Your friend calls deeply upset, shaken declaring, “they had an affair.” The air leaves the conversation. The stilted dialogue becomes upsetting; the questions swirl: How do you reconcile this news? How do you hold your friend’s news amidst your own anxiety and fear? You know it could happen so easily to you. You mumble a few choice words, offer apologies and your condolences, ask what they’re going to do. And hang up as soon as possible.
So often, when news of a friend’s infidelity filters into our conversations, the reaction is personal fear. You end up concentrating on your own marriage, your relationship; what’s happening in your marital bed. You try to recall the last time you made love to your spouse, your lover and you wonder, if you haven’t in awhile, “will it happen to me too?”
How to survive infidelity and betrayal is a deeply personal decision.
There’s a common misperception that a set of rules that blanket religious dogma will keep you safe. Or you wrongly imagine that your community of friends would never have an affair. You consider how you grew up, your dad, uncles, and aunts - would they have had an affair? Did they step out of the marriage? Is that what that fight you overheard as a kid was all about?
The news of any affair brings up power imbalances in all relationships - including yours.
The story makes you look at how your default behavior has been playing out over the course of your marriage. The news makes you consider what you need to do differently.
Have you ever noticed how each time you hear about an affair, you begin to focus almost entirely on your spouse mentally chastising them for all the mistakes they’ve made? Are you aware of how you immediately begin the dance of “if I do this, they’ll love me…” forgetting that you too have a vested stake in keeping yourself whole, fulfilled, and respected in your marriage?
Below are 3 tips on how to survive infidelity and divorce whether you’re the one directly experiencing the news or not. These tips are about you - not your lover and this time around they’re also about your reactions to the news of others’ heartaches.
One of the biggest mistakes in marriages is putting your partner first over and over again.
Wouldn’t it be nice to take back your power and focus on your own well-being and happiness?
Take back the focus and take care of you.
Selflessly giving, giving, giving =’s exhausting, resenting, no sexing… (couldn’t resist). When you over give to the point you’ve nothing left to offer, it’s impossible to show up generous, desirous or wanting your lover. No adult needs another child - they need a partner. They need reciprocity. They need mutual adoration, acceptance, conversation, fun, and intimacy.
The moment you find yourself over-sharing, over-giving, over-indulging and catering to the adult in your bed… you’ve become, essentially, their mother or father. And we don’t make love to our parents.
You’re allowed to take time for yourself - to do things that recharge your energy and drive. Things that turn you on so that you have something to share and something new to talk about. You’re allowed to ask for your spouse to uphold his or her marital agreements to provide intimacy. You’re allowed to play as two consenting adults.
This is how you survive infidelity - you make sure your needs are met so there’s no need for an affair.
Put up boundaries.
Your friend’s relationship truly has little to nothing to do with your lover, your partner, your relationship, your marriage. It has to do with them and theirs. If you’re the kind of person who loves living their own personal reality TV show, you’re making a huge mistake. That story you’re watching has nothing to do with what’s really going on.
Like a reality TV show, there’s been an entire life happening behind the news you’re hearing about. When you indulge the story, remember, you’re simply getting the highlight reel!
Don’t fall prey to the machinations of an angry and hurt partner. If you do, you’ll start making up dialogue and question your own partner’s behavior. You’ll follow along blindly and neglect your own self-care that includes enjoying and adoring your lover. It’s important to keep your thoughts clean and focused on what you want. Not on what your friend is dealing with. I’m going to go as far as to say: It’s actually not a healthy friendship when or if your relationship begins to fall apart because you’re not keeping yourself in a healthy boundary.
Equalize the power in your relationships
Just as important as it is to make sure you have boundaries with your friendships, is to maintain equal footing with your lover married or not. When power imbalances begin to occur - due to wealth, education, personality, illness, social ease and comfort, worries and fears begin to creep in. You wonder if your relationship is on an even keel asking: “Are they being faithful?” “What are they doing when they travel for work?” “Do they need me now that they’re earning more money than I am and I’m staying home raising the kids?”
When there’s a power imbalance between lovers, there are many parts of the relationship that are too easy to blame.
A spouse making more money or a lover able to travel are opportunities to break agreements at home. When status changes, it’s important to have a frank conversation. To reevaluate the agreements, and make sure that the two of you are on the same page. Renegotiating the terms, redefining the roles has to happen all the time in partnerships - you don’t get to just do it by default.
If you are just doing it by default, know you’re inviting in trouble. And there’s no reason to invite in trouble!
As those around you struggle with their relationships, reevaluating your own requires the willingness to own up to what’s not working while also being able to keep others’ stories from affecting your commitments to one another. You can survive infidelity and divorce - especially when you don’t make others’ issues something for you to worry about.
If this conversation touches a nerve for you and your circle of friends, consider joining me this September in my online classes doingDivorce School. Applications will open the first week of September (a page will be added on this site) and I’m looking for those thinking about, going through or recovering from infidelity, divorce, and in the midst of recreating their lives. Divorce is an equal-opportunity experience - all are welcome to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org