Discovering that your partner betrayed you has a similar psychological impact as the loss of a loved one. You experience grief, disbelieve, the loss of the “fair” world you took for granted, sadness, depression, and anger. Even after you and your partner go back to the drawing board and attempt to rebuild your relationship; flashbacks, anger, and mistrust flair up.
You question yourself and you question your partner. A partner’s betrayal also eats away on your self-esteem. Despite your best efforts you may often feel triggered by certain events, people and circumstances, he or she calls you from the office that they will work late or your partner’s phone rings but they avoid picking up the call.
You relive the pangs of abandonment, jealousy, and betrayal right here and then. Your mood dives down quickly from being happy (an 8 of a scale from 1 ([lowest] to 10 [highest]) to feelings of sadness, anger, and despair (a 2 of 10). Don’t despair there is hope. Here are 7 ways To Happiness After Your Partner’s Affair:
1. Own Your Power
Remember you are in charge! You made the decision to stay! Be honest now: If it was just for the kids or because you were too afraid to leave then it’s not going to work. Truth is: If you are not willing to forgive or can’t at this point because the hurt is too intense then you can’t move forward with your partner. If you stay in a partnership due to financial reasons or because you are afraid you won’t find anybody else, your relationship will not survive because you are governed by fear and resentment not free will.
Owning your power means knowing that you do not have to stay on and attempt to fix something that is truly broken. This realization is often liberating for myclients who feel trapped in their own mind and a partnership with a serial cheater. You can leave! Yes, it’ll be tough – but you have the chance to build a new life if the old one takes too much toll on you. Be fearless! On the other hand, if you chose to stay – then you exercised power, hold on to it – move forward.
2. People Make Mistakes
If your partner is showing a serious investment in you and the relationship and misstepped only once, remember Mother T.: “People are unrealistic, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.”
Invest yourself! Realize that being hurt is part of the experience of being open to life and love. So if he or she calls next time stating they are working late and your default is to say “Yeah, sure I know what that means” gently tell your partner, “You know that’s still hard for me to believe but I am willing to trust, I am open.” Be honest with your feelings; share them.
Your new partnership agreement should read: “I have the right to share my feelings in a constructive and honest way; I deserve to be heard, loved and validated; I do not have the right to shout and make a scene every time a flashback hits because I am responsible to treat myself and my partner with care and respect. And she/he owes me the same.”
3. Stop Fighting and Experience Your Feelings Instead
It is only natural to feel anxiety and anger when you are negotiating your partner’s betrayal. You cannot just ignore it (it’s the knife in your heart) and move on with business as usual. Be prepared there will be moments you feel overwhelmed with disbelief. “Why did that happen to me?” The anxiety, “What if it happens again?” and the anger, “I hate him/her” or “I hate myself.”
Instead of drowning in your emotions that feel so overwhelming accept them. Get yourself a small river stone that can fit in the palm of your hand. In moments when the emotions run rampant close your hand around your stone and put things in perspective: “ I can manage it (whatever the problem and feeling is – it is embodied by your stone) – it does not manage me.” Look at your hand that covers the entire stone – yes you are in charge – you manage the stone sitting in your hand.
And just as the stone resides inyour hand, the feeling resides within you! Breathe deeply; allow whatever feeling there is to expand –allow it to be– and it will slowly diminish and temporarily pass. Remember it’s a part of you (own it!) hence it will flair up at times but now you know how to negotiate it and accept it as part of life. Force creates a counterforce– so the more harshly you try to push it aside – the more it comes back.
From now on you use power instead of force. Power does not apply force. Power is the wisdom that recognizes emotions as temporary colorations of reality and that by allowing them to exist you manage their magnitude.
4. Give to Yourself
It’s time for you to focus on yourself – not your partner. Stop blaming yourself – stop blaming her/him. The worst that can happen is that your partnership will not survive the freezing post-war era.
Hence, pick yourself up by picking up a hobby: It can be sports (a regular workout is a natural anti-depressant; or it can be an art class. Meet with your girlfriends! Learn French! Do yoga! Anything that does Not involve your partner. Whatever you can do to make yourself happy and feel good about yourself – start it now! (No, cheating as payback is not allowed!)
5. Gather Data Points aka Observe
This is a period of reevaluation! Of both yourself and your partner. Trust is earned correct –but you cannot hold the Damascus Sword over your partner’s head constantly if you wish to move forward:
Observe your partner – step back – you best do that by zooming out – think of looking at something from a distance – take yourself out of the equation and observe your partner’s behavior patterns. Has she/he changed, does she/he work on communicating with you and building trust? Be realistic – she/he is not your child; they do not have to check in with you every 5 minutes. Obverse your own reactions – and attend to feelings. Be gentle and patient with yourself.
Do you feel you are treated with respect and in a loving manner now – don’t revert to before – stay in the now? Is there something that is suspicious or missing? If so share it with your partner and don’t forget to praise her/him for what they have changed and do indeed well. Then praise yourself for living in the nowrather than living in the past, it makes you angry and depressed or living in the future, which is uncertain by nature and brings you anxiety.
6. Trust Your Gut by Listening to Your Body
Our bodily functions are the best indicators for how you are doing and feeling. Your body signals to you when you are happy – you simply feel good. It also signals to you when things are off: Body pains, stress reactions, a knot in the stomach. Your partner tells you something but deep in your gut you don’t believe it is true.
Your body gives feedback in forms of an upset stomach, a head-, heartache, or rash, etc. Incorporate your body in your decision making process – because it generally does not betray you! Stop checking your partner’s twitter and facebook page – remember you thought you knew everything about her/him – and yet you didn’t. Start tuning in with your body and nurture yourself and listen to the unspoken messages.
7. Get A Psychologist
Continue to go to couples counseling – if you have not started, start now! If you have been on it and think you need a break – set up regular maintenance sessions. You must make your relationship a priority – hence it needs time inside and outside of the therapist’s office. If you are dealing with self-esteem issues and doubts about your decision making after a reunion with an unfaithful partner – consult with a psychologist. Every great sportsman has a coach. Have yours. A person who is not part of your inner circle yet not far apart so you can double-check your feelings and evaluate where you wish to go.
Remember having a relationship is a beautiful thing; having a happy, committed and trusting relationship is divine; but sharing your life with somebody can also be challenging at times. So remember the powerful word “choice,” It’s your choice. If you read this article there is a high likelihood that you chose to stay with your partner after he/she had an affair. Now decide if it is worth for you in terms of emotional and physical investment to travel the road towards saving your relationship.
A well-known problem is that people are staying on for too long because they don’t know when enough is enough. There is no golden rule other than when you put constantly in more than you get out – get out! But choose to LIVE in the here and now – and don’t base your decision on the what ifs, and buts of the past or future.
Remember: There is always a choice! You can leave – it’s not quitting – it’s simply cutting your losses. Maybe it’s wise to let go and set yourself free to move on to potentially discover yourself for a while and then embark on a rewarding new journey with somebody who won’t be perfect but who does know how to treasure you.
About the author
Dr. Daniela E. Schreier, Psy.D, ABPP is Board Certified in Clinical Psychology and trained in correctional, clinical, forensic, and multicultural psychology. She is in private practice and an Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Dr. Schreier is a frequent“media expert” on a variety of “in the news” issues. She is WLS 890 AM Chicago’s in-house and on air psychology expert. Dr. Schreier is a recurrent guest on CNN’s Tru TV “In Session” and recently discussed the controversial Drew Peterson case. She has been quoted in CNN U.S., CBS News, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Chicago-Sun-Times and appeared in feature articles in numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Daily Herald, Today’s Chicago Woman and Women’s Health and Women’s World.
Her on-air presence includes Tru TV “In Session,” WTTW’s The Chicago Tonight Show, NBC5 News Chicago, NBC The Talk, CBS 2 News Chicago, CBS 2 Chicago Morning Show, Fox Chicago News, and WGN Morning News. Dr. Schreier’s private practice focuses on business and relationship coaching, women’s issues, self-esteem, divorce, and life and stress management.