Feeling Wrecked by Betrayal

Wrecked is a word used often by people who find that their partner has been unfaithful. Most people say that being cheated on by someone they trusted is one of the most painful experiences of their lives. It is hard to understand the feeling unless you have lived through it in some capacity. You want so desperately to stop feeling this way. Crying unpredictably. Heart palpitations. Difficulty concentrating.

You struggle so much that you aren’t sure you can envision what life will feel like when you get through this. It might be hard for you to remember a time when things were normal. A time when you could watch a show or read a book without getting tearful or being distracted. A time when you did fairly routine things like go to the gym or grocery shopping or paying bills without it feeling like pushing a rock up a mountain. You even find that you struggle with losing yourself in your work like you used to. It’s as if your whole identity has been rocked.

Secrecy

When you find the person you have been in a relationship with has been with someone else, this is not the sort of thing you are eager to share. In our social media heavy world, it’s unlikely you would reveal yourself in this way, even though you eagerly share so many intimate details about yourself. You typically check into various locations, take pictures of your delicious and photogenic meals, and share selfies periodically. You might feel that now that you’ve curbed your Instagram-worthy life, you worry that people will wonder what is happening in your life. They wonder why you used to share so many #couplegoals and now your partner is remarkably absent from your feed.

It gives me no pleasure to say that infidelity is increasingly common because there is a great deal of pain involved. In spite of how often it happens, there is still shame associated with it and it’s still the sort of thing that’s whispered about. Will she leave him? Will they stay together? The shame of being talked about can cause people a great deal of anxiety, even if you’re the type of person who doesn’t seem to care what other people think. You are mortified that your private life might be fodder for gossip. If you’re someone who is very open with your friends and coworkers and acquaintances, you might be concerned that your new tight-lipped persona might even cause people to wonder what’s going on. When people ask you how your spouse is doing, you might find yourself disengaging or flat-out lying because you want so badly to cover up what is going on for you lately.

What do I do now?

Infidelity causes you to question the future of your relationship. And in some ways, your entire future. You told each other you’d be together forever. You might have kids together. A mortgage. Dogs. It’s painful even without kids/mortgage/pets. What the hell do I do now? It is OK to not know what to do. The way you are feeling now is not the way you will feel forever.

There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for handling a situation like this. There might be lots of books out there telling you what to do. You might pick one up and take the advice of whatever the author suggests. But realistically, something else that is both hard for me to say and also hard for you to hear, is that it may be nearly impossible to avoid experiencing pain. Strong emotions abound and sometimes ugly words are said and people say things they might regret. Or not. Or you may say nothing or your spouse may say nothing.

I understand that as adults, we all enter relationships with a lifetime of expectations of how a relationship should go. And we’ve probably experienced heartbreak and betrayal to varying degrees. How our prior relationships have gone might influence how we move forward in the present one.   If you’ve run away in the past, maybe that’s what you’re inclined to do again. If you want to reconcile quickly, you might find yourself burying your hurt and pain to have the person back.

Even though it is a dreadfully painful time, when you find time and distance from this tragic event, it might look like a turning point in your life. Maybe as a result of this indescribable pain, you began to work on why you bury the hurt all the time or why you run away. Maybe you’ll find that some of your patterns are things you have always wanted to change about yourself and when the change evolves, you might have different perspective on the relationship. Your partner who departed from the relationship may also change, even though that is hard to digest right now.

There may be no concrete answers right now. Sometimes, it is very difficult to live in uncertainty and without access to a map or compass for your journey. People who love and care about you may want to tell you to “just divorce him” or “work it out”. You may choose to make those decisions at some point. But it is OK to not know what to do. In therapy, you are not told what to do. Those decisions are yours to make. But therapy allows for the space to mentally breathe. You might find that you are not sure what to do because you don’t really know yourself very well. This might be the time to start looking inward so that you know what next steps are best for you.

If you would like to explore the possibility of working with me, please reach out to me at cmgsnyder@gmail.com. I can also be reached at 201-248-5552. My practice is located in Livingston, New Jersey.

When Parents Cheat

When you learn of a partner’s infidelity, your head is spinning. Words don’t do justice to the tornado of emotions you feel. You might also find yourself vacillating between two or more emotional states within a matter of minutes. You might be feeling shock, anger, and sadness. At times, you might even feel relief that your suspicions have finally been confirmed.

These feeling are often amplified if you share children together.  You look at your children and you wonder how this happened.  How it happened that one of their parents has caused the other to feel the lowest they’ve ever felt.  Your marriage vows included promises to be faithful and you are in utter disbelief that your partner went back on that promise.  Not only has it led you to question how your relationship to continue, but it has also caused you to ask how you can now parent your children with someone you no longer trust.

There are no right or wrong answers in situations like this. Only what is best for you and your family. Sometimes it is important to weigh the options of what you share with others and it also may depend on whether you find particular people trustworthy enough to hold this sensitive information. If someone in your life has a reputation for being the town gossip, you may exercise restraint in what to share with that person.

One of the most difficult decisions to be made when you learn of your partner’s infidelity is whether to share this information with your children. And if you do, you consider how much information to share.

It pains you to not be fully transparent with your children because you’ve always said you would never lie to them. However, withholding sensitive details and blatantly creating an entirely different narrative feels like two ends of the spectrum. Chances are, your approach will reside somewhere in the middle for you.

Parents find themselves insisting on transparency with their children because their own parents lied to them. And they do not want their children to feel the same way as they did as children. Young people are savvy enough to understand from context clues in their environment that something feels different. As adults, they may find themselves struggling to discern their own feelings because their questions or experiences may have been invalidated by their parents. Perhaps their parents told them whatever they observed did not really happen. It leads to confusion for children.

As parents, sometimes you strive to raise your children differently than your own parents raised you. It is common to hear adults talk about their parents and say, “I will never do that to my children.” That runs the gamut from how they handle discipline to how to be there emotionally for their children. Humans are very much affected by what we experienced at young ages. And that includes how to (or whether to) divulge that their mother or father is involved in a relationship outside the home.

It is always interesting to hear from adults about how they learned of their parents’ infidelity when they were children. They might talk about how they met “dad’s friend” when they were very young. Or they have recollections of their mom emotionally exploding at their dad, which included some mention of a woman’s name. It was further confusing for them if they also knew and liked these people. It was hard for them to understand as children why mom or dad would be so incensed over a seemingly nice lady or nice man.

How you proceed with telling your own children also involves asking yourself whether you need to or not. You may decide that you have been able to keep a boundary with your children to not discuss any of this in front of them. And thus, you don’t see a need to tell them. Their age may also play a role in how or what you tell them. Or if you tell them. You may also decide to share this information with them when they get older and begin to be involved in relationships as adults.

Some things to consider are being mindful of how information is transmitted to your children if one of their parents is involved in a relationship. It does leave an impact on a child when they become a repository for a parent’s anger. You are entitled to being angry. But your child does not need to be exposed to unhealthy generalizations like “never trust anyone.” Statements like this, especially when they are expressed in frightening or confusing ways to children, can leave lasting impressions about how they understand healthy relationships in the future.

Navigating parenting is difficult enough. But if there is infidelity occurring, it makes everything feel so much more difficult. It is understandable that you feel angry and betrayed and confused. It can be helpful to utilize the services of a therapist during periods like this.

You can learn more about me at http://snyderlcsw.com/therapist/.  If you would like to consider the possibility of working with me, please email me at cmgsnyder@gmail.com or call me at 201-248-5552.