Life Does Not Stop Spinning For Infidelity

it isn't fair that the aftermath of infidelity happens on top of the life that we had planned on living. That life gets derailed for a time, and that time can vary widely from person to person. But life doesn't stop for trauma or illness or death. It just keeps spinning, and eventually we catch up. But when we do, it can be a real gut punch to look back and see wht we missed.

The hard and sometimes messy choices you made in response to fear or from a place of trauma do not define you, nor make you a bad person. You did the best you could with the knowledge you had.

- Dr. Caroline Leaf

Any ordinary life contains regrets, but betrayal generates a whole new level. I'm sure most of us could easily rattle off a lengthy list, but today I'm focusing on a specific set of regrets created by the aftermath of infidelity.

Life does not stop spinning for infidelity, and I think an additional cruelty is the regrets created in the life that continued to play out while trying to wrap our heads around the betrayal. I know for me, I have many regrets regarding the quality and depth of parenting and emotional availability I could offer my kids, friends, family, and even my husband.

I told my first counselor how guilty I felt for not having the energy or mental focus to attend to my kids like I normally would, and she compared the experience to someone with cancer. She asked me, “Would you judge someone with cancer who didn't have enough energy to parent her kids the way she wanted to?” And of course I would not. She explained that my mind and body were in a state of emergency, not all that different from the cancer patient. But I was unable to offer myself the same grace, piling the guilt on top of the pain I was already experiencing and feeling like a complete failure as a wife, mother and person.

It would be nice, if after the revelation of infidelity in our marriage, we could press pause on life for a while, and devote ourselves to survival. As though the world would say, “Just take the time you need, and when you're ready to resume life, just press “play.” Until then you won't miss anything or screw anything up.”

But unfortunately, that's not how it works. Life goes on in the midst of betrayal and recovery. It doesn’t stop for you to heal. Kids need you. Bills have to be paid. The laundry needs to be done. The lawn needs to be mowed. Birthdays and holidays will still rear their painful heads on the calendar, with no consideration of your feelings.

And while all that is happening, children grow up. Jobs change. Opportunities are lost. We age. People die. Pandemics happen. And so on.

With socially acceptable losses like natural disaster or death, grief is met with understanding and space to mourn. Help is offered, funerals are held, time for grieving is allotted, time off from work is normal and expected. Friends gather and offer love and understanding, and maybe even bring chocolate. But betrayal is often dealt with in secret and in isolation, as has been the case for me. Hiding in plain sight while the rest of the world keeps spinning; no one knowing the silent despair hidden behind the facade.

Six months went by, then a year, maybe two, or even more. Looking back, I see those missed opportunities. Missed connections. The school events where I was nothing more than a shell, sitting on bleachers or in the auditorium seats, and using every molecule of energy in my body just to stop myself from dissolving into a puddle of tears. I didn't see his big win, or really hear his solo. I didn't feel the energy of the crowd. I don't remember the conversation on the ride home as he explained the behind the scenes of it all. I didn't ask many questions. I didn't suggest we go out for ice cream. I just wanted to go to bed. Did he notice? I don't know, but I did. And now that season is gone, and several others like it, and I missed it. I regret not being there. I was physically present, but my mind was a million miles away. I was so overwhelmed, I could not focus on anything in front of me. I could only pretend, with a fake smile plastered on my face. In my darkest moments, I wanted to die to escape the pain. It's all I could think about. And now I feel so guilty for missing those moments, and have so much regret. What kind of mother have I been? What else did they need from me that I didn't have the capacity to give? Have I damaged them? Made them feel unloved or unappreciated? Will I ever be able to make it up to them now that they are moving into adulthood? Is it too late?

Because there was such a long gap in between the affair and the disclosure, I feel like I failed my kids when they were little, and then again as young adults. It feels like I didn’t do any of it right, and that I deeply regret. There are no do-overs. I missed the joy of being mentally and emotionally present with my kids, and now will never have the chance to do it again. I regret losing my old adventurous self. The mom they saw was not the person I used to be. During the affair, I was wrapped up in my fear and anxiety of what was happening to my life. I felt powerless to stop what was going on right in front of me. I can easily play Monday morning quarterback now, to see how I could have handled things differently, but I was so lost, confused, and scared that I felt helpless as I watched my life spiral out of control.

Our family experienced meaningful and memorable events after D-Day, but some I barely remember as I was not fully present. And now some of those opportunities are lost and will never happen again. Kids have moved out, and those special times we were a family all under one roof will never happen again. And I missed the final moments of that. I know I have lost connections with other people, some of which I will probably never get back. A longtime friend said recently they thought they had offended me as I essentially ghosted them for a few years. They have no idea what we have been through, and only saw the lack of effort on my part in our relationship.

It isn't fair that the aftermath of infidelity happens on top of the life that we had planned on living. That life gets derailed for a time, and that time can vary widely from person to person. But life doesn't stop for trauma or illness or death. It just keeps spinning, and eventually we catch up. But when we do, it can be a real gut punch to look back and see what we missed. But as my first therapist told me, it isn't fair, and it really isn't any more in our control than the person fighting cancer.

I have many regrets, but I can't change that now. Now that I am in a better place, all I can do is try not to miss any more moments, forgive myself for what was beyond my control, and love the people in my life to the best of my ability. So if you have these regrets too, don't beat yourself up. You are only human and can only manage so much at one time. I tell this to myself as well, and as I heal, I am arriving at a more positive perspective on this. I did the best I could, and so did you.

You became who you needed to be in order to survive. But now it's time to become who you need to be so you can thrive in life. Change is coming. It's time to embrace it.

- Topher Kearby

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the aftermath of infidelity: what did we miss?

Prior to the DDay revelation, we were fully engaged with Life. Our family, our Loved Ones, our friends, the community we lived and worked in, all knew us as active participants in our relationships. We ourselves embraced each day with a positive spirit, with what can we create today, how do I fulfill this role of who I am, what are the expectations of those around me. I went along believing my Life was solid, was under control, that I was loved and that I loved some one else as good as I knew how. I trusted me, I trusted her, I trusted the universe, I trusted God. All of that changed for me literally overnight, in the blink of an eye. A sudden and complete devastation of all of that Life. I had no prepared response, no training for this, I was completely vulnerable and exposed. She had not given me any reason to doubt her, I did not see trouble on the horizon. We did not have arguments, had no issues we were not dealing with. I believed our communication and our bond was fully intimate and inviolable. So when your heart gets ripped out, your mind, your body, your soul, all of what constitutes YOU, is blown up. You could not participate any longer in the spinning of Life, in that world you previously created and had known. It is now just before Christmas, and it is almost my first year in recovery, and it was a blur. I did this and I did that, I went places, I was in the office, I talked with my daughters and a few close friends. But every single day of this year I was tormented by trying to figure out what happened, and what do I do now. All of the things I used to spend mental energy on, like my work, my passions of fly fishing and golf and skiing, my friends, my daughters, everything took second place to trying not to cry, to praying incessantly, to just breathing sometimes. I'm lucky: whatever I did this year to survive seems to be working, every day I feel better about myself and the Trust I have about Life is being restored. It was ok to let life go on spinning without me. I am focused now on re-entry: I am not the same person anymore, and I cannot just pick up where I left off. I don't have any answers, but what I do know is that there is Peace and Grace and Love for us who are trying so desperately to regain our footing. No matter how dark it seems, there is a wonderful community of people like Jen whose words hold so much Wisdom and Inspiration. Please keep writing Jen, I see myself reflected in your journey and it gives me Hope. Thank you. Raphael


You said it well, you had no training, no preparation for this. We are all taken off guard and sent reeling, and our normal lives are no longer normal at all.

You inspire me with your perspective and your reflection. You said what you have done so far seems to be working as you feel better about yourself and about life. I'm so glad to hear that. You are strong and hopeful, which is a great combination.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, as always.

Thank you

Hi, I appreciate your words at this time. I am happy to see that life does go on. I have been doing well for many days, but I recently have been thinking about what I did miss during the time between the affair, which was 7 years and then D day. So must is lost, that the gut punch is real and hard to get over. Another mini trauma and grief starts all over again. Your words are helpful and I appreciate them as they help soothe my tender and fragile heart. S

Shared feelings of guilt

Jen, the timing of your article is freakishly coincidental and your feelings (once again) are freakishly similar to mine. I, like you, looking back, have often felt VERY guilty about not being fully present for my two children, but especially for my son, who was in highschool during the aftermath of my discovery. Currently we are now trying to help him cope with his academic struggles as a sophomore in college. It is just baffling to us because academics were NEVER a problem for him in highschool; he was in honors classes. We are desperately trying to figure out why in the world he is struggling so much academically in college right now. I can’t help but to instantly point to myself and our lack of parenting during those crucial last years of highschool when he was home with us. Could I have done more? Did I miss something that I shouldn’t have emotionally in him? Did he sense my husband and I’s “secret” struggles with our marriage and not tell us? Was he struggling to process our “junk” secretly, on his own? Every logical part of my brain tells me that I should not blame myself, but how can I not?
When you described being at your child’s events “physically” but not mentally, that was me…exactly! Therefore I have the remorse from wondering: If I could’ve just been more of a parent back then, would he be struggling so much right now? Could my lack of parenting back then be a direct result of his academic struggles now?
Obviously, I know that I can’t go back and change things, so being strong and dealing with the current situation together with the love and support of my husband, I know that we will eventually help our son overcome this obstacle in his life together, just like we have worked to overcome our marital “failure”.
But, Jen, I just felt the need to express you, once again, how reading your words, and seeing them in black and white, written down, has helped to make me feel less “crazy”. Knowing that someone else has experienced equally similar feelings elicits such a calming exhale of normalcy. Again, thank you for sharing your story as its parallels to mine have helped me more than you’ll ever know.

Thank you so much kc0827

I'm sorry your son is struggling, and that you have the question in your mind whether you are "responsible" due to your limitations during recovery. It's so hard. Parent guilt is hard to begin with and we often blame ourselves for more than is warranted, but adding in the overwhelm of infidelity made me feel so inadequate all the way around, including as a parent.

We will never know if our situations "caused" some of these other problems. They may have played out regardless, but the self blame is really hard. I really struggle to think my kids thought I was disinterested in them. I have always been very involved but I really checked out for a while and they don't know why, so I worry they just felt unimportant. It still bothers me, but I am trying to focus on being present for them now, as it's all I can do.

Having you say reading this provides you with relief to know you are not alone in your experience is such a honor. Thank you for commenting and your kind words.

Jen, Your words…” Life does

Jen, Your words…” Life does not stop spinning for infidelity, and I think an additional cruelty is the regrets created in the life that continued to play out while trying to wrap our heads around the betrayal.” … so true! Thank you for always being so transparent. Your words give me pause. I appreciate that you are willing to share the true struggles and challenges and pain that seem to come along with this journey of recovery. I especially liked the end quote. I pray for a life that thrives. Unfortunately I am not yet there but can see hope on the distant horizon.
I continue to share this with my AR group! Wishing you a wonderful 2023 with continued healing.

Thank you pitter

I pray for a life that thrives as well, and I wish you blessings, healing, and a wonderful 2023 also 😊

I loved the honesty and truth

I loved the honesty and truth behind this post. As you so aptly state, life goes on in the midst of betrayal and recovery and one of the most devastating aspects of this is that we are often suffering alone. Despite being the betrayed, the shame and guilt that this has happened have many of us protecting this secret while suffering something akin to death. But at least a death would garner the sympathy and support from your family and friends. I have continued to "protect" my UH by saying nothing to no one keeping his reputation untainted while i takes the hits for ways in which the trauma bleeds into my life. The forgetfulness, the inability to deal with the little crisis's, the responsibilities of parenting that has me in tears because i can't cope with yet another mental task, the list goes on.

What i don't know yet is what is the bigger disservice to my children? The fact that i suffer in silence and am a shell of myself, or i've stayed and pretended for almost 3 years, hoping to preserve the innocence of their childhood just a little bit longer....


That is so hard. You can't know for sure what is right for your children in this situation, so you can just do what you think is best now, and reevaluate from time to time to see if you still agree. You can't know the future and none of us is prepared for this kind of devastation, so you are doing your best with the knowledge and tools you have right now, just like everyone else. Your kids have a mom who cares so much about them she tried to preserve their childhood. You have to give yourself credit for that, even if you decide in the end you need to do something differently.

I hear you on taking the hit for keeping it secret. I empathize with that. It's very hard and lonely. I'm sorry you are experiencing that.

I hope you find more peace and discernment for how to move forward in the coming year. I am thinking of you.

Betrayal AND cancer

You equated the Betrayed to someone with cancer. And I can relate. 15 months after our final disclosure I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk about a double whammy! I am still recovering from both the nuclear bomb and the diagnosis, & and I really can't tell you which was worse.... well, now that I think about it, actually I can, the betrayal of my husband was far worse than the cancer. His betrayal feels intentional cuts me deep in my soul. The breast cancer was probably the luck of the draw, it cost me both my breasts and I will probably have pain and numbness for the rest of my life. But I would have much rather had cancer than to have been betrayed like I was.


I'm so sorry you have had the added pain and trauma of cancer on top of infidelity. That must be so much to manage and my heart goes out to you. It definitely makes sense why infidelity feels personal and intentional, as opposed to cancer. That aspect is so hard to manage.

I wish you the best in healing, both physically and emotionally.

Honesty is so helpful


Your words resonated with me and spoke to my mind and heart tonight. I have been 18 mos from Dday2 and have been doing well most days. The emotional affair went on for 7 years from the original disclosure and then I found out a 2nd time for Dday2. My teen age daughter struggles the most with it as she knows what happened and is recovering from an eating disorder too. I agree with all of the words that you so eloquently wrote and find they are soothing to my soul. LIfe other has commented you have a gift to help us feel less crazy and contextualize our life which others do not need to know and would not understand. With your words, we feel less alone in our hurting space and we can allow ourselves grace and love. The part I struggle with is how I feel I have to do it all and be the keeper of the family. I must be present for my daughter who continues to heal while healing myself and working keeping "it all together." That is hard. Tonight I will sleep a little better knowing that I am not alone. Thank you

Hi Runner68

I'm glad you found some understanding and comfort in knowing you are not alone. I'm sorry that your daughter is experiencing so much hurt and confusion by everything that has happened. It is hard, as you pointed out, to be there fully for others - including our children - when we are still in so much emotional chaos.

I appreciate your comment and am thankful to hear you found some comfort here. I wish you the best in your continued healing. You are most definitely not alone :)

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