You Were Unfaithful to Your Spouse: The Grief of the Offending Partner
You were unfaithful to your spouse, and now, you have ended the affair. However, that is not the end of your healing from it. You, too, are suffering and have some grief work to do. First, of course, you need to seek to atone for your actions and begin to rebuild their trust if your partner allows you. This blog is not about restoring trust with your spouse or taking the steps necessary to rebuild your relationship. For the Love Recon Event, click here. Instead, it is about the grief you must heal from to move forward in your life and relationship.
Before you can move on to rebuild trust with your spouse, you need to deal with your own grief over the affair fully. You may be suffering the loss of your self-worth. It is possible that you are experiencing shame over what you have done and the pain you have caused. It is also quite likely that you have feelings of love for the person with whom you were unfaithful. You valued what they added to your life. Now, however, you have decided to end the affair and seek the restoration of your marriage. What are some practical steps that you can take?
Maintain your health.
Don’t wallow in your misery. Be careful not to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to numb your pain and shame. Eat well. Exercise. Spend time with your family, especially your spouse, if they will let you. Pay attention to your emotional and spiritual health and do what is healing and transformative for you.
Don’t exalt your affair partner in your mind.
You will be tempted to only think about the perceived good qualities of your affair partner. You may want to think of how they “got you” when nobody else did. You will tend to remember the nice things that they did for you and how they made you feel. This thinking will only prolong the pain and grief, delay your healing and sabotage the restoration of your marriage. They are a flawed human being, just as you are and just as your spouse is. If the affair lasted long enough, you began to see those flaws. Remember those and the times that they disappointed you, let you down, or even used you. Even if you can think of no negative qualities, you have a choice in what you think about. Choose, then, instead to exalt your spouse in your thoughts. Focus on their good qualities and traits. Think about what they have brought to your life and the meaningful moments that you have shared with them in the past. You have chosen them over your affair partner. Now choose them in your thinking.
Purge your heart and all reminders.
Have a time of purging. First, cry over the pain that you are experiencing in breaking off this affair. Don’t judge whether or not it is right to feel this pain. Next, get rid of any mementos of the affair – notes, letters, pictures, gifts, etc. Then, block your affair partner’s phone number, social media accounts, and any other way you contacted each other. Close all avenues of communication to help stop the war in your mind and heart.
Work through the stages of grief.
Because this is a loss on several levels, recognizing and working through the Dr. Katherine Kubler-Ross model of the stages of grief can be of great help.
As the cheater, you may be tempted to rationalize and excuse your behavior because they can’t bring yourself to acknowledge the pain and damage that you have caused. Likewise, minimizing the affair and insisting that you and your spouse simply “move on and put it behind you” will only prolong the pain and the healing for you and your spouse. Acknowledgment of the pain and suffering you have caused is the way to move through this stage of grief.
You may be angry that you ended the affair or that you had an affair in the first place. Your anger could be directed at your spouse or even God. The key in this stage is to forgive whomever you need to forgive so that you can experience peace. If you do not forgive, you will sabotage your efforts for personal healing, and your relationship won’t be truly restored.
You may try to “bargain” with your offended partner to accept excuses from you for the affair. “If I hadn’t been so stressed at work…, “for example. You could even be tempted to shift the blame onto your partner by saying or insinuating that they were the reason for the affair. This is a time for deep self-examination and soul-searching on your part. You are an adult. You chose to be unfaithful. The answers to the “why” you cheated are inside of you.
When the weight of what you have done begins to sink in, you may experience depression. You may want to isolate yourself because of feelings of shame or unworthiness. If you have children, you may begin to see the damage you have caused them and condemn yourself. Again, the only way for everyone to heal, learn and grow is for you to acknowledge the pain and disruption that you have caused the family, ask forgiveness, and take care of yourself in the ways described at the beginning of this blog. This may be the point where you seek help through individual counseling or coaching.
This is the stage in which you accept that you blew it. You’re not the superman or superwoman that you thought you were. You acted in ways that were not true to yourself or your spouse, and you have caused great pain. However, you are ready to face the future, make amends where possible, and begin to live your new authentic life, a wiser and stronger person.