7 Steps To Overcoming Marital Infidelity So You Can Finally Move On

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How To Move On From Infidelity In Your Marriage When You’re Struggling With Betrayal Trauma
Heartbreak

You can move forward from the betrayal.

Who knew that one day you’d be searching for help on how to move on after surviving infidelity and betrayal trauma in your marriage?

Marital infidelity is not an experience anyone really expects will happen to them. After all, when we marry, we all believe that our relationship is different, that something as painful and heinous as a betrayal on this level would never ever happen to us.

RELATED: 22 Ways Couples Can Survive Cheating (And Finally Heal From The Betrayal)

Now, you're wondering if you can survive the horrendous pain of your spouse’s affair.

And what does surviving even mean? Do you want to stay married? Do you want to leave? How can you even begin to think clearly enough to know what you want?

When it comes to knowing how to overcome marital infidelity and move on with your life, the truth is that you need to take things slowly — at least, at first.

Discovering your spouse has been unfaithful is traumatic. It shakes not only the foundations of your marriage and family. It shakes the foundation of your reality.

You begin to question what is real and wonder if they ever loved you because you assume that the only way they could have betrayed you would be if they didn’t.

Why do people cheat? 

The reasons behind a person’s cheating are rarely simple. They’re usually quite complicated. And it’s the complicated nature of marital infidelity that can make knowing how to get over it and move on so challenging.

However, the best place to start healing and moving on from a cheating spouse is by focusing on you. This doesn’t mean that you stop being a parent or that you ignore your other responsibilities. It means that instead of trying to figure out what your future holds right now, you focus on taking care of yourself.

It’s only when you’ve worked through some of the trauma that you’ll be able to make bigger decisions about your married life and whether you can bear to stay or leave. 

To help you begin down the path of healing, here are 7 steps to take in order to move on.

1. Accept the facts

Denial is a normal reaction when you learn about something you wish wasn’t true. It’s a protective mechanism to help you only deal with so much at any one time.

However, it’s not useful in the long-term, especially when you're trying to move on. Denial can actually prevent you from moving on with your life if you don’t get through it.

So, no matter how much you wish it hadn’t happened, you have to accept that your spouse cheated and you found out. When you can accept these facts, you will begin releasing yourself from the trauma.

2. Reclaim your power — no more victimhood

It’s incredibly easy to believe that everything that happened was your spouse’s fault. And their choice to cheat is definitely 100 percent their fault.

However, when you remain a victim of their behavior and choices, you are powerless to change your life. Getting over someone becomes a struggle and you’ll remain in the pain you’re feeling right now until your spouse — somehow — makes things right.

As hard as it might be, you need to find a way to believe that you are strong enough to heal and move on with your life — with or without your spouse. When you do, you’ll know that you are no longer a victim.

3. Allow yourself to feel and constructively express your emotions

Without a doubt, dealing with betrayal is traumatic. With the swirl of emotions, it’s normal to at first wonder if you can get over it. Then, it’s normal to begin wondering how to overcome marital infidelity with the hope that you’ll eventually be able to move on with your life.

The range of emotions you’re likely to experience can include everything from rage to despair. It can be helpful to recognize that part of what you’re going through is a grief process. And grief, just like all emotions, needs to be worked through and expressed constructively.

When you allow yourself to experience and work through your emotions, you’ll find that they eventually dissipate.

If you choose, instead, to bottle up your feelings, then chances are you’ll find that the pent up emotions will come bubbling (if not exploding) out at unexpected and potentially inappropriate times. They’ll also keep you tightly tied to your spouse’s betrayal.

4. Forgive

Yeah, this is a tough one for most people. That’s because most confuse forgiveness with condoning bad behavior.

In this case, forgiveness is about refusing to let your spouse’s behavior, their affair partner’s behavior, or even your own behavior keep you a prisoner of the marital infidelity.

Forgiveness allows you to move on with your life. It allows you to take the necessary lessons and use them to create a new and better life for yourself — with or without your spouse.

The other thing you need to know about forgiveness is that it can’t be forced. You’ll know when you’re ready to forgive all those involved and experience the freedom that comes with it.

5. Nurture yourself

Sometimes, it’s really hard to take care of yourself when you’re feeling so hurt. Yet, you need to. You need to for yourself, for everyone else who depends upon you, and for everyone else who loves you.

So make sleep, eating well, and exercise a priority. When you have these three activities working for you, it makes everything so much easier, including knowing how to overcome marital infidelity.

You may also want to pamper yourself with things like listening to your favorite music, getting a massage, taking a walk outside, or anything else that just makes you feel good about being you.

Trying to numb the pain of the betrayal with drugs or alcohol is definitely a bad idea. However, a little over-the-counter painkiller may be OK. Dr. Helen Fisher suggests that taking an Advil or aspirin might be helpful in caring for yourself because it affects the pain centers in the brain that are impacted by the loss.

RELATED: 7 Things That Need To Happen In Order For You To Move On From An Affair

6. Accept appropriate responsibility

Taking responsibility does not mean that it’s your fault your spouse cheated. Instead, it means that you choose to learn and grow from the experience.  

Most marital infidelity happens for one of four reasons:

  • Unmet emotional needs
  • Sexual dissatisfaction
  • Lack of communication
  • Psychological issues

When you take appropriate responsibility, you’re able to look at the root causes of your spouse’s betrayal and know the part you played in the dynamic. Then, you can choose how you’d like to learn and grow based on this knowledge.

7. Set a vision or intention for what moving on with your life means

Once you’ve put in the effort to begin your personal healing journey, you’ll start to have the capacity to think about what moving forward means to you.

Do you want to work on healing your marriage? Many couples do this successfully after infidelity.

Do you want to work on creating a new life for yourself as a single person? Many people do this successfully after infidelity too.

The key is that after you take the time to process some of your betrayal trauma you’ll be better able to make big decisions like what does moving on with your life after being betrayed mean for you.

When you discover your spouse’s betrayal it can seem counterintuitive to focus on caring for yourself. You might believe that you need to make a decision about the future of your marriage first.

Yet, learning of such egregious behavior from the one person you trusted to never behave like this is traumatic. And the only way to begin moving forward is to first deal with your trauma so you can more easily have the clear-headed capacity to decide what’s best for you.

RELATED: If You Want To Save Your Marriage From Infidelity, You Need These 7 Things

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Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach who helps people decide for themselves how they will survive infidelity. You can learn more about Karen and her work on her website.

This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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