by Cynthia M. Braden, MFT
A 'love affair' may be more distressing than a purely sexual relationship to both men and women because if your partner is 'in love' with someone else, this does mean that the primary relationship is in jeopardy.
Betrayal of trust shatters emotional safety in the relationship. This is why people use words like "shattered" and "devastated" to describe their reaction to finding out about an affair.
The hurt partner may experience a series of powerful trauma reactions including rage, fear, confusion, difficulty with sleeping, eating, concentrating and basic functioning. A lot of crying, screaming and obsessively going over details or completely shutting down is probably normal. Nightmares and obsessive thoughts may go on for years according to some research. These symptoms may be similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In discovering that their partner has been cheating, many clients experience a shock to their sense of reality. "How could I not see what was going on?!" they shriek. Thinking they should have known what was going on, they beat themselves up not only for being cheated on, but being oblivious in the process. On the contrary, research has shown that affairs are not easily detected when the person is skilled at compartmentalization and/or lying or has a lot of time away from home.
The hurt partner's perceptions of reality during the time the partner was unfaithful often need to be completely reworked. This is a major reason there can be a need to know details about the affair. The hurt partner has been walled out of the unfaithful partner's secret world.
Fantasies of revenge sometimes can sometimes be a response to the helplessness and pain a cheated-on person may feel. He may insist, "I want him or her to know what it feels like!"
It is important to understand these are common reactions so you will know that your out-of-control emotions are normal in a situation like this. And you are probably not going crazy. If you are feeling like getting revenge, schedule a session, and be careful not to make the situation worse.
After the initial crisis, the hurt partner may be afraid to risk becoming more open or intimate and relatively small actions by the unfaithful partner can trigger hostility and total withdrawal. Or the hurt partner may not let up on rage and accusations despite the genuine remorse and efforts at repair made by the unfaithful partner.
If you're dealing with a situation like this, I'm going to go out on a limb and say "therapy is a must" and "healing is possible." Schedule a session, you'll feel better and gain important strategies to use during this pivotal time in your life.cb
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