What did you do to cause the affair? Nothing. Nothing at all.
It’s simply not true that both people in a couple contribute to one partner having an affair.
Often that relationship was actually quite strong – and yet one of the partners decided they would stray.
They had their own reasons for having an affair.
So what might some of those reasons be?
– He or she used pornography, or online sex, before they ever met their partner or spouse. It was a habit they brought into the relationship. It was something they had used when they were lonely, bored or stressed.
– They were already addicted to pornography or sex (but this was a secret they had kept from everyone). And they believed they had the strength to break free of the addiction, but then they found it was too strong to beat it on their own.
– They began to feel something was missing from their life. Perhaps they had a family and a stable career, and they felt bogged down by responsibilities. Everything felt humdrum; life lacked pizzazz. Thus, they were seduced by the thrill of an illicit affair. It gave them a buzz, and it made them feel alive.
– They were unhappy with themselves, and had low self-esteem. So when someone sought them out, and made them feel desirable, this gave a massive boost to their self-esteem.
– They had a midlife crisis and were starting to feel old. They desperately want to hold onto their youth, and to be seen as someone who was young and passionate. An affair was their attempt to prove this to themselves.
– They experienced the death of someone close to them. Hence, this was a reaction to the brevity of life, and to dealing with a loss which was shocking and profound. They felt that life was short, and that time was running out. And they had to make the most of the time that they had left.
– The betrayer had a sense of entitlement. They wanted what they wanted, and just thought about themselves. Essentially, this partner was a narcissist.
It doesn’t take two to tango. That saying is a lie. And it’s hurtful and unfair to blame a partner who’s been wronged. That person is victim. He or she’s been traumatized, and they had nothing at all to do with the affair.
“You couldn’t have stopped this happening. There was nothing you could do to prevent it. This had nothing to do with you. It wasn’t your fault, and you didn’t deserve it.”
So when you experience these things yourself, you feel isolated. Completely alone. Judged. Ostracized. Abandoned in your pain.
And that is a terrible place to be.
Here’s how you feel when this happens to you
– You feel as if you’re tarnished even though you’re innocent. You feel like you’re an outcast, that you’ve been stigmatized.
– You feel extremely vulnerable. Your world has been exposed. There’s nothing that’s a secret. You’ve lost your privacy.
– You feel that you’ve been talked about, and you’ve been judged and blamed. Some people will attack you, and call you hurtful names.
– You feel that other people think you’re worth much less than them. You feel their eyes upon you, and their eyes are harsh and cold.
– You feel you must be silent for no-one wants to hear, and no-one wants to know about the pain you’re going through.
– You feel you can’t say anything for no-one understands. You just get trite advice (which is devoid of empathy).
– You feel you’re going crazy as your life is such a mess. You can’t process the trauma and the feelings you now have.
– You have to wear a mask, and act like everything is fine – regardless of the turmoil and the pain that’s haunting you.
– You act a part in public. You must live a double life. You feel so lost and lonely – but it’s so hard to get help.
Something to think about …
“After traumatic events that threaten to rob us of our dignity and spirit, people typically don’t tell others. In fact, many trauma survivors either never speak to anyone about what happened to them or wait a very long time to do so.
The reasons for this are multi-fold and likely include shame, perceived stigma of being a “victim,” past negative disclosure experiences and fears of being blamed or told that the event was somehow their fault …
For some, talking about their trauma is an initial step toward healing. But for others, sharing an experience and then having the response be negative can harm recovery. It can shut them down and lock the psychological vault, if not for forever, then at least for a long time.” – Joan M. Cook
If this resonates with you, please believe you’re not alone. Take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one.
A few easy tips for those who want to be supportive
To be genuinely supportive when someone takes a risk and shares about a trauma, or something that’s taboo:
– Give that person your full and undivided attention. Do not allow yourself be distracted by anything AT All.
– Pay attention to your body language. You should come across as being still, calm, focused, with an open body posture, and good steady eye contact (but don’t stare!)
– Say very little. Your job is to listen. Not to comment. Not to give advice. Your only job is to listen to this person.
“Healing is not an overnight process. It takes time. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re finally feeling better, and then the wound will reopen and bleed. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. Keep on taking it one step at a time.”
Flashbacks are a feature of PTSD that are hard to manage, as well as being distressing. Below are some suggestions for helping you to cope:
1. First, tell yourself that you are having a flashback. Give it a name. This can help create a sense of control when we feel we’re at the mercy of overwhelming feelings.
2. Remind yourself that the worst is over. You already know the truth, and you’ve faced up to the truth. So, the feelings and sensations you’re experiencing right now are merely memories related to the past (discovering the terrible truth for the first time). That event is over. It’s not happening right now, and you managed to survive the experience.
3. Ground yourself in the present moment. Feel your feet on the ground, and remind yourself you are able to escape if you need to get away.
4. Focus on your breathing. When we start to feel scared, we stop breathing normally, and our body starts to register a lack of oxygen. It is this which causes the increasing sense of panic (which manifests in symptoms like a pounding head, tightness in the chest, profuse sweating, or feeling faint.)
Note: To breathe deeply, put your hand on your diaphragm, push against your hand, and then exhale so that the diaphragm goes back in again.
5. Reorient yourself to the present moment by consciously using each of your five senses.
Look around and focus on some different objects in the room. Make a mental note of different colours you can see.
Listen out for different sounds in your environment. Notice your breathing, any traffic, white noise, birds or people.
Try to feel your body, and notice what it’s touching. For example, try touching your clothes, arms, hair or body. Feel the chair or floor supporting you.
Sniff to see if you can smell anything … Flowers, coffee, cigarettes, an air freshener, and so on.
Swallow a few times. Try eating a mint, or a piece of gum. Notice how it tastes, and how that slowly starts to change.
6. Establish boundaries between yourself and the world. Sometimes when we’re experiencing a flashback, we can’t tell where we end and the world begins. If that happens, put a blanket or a cover around you; hold a pillow to your chest; go to bed; lock the door – or do what you need to feel you’re safe from threat or danger.
7. Seek support from someone who will understand your feelings. (Perhaps your family, a close friend, or a counsellor.)
8. Allow yourself the time you need to recover. Flashbacks can be powerful, and extremely distressing. Give yourself whatever time you need to transition from what is happening in your body … back to the present time.
Also, don’t expect to be able to function normally. You can’t just switch off these emotions then return to your day. If it helps, take a nap, have a bath, go for a walk, or listen to some music that you know will soothe your feelings.
And remember to be gentle and kind with yourself. Don’t attack yourself for having a flashback.
9. Respect and honour your experience. Appreciate the fact that you’ve managed to survive.
10. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to heal – and it takes time to learn how to cope with powerful flashbacks. It’s a long slow process, and it can’t be speeded up.
“Your healing is about you. It doesn’t need anyone’s stamp of approval. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, or how ugly it looks. It’s about you, and you alone.”
PTSD is a response to a traumatic incident, and is frequently experienced when a partner or spouse discovers that their mate has a secret life. Hence, it may be something you have suffered from yourself, even it’s not been formally diagnosed.
Signs and Symptoms
These include re-experiencing the crisis or trauma; experiencing avoidance or emotional numbing; experiencing heightened vigilance or alertness; and experiencing other illnesses or concerns. These are summarized below.
1. Re-experiencing the crisis or trauma: This is the defining trait of PTSD. In most situations, the person will experience intense, overwhelming and recurrent flashbacks of the traumatic incident. Thus, they feel as if they’re actually re-living the event, and will have the same reactions as they had at that time. This may also manifest as nightmares and night terrors.
Note: For many people, the anniversary of the trauma, or being in a situation that reminds of what happened, can unleash intense emotions and feelings of distress.
2. Avoidance and emotional numbing: People who suffer from PTSD will generally do whatever they can to avoid situations which remind them of the trauma. Also, for most individuals emotional numbing is experienced immediately after the traumatic event. As a consequence of this, the person may withdraw from old interests, their work, their family and friends. They will also find it difficult to feel any emotions, and especially those related to closeness and trust. However, intense guilt and shame are, unfortunately, common and the person may struggle with despair and hopelessness.
3. Heightened vigilance and alertness: This prevents the individual from enjoying daily life, relaxing, concentrating and completing normal tasks. There is usually a marked change in their sleep patterns, too – in the form of insomnia, disturbed or broken sleep, wakening early in the morning, or being troubled by night terrors.
4. Other illnesses or concerns: In addition to the symptoms described above, people with PTSD may suffer from depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dizziness, shaking, chest pains, stomach pains, cognitive concerns and memory lapses.
If the above describes your experience, can I suggest you reach out for help, and considering talking to a counsellor, psychologist, or psychotherapist.
People will tell you who you are. And sometimes they shout really loudly.
So we cover our ears, and we try not to hear. But they keep on shouting – for they need us to hear.
They want us to believe that we are flawed, inadequate. That we’re worth much less than others. That we’re worth much less than them.
But this is not the truth. It is a made-up fantasy. You must not listen to them.
Do not take them seriously.
Even though the voice inside you feels so faltering and weak. Please listen to the voice which tells you: “No, that isn’t true!”
For this is the voice that is telling you the truth.
Hold on tightly to that voice, and keep repeating what it says. Keep saying the words louder till this voice is dominant.
Till you are done with giving space to all the slander and the lies.
Till you know – deep in your heart – that you are someone wonderful.
And this is the truth.
This is your true identity.
“One morning she woke up, and she saw life differently. She no longer cared who was for or against her. The important thing was she was for herself. She no longer cared what others thought or said. Their judgments and demands were irrelevant to her. She knew her own worth, and that was all that really mattered.”
“Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves … Gaslighting often develops gradually, making it difficult for a person to detect.”
Gaslighting occurs when there’s betrayal, abuse, or we’re living with a narcissistic partner or spouse.
Common symptoms of gaslighting include the following:
Feeling disoriented and confused; not knowing what is true and what isn’t true; questioning your understanding of reality; questioning your memory of events
Wondering if you’re crazy
Feeling anxious about making decisions, even very simple decisions
Constantly second guessing yourself; always wondering if ‘you got it wrong’
Constantly asking yourself if you are far are too thin-skinned and sensitive; feeling like you need to apologize all the time for who you are or what you say and do
Feeling as if you have lost yourself; not knowing who you are any more
Losing your confidence; feeling stupid, incompetent, worthless and unlovable.
Recovering from Gaslighting
If you’ve experienced gaslighting, and you’re trying to move on, and you want to learn to trust yourself and follow your own heart – then here are a few things to, maybe, bear in mind:
1. It’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes: It’s absolutely fine to make mistakes and get things wrong. It happens to us all, and simply shows that you are human.
2. Start choosing for yourself: You’re allowed to make decisions, and to choose for yourself. This is actually your right, and it’s something you can do! From your choice of food or clothes, to the way you spend your time, to your views on politics … and a million other things.
3. Let go of the need to understand what really happened: The fact is … You were the victim of a person who played games with your mind, deliberately deceived you, and manipulated you. Also, it’s likely that your memories are scattered, vague and patchy. So put the past on hold, and just focus on today.
4. Allow yourself to be emotional, and to release the buried feelings: We tend to push down our feelings when we’re being manipulated. We don’t know what to feel, and we think we might be wrong. So when the truth comes to light, all the feelings get unleashed (and it’s likely we’ll be suffering from PTSD, too.)
5. Try to see the positives in being vulnerable and real: You weren’t wrong or dumb to take your partner at face value. It is actually a sign of being trustworthy yourself. We are meant to trust and love, and to be genuine and open. It means that you are healthy, and able to love well. That is, it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or you were stupid or naïve.
6. Don’t set goals for healing; healing follows its own course: You don’t have to follow timelines, be happy all the time, be healed from being triggered, or feel confident and strong. It’s an ongoing process, and one you can’t control. So give your brain permission to heal in its own way.
But for so many people, this can feel impossible. It’s an uphill battle, and a constant, daily struggle to really love themselves, and to feel that they’re worthwhile. If this describes your life, I hope the following will help you:
1. Instead of thinking about everything that’s wrong with you, try to get into the habit of thinking about aspects of yourself you are happy with – and, perhaps, are even proud of. It can be something as simple as taking pleasure from a beautiful garden you have created; or a delicious meal you have cooked; or the fact that you are good at languages; or that people find you easy to be around.
2. Remind yourself that no-one is perfect. Everyone has flaws. For example, actresses and models often look good because people have spent hours on their appearance, deliberately creating a specific image, or shooting pictures of them from a particular angle, or in a certain light.
Bear in mind, too, that people who are accomplished in one area may perform well below average in another area. It’s rare to find someone who is good at everything.
3. Be kind to yourself when you survey your past. We all make some mistakes. Everyone – not only. Also, not everyone has had the same advantages in life. And some of us have had some very bad experiences. That has had an influence on our life’s trajectory.
4. Work on liking most of yourself. Perhaps you could just like one tiny portion of yourself. That could be a good starting place for now. The fact is, almost everyone can find something they’d like to change about themselves. Something they don’t like … or feel ashamed of … or embarrassed about. Maybe bear that in mind when you are looking at yourself through negative, demanding, and critical eyes.
5. At the end of the day, we are more that the sum of our parts. Taken together, all the parts of who we are create an individual who is totally unique. No-one has ever been like you. And no-one will ever be like you. Because you are you, you add value to the world in a way that only you, and no-one else can ever do. That makes you valuable and irreplaceable.
“Quieten that voice of doubt inside of you. You are good enough. You are smart enough. You are worthy of love. You deserve good things. You are beautiful because you are you.”
And if you’re beating yourself up because you didn’t see the signs, I hope this post will help you see that this is not your fault. You acted as you should in intimate relationships. They’re based on love and trust. On being real and vulnerable.
In summary ….
1. Betrayal only happens if you give someone your trust … And healthy close relationships are based on mutual trust.
2. It’s the nature of trust to tend to take things at face value. In fact, we’re preprogramed to trust our attachment figures – caregivers when we’re children, and spouses when we’re adults.
3. We expect more from the people who are close to us. We expect that they will care about our feelings and well-being. With strangers there is mimicry. A balanced give and take. However, this is a low bar in intimate relationships. You expect a whole lot more, and you deserve a whole lot more.
4. A partner who is cheating, or withholding information, is usually working hard to try to keep up the façade. In most situations, they don’t want you to know. So, they’re trying to deceive you, and to hide the truth from you.
5. There’s a good chance that your partner was being nice to you, even when they were lying, and they had a secret life. The reason? To try to throw you off track, and to appease their guilty conscience.
6. Often the betrayer will live out their ‘other life’ in ‘another world’ completely. One you nothing about. For example, they may access online sex, or conduct an affair on a secret different cell phone; with a new email account; when you’re out of the house, or away for a few days; when they’re out of the house, or away for a few days.
So I hope you can see that were not simply naïve. And the last thing you should do is to criticize yourself. Your partner took advantage of the trust you put in him. You acted in the way a loving, faithful partner would.