Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Coping with Infidelity

By: Gitu Bhatia, Psy D
Last Update: September 27, 2017

The trauma and shock of finding out that you have been cheated on is often followed by difficult decisions about the relationship. It may, or may not, mark the end of a relationship. When infidelity ends a marriage, there typically is more anger, resentment, and mistrust present for the person who was cheated on. The person who cheats also has to contend with many emotions and consequences of their choices.

The person who has been cheated on may feel as though the proverbial rug has been pulled out from underneath them. As they learn more about the affair, they may begin to question everything about their relationship and everything about their lives together. It is normal to have intense feelings of anger, sadness, self-doubt, jealousy, and revenge. It is not unusual for people to get stuck in the blame, attack, defend mode. There is a natural tendency to seek the comfort of those who sympathize and empathize. However, often pride and shame get in the way of seeking out appropriate support.

While it is necessary to grieve and be able to vent hurt feelings, it can become unhealthy if you stay stuck in that place. How do you know that you are stuck in a cycle of negativity and resentment and that you have allowed it to take over your life? Although there is no time limit on how long it will affect you or a prescribed way of coping, be aware of some pitfalls.

Thinking About Hurting Your Ex

Get help if you spend a majority of your time thinking about a way to hurt your ex and make them feel the way that you felt. This is when it is hurting you and not your ex.

Confiding in Your Children

The other major pitfall is when you feel inclined to confide in your children and disclose details of the marriage and the infidelity than that child developmentally can handle. Even though children are clearly hurt and affected by their parent’s infidelity, your narrative can be very confusing to a child, who may then be confused about their other parent’s feelings towards them. If you find yourself talking to your child about these “grown-up problems” or crying on a regular basis, you need to take steps to find support you need to work through this betrayal. If your child is aware of the affair, your job as a parent is to reassure your child of both parents' love for that child.

If you have a spouse who has really left you and the children and has no contact with either, you can let the child know that the other parent is working out some issues in their personal life. The children may be feeling abandoned and mistrustful, in not dissimilar ways than you do. However, it is important to separate your feelings from what the children need, to feel safe and secure about their own future. It’s devastating for you and the kids, but reassure them that you will remain in their lives and keep them safe. It does not need to be conveyed in a manner that alienates the other parent, but in a manner that supports the children. Yes -- this is a tightrope, but a crucial one to walk for your child.

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart...”

– Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Anger can spur you on to make positive changes and get away from a negative situation, or it can take over and consume your life. It is very important that you get support and also actively monitor your feelings. You may want to keep a daily journal, schedule lunch with a trusted co-worker or friends, or look for online forums where you can gain support.

The Divorceworks app is a private tool to monitor, track, and journal your emotional journey through this difficult time. It provides cooling and comforting tips when you need it most.

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