It’s not just the betrayed spouse who suffers.
Few things are as rending to love, let alone marriage, than the scourge of infidelity. But besides the jilted spouse, who does infidelity affect?
There is no question that infidelity undermines the very foundation of committed love. It wipes out trust and replaces it with shame, embarrassment, anger, depression, and often irrevocable loss of intimacy.
When a spouse cheats, the question of “Who does infidelity affect?” is rarely the frame of reference for the choice to stray.
Being self-consumed with one’s own needs and/or lack of fulfillment in the marriage can blind one to the harm done to others. It can even blind one to the long-term harm to oneself.
Who does infidelity affect? It affects far more than you would think, including family and friends close to the marriage.
But the most sensitive barometers of change, especially change that “doesn’t feel right,” are children.
They may not have finely honed communication skills or the authority to make life decisions, but children are incredibly perceptive. And what they perceive becomes formative in their neurological and emotional development.
The emotional reaction to parental infidelity is similar to the reaction to parental divorce…except deeper, and with potentially more enduring scars.
Infidelity affects the entire family. For children, it undermines their entire construct of who their parents are as people.
While divorce is devastating for children, it doesn’t necessarily carry with it the loss of trust that parental infidelity does.
Infidelity creates a feeling of betrayal in children, even when they don’t know what’s happening. They are acutely intuitive, and can tell when a parent’s emotional energy is being directed outside the family.
The question “Who does infidelity affect?” is incomplete without considering how it affects those in its wake.
For children, subtle changes are unsettling, and can leave them feeling anxious, frightened and rejected, and even blaming themselves. “Did I do something wrong?” “Doesn’t Daddy love us anymore?” “Is Mommy mad at me?”
The child who suddenly doesn’t have a parent’s attention, or is privy to hushed phone calls and other unusual behaviors, can develop an array of anxious behaviors.
Clinging, thumb-sucking, temper-tantrums and night terrors can all signal the child’s deep-rooted fear of losing his or her family according to family therapist Dr. Pittman.
Older children, beset by anger and/or a sense of betrayal, may react by acting out. Angry outbursts, underperforming at school, disregard for rules, disrespect when communicating with adults – even if they are not “in” on the truth, they will respond to their own perception of it.
Perhaps the most telling longitudinal effects of infidelity on children have to do with how they come to view future relationships.
Despite believing infidelity to be wrong, children of unfaithful marriages will tend to be unfaithful themselves. It’s as if the behavior is “handed down.”
Interestingly, the responses of children tend to be unique to the gender of the cheating parent.
When the father cheats, sons seem to “inherit” the behavior, and are more prone to cheat themselves. Daughters tend to grow up unsure of themselves and relationships, with an undercurrent of anger toward men.
When it is the mother who cheats, children are in danger of losing their confidence in the entire concept of marriage and family. (A reflection, no doubt, of the long-held perception of mother as foundational to “home.”)
Some of the consequences of infidelity for adults on both sides of the wound include guilt, shame and embarrassment. Even the person cheated on may feel displaced guilt, wondering if s/he somehow “caused” the cheating spouse to stray.
Both parties are likely to feel shame and embarrassment — albeit for different reasons — that this is happening to their marriage and family.
Infidelity is a lonely and isolating existence. The hiding, secrecy and looking-over-one’s shoulder are exhausting, to say the least.
And for both the offending and offended parties, the inevitable separation from friends and family in order to maintain the dark secret can breed depression and diminished self-esteem.
Even if a couple decides to stay together through and after the infidelity, there is inevitable loss of trust and intimacy. Something sacred to the marriage has been shared elsewhere, and that violation can impart irrevocable damage to a couple’s ability to restore intimacy.
This doesn’t mean that healing isn’t possible, or that building a stronger-than-before relationship is out of the question. But that outcome is the result of both parties being willing, determined and committed to save their marriage at all costs.
When the depth of betrayal and emotional pain are just too much, divorce is often the end result. And when that happens, the question of “Who does infidelity affect?” morphs into the question of “What are the effects of divorce after infidelity?”
When considering the effects of infidelity, there is one person who is often disregarded: the person outside the marriage who participated in the infidelity. It can be easy to dump the blame and ensuing disdain onto this “intruder,” as if s/he accomplished the affair single-handedly.
Whether “the other person” is single or married, s/he is just as affected by the infidelity. And at no time is that more starkly evident than if and when the partner in the affair decides to end it and return to his/her marriage.
Even if the partner ends the marriage, ending the affair leaves “the other person” to recover from an unconventional break-up. And if that person is married, as well, but was placing future hopes on the “other” relationship, there will be another family struggling to heal for reasons that are the same but different.
Infidelity doesn’t “just happen” any more than marriages “just end.”
There are always underlying signals and contributors, even if rooted in family-of-origin issues. And it certainly doesn’t exist in a fantasy-filled vacuum. Its most dramatic effects may be experienced in the gut-wrenching present; but its unpredicted, unseen effects may be most telling years ahead…when a child is left to make choices out of life lessons.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people navigate the repercussions of infidelity and make the best decision about the future of their marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
Living in an unhappy marriage hurts your entire family. Follow these steps to find happiness again.
Every marriage has its ups and downs. It’s just that when things are down and have been so for an extended period that it’s time to start considering how to handle an unhappy marriage so you can start feeling better.
After all, you deserve happiness. Your spouse deserves happiness and so do your children. Yet when you’re stuck in a miserable marriage it’s hard for anyone in the family to feel happy.
So how do you handle an unhappy marriage?
The first step is to realize that whatever you choose to do is a result of a choice you’re making (or not making).
You’ll read this article and probably lots more, but not one of them will tell you unequivocally that you need to divorce (unless you’re struggling with one of the marriage deal breakers). And not one of them will tell you that you MUST stay in your unhappy marriage.
Next, you’ll need to determine if it truly is the marriage that’s at the root of your unhappiness or if it’s something else.
Sometimes people confuse a sense of unhappiness about their life or a portion of it with being unhappy in their marriage. It can often be easier to see the marriage as being a problem instead of looking inside to discover what else might be going on.
However, before you start blaming your marriage for your unhappiness, it’s worth spending some time thinking about what else might be going on that could be at the root of your discontent.
If you discover that the cause of your unhappiness is something other than your marriage, then now’s the time to start remedying whatever it is that’s causing you pain.
If you instead discover that it truly is your marriage that’s making you sad, then it’s time for the next step.
Find ways to be happy regardless of what’s going on in your marriage.
We’ve all heard the phrase “and they lived happily ever after.” And most of us believe deep down that’s what we should have when we get married – a life of happiness and joy with our beloved.
However, the truth is that every marriage has its ups and downs, and no one can live happily ever after without putting some serious work into doing so.
To help build your endurance for however you choose to handle your unhappy marriage, you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing things that help you feel better. Maybe you spend time reading or visiting with friends or getting a massage.
The point is to take some of the pressure off of the expectation that your marriage (or your spouse) be the source of your happiness. When you can find some pleasure on your own, you’ll have the endurance and enhanced self-esteem to make it through handling your unhappy marriage.
Now you’re ready to start dealing with your unhappy marriage directly.
Once you’ve made it to this point, you should have the clarity and strength to decide how you want to handle your unhappy marriage.
Maybe you’re ready to have a conversation with your spouse about what is and isn’t working for each of you. Then you can put together a plan for how to begin addressing the issues that you each have.
Maybe you’re ready to have a conversation about ending your relationship instead.
And maybe you’ve realized that the unhappiness you’ve been dealing with is just a temporary situation to be weathered.
However you decided to resolve the issues in your marriage after following these suggestions, you’ll know that you’re making the best decision you can so that you, your spouse and your children can find the happiness you each deserve.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support about how best to handle an unhappy marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
Despite how overwhelming your grief is now, you can make your way through it and feel better again.
Dealing with the difficult process of grieving a failed marriage is one of the most traumatic life experiences you’ll ever undertake. Your grieving will begin long before you ever get to the divorce decree and will probably last well beyond it too.
Yet the difficult process doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do when dealing with grief before, during and after divorce.
You don’t have to remain mired in your misery over the end of your marriage and the life you knew. There are things you can do to help you heal and move through your heartache, so you can feel better.
In fact, here are seven things to do when dealing with grief to help you heal:
- Research the stages of grief
Learning about the different stages of grief will help you heal from divorce because you’ll have an idea of what to expect.
You won’t necessarily go through all of the stages in the same order as someone else. However, the knowledge you gain by this research will help you know that what you’re experiencing is normal and allow you to focus less on fear and more on feeling better.
- Learn from the experience of others
There will be times when the heartache you’re experiencing is overwhelming. And one of the most soothing things to do when dealing with grief is to remember that although everyone’s divorce experience is different, the pain that it causes is similar. Hearing other people’s experience of divorce is incredibly comforting because you’ll immediately know you’re not alone in your pain.
The easiest ways to learn about other people’s divorce stories is by reading about them online, joining a divorce support group and/or making an appointment with a therapist or divorce coach who has personally experienced divorce.
- Keep a journal
People experience the stages of grief in different orders, and some people skip a step or two altogether. Keeping track of your journey through the stages of grief is another thing to do when dealing with grief from divorce. This practice can help you understand how far you’ve come and mentally prepare you for what lies ahead.
- Speak to friends and family who love you
Have honest and open discussions about what you’re experiencing as you heal from your divorce with the people close to you. Talking about your feelings can help them understand not only what you’re going through, but also how they can best support you.
- Be kind to yourself
Divorce is traumatic and recovering from your heartbreak won’t be cut and dried. Before you come out on the other side of your divorce grief you’ll do an awkward dance of “one step forward and ten steps back.” So, know that when you do take a step or two back every once in a while, it is a normal part of the healing process.
Giving yourself some slack is one of the most important things to do when dealing with grief about divorce.
- Exercise, fuel your body, and rest
Your physical well-being is largely influenced by your emotional state. Eating enough healthy food, getting enough rest and exercising regularly are basic requirements for dealing with any kind of grief.
However, it’s important that strike the right balance for you. It is possible to overdo and underdo caring for your physical well-being when you’re dealing with the heartbreak of divorce. Pay attention to what your body needs in addition to how you feel emotionally and you’ll find your way to best caring for yourself.
- Run with the lessons you have learned
Another useful thing to do while dealing with the grief of divorce is pausing to assess what you’re learning about yourself. When you do, you’re likely to realize that you have emotional strengths you couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of your divorce journey – before you had to survive the hurt, anger, despair and fear.
It does get better! I’ve done it and every one of my clients has done it too.
Doing everything you can to deal with the excruciating pain of divorce may not be glamorous and may involve a lot of ugly crying, but there is a reward for all your efforts.
For surviving one of the most brutal processes possible, you’ll be awarded the qualities of acceptance and hope. You’ll slowly regain interest in your life and accept that the one you’ve been grieving will make way for a different life that is at least as fulfilling as the one you’ve said goodbye to.
Every experience in our lives leaves its mark. You can utilize the negative experience of your divorce to leave a positive mark on the rest of your life.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach, who works with people just like you who are in search of support discovering things to do when dealing with grief from divorce. For free weekly advice, register for my newsletter. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more help coping with divorce heartbreak? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
These 8 suggestions will help you know how to help your friends dealing with grief about divorce.
Many of us struggle to know how to help friends dealing with grief over death. Knowing how to help friends dealing with grief over divorce can be even more challenging. And yet, while the circumstances of the loss may be different, the compassion called for is the same.
Advice on going through the grief process of divorce usually starts with defining the grief process itself. And whether the griever is mourning the loss of a life or the loss of a love, the stages are still basically the same.
Divorce, like death, has effects that ripple outward like a pebble thrown into still water. You expect the disruption to the immediate family, but there is always a broader circle that feels the effects. Those on the outskirts of the divorce experience their own loss and shift in normalcy, and these can affect their responses to those divorcing.
Knowing how to help friends dealing with grief over divorce can be tricky if you let your own feelings or judgments get in the way. It is common to intellectualize a divorcing friend’s emotions, or to try to make the friend happy or distracted from them.
It is only natural to want those we care about to be happy. But, as the saying goes, there is a time and place for everything. And that includes emotions.
In the early stages of a divorce, it’s important — even necessary — for a person to feel his or her emotions. The pain may be guttural, the talking may be erratic, the strength of emotions may seem alarming. But the emotions need to be felt if there is going to be healing and progress.
And that means you may have to do some introspection if you are going to know how to help friends dealing with grief over divorce. If you are uncomfortable with their emotional state, you are likely connecting their emotional state to your own. And doing so will only lead to more resistance, distraction, and ultimately the persistence of the emotions.
Your job as a friend is to provide a place for your grieving friend to simply, safely be. Chances are your grieving friend is already questioning his or her own worth, feelings, behaviors and choices. Having a no-judgment zone is a remarkable gift that can be a saving grace during a deeply painful time.
Here are suggestions – both do’s and don’t’s – for how to help friends dealing with grief over divorce:
- Listen, listen, listen. People who are grieving are winding through multiple emotional stages all at once. And they often can’t make heads or tails of what is going on inside their hearts and minds at any given moment.
Being able to tell their stories, albeit over and over, helps them to process their experiences in the context of their feelings. And being able to hear themselves while a trusted friend hears them as well is incredibly validating and clarifying.
As a listener, your job is to offer a sympathetic, empathetic, non-judgmental ear. You are not there to fix things. You are there to be a safe place for your friend to be heard at a time when the rest of his or her world seems to be vanishing.
- Hold off on the pep talks.
It takes a lot of self-control to pull back on the desire to lift a friend’s spirits with laughter and hopeful “-isms.” It also takes very clear and intact boundaries.
Remember that it is not your job to ensure your friend’s happiness. It is an incredible act of friendship to remain undaunted in the presence of someone who is emoting from a place of suffering.
And it is an even greater expression of selflessness to allow that person the dignity of arriving at and owning conclusions on his or her own.
- Be patient and supportive. Avoid placing timelines on your friend’s emotions or conditions on his or her decisions. Separations and divorces can be complicated and full of surprises, including changes of heart.
Instead of shaking your head or rolling your eyes behind your friend’s back when the process isn’t linear, look into his or her eyes and say, “I am here for you, and I will continue to be here for you, no matter what, no matter when.”
People going through break-ups need to have the freedom to explore their options without worrying that their support systems come with a list of conditions.
- Learn about the divorce process. What an amazing expression of support and solidarity it is to learn, on your own time, about what a friend is going through! Imagine what it would be like to receive a terrible medical diagnosis and realize that your friends were busy researching it and exploring options on your behalf.
Learn enough so that you can be helpful and insightful when warranted, and enlightened and supportive throughout.
- Reassure them of your love. You may think the “love you” that closed your phone call the night before would be enough to hold someone over for a while. But there are times when “more is more.”
Those grieving over divorce are often starved for love, and often question their own lovability. The simple reassurance that you love them as they are is a gift that is never forgotten. And what more impactful time to bestow that gift than when your friend has just done an “ugly cry” or spewed a litany of anger over his or her ex?
- Anticipate the pain to come…and be there. Divorces that involve children have another level of agony to them. And once the exhaustive proceedings have come to a close and the “new normal” has been decided upon, there is that first feared day when it has to go into effect.
Children can’t be two places at once, so each parent is going to feel a sinking loss the day the children walk out the door to go with the other parent.
One of the most compassionate gestures you can make is to anticipate that pain…and be there to help your friend through it. Plan something to do together for the first several times the children are with the other parent. Watch a game together, have a grown-up slumber party, cook dinner together, go to a support group together. Just. Be. There.
- Help with the chores. Few people will have the courage to ask their friends for help around the house. And yet, for a newly divorced parent — especially one re-entering the job market for the first time in years — the day-to-day list of things to do can be exhaustive.
It’s always a telling sign of empathy and true friendship when someone is willing to do the behind-the-scenes grunt work that ultimately helps the most during times of illness, change or grief.
You can even choose to make a fun event of it. “Hey! While the kids are away this weekend, how about we order in, watch movies, then put on some 80’s music while we knock out that honey-do list of chores? I’ll bring my laundry with me, if that will make you feel better!”
- Help with the kids. Every parent knows that it takes a village to raise a child, and ideally two adults to make each day’s routine possible.
Being tossed into single parenthood at the drop of a gavel turns the lives of everyone involved upside down. Suddenly both parents have no choice but to work, both have households to maintain, and the kids’ demands don’t decrease just because their parents divorced.
Something as simple as babysitting or picking the kids up from school can make all the difference in a single parent’s ability to get back on his or her feet while re-creating a sense of normalcy.
If you are still wondering how to help friends dealing with grief over divorce, take a moment and put yourself in their position. Try to feel what they are feeling. Imagine needing what they are needing. Reach into the recesses of your empathy and ask yourself what you would likely most need and want, but wouldn’t know how to ask for.
And start there.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. For more than 10 years, I’ve been helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support in healing from divorce. If you’d like free advice, you can join my newsletter list. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more help dealing with the painful realities of divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
Divorce is difficult at any age but divorcing at 50 or later has unique challenges.
Divorce rates may be highest for people under 50; but divorce rates for those over 50 have practically doubled since 1990. And for those over 50 who are ending a second or third marriage, the statistics are even worse.
Life after a divorce at 50 is unique in both its immediate consequences and future outlook.
The upward trend of divorce after 50, led by the Baby Boomer generation, has been so dramatic that it now has its own epithet: gray divorce.
Obviously, there are characteristics unique to people and marriages in the “50’s+” stage of life.
Those who married in their 20’s or even 30’s have history — and probably children — together. Many spouses have been together for more than half their lives, making life after a divorce at 50 a veritable unraveling of a lifetime.
As life expectancies continue to climb and gender roles continue to equalize, there are more opportunities for individuals to grow. There are also more opportunities for them to grow apart. (A testament, perhaps, to the fragility of relationships and the need to invest in their sustainability.)
By the time people reach middle-age, children are beginning to leave home. And, while the idea of traveling, downsizing or redecorating may appeal to empty-nesters, the idea of life without the glue of “the kids” may not be so appealing. That final drop-off at college orientation can hit home in a stark way if spouses have left their marriage on the back burner for a generation.
Consider, as well, that more women are working outside the home, and there is now less stigma attached to being divorced and remaining single.
Divorce is always a journey of excavation and rebuilding. But life after a divorce at 50 has some characteristics unique to the age of the spouses parting ways. And many of those characteristics come as a surprise.
Any divorce will have the primary foci of children and division of assets. But divorcing late in life will involve unique considerations for both parties going forward, even if the children are grown and gone.
Let’s look at some of the biggest factors (and surprises) to be prepared for if you are considering or going through a late-in-life divorce and/or creating a new life after a divorce at 50:
Children are not immune to the effects of divorce just because they may have left home by the time their parents split.
In fact, it is often the older children who have a more difficult time compared to their younger siblings still at home. While the younger children adapt to the gradual, daily changes, older children who have left home experience those changes in big chunks. And in their eyes, it may all just be “too weird.”
Moral of the story? Don’t assume that you are sparing the children by waiting to divorce if your marriage really needs to end.
The Divorce Process
Even in the most amicable divorces, the process takes an emotional and financial toll.
When divorcing late in life, there are usually more amassed assets. And the money spent on attorneys hired to fairly divide them can take a big slice out of what both partners walk away with.
Life after a divorce at 50 can be especially challenging financially. By the time two people have spent a couple decades or more together, their finances are fairly complicated.
There is usually increased wealth, but a contrasting decrease in the ability to recover from financial setbacks. There simply isn’t enough time left to make up for what could be lost, both in the divorce and in future investments.
There are also Social Security benefits, pension plans and retirement plans to consider. It’s not just their current value that matters, but their future value and the age, health and future earning potential of both parties.
There are also tax considerations to take into account when dividing and distributing assets, especially retirement funds.
It is imperative that both parties and their attorneys have a full inventory of assets and debts. Living in a community property state can mean a rude awakening to a partner who hasn’t been as involved in the financial details of the marriage as the other partner.
Having both an attorney and financial advisor onboard can help with understanding your options and planning for a future with limited earning years left.
The Job Market
Especially for women who have devoted their marital lives to raising children or supporting husbands in demanding careers, the job market can be bleak.
Starting life after a divorce at 50 can be like starting a race on the final lap. “How am I going to make enough money to survive? I’ll be working the rest of my life!”
Even if the marriage wasn’t a happy one, adjusting to life alone can be painful.
By this late stage in life, many couples have been together longer than they have ever been without one another. And some have never been alone.
If there are children involved, having to share custody will mean they are not around all the time. And this just adds to the loneliness.
The Loss Of Friends
You wouldn’t think your friends would bail just when you need them most, but divorce can divide more than just marriages and assets.
It is not unusual for married friends to drift away after your divorce, or for divorced friends to compare your circumstances to theirs.
Being proactive about expanding your networks can help to ensure that you have both a support group and a social group as you go through your divorce and start your new life.
The Financial Fall-Out And Cost Of Living
Of all the “shockers” to starting a life after a divorce at 50, the most hard-hitting tends to be the financial devastation left in the wake of the split.
From basic living expenses to insurance and the IRS, the cost of living per person favors the married.
And women tend to take a harder hit. After a divorce, women recover emotionally more quickly than men, but suffer financially much longer.
Given that women still carry the majority of the responsibility for childcare, they usually don’t have the same career and earning opportunities.
Women also live longer than men, which means they may be living longer with less.
Despite the negative consequences to divorcing later in life, there is the unexpected benefit of having a fresh start and getting to create what you want.
By going into your divorce with your eyes wide open and your financial matters, advisors and support system in place, you can push forward into a new comfort zone. You can create a meaningful and fulling life after a divorce at 50 or more.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people adjust to life after a divorce at 50 or any other age. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.