Infidelity in a relationship is never easy to deal with. It is a destructive force and many relationships have been severed by this act. Whether you choose to give the relationship another chance or not, there are stages of grief if you have a cheating spouse that one must go through.
Importance of Stages of Grief if You Have Cheating Spouse
Partners who have been cheated on might feel like their world is ending. It is true in a marriage, especially ones with children, because you see your relationship as a sacred thing. The feeling of betrayal is difficult to get over, and it will take time.
It was Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who identified the five stages of grief after learning you have a cheating spouse. These five distinct stages represent the various levels of grief. It is important to identify these stages because you cannot rush things when you are dealing with feelings of pain and betrayal.
Some people might experience all five stages, while others may not. It varies from one person to another and on a case-to-case basis. No two people grieve the same. However, it is important to know the stages of grief because it allows you to understand your feelings better. In addition, there is no particular order to these stages, it depends on the circumstances that surround each case of infidelity.
5 Stages of Grief from having a Cheating Spouse
When suffering from grief due to infidelity, the partners that had been cheated on must be made aware that they are not alone in this suffering. The five stages of grief represent the rollercoaster of emotions that one goes through when trying to make sense of the betrayal.
Discover what these five stages are so you can learn how to better cope with each emotion that you might experience.
The denial stage is the first one that a spouse goes through when they are cheated on. This is also referred to as premature optimism. The initial feeling that you experience when you realize that you have been cheated on is shock. The discovery and revelation of an affair from your spouse leaves you in shock.
Some would describe this stage as feeling numb; making it appear as though they are unfazed by the discovery. Slowly, the emotion starts to creep in and the reality of the situation confronts you, this is when you gain full understanding of what has happened.
When in denial, a person might talk tough and put up a brave front. For most individuals though, the optimism is genuine. They try to block out the negative emotions associated with infidelity by keeping a positive attitude. For a few others, it is a ‘denial’ or an effort to mask their real emotions (which are pain and anger).
The extent of denial varies from one person to another. For some, it can be very subtle – an attempt to look at things objectively. For a few others, they are very blatant about it ─ such as trying to make excuses for their spouse’s behavior. However, the latter does not benefit you or your relationship. Another reason why some people do this is because they are afraid to truly know the extent of their spouse’s cheating behavior.
After the denial stage, the feeling of anger starts to take over. The act of betrayal fully sinks in, and you are overcome with the urge to retaliate through hostile acts. Some people exhibit full rage in an effort to cope with the grief and betrayal. This anger can be directed towards the cheating spouse or indirectly projected towards other people.
This is one of the most difficult phases of grief to overcome. Aside from being upset by the circumstances, all of the repressed negative emotions boil up to the surface.
Experts believe that anger is a normal part of the grieving process. You need to acknowledge these feelings; in fact, it is healthy to show them. But you should never act on any urges to retaliate because you could end up hurting the people that matter to you. It is common to find violence takes place in non-violent relationships, and you should do your best to avoid this from happening to you.
This is one of the most crucial steps of the grief process during reconciliation. According to Kubler-Ross, it is a natural process for someone to attempt to bargain in an effort to avoid an unwanted fate. In the case of a cheating spouse, the cheating party would try to come up with a bargain as part of their effort to save the relationship.
This stage occurs as a result of the desire to try to fix what was missing in the relationship in the past that led to the affair (even though it isn’t true). The partner that had been cheated on will feel the need to make a compromise and accept the bargain that was offered to them to prevent the relationship from ending.
This is a slippery slope, and the grieving partner must tread it very carefully. It is easy for the cheating partner to downplay their unacceptable behavior, even when their bothersome habits are recurring. Make sure you exercise full caution when accepting any bargain made by your cheating spouse. You need to tell the difference between giving them a second chance because they deserve it versus giving them a second chance simply because you want to save the relationship. If the latter applies to your case, you will end up dealing with the same problematic behaviors you’ve tolerated in the past.
Depression is a specific stage in the process of grieving from a cheating spouse. However, feelings of depression could manifest in any of the other stages.
Different people cope with their emotions in different ways. Therefore, some might feel the need to turn those feelings inward – probably due to the embarrassment of being cheated on. But this does you no good because it only makes you more upset and sad. You end up being angry at yourself.
If you experience depression, it is important to speak to a close friend, family member, or a therapist. They can help you address those feelings before it becomes more serious or life-threatening.
The final stage of grief from a cheating spouse is acceptance. This will only happen once you fully acknowledge that your partner has betrayed you by having an affair. Acceptance can happen whether or not you have forgiven your spouse. In addition, you do not have to feel okay either.
Acceptance means that you have released yourself from the emotional burden of your spouse’s behaviors. You no longer blame yourself for what happened. Instead, you are ready to move on with your life (even if it means no longer being with your spouse).
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