Everyone who successfully got through it will agree – healing after infidelity has a few stages you just have to go through. And they are all tough and painful. Until they aren’t anymore. And we promise you – you will get over it. We know that’s the one thing you probably need to know at this moment, as for those betrayed by their loved ones in such way, it may seem as if they’ll never get better. It will.
Why infidelity hurts so much
If you talk to anyone who experienced their partner’s infidelity, whether they stayed together or got separated, whether they tried to mend things or just got straight to leaving the relationship behind, you will most certainly hear one thing – it was one of the most painful things to go through. It seems rather universal, although there are some cultures in which it may not be as much of a surprise or a betrayal as it is in Western culture.
The reason why it falls under one of the biggest stressors in a person’s life is a cultural, as well as evolutionary question. The vast majority of modern cultures are monogamously oriented, at least at the moment when the two decide to get married. It means you’ve decided to dedicate all your time and affection to one person, to build the life together, to go through everything like an unbreakable team. And an affair shakes this notion to its core.
Furthermore, it is not only an issue from a sociological standpoint. Biologically speaking, we might not be made to be monogamous. Yet, when biology came together with our cultural development as a species, it resulted in an evolution that came together with jealousy and a need to possess our mate in his or her entirety. Why? Because infidelity messes up with our reproduction, or, more precisely, with the wellbeing of our offspring – once we found the perfect mate, we don’t want our offspring to have competition with equally superior genetic code.
But, when all these explanations are taken into consideration, what we’re left with is a simple truth – on a personal level, our partner’s infidelity hurts like nothing before. It’s the matter of broken trust. It’s the issue of never feeling safe again with that person. It shakes our self-esteem to the core. It can wreck our entire lives. And it just plain burns a hole in our guts.
Stages of healing after infidelity
Going through the healing process after infidelity is just slightly different than recovering from a personal loss when someone close to you dies. Because something did die. And let’s say right now – something better might arise out of it. But you will be going through the stages of grieving over your relationship, your trust, and a whole lotta other things.
The first moment you find out about the affair, no matter if it came out of blue or you had a hunch for months (or years), you will inevitably go through denial. It is too much of a shock! Especially if there’s still some leeway for doubt. Even when you see it with your eyes or hear it from your partner directly, you might be searching for alternative explanation frantically.
Yet, when it becomes clear that there’s no doubt whatsoever, you, as all humans, will probably get consumed by indescribable anger. And, unfortunately, this stage has a tendency to last for a very, very long time. However, if you don’t allow it to become pathological, anger is a necessary part of your healing process, as it lets you express all your pain and thoughts.
Once you manage to cope with anger, you will move on to bargaining. In love affairs, this stage can take many forms, but they all have an aim of getting you out of the situation as it is. However, that won’t work. What needs to happen is for you to move on to the next part of the healing process, which is depression. It sounds strange, but it is an essential part of the process because only after the depression can come to the final stage, which is acceptance. Acceptance that will change us forever, and hopefully, for the better.
What if you’re just not feeling any better?
At any of these stages, you have the right not to feel like you’ll be able to cope. Don’t be hard on yourself, and don’t try to force yourself to go through the stages we talked about quickly. It may take years. And if it sounds demotivating, just remember – it is a sure path towards feeling good again, it just may be a bit long at moments. But if you feel like you can’t handle it yourself, don’t hesitate to visit a psychotherapist – there’s no shame in asking for help after such a huge blow to your life.