When your spouse cheats, it can be one of the most incredibly difficult times of your life, especially if you had no idea about what was happening.
We know being cheated on is not going to be a great experience, but the question is, how hard is it to deal with the psychological effects of a cheating spouse?
The psychological effect of cheating depends on how resilient you are
The psychological effects of a cheating spouse can depend entirely on how resilient you are and what self-protection and coping strategies you already have in place as you live your general life.
For example, you may be great a problem solver, psychologically balanced, and rebuilding most of the time. So, you’ll find it slightly easier to make your way from the debris of your relationship through to a healthy new independent you; far better than somebody who only knows how to collapse at the first sight of trouble.
These examples are extremes and we can generally expect to be somewhere in the middle when it comes to how we cope, pick ourselves up and rebuild as we experience and move through the psychological trauma that follows the cheating of a spouse.
The problems encountered when trying to move on
The problem is that the majority don’t have effective or specific coping strategies pre-developed in preparation for the experience of cheating, or to prepare you for the psychological effects of a cheating spouse.
So we need some help in trying to understand what damage has been caused so that we have a chance at bringing ourselves back to a happy and balanced place as quickly as possible.
How the psychological down-times from a cheating spouse can affect your life
Here are some of the ways that the psychological effects of a cheating spouse can affect our lives. The time it takes for these experiences to pass can vary, but be prepared it can take some time to move through this phase and clear up. After all, this is an emotional and psychological trauma that you are experiencing but just like any other difficult time, ‘it too shall pass’.
1. Self-blame and self despising.
There is no particular order that you might experience some of the psychological effects of a cheating spouse and you may not experience all of them – but self-blame is a common after-effect from cheating.
Did you cause your partner to cheat? Did you make yourself look good enough? Should you have been more protected, invested, intimate, loving? The lists of questions are endless.
But here’s the truth, you can’t change the past, you can only move forward, so if you catch yourself blaming yourself, permit yourself to stop.
This is one psychological effect of cheating that you can do without and that you can take control of by merely changing the self-talk in your mind to something more positive such as I am worthy and deserving of the love and respect I need.
You have lost your relationship, or marriage, at least in the way that you once knew it. Whether you stay or go, it won’t be quite the same again. When you cut a rope and re-tie it, it cannot maintain the same length again. Once that trust is chattered, the injury takes a lot to heal.
Sure there might be potential to rebuild and create a different and equally valuable relationship to the one you felt you had but you’ll never replace what you once had. This is a profound psychological effect of a cheating on a spouse and one that you can’t control.
You are experiencing real loss, and you need time to grieve, just in the same way that anybody who has lost something so important to them needs to grieve.
Give yourself time, and space. Express your anger, sadness, fear, and guilt, allow yourself to grieve. Come to terms with the situation by taking time to retreat so that you can do so fully. And then, when you are ready, each day will start to become easier and because you did take the appropriate time out you will find it much easier to start to reintegrate your life back to normality.
Apprehensive or anxious feelings are likely to be a huge psychological effect of a cheating spouse. After all, you are unsettled, your whole life hangs in the balance (and the life of your children too, if you have any).
The good news is that this level of anxiety is warranted, you are in an unstable situation (questioning trust and trying to catch the fleeing smoke in the air) which is what causes the anxiety. But if it continues long after you’ve settled back down then you probably need to check that.
In the meantime, why not consider researching some techniques for helping you to live with anxiety and how to calm yourself to reduce the impact, and make you feel in control.
4. Reduced Esteem
When we are in the midst of dealing with a spouse who has cheated, we will be reconciling the fact that the person, who you loved, trusted and invested your life in has essentially chosen somebody else over you.
Of course, that won’t entirely be how it occurred, or even how your spouse views matters, but this will be logical to you (and we can understand that).
You’ll find yourself wondering if you should be taller, shorter, curvier, and thinner if you did this or that or bent to your spouse’s every whim; then perhaps you would have been chosen instead.
This is a psychological effect of a cheating spouse that is complex because on the one hand, the way you think about why your partner cheated, makes sense but on the other, it will never be exactly how things were. So it’s important to pay attention to your internal thoughts and try to change the story in your mind every time you notice yourself comparing yourself, putting yourself down or questioning yourself.
You can’t afford to let this turn into a more significant problem, and even though it’s more comfortable and in some cases a little indulgent to put yourself down in this situation, do everything you can not to.
You’ll be so glad you did when you come through to the other side.