Surviving infidelity is one of the most painful things that anyone will ever have to bear. Finding out that the person you love the most has betrayed you can feel worse than a death by a thousand cuts. It can not only destroy your relationship, it can alter how you view your future, your past, even yourself.
For many betrayed partners, it’s not just a “bad day” or something that you can just “get over”. Surviving infidelity takes time, patience, and a willingness to face the hurt and heartache head on. Infidelity is not something that can be brushed under the rug or ignored… at least, not if you don’t want it to happen again.
Unfortunately, many people believe that surviving an affair is impossible, that once that trust is broken it can never be restored. Most people who believe this have never been through it themselves. They see the pain caused by the affair and wish to help those who are suffering. It makes sense to them that if your partner is the source of your pain, that the solution must be to leave. After all if you place your hand on a hot stove, is it not natural to pull away from the heat?
One downside to this is that many people are not open to the prospect of even trying to rebuild one’s relationship after an affair. They cast their own judgment upon the couple and advise that they should go their separate ways. Not only does this lead to even more shame and guilt but does not provide the support necessary for a couple to survive infidelity.
Perhaps you have tried to confide in a trusted friend or family member and they told you that you should leave. They saw the pain that you were in and wanted nothing more than that pain to come to an end. Unfortunately, all this does is make it less likely that you will open up to them or confide in them while you work toward surviving infidelity.
Eventually, you wind up in a place where you feel guilty for staying. When divorce is so common and so easy, why stay? Staying in a relationship after an affair is the new shame. But the truth is it’s completely normal to want to stay together. In fact, about 70% of couples actually survive infidelity. It’s okay to not want to throw away your entire life because of your partner’s betrayal. That doesn’t mean that you simply roll over and take it either. There is still work that needs to be done.
It’s true that surviving infidelity will be one of the most painful experiences of your life. However, if we can learn to cope with the pain, learn what the affair has to teach us, and incorporate this into our relationship, we can not only survive infidelity but thrive in its wake.
Keep reading for 5 tips so you can start surviving infidelity today.
Surviving Infidelity Can Seem Impossible
The biggest downside of not surviving infidelity is that you may always question your decision to leave. When emotions are high (as they certainly will be after the discovery of an affair), it’s important not to make decisions based on knee jerk reactions. You will want to run away. You will want to push your partner away. Again, it’s a natural reaction to avoid the source of our pain. You may also find yourself drawn to your partner- a part of you longing to be close to them, held by them, comforted by them. And it can switch from one extreme to the other in an instant.
At the very least, you find yourself feeling hurt and confused, uncertain of how to move forward. Your mind filled with unanswered questions about your future together (or apart).
Living this way is causes extreme anxiety and uncertainty. Without the proper guidance and support, surviving infidelity may truly be impossible for you and your partner.
Truly Surviving Infidelity Means More Than Just Ending the Pain
Surviving infidelity is not only about coping and dealing with the pain of the affair, it’s about discovering the meaning behind the affair. Dealing with the pain, removing your hand from the fire, so to speak must come first, however.
Although you struggle to grapple with these seemingly contradictory thoughts and emotions, you have the potential to rebuild and revitalize your relationship. When we choose to do this, there is a possibility for a renewed sense of hope and trust in your relationship. You have the opportunity to rebuild your relationship- not to what it was before but into something better.
5 Tips for Surviving Infidelity
Yes, it’s true you may be feeling hurt and confused, the affair can be an opportunity. Really!
The key to coping with the sting of infidelity is to first take care of yourself.
Take a look at these 5 of Strategies for Overcoming Infidelity
It makes complete sense that you’re feeling overwhelmed and hurt following the discovery of the affair. Dealing with these painful emotions isn’t easy.
Surviving Infidelity Tip #1: Do Something Just for You
Sometimes it’s okay to distract yourself from the pain. When your mind is filled with so many unanswered questions, it may be necessary to give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to indulge a little bit. Go shopping. Buy yourself a new outfit. Spend the day getting pampered at a spa. Take a mini-vacation (or stay-cation).
The point is to do something that you enjoy that will help lift your mood from the dump it will inevitably be in. If splurging on yourself isn’t possible, find other activities that you enjoy- go for a walk, take a long, hot shower, talk to a friend or loved one on the phone. Even reconnecting with an old friend from school and catching up can help you feel better and realize that the world isn’t such a terrible place after all.
Living with the pain of infidelity can lead you to see the world negatively. After all, how could the person who was supposed to love you forever hurt you so badly? So take some time to remind yourself that it’s not all darkness and shadows. Find some light in the world.
Surviving Infidelity Tip #2: Take Care of Your Health
Working out or eating healthy may be that last thing on your mind right now. It’s natural not to feel like eating healthy or eating at all when you feel this badly. But your emotional health is connected with your physical health.
When I’m feeling down, I am much more likely to turn to a cheesy slice of pizza than I am to go for a run. I know what will be better for me in the long-term, but in that moment I find comfort in food. (I’m working on that.)
I also know that the better I take care of my physical health, the easier it is to maintain a positive outlook on life. When I feel good about myself, I feel better about the world around me.
So make sure that you’re eating well and drinking plenty of water. It really goes a long way when you’re surviving infidelity (and otherwise).
Surviving Infidelity Tip #3: Confide in Someone You Trust
Don’t allow the shame of infidelity to infect your daily interactions with others. Feeling like you have to put on a happy face while living in the shadow of an affair can be exhausting. Find someone you trust not to judge you to open up to about what you’re going through.
It may not be your mother or your best friend, but find someone. The affair doesn’t have to be the only thing you talk about, but allow someone the opportunity to ask you how you’re doing and if you need to talk.
Many people are afraid of becoming a burden on their loved ones, but imagine for a moment that a dear friend came to you and opened up about something that was troubling them. Would you feel burdened? Probably not. You’d most likely feel honored that they trusted you enough to confide in.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about the affair, just letting someone know that you are going through a difficult time right now and could use their support and shoulder can make a huge difference.
Surviving Infidelity Tip #4: Plan Activities with Your Partner
Depending on how far you are in the process of surviving infidelity, this suggestion may seem impossible. However, it’s important to spend time reconnecting with your partner if you want to move forward. There will be plenty of time to talk about the affair, but there needs to also be time set aside where you specifically don’t talk about the affair.
The reason this is helpful is to remind yourself that your partner isn’t just a terrible person. There is a reason you are in this relationship; you chose your partner for a reason. It can be helpful to remind yourself of this as you work to overcome the affair.
Now this isn’t meant to minimize the impact or damage the affair caused. Rather, it’s meant to start to rekindle the feelings that may have faded even before the affair was brought to light.
The couples that I see who are still able to see the good in their partner despite the bad they have done, have the best chance of surviving infidelity.
Surviving Infidelity Tip #5: Counseling
There are many reasons why couples find counseling after an affair helpful. For one, it can help take the edge off the hurt caused by the discovery of the affair. Some therapists refer to the partner who discovers the affair as the hurt partner, and I sometimes use that to keep things simple. The truth is that there is likely hurt on both sides of the affair. When tension is high in the aftermath of the discovery, things can be said that wound both partners.
It’s important to have someone who can guide you to having more constructive conversations, not only about the affair, but about your relationship as well. When you know someone as intimately as you know your partner, you also know exactly what to say to hurt them. When we are feeling hurt, it can be natural to want to harm the other as well. Wounded animals are much more likely to harm you when you approach them than welcome you’re aid.
Seeking a counselor who specializes in affair recovery can also help you gain clarity and help address any ambivalence you may have in continuing the relationship. When I work with couples, I don’t push a certain agenda. (You can read why I am not a pro-marriage therapist here.) Both partners must be on board and committed to the process before they can work toward surviving infidelity together.
For many couples, talking to a counselor helps them to learn that what they are going through is normal and that they are not alone. It can also provide them with hope in an otherwise bleak situation. I tell my couples that not only is surviving infidelity possible, it can help them have a relationship like never before.
At Mindful Life Counseling, I specialize in affair recovery and can help guide you on your journey toward surviving infidelity. It may not seem like it now, but there is hope for your relationship- whether the infidelity was a one-night stand or an affair that lasted several years. I can help you turn the devastation of the affair into an opportunity to revitalize your relationship.
What are you waiting for? Click here to schedule your free 30 minute consultation and begin your journey toward surviving infidelity today.
Surviving infidelity isn’t easy, but getting started is. Click here and select a time to chat. It’s that simple.
Mark Cagle LPC
Mark Cagle is an affair recovery specialist in Dallas, TX. He helps couples turn the devastation of an affair into an opportunity to revitalize and reinvigorate their relationship.
When he's not helping couples, he enjoys playing with his three wonderful daughters and spending time with his wife of 11 years. He loves card, board, and video games and is still a kid at heart.