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The Silent Killer: Infidelity

Tiffani Davis, M.A., M.A.C.P

The Day Time Stood Still

Has your reality been shattered by the silent relationship killer known as infidelity? I call it a silent killer because as soon as the seed is sown, it begins infecting your relationship with lies and secrets until D-Day; the day the betrayal is exposed. D-Day is the day time stood still, and all hell broke loose as you learned about everything that seemed to be happening right under your nose. 

Unanswered Questions

Some relationships survive the poisonous effects of infidelity, but it’s by no means easy. It can be challenging to describe the devastation of being betrayed. Maybe you're the only one impacted by the betrayal. However, if children are involved, their world might be turned upside down also. What a delicate balance trying to hold it together while deflecting the fiery darts of infidelity. How can someone who's supposed to love you and love their family inflict so much damage and expose everyone to such pain? Your mind burns with many unanswered questions. Why did this happen? Where did it happen? Who was the other person? How long has this been going on? How did they find the time?  No matter how hard you try, you can’t close your eyes without reliving the devastating events that keep playing in your head. The pressure in your chest from the hurt, embarrassment, and anger is almost unbearable, and you can’t seem to catch your breath.

Signs of Trauma

The feelings caused by betrayal can create relationship trauma. I know you probably think that’s just another new-age label to slap on something that many people have experienced. But, before you close your mind, stop reading, and start rebuking spirits, think about this. Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, and diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Trauma isn't just something that soldiers experience as a result of being in combat. Adulterous acts can make a once happy home a war zone with family members being the casualty of the selfish immature behaviors of the adulterer. 

Signs of relationship trauma can mirror that of PTSD. Symptoms may be:

  • Intrusive thoughts that won’t go away
  • Roller coaster of emotions
  • Out of body experiences​
  • Alternating between feeling numb and striking out in retaliation
  • Inability to stop scanning for any new data that might cause more distress
  • Feeling overwhelmingly powerlessness and broken
  • Overwhelming need to regain self-worth by assigning blame
  • Confusion and disorientation

Shattered Reality

Infidelity is often an unexpected attack on one’s reality and emotional and physical health. Think about how a person’s reality is shattered when someone you invested years of your life in, trusted, and were fully committed to betrays you. The betrayal leaves you questioning everything you thought was real and second-guessing every minute of your past with that person.

You might feel like you're living with a stranger because the actions that were exposed seemed so far removed from the person you thought you knew; the person you shared every intimate detail about yourself with. The one person you were willing to reveal the real you and be vulnerable around. Was anything real? Did they really love you? What about the plans you all made for the future? You feel like an answer would make it all make sense. But all answers fall short of the comfort and understanding you thought they'd bring.  

Now you're feeling dazed, confused, and duped. You are disconnected from your feelings because they can no longer be trusted. One minute you are filled with hate and vengeful thoughts, while other times your heart and your body yearn to be touched by them again. Now your own feelings are betraying you because you told yourself you’d never let them come back into your life. They aren’t safe, and you don’t want to be hurt again.  You feel an urgency to make a choice about the relationship. But do you trust your mind or heart that now seem to be in opposition to one another?  

Path To Healing

Everybody’s path to healing is different, but you can heal. 

Strategies you may find effective in your healing process.....

Be Present focused. It’s easy to get drawn back in the past, particularly when things trigger unpleasant memories. You have to discipline your mind and not allow unpleasant thoughts to steal the peace and joy in your present. When you find your mind drifting backward and causing you to experience negative emotions, begin to focus on where you are now and what you have to be thankful for.

Forgive. It bears repeating that forgiveness is not about the one being forgiven; it's really about you. When you forgive someone you aren’t saying what they did to you doesn’t matter. What you're saying is you won’t exert any more energy harboring anger, resentment, regret, or other painful emotions fueled by unforgiveness. You are taking your power back and not letting your emotions be controlled by someone else’s actions. You won't let your healing be contingent on someone's apology you may never get. Or, let it be based on their understanding of your pain; they may never be able to or care to.

It may not be fair, but while they may be responsible for your pain, you are responsible for your healing. When you are freed from unforgiveness, you can make room for joy and peace to fill your heart.

Meditate. Give yourself a break from always trying to figure out what to do next. Sometimes clearing your head and not thinking about anything or reflecting on something you're grateful for can help you find clarity.

Correct Perspective. Remind yourself this hurtful time is a chapter in the story of your life. It’s not the whole book! You have the power to write the next chapter.

Journaling. Journaling is great for many things, one of which is catching runaway thoughts. Capturing our feelings and insights on paper can help keep them in the proper perspective and not inflate them. It can also help you to write the better, happier next chapter of your life as you record your hopes and desires.

Get Support. Patterns can be difficult to break, and you may find it overwhelming to deal with relationship trauma. If you find it challenging to move forward you may need someone to help guide you through the healing process. If you are reconciling with your partner, you can seek help together and individually. 

Living Your Best Life

There are no quick solutions to heal a broken heart, especially one that has been trampled on by the silent killer called infidelity. One must let go of the burdens of hurt, anger, and distrust infidelity causes, whether moving forward with their partner or without them. Remember, it’s always darkest before dawn, so don’t give up on living your best life.

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