There’s probably a lot in this that you’re not going to want to hear—but you really need to if you want to begin to understand what’s happened.
Imagine that you’ve just dropped a nuclear bomb on your marriage, your spouse, yourself and your family.
The world as you once knew has been annihilated—napalmed—and just like these catastrophic events, there’s going to be a massive fallout for the foreseeable future.
You can’t stop the fallout from happening but you can safeguard yourself and your family against further destruction if you want to and are committed to doing whatever it takes—and believe me, it—takes—A LOT!
A LOT of courage, accountability, honesty, transparency, ownership, determination, patience, perseverance, humility, compassion, grace, kindness, hope, forgiveness, vulnerability and just when you think you’ve run out of these you have to dig a little deeper to find more. Yes, the resourceful well of recovery love and care must be accessed continually, no matter how deep you have to dig!
Sometimes it will feel like you are taking one step forward and ten steps backwards, keep going forward if you want to save your marriage. Once you rebuild what you’ve destroyed then you must be prepared to protect the restoration at all costs if you want your relationship to thrive.
No one can erase what has happened even though we all wish we could, so please don’t expect or ask your spouse to forgive and forget.
It is impossible to go back to what you had before because what you had before was not enough to keep you from making the choices you made.
No, the reconciled relationship looks very different, and if you dare allow yourself to hope and get the right support, your post infidelity relationship can be infinitely better than the past.
You can heal from and move beyond the pain of affairs even though in the initial stages this seems completely unattainable.
Unfaithful, here are some things you should know once your infidelity has come to light, and as much as they might be normal reactions after discovery, they are also massive barriers to healing:
You’ll try to convince your partner that you made a mistake, no Unfaithful you didn’t make a mistake, a mistake is filling the car with petrol when you should have used diesel. Cheating is a choice, please be brave enough to own the choice and call it for what it is.
You’re going to want your partner to “get over it and just move on” because “you’re sorry” and “it’s never going to happen again” that’s not how recovery works…
You’re going to get tired of talking about it and answering questions but you must do this until your partner arrives at a place where they are satisfied that they have sufficient information so they can process and heal themselves. I promise you this doesn’t go on forever although it can feel relentless. Your partner is not doing this to punish you, they’re just trying to figure out the mess for themselves, please be patient and gentle. The more you can empathise with your partner the safer they will feel. You may have been living in a fantasy for quite some time but for your partner, everything they held as being real has been demolished. Their own sense of reality is totally upended and they’re trying to piece together how this could have happened.
You might feel like your partner should trust you again because you never intended to hurt them—my friend, trust is a looooong way off, and this kind of thinking is pure arrogance and entitlement—it is also very unsafe for a betrayed partner. You’ve already demonstrated by your actions you were untrustworthy so until you’ve proven yourself trustworthy over and over you are not a safe person for your betrayed. Actions always speak louder than words. Compassion is a good substitute for trust so please give thanks for any compassion you’re shown, receive it as a precious gift.
You’ll likely attempt to attribute blame on some kind of lack in the relationship for your infidelity, or a deficiency in the marriage, maybe a need not being met, this kind of thinking only shatters your partner more and shifts blame onto the one whom you betrayed. Every relationship has its own set of issues and there are plenty of options to address these, cheating is not one…
It is also a complete lack of responsibility and ownership of your choices, but I get it, you don’t want to feel like a bad person so you’ll shift blame to take the pressure off yourself—this is called deflecting. You’ll probably deflect in many ways that you might be completely unaware of, the sooner you become aware that you’re doing this, the better.
You’ll feel immense shame, guess what, so will your partner and your family but wallowing in shame is not going to propel you into recovery, it will keep you a victim of your own making.
You’ll be defensive and you’ll minimise the length and degree of your betrayal, you’ll do this because you don’t want to face the cold harsh truth, and you’re trying to defend your own core values that you betrayed.
You will drip feed truth, trickle the truth out and be economical with the truth. There are a couple of reasons you’ll do this, one is mentioned above, the other is because you know that you’ve shattered the person you love and you think that by withholding some of the truth you are protecting them from more pain.
Dear Unfaithful please hear me on this one—your spouse can handle the truth, they may still be hemorrhaging after the initial discovery or disclosure, but why would you want to re-open that wound when they’ve just begun to heal. New shards of glass piercing the broken heart afresh, it’s just too cruel.
I know this is terrifying, I know that you are thinking that they couldn’t possibly forgive you or love you if they knew the truth, maybe, maybe not? Please don’t use this as a weapon of control though, please love and respect them enough, tell the truth, please be brave enough to allow them to make decisions for themselves. The longer it takes for all of the truth to come out, the longer it takes to heal. Whenever a new piece of missing information is discovered, that’s the new ground zero.
A betrayed partner will likely get over the affair/s long before they will get over the lies, lying by omission and gaslighting that you mastered while you were cheating on them. Put an end to this now.
Offer information before you’re asked, don’t make it your partners job to extract important details. If you don’t think a detail is important share it anyway and let your spouse decide if it is or not. They will appreciate you prioritising their feelings.
One final thing and this is actually the first step in recovery; you must stop all contact with the affair partner—cease acting out—this may be easier said than done, but if you want to give your marriage a fighting chance, this is essential.
Betrayal trauma is a form of PTSD—it’s a result of that bomb you dropped on your family.
If you want your marriage then you have to find a way to end all contact, no one ever expects a soldier to get over their PTSD while they were still being shot at. You invited the intrusion in, you can find a way to lock them out, work together with your spouse and keep them updated!
You are probably wondering how long it will take to fully heal your marriage, well you’ll keep investing in your marriage for the rest of your life, not because you’re paying penance for the past but because you place the utmost highest value on that which you hold dearest yet almost lost.
Formerly unfaithful, you deserve to heal, for yourself. Do the work for yourself, live your best life and be the best version of yourself, and although you might not feel it you’re actually worth it.
Be a safe person for yourself and those around you, stay safe, you are loved and valued.
David and Noni have co-authored their memoir Beyond Betrayal 28 Years, Lies-Deceit-Infidelity you can get your copy here
There are a limited number of FREE downloads of our memoir Beyond Betrayal 28 Years; Lies-Deceit-Infidelity available, click here.