If you are struggling to heal from an affair, look closely at your behavior for these subtle – and not-so-subtle – sabotages that could be hurting you.
You’re profoundly hurt. Your world has been turned upside down. Things that were once comfortable and familiar now feel painful and unsafe. I understand. Being the victim of an affair is very sad and unfair; I am so sorry that you’re hurting so deeply.
As hard as it may be to believe, you absolutely can heal from this and your relationship can get much, much better. In order for that to happen, you must be conscientious about how you’re treating your spouse. You may feel that this is wrong, that he/she hurt you, they don’t deserve a drop of your consideration! I get it, I really do, but here’s the thing: in order for your spouse to help heal your wounds and work to make the relationship better, they have to feel that you care about them too.
If your spouse feels that you hate them and that there’s little chance of things getting better, they will give up. Your spouse might be able to withstand a harsh “punishment phase” and be loving and kind to you for a while, but if you don’t ease up, they will slowly start to give up. And if they give up, there’s very little chance of saving the marriage.
So as hurt as you are, please take a moment to review the list of sabotaging behaviors below. Resist engaging in these behaviors because they ultimately hurt you. While you intend them to hurt your spouse, they often hurt your kids and you in the long-run. There are much better alternatives. You can hold your spouse accountable for his/her poor judgment without making your spouse feel like the devil.
Sabotage # 1 – Being Mean To Your SpouseEveryone on the planet would agree that you are entitled to punish your spouse for stepping outside the marriage. Cheating is absolutely unacceptable behavior and there is no justifying it. That said, treating your spouse poorly on an on-going basis only erodes their ability to take care of you and make up for their bad behavior. Relationships are dynamic and people have to feel that they matter to their spouse. If you’re not returning your spouse’s calls, not talking to each other, hurling insults at each other, this will only increase the divide between you. Treat your spouse as you would treat an acquaintance. You don’t have to be warm and cuddly, but you should be kind and civil. You might be thinking that they don’t deserve this type of nice treatment and you might be right about that. What I can tell you without a doubt is that the marriages that survive infidelity do so because both spouses showed kindness, even when they didn’t feel it was completely fair or deserved. Always treat your spouse better than they deserve and hope they will do the same. Most of the time, they do.
Sabotage # 2 – Demonizing Your Spouse To The Kids
By talking to your kids about the affair, you are putting them in a very difficult position. You’re essentially asking them to choose between their parents and making them feel that if they don’t side with you that they’ll lose your affection. Adult children of a divorce have a hard enough time understanding their parents’ motives; imagine how a teen or a school-aged child feels. Your kids love you and your spouse, please don’t tell them details about the affair or tell them negative things about your spouse. Doing so ultimately hurts your relationship with the kids because as they get older, they will judge you harshly for any perceived unfair treatment of the other parent. Talk to a trusted friend or family member or therapist about your feelings instead. There are also wonderful support groups online where you can post and chat anonymously. Do whatever you can to keep your kids out of the middle.
Sabotage # 3 – Insisting That Your Spouse “Fix” You
It would be wonderful if your spouse could fix you, or the marriage, or the mistake they made. Unfortunately, it is not possible. I truly wish it was. The only person who can “fix” you is you. I don’t know that you need “fixing,” the word fix implies that something in you is wrong or broken. I don’t see you this way, I see you as hurt. I know that you’re very strong and much more capable of healing yourself than you know. Your spouse plays a big role in healing you, but they cannot heal you for you. No one can. So instead of wishing for this, look deep within yourself to determine what you need to do or know to start healing. Do you need to know that your spouse is being completely honest and not keeping any more secrets? Fine, find a way to ask for this. Do you need to understand why the affair happened? Ok, start talking about this. Are you struggling with trying to forgive your spouse for their bad judgment? Very fair, talk with your therapist or trusted friend about this.
Dr. K's NEW Book on Infidelity Recovery
The Courage to Stay - How To Heal From an Affair & Save Your Marriage
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