Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

The agony of an affair can haunt the spouse of a cheater.

It’s tremendously difficult to quell the suffering of this type of broken heart.

In divorce, it’s strictly the pain of seeing a past love, with an affair it’s also the person who stole them away.

The affair touch points are fairly universal for the one who has been cheated on:

  • The sincere desire but hardship in letting go of a future which has been suddenly yanked away.
  • The contempt for the ‘other woman’ or  ‘other man.’

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  • The anger towards the spouse who betrayed them.
  • The tendency to beat themselves up that they missed the signs of the affair.
  • And the feeling they somehow weren’t good enough and thus, why someone else caught they eye of their spouse.

All of these things combined make the cheated feel as if their universe is suddenly out of control.

On top of that, betrayal is a nearly impossible emotion to process.

In any divorce, feeling a temporary loss of self-esteem is not uncommon. It can be even worse for the SO (significant other) of the cheater because of the last two aforementioned touch points. The potential feeling they are somehow responsible for the actions of their spouse or should have been wiser earlier can intensify their pain and anger with feelings of inadequacy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The only person responsible for the affair is the individual who cheated.

There are a plethora of unhappy people who do not choose to have an affair. Unhappiness is not and never has been an excuse for bad behavior.

That being said, the world is not black and white and nothing could be as gray as love.

Along with the shameless cheaters, there are good people who make bad choices. People who do care about doing the right thing. Those individuals feel true remorse, acknowledge and accept responsibility for their bad behavior. It’s a fact human beings are imperfect and everyone makes mistakes, even surprising ones.

And for this reason, there are many marriages which survive affairs. 

But if for whatever reason the damage cannot be repaired and divorce ensues, the sting of being replaced by ‘another’ can yield intense bitterness.

So how does the SO of a cheater move on?

1. Regain Empowerment:

A really great counselor will teach the ‘cheated on’ to accept responsibility for their own behavior.

No, not for the affair. As previously mentioned, there is no excuse for bad behavior. Those actions belong strictly to the cheater.

But a good counselor encourages healing. They are there to help a person move from the anger and the sadness towards a place of peace and acceptance. It’s a tall order but it can be achieved. And one of the first steps is the SO taking their power back.

Yes, this did happen and yes, this person did hurt and betray them. The cheater is who they are and that should be validated. The SO needs this type of validation because they already feel crazy enough for trusting the wrong person.

That being said, now it is is time for the SO to take responsibility for their own choices. Even if they didn’t see the affair coming, it is a series of individual choices which lead all people to choose a certain partner. On top of that, a person continues to make choices throughout the marriage. Were certain behaviors ignored? Were bad behaviors enabled? Were long work hours and little family time acceptable? Were physical and emotional intimacy issues suppressed?

A really great counselor will validate the hurt and bad behavior of the cheater. And then they will try and empower the SO by reclaiming their sense of power and prompting them to realize their world is not now nor has ever been out of control.

This is where bitterness starts to subside and a sense of reclaiming personal power begins the process of ‘freeing’ the SO. 

2. Reclaim Life:

What a profound sense of relief! The world is not happening to the ‘cheated on’  they are back in the driver’s seat.

They can begin to rebuild their emotional life.

The cheater is not in control after all.

They have simply been ‘allowing’ the cheater to be in control because they felt so out of control by the cheater’s choices.

The average person doesn’t want to remain bitter and unhappy (especially because of another person’s choices which had nothing to do with them) they just do not have the tools to transition to the next emotional space. 

It’s difficult to remain bitter at someone, even someone who has betrayed them when the focus is no longer on what the ‘cheater’ did to them. But rather what did ‘they’ do to attract themselves to this person in the first place? What made them put up with or look beyond certain behaviors?

Or, if they thought the marriage was perfect and did not see it coming at all, what about their own personality permitted that limited vision? Are they an overly caring enabler? Are they a pleaser and a fixer?

The SO reclaims their emotional life as they let go of the bitterness which is ‘allowing’ the cheater to still control them.

And when they look inward to learn even more about their own self and what led them to their relationship choices.

3. Let Go:

There is so much to let go of in a failed marriage.

No one is prepared for the compounded relationship losses.

Rather than the ‘cheated on’ dwelling on those who they feel have abandoned them in favor of their former spouse and their new person – they need to let them go. They aren’t worth the time. They were never really ‘Your  People.’ If they were, they wouldn’t have walked so easily away from you.

In order to ease the pain, view it this way. Just as the ‘cheated on’ looked beyond some of their spouse’s less than favorable characteristics – so did they in friendships.

A loving, committed, caring, and loyal friend remains just that. Divorce doesn’t shake this friend’s devotion.

The ‘cheated on’ need to let go of the fringe friendships in their lives. Divorce is a way of cleaning house and though it seems incredibly agonizing in the beginning, the SO will eventually with time,  realize these are friendships they do not miss.

4. So Unimportant:

The ‘other’ person is unimportant. 

The SO just can’t relinquish that type of power to someone who could have been anyone.

This just happened to be the person the ‘cheater’ found first. They would have eventually picked someone else.

They were heading down this ‘path of opportunity.’

The individual willing to cheat with them was the first they could more than likely discover.

When looked at that way it’s pretty difficult to be mad at the person they left with. The SO can’t be mad specifically at one person when they understand it truly could have been ANYONE.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Again, the world of love is gray and some people do initially marry the wrong person and find another who is more right for them.

But in the world of cheating, in general,  ‘opportunity’ plays a huge role.

5. With Time:

Time is the truest form of healing, as long as the other measures have been put in place.

Grief is a cycle and it must be completed.

6. A New Fairy Tale:

The ‘cheated on’ just as any divorcing individual must open themselves up to a brand new fairy tale.

They can’t stay stuck in a dream which belongs to the past.

It’s tremendously difficult to walk away from a life well loved, from the comfort of a spouse, the security of a life long love, the shift in a family, the emergence of a new type of non-traditional family – none of it is easy.

It is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of sadness.

After all, the ‘cheated on’ never chose this. 

But it must be accepted and if not, the SO risks the chance of missing really wonderful doors opening in their lives.

 

An affair is the ultimate relationship betrayal.

And those who have experienced it need to diminish the ‘cheater’s control. They have already been hurt enough by someone who was never to be trusted with their love, to begin with. The ‘cheated on’ need to self-protect, take their power back, and be thankful they now know who this person really is.

The agony of an affair can only haunt the spouse of the cheater for as long as they allow it.

 

(Photos courtesy of Pexels)

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