On the day you chose to marry your spouse, it is unlikely that you ever thought for better or for worse would mean betrayal. Statistically speaking, marital dissatisfaction is not significantly correlated with infidelity. In other words, you can be in a generally pleasant marriage and still experience infidelity. So let’s talk about what to do when you’ve discovered an affair.
- Recognize it was a choice made by your spouse and not a reflection of your value and worth.
While each person in a relationship has areas in which they could improve, an affair is not about the betrayed, it is the choice of the betrayer, and oftentimes is not about sex, but loneliness. According to research by Drs. John and Julie Gottman (insert research)
2. Know that betrayal is a traumatic experience and you may begin experiencing symptoms of PTSD
Some of your responses to your spouse may be due to the feelings of the marriage potentially eing over and may mimic symptoms of PTSD. If you begin experiencing any of the following, please know, this is normal. Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, images of what they imagine the betrayer having participated in, and so much more. This is not something you have control over. Emotional swings and hypervigilance are also common experiences. This is a normal physiological response. With time and appropriate care, the symptoms can slowly dissipate. If you believe you are in need of an assessment to determine the present state of your mental health, please click here to get started
3. Seek Professional Help
Consider visiting your primary care physician for medication assistance if you find you are unable to function effectively, more days than not. An example of that may look like, an inability to complete tasks at work, inability to go to work, difficulty caring for self or children, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, a decrease in appetite with or without weight loss or a loss of interest in areas you previously enjoyed
4. Confide in a Friend (The right one)
Every now and then there are things you’ll want to vent about outside of therapy. Build community with a friend who understands their job is not to create solutions for you, and a friend who is not invested in judging the actions of you or the betrayer, but a friend whose goal is to be an empathetic presence and an ear to hear
5. Make day to day decisions
This rule only applies to those who are not experiencing any form of domestic abuse; physical, emotional or verbal. If you are being physically or emotionally harmed, please seek immediate help and assistance to leave.
For all others, release yourself from the pressure of hacing to make a decision about your marriage or committed relationship while you are in the thick of trauma. Part of the theory of allowing yourself time and grace is physiological. When we experience trauma (and make no mistake, betrayal is traumatic) the front portion of our brain referred to as the prefrontal cortex, that is responsible for processing, reasoning and the area in which rationale and consciousness lives, shuts down. This happens for the purpose of survival. Often times, when experiencing trauma we simply need to respond and do to do so quickly, which is the responsibility of your SNS or sympathetic nervous system. The SNS carries signals related to your fight-or-flight response, which is a key part of your response to stressful situations. In other words, when we experience this level of stress or trauma, we are utterly incapable of rational decision making.
Aside from physiology, you deserve the space to process, to offer yourself grace, and to learn what it is you truly need in this moment. Physically and emotionally.
6. Know This Will Not Last Forever
While I know there is a darkness that feels as if it will loom forever, and I know that you feel as if your life will never be the same, there is a season for everything in life. Everything you experience has a beginning and an end (Ecc 3:1-22). Everyday is a gift. And while it may not feel so, if you look for it, you will see the goodness of the Lord and his hand, even in the difficult seasons. This is not the end. Hope in Christ, live day by day, seek professional help when you are ready, create confidential, safe community, and the light of the day and hope of tomorrow will be more visible each and every day