Infidelity Recovery Stages

2018-09-12T15:15:33+00:00

“Infidelity Recovery Stages.”

That sounds so neat and tidy. The stages of healing after infidelity.  I thought to myself, “Is healing even possible after infidelity?”  Recovery from the damage and devastation that is caused by this kind of betrayal is never easy.  Infidelity is one of the most serious assaults on a marriage there is.

Judith Viorst, is author of one of my favorite children’s books, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  I read that book to our four children hundreds of times.  It would have been appropriate for how I felt when I found out my husband had a girlfriend.  

Judith once wrote about her husband:  “When he is late for dinner and I know he must be having an affair or lying dead in the middle of the street, I always hope he’s dead.”

I laughed at that quote … then.   But when I re-read it when my husband was actually having an affair, I felt the same way Judith did.  At one point, I wrote in my book, Radical Recovery:

“I hate him!  I never want to see his face again!  I wish he was DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!”

That was when he was late getting home for dinner, and I realized not only had he been with another woman, but he looked me in the face and lied and made me feel like a crazy person for even thinking such a thing.  I thought to myself. “how does anyone get any healing after infidelity?”

There are lots of ways to be unfaithful.  Abuse. Addiction. Lack of care and closeness.  But the infidelity that most often comes to mind is adultery.  That promise of faithfulness is a promise to each other that no matter what, “you are safe with me.”  Infidelity destroys that promise.

Infidelity is a problem in our society.  Especially among midlife and older couples, men cheat more than women. When infidelity happens in a marriage, we have to figure out, first of all, if we can save the marriage, and second, if we can rebuild the trust that all good marriages must have to continue and thrive. Often our marriage doesn’t survive because the affair continues.

What’s most difficult about the success of infidelity recovery stages is dealing with his choice to break his promises to you … to sleep with another woman … to lie to your face, mislead your children, disappoint your family and friends, and then have the gall to try to somehow make it your fault.

The grief that come from infidelity, especially if it causes the loss of our marriage, is a pain beyond describing.  It’s devastating to our view of who we are and to our sense of worth and trust and joy and even love, itself. There are few affair recovery stages that can fix those losses.

How Long Does It Take

When I was trying to put my life back together after my husband’s continued infidelity and the divorce that followed, the thinking from many psychologists was that you could count on one year of recovery for every five to seven years of marriage. We had been married for 33 years …   I thought to myself, “ I might be dead by then!”

Another counselor said the stages of healing after an affair could take one month of recovery for every year you were married.  That got me down to about three years to get back to normal. I thought to myself, “I don’t think I can survive even three years of feeling like this.”  

Honestly, for me, it did take that long to get back to any semblance of normalcy while I was trying to cope with the infidelity and the divorce.  That’s why I have such a passion to do this Midlife Divorce Recovery work. I want to save other women some of the time and anguish I experienced.  I want to help them make the trip faster and with more grace than I did. That’s why I created the MasterPlan Program.

Discovery

I discovered my husband’s affair when I found a card in the driver’s side pocket of our van.  It was a card from her with a little boy and a little girl sitting next to each other on a swing in kind of muted soft colors.  The girlFIEND (any woman who gets involved with a married man!) had written things like, “I love your voice … it’s like a cello … especially when you sing to me …. and you even like my feet.”  

A sense of despair filled my heart, and I confronted him, He said she was just a friend … someone at work who was having trouble in her own marriage.  He went and played golf that afternoon as my life was crumbling around me.

As a woman who is faced with lies, denials and deception, I became my own private detective (which by the way is a sure way to more despair!) I discovered more and more inconsistencies in his behavior, in his schedule,  in unexplained charges on our credit card.

I became obsessed with finding out everything I could, because I was heartbroken and furious he could look me in the face after 30+ years of marriage and lie to my face … over and over again.  Every discovery proved I hadn’t lost my mind, but I had lost my husband.

Grief & Sadness

The extreme sadness and grief after infidelity, especially after a long marriage, is as bad as it feels.  People want to somehow minimize what this means in your life. It changes absolutely everything. Everything you thought was solid ground is now a big swamp of quicksand sucking you under.  

I had trouble sleeping.  I wasn’t eating well. I would start the day exhausted and sick in my heart that this was my new reality.  I didn’t know how I could survive knowing that my 33 year marriage was over because my husband wanted another woman.

Anger

It took me too long to get to the “Angry Stage” of divorce recovery after Infidelity.  I was mostly heartbroken and unbelieving that this could happen to us … to a family like ours.  

I stayed in that sad, heartbroken, devastated stage too long because I somehow thought that if I had been different or better or thinner or more organized or whatever, this might not have happened.  

But after doing this work for so long, I have finally figured out that his infidelity is much more about him than about you.  He makes the choice to betray you and destroy what you have built together. I have met many, many beautiful, smart, funny, accomplished women, and their husband did the same thing.  

So, after a while, I got mad.  Some of my friends called it my “righteous indignation” stage.  They had asked me when I was going to stop being so sad and start being angry at what he had done.  The angry stage is beneficial, but you can’t set up camp there either. If you do, It will destroy you.

Acceptance

For me, by the end of the three years, there was some semblance of acceptance.  I knew in my head that our 33-year marriage was over. It just took my heart longer to catch up to that reality.  

I made mistakes in our marriage.  I had times I could have done things better, but so did he.  I was a good wife. I was a good mother. I thought I was fun and that our life was amazing … even though there were things we had to work out like every couple.  

It took me a long time to come to grips with the fact that my husband didn’t think I was worth being faithful to, and that he thought his new girlfriend could provide more of what he wanted or needed.  

That’s a hard reality to accept, but at some point after continued infidelity, you have no choice.  

Unless you want to stay in the pit forever, you have to finally accept that someone or something else is more important to your husband than you and your family.

Forgiveness

When I am teaching my 10-Week RADiCAL Divorce Recovery classes, I always tell the women in the class just to put the forgiveness piece on the shelf for awhile.  There is always a huge collective sigh of relief!

Most women start out saying, “I will NEVER forgive him for this!”  But in their heart they know they need to at some point, or they will never have as full a life as they deserve.  

Most religions encourage, or even demand,  forgiveness. But normally we have a lot of grief and healing work to do before we are ready to tackle forgiveness.  There are some people who can jump to forgiveness right off the bat. I couldn’t. It took me a long time to get to that place.

We have to get there eventually, but don’t feel guilty about still feeling more disgust and hurt in your heart than forgiveness, especially after infidelity.  I not only felt hate for my ex, but I had hate in my heart for the woman who was his willing and eager mistress.

Forgiveness is a process, and your life will be much better if you get there sooner rather than later.  Be patient with yourself and keep moving in that direction.

Reconnecting or Moving On

“Moving on” after a divorce caused by infidelity is also such an easy thing to say.  It’s a very difficult thing to do especially in the beginning. For one thing, he is usually much further ahead in the process if he has been fostering this new relationship for some time.

So while I was still in the sobbing, screaming, devastation phase of recovery, he was already out and about showing off his new woman and introducing her to our kids and family and friends.

That was one of the most difficult “stages of healing after an affair:”  He moves happily on to his new love after separation or divorce while we are still in the fetal position in our bed trying to get up every day.  Him thinking that his life has just taken a bright step forward, brings a grief that is hard to describe and hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it.

Remember, Infidelity Recovery Stages are just that.  Stages. Get connected with other women who are healing after their husband’s infidelity.  Be patient. We can make that happen in our Recovery Program.

About the Author:

Suzy developed Midlife Divorce Recovery as a safe refuge for people healing and surviving the overwhelm of divorce. Starting her first RADiCAL support group in 2003 she's been helping women navigate the journey of divorce ever since.

2 Comments

  1. Twana Miller October 26, 2018 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    I totally agree with you. I just have one question why does your ex husband and his new wife have to be so ugly and mean to me and my boys. The new wife will not let him have anything to do with our boys, his parents, my family or his friends. She has been very ugly to everyone sending letters and text messages that are very hurtful and mean. She has sent them to all of us. It has hurt everyone of us so bad but especially our 3 boys who does not understand why their dad has totally turned his back on them he want even talk to them. She told one of his friends she wants the past to be in the past. She lets him connect with her family and her daughter. She writes the text messages and letters but send it in his name like he wrote the letters/and or text messages. What causes him to act like this? Both parties were married when this affair started. We were married for 30 years and the new wife and her exhusband we married for about 25 years. They started the affair on the Ashley Madison website. Her divorce was finally on a Friday and they were married the next Saturday. It’s really hard to get over any of this when these two continue to be mean and vindictive all the time. For example sending me child support check and changing banks after I receive the checks so when I go to the bank the check is no good. Stopping my youngest sons college fees and not telling us and my son gets called to the business office at his college and they tell him he can’t graduate until the funds are paid and his dad refused to give us any receipts but claimed it was pain. Even tho my boys are older it has been a terrible divorce and they still do not understand what has happed to their dad. My youngest son told me the other dad he has buried his dad and wants nothing else to do with him. Can you give me some tips on how to handle all the ugly and vindictive mess that keeps going on from the two that had an affair and he wants to blame me for everything. She sends letters to me that is is apparent she wrote but has him to sign some of them and then some of them are not signed she always puts this statement in the letters He has found love for the first time in his life. Which brings me to wonder did I waste 30 years of my life living with a man that did not love me. Please help me figure this out.

  2. Go December 26, 2018 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Suzy, Thank you for your post. I am actually a Dad with 5 kids, that was abandoned by my wife some 4 years ago. I loved my wife very much….wow I just noticed that statement…It seems I might have made some progress at last toward truly letting go…..During my 22 years of marriage before her departure, the marriage had taken a great deal of discipline and sacrifice to deal with her constant theatrics and unmitigated need for new and ever more expensive stimuli. This was a women with literally everything. Eventually she abandoned all her children 4 years ago taking an online lover I learnt very belatedly only last year and running off to another country. She has not returned and likely never will. Seeing how well the kids have developed without her negative influences (though I have always encouraged them to stay in touch) but they all are doing much better now. At first I maintained contact sending countless emails over that time, to try to get her to reconnect with the family. I even sent her a LOT of money for some years as I thought she was just suffering from deep depression, but as I found out later, she was simply smack bang in the middle of what was her 2nd affair and had me paying her accommodation, maxing out ALL the cards over several years, while I supported all the kids at home and the mortgage too and now paying it all back.

    Meanwhile, she waited out for her new BF to dump his wife and child on the street, which he did, keeping her his secret. I have never had a cent back from her for our children, other than the odd kids present. The axed wife of my wife’s BF died not a year after being put on the street. It is a terrible and tragic story and there are times that I blame myself for not doing more to put up with more of my wife’s constant hell, that perhaps this man’s wife would not have been pushed to the side also, but for the BF, it was not if, but when, one can only surmise. Adultery is a bitter sad tail, as each of my children, save now only one, will have anything to do with their mother. They encourage me to move on, divorce and in time find happiness with someone with true ethics and integrity. I think I miss the dream, perhaps even the fire, the challenge, more than anything else, the chance to live a full life and the eternities together, with someone to whom I was deeply but perhaps foolishly devoted, but love is very blind, as should it be. The chance to still hold my brides hand each day and even when she one day grows very old, telling her how much I have always loved and adored her. Letting go to that dream of ‘our family’ invested in, with every fibre of my being, for all those years, is perhaps the most difficult of all for me.

    I find it nigh impossible to figure (ever the practical one) how someone else might, ever replace her and make that deep connection with my children and truly love them as once she most genuinely tried to do and often succeeded in spades. BUT, I now know there are so many truly wonderful women and men out there, with souls and talents too, bigger than tomorrow who are deeply loving and have souls forged from years of practicing integrity and kindness, despite too often also suffering abusive and shallow partners, to whom they were once unshakable in devotion.

    They did marvelously to contain terrible circumstances that no one could have done more, but in the end they merely only were able to delay the inevitable. They have every right to feel proud of their efforts for so long and I know at times theirs were supra-human efforts way beyond the call with self-centred partners obsessed too often with self. I am realising now, it is this type of now single person (if I should be so lucky) to meet and in time develop friendship and trust with, that has far more capacity to be a both Mother and in time Grandmother in the future, to my children and theirs. Someone deeply responsible and kind, and little crazy and creative too on occasion, able to be a loving spouse and above all trusted best friend, (far more so) than someone who has merely made convenience of me for vastly too long.

    Accepting that very reality, is a quantum leap in faith for me and giving up on rescuing someone, now fully drowned by their own narcissism, is more than needful for me, it is in fact now essential, to allow me to be a truly happy Father and healthy individual first, as one should. Then in time find place for perhaps another in his (I guess that would be my) life. Finding that person….(when I am fully ready) …well that is something else entirely, but where there is a will???? surely the heavens a way will make, but for now I am enjoying (at last) rediscovering myself and rebuilding my future and helping to forge a more financially secure and each day now, better educated future for all my children.

    Thank you for letting me share my thoughts. For those of you caught in the beginning or middle or even end, know you will make it. Just hang in there no matter how awful, (it does get better), you do get sleep and peace does in time return. Life will be a groundhog day (redo) at times, and there will be a lot of new stuff too, but with each iteration, you will emerge a little stronger and a little more determined. Yes you will have fall over times, but they will occur less and less. You will grow stronger, kinder, more loving, be composed of vastly more empathy and find delivered from the heavens in time, a ton more patience, and plenty of get up and go, for things you just need to expedite.

    Ironically you will emerge with greater (not less) confidence and above all vast deep unshakable self respect, which means you will be vastly more secure around others, and even learn at last to stand your ground with your boss. The old you will disappear some and a new character composed of vastly more virtues, begin to emerge. Eventually, you will be able to crack jokes about your circumstances (and smile and laugh genuinely) You will in time be able to balance your books and then in time save money again. I had one of my kids 19 some year old friends, run across the mall a while back and give me a big hug, then run off with my daughter to a movie. I said the next day, “What was that all about”. She smiled, “Apparently she thinks you are a really cool Dad”. There will be rewards and your kids will come to deeply respect you in a way they could never have done before. My eldest son said to me the other day. “Thank you, for always being there for me” and a little later “You have always been the rock in our family” You will through all of this, find time to lighten others load, and find a genuine tear for anyone in 2 seconds flat, that’s not always a bad thing even for a fellow. I can now say of my ex, “You broke my heart twice and then this last time you truly smashed it”. “Thank you!” “How could I have ever come to truly know myself and let all of me emerge, save I had been given the opportunity to pass through this hell.” I forgive you, for your burden, is not mine to carry.

    I have survived, when at the beginning, even taking another breath seemed more than I could possible bear. To leave me, well I could accept that, but how could anyone abandon life away from all our beautiful children. Later on when all this heartbreak came to light, it was then, my turn to mourn for myself. I was so broken and thought perhaps I would never mend, it being a mere year ago today, when the full truth came to light and I at last found out why she left all of us. Through those 4 years, I have retained my integrity, I have been vastly more than fair and above all my virtue remains in tact. While I remain far from perfect, in vastly too many ways, I can now look both man and God in the eye and say without hesitation, these last 4 and some years, have been my truly finest….but watch this space, I am now in my 50’s, so most assuredly my VERY best is yet to come.
    God bless to you all.

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