Being betrayed hurts mentally, emotionally and physically.
There are no two ways about it. If your marriage has been impacted by infidelity, you’re going through one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences anyone can have. Dr. Barry Bass states that the after-effects of infidelity “resemble the psychic disorientation and confusion” victims of natural disasters suffer and that PTSD is also common for the betrayed spouse.
Yet, why is infidelity so painful?
There is a multitude of reasons for the agony you’re experiencing and why infidelity hurts so much.
- Your expectations for what it means to be married have been violated.
Everyone enters marriage with a set of expectations about what being married means. For most it includes a sexual, romantic and emotional faithfulness to each other.
When your spouse cheated, they violated the rules you thought you were both living by. The person who vowed to love you forever committed a crime against your belief in them. And a violation like this fundamentally quakes (and potentially breaks) the foundation upon which you have built not only your marriage but your entire life.
- You feel resistance about dealing with the change that has been thrust at you.
Because your spouse has violated their vows to you, your life has changed. It’s an unexpected and extremely unwanted alteration of the life you were living.
You blame your spouse and want them to fix things, so you don’t have to deal with any of it. After all, they are the one who caused all of this. They should be the one who fixes it.
Unfortunately, taking this stance cements you in the role of being a victim and held hostage by the actions of your spouse. And that will just prolong your pain.
- You’re afraid that the life you loved is over and that the pain will continue - forever.
Fear is natural when you’ve been hurt – especially when you’ve been hurt by the one who was supposed to love you forever.
The truth is that the life you knew BEFORE is over and it’s up to you to decide how you will live now. If you don’t make this decision (when you’re able to think clearly and calmly), then the pain will continue.
So, despite your fears, you must become courageous. Develop the courage to move forward, push past your fears, and claim the new normal life that you want.
- Your spouse has ripped away your emotional security.
Before their infidelity, you trusted your spouse with all your secrets. You knew they’d be there for you emotionally. They would help make things better again when you felt bad. They would celebrate with you when things were good.
But right now, that’s over. And this loss is torturous because you feel so alone.
- Your spouse’s infidelity robs you of your past.
With their betrayal, you’re left wondering just what else they lied about. Was he lying when he said, “I love you”? Was she lying when she said, “I’m so lucky to be your wife”?
Every moment of your past together is now suspect. And this uncertainty about the past colors your present with doubt not only about your spouse’s truthfulness but your ability to separate fact from fiction.
- You feel guilty.
There’s a part of you that wonders if you had just done this or that differently, would your spouse still have strayed? You take responsibility and blame yourself for the situation you’re in now.
The fact is no matter what you did or didn’t do, your spouse is the one who made the decision to cheat and that decision is what has you both where you are today.
- You’re wracked by horrible grief.
When you experience losses of the magnitude you are, grief is normal. You’ll cry uncontrollably, you’ll try to pretend it didn’t happen, you’ll be angry, and eventually, as the grief passes, you’ll come to accept the fact that your spouse was unfaithful and that your life will go on – with your spouse or without.
- Your self-esteem plummets.
When you discover your spouse has cheated on you, you immediately wonder what the other person has that you don’t. You jump to the conclusion that you must be lacking in some fundamental way because your spouse chose to be with this other person instead of you.
And the longer you believe there’s something wrong with you that would cause your spouse to reject you, the closer you come to believing that you’re not worth loving. And you might even start loathing yourself.
There’s nothing more painful you can believe about yourself than that you’re unlovable.
- Your imagination torments you with thoughts of what they did together.
This is self-inflicted pain. You either imagine what they did together or else you ruminate on what you know they did together. In either case, you’re the one that allows the horrible scenes to continue playing in your mind.
Despite the fact that you’re the one trapping yourself in the thoughts, the pain you feel is profound.
- You’re embarrassed because your spouse cheated on you.
What will your friends and family think when they find out that your spouse strayed? What will your co-workers think? What will everyone say about you behind your back? How will you face them after they know the truth?
- You want your spouse to pay for what they’ve done to you.
Wanting vengeance for what’s been taken from you feels empowering at first, but it quickly derails the rest of your life. The desire for revenge is powerful and wild.
It can be at the root of you doing things you’ll later regret. And focusing on the need for revenge prevents you from fully participating in the rest of your life.
Wanting your spouse to pay for what they’ve done is another way you can cause yourself pain as you struggle with the effects of your spouse’s infidelity.
- You experience so many negative emotions that your health suffers.
Obviously, the pain of your spouse’s infidelity leads to numerous negative emotions. And the longer you experience these emotions, the larger your body’s negative reactions to them will be.
As you struggle with the emotional pain of betrayal, you might also experience back pain, a change in appetite, chest pain, constipation or diarrhea, dry mouth, insomnia, headaches, and so many other things that make you feel physically unwell.
Infidelity is so painful because it strikes at the core of your life – the base upon which you’ve chosen to build your life. And when your core is threatened, it’s normal for the rest of your perceptions about life to become suspect. This leads to disorientation and confusion.
However, despite the extreme anguish you’re experiencing, knowing why you’re hurting so much can start to guide you toward healing and moving on with your life – either with your spouse or without.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who want support in dealing with the pain of infidelity. 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.