|The Aftermath of Discovery
What happens next?
You've found the evidence, have confronted your spouse, and are now trying to figure out if the marriage can be repaired. You are
wondering if you will ever love, trust or be able to get over the hurt, rage and jealousy which results from discovering your mate had
an affair. You feel all alone in your grief and are wondering what comes next in this process. Well, let me walk you through the steps,
and what you can expect to find down this long, dark road toward recovery.
Cheating, and Infidelity
#1 - The initial shock. This is the phase where you are simply in disbelief. You cannot comprehend that your spouse was
physically or emotionally intimate with someone other than yourself. You start piecing the puzzle together and realize that so
much of your reality was actually a lie. During this phase you are simply in a fog while you try to make sense of what is
going on and figure out if this is all some sort of bad dream.
#2 Rage. You begin to realize that this is actually happening and not some cruel joke. During this phase you may become
physically ill and find you are simply unable to get out of bed, go to work, or interact with others in your world.
It is not uncommon for you to have episodes of crying, throwing things, breaking objects, screaming, fighting, and generally
behaving way out of control. You cannot see past the anger and may choose to express your rage in ways that are
dangerous, unhealthy, or illegal.
#3 The desire for revenge. This is the point where you are the most dangerous. You are not thinking clearly and simply
want to enact revenge upon those who you feel have wronged you. You may begin plotting and planning ways to get back
at either the other man/woman, or your spouse. Thoughts of a revenge affair move to the fore-front of your mind and you
may begin thinking of who you can sleep with in order to even the score with your spouse. You start looking for ways to
bring down your spouse's lover by hurting him/her personally, professionally, or financially. Please remember, this phase will
pass, and pure emotional decisions rooted in pain often lead to actions which one later regrets.
#4 Letting go of the anger. At this point the initial, violent, active rage subsides and you are left with a dull ache and the
feeling of being emotionally wiped out. This is typically the time when you can begin to entertain the notion of reconciliation,
or begin taking steps to end the marriage. Although deeply hurt, you begin thinking more logically and are not as consumed
with revenge but rather are more interested in taking an assessment of your life, goals and where you would like your
marriage to go from here. You begin focusing a little less on the other man/woman and more on your spouse and the mess
they have made in your marriage. During this phase, you are often simply too tired to fight, cry or re-live the horror 24
hours a day, and are beginning to desire closure, one way or another.
#5 Picking up the pieces. If you are planning and able to put your marriage back together, this is the point where you
need complete, unwavering, total cooperation from the cheater. He/she needs to know that this is going to be a looooong,
drawn out process, which will only be longer if they set up roadblocks to your recovery. Things the cheater does which
hinder progress include, refusing to answer questions regarding things that you have a right to know, continued contact with
the other man/woman, minimizing the situation or putting the blame back on the victim, or setting a time limit for when the
victim should be "over it". All these things are detrimental to the recovery of the relationship and make it nearly impossible
for there to ever be true healing. If you are not planning to put your marriage back together then this is the time you need to
begin seeking space and time fillers. I don't mean people
that you run to on the rebound and then screw up their lives for the sake of your recovery. I mean activities and interests
that you move to the front of your life in order to fill up the empty space left by the loss of companionship. This will be a
lonely time but if you choose to sit around sulking and feeling sorry for yourself, you will remain in this space indefinitely.
#6 Learning to trust again. This is a difficult phase regardless of whether you are trying to repair your current relationship
or begin a new one. I don't advise beginning a new one anytime soon, however, because you need time to heal and be
comfortable being with yourself before bringing another person into your world. If you are trying to rebuild your marriage,
learning to trust comes only from seeing a cheater lay all of his/her cards on the table and them making their life an open
book. This is an extremely long, slow process which plain and simply can only improve with the passage of time. Once
enough of your mate's stories check out as true, and when you can feel with complete certainty that he/she is no longer
communicating with the other man/woman, then you are on your way to learning to trust again. But, as previously
mentioned, if the cheater is not helping you along in the process then it simply will not work. Additionally, if you are dealing
with a serial cheater, or one who continues to cheat even though they have vowed fidelity, this process will never end.
Therefore, you likely can not, nor will not, ever rebuild the trust necessary for a healthy marriage.
#7 Dealing with triggers. Triggers are certain names, places and events which painfully remind you of the time your
spouse was having an affair. Perhaps it is a certain song that was popular during the time of the affair, or a restaurant or
motel he/she told you they visited. Triggers also come in the form of seeing someone who reminds you of the other
man/woman or hearing their name. Often looking back at old photos will become a trigger if in the photo you are standing
there smiling at the camera, unaware that your spouse was sleeping with someone else at the time. There is really no remedy
for triggers or way to avoid them. The only thing to do is to keep from obsessing over them and driving yourself crazy about
things which you cannot control.
#8 Setting realistic goals. This is the point when you need to figure out whether or not you will be able to continue in your
present relationship. Of course, it will never be the same, and following traumatic events you must settle into your "new
reality". But, can you continue to live in this manner? Do you feel comfortable that you will be able to trust your spouse
again and not keep beating them over the head everyday with questions and comments about the affair? Have they taken
responsibility for their actions, tried to repair the relationship, and vowed never to repeat the behavior? If so, and if you feel
that with time the relationship can be fixed, then moving on in your marriage is a realistic goal. If on the other hand, your
spouse refuses to acknowledge the affair, will not answer questions, behaves suspiciously and continues contact with the
other man/woman, you need to ascertain if you can indeed continue to live with this. If not, then reconciliation is not a
realistic relationship goal. Only you can do the assessment here, and although input from others might be nice, in the long
run you need to take this time to access what is in your best interest yourself.
#9 Finding a healthy new self. With or without him/her, you will recover and you will be okay. Yes, it does take time, but
you will emerge from this a healthier, stronger more aware person. Hopefully you will recognize that you cannot
entrust another individual with total responsibility for your happiness. During this process, you should do quite a bit of soul
searching in order to discover if there was anything you could have done differently to strengthen the bond in your
relationship. Becoming too needy, and overly dependent upon your spouse is never a good thing. Therefore, you need to
develop hobbies, friends and interests of your own. That way if your relationship does not work out, you have a cushion to
fall on, and if it does work out, you have used this experience for personal growth. There is a lot to be learned about
yourself, your spouse and your relationship following an affair. Be sure not to look past the lesson, in order to stay in.
Remember, that which does not kill us makes us stronger.
* * Part of healing is self evaluation. Although nothing excuses an affair, ask yourself: Was I the best, most loving,
attentive spouse I could have been?
* * Minimize input from others as you deal with the aftermath of an affair. You'd be surprised by the number of people
who don't have your best interest in mind.
* * Recognize that you will not, and should not reclaim the marriage you once had. You will be better served by
relinquishing the old relationship and building a new one. Often a new anniversary date, a new way of communicating with
each other, and a renewed commitment to working together in the relationship are essential.
* * Be mindful of marriage "stressors":
1) Unexpected differences
2) Unmet needs
3) Harbored resentment