Shame: The Two Sides of the Coin - Side 2: The Betrayed Spouse

Hello. This is Kristin. As an unfaithful spouse, one may argue that the shame I experienced post affair was expected, while unhelpful to my healing. One would expect that I would be feeling shame, guilt after what happened. I had betrayed the trust of my spouse, of my family, my friends, and maybe most importantly, myself. This type of shame is pretty standard.

However, there are two sides to the shame coin equally damaging, but one is much less understood. The shame a betrayed spouse may be feeling is a real and potentially crippling emotion. Thoughts are flying through your head a mile a minute. Why did this happen to me? What is it about me that caused them to cheat? Why was I not enough?

What are people going to think? What could I have done differently? To be clear, I hope you are not feeling this way. But based on my own experience and in speaking with other people, it's likely that you are having these kinds of emotions. We start to doubt ourselves. We thought we knew who we had married and we thought we could trust them.

And now it's all been thrown out the window. We're devastated. And at the same time, embarrassed. Shame is truly an unhelpful, corrosive emotion. Although difficult, no matter what decision we make to forgive or not to forgive, to stay with them or not to stay with them, it will be critical that we need to heal the shame that we've amassed within ourselves due to this ordeal.

So what should we do? The first thing to do is to think about building back trust within yourself. You may be questioning everything right now, and that's completely normal. You're not sure if you can even trust your own decision making. The key is to start building back up trust within yourself. Start by making a list of all the great decisions that you've made.

No matter how small or insignificant they are. The positive reinforcement will help you mentally work through this barrier. Remember you choosing to be trusting isn't a weakness. It's a sign of character and confidence. The second thing that we can do is to find compassion through community. Affairs are extremely prevalent in our society today. Just nobody likes to talk about it.

However, it's important during this time for you to understand that you are not alone. You are not the first spouse to be betrayed, and you certainly will not be the last. Finding community such as here within Affair Recovery or within a therapist group or maybe within a church organization, can be instrumental in helping you work through any shame that you're experiencing.

You'll start to understand that your story is not atypical. Hearing somebody validate your experience and feelings will help you start on the road to recovery. And lastly, and this one is tough. Understanding that they made their own choice. I won't sugarcoat it. This one's really hard, but it's absolutely necessary. During the midst of my affair, I would actually cry thinking about how much I was hurting my spouse, even though he didn't know about it at the time.

I thought about how unfair this was to him and how horrible he would feel if he ever found out. Spoiler alert: he found out and he felt completely horrible. My choice to have an affair was entirely on me. I didn't do it to spite my spouse. I didn't do it because he was lacking. I didn't do it because of him in any way.

Once you become more self-aware, you realize that the lack inside yourself was the reason that you chose to have an affair.

Now, this took me many years, but I can confidently say without a shadow of a doubt that this is the hard and fast truth. The unfaithful spouse's decision to have an affair has nothing to do with you. You were the unintended recipient of the extreme hurt caused by somebody else. It's like being hit by a drunk driver. You did absolutely nothing wrong, and someone else's horrible choice is causing you pain.

Am I saying that makes it okay? No, absolutely not. But please understand, we made our own choices and we did not think about the awful consequences that you would have to endure as a result. I won't pretend that these are easy concepts to apply or that you won't still struggle with shame. You will. All I can say is that I hope in time you regain your ability to trust and to recognize your own value and worth.

And I'll see you next time.

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Thought about spouse during affair?

I have trouble your statement "you thought and worried about your spouse and how you were hurting him" during your affair. To many blogs on Affair Recovery state very different mindset by the unfaithful. They even so far as to say that the unfaithful thought about their AP when with their spouse.
Also if you were so concerned or had such a guilty conscience why didn't you confess rather than get caught. Maybe in future posts you can clarify this area.

Thought about Spouse During affair

I am the WS.....this is a very complicated answer and one I continue to work on and look at. Its been 3 years (Sun 3/24) since D Day. I had a three year physical affair with a co worker. Having said all of this.....there were times of guilt after we would meet. sometimes during. People that have affairs are use to compartmentalization. Some are very good at it, others not so much. Over time, the compartmentalization broke me...I became angry, gas the point of it almost destroying me mentally and physically. Like a drug addiction, the dopamine rush became almost overwhelming. That is the medical reasoning.....the emotional and behavioral reasoning is more complicated. Like an addict, what traumas occurred in my life to make me think this way? Im still working through all of that......this does not excuse my actions in any way. My issues with our relationship at the time could have been handled in a more mature and caring way. I.....chose....not to do that. Just like a drug addict choses to use drugs. The difference is this is so personal..way more than a drug......My family and wife could probably have handled me being a heroin addict over committing an affair with more understanding. Trust issues, issues with affirmation and esteem, all play into the thought..or lack thereof, when one has an affair. Again, these are not and should not be excuses...they are reasons.......every person who is a WS has their own....its not a one size fits all is complicated beginning from childhood and how we are left to process certain incidents in life. Everyone processes things differently. My wife asked me...what if I had had an affair? would you see that?.......I honestly don't know. Its hard for me to think that way.....I've never been 100% committed to the relationship....I thought I was.....I thought I knew what love was, but have had to learn what it is and what it means.......My commitment may have been times to 70% at times.....never 100%........what I have seen and read over the years on this site and speaking with others....usually the BS has always been a 100% person and could never think another way. It is difficult for them to understand not being 100%. That is why it is so devastating to them. Me on the other hand, I have always been waiting for the other shoe to drop. relationships, work, family.......Its always been there.......I dont want to be surprised or disappointed first....Like I said, its complicated and has taken and will continue to take looking at this and myself for quite a while. I have been fortunate that my wife stiull loves me and wants to continue our marriage ..35 doubt, I have hurt her and our sons....This will always be a stain on our marriage....I have committed to continue to try and be a better person.....I'm not perfect....I make mistakes....I have to learn empathy and be cognizant of it...its not natural for me.....IDK...just some thoughts for you. Hope this helps in some way.

What type of affair was it?

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