Dealing with the guilt, shame and self-hatred or the flooding of negative emotions and feeling of self-worthlessness after the occurrence of an extra-marital or non-marital affair is no easy feat. I’m speaking from experience, and this cycle of self-shaming could be as hindering on the marriage/relationship as the affair itself.
Dwelling the on shame, instead of dealing with the problem is the equivalent to picking a wound that is trying to heal. You will inadvertently prolong the pain and hurt for both parties, gradually chipping away whatever chance you had for healing and rebuilding the burnt bridge. This could ultimately lead to doom and gloom for the marriage/relationship. Both the cheater and the partner who was cheated on are victims in every act of an affair.
Let me give the disclaimer upfront that I do not condone cheating. At the same time, having experienced infidelity on the receiving end during our marriage, as well as, on the giving end during our engagement, I’m merely trying to share some big picture insight based on experience vs. societal theories.
The societal assumption that the person who is hurt the worst in such a situation is the faithful spouse couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Although to every general rule there is always an exception, but in most cases the offending spouse could unsurprisingly bear the most hurt from the affair and can slip into a dark state; struggling with intense guilt, low self-worth and even depression.
My husband and I both felt remorse and hated ourselves for the parts we played in both of our affairs, but for how long can one uphold this wallowing without losing their sanity and identity?
It is not the end of the world and there is definitely a bright light at the end of the tunnel, you and your spouse can be happy again, but you have to learn how to forgive yourself first.
Forgiveness: In this context, forgiveness shouldn’t be misread as being self-indulgent and selfish. That is far from it; forgiveness doesn’t excuse the act, nor absolves you from taking responsibility for your actions. Rather, it means you have owned up to your shortcomings and that this action does not define who you truly are and you’re ready to work at rebuilding the damage by working on yourself.
Acceptance: Come to an unreserved self-acceptance that you made a mistake and broke the trust of your marriage/relationship. Don’t make excuses or find faults or reasons for why it happened, take full ownership/responsibility for your actions. Acceptance will help you acknowledge, understand and address the pain you’re feeling. Without embracing the mistake, wholeheartedly, then you cannot truly forgive yourself and heal.
Be Aware: This is an important step. Because the road to infidelity starts long before sex is involved. The sexual act is what people focus on; failing to recognize that sex didn’t just happen.
There were emotions, triggers or feelings that preceded and culminated into the act. Being aware of the excuse or trigger that led to the actions is crucial, because it also sheds light on the root cause of the affair other than focusing on the symptom which was the sexual act. This will involve some questioning sessions and somber reflection on why you rationalized an act you knew very well to be wrong. Having the real answers to these questions will also help your partner forgive you and heal. The key to this step is unapologetic honesty with yourself.
Take Action & Deal with the Guilt: Intense guilt and shame also comes from a knowing that your moral or religious standards have been compromised. Whose standards are these…your parents, society, and/or yours? It is important to take action to address it as soon as possible.
Meditate and Seek Spiritual Counseling: For me, submitting to a higher power by incorporating prayer and surrendering to the forgiving and healing virtues of God helped to open up channels for miracles to happen and true healing and peace to be restored in my union. I give all the glory to God for our healing and completely restoring my marriage. Our love and union now is unbreakable, because it takes three…God, your spouse, and you!
In conclusion, do not dwell and most importantly be patient with yourself and your partner. Take into account that time is indeed the healer of all wounds. Encourage openness and communication from your partner, allow him or her to express his or her grief without feeling condemned and judged, put yourself in their shoes. Learn from the experience and forge new and better memories, all it takes is a little effort.
In the words of Bryant H. McGill “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”
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