In a recent piece on The Huffington Post, Dr. Mark Banschick describes four outcomes after a cheater is caught or decides to come clean:1) the cheater can make amends and the marriage continues, 2)the cheater can make amends and the marriage ends, 3)the cheated upon can choose to end the marriage or 4)the cheater can blame the other spouse for their actions and then leave the marriage. It seems like common sense, but reading this was a lightbulb moment for me. Part of my pain was in the fact that my husband was a type four – he blamed me and left. Not only were there no amends, but he didn’t even acknowledge his actions. In a way, I was lucky. I had no choice but to accept the fact that he was a type four. After all, leaving the state, refusing contact and committing bigamy made it pretty unlikely that I would get an apology. I had no choice but to move on.
Others are not so lucky. They have a type four spouse but they are holding out for him or her to turn into a type one or two and accept responsibility for their actions. Their hope and their reality do not match and the disconnect adds another layer of pain and anger.
Dr. Banschick classified the end of an affair – the choices left once the betrayal is uncovered. Affairs are different even before the end, with other factors complicating the situation and the healing process. I think it can be helpful to classify your affair as a way of finding acceptance and understanding of your particular situation and the factors that it contains.
Simple does mean easy. This is a straightforward case of infidelity with no complicating factors.
Compound infidelity is where there are secondary or tertiary betrayals.
Known Affair Partner: If the partner is a friend or confident of yours, you will feel betrayed by your spouse and your friend. Both relationships were violated.
Multiple Partners: These are the serial cheaters. The betrayed has to face the knowledge that their partner has made the choice to cheat multiple times with many people. This may have gone on for years before it is discovered.
Children: If there are children in the marriage, there is a sense that the cheater betrayed the family, not just the spouse. If and when the kids learn of the betrayal, they may internalize it and blame themselves for their parent’s infidelity.
Financial Betrayal: This is where the cheater extends the lying to finances. Marital funds may have been used to fund the affair(s). It is another major breach of trust in the marriage.
Complex infidelity is where there are complicating factors that can interfere with the betrayed’s ability to heal.
Abandonment: In many cases of spousal abandonment, the disappearing spouse has another partner at the ready. The betrayed has to face the discovery of infidelity while alone and abandoned. Part of the pain in this case is the feeling of having your voice stolen as there is no spouse to talk to or even scream at.
Gaslighting: This is the type 4 cheater before he/she is caught. The unfaithful partner blames the spouse and make him or her feel crazy for noticing inconsistencies or signs of wrongdoing. This pattern slowly wears away at the confidence of the betrayed, causing them to question what is real and what is fabrication.
Illegitimate Child(ren): When the unfaithful partner has a child as a result of infidelity, it negates any chances of a clean break from the affair partner. In the case of n unfaithful wife, a man may discover that he has been raising another man’s child as his own. Regardless of the circumstances, there is now an innocent who is caught in the web of deceit.
Addiction: Addiction and infidelity are not uncommon partners. They both thrive on secrecy and lies. If there is addiction present, it makes it even more difficult to reestablish trust.
This is the combination of two or more of the situations above.
Regardless of the nature of the infidelity, betrayal is one of the worst pains someone can experience. Unless you have felt its cutting edge, you cannot fathom the devastation of being stabbed by the one you embrace. It is possible to heal from betrayal and that healing has to start with acceptance. Recognize the complicating factors in your situation. Be aware of where you have control and where you do not. Distinguish between when you need to fight and when to let go.
Learning to trust after betrayal is not easy. Not only is there the struggle with trusting a new partner, but there is also the challenge of learning to trust your own instincts and perceptions, especially if you were unaware of the affair. The body and subconscious mind respond as though there is a threat even when the rational mind knows there is not. It takes patience and time and a willingness to face the discomfort. It’s not easy, but it is also not impossible.