Are you both open-minded and determined enough to consider this path instead?
Cheating isn’t always a death sentence for a marriage. In many cases, cheating is a catalyst for strengthening a marital relationship.
If you’re interested in learning how infidelity can save a marriage, you’re going to have to have an open-mind and be willing to make your own rules for your life despite what society may say is appropriate behavior.
Going against the norm isn’t easy, but when you make choices that reflect the true you the rewards are always greater self-respect and satisfaction with your life.
But, and this is VERY important, the only way you can have a chance of saving your marriage after an affair is if the straying spouse is genuinely remorseful AND the betrayed is willing to forgive. If either of you is unwilling to do your part, then there’s no hope for your marriage.
When the straying spouse does have genuine remorse and the betrayed spouse is willing to forgive, you can begin exploring the possibility of saving your marriage.
And the exploration begins with a broadening of perspective. Infidelity is betrayal without a doubt. It is also a wakeup call to the fact that it’s time to deal with your marital problems. If both of you can broaden your view of the betrayal in this way and are committed to putting in the hard work, then your marriage can be saved.
Trust must be rebuilt if your marriage is to make it.
To that end, the straying spouse must come clean – 100% clean – about what happened and be willing to gain his/her spouse’s trust. The importance of this can’t be emphasized enough. If s/he doesn’t tell all because s/he doesn’t want to hurt his/her spouse any more then s/he has already, s/he is continuing to lie. And lies destroy trust.
The betrayed spouse must be willing to trust his/her spouse. That doesn’t mean blindly. S/he has a definite right to ask for visibility into his/her spouse’s activities while trust is being rebuilt. And at some point, if the marriage is to survive, s/he must allow that his/her spouse is trustworthy.
Some sense of trust is required for each of you to feel safe. It’s from a feeling of safety that you both will be able to begin sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings about the issues in your marriage.
It’s also from a place of safety that you will each be able to honestly acknowledge your individual part in allowing your relationship to deteriorate to where it is today. And once you can each acknowledge your individual culpability to the other (without blame on either part), you can earnestly begin the next phase of your efforts to save your marriage.
This phase is when you really begin to understand how infidelity can save a marriage and what you each need to do.
You must both continue giving and being deserving of trust.
Trust is the bedrock of every successful marriage. That’s why it’s restoration is so important. Trust is what allows each of you to feel safe being together and know that your efforts to create a better marriage are worthwhile.
You must both be committed to growth.
Coasting along or accepting the status quo in your relationship is how you got to the point where one of you strayed. Making and keeping a good marriage requires effort.
If you are both committed to growth, you can create your better and happier marriage. It’s with a willingness to grow and become better spouses for each other that your marriage will become what you both believed it could be when you married.
You must both continue to give to and receive love from your spouse.
Love is more than just telling each other, “I love you.” Love is about taking action and expressing your love in a way your spouse can easily accept and understand.
You must both continue to communicate in respectful, compassionate, open and honest ways.
Not talking about the problems in your marriage is what got you to this point. Rebuilding the trust between you can only be done by learning how to converse together in respectful, open and honest ways. Communicating like this must become your norm instead of just what happens when you hit a crisis.
As you can tell, this phase never really ends if you want to have a great marriage.
But you’ll only reach this point with each other if you both choose to be open-minded about what the betrayal really means to your marriage (despite what society may think) and carefully consider how infidelity might actually be the catalyst that saves your marriage instead of destroys it.
Divorce is not the only way to find freedom from a miserable marriage.
If you’re desperately wondering how to escape an unhappy marriage, your life has become intolerable. That’s because feeling miserable in your marriage colors your entire world and sucks the joy out of nearly everything.
You know there is a better way to live because things used to be better. But now all you can think about is escaping the misery. And the place to start planning your escape route is with understanding why you are so unhappy in your marriage.
Maybe your spouse consistently treats you with a lack of respect. Maybe you and your spouse have poor or nonexistent communication about anything other than the bare necessities of making things in your household work. Maybe your spouse completely ignores your needs for connection. Maybe there’s something else going on in your life that you don’t want to deal with. Or maybe your situation is even more dire, and your spouse is abusive to either you or your children.
To succeed in escaping your unhappy marriage, you must get crystal clear about exactly why you’re so unhappy in it. The time you take to reflect on the core cause of your unhappiness is critical to you gaining clarity and confidence about your next steps. It will also allow you to move forward without regret.
Before you conclude that the only way you can escape your miserable marriage is by divorcing, you need to know that getting divorced isn’t easy. It’s one of the most difficult life transitions you and your entire family can go through. And you must consider the repercussions of divorce carefully before choosing it as your escape route.
That being stated, there are still three times when divorce is the immediate and best answer for resolving an unhappy marriage:
Your spouse is an active addict and refuses to seek help despite your repeated requests that s/he do so.
You and your spouse are providing an abysmal example for your children of what a marriage is, and you are unable to make things better despite your best efforts.
If you’re not dealing with one of these three situations, divorce is not the first escape route to consider. Depending on your situation, there are other paths for you to examine first.
There’s something else going on in a different part of your life that spills over into your marriage.
Consider the possibility that you could be stressed about work, your parents, your in-laws, finances, your kids, a life event, or anything else that’s important to you. It can be way too easy to conclude that your spouse is the cause of your unhappiness if they aren’t actively trying to help you feel better.
If your unhappiness originates outside of your marriage, then work to resolve those issues. As you do, you’ll discover that you’ll have more energy to talk with your spouse about the problems in your marriage that led you to believe it was the cause of your discontent.
And when you and your spouse can work together to resolve the issues that became prominent while you were struggling with something outside of the marriage, you will have escaped your unhappy union.
It truly is your relationship with your spouse that’s making you unhappy.
The truth here is that it takes two people to make a relationship work and two people who participate in it not working. So, it’s time for you to get serious about how you’re contributing to your unhappiness.
Some of the ways you might be adding to your relationship woes include ignoring issues instead of addressing them when they occur, choosing not to talk with your spouse because it’s “not worth the effort”, not respecting your spouse, or your spouse doesn’t satisfy your needs because you don’t tell him/her what they are.
It’s only when you get serious about being the best spouse you know how to be that you’ll know whether your marriage can make it. And being the best spouse doesn’t mean you become an automaton or Stepford wife. It means that you bring your best you to your relationship.
By being the best you, you just may find that your spouse responds in kind and that your marriage ceases being a source of unhappiness.
You’ve done everything possible, things just aren’t working, and you’re still feeling wretched.
Doing your best to resolve things before choosing divorce as your path to freedom from your unhappy marriage is important. The effort wasn’t wasted.
By giving your all to attempt to resolve things (or discovering that you’re unwilling to give your all), you’ll gain the clarity to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that divorce is the best decision for you and your family.
The other benefit of this clarity it that you will be able to more easily proceed with divorce from a standpoint of respect and compassion for yourself and your spouse. This doesn’t mean that divorce will be easy for you. However, it does mean that you’ll be more able to handle what happens as a result of ending your marriage.
Escaping an unhappy marriage isn’t a quick and easy thing. However, by understanding the true nature of your unhappiness first, you can make the best decision about how to finally find the freedom and happiness you crave and deserve.
Looking for more information about how to escape an unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
Being betrayed hurts mentally, emotionally and physically.
There are no two ways about it. If your marriage has been impacted by infidelity, you’re going through one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences anyone can have. Dr. Barry Bass states that the after-effects of infidelity “resemble the psychic disorientation and confusion” victims of natural disasters suffer and that PTSD is also common for the betrayed spouse.
Yet, why is infidelity so painful?
There is a multitude of reasons for the agony you’re experiencing and why infidelity hurts so much.
Your expectations for what it means to be married have been violated.
Everyone enters marriage with a set of expectations about what being married means. For most it includes a sexual, romantic and emotional faithfulness to each other.
When your spouse cheated, they violated the rules you thought you were both living by. The person who vowed to love you forever committed a crime against your belief in them. And a violation like this fundamentally quakes (and potentially breaks) the foundation upon which you have built not only your marriage but your entire life.
You feel resistance about dealing with the change that has been thrust at you.
Because your spouse has violated their vows to you, your life has changed. It’s an unexpected and extremely unwanted alteration of the life you were living.
You blame your spouse and want them to fix things, so you don’t have to deal with any of it. After all, they are the one who caused all of this. They should be the one who fixes it.
Unfortunately, taking this stance cements you in the role of being a victim and held hostage by the actions of your spouse. And that will just prolong your pain.
You’re afraid that the life you loved is over and that the pain will continue - forever.
Fear is natural when you’ve been hurt – especially when you’ve been hurt by the one who was supposed to love you forever.
The truth is that the life you knew BEFORE is over and it’s up to you to decide how you will live now. If you don’t make this decision (when you’re able to think clearly and calmly), then the pain will continue.
So, despite your fears, you must become courageous. Develop the courage to move forward, push past your fears, and claim the new normal life that you want.
Your spouse has ripped away your emotional security.
Before their infidelity, you trusted your spouse with all your secrets. You knew they’d be there for you emotionally. They would help make things better again when you felt bad. They would celebrate with you when things were good.
But right now, that’s over. And this loss is torturous because you feel so alone.
Your spouse’s infidelity robs you of your past.
With their betrayal, you’re left wondering just what else they lied about. Was he lying when he said, “I love you”? Was she lying when she said, “I’m so lucky to be your wife”?
Every moment of your past together is now suspect. And this uncertainty about the past colors your present with doubt not only about your spouse’s truthfulness but your ability to separate fact from fiction.
You feel guilty.
There’s a part of you that wonders if you had just done this or that differently, would your spouse still have strayed? You take responsibility and blame yourself for the situation you’re in now.
The fact is no matter what you did or didn’t do, your spouse is the one who made the decision to cheat and that decision is what has you both where you are today.
You’re wracked by horrible grief.
When you experience losses of the magnitude you are, grief is normal. You’ll cry uncontrollably, you’ll try to pretend it didn’t happen, you’ll be angry, and eventually, as the grief passes, you’ll come to accept the fact that your spouse was unfaithful and that your life will go on – with your spouse or without.
Your self-esteem plummets.
When you discover your spouse has cheated on you, you immediately wonder what the other person has that you don’t. You jump to the conclusion that you must be lacking in some fundamental way because your spouse chose to be with this other person instead of you.
And the longer you believe there’s something wrong with you that would cause your spouse to reject you, the closer you come to believing that you’re not worth loving. And you might even start loathing yourself.
There’s nothing more painful you can believe about yourself than that you’re unlovable.
Your imagination torments you with thoughts of what they did together.
This is self-inflicted pain. You either imagine what they did together or else you ruminate on what you know they did together. In either case, you’re the one that allows the horrible scenes to continue playing in your mind.
Despite the fact that you’re the one trapping yourself in the thoughts, the pain you feel is profound.
You’re embarrassed because your spouse cheated on you.
What will your friends and family think when they find out that your spouse strayed? What will your co-workers think? What will everyone say about you behind your back? How will you face them after they know the truth?
You want your spouse to pay for what they’ve done to you.
Wanting vengeance for what’s been taken from you feels empowering at first, but it quickly derails the rest of your life. The desire for revenge is powerful and wild.
It can be at the root of you doing things you’ll later regret. And focusing on the need for revenge prevents you from fully participating in the rest of your life.
Wanting your spouse to pay for what they’ve done is another way you can cause yourself pain as you struggle with the effects of your spouse’s infidelity.
You experience so many negative emotions that your health suffers.
Obviously, the pain of your spouse’s infidelity leads to numerous negative emotions. And the longer you experience these emotions, the larger your body’s negative reactions to them will be.
As you struggle with the emotional pain of betrayal, you might also experience back pain, a change in appetite, chest pain, constipation or diarrhea, dry mouth, insomnia, headaches, and so many other things that make you feel physically unwell.
Infidelity is so painful because it strikes at the core of your life – the base upon which you’ve chosen to build your life. And when your core is threatened, it’s normal for the rest of your perceptions about life to become suspect. This leads to disorientation and confusion.
However, despite the extreme anguish you’re experiencing, knowing why you’re hurting so much can start to guide you toward healing and moving on with your life – either with your spouse or without.
Divorce is no walk in the park at any age. But, when you are older, it can be particularly painful. To help you with this tough transition, here are a few important tips.
Meeting New People
Friendships outside of your marriage may be affected by your divorce. It can force friends to choose sides and leave you feeling defensive and lonely. Do not let yourself be isolated. Potential social interaction outlets might include volunteer activities, hitting the campaign trail for your favorite cause or candidate, or going to community events. Yet, you should not immediately jump into a new relationship. This is especially true if the divorce is not final.
Your Kids Will Still Be a Factor
Visitation orders and child support are not part of the discussion in most gray divorces. But, the divorce proceedings may still involve adult children. It is not unusual for adult children to rely on their parents for financial support. Unless the child is in school or has a disability, support for adult children is not generally something written into a divorce agreement. However, your sons or daughters are likely to react emotionally to your divorce.
You Will Likely Lose Half of Your Retirement Money
Retirement funds and other assets are commonly split evenly even if one spouse was at-fault for the divorce. Once your retirement savings are cut in half, they may not look like much and you may worry about how you’ll be able to afford long-term health care costs or the prospect of moving into assisted living facilities. To avoid making alimony payments, many seniors offer up more of their pension. Yet, you should be careful when doing this since it may not be in your best interest to trade potentially taxable income for tax-favored investments.
No One Benefits from Bitterness
Try to keep conversations neutral with your soon-to-be ex as emotions tend to run high during a divorce. Having a contentious divorce only makes things worse. Of course, being amicable with your ex does not mean you have to be an open book. Your spouse could get considerable negotiating power over you when you share info about favorite possessions, desired assets, and future plans. Instead, keep your relationship business-like.
Keeping Your House May Not Be Worth It
Giving up your marital residence is hard. When courts split assets evenly, it just makes financial sense to give up a longtime home. If you take the house, your spouse will get something to balance it out. Also, keep in mind that the home will just remind you of the marriage that is now over.
Getting through divorce can be a difficult and unsettling challenge, but it is one that you can recover from, if you allow yourself to move on. Learning how to forgive yourself and even your ex, is an essential part of the process which will allow you ultimately to look towards the future with fresh hope.
While there will naturally be a grieving period involved with the end of a marriage, it’s important not to have your head in the sand. By tackling some of the more difficult aspects of divorce head-on, this is the quickest way to get through this rough phase of your life and to find new energy to be able to move forward. Of course, having the right support system in place is vital and you may feel that you could benefit from some personalized divorce coaching. Having someone there to cheer you on and guide you through specific challenges is a great way to put your fears aside and embrace the rest of your life after marriage.
The way forward isn’t easy, but it’s the best direction to go.
You can’t change what’s happened, no matter how much you may want to. The fact is you cheated.
Now, what you do about it, no matter what it is, will completely change your marriage.
Obviously, your actions broke your spouse’s trust. What may not be so obvious right now is that you also damaged your self-respect. It’s the impact your behavior has on you and your mate that has you wishing you could change the past.
The first step out of this mess is to figure out why you cheated and why you cheated now.
People have affairs for all kinds of reasons. According to Esther Perel, some people cheat in search of “an expansive experience that involves growth, exploration, and transformation.” And sometimes people betray their spouse because there are significant problems in their marriage.
Don’t be surprised if you have a hard time figuring this out. It’s actually a good thing if this is difficult for you because it means that you’re being completely honest with yourself. It’s also an indication that you might do well to work with a helping professional to get to the bottom of why you strayed.
Next, you need to decide what you want.
Do you want to maintain your marriage? Do you want to maintain your adulterous relationship? Do you want a divorce? Do you want an open relationship?
These aren’t necessarily easy questions, but they are very important ones. Deciding what you want is the first step to moving in that direction with respect and honesty.
And just because you’ve decided what you want, that doesn’t mean that your spouse will be on board with your decision. They may have a different idea of what they want after they find out you’ve cheated.
Getting clear about your decision is just the starting point for the conversation you will need to eventually have with your mate.
It’s time to do something about the other person.
Once you know what you would like to have happen with your marriage, it’s time to do something about the other person if you haven’t already.
If you’ve decided you want to keep your marriage, then you must break things off immediately. Doing so will make it much easier for your spouse to believe you about wanting to work on things.
If you’ve decided you want to pursue an open marriage, you have options about how you proceed. Keeping your relationship with the other person will signal to your mate that you’re serious about having an open relationship. But it will also get your open relationship off on the wrong foot because you weren’t upfront with your spouse about things before you acted.
If you’ve decided you want to end your marriage, you have options here too. If the other person is someone you want to continue your relationship with, be discrete or put things on pause until your divorce is final. Flaunting your relationship will only make your divorce more contentious. However, if your relationship with the other person was simply how you realized you want a divorce and nothing more, there’s no reason to maintain it.
Having an honest discussion like this takes preparation.
Preparation is critical because it won’t be easy and your spouse will be hurt and/or pissed when you let them know your marriage isn’t working for you. And if you choose to divulge your affair, things will be even more charged.
Choosing whether to tell your spouse you cheated is an important part of your preparation. In most cases, it’s the best option, because being honest is much better than having your infidelity discovered regardless of how you want your marriage to move forward. However, not everyone makes this choice.
You’ll also want to plan when and where to talk with your spouse. A discussion like this will easily take a couple of hours and you won’t want to be disturbed during that time.
You’ll want to choose a location that’s private and comfortable for both of you. And you may even want to enlist the support of a marriage counselor to keep the conversation on track.
You’ll also want to choose a time that will allow both of you to focus.
The conversation you have with your spouse will mark the end of your marriage as it was.
Calmly and compassionately telling the truth about what you want from your marriage and why you want it is only one part of the discussion. You’ll also need to listen carefully to what your mate says.
They’ll have questions – lots of questions. You’ll need to respond to them calmly and honestly so long as the questions are important and about things that matter to how you move forward.
Focus on taking full responsibility for your decision to cheat because nothing justifies your actions. There’s no explaining it away. The only way to make it through this discussion is directly through it.
Don’t let the conversation drag on and on because it will be exhausting. When you and your spouse are tired, it’s more likely that one of you will say something you don’t really mean which will make eventually coming to a resolution that much more difficult.
Prepare for the long haul.
This first conversation just lets your spouse in on what you’re thinking and potentially what you’ve done. They’re going to need time to process what you want and to think about what they want.
You’ll have many discussions about how to move forward with your marriage – how to put things back together, how to redefine it, or how to dissolve it. No matter which option you and your mate choose, you’ll need to communicate a great deal to make your (hopefully mutual) decision a reality.
This isn’t an easy process to go through, yet because you cheated, it’s the only path forward for you to reclaim your self-respect and to fully put the past behind you.
Even when everybody else thinks it should be obvious to you, it rarely is.
As confusing as it is for most people to decide if they need to get a divorce or not, there are three situations that require you get a divorce if you (and your kids) are to live a healthy life.
Your spouse has an addiction that they refuse to get treatment for despite your repeated requests.
Your spouse is abusing you or your children.
Your marriage is a horrible example for your children AND you’re willing to let your spouse parent the kids on their own.
If you’re not in one of these situations, it can seem pretty clear cut that these marriages need to end.
The trouble is that if you’re in one of them, it’s not nearly so easy. These situations usually develop over time. It’s like the story of the frog in the pot, things change gradually over time and you don’t really notice how bad things really are. You need someone looking in from the outside to give you a different perspective.
Unfortunately, you probably don’t have anyone who can look at your marriage with an unbiased eye because they’ve watched the gradual change in your marriage too.
So here are some situations I’ve helped clients deal with over the years that may help you to see your marriage in a different light. (These stories aren’t about any one person, but a compilation of several people who faced similar circumstances.)
This couple was married for more than 20 years when I met him. He was unhappy in his marriage, but not sure if he was unhappy enough to call it quits because he still loved her.
When he decided to call me, his wife had just been arrested for her third DWI.
As his story unfolded, he shared that after her first DWI, he was frightened and begged her to get help. She joined AA and he joined Al-Anon. But she quit – not relapsed, but quit the program within 2 months of joining.
Six months later she was arrested again for DWI. He was devastated, but he loved her and wanted to honor the commitment he made to her when they married. So, he got her to agree to a treatment program.
She was sober for several months after that, but then she started drinking again - secretly.
Eventually, he found out. And when he confronted her, she promised that she had everything under control.
He desperately wanted to believe that she could control her drinking, but when she was arrested for her third DUI and had her license revoked he wasn’t so certain. He still loved her, but wasn’t sure he could continue living with her untreated addiction.
Emotional And Verbal Abuse
A pregnant woman reached out to me with uncertainty about whether she should stay in her marriage or not. He was her second husband and she had one child from a previous marriage.
She had been noticing that her husband was treating her child brusquely. She chalked it up to the fact that his stepfather had treated him the same when he was a child. She believed that by talking with him about what he was doing that he would change because he was a good man.
She also told me that her husband is prone to fits of rage. When he’s like this he says despicable things about her. Again, she felt that she could handle things because she knew he didn’t really mean them. He was just feeling stressed.
However, she started wondering if maybe she was wrong about her husband when during one of his fits he physically threatened her child right in front of her.
A Marriage You Wouldn’t Want Your Child To Have
She requested a consultation with me because her 12-year-old daughter asked her, “Do you love Daddy?” When she asked her child why she would ask such a question, her daughter said it was because they were always yelling at each other and because Daddy slept in a different room.
Her daughter’s observations broke her heart because her daughter was more aware of what was going on than she had thought. She’d known for years that they were setting a terrible example for their daughter. So they tried all kinds of things including couples counseling. Unfortunately, nothing helped. In fact, things seemed worse.
She just wasn’t sure what to do. She wanted her daughter to grow up in an intact family. But she didn’t want to put her little girl through the stress of the constant arguments.
Maybe you recognize yourself in one of these stories and feel your own confusion of conflicting desires.
Making the decision to divorce is NEVER easy – not even in those situations when someone looking in would wonder why you’re still in the marriage.
It all comes down to getting real about whether you (and your kids) can have a healthy and happy life given who you’re married to and how you respond to your spouse.
We all tend to choose the pain we know (the marriage) instead of risking the pain we don’t (divorce). And that’s why so many people stay in marriages that really should end.
If you’re not sure if staying married is the best answer for you and your circumstances, reach out to me. I can help you finally decide whether you should stay or go.
You can survive just about anything when you focus on your kids.
Some people have it so easy. They’re actually friends with their ex and so learning how to co-parent after divorce comes naturally and easily for them.
Then there’s everybody else who has ever gotten divorced with kids. Everybody else struggles with how to survive co-parenting because they have to stay in regular contact with their ex and it’s about the last thing they want to do.
Then when their ex finds a new love and introduces this love to their children, their struggles escalate dramatically.
As uncomfortable, complicated and horrible as it feels, there are really only two reasons why anyone has difficulties with figuring out how to survive co-parenting with their ex and their new partner:
Your ex and/or their new love is toxic.
You’re not over your divorce yet.
Although it’s really easy to place the blame for all the trouble you’re having at your ex’s doorstep (and in some cases, that’s EXACTLY where it belongs), it takes a very strong person, just like you are, to consider the possibility you’re not quite over your divorce.
You know that your troubles with co-parenting are stemming largely from your need for more healing after divorce if one or more of these statements ring true for you.
You have difficulty behaving as an adult when you’re around your ex and their new mate.
You are worried about the new person replacing you as a parent.
You struggle with seeing your ex in a new relationship.
You get frustrated or angry when your ex does something differently from the way you want them to.
It’s completely normal to struggle with these things when your ex has a new relationship regardless of whether you wanted the divorce or not. Despite how miserable you feel and how much more difficult it is to co-parent now, you can still be a great parent.
Remembering these 5 things will help you make it through learning how to survive co-parenting with your ex and their new partner when you’re not completely over your divorce yet:
You can’t control your ex or their new partner.
You can only control you which means accepting that your ex and their SO will do things differently from you. That doesn’t automatically make them wrong or bad (unless they do something illegal or that endangers your children).
Get clear about what’s most important to you as a parent.
Co-parenting is about the kids. It’s not about you, your ex, or their new mate. So do what you need to do to make co-parenting work because kids who adjust best to divorce are those who bear the least conflict in their lives.
Your kids will always love you as their mom/dad so long as you continue to show your love for them.
Make the effort to be a part of your children’s daily lives. By stepping into their worlds you teach each of them that they are important to you because of who they are.
Just because your marriage to your ex didn’t work out doesn’t mean that you won’t find a new relationship.
Learning your ex is in a new relationship can be really painful if you’re not over your divorce yet because it can resurface those feelings of being unwanted or unlovable. Take the time to finish healing so you can be the best parent possible.
Take care of yourself.
If you’re not completely over your divorce yet, everything is harder than it needs to be – not just co-parenting. Taking the time to nurture yourself is a necessity. You need to recharge yourself so you have the energy to be there for your kids.
There’s nothing simple about learning how to co-parent. And it does get more complicated when your ex starts a new relationship. But by making sure you’re clear about what you can and can’t do to make co-parenting easier, you’ll be able to survive co-parenting with your ex and their new love.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who want support in learning how to survive co-parenting. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or learn more about me and my work by exploring this website.
Looking for more tips about being a great parent after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Coparenting.
Life after divorce isn’t all good or all bad. There’s a lot of life that’s between these extremes.
Divorce is complicated. And because it’s so complicated, people tend to focus on the worst-case and best-case scenarios when they think about the reality of life after divorce.
At one extreme, some assume that the truth of life post-divorce is misery and constant struggle. And there are ample examples of both men and women who struggle profoundly during and after their divorces.
Others assume that their reality of life after divorce will be immediate happiness and joy because they’ll be able to move on with their lives without their ex. There are also plenty of stories of men who quickly move on to new, happier relationships and women who feel liberated upon divorcing.
Like most things in life, I believe that the reality of life after divorce will be what you make of it.
When I look back at my own divorce, I first believed that my divorce was the best thing that could happen. I had felt trapped in a marriage that had become loveless and the thought of being free was intoxicating.
However, I also experienced a whole lot of post-divorce misery and struggle – in part because I thought I should feel bad and in part because I had a lot of personal growth to do.
When I look back at my experience and those of the hundreds of people I’ve worked with over the years who are happy with their reality of life after divorce, there are three phases of healing that every successful, divorced person works through:
Acceptance And Adjustment
Dealing with grief about the end of your marriage is tough. You have so very many things to say good-bye to that it’s common to feel depressed. This is the phase during which the misery usually happens.
Beginning to accept that the reality of life after divorce is different from life during marriage is another milestone on the path to becoming a happily divorced person.
The interesting thing about acceptance is that you can decide if things aren’t right for you and then you can begin making the necessary adjustments to change your life. This phase is when most people feel the struggle and begin to feel empowered.
The final phase is when your divorce no longer defines you. It’s just something that happened in your past and that you’ve learned a lot from.
So, you can see that successfully healing from divorce is a process. And because it’s a process it’s complicated.
At one moment, you may think that the reality of your life after divorce will be a life sentence of misery and struggle. And at another moment, you may think it will be sweet freedom.
Either way, what you’ll likely discover is that your life post-divorce will be exactly what you decide to make of it.
The one who was betrayed isn’t the only victim of cheating.
The betrayal of infidelity hurts. The cheater’s actions hurt the spouse who was betrayed, their children, their families, close friends, and even their community.
But these aren’t the only people infidelity hurts. Cheating hurts the cheater too.
You’re probably wondering how cheating could possibly hurt the one doing the betraying because they’re the one who is apparently doing what they want without caring how it impacts anyone else.
How cheating affects the cheater is profound. Her/his actions hurt them, their marriages, and all their other important relationships.
Despite the initial thrill of an affair, cheating can negatively affect the cheater emotionally. It’s common for them to feel anxiety, guilt, shame, worry, regret, confusion, embarrassment, and self-loathing when they contemplate how their actions impact those they love and why they cheated in the first place.
When he/she thinks about and experiences how their actions impact them they feel the sting and anguish of their poor judgment.
All of these thoughts swirling through their heads and the rollercoaster of their emotions can lead cheaters to live two completely different lives while the affair continues. One where they feel the addictive ecstasy of love and one where they feel hatred.
Of course, living these two polar-opposite lives puts extreme stress not only on themselves but on their marriage too. Her/his spouse may not have all the facts, but chances are good that they can tell there’s something going on.
And when the spouse does discover the truth, they will feel pain to their core as they rightfully wonder what part of the relationship with their wayward spouse was real and what part was a lie.
As the betrayed spouse struggles to figure this out, they will lash out at the cheater both directly and indirectly as they come to terms with the betrayal. The cheater will feel the brunt of their anger and distrust which may become abusive.
Being on the receiving end of the pain their spouse is suffering because of the cheating can easily become too much for the straying spouse. At one extreme, he/she may deny their responsibility for causing the pain and blame their spouse for forcing them to cheat. At the other extreme, they may feel they deserve the punishment, accept it as just, and live out the rest of their lives as a mere shadow of their true selves.
Then again, their spouse isn’t the only person in their lives who will judge them. There are plenty of others in the cheater’s life who will look down upon him/her for their actions – in-laws, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers and even their children.
How cheating affects the cheater is complicated and painful.
If you’re considering betraying your spouse, my hope is this information has given you pause.
If you’ve already begun an affair, my hope is this information will give you the courage to begin thinking about the cost of your affair.
In either case, your marriage is in trouble and it’s time for you to get clear about what you’re willing to do to change your marriage for the better or to take the necessary steps to end it.
No matter how you look at it, the bottom line is cheating affects the cheater and all the important people in her/his life.
Each couple dealing with infidelity has 3 options for how they will move forward.
Discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful is horrifying and confusing. You search for explanations for how your partner could have made the choice to betray you.
You wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Or maybe there’s something wrong with them. Or maybe there’s something wrong with both of you. Or maybe there’s something evil about the person your spouse had the affair with. Or …
As your thoughts roll around and around ceaselessly, so do your emotions as you try again and again to make sense of things now that trust has been broken.
Why infidelity leads to divorce for some couples and not others is a necessary question to answer when you’re dealing with infidelity in your own relationship.
For some couples, infidelity means their relationship is over. For others, they continue on as if nothing happened. And still others emerge from the trauma of infidelity stronger and happier together than ever before.
One of the spouses had already decided to divorce before the infidelity was brought to light.
The hurt spouse can’t move past the anger and betrayal.
The marriage is too far gone and the spouses don’t care enough to put in the effort to repair and reinvent their relationship.
For the couples who choose to continue on with more or less the way things are do so because they believe the alternatives are much less desirable.
These couples have a marriage and/or lifestyle that is easier to deal with than divorce or putting in the effort required to reinvent their marriage.
The final group of couples, those who choose to invest in reinventing their marriage, are a determined group of individuals.
Each of these spouses must make the decision to save the marriage and expect to do their part to make their decision a reality. This expectation is the key here. It indicates that each partner is willing to take responsibility for their part in how they got to the point where one of them strayed and in how they will move forward to reinvent their relationship.
According to Lynda Spann, there are 9 other steps these determined couples must take to prepare to reinvent their relationship:
Promptly end the affair.
Ending the extra-marital relationship is critical for both spouses because it removes the unnecessary distraction. With the distraction removed, it’s so much easier to focus on making things better between them.
Accept that you’ll be on an emotional roller-coaster for a while.
Exposure of an affair is traumatic. For the hurt spouse, they will deal with coming to terms with the betrayal. For the straying spouse, they will deal with the guilt of causing their spouse so much pain.
Have open conversations about the affair.
These conversations are about clearing the air and coming clean so there are no unexpected surprises that come to light later. Because of the emotional roller-coaster, it’s normal for the conversations to happen multiple times as the hurt spouse tries to make sense of and come to terms with what they’re hearing.
Show genuine remorse and empathy if you’re the betrayer.
The only way for your spouse to begin healing so they can do their part to reinvent your marriage is if you can understand the pain you’ve caused them and express regret for the choices you made in having the affair.
Work toward forgiveness or acceptance if you’re the betrayed.
There’s a big difference between forgiving or accepting and condoning or forgetting. You forgive and accept so you’re not haunted by the betrayal. But you remember what happened so you can do your part to prevent it from happening again.
Spend more time together.
Your relationship is in dire need of attention. So are you and so is your spouse. Agree to start spending more time together focusing on each other instead of the kids, or work, or TV, or your cell phones. The key here is to not spend all of your time together talking about the infidelity, but to enjoy spending time together.
Amp up on the reassurance that you want to be in this relationship.
Because of the chaos the affair has had on the security of your marriage, it’s vital that you each do whatever it takes to reassure your spouse that you want to remain in your marriage because you still like and love them. It’s OK to ask for reassurance when you need it, but be sure you do so without making accusations.
Tell each other everything from now on.
Commit to complete honesty and transparency from now on – no exceptions!
Find a helping professional who has experience with infidelity recovery.
Healing from an affair is a difficult process. You’ll have much greater odds of success if you get help from an experienced professional.
Understanding why infidelity leads to divorce for some and not others is an important piece of deciding how you will deal with the infidelity in your own marriage.
The knowledge can help calm some of the trauma. And regardless of how you and your spouse decide to proceed through the chaotic repercussions of the infidelity. Knowing what the motivation is behind each of the three possible paths forward will help you make the best decision for you.