The shame of betrayal is a complex and painful emotion to experience. Our husband cheated, yet we, the faithful wife, often feel betrayal shame.
My husband cheated, so why do I feel betrayal shame?
The feelings of shame from our partner's betrayal can overwhelm us. Shame is often an unbearable feeling. As betrayed wives we often suffer silently and alone through excruciating shame and pain after being cheated on. Betrayal shame happens for several reasons, but often stems from our cheating partner blaming us for their infidelity. Rather than take responsibility for their actions, unfaithful husbands heap the blame of a failed marriage on their innocent betrayed wives. This leaves them trapped in betrayal shame, more pain and more confusion.
Betrayal shame is deeply confusing and destablizing feeling. As betrayed wives, we can begin to believe that we are the reason our husband cheated. The plaguing guilt of not being enough or flawed leaves us vulnerable to feel deeply shamed over being cheated on. Our minds fill with fear and insecurity over our husband's avoidance of owning why they cheated. We wrongly think that we are the reason they cheated. But understanding what really happened frees us from the misplaced guilt of betrayal shame.
Betrayal Shame is a Crippling Experience
The shame of betrayal is a complex and painful emotion to experience. Sometimes it is a full-body sensation that washes through us, which feels hugely triggering. And it can even feel the same as the triggers we get from the betrayal trauma.
Betrayal shame stops us thinking clearly, so we don't see the truth.
To begin with, betrayal shame puts us into the fight-flight-fear-fawn part of our brains, and it's hard to think clearly when we are experiencing it. And just like betrayal trauma, we can heal our shame feelings by talking about them with safe people who understand what we are going through. When we explore and process our reasons for feeling shame, we discover the truths underneath them. That helps us heal and to see the real reasons for betrayal.
"You Made a Fool Out of Me Too!"
While watching the Christmas movie 'Love Actually', my partner cried when Emma Thompson confronted her on-screen husband Alan Rickman about cheating. Rickman responded that he had been a fool, and Thompson said, "Yes, but you made a fool out of me too!"
That was the first time I saw my partner understand some of the shame he had caused me with his affair partner (AP). I felt relief to see his face distort in pain because it validated my pain. Do you identify with the that statement, you made a fool out of me? If you are brave, you can watch the scene on youtube or watch the entire movie.
Betrayal shame made me feel like a fool!
When the affair first came out, I wrongly thought for a time that he and his affair partner, the (AP), had made a fool out of me. Their affair was such a painful experience that it created a deep shame within me. They both took my trusting nature for granted, used it to their advantage, and hurt me deeply with their deception.
I Felt So Shamed and Embarrassed for Trusting
I felt intensely embarrassed and shamed that I had trusted the AP as a friend. Innocently, I had thought that being friends meant that she wouldn't go behind my back and attempt to steal my husband and children. I felt shame over my naivety for trusting her. At the time I was completely shaming myself with my perceived foolishness! And this served her not me. While I was crippled with shame, she had power over me.
I felt ridiculous for believing that friendship would stop someone like her from doing something so low to me and my innocent children's lives. Anger at myself for not knowing what she was doing at the time and for not listening to my intuition flooded me. I let her actions make me feel foolish and ashamed!
I was crippled by betrayal shame
And I was also deeply shamed by my partner choosing someone like her over me. It was a massive slap in the face to me. I genuinely struggled to find the redeeming physical or character qualities he saw in her and felt that if this type of person was what he wanted, how truly awful I must be. By comparing myself to her, I allowed myself to see her reflection in the mirror of life as better than my own. Betrayal shame had taken over my heart and distorted my reality of the situation.
Betrayal Shame Clouded my Thoughts.
For a time, I let their actions reflect on me and who I was. Being distraught over their cheating clouded my thoughts making me doubt myself. It seems ridiculous now that I even considered comparing myself to a person like the AP. Yet amid my pain and trauma, shaming questions plagued my mind. Am I good enough? Was I ever wanted, or did I push my partner into marrying me? Do I even matter to him? Am I worthy of love? What did the AP have that I didn't? Can I ever be enough? These questions come from the self-doubt that the shock of betrayal plagued me with.
Betrayal shame had me questioning and doubting myself
I felt frightened that maybe I was utterly worthless. At that time, I didn't consider the AP to be that special. So this lead me to feel like I must have been the biggest fool to think of myself as being of value or importance. The more I compared myself to her, the worse I felt about myself.
Now, I see that the shock of my partner's betrayal damaged my self-esteem so severely that I would consider comparing myself to someone like that. It seems disgusting now that I compared myself to the AP. And worse, I thought myself even lower than her at my darkest moments!
My Brain Wasn't Able to See Reality After Betrayal
Shame, anger, grief, and fear numbed my brain after I discovered my husband was cheating. I wasn't able to think clearly, so feeling like I was stupid, a fool and less than felt real at that time. To be able to find the truth, I needed to grieve and heal. My healing came as I worked at my self-care; making space to process the betrayal, and prioritizing caring for myself . And OH BOY, when my brain came back on board, I saw nothing comparable between the AP and myself. NOTHING!
I was carrying betrayal shame for my partner and the affair partner!
I realize now that I carried both my partner's shame and the AP's shame. This is betrayal shame at it's worst. They acted shamelessly toward me, and somehow, I ended up taking it on board. I was deeply embarrassed by their awful, lying, underhand, cheating, behavior and somehow I felt that embarrassment for them. My mind couldn't believe they would act so horribly, and I felt guilt over what they did.
While I experienced that betrayal shame, I isolated myself. I felt so alone before I started self-care. It made me feel overwhelmingly sorry for myself and unable to work on rebuilding my life. I needed to show myself care and compassion so I could heal. And I needed to forgive myself for getting confused in my darkest hour to reclaim my dignity.
My self-worth suffered as a result of their cheating.
My self-worth was one of the many things that suffered as a result of their cheating. Self-forgiveness and letting go of judgment against myself were a part of my self-care. They helped me move on from that place of betrayal shame and discover the truth. There is no shame in being cheated on because the shame doesn't belong to us! We were not the cheating fools!
The unfaithful didn't make fools out of us; they made fools out of themselves.
We can't change what happened; our partners' cheated. However, we can change ourselves, one step at a time. Self-care frees us from the shame of betrayal and being cheated on. It supports our choice to change for the better despite what happened and what they did to us.
As we heal, we discover new things like post-betrayal transformation. It's us raising ourselves, like phoenixes, out of the rubble infidelity made of our lives into stronger women than we were before. Despite the pain we have been through, we become more powerful and more amazing! And we can find that place of living in our 'amazing' as we focus on our self-care and healing.
No one can heal betrayal shame for us; it's our job to heal from it.
Giving ourselves the love and compassion to explore our betrayal shame creates the space we need to find the truth again in our lives. Then we can heal. We are never to blame, nor should we feel shame over others' shameless and hurtful actions. The shame of infidelity belongs to them. All shame belongs to them, not us!
Did you find this article helpful? Please leave your feedback or share your experience with betrayal shame in the comment box below. Hearing your voice helps us on our journey too.
If you need support or want to talk about your experience with betrayal shame or being cheated on, then I would love to connect on a free coaching call. It is my gift to you as a member of this site! Reaching out may be the best step you take in supporting yourself to heal after your partner's affair! You deserve to be free from betrayal shame and pain!!!
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This is perfect! We all feel shame when we find out about being betrayed. It is not supposed to be that way. My UH blamed ME for months, two years actually before he took full responsibility for his actions. The damage to me was already done. The betrayed wife’s course on SelfCare was what I needed to heal ME! The only innocent person in this mess! Thanks