and feel desired, taken care of and special again?
Of course there is. I’ve seen it too many times to doubt it.
But I get that it does NOT feel that way today.
As hard as it is when you discover your partner’s infidelity, there’s plenty you can do to speed the healing process and come out with an even better marriage than before.
These six how-tos will help you come through this challenge with your dignity, your self-respect and a marriage that’s stronger than ever.
1. How to Get Relief from the Pain of Infidelity while Keeping Your Dignity
As a mere mortal woman yourself, you probably want him to hurt.
Of course you do! That’s exactly what happens to humans when we’re so mournfully wounded ourselves.
Your hurt and anger are valid, and they deserve their day in the sun.
Start with the moping. Commit to moping all damn day and don’t let anyone out-mope you.
Next, give your anger its due. Throw things and scream…but not at him.
I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it. It’s actually you I’m thinking about here. It’s your dignity I’m wanting to protect.
It has likely already taken some hits in this ordeal, and that’s understandable.
But the sooner you can stop saying things to him you might regret later–justified though they may be–the sooner you’ll stop feeling the throbbing pain in your heart.
I’m not saying you have to forgive or forget–not by a long shot.
It’s just that when anger tinged with hurt and fear is in the driver’s seat, you’re likely to end up somewhere you never wanted to go.
You could get there with an emotional hangover too. And for what?
Catharsis! That’s what.
You’re craving relief, which that dangerous conversation with him holds the promise to give you.
Of course you deserve to be heard and seen! That’s important.
And you can get that elsewhere.
You can talk to your mom or sister, bartender or AA sponsor, priest or rabbi, friend or relationship coach.
The distinction between tending to your own emotional needs at this time and punishing him with harsh words is choosing your audience wisely.
In my experience, my emotional well-being suffers when I indulge my desire for revenge by saying nasty things to someone I’m furious with.
It’s a hidden cost that took me years to recognize, but finally I’m able to see how my toxic words just boomerang back to me immediately and painfully, spoiling any fleeting satisfaction from “letting him have it.”
What’s been more satisfying and self-loving is getting what I really need–which is someone to witness my hurt, anger, shock and fear.
If I bare my soul to someone who wasn’t involved, I avoid temptation and get relief without all the unpleasant side effects of inflicting that punishment.
Well, with the exception of one important caveat that I’ll explain momentarily.
These days I’d rather take care of me and my emotional needs with a neutral party than indulge my (human but expensive) desire for revenge, which I now think of as the emotional equivalent of touching a hot stove.
2. How to Speed Up the Healing from Infidelity
Even if only 51% of you is leaning toward trying to save your marriage, you deserve a medal. Truly!
It takes so much courage to do what you’re doing. Many women will never find that courage.
You’re likely questioning whether it’s worth it, whether your marriage can ever be shiny and happy again.
You might be vacillating.
One minute you fantasize that he’ll come back begging for your forgiveness and telling you it was all his fault, and that he’ll never, ever, ever do it again and that you were always the only one for him, so you can be reunited for good.
The next minute, you envision dramatically telling him he’s lost you forever and walking away for the last time. Imagine the look on his face!
It’s a good thing it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, right?
But here’s something powerful you can do RIGHT NOW to affect the outcome of the crisis you’re in: Decide what your intention is.
Since you’re reading this blog, it seems like your intention is to heal from this betrayal and fix your marriage.
I’m checking because another piece of the healing is to land on a decision, even if you completely change your mind again by 2:30.
Just for this millisecond, what is your intention with your relationship? Do you want to fix your marriage?
It may feel safer to stay in the murky indecision, but it’s actually prolonging your suffering. Indecision is painful. Mixed energy will keep you miserable. So one thing you can do today is…
Then you can decide again later, or tomorrow.
Just decide for right this minute.
Why? Because when you decide, you stop being a victim.
You don’t have to stay in this marriage.
You don’t have to end this marriage.
It’s your decision. Doesn’t that sound good right about now?
Maybe you don’t feel like it’s your decision because he’s forcing your hand saying he’s going to file for divorce or refusing to end the affair.
But that’s on his side of the street.
What’s on yours?
How will you use your formidable influence?
Only you can know what your decision is, and once you acknowledge that decision you become much more powerful.
3. How to Get Rid of the Other Woman
Another thing you can do for faster healing of yourself and your marriage is to starve the other woman of oxygen. This is just a metaphor–I’m not saying you should literally suffocate her (though I can see why you’d want to).
I know it’s tempting to confront the other woman, to let her know what a homewrecker she is and what an idiot to date a married man, and that you’re not blind to what’s going on.
The illusion is that by checking on her on social media or his phone you’ll know more about your safety and future prospects. That illusion is strong!
But all of that works the opposite of how you want it to because what you focus on increases. You’d be giving her oxygen in the form of your attention, your thoughts and your energy, which results in her growing more prominent in your life and your husband’s life.
But how can you ignore her when she seems to be the source of all the suffering you’re enduring now?
It takes some commitment for sure.
But what if acting as if she didn’t exist were the key to ending your own suffering?
That’s what we see on our campus, where women commune to get the encouragement to choose their focus carefully so that they’re having the experience they want to have–not the one they don’t want.
One of my coaches describes how her husband’s mistress was her focus for years before she learned this truth and got the support to follow through with it. She was amazed that the woman completely disappeared from their lives shortly after that.
If you want the other woman completely out of your lives, one powerful thing you can do is stop bringing her up yourself, even to yourself.
She’s just a distraction from your highest priority of making yourself happy, even if you don’t feel like you’ve got much to be happy about right now.
4. How to Avoid the Worst Myths about Surviving Infidelity
You’ll hear advice that you have to stop talking to him.
You might read that step one of recovering from an affair is that he has to end things with his affair partner. Until that happens, you’re stuck waiting around…and it could be a while.
You’ll see “expert” advice that you should separate, kick him out, or even that you have to divorce! Or else you’re not respecting yourself.
But I’ve watched thousands of students buck all that bad advice and make real, lasting change in their relationships that exceeded their own expectations.
One woman waited six months following a therapist’s advice that there could be no progress until her husband ended his affair, though she felt more powerless and hopeless with each passing month.
When she decided to do what she could on her side of the street, using The Six Intimacy Skills™ and The Connection Framework, she saw incredible progress. Her husband turned toward her and away from his affair partner in just two months, and she regretted that she had wasted those six months.
Wanting to keep your family intact doesn’t make you a fool.
Research shows that being married improves your health, your general well-being, your standard of living, your overall income, your resistance to disease and a reduction in alcohol and substance abuse.
Married people have more and better sex than singles and are at lower risk of suicide.
Even if it’s just because you don’t want to lose status or money or because of the kids, staying married after an affair is a big accomplishment.
I’ve seen enough courageous, committed women fix their marriages after a betrayal to know that it takes more strength and wisdom to stay than it does to end your marriage.
5. How to Get a Mentor to Help You
Did you know there are women who have lived through an affair and made it to the other side with a happy, healthy marriage who are willing to show you exactly what they did to heal from the infidelity?
Their whole job is to guide you, support you and stand for your greatness as you embark on the journey to your own happy, healthy marriage.
These women are called Certified Relationship Coaches, and they are a rare and powerful breed.
No one can identify with your situation quite like she can. And that empathy is something you definitely deserve right now.
Remember I said there’s a caveat about getting things off your chest with a third party like your friends, mom or sister?
Telling the story again and again will help with your healing, but if you tell a friend or relative the terrible things he did to you, it will color their view of the man for a long time to come.
People who love you want to protect you, and down the road they might think reminding you how awful he once was is a good way to do that.
They might even tell you to leave him, even if that’s not what you think is best for your family or for yourself.
That’s why it’s so valuable to have an audience who can empathize and also keep her eye on the ball of healing your marriage–if that’s an option you want to keep open.
Your relationship coach will do all of that.
You don’t want to be alone with this, and you might not want to be relying on well-meaning friends, who may love you to bits but not have the wisdom and experience to advise you.
Having a coach is the fastest way to heal an infidelity, which comes with so much urgency and pressure on you. You shouldn’t have to be alone with that.
A relationship coach stands for your greatness and for your husband’s (even if he doesn’t deserve it right now!). She can help you find your inner wisdom, illustrate the trusty skills she’s learned along the way, and point out blind spots that would otherwise impede your progress.
6. How to Have Hope for Your Future
An overview of infidelity research from the Zur Institute found that most couples survive an affair rather than getting divorced and that most affairs don’t last beyond the falling-in-love phase and are short-term.
So if it’s your intention to stay married, the odds are in your favor, even if that’s not what he’s saying right now.
You’re the one he married in front of God and everybody. You’re the one he has made a life with and likely has joint property or kids or cats with.
She’s just someone he has on the side.
He can’t marry her because he’s already married to you. And that will start to bother her pretty soon. Especially if he’s not leaving you. Especially if he’s not divorcing you.
She may get shrill about that, for one thing. And that tends to burst the infatuation bubble quickly. The grass doesn’t seem so much greener anymore.
We have a saying about it around here: “A wife with The Connection Framework trumps a mistress every day of the week and twice on Sundays.”
I’ve come to think of affairs as the breakdown before the breakthrough.
It’s an intense pain that’s bringing your attention to this part of your life, the part that’s on fire.
When you bring your focus to your relationship and more importantly, to your own self-discovery as a result of this crisis, magical things can result.
One of my coaches was describing such a miracle recently when she shared about a student who did get divorced and then wrote months later to let her coach know that they had remarried and were happier than ever. This client talked about how she had learned so much about herself and was a happier person overall.
That’s the kind of thing we witness around here a lot, and it never gets old. It always gives us chills and cause for celebration.
If that can happen for her and for thousands of other students on our campus, why not you too?