We never asked to be cheated on. It was done without our permission and has created many losses in our lives. The loss of the future we thought we would have and the loss of the past we believed we were living. But mostly, we lost the marriage we believed we had with the man we believed we had married. We experience the pain of losing sexual and emotional exclusivity and intimacy, security, commitment, stability, and our sense of belonging. All our losses need to be acknowledged and grieved, just like a death. Grieving infidelity is like a long, slow, uphill journey, where we often fall on our knees.
Grieving the Losses of Infidelity
The overwhelm infidelity causes can also leave us feeling like we are losing our minds. It creates depression, shame, feelings of being abandoned, and having our power taken from us. These losses can even have us acting like we are crazymakers. We lose our dignity as we get overrun with rage, disbelief in reality, and an inability to cope with the pain. The fear of losing control, shutting down, or melting in tears without permission is a genuine part of our new reality, a reality we didn't ask for, which also creates grief.
Then there is the loss of time, where our lives become so consumed with pain and emotional dysregulation that we can't do anything else but grieve for a season. (Thankfully, that season does pass, although it seems like it never will amid the pain.) We lament that all our conversations seem to point back to infidelity and that it is always on our minds. Instead of spending our money on holidays and fun, we pay to wade through our pain and grief at counseling.
Grieving the loss of trust after infidelity
The loss of trust might be the most significant loss to the relationship and the feeling that there is more to know about the infidelity plaguing our minds. There is a loss of peace because now we are triggered all the time, even by the slightest thing. There may be the loss of the marriage, the loss of sharing parenting, the loss of shared friends, the loss of shared dreams, and the loss of your husband's family to grieve too. Every area of our lives gets impacted as we grieve the many casualties caused by infidelity.
It is an unexpected shock when we discover that being cheated on is something we grieve. Mainly because we never expected to be mourning our marriages in the first place. However, like all grief, processing infidelity does not happen linearly. Nor do we work through each loss like a list to be checked off. Healing from infidelity occurs over time, in small steps, and is best done through self-care with good support.
Self-care teaches us to hold onto the fact that grieving after infidelity is all about you throughout the process. It is your healing journey, and you travel it. Please don't let anyone tell you how to grieve or how long you should or shouldn't grieve after being cheated on. The truth is that you will grieve for as long as you need to grieve, and grieving betrayal is hard work. Grieving is acknowledging your losses, of which there are many after infidelity.
Grieving infidelity is a long road
Speaking as one who has suffered infidelity, I have tips on grieving betrayal, gaining clarity over the grieving process, and making the best decisions for yourself. You have a long road of processing ahead of you now that you have experienced infidelity, and it is not always easy. I hope to share ways that self-care supported me through this challenging journey of grieving my husband's infidelity.
Grieving Rules come from People who Haven’t Experienced Infidelity
When I became a betrayed wife, I only had my interpretations of infidelity from the media and one trusted friend I felt safe enough to confide in. (I was a victim of gaslighting, so my world felt unsafe even before I knew my husband was cheating.) My friend also had no experience with being cheated on. Neither of us came prepared for the tidal wave of anguish I was experiencing. That friendship eventually crumbled under the burden of my pain and became another loss added to my growing list. My husband was broken, my marriage was broken, my kids were broken, and I was broken. Back then, I saw no end to the pain.
Infidelity brings a tidal wave of grief and pain
There are no comparisons to how we grieve. My limited experience made me think I was wrong not to get over the affair faster. The stories in my head and my husband's attitude toward me were that I was flawed at being a wife and inferior because I didn't just get over the infidelity. My friend, husband, and I had a picture of how I was supposed to handle the pain. No one was prepared for the anguish I was experiencing or how long it would take to process and grieve the infidelity.
Grieving Infidelity is Messy
We need to release expectations when it comes to mourning the loss of our marriages, the loss of trust in our husbands, and everything we previously felt was true. Grief is messy, sometimes noisy, and like the picture above, does not follow a tidy pattern. Some betrayed wives cry often and for longer, while others cry less after betrayal. Please don't think you have to follow any rules about how you grieve. Be yourself as you process the shock of infidelity. Who you are and how you grieve are as personal as your fingerprint, and comparisons are not helpful.
Some people cannot sit with others in pain, so they try to make us feel better. Trying to change us and how we grieve says more about them than it does about the support we need while we grieve. It may be a long time before we feel better after being cheated on. So we need people around us who can support us through the journey of healing from betrayal, not people trying to change us because our grief makes them uncomfortable. Feeling our pain and grieving is necessary for our recovery after infidelity. Stuffing it down or pretending it is not there to make someone else feel better is not helpful.
Feeling the pain and grieving is necessary for recovering from infidelity
Infidelity is a shock to our bodies and minds and a loss in our lives. Betrayed wives have found support in coping with the onslaught of grief by sharing it with their family, spending time with friends, attending conferences, or joining support groups. Other wives process the losses by spending time alone, praying, reading books, searching the internet, or through private individual counseling. Grieving is a healthy, human expression of the pain over the losses we experience after being cheated on, even when it feels deeply uncomfortable.
Grieving Infidelity Rules are Often Implied.
There are things that people imply that you HAVE to do after you discover your partner is unfaithful. Often these come from those who have not experienced infidelity. So if they haven't experienced it, how would they know? Checking whether their advice about cheating comes from experience, media, or gossip supports us in knowing how much of their advice we should absorb. Because if it doesn't come from experience, they might ignorantly second-guess onto us what they would do if they became a victim of infidelity! Before betrayal, I knew I had opinions about what I would do, and those opinions have completely changed after experiencing infidelity. You may have had ideas about what you would do too. These can be confusing now; please don't feel guilty about not following them if you discover they no longer fit where you find yourself now.
My view of infidelity changed after I discovered that I had been cheated on
While it is sometimes overwhelming, the truth is that you get to decide what you will or will not do after betrayal. Not someone else, because you are the one who has to live through the grieving process. We are all different and have different ways of grieving. You will need time and space to grieve so you can come to the place of accepting that the betrayal happened. Pressure to act a certain way is not helpful; it is harmful. Discovering that your husband cheated is hugely painful and stressful, so making rational thoughts can be very difficult. Grieving is a vulnerable time. When we first find out, we often don't know what to do except cry or go numb, which is part of grieving. Grieve how you grieve because this is your loss to mourn.
Grieving Infidelity Rules that we can Put on Ourselves
Before infidelity, we may have had thoughts and ideas of what we would do if our husbands cheated. But they were not based on reality, and now we know how different reality is. Throwing your partner out of the house, burning their clothes, or telling everyone what they have done may have sounded good, brave, and empowering. But are they? Or maybe these are knee-jerk reactions to the shock of discovering our husbands were unfaithful. Pausing and asking ourselves what we need before acting may save us additional pain. To avoid adding another loss to your list, please check if an action is in your best interest or necessary to rush into.
Be aware, while grieving, of decisions that you will not be able to take back or change your mind from. Give yourself space to consider your options before acting rashly. Self-care is taking the time to protect yourself and the other innocents in your life impacted by the betrayal. Not every action helps, even if it sounds good or feels good in a moment of painful overwhelm.
Keep yourself safe while grieving infidelity
Some people remove their wedding rings when they discover their partner's betrayal, and others keep them on. It's your choice. If you remove it, you may have people ask why you are not wearing it? Do you want to field questions at this time or keep things to yourself so you can begin to understand what has happened and why your husband cheated?
Consider what to do about your commitments to family, friends, church, clubs, or social events. If you want to go, go, and if you don't think it's in your best interest, put in your apologies. Those who genuinely love and care about you will understand eventually, even if you don't give them any explanations. Forcing yourself to attend something you are not up to could be a deeply traumatizing experience. You are in control of the activities you attend, so please don't let the expectations of others be your guide. Trust your instincts about what you can do or are capable of handling at this traumatic time.
Remember, we betray ourselves when we do something to make someone else happy or to get their approval. Be kind and gentle with yourself and avoid overburdening yourself by releasing the expectations of others.
Make your own rules for grieving infidelity
Please make your own rules for how you want to grieve this horrific infidelity event because you are experiencing the losses. You are suffering the consequences of your husband's choices, which is painful. Give yourself permission to grieve and the self-care to make space in your day to grieve.
Infidelity is traumatic. Please know that I am so sorry that this happened to you. It's a profoundly painful time, and this tragedy is not easy. Please reach out if you need support or someone to talk with who has been betrayed and understands the devastation. You don't have to take this journey alone. I am here for a free call to help you talk about what you are going through. Sharing our losses can be a vital part of our healing. It helps to talk, especially with someone who understands infidelity pain firsthand.
I also have a live coaching course on Self Care After Infidelity to help support you through the difficult healing journey after being cheated on. Self-care helped me and many others through this grieving journey after infidelity. It helped us focus on our healing instead of what our partner was doing or not doing.
PS Read more about grieving infidelity...