What does the process for healing your body and mind after infidelity look like?
by Molly Chanson
When I found out my spouse of 10 years cheated, I had no idea the journey that was ahead of me.
That morning, my husband had taken the kids to the store to get potato salad and watermelon for the big 4th of July party being held at my parents that afternoon. Just as I was about to take a shower, I noticed his tablet laying on the kitchen table. I had been searching for the truth that I already knew in my heart for months.
I had rummaged through drawers that weren’t mine, checked receipts inside pockets, and flipped through his day planner, hoping whatever I found would put me at ease. It never did. My searching only incited more anxiety, and more fear over not being able to trust myself. I never found anything anyway, so maybe I was crazy, like I had so often been told. Maybe all my unease, anger and depression were just ME. Maybe I was the problem.
I opened the iPad and clicked on his email account, assuming it would be locked with a password. To my surprise, his account opened right up, glaring brightly and temptingly on the screen. I looked around, even though I was alone. I scanned the inbox, but saw nothing odd. Then I clicked on “trash” and saw her name written on 4 emails. I opened the latest one.
As I read, my world simultaneously collapsed. The already silent room became deafeningly quiet. The neighbor’s lawn mower and the kids playing basketball across the street sunk into the background, like a song fading out of a movie. I braced myself on a chair. I sat down and read every email, and then again, just to be sure I understood what I was reading. She loved him, deeply and achingly. They wanted to run away together. Their bodies fit together perfectly. They needed each other in ways they both yearned for, ways their spouses did not fulfill.
Despite having this evidence, I still didn’t trust myself. I must be misreading. My spouse would never cheat, let alone be in love. He told me that over and over again. Maybe I still had this wrong. Maybe there was an explanation.
Finding out someone you trust has betrayed you creates significant trauma in the body and the mind. Where you already felt small, you feel even smaller. The fog of a misrepresented past, and the weight of an unknown future, sends you into free-fall, and you have no idea when or where you will land.
In yoga, every experience we have creates a mental imprint, a groove or a scar. These wounds to our psyche are both mental and physical. They affect not only beliefs about ourself, but beliefs about the world. They get tucked inside our cells, and our body sends messages to our brain, about who we are and what we deserve. Our inner critical voice gets very loud, and we tend to further the abuse, rather than treat ourselves with the kindness and compassion we deserve. To heal, the emotions and the beliefs need to be acknowledged, accepted, and fully felt, in order to be released. Otherwise, the wound will repeatedly be opened, and cause us more pain.
The Process of Healing Your Body and Your Mind after Infidelity Looks Like This:
Step 1: Feeling and moving through grief.
Step 2: Learning to trust ourselves again.
Step 3: Reclaiming our hijacked identity.
Step 4: Keeping our heart open – so we can give and receive love.
Step 5: Moving forward with a whole sense of Self, rather than being defined by someone else’s actions.
How does yoga heal? Yoga tackles our issues at our cells. Research shows that for many victims of trauma, the event stays in the body long after the threat is gone. This is why PTSD can last for years, even without the victim remembering any of the events or details. Our body knows. Our body remembers. A wonderful book that explains where trauma lives, and how yoga helps to transform the mind and body after trauma, is Bessel van der Kolk’s, The Body Keeps the Score.
If betrayal is hidden in our cells, we are basically operating continually through the lens of mistrust and low self-worth. We might overly blame ourselves, thinking if we could have been a better spouse, a better-looking spouse, a more attentive spouse, then our partner would not have sought out someone else.
We might constantly feel the need to check in on someone’s whereabouts, or question what they say, never really knowing if we can trust our intuition.
Most importantly, if you are deciding whether or not to stay with your partner or leave, we are unable to make a good decisions for ourselves from a place of pain or fear. We make much better choices when we have a strong sense of who we are, when we view ourselves as a whole person, autonomous in our own right, rather than rely on someone else to make us whole or complete.
I think this was the most shattering part of the experience for me – the reality that I did not know who I was without my husband. I did not know who I was without this life.
Through yoga, we begin by befriending the body, and slowly learn to trust what our heart tells us. In doing so, we gain access to a very wise inner teacher, one that has always been there but has never been acknowledged. Some call this a gut instinct or intuition. I call it walking through the world with an open heart.
After Betrayal, Keeping Your Heart Open is the Last Thing You Want to Do…
A very normal reaction to infidelity is to shut down, and close off all sensations of grief, anger, and fear. Yoga helps us tune in to what we are actually feeling, in a compassionate and loving way, so we can move through the feelings and release them.
Once we allow difficult or suppressed emotions to move through, we can ask ourselves, what is true about me, about my worth, about my future? And we can trust what our heart tells us. We can emerge from an affair with a greater sense of Self than we ever had before. We can stand strong in our decision to stay or to go. When we take action from the position of a whole Self, as an autonomous being with rights and choices, we can move forward with confidence, and without being controlled by someone else’s actions or beliefs about us.
A strong and autonomous emotional self is what we all deserve, and what we need in order to live our most fulfilled and authentic life. From this viewpoint, as a whole person, it no longer matters what someone else did to us. We can move forward with or without them because we know who we are – and we accept that.
I’ll be honest, this journey takes a lot of work and willingness. But it is worth it. The discoveries about myself and my capacities since my divorce are life-changing and profound. Through yoga, meditation, therapy, and the support of others, I have grown into a stronger, more loving, more fulfilled person. I share a healthy co-parenting relationship with my ex, and while his past actions have affected me, they do not define me.
I am offering a brand new course this October called A Return to Self After Infidelity. This 6 week, live online course will walk you through the steps above, and teach you the practices that have helped me and many others to heal and transform. So you can not only survive infidelity, but reclaim your truest, brightest Self.
Molly Chanson, MA, RYT, has been a practicing yoga student for over 25 years and completed her teacher training at the renowned Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts. Molly is an educator, writer, and entrepreneur. Molly taught Writing and International English courses at Columbia College Chicago for 14 years. After having her two boys, Molly moved back to Wisconsin with her family and began writing her debut memoir, A Return to Self through the Eight Limbs of Yoga to be published next year.
Molly is founder of an online yoga membership for transformation called, The Practice, and leads retreats that teach yoga and writing as research-based tools to heal trauma and cultivate resilience. For more information about Molly’s latest course on infidelity, and to receive the early bird discount, go here.