I saw this article recently by relationship expert and author Bree Maresca-Kramer M.A, and I felt many of us could relate to it and that it might offer some good information for those of us trying to regain self-esteem and recover from infidelity.
It deals with the challenge from a female point of view, but I’m sure there can be some takeaways for you men out there as well. I’ve included excerpts from the article in the gray boxes and my comments directly below.
Can You Ever Recover From Infidelity?
“Following the shocking and painful discovery that you have been cheated on, people frequently exacerbate the damage by “acting-in” through self-sabotaging behaviors. Unfortunately, we are starting to see signs of this in recent photos of Demi Moore, in light of Ashton Kutcher’s alleged infidelity. In recent photos, Moore appears emaciated and drawn.
This is one of the more common ways a woman will “act in” after the pain and damage caused by an infidelity. In addition to not eating, a woman may participate in excessive drinking, taking drugs, smoking, withdrawing from daily life activities and responsibilities, random sexual encounters, and/or blaming and emotionally beating herself up as the cause of her partner’s adultery.”
After our D-day I couldn’t eat or sleep and lost about 20 pounds that I really didn’t need to lose, so I can attest to this completely. I also had a very hard time focusing on my job and spent a great deal of time beating myself up and blaming myself for the emotional affair.
It’s seemed to be a natural response at the time, but as my recovery progressed I learned that beating and blaming myself were quite the wrong thing to do.
“So why, after such devastating pain from the actions of her unfaithful partner, would a woman do this to herself? It is actually due to a faulty coping mechanism. A coping mechanism is a behavioral tool used to offset or overcome adversity, anxiety, or stressors without correcting or eliminating the condition. For example, if someone is experiencing too much stress at work and cannot make a career or job change, they could use breathing exercises or meditation as coping mechanisms to compensate for the stress. When a woman reacts to infidelity by participating in self-destructive behaviors, her coping mechanisms are undeveloped.
One of the top reasons this happens is that the foundation on which she bases her worth is built on unstable ground. In other words, her self-esteem is based on factors outside of herself, such as how much money or success she has, who her partner is, how she looks, what her social status is, etc. When a woman’s worth is based on these external elements she will always be vulnerable to falling into this dysfunctional and self-destructive behavioral pattern.”
I’m not sure I agree with the statement that this only happens to those whose self-esteem is based on factors outside of herself. I know I don’t base my self-worth on things such as money or looks, or social status one bit. I think that I simply was in too much pain.
“A woman with a sound and healthy self-esteem would experience the shock and emotional pain of an infidelity; yet, she would not continue the damage by engaging in self-destructive behaviors. After the initial shock, this woman would process her emotions, dust herself off, stand back up, and move forward with her life whether that included continuing with her partner or not. She would know that she is not responsible for her partner’s behavior. However, she would be willing to look at herself and the relationship to see if she had any part of the reason the infidelity occurred without emotionally beating herself up for it. She would choose to learn from the experience and come out of it a richer and deeper woman. Whether she decided to work it out with her unfaithful partner or move on, she would forgive him as she knows that holding onto the anger and not forgiving him would only cause more harm to herself in the long run.
So how can a woman who hurts herself after an infidelity stop this madness? Love and acceptance, it’s that simple. This love is not the Hollywood romanticized form of the word but rather a true love and acceptance of herself. This sounds easy enough but can be quite difficult for a woman who has never felt good about who she is on the inside rather that what she has, does, or looks like on the outside. But, it can be done.
This process of re-building self-worth based on the essence of who one is as a human requires that they accept all the parts and pieces of themselves, even those they may not like to look at or want to admit to. Just as with any healthy relationship, building a healthy self-esteem takes time, commitment, and follow-through. There are many self-help books, therapists, and coaches who can help and guide you along the way. The most important piece is that you take pro-active steps to build this new way of valuing yourself and stop the self-destructive behavior. This will ultimately will lead to a fresh and fulfilled life.” See original article.
It always sounds so simple when you read things like this, but I agree that in order for a betrayed to get their self-esteem back and recover from infidelity is indeed through loving and accepting themselves and realize that, yes, they are okay just the way they are – faults and all.