Is this normal? Losing yourself after Infidelity
The blow of receiving the news that your partner has been unfaithful is mind blowing.
It rocks your world and shatters what you thought you had into a million pieces. You may have trouble sleeping, eating, talking without crying, and you might feel as though you’re obsessed with thinking about your partner and their lover.
It might feel like you’re going crazy, trust me, you’re not.
What you’ve experienced is a trauma. A psychological trauma.
Don’t give me any flack for this comparison, but when soldiers or first responders see things that involve carnage or devastation, there is a physical and emotional response in the body.
Having the person that you love do something that goes against all things that you thought were supposed to happen creates that same physical and emotional response.
I know it seems like a harsh comparison, but the way our minds and bodies respond to trauma is the same.
There are so many things that you may feel you have lost through this trauma, and I want to assure you that they are normal.
The most common is the feeling that you don’t know who you are anymore.
This may seem strange because after all it wasn’t you that strayed. But you might find yourself reacting to your partner in heinous ways, snarling and spitting insults and anger as you struggle to cope and make sense of it all.
It’s normal to ask, “who is this person?” while staring at your angry, tear-stained face in the mirror. Reacting in ways that are completely uncharacteristic of yourself is a normal response to something that is completely uncharacteristic of what you thought your relationship was supposed to be like.
There is a certain loss of specialness that comes with the trauma of infidelity. Hearing that your spouse called another woman the pet name he gave to you, or used your vacation home for secret meetings with a lover will not only be upsetting but it leaves you to question whether or not anything you had was special or sacred. This too is normal.
You might find yourself doing other things completely out of character like obsessively checking cell phone records, emails, and web activity, trying to catch your partner in the act. They may have told you it was over with their lover, but you just can’t trust again, and even though you might not want to obsessively question and ask them to recall every step of their day, you just can’t help it. You might once again question who you are, and where this crazed person came from. As uncomfortable and unsexy as it seems, this too is quite normal.
Another common thing is doing things in desperation to try and win your partner back. As angry and hurt as you are, it would seem normal to just end the relationship, and as bad-ass as it seems to just throw your partner’s belongings out on the lawn and change the locks like they do in the movies, it’s not practical, and there are so many more emotions that aren’t shown.
Years of love that built the foundation of your relationship is difficult to deny, and you might find yourself doing things out of character and obsessing about your partner in ways you never have. Tempting them with sex and gifts, trying to get their attention and remind them of what they could be losing may be uncharacteristic, but it is also normal.
How long will this last?
This is one of the most common questions I receive when working with clients struggling with infidelity. Although I wish I had a finite answer, it’s much like any other trauma in that it’s really difficult to tell. I can’t tell you how long it will take you to get over the loss of a job, or a loved one, and I certainly can’t tell you how long in exact days and hours it will take you to heal from infidelity.
I can tell you that if you are willing to do the work and try to find understanding about yourself and your relationship through the process, it will create space for healing to happen much quicker than if you sweep it under the rug.
If you’ve recently discovered that your partner has been unfaithful, I’d like to offer you my free guide for surviving infidelity. You can get it by signing up here. It’s a guide that provides steps that you can take in the aftermath of infidelity, to help you feel less isolated and alone, and to get you moving towards a space of communicating productively with your partner.