Surviving Divorce: Recovering from the pain of an Affair
While any act of deception during a marriage feels like a violation, discovering that your spouse is having an affair can create a devastating wake of betrayal, anger, and sadness that permeates every aspect of your life. When the infidelity leads to divorce, you are left to manage the destruction of your married life while feeling emotionally depleted and raw. After this traumatic experience, forgiving your ex for this injury can seem impossible. However, this harm can create prolonged bitterness, resentment, diminished self-confidence and mistrust which you will not be able to become free of without taking definitive action. Fortunately, moving towards recovery from the pain of the affair after divorce is possible.
Your path to healing after infidelity ends your marriage will depend on what you and the unfaithful partner are willing to contribute. If you are seeking to reach a place of forgiveness, both parties must be willing to be open and honest with one another about the conditions leading to the affair and their part of what has happened. This process requires just as much from the unfaithful partner as it does from you. Forgiveness does not mean pretending to forgive the other person as a means to avoid conflict, nor does it mean refusing to accept responsibility. This is a time to be truthful about your pain and receptive to what your former partner can give. When your ex can offer truthfulness, give of themselves, and a meaningful apology, and you can be open to understanding all contributing factors, both parties may be able to work towards a state of authentic forgiveness and resolution. A neutral third party may help both parties with this process as a sounding board, problem-solver, and emotional guide.
While the forgiveness process can offer both sides the opportunity to begin healing, it is often a difficult and unrealistic course following the trauma of divorce involving infidelity. This can be especially true when the unfaithful partner is now in a relationship with the person they had the affair with and does not appear to be apologetic for their choices. One of the hardest things to overcome is wanting the offending party to be remorseful for their actions when they either are not sorry, incapable of seeing things from your point of view, or not available. After this betrayal, you may closely identify as the victim in the situation and therefore feel entitled to but unable to move forward without your unfaithful partner’s apology. However, the offending partner has not experienced the same trauma as the hurt partner and may feel justified in their behavior. In this situation, seeking remorse from someone who, for their own reasons, is unable or unwilling to provide it is an exercise in futility which can result in you falling deeper into resentment. When you are in this situation, you have reached an impasse where you have the choice of learning to live with your pain or taking steps to achieve acceptance. Unlike forgiveness, acceptance is not a process that involves the unfaithful partner’s apology or participation but is instead a place which you must reach within yourself. It can feel unfair that after having been grievously injured, you now have to take on the burden of completing this process alone. However, dealing with and examining your experience therapeutically and constructively can allow you to better understand yourself and what has occurred, process your emotions in a safe environment, and ascend to a place of peace.
When a marriage ends in divorce following an affair, the injured partner will face many challenges in working through their pain. The paths to resolving these feelings through authentic forgiveness or finding acceptance can offer both healing and resolution.