If your intention is to stay with your spouse after infidelity, this article is not for you. This article provides guidance for those who want to leave their spouse once unfaithfulness has been discovered.
The betrayal of a spouse is one of the most heartbreaking of experiences. When you find out you have been lied to and cheated on, you are stunned, shocked, emotionally destroyed. You feel like you will never recover. You try to bargain with reality. You search the internet for answers. You cry. You scream. You deny. You rage. There is no reprieve from the loss you have experienced. So what is the answer for your pain?
I interviewed multiple people who experienced sexual betrayal by their spouses. The key to recovery is in the grieving process. If you have been cheated on and want to leave your marriage, then this article is for you.
The stages of recovery from such a tragic experience include (From the book, “How to Survive the Loss of a Love,” by Bloomfield, et.al.):
If you are in the beginning stages of recovery, then you are not feeling at all content or relieved. If anything, you are probably yearning for your partner to do something akin to the following: coming to you begging for forgiveness, professing change, taking personal ownership of the pain he/she has caused you, erasing history…
But, reality bites.
Nothing your spouse does works to alleviate your pain. If you have an unrepentant spouse then the best decision you can make is one of self-respect and self-preservation. You must look the problem squarely in the eye and take action.
Step 1: Go no contact. No contact means less pain. Your spouse does not deserve to hear your voice or see your face. He/she had choices on how to handle the problems in your relationship and he/she chose to break his/her commitment to you as a solution. Not only did your spouse cheat on you, he/she also deceived you. Instead of leaving the relationship, he/she chose to have his/her cake and eat it too. He/she only deserves to see glimpses of you from now on.
Step 2: Lean in to your pain and let yourself grieve. The more you grieve, the sooner you’ll heal.
Step 3: Write. Write. Write. Get a journal and use it to process all of your feelings in your writing. Write angry letters to your spouse that you never send. Write your pain. Write about your worth. Write until your hand hurts, but whatever you do, keep writing. Every day develop the discipline to listen to your pain through writing. Set aside at least 20 minutes a day for this process. Write about your lost sense of security; your shattered dreams; your loss of your identity as a married person. Write until you don’t feel the need to write any more. Do this every day.
Step 4: Look forward. Do not look back. Once you have made the decision to leave, do not look back at the relationship in a hopeful way. Turn the page of your life and realize you are entering a new chapter; a better chapter. Be unwavering in your loyalty to yourself. One way to do this is to not allow yourself to pine after a person who has betrayed you with sexual infidelity. Do not fantasize or glorify your cheating spouse. Instead, hold on to yourself and plan a better future – one that includes a new partner who offers a healthier relationship.
Step 5: Develop mantras of positive self-talk and memorize them. Write them on note cards and rehearse them all the time. Memorize positive statements, such as – I will feel better. My life will be good. I can get through this. I will be better off without a spouse who betrays me. I can do this. I did not deserve this. I will heal. Think of statements that work for you and repeat them over and over again.
Step 6: Pray. If you do not believe in God, then skip this step. If you do, then pray all day and all night. Ask God to help you heal and take away your sad feelings. Ask God for strength. Turn toward God. Turn away from the hurtful spouse and focus your energy on a power greater than yourself.
Step 7: Find support. Do not go through the painful process alone. Get help. Find a therapist. Join a divorce recovery and/or grief group. Talk to healthy friends who will listen to your pain. Talk to people who’ve been where you are and who can understand the experience. Talk to people who love you and care about you. Work on your recovery.
Step 9: Take Care of Your Physical Body. Rest. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat healthy foods. Go easy on yourself. Taking care of your physical well-being can go a long way. Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
Step 10: Remember – It is Not Your Fault. You were betrayed. The infidelity happened and it was not your failure. You were true to your spouse. Your spouse made choices. Do not undervalue the level of betrayal that has been perpetrated on you. Remind yourself that your spouse made choices. He/she had options. This was the option he/she was willing to choose. He/she owns all of the responsibility for this betrayal.
Even if your marriage was in shambles, he/she could have chosen to bring healing and blessing to your relationship. Sexual betrayal never results in recovery for a troubled relationship. Do not own any mantle of shame or blame for this one. Your spouse may choose to say things such as, “If you were there for me this wouldn’t have happened.” Hogwash! He/she cheated on you because of a desire for self-indulgence and personal comfort. Do not ever own the choices of another person. This is about his/her character – not yours.