An inside look at the emotions of the betrayer wife, in particular.
I’ve been putting off this post for awhile.
It may not be an easy one for some of you to read, if you’re the betrayed spouse.
But I hope you can hold on and read this post with an open heart, to gain a different perspective,
what many unfaithful spouses have a very hard time expressing.
After seeing this subject being brought up with the ladies
in my private facebook group for unfaithful wives, over and over,
I’m more convinced than ever, this needs to be discussed.
It’s the need for healing for the unfaithful spouse,
and an inside look into the emotions of the betrayer.
People don’t talk about it much.
Most recovery sites write more for the betrayed.
Many marriage counselors won’t promote it either.
But infidelity is just as devastating
for the betrayer,
as it is for the betrayed.
There- I said it.
But nobody is saying it very much.
And I understand why.
It’s not a popular subject. They were the ones who caused all this pain.
They were the ones who betrayed their vows. Many of them seem to not even care,
at least while in their affair fog stage.
And all this is true.
But I’m telling you as one who did the unthinkable,
and also one who works with many women who did too-
there is real damage done to the soul of a person who had an affair.
(And the meaning of soul is simply “the mind, will, and emotions”).
We didn’t think it could happen to us. For most of us, it came out of nowhere and we didn’t heed the warning signs.
We were once on the other side saying
“We could never be unfaithful and never will!”
Until we were.
And our pride was shattered.
The fact that we could actually do this draws into question our very identity,
our long held values, and a real understanding about ourselves and what we’re capable of.
We betrayed ourselves and (if we come from faith) we betrayed God, just as much as we did our spouse.
Yet, no matter what a betrayed spouse decides to do within the marriage,
an unfaithful spouse can’t get away from themselves, or facing the reality of what they did.
As Confucius once said, and many recovery groups have adopted as well: “Where ever I go, there I am.”
As I’ve shared before, when an unfaithful spouse finally comes out of the deceptive cloud of affair fog,
that’s when the fullness of their shame really hits them.
They begin to see with clarity, the damage their poor choices caused everyone around them, including themselves.
This is just a glimpse into the emotions of the betrayer,
AFTER they’ve come out of the fog of their affair:
This is a big one for many Unfaithful wives I work with. (Perhaps it hits unfaithful husbands eventually too).
They’re trying to figure out how to cope, as they describe their shame much like a grief that washes over them in waves.
Remember- shame is feeling you ARE bad, not just that you DID something bad.
It offers you no hope for change or grace.
How do you ever heal if you believe you are bad to your core?
The shame I felt the day I told my own children what I did to their father, how I ruined their respect for me,
and wrecked their image of our good, Christian family (although I think they always knew we were not perfect),
was off the charts a shame I’d never experienced before. It’s the one area that can send me into a shame spiral
faster than anything else can, if I’m not careful with my thoughts.
(You might also be interested in this post on whether or not to tell the children about the affair.)
Shame is serious stuff, friends.
It demands payment and will never let you go free, as it hurls daily insults in your mind about how bad you are.
Some believe shame is what’s necessary to punish the unfaithful into admitting their sins.
This is probably why the Scarlet Letter came about.
But as many Child Psychologists will testify: Shame is not a good motivator for lasting change.
I’m convinced more often than not, they already know what they did was terrible.
Trust me, nobody serves up more shame on a unfaithful spouse than the unfaithful spouse themselves.
The barrage of shaming thoughts can be relentless.
Many feel guilt too, especially during the affair.
A guilty conscience can actually be used to change ones behavior, so it’s not a terrible thing.
But shame is different than guilt and offers no opportunity or hope for restoration.
One of the first emotions they often feel is deep remorse.
They’re daily hit with thoughts about their actions and are often saddened that they caused all this pain for those they love.
I’ve heard many wives express to me how awful and regretful they feel that they
stooped so low and betrayed their husband, hurt her kids and family,
all because they succumbed to a moment of weakness where she needed to be strong.
Many people thinking they’re just sorry they got caught. That may be true for some, especially in
the beginning stages of their affair. But eventually when they come out of their fog, remorse and deep
regret hits them hard as they come face to face with their terrible choices.
3. Inner crisis and shock.
Many have described a pain unlike any they’ve ever experienced after realizing what they are really capable of.
It’s a inner crisis of identity as they question themselves, their long held beliefs and values;
and wonder how they could betray those.
Many, including myself, wonder: “who the hell am I?”
I often asked myself this question when I was finally alone and quiet with my thoughts,
even when still felt stuck in the bondage of the affair.
“What type of person did I allow myself to become for me to be unfaithful to the man I’ve always loved and vowed my life to?”
I never saw myself as being that person. That was a very difficult one to come back from.
I wondered how I could be a Christian and do this, and questioned my salvation many times.
I suppose living my life as a people-pleasing, good girl didn’t help me much
when trying to come to terms with “Why” and “How“.
Nothing probably could remove that tucked away area of pride inside me like committing adultery did.
4. Self-loathing and unable to forgive themselves.
Many truly hate themselves as they come out of the affair, especially if they relapsed more times than they thought possible
Being unable to forgive themselves for violating the most foundational marriage vow, and seeing the hurt they’ve brought
upon their spouse is a weight many carry around, but you may not ever know that.
Some Christians argue that there’s nothing in the bible
that talks about our need to forgive ourselves.
They might be right.
But to betray your spouse, means you’ve also betrayed yourself,
because when you took vows on your wedding day,
you likely believed in your ability to keep those vows wholeheartedly.
Betraying those vows means you’re NOT the person you thought you were.
It’s not easy to come back from that realization unscathed.
Some type of forgiving yourself afterwards is necessary, and for me that’s come
from Jesus himself. Knowing the cost He paid for my forgiveness shows me He deems me worthy of
forgiveness and mercy. How can I think I’m greater than He is by withholding forgiveness for myself?
5. Feeling completely alone.
Who wants to hang around an adulterer?
What friend or family member has the emotional strength,
compassion, and spiritual maturity to stick by the side of that one who cheated on their spouse?
Some can and do stay by their side. But most do not.
I also lost many friends, although I had one very faithful friend who never let me go-
and she gave me tough love when I needed it.
Other than her, I felt alone and abandoned, as I’d given the gossipers
a wealth of material to work with…and believing I deserved all of the secret whispers.
And many unfaithful spouses feel the same way.
When many people will rally around the betrayed spouse, often offering advice to divorce their spouse or
reinforcing in their mind how much they don’t need the cheater, the unfaithful spouse usually doesn’t have
anyone to turn to. Their selfish choices were unforgivable in most people eyes and many friendships
can’t stand up against infidelity, even though it wasn’t to them.
Also, it’s not uncommon for many unfaithful wives I’ve talked to, to say they’re
‘the only terrible woman to have ever done this’.
There’s often a sense of relief upon joining my private facebook group that they’re really NOT
alone after all. Unfortunately there’s more of us than many realize.
But many women who were unfaithful, suffer alone and try to find the strength to get their lives in order and healed again.
6. Feeling like you’ve lost your ability to speak up.
There’s a movement of bashing the unfaithful within various infidelity recovery sites.
One even calls them ‘A–holes.’ What a way to stir up the pot for a betrayed spouse even more!
Many of the women I’ve spoken with, including myself, don’t feel they have a right
to say they’re being treated poorly by others who found out about their affair;
or that they need forgiveness and healing too.
They often believe they can’t talk about their own pain,
because they are the ones who caused it, and nobody wants to hear it anyway.
Some have even accused them of ‘playing the victim’ and making this about them, instead of their betrayed spouse.
This might be true in some cases.
But I don’t think we can make one blanket statement and say if an unfaithful feels shame, they’re making it about them.
If they say they need healing too, then they’re playing the victim.
I can’t count the amount of times I turned to the story of the woman caught in adultery.
The bible doesn’t say mention her speaking up and she likely didn’t.
Because she knew she was wrong.
So as she waited for her death quietly, Jesus silently rebuked the religious leaders with just message in the dirt,
just when they were ready to stone her.
Then going to her when they were alone to tell her He does not condemn her either, go and sin no more.
Can you imagine the stories of healing and restoration she was able to share later?
I know this isn’t always a post many betrayed’s want to read. And that’s okay.
I get it. It might look like I’m giving the unfaithful’s a pass, a get out of jail free card.
But understanding the emotions of a betrayer doesn’t give them any pass,
it only opens up the conversation to try and understand the challenges they face too.
There’s a plethora of help for a betrayed spouse to find support and healing.
And that is good and needed.
But is it the same for a repentant unfaithful spouse?
I propose to you it’s not.
Affairs are a symptom of a hurting, broken person who is trying to numb feelings
or escape from something within them, that they’re not facing in a healthy or mature way.
It’s very rarely about their spouse.
Please hear me though – This doesn’t excuse the infidelity.
There’s nothing that makes that okay.
I’m simply asking you to stop for a bit, and put yourself in their shoes.
How do you heal when everyone, sometimes even your own marriage counselor,
believes you deserve all the pain you’ve got coming to you?
Just as I always tell unfaithful spouse’s they need empathy and compassion for the pain
they caused their betrayed spouse, I’d ask you (if you’re a betrayed spouse) to consider what
they’re likely feeling too, as they need to find their own healing to get past their affair.