Usually we’re surprised by an affair because we’ve ignored the early warning signs, such as arguments that never got resolved, or built up feelings of resentment due to diminishing communication and emotional and sexual interest. We don’t realize that these are the seeds of affairs. We don’t take these signs seriously because we think the issues will go away or resolve themselves. But they don’t. They unconsciously build momentum, and before we know it, we have found out that our partner has cheated…without us even knowing.
No matter what your situation; if you did or didn’t know about the affair, if you did or didn’t know you had relationship problems, you don’t have to blame and shame yourself. Instead, take the feelings of betrayal, doubt, and insecurity, and learn about yourself. You may be rolling your eyes and saying, “Why do I want to learn about myself?! I want to know why it happened, and why I didn’t know!” Learning about YOU takes the focus off of your partner and enables YOU to regain your self-worth and stop questioning every decision and choice you’ve ever made.
Here are 7 tips to take action now that you know:
1. Don’t blame yourself.
2. Don’t dwell on why you didn’t know, just begin the healing process by using the next 5 steps.
3. Know that you’ll go through many stages of grief ranging from anger, sadness, relief, and even feelings of love for your partner. Don’t be surprised if passion and excitement are reignited after an affair.
4. Use this crisis as a time to look within. Look at the history of the relationship. See where you knew something was wrong and how you ignored it, or thought you had dealt with it.
5. Learn from what happened. How can you change your beliefs and patterns so that you are aware and can effectively address your fights and disagreements? Unresolved issues can lead to affairs because partners feel helpless and hopeless to connect with each other, thereby leaving the door open to seek connection elsewhere.
6. Formulate a good support system for yourself so that you can voice your emotions IMMEDIATELY with people you trust. Getting support at these times is critical because supportive friends and family can help you to feel better about yourself and that you’re not alone.
7. If your feelings are severe and you find yourself in a depression, or with constant anxiety and/or hopelessness, seek professional help. The quicker you get help, the sooner you’ll feel better about yourself and develop new tools to deal with your feelings of betrayal. Don’t wait!
This may seem like the end of the world, but it’s really a new beginning. It’s an opportunity for growth and change within yourself and your relationship. Remember, stagnation kills relationships, but change keeps them alive. The more conscious we can become of our own patterns and those of our partner, the better chance we have of NOT being the last to know.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in O Magazine, Reader's Digest, and Time.com. Sharon has appeared on local TV, appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com.