|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
#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
#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
#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
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