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Dealing With Anger in a Straight Fashion

When we do not deal with our true feelings about the cheating spouse in a healthy fashion, those feelings may start to come out in many different unhealthy ways. Some unhealthy ways of dealing with a cheating spouse may include:

  • Cheating back on your spouse.
  • Telling the whole world how bad your spouse is.
  • Doing physical harm to your spouse or even yourself.
  • Taking revenge on the person your spouse was cheating with.
  • Using social media as a way to let the world know what has happened.

This short list is an example of some of the ways people can let their anger out in a sideways and vindictive manner. What is sad yet true is that, when we let our anger out in a vindictive fashion, we are actually hurting ourselves even more.

Open and Honest Communication

To help limit the urge a spouse may get to cheat on the relationship requires time and commitment to the relationship. It also requires a commitment to maintaining open and honest emotional communication. This involves more than talking about the weather, work, and activities of the day. While some of that mundane communication is helpful, it does not help create the love, connection, safety, and trust that is important in a relationship.

Open and honest emotional communication allows a couple to share anything, including their true feelings. When one partner shares in this way, the other also needs to hear it. This does not mean that both partners need to agree on what is shared. It just means that they are being heard on the emotional level and respected in the process. When this form of communication occurs, both partners can be heard, honored, and respected to help them feel validated in the relationship.

While this form of communication sounds easy, it is made difficult because we have all been taught to hide our true feelings. When we are able to work through this dilemma of sharing our true feelings, our relationship deepens and the need for cheating outside of the relationship decreases.

Being Aware of Signs of Infidelity 

Many times someone will share that their spouse has cheated, and they saw the warning signs and ignored them. To help maintain a healthy relationship, these signs need to be monitored and addressed as soon as they are noticed. Some of the warning signs include: keeping secrets, lying, limiting what is shared, distance, unexplained time away from home, emotional disconnectedness, hiding information or things, and having an emotional affair. Each of these is a way of saying “I do not trust you,” or “I do not want to let you know what is going on.” It is important to address these behaviors quickly.

While there are many ways to deal with a cheating spouse, none of the options is easy. Preventing a spouse from cheating also takes work and decreases the intensity of emotional pain. If the cheating has already occurred, it can be worked through. As long as both partners are willing to make the commitment and put forth the effort, they can establish a renewed and stronger relationship.

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Rebuilding trust after a spouse has cheated requires commitment and effort from both partners. As part of that process, it’s helpful to consider the following steps:

1. Importance and Meaning
What does this relationship truly mean to me, and how important is it for me to continue the relationship? These are critical questions to be answered in moving forward after infidelity.

After much thought and reflection, Jackie was able to realize that Martin was very important to her and that she truly loved him.

2. Obstacles
To look at the obstacles and what the relationship means takes reflection and honesty. Some of the obstacles in the relationship have been created by both partners. These need to be honestly assessed without judging or condemnation. When we judge and condemn, we do not allow the deeper truth to come out.

Jackie’s reflection allowed her to see that having their children placed a large burden on the relationship. The focus switched from each other to the children. Jackie realized that she was not listening or being as attentive in the relationship as she had been when she and Martin first married. She was also able to realize that Martin was making work and his career his priorities, and that he was seeking more activities outside of the relationship.

3. Limitations to Communication
Distractions, lack of time, and limited energy are things that block the healthy communication that is critical for a healthy relationship. Distractions in the form of activities, tasks, work, friends, and family can create large obstacles because of the time and energy they take from the relationship. Many times couples want to communicate in healthy ways, yet there seems to be no time during the day and they don’t have the energy.

Both Jackie and Martin had successful careers. Martin was also involved in league soccer, basketball, and racquetball. Their son, Kevin, was involved with baseball, basketball, soccer, and midget football. Their daughter, Brittney, had just started Brownies and gymnastics. With all these activities, neither Jackie nor Martin had any time or energy to work on communicating or nurturing the relationship.

4. Communicating Limits
In dealing with a cheating spouse, it is important to explore and express what is expected in the relationship as well as communicating what behaviors and activities are acceptable and unacceptable. Each limit that is discussed has appropriate consequences, both positive and negative, that will be followed through with. Communicating these limits sets a framework for the relationship to be held accountable and to help re-establish the relationship in its new form.

Jackie and Martin worked on communicating the limits for each other. They agreed to let one another know where they were and whom they were with. They also agreed that their cellphone log, texts, and personal e-mails would be available for the other person to review whenever they felt the need.

5. Congruency with Actions and Words
People are known to say many things they do not mean or intend to follow through with. In re-establishing trust in a relationship, it is important that the actions line up with the words. When our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions are congruent, trust can be regained.

Martin was aware that Jackie could tell when he was lying, which helped him shape his behaviors differently.

6. Trust
One of the foundational and most critical components in a relationship is trust. When there is no trust there is no true relationship. Some couples have a difficult time re-establishing trust, but the spouse who has been betrayed still is willing to remain in the relationship for many different reasons. When this happens, the spouse is choosing to allow cheating to be acceptable in the relationship. Exploring the reasons a person is willing to compromise and accept infidelity is deeper than this article is intended to go, and it is important to honor all the ways a person chooses to deal with a cheating spouse. Sometimes a person may willingly concede to the cheating spouse and limit the trust in the relationship, and later decide that the cheating behavior is not acceptable. It is critical for trust to be re-established if the couple wishes to have a healthy marriage with no cheating.

Jackie and Martin agreed that the relationship was important to them. They chose to make time for communicating with each other a priority in order to help build and maintain their trust in each other.

7. Fun
Most couples, when asked, remember how much fun they had and laughter they shared when they first got together. They also share that enjoying fun and laughter is a major piece they want in their relationship. When we get busy with all of life’s distractions, fun and laughter slowly disappear from the relationship. Quality time with each other allows it back in.

Jackie and Martin agreed to having a weekly date where it would be just the two of them to reconnect, have fun, and play. They agreed that their dates would not involve work, the children, friends, family, or any activities they were involved in.

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Even though we discuss stages of grief, like those listed in the previous post, as if they occur one after another, processing the grief associated with a cheating spouse does not occur in a linear fashion. It jumps back and forth through the grief stages and can change from day to day.

While the grieving process goes on, messages and external influences occupy our minds much of the time and need to be worked through. Some of the messages include:

  • Do I want this relationship?
  • Is this relationship worth fighting for?
  • Do I cheat to get even?
  • Am I willing to be in a relationship with an unfaithful partner?
  • Do I fight or just give in?
  • Can I ever have trust and safety in this relationship again?

Each of these messages has many feelings attached, and working through each of these feelings is important to reach true resolution. Many people tend to see some of the feelings, then either settle back into what is familiar or run from the feelings by creating change that may or may not be positive.When spouses decide they want to work on the relationship and make it a healthy one again, they need to put steps in place to re-establish trust in the relationship. Some steps worth exploring include:

  • What is important and what does this relationship mean to me?
  • What obstacles created the distance in the relationship?
  • Explore limitations to open communications.
  • Communicate what is and what is not acceptable in the relationship.
  • Explore and honor each other’s true feelings.
  • Allow actions to speak louder than words in the relationship.
  • Give yourselves permission to trust again.
  • Relearn how to have fun with each other.

The next post will look at these steps in more detail.

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The previous post introduced the stages of grief someone might go through after discovering a spouse’s cheating. Here is more information on those stages.

1. Shock and Denial
When a partner first learns that a spouse is cheating, many thoughts and feelings run through their mind and body. This massive influx of thoughts and feelings initially creates confusion and an emotional disconnect from the true feelings. The result is an initial response of shock and numbness. This was the way Jackie responded to the cell phone statement that revealed Martin’s infidelity.

2. Hurt and Betrayal
When the shock and denial of the cheating wears off, the pain from the betrayal and loss of trust sets in. Realizing that the bond of trust in the relationship no longer exists results in strong feelings of sadness and, typically, many tears.

Jackie initially could not move or respond when Martin admitted that he was having an affair with Sarah. As she took in the truth and could no longer deny that Martin was cheating on her, the pain became so intense she could not hold back her tears.

3. Anger and Blaming Others
After the feelings of hurt and betrayal have an opportunity to subside, anger becomes apparent. The feelings of betrayal, abandonment, hurt, sadness, and anxiety fuel the anger. The betrayed spouse feels a growing need to blame both the cheating spouse and the person he or she cheated with. Blaming others initially helps serve as a distraction from the pain, abandonment, guilt, and shame.

After Jackie was able to release enough of her tears, she started to feel anger and resentment about the betrayal. The blaming seemed to justify and fuel her anger toward Martin. As long as Jackie could blame Martin or Sarah, she was able to keep a distance from her own underlying feelings that needed to be explored and released.

4. Bargaining, Guilt, and Shame

At some point our thoughts start to be invaded by a number of messages that trigger our own guilt and shame and lead us to question whether we should have done something different. Some of these messages include:

  • It’s my fault.
  • I don’t deserve him/her.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • It was the alcohol.
  • If I only would have paid more attention.
  • If I only would have listened more.
  • If I only would have tried harder.
  • I need to demonstrate more love in our relationship.
  • If I do not hold back on sex, we can make it through this affair.
  • He/she doesn’t love me anymore because I am not loveable.

Bargaining with oneself and one’s partner is common. This helps focus attention on actions that might help move the relationship forward, and this shift in focus helps the feelings of guilt and shame to hide.

Jackie thought she was not good enough for Martin and decided she needed to do more in the relationship to keep him interested in her and make him discontinue his affair with Sarah. Jackie decided that she would have meals ready when Martin got home and be more willing to be sexual with him so he would redirect his attention to her and their relationship.

5. Loneliness and Abandonment
While bargaining helps a person focus on working toward improving the relationship, it does not help someone honor themselves. Feelings of loneliness and abandonment set in when we are unable to fully connect with and embrace our true feelings. When we connect with our true feelings, neither we nor anyone else is hurt or treated with disrespect and nothing of importance is broken or destroyed. The denial of these true feelings creates the loneliness that many people attempt to hide by remaining in a relationship.

Jackie worked hard to satisfy Martin in an attempt to save the relationship. At the same time, she felt lonely. She was uncomfortable with the idea of talking about the affair with most of her friends because of the negative comments she expected to hear. She was also dealing with feelings of abandonment from Martin’s affair and didn’t know whether that empty feeling could be repaired in this relationship.

6. Depression and Blaming Oneself
One definition of depression is “anger turned within.” Because anger is typically a secondary feeling, another definition of depression is “all feelings turned within.” When we don’t deal with our feelings in a straight healthy fashion, the feelings get stored as energy in the body and create the heaviness of depression. As more of these feelings are stored in the body, it creates emotional heaviness that contributes to a downward spiral of self-blame.

While Jackie was working hard to please Martin, she continued blaming herself for not being an adequate partner for him and not having seen the affair before it started. This negative self-talk and her denial of her true feelings had her feeling overwhelmed and depressed.

7. Processing Feelings to Acceptance
Many feelings are stirred and triggered when a spouse is caught cheating. These need to be honored, felt, and validated to be released so true acceptance can occur. If this process is circumvented, the initial feelings associated with the infidelity get stuffed inside, and they continue to haunt the relationship. Feelings of hurt, anger, resentment, guilt, and shame come out sideways in destructive ways.

When the feelings associated with the infidelity are honored, felt, validated, and released, then true objectivity can occur. This objectivity can help us to determine whether the relationship can work and grow through the infidelity or whether the partner is too emotionally connected with the other person to allow this relationship to heal and grow.

Once she gained some objectivity, Jackie was able to see that what she was doing in dealing with her grief about Martin’s affair was not working.

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Cheating SpouseJackie stared at the cell phone statement. It showed the calls her husband, Martin, had made to Sarah, one of his co-workers. He had averaged five phone calls and 25 text messages a day.

In shock at this evidence of her husband’s cheating, Jackie didn’t know how to respond. Her initial reaction was to explain it away. Surely the calls must be about work projects or something else that was perfectly innocent. After talking with a friend, however, she became convinced that she needed to confront Martin about his behavior.

Infidelity is a difficult issue to contend with in any type of relationship. It creates many feelings of anger, rage, resentment, betrayal, fear, uncertainty, confusion, loneliness, abandonment, guilt, shame, sadness, helplessness, and many times even hopelessness. The trust that was once in the relationship has been destroyed, and the crucial question to be answered is whether that trust can ever be restored.

The betrayal creates grief for the loss of the relationship as it was prior to the infidelity. Since grief is part of the process in dealing with a cheating spouse, it is helpful to understand the stages of grief and how they might play out in rebuilding trust and safety in the relationship. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is known for her five stages of grief, and others have added to and modified her list.

Seven stages of grief that a person might go through with a cheating spouse are:

  1. Shock and Denial
  2. Hurt and Betrayal
  3. Anger and Blaming Others
  4. Bargaining, Guilt, and Shame
  5. Loneliness and Abandonment
  6. Depression and Blaming Oneself
  7. Processing Feelings to Acceptance

In the next few posts, I will talk about the importance of working through these stages before deciding whether the relationship can be saved or if it is time for the relationship to end.

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Moose_Kiss

I find vacations important, fun and exciting. This summer Liz and I decided to go to Alaska to visit our son and his girlfriend who live up there. We had a great time appreciating the beauty and vastness that Alaska has to offer. We saw three bears when we were there—all in our son’s yard.

But though we hunted high and low, we saw no moose. In desperation to see a moose, we visited a wonderful reindeer farm that had one. Since Liz and I enjoy trying new and different things, we both volunteered when we were offered the opportunity to kiss the moose. With the end of the moose’s nose as large as my head, it was a little intimidating even though the process was set up in a way to be safe.

We were invited to stick a carrot in our mouth and go up to the fence where the moose would come and eat the carrot out of our mouth. Both Liz and I were successful. We found it rather enjoyable, other than the face full of slobber from the moose. His nose was soft and gentle. Both Liz and I were touched and connected with the moose in a special way that we will remember.

I hope some day you might have the opportunity to kiss your safe moose as well.

Enjoy.