After Infidelity: 4 Personal Transformation Stages for Betrayed and Wayward Spouses

When you are walking through a difficult chapter after infidelity, addiction or another significant crisis, you are likely looking for a few things: healing, peace of mind, clarity, understanding, personal restoration and perhaps even relational restoration. Ultimately, what we really want is transformation. We want this agony to be transformed into healing and joy.

We have a choice: We can either transmit our pain or we can transform it. We can do the recovery work that we need to do, we can get the expert help that we need to get, we can go through this difficult healing process and actually experience transformation — both personally and possibly even relationally. What I’m going to offer you today are four stages of personal transformation that apply to both the wayward spouse and the betrayed spouse.

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1. Waking Up

For the unfaithful spouse, this stage is easy to describe: It’s waking up to the reality of what our choices have done to our significant other. Waking up is breaking free of the fog and beginning to understand: I am unhealthy, and I need to get healthy.

  • If you come from faith, you start to realize your union with God or the deity your honor needs to be repaired.
  • If you don’t come from faith, you start to wake up to the fact that you need to heal yourself in order to become whole.

Waking up after infidelity is understanding that you need to take action and get the right help in order to fully heal and transform your pain.

For the betrayed spouse, waking up looks a little bit different. It’s a moment of clarity, it’s a moment of saying, “You know what, I’ve had enough of mourning and I’m going to embrace what is. I’m going to accept the life that I have, even though it’s not what I want and certainly didn’t ask for.” Accepting where you’re at makes room for personal transformation to begin.

2. Standing Up

Whether you’re the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse, there comes a point where you have to stand up to the trauma, the pain and the hurt. Standing up after infidelity sometimes means being a little bit selfish and taking care of yourself, prioritizing yourself, in order to facilitate your healing.

There came a time for me when I realized I had to stand up and fight back against the hopelessness, the despair and the self-pity. I had to stand up and do the recovery work I needed to do because healing was not going to be effortless. If you’re the betrayed spouse, you may have to stand up in order to be prioritized in this relationship. You may need to get help to work through your trauma, and you may need to enforce boundaries to protect yourself.

Standing up means fighting for your healing, your recovery and even your relationship, and it means taking whatever steps you need to take so this pain no longer controls your life.

3. Growing Up

After infidelity, we go through a maturation process when we realize healing is our responsibility and no one else can do it for us. Your spouse cannot carry your trauma, your pain or your hurt; they can help you and support you, but it’s on you to get healthy. When we get to this growing up stage, we encounter several truths that require us to evolve

  • We can’t hide from this pain.
  • We can’t change what happened.
  • We can’t live in denial.

Growing up also means embracing some new principles that we may not like. In his book “The Art of Loving,”* Erich Fromm says this:

“Love and labor are inseparable. One does not labor for something one does not love, and one does not love something that has not required labor.”

Part of growing up is embracing labor, embracing the fact that healing requires work, intentionality and labor. After infidelity, you cannot get away from the fact that recovery work is needed to move forward. It’s going to be hard and laborious at times, but it’s absolutely worth every single minute, tear, moment for you to be healed and experience restoration.

Showing Up

The reality is this: If you want to have a relationship with meaning and value after infidelity, you need to show up. If you can’t show up for your partner, they’re going to feel alienated, rejected and abandoned. If you can’t show up for yourself, you’re going to remain stuck in your pain.

This is intimidating and exhausting, I’m not denying that, but you need to show up and do the recovery work or you risk missing out on those opportunities for healing, restoration and transformation.

Showing up is meeting with your significant other and saying:

“I’m here, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I don’t know what the answers are or what it’s going to cost — emotionally, mentally or financially — but I’m here and I’m all in.”

Whether you’re the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse, it is your job to show up for yourself. And if you don’t show up for the relationship, how can you know what could happen? If you don’t show up, how do you know what breakthrough could be there? If you’re the wayward spouse, you may be faced with the reality that it keeps getting harder as you show up. I’m going to be honest with you: Keep showing up until God or your heart tells you otherwise.

You can’t control what they do, but you can sure control what you do. You want to be able to look back and say, “I showed up, time and time again. I may not have been perfect, but I never quit showing up.” I hope and pray that you will show up, first for yourself and your well-being, and second for them if you’re still in a relationship. They need you to show up, and you need you to show up for yourself.

I hope you can go forward today with a little more courage, grit and insight on how to not keep transmitting your pain but, rather, to experience the biggest transformation you may have ever known.

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This isn’t another light-and-fluffy program that only scratches the surface of your pain. EMS Weekend is a safe space for you and your mate to begin moving toward acceptance, transformation and healing after infidelity. During EMS Weekend, we won’t shame the unfaithful or blame the betrayed; what we will do is pair you with expert infidelity counselors, comprehensive healing resources and a small group of other couples to heal with and learn from.

“I feel that this journey provided us with many tools to help in our recovery process, as well as equipped us with weapons to fight for our marriage going forward. I’m leaving this weekend feeling encouraged and honored to have such a wonderful wife that continues to fight for us and for me. God has blessed me and us and will be our foundation to build our new marriage upon." — Virtual EMS Weekend participant | February 2021.

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confused

Samuel- you actually spoke to my ex husband and I over 6 years ago and convinced him to attend EMS. It truly helped me but he was so broken he continued to manipulate me and I had to leave the marriage. We've been divorced but almost two years ago- we had our first grandchild and he came back to me asking to try again. I finally saw remorse and what I thought was progress. We decided to try again- and have been-but honestly he hasn't changed the dance and cannot show me how I am important and as Samantha said to you- "prove to me you want me." He tends to go to his normal past patterns where we live a parallel life of companionship- I cannot trust him not bc I think he's cheating or have returned to the AP- it's bc he does not show me empathy, the work, safety emotionally and especially consistency. We have watched your videos- he has been participating in the Hope for Healing- but we do not talk - he waits for weeks to talk- which builds up concern for me- bc it is like I am living the same life I lived prior to the affair and after the affair- minus the trauma from the initial affair. But it does trigger me with flashbacks, and the stuck feeling is mind boggling and makes me angry at myself for allowing this. I have set my boundaries, I have been very clear with what I need and want, the only thing that is keeping me here is I promised two years to work on this- but this "groundhog's day" scenario is maddening. I often wonder if he is a covert narcissist - he has admitted that during our marriage he did what he wanted to do - which is why he rarely did for me as I did for him. He knew I adored him- but today- I often have no feeling bc I cannot open my heart and trust it with him intimately- emotionally or physically - bc of his daily actions. His most consistent behavior is not talking or working on the damage and repair except for times he chooses. He avoids and lives as if nothing happened. We are basically roommates. I can laugh with him, be with him with our Grandaughter and kids and am fine- but I was also that way while separated. I am just baffled- six years have gone by since D day- and other than my initial trauma and anger- nothing has changed. His manipulation instead of lying about the affair and such now appears to be avoidance and withholding any type of demonstration of love, appreciation, cherishing me or making me feel important. Any, any help would be appreciated. I have done a ton of work on myself- I know he needs to heal himself too- but at the expense of me in a holding pattern of feeling lonely in a "relationship" as I did in my marraige- I do not know if I can do it much longer but more so, I do not know that he CAN heal and make the changes needed to have a relationship. So sorry for the long message. I do appreciate all you and the others do at AR!!! Gratefully, Nikki