Coping with Infidelity – Self-Care and Living for Yourself

coping with infidelityA few months ago I was mentoring a younger woman (younger than me at least) and she had recently discovered her husband’s 2-year long physical and emotional affair. Needless to say she was not in a good place at the time.

As she told her story it became apparent that the affair was becoming extremely destructive both physically and mentally.

Outside of the pain and betrayal that her husband had created, she was so distraught that she turned to drinking heavily to try and numb the pain and help her cope. She told me she was drinking from about 10AM to the time she went to bed at night. In fact, if not for the booze making her pass out, she doubted she would even fall asleep at all.

As a result of the drinking, she wasn’t eating very much and what she was eating, it wasn’t very nutritious. She said she felt as though she was wasting away.

Now to be honest, there were certainly times that I wanted to numb the pain either through mass doses of wine or various pharmaceuticals, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I guess I’m a big chicken that way. But after a period of moping, not sleeping and the not-so-pleasant “infidelity diet” (among other things) I decided that I had to take care of myself better. I had to get stronger.

By doing those self-destructive things it became very apparent that I was only holding myself back. I was out of control and I needed to get the control back!

I think that many of us in the same situation try to find anything that could possibly help us get through the ordeal and following the shocking and painful discovery that you have been cheated on, you might find yourself exacerbating the damage by turning pain inward, resulting in a variety of self-sabotaging behaviors.

You may soon find that you are tempted to stop eating, begin to participate in excessive drinking, starting to smoke, take illicit drugs, or withdraw from responsibilities. You may find yourself doing these things if you have underdeveloped coping mechanisms – like I did at the time.

When you do engage in destructive behaviors, you may make excuses for why, go into denial, or refuse to stop them. But, this is absolutely not something you should tolerate in yourself.

While you cannot help what your spouse did, you can help how you treat yourself and how you respond. How on earth can you recover from the affair let alone feel good about yourself while being self-destructive? It is not possible and therefore not something you should allow to go on for any period of time.

You see, regardless of what happened, you are in charge of your life and your reactions. So, you must take charge. It is time to start making choices for yourself that only benefit you. You are in charge of what happens to you and it is time to ensure that the things you can control are positive.

But, this also takes a practical form by participating in self-care. It is essential that you begin to exercise – daily if you can. You must also eat healthy food that contains essential vitamins and minerals as well as get adequate sleep.

In addition to that, spend time doing the things you enjoy the most. Focus on friends who make you feel good and your favorite hobbies. In fact, never isolate yourself from good friends or from doing the activities you love.

Taking care of your physical health will automatically cause you to feel good and that will lead to stronger emotional health. All of this together will have a positive effect on self-esteem and an increased ability for coping with infidelity.

End of rant!

feeling that you’re not good enoughThe follow up…

The preceding “pep talk” was basically the same one I gave to the woman I was mentoring. That happened to be the last time I spoke with her – that is until she sent me an email just the other night.

The email was way too long to include here but in it she stated that she thought about what I had told her, and though it took a few days to sink in, she followed my advice and started to focus on herself.  

She took up yoga and started to ride her bike on a daily basis. She’s eating healthy. She’s reading about relationships, happiness and self improvement. She got back into photography – a hobby she had given up many years ago. She has also reconnected with some old girlfriends that she had lost touch with over the years.

Though it’s still early and she has a long way to go, she says that it has made a massive difference in her – mainly in how she feels about herself and in her confidence level. She does feel that this is just the beginning and as she continues with her self-care program she feels that she can better handle the challenges that are in front of her.

Perhaps best of all…she now feels that no matter what the outcome may be with respect to her marriage, she will be strong enough and confident enough to live her life on her own terms.

These sort of stories really make me smile!  🙂

Please take a moment to share in the comment section below some ways in which you have been practicing self-care since the affair.  How has it affected you?

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12 Responses to Coping with Infidelity – Self-Care and Living for Yourself

  1. exercisegrace August 8, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    On the advice of my therapist, I have started reading the book, Co-Dependent No More. I’m just a short ways in but it already makes a tremendous amount of sense to me. During the time period of his affair, I allowed myself to become completely and totally immersed in “saving” him from his depression, his predatory co-worker, his bad choices, etc. I completely lost the thread of my OWN story and who I am. The affair is long over, he is remorseful and trying to rebuild but I am still struggling to find my own footing. I can see that I have spent the last two years of recovery focusing on what he did and why, on our marriage, on our family, and on “us” in general. I truly have done very little work that focuses solely and completely on ME. I am making a shift to caring for myself. Making myself a priority. I am no longer going to filter things through “us”. It’s time to work on me. The kids are back in school and so I have time on my hands. I plan to put it to productive use by exercising, getting regular massages, praying and improving my eating habits. This is the start of a stronger foundation from which to live my life. I believe that ultimately our marriage will be better for me taking this time.

  2. Shifting Impressions August 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    This is such good advice but not so easy to follow. I had a shift in my thinking yesterday….I was feeling so diminished by my husband’s EA until I realized that it he had diminished himself with his behavior. This is something he has to live with. I was also comparing myself with the AP but then I realized she also diminished herself. They are the ones that are “Less Than” not me. Their behavior was deceitful….not mine. The pain is overwhelming but I am still worthy and I am not responsible for their behavior.

    This shift in thinking makes me want to be the best I can be…..and that means taking care of myself. Self-blame just makes one ripe for counter productive coping methods….such as over eating/under eating, medicating, drinking etc.

    I have amazing grown children, who love and validate me. As I was walking in the sun with two of my darling little granddaughters this week……I realized I have much reason to practice the self-care you are talking about, Linda.

    Thanks for this post this morning….very timely for me.

  3. KelBelly August 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Boy, did i need to read this. Been off here for awhile but decided to come back as I have been struggling out there on my own and needed to find some advice on how to deal with what I have been feeling lately.

    I am in the full swing of peri menapause, running my own daycare, taking the weight of the world on my shoulders and feeling like I just want to run away. I also beat myself up over why i am not over my husbands affair yet. I have finally come to the conclusion that it will always shadow over our marriage but am hoping to find some better coping skills.

    When I discovered my H’s affair I closed myself off from the world and made fixing my marriage and family priority. I grabbed onto my husband and my children like a starving dog and tried to run everything for them and in doing so I let go of doing anything for myself. Now 2 1/2 years later the stress of trying to run everyone’s life and taking on their problems while letting my self go has left me very cold and resentful.

    Relinquishing that control for me has been very hard. I want to learn to let my family live the life they were meant to and take charge of my own life and start living for me again. again. I use to garden, bake, make jellies and jams, read, ride horses and i have given it all up. I believe in doing so i have made things for myself much worse because my family has become more of an obsession.

    So, this week I have started taking back the power. I went out and let my H finally spend a huge amount on me for new clothes that were not from Goodwill or Wal Mart ( which was huge for me by the way!), I bought a reading book, started picking berries and bought some jelly jars. It may take me awhile to read that book with all the canning I will be doing these next few weeks but the fact is that I bought one to read.

    The part that I need help with the most is the anxiety that this is causing me and learning how to enjoy things for myself again. I want to love who I am and find the pride in my life again. Not to always be looking and concentrating on the bad. I told my H yesterday that most days I look at him and I see the man I love and want to spend my life with then there are those days that I look at him and see the man that was living it up when I was dealing with some of the hardest things in my life and I don’t like him very much. I need to know that one day those days will go away.

    I must say that my H has worked very hard to fix what he broke and that is one of the reasons I am wanting to learn how to work on me again because i feel without that we will never completely heal. Thanks for listening to my long rant. Been needing to get that off my chest for awhile.
    Kel

  4. Tryinghard August 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    Linda

    Your suggestions are all great and I couldn’t agree more.

    For myself those first months were so personally devastating. Well meaning friends offered up that advice to take care of myself and I honestly gave it a try but none of that helped. I’d go to my sisters or friends house for dinner and it was so apparent that my reactions were the focus of their attention that I felt nothing but self conscience and only wanted to run. One time I went out to concert with some girls and one girl was complaining how she hadn’t slept because her husbands snoring had kept her awake. I wanted to bitch slap her for that statement. I only wished that was why I hadn’t slept the night before. Totally not her bad or thoughtless behavior and only my bad temperament was to blame. I was not working or playing well with others and should not have been invited.

    I’d go with other couples and my heart just sank because I was not with my husband. I tried to exercise and would end up puking what little I had eaten. I’d go to a foreign language film just to really distract myself only to be distracted by wondering how many pills I could take to overdose and die and what hotel I could choose to do it in and actually google it.

    I couldn’t really talk to friends about my mental state because it was just too much. They couldn’t help and they knew it so I lied and acted all strong and in control so I could have at least a little human contact. I faked it to everyone but there was that underlying Poor TH in the conversation. One friend brought food that I graciously accepted in their presence only to throw it in the trash once they were in their car and leaving. I couldn’t stand the how are you doing questions. All the patronizing care they tried to show. I think it made them feel better for trying to help but they certainly didn’t help me.

    Sure I had a shrink that empathically listened to me but damn straight she did I was paying her to do that. She’d ask and I’d be somewhat honest but I sure as hell wasn’t totally honest about listening to what those big bad voices were telling me to do. I wasn’t about to end up in the psyche ward again! I didn’t tell her I was stockpiling pills just in case. But I did talk and talk and talk. It felt good to do that. At least those bad voices subsided when I did that.

    It wasn’t until I cut off most contact with the outside world and went deep in side me to find me did I start to crawl out of the darkness. I went on a 10 day trip to California by myself. Thank God I had a friend who let me use her beautiful home in Colorado where I went on another trip a couple months later. I had to get out of my town away from the pitying looks and all the townspeople who knew my story. I hiked and hiked and hiked. I challenged myself and came home stronger and smarter. I finally figured out what it meant by taking care of myself really meant. And it meant get out of your own head and put on your big girl pants and get ready for war. Draw your boundaries with everyone. The phone would ring and if I didn’t want to talk I didn’t. I was going to face this sit show on my terms, not my family’s, not my husbands, not my friends, no one but me. I had read enough to be finally finding some answers and I had shut the kill yourself voices up!!!

    It takes time and a lot of self introspection and challenge and I don’t know how I could have done it if I had young children to take care of. I spent a lot of time crying, hiding in bed, not eating etc but I had to go through that before I could pick myself up and do better for myself. During that time the most I could do to take care of myself was to scramble an egg, my only meal of the day. Pedicure, massage, oh hell no that took too much energy. I had wound lucking to do and wound licking is what I did on my terms and my way.

    I don’t want any person new to this shit show to think the way they are handling their experience to think they are doing it the wrong way. Don’t pay attention to all the well meaning people who make you feel like you should be farther along according to their time table. You will know when you are ready for the next step. Yeah right now going for a bike ride might seem tantamount to climbing Mt Everest. That’s ok, go to your mail box and get your mail!!! Small, baby steps until you are ready. Go deep into yourself. No one has the answer but YOU. no amount of telling your story to your family or friends will take away your pain and sometimes even makes it worse. You know they don’t want to hear it and that makes you feel worse. Like you’ve imposed your shit on someone else. Find a shrink to tell it to. Heck tell it here if you don’t have the money for a shrink, but your family and friends don’t want to hear it.

    This is a tough concept to deal with post discovery, the whole “take care of yourself” talk. We all have our own way of doing it and this is just MY story on it.

    • Shifting Impressions August 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      TryingHard, thanks so much for sharing with such raw honesty…..I really appreciate it. Most days I feel like I’m in a Nightmare I can’t wake up from and then reality hits….I am awake.

      • Tryinghard August 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

        Shifting
        That’s exactly what it feels like. I remember the first Monday morning after he left. I woke up and felt for him on his side of the bed and he wasn’t there I woke up thinking it was a bad dream and started to look for him only to realize he was gone. I cried from the depths of my soul. I didn’t think a person could make a noise like that. The bad thing was my son. Was staying with me and woke up to that as well. Poor thing, if I hadn’t already scared him for life I sure as hell did that day!!! That wasn’t my last cry unfortunately.

        I now it’s raw and shocking but I’m here to say it does and will get better. One way or another but not until you go through all the stages. Yes you have to take care of yourself but if eating one meal a day and the most exercise you get is going to the mail box is ok as long as it’s temporary. Grieve, lay in bed, cry, wail if you must but leave others out of it. Set yourself some goals for the future and make them small. Heck I didn’t clean my house or do laundry for a month. Finally one day I set a goal that I would finally clean my bedroom, well cause that’s where I spent 90% of my time and I had snot all over my sheets. Lol, pretty disgusting!!! Next day I cleaned the kitchen. Little by little I made progress. What didn’t come so easy was social interaction. I couldn’t stand being with other people. I had terrible anxiety attacks when I did. So I limited my exposure. Now this pissed a lot of people off. When you’re suffering people want to “help”. Well they can’t the way I saw it..”is there anything I can do”. Yeah call my husband and tell him he’s making the biggest mistake of his life!!! Yeah, no, they couldn’t/wouldn’t do that. So I knew it was up to me and me alone.

        You can do it. I’m here if you need me. All of us are. We’ve been there and we are the on,y ones who get it. Whether you reconcile or divorce, we get it. We’ve all done and thought crazy, trust me, nothing is shocking here.

        Hang in there. If you’d like my private email I can ok it with Doug. Let it out here but spare your family and friends

        • Shifting Impressions August 10, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

          Thanks TH for the support. I feel really fortunate that I have a few really close friends, that have really been there for me. But I know as caring as they are, I’m still the one that has to work through this. I’ve been putting off getting counseling for myself but I think that’s the next step. Coming to this site has been a life saver as well. Thanks again.

      • CBb August 11, 2014 at 8:27 am #

        It is so sad and unfortunate that we are thrown into these situations. I was lucky enough to know an excellent therapist that I was able to use for myself. He saved me from making major mistakes.

        Unfortunately I have two children who were home for the entire summer (they are in their teens) so I had to pretend things were just peachy in front of them.

        I could barely function some days but had to work, cook, clean, etc. AND not let my children know anything was amiss (and to this day they do not).

        The toll on me for 4 months was lose weight, not sleep (45 minutes a night if I was lucky), extreme anxiety and financial pressure.

        I was certain my CH was leaving me with no money, mortgage, house and kids. Even my therapist agreed he had one foot out the door.

        So I prepared for the divorce. Without going into all the drama I was able to save about $75,000 and get my financial house in order.

        It is one year later and we are still together and have a better marriage in some respects. The difference for me was I asked my CH to leave after I found out he continued to see her for several months, despite standing in front of me saying it was over and lying the whole time. He is now remorseful and trying hard every day to make up for what he did.

        I, on the other hand, have put myself first and am planning MY life. I am starting my own business, taking classes and working in a job I love as a Sunday school teacher/administrator. I volunteer and keep up with my friends when possible.

        I went through the depression and like other posts, for months thought about ending my life as the pain was SO HORRIFIC I could not bear it. But if not for my kids it probably could have happened.

        If you saw me now you would never know. We can get through this. Because there is one thing we tend to overlook.

        THE AFFAIR NEVER, EVER HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH US, and everything to do with the cheating spouse and their bad choices. Once you realize that, let the healing begin. At least that is what worked for me.

        I love my H after 25 years of marriage and will to the day I die. However I love myself more. And if the day comes and I decide I no longer want to deal with any of this and I want to live a different life for me, he will just have to accept it. After all, he put me on this path. I now put myself first sometimes, not in a selfish way but in a “my happiness means everything” way.

        No drinking, drugs or affairs for me but more about mindfulness, spirituality, inner peace and life is too short to let a CH ruin it for me.

        I know this is long but we will get through this ugly chapter of life. I know I did and I am better for it in some ways.

    • meme October 31, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

      I can so relate to your story. I too have had those voices that tell you to end the pain. I have caught myself driving down the road and wishing a semi would plow me over, but, one things for sure not only would it end the pain, it would end any chance at happiness again. My H and I have been separated for 10 months, and I’ve had people say to me that I should be getting over it by now. Hell people, I don’t know if I will ever get completely “over” it. This is a pain like no other, and unless you have been there you cannot even begin to understand it. My H and I are seeing each other, but our marriage has a ways to go to full recovery, partly because he is still doing the stonewalling and blaming me for pushing him into having an affair; ha what a joke. I’m not sure why I even care sometimes. But the truth is I love him very much, and I’ve been with him for 31 years, and unless I have been living a lie all these years, this was sooooo out of his character. I still have days when I want to run away and hide, and very few days that tears don’t find their way streaming down my face at some point. I am finally eating again, after dropping 30 pounds, and I’ve finally gotten to the point that I don’t feel ugly, but, I do feel damaged and thrown away. It helps to know that I am not alone in the way that I feel. Thanks for posting your story. Taking one day at a time~~

  5. Strengthrequired August 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Th, I too actually googled what you did. Just wanted the pain to be over. Somehow though you manage to push through it, and as you said on your own terms. I agree, no family or friends want to here your story, sad but true. It’s upto yourself to get through day by day. You have to make the effect to keep moving forward.
    Hugs to you my friend. At the beginning you wonder how the day to the next will be, as it seems each day is a long one, all you hope for is the pain to stop, that ache to ease, and for the days to pass quickly because you know that a year from that day, you will be in a better place from where you are currently. I look back now and can’t believe that the three year mark is fast approaching and I am so glad very first dday is becoming a distant memory.

  6. tryinghard August 11, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Maxine
    I actually wrote a reply to your first post but my iPad went down and I lost it all. First I’m sorry that you’ve lived with this agony for 25 years. Are you posting now because he had another affair or is you pain residual? Did your husband show remorse or did he just dump the girlfriend and go on with his life disrespecting you as usual?

    Just because your are “woman of a certain age” doesn’t mean you can’t and don’t deserve a happy peaceful life and that can be with or without your very dysfunctional husband. I don’t know why you choose to stay and really I don’t know why I am staying after such flagrant disrespect and betrayal my husband did to me. Mostly it’s because of our business. If I were only acting for my own benefit and ego yes I would leave but doing that would leave huge financial devastation to our business that would affect many lives of people I care for. Not trying to be the martyr or find excuses but if our financial situation were all packed up neatly in investments I would have insisted on my share and moved on.

    No the trust never returns. You may love them and even hate them at the same time but trust would be foolish. What you can’t do is let his dysfunction describe you and who you are. There are many things you can do STILL that leads to a happy fulfilling life and I hope you have found them.

    Reading all these posts about what the cheater did to hide the affair and some not even very well, like Maxine’s husband, makes me sick. We all saw the red flags. We all knew something was off. We were fooled because we wanted to believe. What does it take to finally believe they are having an affair, actually witnessing them having sex with the other person with our own eyes????

    How does one, me included, get to that point that we don’t listen to our own gut instincts? How do we let ANYONE have such control over us that these blatant behaviors are explained away and we buy the whole story, hook, line and sinker? Yeah it’s not our fault, I get that, I know that, yes we trust. How does trusting become so powerful that we that it trumps every other emotion or rational instinct.

    But IT IS our fault that we don’t trust ourselves and wise up to the very real possibility that people are playing us for fools! How many others are there out there besides our Cheating Spouses are there???

  7. Angel Cheek August 20, 2014 at 1:57 am #

    Wow. I think I may have found what I have been looking for.

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