Written by: Ingela Edwards, MS, LPC-Intern, National Certified Counselor, McKinney, TX.
Supervised by: Debra Dian Larsen, MS, LPC-S
Betrayal sends shock waves through the body. There is pain, disbelief and intense fear if you find out unexpectedly that your spouse has been involved in infidelity. You may have suspected that something was not quite right by the late arrivals at night, the smell of a different cologne or perfume, or by the way your spouse has been distant and withdrawn lately. Maybe your spouse hid the betrayal so well that there were no signs visible to you and the news of the affair hits you like a bombshell. Regardless of the history, you find yourself in a lot of pain, anger and fear.
So what do you do once you find out that your marriage has been exposed to infidelity? You may need to give yourself some time to think and determine what it is that you would like to happen. Do you want to work on the marriage? Is infidelity a deal breaker for you? Does the straying spouse show remorse and want to work on the marriage? There are many aspects to factor in and it may be difficult to do when you find yourself on an emotional roller coaster. Give yourself the gift of time if you are unsure of what you need and want at this time. Healing from infidelity takes time. There is no miracle pill to quickly fix what has been broken.
When both people want to heal and repair the marriage, there may be a “honeymoon” period. The honeymoon period is a time when all pain and anger is put on the back burner. There is intensity, passion and romance. There is joy from both sides that the marriage is still intact and the fear of abandonment has given way to relief and ecstasy. Just like any honeymoon, it will come to an end and the feelings of anger, pain and anxiety will seep through. These feelings that you are experiencing will need to be explored. You will need to work through them. You will need to allow yourself to be vulnerable with your spouse. You will need to learn to express your feelings of anger, disappointment and hurt.
In order for trust to slowly rebuild, the straying partner will need to be completely open and honest. There may be a lot of questions that need to be answered. The betrayed partner will need to have answers and there may be a time where passwords to email accounts and phones need to be shared. This is not to encourage the betrayed partner to become a spy or detective, it is a way for the straying spouse to show complete transparency in all areas. This does not need to turn into a mission where there is no privacy and the betrayed partner becomes obsessive in checking on the spouse. When the time is right, you let go of checking and you choose to believe again. There is no quick fix to recover from infidelity and there is no secret way of escaping the pain. It is a grief process and things may be rocky for a while.
The blog, Lost in the Aftermath of Infidelity? -A Roadmap to Healing and Restoring Broken Vows , provides some recommended areas that you may want to explore with your spouseas you begin your journey to restoring and rebuilding the marriage.
Ingela Edwards, LPC, NCC, SRT, CCPS is an individual and marriage therapist