Many of you, including myself, have made the following statement at some point: “Dealing with the aftermath of my husband’s infidelity is by far the hardest thing I have gone through.” Today, I want to get a little bit into why it’s so difficult.
Let’s say someone makes a nasty comment about you in traffic because they perceive that you are going to slow. You might get mad for the moment, but since you do not know them, you get over it pretty quickly.
There are times when someone you know well does something that gets under your skin. It could be your boss yelling at you for something that wasn’t your fault. You really don’t have too much control over who your boss will be, so you may complain about the situation to a friend, but it doesn’t consume your entire world.
There are times where something tragic happens. It’s unexpected, and you can’t control who it happens to. It’s painful to go through things like an illness or the sudden death of a child, but you usually have an overwhelming amount of support typically from family, friends, and sometimes even strangers when things like this happen.
There are times prior to marriage where you are in a romantic relationship, and the person you are with does something to hurt your feelings. This can hurt terribly, but if it gets worse, you can just leave. In fact, if you are not living together, it’s even easier to leave! While the end of a relationship like this can hurt, in time your heart will mend.
But something changes when you marry someone. Typically, you invite everyone close to you to come and celebrate your big day. And typically, everyone who is close to you will meet your husband soon after. A big investment of time and money is made within a marriage. You may, for example, buy a house, open a joint bank account, or own other property together. But considering how much you love each other, investments like these are worth it. They’re part of your future together. You also start making sacrifices with your time, especially if you start having kids. Life responsibilities can become a challenge, but you have the support of your spouse.
Then your spouse cheats.
It’s important to stress that cheating is not just about sex with another woman; it’s also about lies and secrecy. This breach of trust by someone you love really throws your mind upside down! It’s not like this was a stranger who flipped you off or a boss that you can cast off as mentally insane, this is the person you choose to marry. It’s not a tragic event that no one could foresee; he willingly made the decision to lie, keep secrets, and have sex outside of the marriage.
When other devastating events happen, women feel comfortable sharing their experience. But most women typically don’t tell anyone about a spouse’s infidelity because they are embarrassed that the man they chose to marry also chose to have sex outside their marriage. (See After the affair embarrassment.) So the overwhelming support you get when you go through another major life event/life change isn’t there.
Many wives are not in the position financially or emotionally to just pack up and leave. You typically have to see your husband and be reminded of the affair every day until you both figure out what to do. You feel stuck, you feel alone. Another aspect that makes adultery within a marriage unique is that in most life-changing situations, you don’t feel like a fool for not knowing about the situation. You also are not stuck with the challenge of “Should I stay or should I go?”
There really aren’t many life situations to compare an affair to that are as complicated and mentally exhausting. It is for this reason that cheating within a marriage is a league within its own. It is a life-altering traumatic experience. And for all the reasons we’ve discussed, many women’s self-esteem typically plummets after the affair.
Our self-esteem is our most valuable jewel as women. Whether you decide to stay in the marriage or not, focusing on rebuilding your self-esteem is ESSENTIAL to your personal recovery. It’s also one of the hardest parts of recovery. But the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. You have many women on this site who support you and know what you’re going through.