So many people write to me and tell me that being cheated on stole something very precious away from them. They worry that they will never feel "normal" or "right" again because their ability to trust and go into a relationship with their whole heart has been seriously compromised. They feel that something is wrong with them, that they're not enough, and that they're now sentenced to a life where suspicion, doubt, and fear will reign. I understand these feelings as I went through every one of them myself after I found out my husband cheated. But, I'm also just fine (and much stronger) today. Although it may not feel like it right now, it's not only possible to recover from an affair but to emerge stronger, wiser, and actually at peace. I'll explain what I mean by this in the following article.
Your Recovery Starts With Asking For Or Giving Yourself What You Need To Heal: You can really divide folks who were cheated on into two categories - those who ultimately decide that they want to save their marriage or their relationship - and those who don't.
For those who want to save their relationship, you will need many things from your partner or spouse to heal. You'll need for them to be remorseful and responsible. You will need for them to be willing to work with you to determine what went wrong and to improve and safeguard the marriage so that no one is worrying that this will happen again. You will need for them to be accountable so that they're not defensive when you ask where they've been and who they were with. They have nothing to hide and these requests don't offend them. You will need for them to give you reassurance and affection when you need it and space and solitude when you need that. You will both need to focus on improving all aspects of your marriage so that you can restore the trust, affection, and commitment.
For those of you who don't want to save your relationship, you'll have to provide much of what I listed above for yourself. However, by no means is this impossible just because you're flying solo. It's so important to be kind to yourself, but to also be honest about any places where you may have left the relationship vulnerable and what you can learn and take away from this to improve your situation down the road.
Knowing That The Cheating Isn't Your Fault And Not About You: Whether you ultimately decide to stay in the relationship or not, you'll have to work hard not to take this personally and allow it to ruin your self esteem. You must understand that this cheating likely has less to do with you than you think.
People cheat because of how they feel about themselves, not about you - and sometimes, not even about the other person. They're trying to fix what is broken within themselves, in the desperate hopes to fix their self esteem, reassure themselves that they're still desirable, and to try to ignite some sort of excitement in their life as a response to aging. You can not prevent what is going on inside them. And, you weren't present when they made the decision to cheat. They own this - not you. Do not take this onto your own shoulders because it wasn't your fault.
Yes, you are the innocent victim in this and it certainly hurts, but please don't allow it to make you doubt yourself or sabotage future relationships or your ability to trust.
Knowing That You Can Handle Whatever Comes: I often find that people get stuck and unable to recover because of the trust issue. They are just so afraid to be vulnerable again because this hurts so much that they don't think that they could survive a repeat. I understand this. But, this is a catch 22. Because if you aren't able to go into a relationship with trust and an open heart, then you're doomed before you even start. You may as well not even bother, frankly. You're only giving a little piece of you, so you're only going to get a tiny bit of what the relationship could be in return. You deserve better than this.
Often at the core of trusting your partner is trusting yourself. So long as you have both done the work necessary to heal, so long as you've worked through your problems and you partner has shown themselves to now be remorseful and trustworthy, you have to make a conscious decision that you are strong enough to handle whatever comes your way. You have to know that you are enough and that they are lucky to have you. If they don't see this or forget it, then that's going to be their problem, not yours.
Restoring Your Self Esteem: A huge part of recovering from being cheating on is restoring your self esteem. As I said, you'll start to wonder how you could've been so stupid and why you apparently weren't pretty or interesting enough to hold your partner's interest. I hope that this article has shown you that the cheating is due to their shortcomings rather than yours.
With that said though, you will need to take responsibility for healing your self esteem. Beyond understanding that this wasn't your fault, there are other things that you can do to heal. Being cheated upon brings out all of our insecurities that have always bothered us (and were always lurking under the surface) to the forefront. Use this as an opportunity to tackle these things once and for all.
As an example, deep in the back of my mind, it always worried me that I had put my career on hold to care for my children. I never really felt like a totally equal partner. The affair was the wake up call I needed to go back to school. I also addressed insecurities that I had about my appearance. I lost some weight and fixed my teeth. These things made me feel proactive and went a long way toward making me realize that I was in fact good enough and could now handle whatever came my way.
Surviving The Affair is a blog I put together to share my story. I know that this is a very difficult time, and that forgiveness can be elusive, but working through it can truly be worth the effort. Although I never would've believed this two years ago, I did eventually truly get over the affair. My marriage is stronger than ever. It took a lot of work, and I had to play the game to win, but it was worth it. Our bond and intimacy is much stronger and because of all the work I did on myself, my self esteem is at an all time high. I know longer worry my husband will cheat again. You can check it out at http://surviving-the-affair.com/
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