In the last week, more than 20 million women have asked themselves one question: Why?
“Why would my husband sign up for Ashley Madison?” “What did I do to make him want to cheat? Am I not pretty enough? Thin enough? Funny enough? Is it because I always wear ratty T-shirts to bed?”
We can tell you right now: You are not the reason he strayed.
“Betrayal is one of the most difficult experiences human beings struggle to transcend, and when it occurs at the hands of an intimate partner, the challenges to rise above it are amplified a thousand fold,” says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a Manhattan-based marriage therapist. “Women tend to internalize betrayals and can easily fall into a trap of thinking that they are somehow to blame when their partner wanders.”
Not only does internalizing the betrayal compromise your mental and emotional health; it also just plain ignores the fact that his actions are on him. Blaming yourself lets him off way too easy, says Hokemeyer.
“You’re never responsible for another person’s actions,” says licensed marriage and family psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser, Live Happy editor-at-large. “Even if you feel as if you were flawed in the relationship, do not beat yourself up. You did not make him do this. No one can make anyone do anything they do not want to.”
The fact that your partner cheated—or at least tried to cheat—has way more to do with them than it has to do with you. “Most affairs have nothing to do with love,” says Dean Severson, founder of CheatingSupport.com, a forum for people who have cheated or been cheated on. “A husband’s infidelity is often an attempt to bury or avoid his inner problems or to compensate for something he is lacking inside.” Many men who cheat on their wives still love them, says Kaiser. They still think they are beautiful. Perhaps they still want to spend the rest of their lives with them as husband and wife.
RELATED: Why Men and Women Really Cheat
So…deep breath. What’s next? While your husband’s unfaithfulness isn’t on you, you can—and should—take control now to make sure your needs are taken care of.
Because we all want to project the idea that our lives our perfect, you might feel ashamed about this ugly situation. Afterall, this isn’t a very Instagrammable moment. However, it is super important to share your situation with the friends and family members you trust most and lean on them as much as you can, says Kaiser.
That said, it’s also important to remain the bigger person. Fight the temptation to tell the whole world, post it on Facebook, and humiliate him, says Severson. “Although your solution might be a permanent separation, it also may not be. If your spouse is sincere in changing his ways and you do decide to stay together, then you’ll be thankful that you didn’t embark on a smear campaign.”
Allow yourself to feel and express all your emotions, though. And whether or not you decide to stay in the relationship, seeing a therapist can help you process this experience and move forward in a healthy way, says Severson.
People want to be there for you, especially other women. “When going through any traumatic event, there’s comfort in confiding in somebody who you know can relate to you and understand your emotions,” says Severson. Whether that means joining a support group through your religious institution, therapy office, or an online forum, getting feedback from others who truly empathize is extremely valuable. Plus, by talking to people with whom you do not have a relationship with outside of the support group, you may feel more able to open up without fear of judgment or bias.
When infidelity strikes, it’s easy to feel like your entire world is crumbling. Take a step back, and look at what’s still going right in your life. “It’s important not to define yourself based solely on your relationship,” says Hokemeyer. “You need to view intimate relationships as parts of your life, rather than central to your worth.”
And remember: It’s not your fault, it’s his. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and relying on the other people in your life who love you to support you will help cement this in your mind during this difficult time.
Source: Women’s Health Mag