The Emotional Impact of Discovering Infidelity

Whether you call it cheating, adultery, having a fling, or engaging in an extramarital affair … finding out that your spouse is involved with someone else can be an emotionally devastating experience for even the strongest person.

Because a cheater is likely to deny having an affair, his/her spouse will be left struggling with the feeling that something doesn’t make sense … but unable to understand what happened, or how it happened. Even if there were warning signs, a spouse is likely to be devastated when the suspicions of a cheater’s infidelity are confirmed. “Crushed and humiliated” are two of the most common feelings associated with knowing that your partner has been unfaithful.

When an affair is revealed, “I want a divorce” is the most common reaction. Following such a tremendous violation of trust, the idea of a normal relationship seems impossible. For many victims of infidelity, a recurring vision of the cheater in the arms of his/her lover is sickening and breeds tremendous resentment.

Cheater’s Have Feelings, Too
Although feelings of remorse and guilt would be expected, and do occur, in cheaters when their affairs are discovered, they have other feelings that are less conducive to repairing their marital relationships. Cheaters who are “found out” feel tremendous loss, convinced they will never again find such flawless, undemanding love.

Before there can be any kind of forward movement — towards reconciliation or towards dissolving the marriage — both parties must acknowledge, express, and resolve their feelings about what has happened.

The Stages
It is said that there are five “stages” people go through in order to come to terms with death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When it comes to the impact of a spouse’s infidelity — the “death” of a marriage, for some — the stages to acceptance are amazingly similar.

  • Denial – refusal to believe that the spouse is having an affair
  • Anger – expressing the feelings associated with the discovery
  • Bargaining – trying to find ways to adapt to the changes resulting from the affair
  • Depression – realizing that the affair has changed everything
  • Acceptance – moving forward towards repairing or dissolving the marriage

It’s natural to want to find a quick solution to the upheaval caused by an affair and to put an end to all the bad feelings. But there’s no “magic pill” that makes dealing with an affair easy. Getting over the shock, anger, pain, and radical changes caused by the situation will take time. It will take even more time and work to rebuild trust.

Some factors that make a difference are: willingness to answer questions, hanging in through the inevitable emotional impact, and severing contact with the third party. (These are not absolute, but usually indicate a willingness to resolve this issue instead of trying to bury it alive, where it just keeps coming back.)

 

 

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