Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Life After Divorce: How the Unfaithful Sees It

Life After Divorce for Unfaithful

Today I’m publishing the second part of an article series we did on the difficult and sensitive discussion of divorce. If you’d like to read the first article in this series, you’ll find it here: https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/should-i-divorce-after-infidelity

I once heard it said, “love is blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener.” As a professional, I’ve always believed people to be profoundly naïve about marriage. However, that naïveté may be even higher when it comes to life after divorce. After our previous article on infidelity and divorce and challenges faced by the injured spouse, it seemed only appropriate to address the challenges after divorce for those who have been unfaithful.

Here are their thoughts and portions of their stories…

"Divorce didn’t solve our problems - it only delayed the resolution.”

Frequently the bitterness about the betrayal fuels the injured spouse’s anger for months and sometimes years after the divorce, making divorce recovery more difficult. “Issues of how to deal with our children weren’t solved by our divorce,” one man stated, “Rather, the kids became even more trapped between the two of us as a result of my mate’s anger about my infidelity and divorce.” Even if nothing is said to the children regarding the betrayal, ongoing anger can still cause the children to feel they are being disloyal when visiting the unfaithful mate. Making amends and doing anything possible to help your injured mate heal before and after the divorce is advisable.

"Financial support after my infidelity and divorce got complicated. Due to my guilt, I felt as if I had no choice when my mate would ask for additional financial assistance.”

While this could be a problem for any divorce, it’s complicated for those who have been unfaithful. If they feel responsible for the divorce as a result of their unfaithfulness they may feel an additional burden to help their mate. If they didn’t want the divorce, they may even use finances as a way to manipulate their ex into believing they have changed in hopes of regaining their ex-partners affection and admiration. This can lead to both parties living beyond their means, turning life after divorce into an even worse financial crisis. 

"The relationship with my children was complicated by their knowledge of my infidelity. They blamed me for the infidelity and divorce and didn’t want to see me.”

Far too often the children are used as pawns in the struggle that goes on after an affair. The injured spouse will threaten to tell the children about the infidelity to get the unfaithful spouse to conform. If that’s the case then divorce usually ends up with the children knowing what happened. This can cause the children to mirror the injured spouse’s hurt for the loss of the family and take on the same feelings of betrayal that the injured spouse exhibits. In these cases forgiveness becomes as big an issue for the children as it is for the injured spouse.

"Nothing prepared me for the intense loneliness. Many of our friends remained in support of my mate as a result of my infidelity.”

It’s one thing to split up assets; it’s another to split up friends. Many unfaithful spouses find themselves isolated after divorce due to the judgment of friends and family post-divorce. It hurts if the marriage doesn’t work out, but far too often the “infidelity factor” results in the unfaithful spouse feeling judged and isolated, losing much of their support after divorce making recovery more difficult.

 “Divorce didn’t take away my feelings of guilt for the infidelity. I thought being away from my mate would make it disappear, but it didn’t.”

“To this day, I carry a heaviness in my heart when I think of the pain that I inflicted not only on my former husband, friends and family, but primarily on my very own children. The children whom I carried within me, gave birth to, nursed, and raised are the very ones whom I have hurt the most. It hurts my soul to this day to see the agony and life-interruption  that my selfishness has caused. Nothing in the world is worth the price of one's family. No person is worth the pain inflicted upon the ones that are dearest and most-loved. To have had an affair is the single most selfish thing in the entire world that I have ever done, and I wish with all of my heart and soul that I could go back and change things or wake up to find that it was all a bad dream. Instead, I must own up to my own deception and selfishness, pray for forgiveness, and hope that I somehow am able to deter another from making the worst mistake of his or her life. It is an empty promise and a deception of self to believe otherwise. Life after divorce is heavy….trust me.” If one’s mate doesn’t extend forgiveness, the unfaithful spouse has to find forgiveness elsewhere. At the same time they may also be trapped by the bitterness created as a result of the divorce. Learning how to receive forgiveness as well as extending forgiveness are major recovery tasks for the unfaithful spouse post-divorce.

"I thought my mate’s anger would subside after the divorce, but it didn’t.”

The opposite of love isn’t hate- it’s indifference. Love and hate are both passion; all you are doing is changing the valance from positive to negative. When a relationship dies after divorce, both parties let it go and move on. There is a tombstone placed over that relationship that reads, ‘rest in peace.’ When infidelity occurs, however, this isn’t the case. Not only does the passion not die, it actually escalates to new heights.  The attachment wounds created by the infidelity can leave the betrayed spouse struggling with hatred for years to come, again making divorce recovery an uphill climb.

“Fulfillment was slower in coming than I anticipated.”

Of those interviewed, many said finding fulfillment after their infidelity and divorce was far more difficult than anticipated. They advised a significant degree of patience when it came to finding fulfillment. It is possible, but it took longer than any of them had anticipated. Research from the Institute for American Values supports this, showing that only 19% of unhappy spouses who divorced or separated were happily married five years later, while 64% of unhappy spouses who avoided divorce ended up happily married five years later*. For the unfaithful spouse, letting go and moving on can be just as difficult as it is for the injured spouse. As one woman put it, “Were I to have known then what I know now about life after divorce and infidelity, I would never have even entertained the thought of being attracted and allured by another man's affection. Were I to have fully experienced and felt the magnitude and depth of pain associated with the betrayal and destruction of my family beforehand, there is absolutely no doubt that I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Ironically, however, I was fully aware of the pain and destruction of divorce because I also was affected by the devastation of my parent's divorce and swore that I would not make the same mistake. Unfortunately, I did.” Learning to find peace and forgiveness within one’s self is critical to moving on, but infidelity and divorce frequently leave the unfaithful spouse under their own self condemnation and unable to move on.

Finding new life always requires letting go and finding forgiveness within oneself. For those who are struggling with this problem, I’d highly recommend finding support through a 12 step group, pastor or therapist, along with an infidelity-specific process for healing, like Harboring Hope for the Betrayed, or Hope for Healing for the betrayer. Such support is absolutely critical for long term healing and personal restoration.

Divorce is difficult and at times, unavoidable. Our hope is that each person is restored; unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean marriages survive. It’s not fair, but recovery requires work on the part of both the injured and unfaithful spouse. When that doesn’t happen, divorce frequently occurs. I hope that being forewarned will somehow help those post-divorce on their recovery journey.

 

*Waite, Linda J., Don Browning, William J. Doherty, Maggie Gallagher, Ye Luo, and Scott M. Stanley. "Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages." Institute for American Values (2002). Print.

 

 

 

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Comments

Divorce Comments

Great Article and I agree on most parts however, you don't talk about those of us where were betrayed, wanted to work on the marriage and were forced to deal with abandonment and divorce on the heels of our unfaithful spouses leaving us for their affair partners. I do not take divorce lightly and hate the impact on my young kids however, sometimes these affairs do not blow up in time to salvage the marriage. And all the work my soon to be ex-husband has to do is all on him. I can only work on me, his issues are his to fix - if he ever chooses to take responsibility and look in the mirror.

Divorce comments

I agree with the reply above. There are those of us who were betrayed and yet willing to work on the marriage and our unfaithful spouse divorced us and left for the affair partner. I'd like to hear from any unfaithful spouse who did this what their regrets were if any. I have yet to hear one remorseful word from my ex husband. It's especially hard to heal when infidelity is not even recognized as damaging or wrong.

I have no sympathy for

I have no sympathy for unfaithful spouses who have trouble healing. They should

Unfaithful Spouse Doing the Divorcing Even After Being Forgiven

What is an unfaithful spouse thinking when they are the one that has decided to leave the marriage, even after they have been forgiven by their mate? This is my situation and I just can't make any since of it. I love her and want to make a new marriage for us, but she does not even want to try.  She is not thinking about our kids.  I am daily leaning toward God and praying for a miracle.

 

Life after the D word

Interesting how this information is written from the unfaithful's perspective. It some ways, it enforces or provides validity to the betrayer in his or her reasoning to avoid separation or divorce. Items may be shown by research to be of common conclusion, however, when the spouse who was unfaithful chooses to remain in the patterns which led to infidelity, there is little resolution for the one "left".  Items mentioned above seem to support the unfaithful's line of blame or lack of commitment to change in that they suggest that divorce really does not make one happy.  Happy or not, the reality of the brokenness and despair is monumental and if there is not an exact, intentional, and sacrificial choice made to repair what was broken by subscribing to vows of marriage and the biblical mandate for marriage, then divorce becomes a viable solution to place one on the road to healing and self-restoration.

Life After Divorce

Thank you for the invaluable insights into life-after-divorce. I am the hurt spouse. Three years after D-day I am very hopeful for our marriage. I thank God for sparing our children the pain of infidelity and giving me Himself to forgive, love, wait and grow. Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. Romans 12:12 NCV

Too bad, so sad

I am the injured party. Not only did my wife lie, deceive, cheat (with multiple partners), and abandon myself (and our 2 children), she blames me for everything. I tried, even after discovery, to extend grace...I begged her to stay...I didn't want a divorce. She would have no part of it. I wept, I prayed, I tried to wait for her to come back. All to no avail. And now, my heart is cold toward her. I grew tired of hurting...and she still takes no responsibility for her transgressions. Oh, she admits the affairs...but that's only because she got caught. As the injured party, I should have been the one to want a divorce...but I didn't...though I was forced to seek an attorney and begin the process (for my own protection). I have said all of that to say this: It's really too bad if the unfaithful spouse feels torment over what they have done. They deserve to feel every bit of the pain and anguish they have wrought upon their families. Fine if they can find it in them to forgive themselves...fine if the injured can find it in them to forgive the unfaithful. But, in my particular case, I was forced to let her go, and since I have, well, now I have to rebuild my life with broken pieces. I do not care about how this affects her...it SHOULD make her feel bad. Heck, if she even showed the slightest bit of remorse over this, it would go a long way to help us heal...but it wouldn't save the marriage. If the unfaithful spouse feels bad over what they have done...I say, good. They deserve it.

Intense lonliness and divorce recovery

I was married for 26 years and with my now ex for almost 5 years before we got married.  We brought 2 children into the world and had a wonderful, loving marriage and family until I found out he was sleeping with a MAN.  Then he decided that he was lying to himself all of those years we spent together and wanted to be with men and go to gay night clubs...Not only am I lonely now because I cannot seem to trust anymore, but I've been divorced now for 6 years and because of the extent of his betrayal, recovery seems impossible at times.  I had fallen in love with him at first sight when I was 19 and we were together for almost 31 years until that horrible night...not to mention that this man, who I loved and adored, became abusive toward me...how does one get over that kind of betrayal and deep hurt?

Being the Betrayer AND the Betrayed.....

I agree with the comment about how having an affair that it is the most selfish act a person could commit. After living in a loveless marriage for several years I turned to the love and affection of another man. And I can honestly say it was the most horrid mistake I could have ever made. Like mentioned above in another comment I hurt everyone that I love and care about most. The guilt literally makes me sick. I have completed 4 weeks of intensive partial inpatient treatment to attempt to deal with the consequences of what I did. My husband could not forgive me and chose to move on and have an affair also. At that point I could 100% understand the magnitude of the pain I had caused my spouse. He did at one point say he would try to work on things and broke it off with the affair partner. But he could not get anywhere near healing or forgiving and with in a few weeks had contacted a ex-girlfriend from college and proceeded to start an affair with her. The divorce has been filed and he appears to be completely content with his current relationship. I must say that I have begged for forgiveness, tried eveything I can to remedy the situation and he is cold to it all. So now I am dealing with the devestation of him leaving me and being with the new partner. While I have a great deal of remourse over what I did and suffer with it greatly, he does not care a bit about what I am going through or the devestation that he is causing by his actions. A lot of comments above say who cares about the betrayer and that they are going through and that they deserve it. I disagree, no one deserves the pain and devestation. I grieve horribly about the pain I caused my husband and I take full responsibility for what I did. We are all human and God would never want use to wish pain on others. We are all called to love and forgive others. And believe me I know how difficult that is to do. I continue to struggle with the anger that the pain causes me and have to lean totally on the Grace of Jesus to continually struggle to forgive daily.

This is huge! I took

This is huge! I took Harboring hope and just forwarded this to my unfaithful, soon to be ex husband. I filed 2 days ago and served him at our counseling session today. The man of my dreams has crumbled into depravity, and I know it's not up to me to save him. I truly do hope we both find peace, and have the strength to move forward and become better versions of ourselves. These recent articles/posts couldn't have come at a better time!

Not all divorce is bad

I'm a Christian Catholic and believe in the sacrament of marriage with all my heart. You must do everything possible before considering a divorce. I agree with the powerful consequences of divorcing after an affair that are outlined in this article, but I also believe the article was not balanced. There are some good reasons to consider a divorce. My husband had an affair and although he was caught red handed, he never apologized, was remorseful or took responsibility. He refused counseling, wouldn't meet with our priest, but blamed me and told me off constantly while continuing to lie that he had stopped the affair. I was bed ridden from debilitating chronic disease during his affair and taking intravenous meds a couple times a day without any help from him. Finally, after forgiving him, being kind and loving, and doing everything I could to repair things, my priest said that he felt divorce was the healthiest option for the situation. While I was devastated by the divorce, it's been two years now and I'm so happy. Plus, my kids are doing great. I found a kind, loving, trustworthy man and I haven't looked back. Sometimes there's a better future with moving on.

Restored fully.

Thanks for your courage. However, forgiveness and happiness work hand in hand. You will find true happiness and peace when you genuinely forgive the fallen one. He or she need to he saved. Do your own part and let God do the rest, and you will find that true peace and wholeness you're searching for.
Most of the time what follows after divorce is bitterness and eternal reminder of the sins of another.
Good luck and may God give you peace and heal your tender heart. Amen.

Divorce

My wife and I are signing our divorce papers tomorrow after over forty five years of marriage. None of the topics listed and covered in this series address my situation directly, though Harboring Hope helped solidified my decision. I have been lonely for years as my wife goes about her adulterous life. A wasted life (forty four years/ thirty affairs), waiting for her to change. I have been advised that divorce will eliminate my financial exposure; not that it matters. I am hoping this will end the nightmare.

30 years down the drain

My expectations were reasonable...they were not met...now I will have to live with the status quo which is obviously cheating and being "forgiven" for it. Which to me means the unfaithful can feel extremely thankful that I accept him as my room-mate, financial partner and father of my children for the remainder of our long lives...Depressing

Divorce?

Thank you for Part I &II of this article. I have been contemplating divorce, and really trying to take my time to process everything. As the betrayed; I wanted reconciliation but he did not. I'm told that the affair is over all the whilst the other woman has befriended his family; which has placed me and my kids in an awful place. He chooses not to speak on it offer any type of way to work around these issues. This is why I've contemplated divorce. The entire thing makes me feel anxious and unsafe (emotionally) because I'm not being offered or provided with "next steps" to maintain or end the marriage. Its very confusing. Sometimes I ask myself is he doing alot of things out of guilt. This article gave me some insight

This article terrifies me.

This article terrifies me.

Still Makes Me Angry

Even after 3 1/2 years, over 2 years divorced, this topic still enrages me. I was the betrayed and did not want divorce, she filed for divorce 2 months after discovery. She is still with her affair partner, his marriage ended in divorce as well. Every time she contacts me or thoughts of her come up, I get angry. I have only been to an event with her present once (our son's wife's baby shower) and that was uncomfortable. I don't go to family events where she is present, and even her contacts to try to make arrangements so I can attend feel condescending and controlling. I can definitely say divorce did not make our relationship better, the opposite.

After some thought, I think what makes this difficult for me is the fact that she ended her marriage, his marriage, and now remain together, all the while repeating that she would like to become friends, maybe closer friends than when we were married. Give me a break!!!