To you whose spouse has been unfaithful
The discovery of infidelity may have come as a complete surprise to you, or you may have had doubts before. One way or another, discovering this is a huge shock for most. It can be so huge that you cannot take it in right away, but you turn numb, and everything feels like nothing. Gradually your mind agrees to deal with it piece by piece. Once you get in touch with your feelings, you can move forward with the issue.
On the other hand, you may be one of those for whom the discovery immediately blows consciousness. You feel rage, anger, despair and sadness. Within certain limits, expressing your feelings to your partner is helpful, but your feelings may also be so strong that you cannot control them. While these feelings are normal, you must not unravel them uncontrollably.
If you cannot control yourself, but endanger your children, yourself or your spouse, you need help. Contact a trusted friend, relative or professional for help with your feelings.
Need to know everything
In the early stages, an enormous need to know everything is normal. You want to know all the details right away. This is a normal need. Your mind may circle around this just about all waking hours.
It may be difficult for you to fall asleep, or when you transit to light sleep at night, it pops into your mind and you can no longer fall asleep again. Your focus on work and your childcare abilities can be severely impaired. You are not able to give your spouse a moment of peace, but want to know more about what happened, again and again.
Your need to know may be so overwhelming that you want to use all your time on it, even at night. You demand your spouse to talk and answer your questions to the early hours. Although this is a normal need, you need to take care of your well-being and also allow your spouse to rest. Clearing this issue will take time and you will not benefit from the fact that you and your spouse get profoundly exhausted. When dead tired, things seem even worse and hopeless. Nor is a tired person at their best to deal with difficult issues such as this one. If you are not getting any rest or sleep, consult your doctor quickly. You may benefit from temporary sedation medication or sleeping medication that many use at this stage.
Take care of your own well-being and that of your children
If you find it extremely difficult to handle your job in this situation, get a short-term sick leave. If you are unable to care for your children, seek help from your loved ones or the municipal social administration.
At this stage, try to protect your children from the issue to your best ability. At this confusing stage, stressing children is unreasonable. You can talk about it with the children later if necessary. If the children have heard about it or heard your arguments, say that you adults have disagreements that you are now trying to resolve with one another. Tell them that the parents are trying their best and that children will be told if or when the things concern them.
If you have been able to take care of your rest and well-being, you may feel a bit relieved after some time, a few weeks or months. Your mood is not as extremely bad, at least not all the time, as it was at the beginning. This relief can be greatly delayed, or even completely prevented, if your spouse has not clearly terminated the other relationship. As long as the other relationship exists, nothing in the processing of the issue progresses.
Your spouse must be able to decide with whom they intend to continue, or at least for the time being, cut off all communication, including calls, text messages, letters and emails, with the third wheel. This allows you two to determine if you can continue your relationship after this. If your spouse is unable, or even after joint discussions, to terminate or discontinue the communication with the third party, they should seek professional help to resolve the issue. For your part, support this because you too will benefit from being able to move forward.
From the outset, you have most likely had a scenario in which you press on to solve the issue and your spouse tries to keep the processing as short and rare as possible. This is a very common and normal scenario.
Spouse’s involvement in the issue is complicated by their feelings
You should know not only your own feelings and needs, but also what might be going on in your spouse’s mind in this situation. Your spouse’s involvement in processing of the issue is made more difficult by the feelings of guilt and shame in what they hve done and caused to you in addition to the difficulty of making the aforementioned choice. These feelings are partly involuntary. It is difficult for people to withstand these feelings and they will try to get out of the situation as soon as possible.
In addition, your anger and rage will trigger an automatic defence response in them. Thus, the fact that your spouse avoids the issue is not in all respects a deliberate disregard, which it often feels like. However, you need to be able to talk to each other in the future in order to resolve the issue. You will only be able to have a real discussion that clears the issue if you are able to break away from the “pusher-dodger” or “prosecutor-defence” scenario described above.
If you are unable to do so even with time, you may want to seek help in couple’s counselling or therapy.
Processing is possible after the initial stages
As the chaos and confusion of the initial stages diminish for you and your feelings are no longer uncontrollable all the time, you can begin to really deal with the issue with your spouse. To achieve this, the third wheel will must no longer be actively around, you are coping, and are able to handle most of your feelings at least in some respect. However, it always takes two to tango. You cannot really solve it alone, no matter how much you think about it. Only your spouse can bring clarity to certain issues.
It may be, in addition to the general avoidance, that your spouse claims they did not know why and what they were doing. It feels both infuriating and impossible to believe. However, we humans are not always well informed about why we do what we do. Thus, true unawareness may be the case in the early stages of processing. Especially for people who are not used to explaining their feelings or thoughts, it can be difficult at first to catch up with what has touched them in regards to the issue.
Your spouse may need outside help in resolving this issue as well. It is also in your interest to find answers to your questions. Thus, if the issue is not resolved in your mutual discussions or visits with professional help, your spouse may need to visit a professional to find out.
You should know that when resolving infidelity, diverse issues are discovered on the background. You should also know that many of these issues are not at all related primarily to what the deceived spouse is about; their appearance, sex appeal or character, or the couple’s relationship. They relate to the unfaithful one’s own life stage or situation, mental or physical well-being, or own ability to be in a close relationship. Of course, some are related to the disappointments experienced in the relationship, of which the unfaithful one has been more or less aware.
It is worth emphasizing that even when the reason for infidelity is dissatisfaction with the partner or the relationship, the deceived is not liable for or guilty of the infidelity. There are many ways to deal with dissatisfaction other than infidelity.
Will trust be restored?
The key question is can I ever trust my spouse again. This is an essential question because it will be virtually impossible to continue the relationship without reasonable trust. It is important for you to know that once trust is lost in a relationship, regaining it is a slow process.
No magic trick exists to regain the trust quickly. Thus, feelings of insecurity and doubts will continue to plague your mind for a long time. That is normal, you have not failed in any way. Perhaps the best thing for you to gradually regain trust is that, with the help of your spouse, you begin to get a meaningful overview of what has happened. As the overall picture develops, what has happened may begin to seem understandable, though not acceptable.
An essential prerequisite for this is that you find that your spouse is now open to you and honest in dealing with the issue. In addition, it is important that you work together to find ways to meet the needs of both of you.
At best, it takes months to process such an issue, but it may take longer. During the first few months, it is common for the deceived mind to drift back easily to what has happened. This is normal and therefore not deviant.
Any place, movie scene, gesture or word will suddenly remind you of what happened, and you will have to go through your feelings and thoughts again and possibly discuss it with your spouse. Often you wonder if it can ever be forgotten or left behind. Over time, such issues will gradually fall behind, once the key issues have been resolved. Otherwise, leaving it behind can be difficult or impossible.
As you progress, you will notice that what happened is gradually popping to your mind less often, and you have time to think about other things. Progress can also be seen in the fact that the time required to process the issue per sitting gradually decreases. However, for a long time, certain special things, such as the venue or time, can evoke the issue.
It is also common for temporary separation situations that arise in your relationship, such as spending the evening without you, or your spouse travelling on a business trip or vacation alone, to evoke feelings of insecurity. You should accept these as normal things and learn how to deal with them together so that they do not severely separate you from one another or deteriorate your relationship.
Forgiveness is difficult and can take time
At some point forgiveness comes up between you. Often it is difficult to truly forgive such a thing in your heart. It often takes a long time. Forgiveness is often facilitated by the fact that your partner has genuinely shown remorse. Also, having participated in resolving the issue with you so that you have gradually formed an understandable picture of what has happened facilitates forgiveness.
Forgiveness can also be fostered if, over time, you and your spouse find new forms of intimacy, mutual respect, and trust. You should remember that forgiveness does not mean accepting what has happened, let alone being a permission to repeat it. Nor does it mean that you should not come back to it when it pops to your mind for one reason or another.
If you do not get your spouse involved in the processing of the issue at all, it may be difficult for you to start trusting them again. Again, it is a normal function of the mind. Continuing the relationship without trust is difficult, if not impossible. If you find it difficult to make such a big decision alone and you have no one close to you to help, you should seek professional help to support you with your processing and decision.
Once the infidelity is adequately processed and the spouses catch up on what infidelity was trying to solve in the relationship or in the life of the unfaithful one, the relationship can reach a new, even more satisfying, level of interaction.
Authors: Relationship Experts, the Family Federation of Finland
Reference: Glass, Shirley P.: Not “Just Friends” – Rebuilding Trust and recovering your sanity after infidelity. 2003. Free Press.