How it Feels:
On some level, one of the best ways anyone can relate to what it feels like to catch your spouse cheating is akin to how the world felt on 9/11. I bet you know exactly where you were and what you were doing when you found out. Your life, and time itself, stopped. Living in New York, I can tell you that’s how it felt here on 9/11.
When a spouse cheats, the reaction to your world is the same. Part of your life feels like life itself has stopped in that moment. What you knew before this realization is forever changed. The life you thought you had can never again be what it was. For many reasons, the shock, the realization, the fear and finally the truth, all of it feels overwhelming and it knocks the wind out of you. The world does stop turning. For some people, there is a bit of relief; some part of them that “knew” something wasn’t right is reassured that they really can trust their guts. For others the shock is numbing and blinding.
After the revelation comes your reaction. Anger, despair, fear, pain all flood in. And these feelings are not only directed at your partner, part of you is also angry with yourself. How could you have KNOWN and not confronting or address it sooner?
Magically perhaps, your thinking was that your relationship would get better… you believed that as a couple you were working on improving your relationship, even if you didn’t have a formal plan. Perhaps you were holding out because while it wasn’t great, you have kids, friends, and a lifestyle that you can’t afford on your own. In time, things would get better; you would remember who you were when you fell in love so many years ago and somehow, magically, you would get back there… when things were easier, there was less stress and the kids didn’t need so much from you.
This revelation is incredibly painful. Seeing a way out is asking for a miracle and yet, there can be hope at the end of this horrible ordeal. I’m inviting you to consider that this moment which is your worst case scenario, is also an opportunity. How you choose to act moving ahead can and will make the difference between healing or become stuck in this horrible drama.
What does this all mean?
Understand what happened
Underneath the affair was a series of choices that led your partner to stray. Why? What needs weren’t getting met? What habits and patterns were in play? What was happening in the intimate connections between you in your bedroom, in your communication and in your friendship? Couples make crazy contracts with each other to make marriages “liveable” and most are never verbalized out loud. The rules of the game are laid out through behaviors and can feel clear even though the lines/rules where never discussed.
Really digging into the whys of the affair will be one of the hardest things you’ve probably ever done. Hear me when I say that you will rise from these ashes. This is an event in your life; it’s not a prediction of the life you’re doomed to have.
Remind yourself that you are stronger than you think
You can take care of yourself. You can show up for yourself. You can get through this; the commitment you have to make is to yourself to heal. It is your inalienable right since your birth to take care of yourself and to live in an environment where you can thrive. Let you gut be your guide and cultivate the skills to listen to what’s happening inside so you’re more in-tune you’re your needs and can better navigate your circumstances.
Spend time getting to know yourself
All relationships are a two-way street and rarely do things like infidelity happen with only one person involved. That certainly doesn’t mean you’re to blame for another’s actions. Take the time to clean up your side of the street. Understand what roles you plan and what baggage you carry. By getting to know yourself, you can embark down a path of self-discovery and healing that will help to prevent anything like this from ever happening to you again.
Give yourself a break, you’re only human
We all are, which means we can get hotwired and hijacked by our emotions. You can count on it every time. We are wired for survival. When threat is perceived (note the word perceived vs. actual) an instinctive response for fight, flight or freeze is hard wired to automatically show up. As human being’s we are hard wired to make monogamy hard. It’s not monogamy that’s hard; it’s our reactive/protective behaviors in relationships and how we treat each other that make relationships hard.
Rejection is pain
The emotional pain registers in your brain like physical pain and can feel intolerable. I’m here to tell you every emotion will crest, it’s a wave and you will absolutely get on the other side of it. The key is to allow yourself to know, name and feel the emotions so you can hear what they’re telling you.
Today, commit to never act or make decisions from intense emotions. They are not the truth, no matter how true they feel. They are amplified and absolutely are distorting the reality.
Work on learning to trust yourself
The painful truth here is that if you don’t trust yourself, then you should be very afraid. You need to trust yourself before you can trust anyone else. You need to trust that you are committed to doing what you know looks and feels right even when that’s the hardest thing for you to do. No part of you wants to feel filleted open and dropped again.
Change your focus from the affair to learning to love yourself and life you truly desire
Love yourself enough to explore what you REALLY want for your life. Take time to cultivate your desires and work towards having space in your life for the vision of yourself you want to see manifest. The more you work on you, loving you, nurturing you, the more your heart will open to giving to others. Remember that when a person feels whole, connected and supported, they don’t NEED much; they are more free to give to others because their energy isn’t spent trying to get someone else to meet their needs, they are full and others are able to be the icing to their cake.
Know that in front of you will be the decision to commit or leave.
At some point as the crisis passes, you will have to ask yourself if your partner has more to teach you and if you can commit fully to staying in your partnership. It’s important that you work toward decision to either stay or go. Don’t stay on the fence; the longer you linger in uncertainty, the harder it will be on everyone involved. There’s no need to make an impulsive decision and there is a huge opportunity if you choose to decide to stay. Especially if you believe that you have more to learn from your partner, this experience and want to reach a fuller version of yourself. But, if you stay, remember that you and your spouse must commit to 100% of your 50%. Anything less is will not work.
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