All in skills for the journey
The emotion that comes up as part of the affair recovery journey can at times seem completely overwhelming. I have heard many people who have been through significant other traumatic events in their lives talk about the experience of betrayal by your partner as the worst by far. It knocks you out in a way that most of us have never experienced before. So it makes sense that most of us do not have experience of the kind of strategies and tools that would be helpful in managing this level of emotional turmoil.
I have often said and will continue to say that no one can make the decision to stay in a relationship after one person has had an affair but the people in the relationship. The choice to stay or go is yours and yours alone. The kids; your mother-in-law; your best friend the manager of the grocery store can all have their opinions but they are meaningless. You and only you - meaning the two people in the relationship need to work this through and wholeheartedly decide what is right for you.
Last night in my Beyond Affairs Network (BAN) meeting we had a discussion about what people have found useful in helping them move forward in their healing. Along with BAN meetings and counselling and workshops such as the Take Your Life Back or Healing From Affairs weekends, and reading and talking about it, working on self (and many others that people shared) there are two I want to highlight today because they are free and you can implement them immediately - and very quickly you will feel their impact for the better. They are Gratitude and Journaling.
It is a very rare occasion when I hear from a betrayed spouse that their unfaithful partner has told them the truth about the extent of their infidelity right from the start. Instead it is way more likely that the truth has been trickled out over a period of time – trickle truth. This is an extremely painful way to come clean about the affair for the betrayed spouse. And it gets worse when lies are told to cover up other lies or minimise the truth. Layer upon layer of deception that has to be unravelled.
Everyone involved in an affair takes a huge hit to their sense of self worth. I remember feeling totally worthless – I described it as chewed up and spat out – not a pretty visual but real. My husband wasn’t feeling that great either. He had violated all the standards he had for himself and his marriage and he was struggling with feeling good about himself when he had sunk to such a personal low.
This article is specifically on the obsessive thoughts about the other person (people)/affair partner(s). They are often the hardest thoughts to shift, lingering after all the others have been dealt with and you are quite well down the path on your healing journey. Really, the affair partner was around for long enough in person – you don’t want them still there in your head.
Why do we need to talk about it? This is often said by the one who had the affair…can’t you just forget about it and move on?
There are a couple of perspectives on why you need to talk.
Today I am responding to an excellent question I have recently received because I know most people affected by an affair carry this fear – and it is not just the betrayed spouse. Twice lately I've had some freak out moments. Was out a couple of times over the weekend with someone who doesn’t know about the affair and saw people who looked like the Affair Partner (AP). Sent me into slight panic attacks at the thought of actually bumping into her one day and having no idea how to handle that kind of a situation (one for my own self sanity and two if it was to happen in front of someone who doesn't know what's happened).
The revelation of an affair is a serious relational and emotional trauma. Put simply the world as you knew it is no longer and everything you thought was real is up for question. This can permeate your whole life and extend to the other person, family and friends as you try to piece together what happened and who was involved.
Social or cultural truisms are those sayings that we learn, seemingly subliminally – as in we couldn’t pinpoint who taught us - from when we are very young. Some of them are just plain stupid like “a watched pot never boils”. Do the experiment –the same pot of water will boil in exactly the same amount of time whether you watch it or not!
One of the things about an affair though is that it refuses to be ignored. If you ignore a few scratches or bruises they will cause some discomfort but eventually go away. Ignoring an affair is the equivalent of ignoring a rumbling appendix - it will eventually burst and threaten your life. I had to learn how to go through the pain. The antidote to pain is somewhere inside the pain. And the worst part is the more you avoid the longer it takes to heal.
What you can and can’t do to speed it up – and what are the signs that it is nearly over…
From the minute you find out that you have been betrayed by your partner – whether you find out by accident or your partner tells you – you are on a journey with the goal to move from broken to whole. No one gets through the revelation of infidelity unscathed. But where you go from there is entirely up to you.