Doing Life Together

infidelity-379565_1920Kathy had never seen a therapist before her husband announced he was having an affair with another woman. The shock of his disclosure was enormous. She repeatedly asked herself, “How could I have missed the signs and been so naïve? Have I been in denial of our marital problems?”

Kathy didn’t consider herself prone to anxiety. However, since the disclosure, she has had several anxiety attacks. She could be doing laundry and suddenly feel short of breath. Or she might be reading a book and feel her heart pounding and palms sweat. Watching TV could send her into an agitated state, especially if the show contained reference to infidelity. Sleep seemed to elude her. She had no appetite and was rapidly losing weight.

Even though her husband claimed to have stopped seeing the “other” woman, Kathy felt uneasy and deeply betrayed. She found herself obsessively thinking about the other woman having intimate conversations with her husband. When she closed her eyes, she envisioned him holding her hand and caressing her.

Kathy found herself monitoring her husband’s every movement. Little things upset her and she was highly suspicious. She couldn’t shake the mental picture of her husband in bed with another woman. Intrusive thoughts flooded her mind. Kathy felt like she was losing it. She needed to bounce all this off of a therapist to see if she was going crazy.

When an affair has been found out, it is common to have reactions like Kathy’s. Anxiety attacks and grief-like symptoms are normal reactions to the breach of marital covenant. In many ways, the reactions of the non-involved spouse are similar to post traumatic stress symptoms for those who have been emotionally, physically and sexually abused. The reality of an affair awakens a deep sense of loss. You may feel you are going crazy. This is normal.

Couples that deal with an extramarital affair do have higher rates of depression than couples who come to marital therapy for other reasons. Some partners become suicidal. It’s also not uncommon to hear homicidal rage towards the lover.

Given this emotional instability and intensity, the safety of people involved must always be considered. While not all people will act out their intense feelings of betrayal and rage, the risk is there and does happen. Turn on the nightly news and you’ll get a glimpse of what betrayed people can do!

It’s important to know that you won’t feel like this forever and that what you feel is valid given the circumstances. The intensity is strongest when the affair is found out because you realize that you have been deceived and that your marital vows were broken. The goal is to mange those feelings so that you don’t become incapacited by them.

  • Allow yourself to feel whatever comes.
  • Don’t deny the intensity of your emotions.
  • Work with a therapist who can help you express what you feel and help you manage those feelings.

Pour your heart out to God. He hears your pain and promises to comfort. Healing comes but often takes awhile.

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