Infidelity is one of the most difficult relationship issues to overcome.
Your feelings and thoughts are like a roller coaster, and the emotional trauma can be a mental health diagnosis in itself with symptoms of depression, anxiety, alcoholism, sleep problems, and more similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Experts have a hard time determining true statistics on the prevalence of affairs, but it doesn’t take an expert to determine the misery of experiencing and overcoming one.
If your emotional trauma leaves you questioning how to survive this, who you can turn to, or whether you should stay or leave, you MUST understand what your brain is trying to tell you:
1. He is the source of your pain.
Nothing he says or does will make you feel any better in this moment or for a minimum of the next three months. Once your brain sees him as a pain inducer it can’t also identify him as a pain reliever. So, we have to be careful what we expect of him. Hell, it hurts just watching him sleep.
2. He is a liar.
People lie for any number of reasons. They don’t want to hurt you. They want to protect themselves, and/or they just have a bad habit of doing so. We may not know why he lied, but we do know he did tell a minimum of one lie. Lord knows how many others.
With that said, how can you determine if he’s telling the truth? I know you want to hear “the truth,” but really, how will you know if he’s really telling it?
Even if he did give you all the passwords to email, cell phone, and other social media accounts, how do you know he didn’t create another one or make a phone call from another phone?
You need some time before you’re ready to expect, hear, and accept any version of “the truth.”
3. Limited information hurts — a lot.
You can’t eat, sleep, or drink right now. You’re constantly crying and irritable and feel hopeless and alone.
And you don’t even know the whole story. You still don’t know why, when it began, how long, how many others, did he use protection, and so on. Even if he answers those questions, do you actually believe him?
Understand this: the more we know, the more you’ll hurt. And, the more this hurts, the more he has to be forgiven.
Wait until you’re in a better emotional place to ask these questions, and consider asking in the presence of a counselor, pastor, first lady, or someone well respected as the mediator.
4. You can still make your marriage work.
While it feels like the end of the world, or at least your relationship, the truth is your marriage isn’t over unless you decide to end it. With forgiveness, you can make this a marriage, but it will take some time.
He can’t fix the marriage alone. With the right people in your life, you can learn to forgive him and trust him again.
And with the right people in his life, he has to work on becoming the best version of himself as a husband father, and man — emotionally and spiritually.
5. He can’t earn your trust; he can only help ease your decision to trust him.
Think of all the people you trust, especially the ones who made it their personal life’s mission to earn our trust. The reality is, we trust people we think are genuinely good versions of themselves personally and/or professionally, not the ones seeking to earn our trust.
For example, you don’t trust your doctor because she said she wanted to earn our trust. You trust her because you’ve learned of their great professional work ethic, commitment to being great and the results of their greatness. The same is true with your closest friends.
Trust is a decision you make. Therefore, you want him to be a better man, instead of a man seeking to earn your trust.
It’s who he becomes as a person that you learn to trust, not what “checklist” he completes. Besides, there’s always a guy out there looking to “earn our trust,” especially at a time like this.
6. You can’t do this alone.
You need help from unbiased people, preferably trained professionals, so you can learn how to identify how the relationship reached this point, take responsibility for any role we have in it (not for his decision to cheat, however), and learn to view and share our story in a more complete context.
You need someone to teach you how to manage the negative thoughts and emotions you have surrounding the affair. You also need someone to teach you how to forgive and how to begin the process of restoring trust.
There is no set timeline for you to do, either. And, like those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, you need to be surrounded by compassionate people.