All those who discovered their spouse’s infidelity speak of the slow death they faced. Before, for some, they managed to heal and save their couple.
– My whole life seemed to have been wiped clean. Like that, with a snap of your fingers. It was so devastating that I called my employer to tell him I was sick and took the rest of the week off. I could barely stand. I wasn’t even thinking about food anymore, which is really worrisome for me.
Gillian adds that at more than fifty years, she has never experienced such suffering.
– How can it hurt so much when no one’s dead?
The discovery of treason is painful. For those who want to empty a relationship of substance and destroy it deep down, infidelity is an unstoppable solution. It embodies betrayal in all its forms: deceit, abandonment, rejection, humiliation-all things against which Love promised to protect us. When the person you were counting on becomes the one who lied to you and looked you straight in the eye and treated you as if you weren’t even worthy of a modicum of respect, the world you thought you were living in is completely turned upside down. The story of your life is shattered to the point that you can’t put the pieces back together.
In Gillian’s case, that number is like a bombshell.
– Tell me again how long it’s been going on? eight years.
– That’s a third of our marriage ! she exclaims in a session, looking down. She and Costa have been together for 25 years and have two great sons. ( … ) Gillian just got confirmation of the affair her husband, Costa, has been having with Amanda, her marketing director for a long time.
– I was suspicious, she admits. I’ve questioned him more than once, but he’s always denied everything en bloc and convincingly. I believed. Until one day she stumbled upon old emails, texts, Skype accounts, selfies, and credit card receipts for some years.
– I felt humiliated and very stupid. I was so gullible, so naive, that at one point he thought I probably knew because, still, how could you be so clogged? Today I alternate between amazement, fury, and jealousy. When my anger fades, I feel pain and disbelief until the horror of reality hits me again. I have no compass to guide me.
Adultery has always hurt, but it seems to be producing more upheaval than ever. The whirlwind of emotions caused by the discovery of infidelity is even so powerful that many contemporary psychologists draw on the field of trauma to explain its symptoms: excessive stress, hypervigilance, daze, and dissociation, fits of anger without apparent reason and uncontrollable panic attacks.
The treatment of infidelity has become a specialty among mental health professionals – myself included – in part because this experience is proving to be such a cataclysm that many couples cannot manage their emotional consequences on their own and feel the need for third-party intervention to overcome this ordeal.
At the very beginning, feelings do not follow one another in an orderly fashion, according to a strict scheme obeying the rules of propriety. On the contrary, many of my patients describe a rapid chain of contradictory emotions. “I love you! I hate you ! Give me a hug! Don’t touch me! Get your shit and get out of here! Don’t leave me! You son of a bitch! Do you still love me? Fuck you! Make love to me! »
Such emotional chaos is normal and may last for some time. (…)
Dealing with the emergency
Disclosure is a pivotal moment in the history of adultery and relationships. Shock galvanizes the reptilian brain and triggers a primary reaction: struggle, escape or paralysis. Some simply remain there, petrified; others have only one haste: to get rid of the floor, with the hope of escaping this torment and having the impression of controlling their lives again. When the limbic system starts, short-term survival takes precedence over well-thought-out decisions. Difficult as it may be, under the circumstances, I advise people not to let their feelings about their partner’s infidelity influence their decisions. All too often, their impulsive reactions, even if intended to be protective, can destroy in instant years and years of living together Rich in positive aspects. (…)
The drama of infidelity evokes a host of emotions – empathy, envy, curiosity, and compassion, but also criticism, anger, and disgust. It is natural to be touched by the fate of others, but to put oneself in their place in this kind of situation is of no use.
The 3 phases of healing
I divide the healing process into three phases: the crisis itself, the search for meaning and the projection into the future.
Gillian and Costa are in the first phase, and what they are not doing at this stage is just as important as what they are doing. It is a delicate period, which requires a safe and neutral receptacle for the emotions that run rampant in them and in their couple. They need calm, clarity and order, but also comfort and hope.
Later, when they try to make sense of what has happened to them, it will be time to unravel the why of the connection and the role that each played in it.
Finally, during the projection phase, we will ask ourselves what awaits them, separately or together.
At the moment, however, we are in the ER and we are sorting out. What should we focus on? Is anyone at risk? Reputation, mental health, safety, children, livelihoods, etc. – all these issues need to be considered. (…)