In my first article Stage I, we addressed the challenges of confirming the infidelity, the boundaries I recommended you set, and then the two possible scenarios which can result from those boundaries. In my second article about Stage II we discussed the first steps of the two scenarios. Scenario I is the decision to stay together and heal from the betrayal as a couple. Scenario II involves the first steps of separating and beginning the process of healing as a single person and/or parent. Stage III is important for one reason, you must not get STUCK as the victim of betrayal in either scenario. Let’s look at Stage III from both scenarios.
In Scenario I you decided to stay together and work with a/several competent therapists and the affair was terminated. As the person who has been betrayed you are challenged with so many questions:
- What do I want to know?
- Does he/she love the affair more?
- What does the affair have that I don’t have?
- Has it stopped?
- Should I spy?
- Is the affair trying to contact my spouse?
- Is my spouse thinking about the affair?
- Was their sex better?
- Did I cause this?
- . Blah blah blah
These are all normal questions? Discuss with your therapist? Flush every nauseating, pestering, insane thought out of your conscious. Journal and talk to your therapist until even you are bored by the conversations. Beat these concerns into a pulp and flush them down the drain. It is important to honor and move through this painful process. It is important to avoid getting stuck here. Be careful about asking details of the affair. Tell your close friends you and your spouse are working to save your marriage (if people know) and you don’t want to hear anything they might have seen or heard. You don’t want visuals you can’t make disappear to plague you as you move through the process.
In the beginning of this process you want to stop the damage. The affair must be stopped at every entry point. You and your spouse may not be instantly connected because initially your journey is very different. You both are grieving and for different reasons. In the beginning, it may feel a bit like “fake it till you make it”. It is! Do your work with your therapist, understand staying stuck is betraying yourself, remember who you are, the betrayal is not you-it happened to you, find your dignity, remember your history as a couple, find your strengths as a couple, and when you are both ready start the conversations to reinvent yourselves and your couple. Love, hard work, respect, communication, compassion, and commitment can help you build a stronger couple.
Scenario II is easier in some ways and harder in other ways. In scenario II you won’t have to answer the question “what do I want to know?” Your spouse is gone and probably not going to offer up that information. Don’t ask people and it is best if you are strong enough to tell people not to tell you about sightings. You have the only information you need- your spouse refused to stop the affair and refused to go to therapy. If you want a monogamous marriage, this one is over and it is time to move forward.
Your work is to discuss all the pain of having your best friend/lover lie to you. You will have lots of questions as well:
- What did I do?
- Is it my fault?
- How could he/she?
- How can I face our friends?
- Who knows?
- How can I go to events alone?
- Will I see them?
- Will anyone ever love me?
- Have the kids met the affair?
- Will the kids like him/her better?
- Blah blah blah blah
Again, this is normal. Discuss every persistent, nagging thought with your therapist, journal, again until you are bored with hearing yourself ruminate. Beat these concerns to death and move forward.
As you will notice in this stage many of the concerns are externally focused and all about your spouse and the affair. The process for both scenarios during this stage must switch to internally focused questions. These questions are similar for both scenarios.
- Where will I find the strength to meet this challenge?
- How will I find the strength to move through this pain?
- This betrayal opened other historical wounds and I feel as though I am drowning.
- My trust in humanity is shattered, how will I heal?
- How can I stop ruminating?
- I feel ugly, insecure, raw, and vulnerable. Will I ever find my confidence?
- My insecurities are running my world. Will this ever stop?
- Is peace of mind ever possible again?
As strange as it may seem, when you move into the internally focused questions you have turned a corner and the real healing can begin.
These are things you can “control” because the process is about you strengthening your mind. You do have a choice every morning on whether you pick the toxic ruminating that will kill you or the positive thinking that will move you higher.
- I do have the strength needed for any challenge thrown my way.
- I can swim and I will.
- I will learn my lessons and be stronger.
- I am a strong powerful dignified person.
- I can manage my mind’s chatter and can peacefully handle my challenges in life.
When the heart grieves over what it has lost, the spirit rejoices over what is has left. ~Sufi Epigram
© 2019 Dr. Anne Brown; Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Author of Backbone Power The Science of Saying No. Permission needed for any form of reproduction.
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