Feeling betrayed seems to be the natural reaction when infidelity occurs in a marriage. He cheats, he lies, you fall apart and all trust is broken. Being unfaithful to your partner, disregarding your vows and not honoring your marriage are more than horrifying displays of poor judgement; in my opinion, they speak to someone’s character. Not everyone would agree with this. Some people may even defend their spouse’s actions by blaming themselves or excusing the behavior as a “mistake”. Some may even be able to re-build their marriage and “make it stronger” after an affair. In my case, I didn’t even get the opportunity to try that option. I had no idea what was happening until after my husband left. With the re-assurance that there was no one else (and I blindly believed that), it wasn’t until 10 months later that I discovered the truth. Talk about a good liar. Deceiver of epic proportions.
On one hand, things began to make a lot more sense; on the other hand, I was now whammed with a whole new set of emotions to process. Without getting into the details of how this was uncovered (unfortunately, you can Google those), suffice it to say it felt as though my heart had been ripped from my chest. Anger, jealousy and rage all erupted like an uncontrollable volcano. It took awhile to find a (healthy) outlet for these emotions and to calm the constant rumblings in my head but it is possible.
The sadness of betrayal doesn’t come all at once. It comes in stages, as you begin to recognize the full extent of what you have lost. Once someone has violated your trust, it becomes hard to escape the knowledge that people (especially those closest to you) are capable of betraying others.
Finding out that your spouse has been unfaithful is the worst kind of betrayal. But is it? Are you really feeling betrayed because of the “other woman” or is it something deeper and the affair was just a by-product? These are the questions I began to ask myself and the answers eventually became clear.
The word betrayal evokes experiences of cheating, lying, breaking trust and choosing someone else over your spouse. These behaviors are certainly betrayals, but they’re not the only form of betrayal. I’m talking about the betrayal of not caring. Not caring enough to say what you’re feeling; to express yourself using words and honesty. Caring means being willing to devote time and effort to the relationship. This is what really hurts. For me, the most difficult part was trying to piece together where and when things went wrong. Wishing he would have come to me before he made a decision that ultimately changed the course of my life. That is the real betrayal. Of de-valuing our entire relationship as if it was meaningless; undeserving of even the slightest consideration after 23 years spent together.
The Other Woman
So those feelings of anger, jealousy and rage are misdirected. Anger is never a good emotion, but sometimes it is temporarily necessary to understand the root cause of something. Anger may feel like showing strength, but in reality it shows how much you still care. You can place blame, name-call and gossip all you want but it is not “her” fault. She is the by-product. Don’t misunderstand, she is not exactly an innocent party in the story either. I believe that women who prey on other women’s husbands are morally vacant opportunists. These women are sometimes even more self-centered and attention seeking than the men they cheat with. These are the same women who evoke our jealous feelings? Ironic.
Healing & Moving On
In the aftermath of betrayal, healing will happen whether you receive an apology or not, whether you get closure or you are ignored. We all heal in our own time, under our terms. Old emotions may always be close at hand waiting to remind you of your past but what matters now is accepting that this is where life has brought you. Choose to see the lessons you’ve learned through your experience. Understand that you cannot change people. You cannot force them to be who you think they should be. Harboring negative feelings towards them will only leave you frustrated. Do not allow loss of trust, no matter how debilitating it may seem, to hold you back from living your life. Maybe the ideas you held of what “should” be were illusory all along.