after the affair
Rebuilding your self-esteem after the affair can be a daunting challenge, but it can be done.

Experiencing the trauma of an affair can be bad enough to endure, but one of the most devastating aspects of an affair is the effect it can have on your self-esteem.  It can make you feel that you are a terrible, worthless person.  After all, why else would your spouse have an affair and risk your relationship?  Rebuilding your self-esteem after the affair can be a daunting challenge.

Linda still struggles with this often.  She frequently has bouts of low self-esteem where she questions everything from her looks to whether she is a good conversationalist. 

These concerns have absolutely no basis in fact, but since the affair, her self-esteem took a big hit. I feel extremely bad about that as there was really never any issue with her personally–physically or otherwise, and did not contribute to me having an affair at all.

Experts suggest that the first thing you need to do is realize that you are not a terrible, worthless person.  You’re not perfect, but then nobody is. The affair was not your fault. You also should realize that your cheating spouse had an affair because of a flaw in his or her character.  This flaw caused the affair—not you!

You may be partially responsible for problem issues that existed in your marriage before the affair, and you will be jointly responsible for the future of your marriage, but the affair was the cheater’s fault.

Feeling Worthless After the Affair

Remember that the cheater is actually having an affair with a fantasy, and that is what the injured person is competing with.  The cheater places the affair partner on a pedestal and the poor victim often buys into the thought that he or she is less than worthy.  The victim feels as though he or she must be a terrible person for the spouse to cheat.

Dr. Frank Gunzburg says that “What you need to do is keep in mind that the cheater is demonizing you.  Your partner is living in a fantasy world and may very well be rewriting history to match that fantasy.” Even more curious is that often, the cheater never actually verbalizes this to the victim. Rather, the victim assumes it to be true.

Gunzburg suggests that you don’t take on the burden of the affair, but instead remind yourself of these truths when you are struggling with feelings of worthlessness after the affair:

1. A character flaw in the cheater caused the affair.  It’s is the cheater’s responsibility.

2. Your partner may be rewriting history based on his or her need to justify his or her position regarding you and your marriage.

3. Your partner has an investment in placing a “halo” around his or her affair partner while demonizing you.

To help you rebuild your self-esteem , Dr. Gunzburg further says:

“If you keep these three things in mind, it will help you realize that the affair isn’t about you, that it isn’t your fault it happened…and that you don’t have to suffer with feelings of worthlessness after the affair.”    

Now it may take more than this to heal your weakened self-esteem after the affair, but it is a good start.  His book, “How to Survive an Affair”treats the issue more fully.

    6 replies to "Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem After the Affair"

    • Jennifer

      My disclaimer: Today is a bad day.
      I wouldn’t say that my self-esteem was very high at any time in my life. When my husband showed me attention – the fact that he cared enough to want to marry me – that’s when my self esteem grew. Of course now, all that is shot to hell. I can tell myself (and others) that I’m worthwhile and attractive, but I don’t truly believe it. Fake it til you make it, right? I guess I’ve just always been one of those “It won’t happen to me” people. But no one is immune. Building back my self-esteem seems to be harder for me than accepting and moving past the affair. Or maybe the two things aren’t different at all, maybe it’s all rolled together in one big ball of crap I’ll never get past. Headed to the forum now…

      • admin

        Jennifer, I think the self-esteem issue has been the toughest for Linda too, and I agree that it is “one big ball of crap.”

    • Debbie

      I never met OW, but my H always described her as needy, addicted to painkillers and having very little self-worth – an “emotional vampire.” He took it upon himself to supply her with validation and attention with which to feed her self-esteem. When he ran out, he stole from me and fed it to her. In his defense, I will say that this happened right around his 40th birthday, and right around the time of his father’s death. This predatory female unhappy with her primary relationship saw his weakness – her opportunity – and had no fear of consequences, turning a blind eye to the damage she was causing. Ignorance. You’d think I’d be able to forgive someone’s ignorant behavior, now wouldn’t you? I keep telling myself that anyway.

    • lass00

      This is also what I am not dealing with very well. I was the most confident person in the world until this happen now I question every thing I do. I lost over 100lbs before my husbands affair and when I was in the process of all that loss of weight is when I found out he was having an affair with someone thin and sexy and very pretty. I can say all I want how good I have done with everything but I still feel like a slug. Now my husband does tell me everyday how proud he is of me but I have a hard time believing him. I tell myself everyday its ok I am better person mother and friend than her. I am prettier than her. God doesn’t like ugly and what she did was ugly!!!! Chin up I will be alright!!!

      • admin

        Wow a 100 lbs!! Good for you! Linda also has a hard time trusting that I really mean what I say sometimes. It’s getting better every day though.

    • Michael

      With the topic today I wanted to share a bit of me. An email I sent my wife while she was still talking to him. While she was still unsure what she wanted.
      I have to mention this was after I had found his pictures and learned a lot about him. How unattractive he was. How he was stringing his wife along. And how much of a scum bag he is. My self esteem wasn’t in the toilet at that point.
      Although I still have days where I feel low self esteem, I know its not going to last long. I have, from this, become a whole lot more confident in myself. And I care a lot less what others think of me. I feel much better about me and how I handled everything. I think I have done most things right and am still waiting for her.

      I AM ME. Take it or leave it.

      “I have never been the most attractive man in the room. Rejection was something I experienced a lot in the early part of my life. The girls I liked weren’t looking for me. And the ones that were, I wasn’t interested in. For that I suffered a lot of self esteem issues. I used selfishness as a self defense mechanism. A few of SHORT relationships were the result of that. When I found (my ex girlfriend), I was feeling better about myself. I had changed back to just wanting to please somebody with no regard to my own happiness. She fed on it and tore me down to nothing of who I was. (My best friend) will tell you I was miserable in that time of my life. Forgetting who I was, to do whatever I could to make her happy without success. And in the end she flushed me from her life like trash. She found others to give herself to. I came home empty and broken.
      That’s when you found me. The two of us found strength in each other that we were laking. I found someone who saw me for who I was inside. Someone I could give my all to without asking me to change who I was (Until now). You have drive that I don’t always have unless pushed to it. And you are beautiful beyond anything I could ever hope for in a partner.
      Some where this last year, maybe because of the money issues or just life in general, selfish started to come back to me. And I saw your independence, your priorities for everything but me, and your closed in emotions, things that you have always had, as rejection of me. Instead of trying to help you with your feelings I thought only of me and my needs.
      When threatened with what happened to me in the past this time I pushed beyond myself to defend my family. I should never have asked you or forced you not to talk to him. But I saw him as a threat to you and still do. I should never have tried to make you let me into that part of your life. It is none of my business what you have to deal with in your head. All that I deserve is what you give and share with me. I’ve always wanted to help you in any way I can, but if you don’t what my help or don’t think I can help, its none of my business. I will take and hold dear whatever you give me.”

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