Adultery rips the fiber of relationships and carves them out to the very core.
Love’s promise is negated in an instant with an illegitimate affair. The hurt of betrayal is so deep, so all-encompassing, so overwhelming that when discovered it shadows all other aspects of life.
Discovery of multiple lies and deceits can affect the hurt partner mentally
With the discovery of multiple lies and deceit, the hurt partner is reeling in shock, and trying to make sense of the way she thought things were.
The humiliation of realizing she has been deceived and disrespected, fear of losing their life the way it was, self-doubt that she is not enough, rage that her trusted beau could deceive her, jealousy that ‘the other woman’ has what she doesn’t, is some of what will go through the hurt partner’s mind.
In cycles, waves of numbing calm and extreme distress wash over her, often hitting her when least expected, always hitting her where it hurts most.
The dance between incredulity and devastating acceptance likely will continue for some time. Often hurt partners will experience symptoms such as disturbed sleep, obsessive and intrusive thoughts, nightmares, memory lapses, isolation, low energy, feeling out of control, impulsiveness, numbness, etc.
Fight, flight or freeze?
With the shock of discovery comes the sense of threat to the safety.
While some are unable to move, agape with shock, others want to leave right away and go as far as possible, hoping to avert the danger.
At this stage of crisis, it is essential for the couple to remember not to make a decision about their relationship.
The shock will eventually wear off, and even though it might not feel like it at that moment, their entire relationship is not necessarily negated by the affair. There are parts of their relationship, and parts of themselves that still hold true.
In order to get to the other side of the dark tunnel, the couple must first walk through the tunnel, but even before that, they need to get their footing.
Though every story is different, adultery is exceptionally catastrophic on many levels, and it is important for the couple to get professional help and support through its effects.
Repeated questioning, obsessive ruminating, and an insatiable need to review details are the hurt partners attempt to make sense of their relationship history.
In the wake of infidelity, not only are the couples future plans out for a spin but so is their past history.
The memory of the past is no longer reliable or valid.
It is deeply disorienting to question both the past and the future at the same time and do not know either with certainty. The hurt partner’s life-story is all of a sudden made inaccurate, and her sense of self is shattered.
Obsessively she tries to gather pieces of the puzzle, trying to write a new narrative.
The loss of a sense of self, and the crisis of identity often also extends to the partner who has had the affair.
Face to face with the hurt he has caused his partner, he now has to watch her suffer which is exceptionally difficult given that he has caused the suffering.
Her suffering becomes a reminder of his transgression which does not make him feel good about who he is.
But he must patiently hold the space, allowing her grieving process, and for her swings between anger and rage to sadness and despair and everything in between. Alongside he must begin to assimilate the broken pieces of his identity and understand what the affair meant to him.
Holding space for healing
Often during the catastrophe of infidelity, it is up to the treating therapist to hold down the fort and to offer a safe space and stable ground so the couple can begin to reassemble the shattered pieces of their life.
They either chose to remain together or separate…