...Now What? coping after the disclosure of infidelity

Coping after the Disclosure of Infidelity

Affairs happen for many reasons, and while some involve physical intimacy, others do not. However, all involve a level of secrecy and a betrayal of trust which become life-changing events creating significant stress and trauma for those involved. If you are struggling to cope with the after-effects of disclosure, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Hope is not lost -- Prior to experiencing infidelity, people often insist they would never stay with a partner who cheated. However, many couples do work through this crisis to stay together and establish stronger, more intimate relationships. To achieve this, both parties must be willing to:

* look at the circumstances leading up to the situation

* understand the partner’s perspective

* negotiate what each party needs from the other

Even if your partner is not willing to take these steps, you can work through devastating feelings, emerge with a better understanding of yourself and achieve a sense of resolution.

2. Now is not the time for quick decisions—The period after disclosure is a phase of chaos for all parties and is often characterized by:

* intense mood swings with a variety of emotions

* preoccupation with thinking about the affair

* self-doubt

* disturbed sleep patterns

* appetite disruptions with weight loss or gain

One minute you may want to push your partner away, and the next, feel closer than you have in a long time. You might be ready to talk when your partner is not and then it switches the other way around. These are normal reactions to unexpected events. However, impulsively basing important decisions on these behaviors can have devastating consequences. Taking time to explore the meaning of the affair and what led up to it is beneficial to working through options in a healthy way. In the meantime, it can help to:

a. Take care of physical needs:

* eat consistent, healthy meals—make them lighter and snack more if needed to help stabilize appetite

* get adequate sleep—include naps or short rests throughout the day if nighttime sleep is disrupted

* maintain physical exercise, especially cardiac exercise to moderate mood

* use meditation, deep breathing or other relaxation strategies to reduce anxiety

b. Stay connected with others:

* each party should have at least one neutral, non-judgemental person to talk to—and it is best if each party is accepting of the other’s support person

* be specific in letting others know what kind of support you need and when you are in the mood to talk

c. Take care of emotional needs:

* reduce unnecessary commitments that add stress

* stay involved with recreational activities that provide positive, temporary distraction, even if you are not participating at your usual level

* write in a journal or pursue artistic activities that facilitate emotional expression or ‘letting off some steam’

* interrupt negative self-talk and replace with more moderate statements (this is something a counselor can be helpful with)


3. There is more than one path to happiness—When a couple addresses an affair in a healthy way, they may achieve a more satisfactory and committed relationship, they may bring an agreeable end to their relationship, or they may create a unique arrangement that works for both parties. A couple has the best chance to reach a mutually beneficial outcome when each party:

* works to bring an end to the secrecy

* communicates a desire to understand the partner’s experience

* shows a willingness to share one’s own experience without attacking the other

and remains committed to communicating in spite of inevitable pitfalls and setbacks

If you and/or your partner want to take the above collaborative approach but have trouble staying in a cooperative mindset, a professional counselor or mediator can help.