Infidelity can be devastating. No matter how you personally define infidelity, having an agreed upon set of rules broken hurts. Pain, embarrassment, anger, sadness, insecurity, and other powerful emotions can all be felt when you’re the victim of cheating. To help you process all of these uncomfortable emotions, we recommend the following exercise.
Part 1: Write Down Your Emotions
Take 20 minutes and write down all of your emotions and feelings about the situation. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes, incomplete thoughts, or grammar. Basically, your goal is to word vomit. Let all of your ideas, feelings and thoughts flow freely. Once you have written down what you feel, take a twenty minute break. Then come back, reread what you wrote, and try to identify any underlying causes for your emotions. For example, it’s common to be angry with your unfaithful partner. Though this anger is completely justified, it usually masks more unpleasant emotions, like the pain and hurt brought by infidelity. Another common feeling is insecurity. Everything you thought you knew was turned upside down, so what’s to stop it from happening again? Fortunately, there are ways to handle these difficult emotions.
Part Two: Develop a Self-Care Plan
Now that there’s been an affair, it’s important to know what you’re going to do next. Do you stay with your partner, or end the relationship? Before figuring all of that out, try to take things slowly. Simply focus on what your needs are. It’s okay to give yourself time to process everything that just happened; you don’t need to make a decision right at the moment. You don’t have to jump through hoops just because that is what your partner is asking for. Given that your partner just had an affair and that they want to make things work between the two of you, they will be okay giving you the room to sit with your feelings and engage with them on their terms. So, before you make a decision, try creating some ground rules to help you uphold your mental well-being. Here are 16 important changes that people typically need when recovering from an affair.
- The unfaithful partner taking responsibility for their actions
- Having your partner listen to you when you are angry without defending themselves
- The unfaithful partner stopping all contact with the affair partner
- Access to all of their email accounts, phones, credit card statements, etc.
- Check-in’s using Facetime, allowing you to physically see where the partner is at
- The unfaithful partner dedicating time to listen, as well as answer questions
- No cancellations on scheduled time together
- Your unfaithful partner understanding that things won’t instantly “go back to normal” you will have periodic episodes of anger and may need comforting.
- Support from friends, family, and other outside sources
- Honest communication; no more lies, not even seemingly “insignificant” ones
- An environment free from the blame game
- Validation of the pain of the infidelity
- Your partner respecting your healing process
- An honest, formal apology (written or verbal)
- Deciding ahead of time who should know about the affair
You’re probably aware that some of these items deal directly with boundaries. Though it’s healthy to create boundaries following an affair, there are some things to watch out for.
Part Three: Things to Watch Out For When Making Boundaries
As the previous section highlighted, it can be useful to create certain boundaries with your partner following infidelity. Wanting access to their passwords, requiring check-ins, and demanding that they stop seeing the other person all have merit in helping you cope with the infidelity. Though you have good intentions with these boundaries, you may face some resistance. Stay calm if this happens, and try to understand the root of it. Some people are inherently private and protective with their information; meanwhile, others may not be ready to let go of the affair. Whatever red flags you may see, don’t feel pressured to make a particular decision. The information that you gather is power, and it’s up to you on how to use it.
Coping with infidelity is no easy task. The affair can leave us feeling confused, insecure, hurt, and several other uncomfortable emotions. However, there are some things that we can do to get through it. Writing down your emotions can help you create a self-care plan, which allows you to form healthy boundaries. Coping with infidelity will always be difficult; however, this article just may make the experience a little easier.