Your friend calls deeply upset, shaken declaring, “they had an affair.” The air leaves the conversation as you try to reconcile how to survive infidelity and divorce around you. The stilted dialogue becomes upsetting and the questions swirl. How do you handle this kind of news? How do you hold your friend’s news amidst your own anxiety and fear? You know it could happen so easily to anyone who’s married. You mumble a few choice words, offer apologies and your condolences, ask what they’re going to do. And hang up as soon as possible.
So often, when news of a friend’s infidelity filters into our conversations, the reaction is personal fear. You end up concentrating on your own marriage, your relationship, and what’s happening in your marital bed. You try to recall the last time you made love to your spouse, your lover and you wonder, if you haven’t in a while, “will it happen to me too?” How you survive infidelity is a deeply personal decision. Its roots in religious beliefs, political views, and often the size of your bank account.
How to survive infidelity and divorce is a deeply personal decision.
There’s a common misperception that a set of rules that blanket religious dogma will keep you safe. Or you wrongly imagine that your community of friends would never have an affair. You consider how you grew up, your dad, uncles, and aunts – would they have had an affair? Did they step out of the marriage? Is that what that fight you overheard as a kid was all about?
The news of an affair brings up power imbalances in all relationships – including yours.
The story makes you look at how your default behavior has been playing out over the course of your marriage. The news will hopefully, make you consider what you need to do differently, better.
Have you ever noticed how each time you hear about an affair, you begin to focus almost entirely on your spouse? Perhaps, mentally chastising them for all the mistakes they’ve made? Are you aware of how you immediately begin the dance of “if I do this, they’ll love me…” forgetting that you too have a vested stake in keeping yourself whole, fulfilled, and respected in your marriage?
Below are 3 tips on how to survive infidelity and divorce whether you’re the one directly experiencing the news or not. These tips are about you – not your lover and this time around they’re also about your reactions to the news of others’ heartaches. One of the biggest mistakes in marriages is putting your partner first over and over again.
Take back the focus for a while and take care of you.
Wouldn’t it be nice to take back your power and focus on your own well-being and happiness? Selflessly giving, giving, giving =’s exhausting, resenting, and no sexing… (couldn’t resist). When you over give to the point you’ve nothing left to offer, it’s almost impossible to show up generous, desirous or even wanting to make love. No adult needs another child – they need a partner. They need reciprocity. Everyone needs mutual adoration, acceptance, conversation, fun, and intimacy.
The moment you find yourself over-sharing, over-giving, over-indulging and catering to the adult in your bed… you’ve become, essentially, their mother or father. And we don’t make love to our parents.
You’re allowed to take time for yourself – to do things that recharge your energy and drive.
Things that turn you on so that you have something to share and something new to talk about. You’re allowed to ask for your spouse to uphold his or her marital agreements to provide intimacy. You’re allowed to play as two consenting adults.
This is how you survive infidelity – you make sure your needs are met so there’s no need for an affair.
Put up those mental boundaries when you hear about others’ infidelity and divorce.
Your friend’s relationship truly has little to nothing to do with your lover, your relationship, and your marriage. It has to do with them and theirs. If you’re the kind of person who loves living their own personal reality TV show, you’re making a huge mistake. That story you’re watching has nothing to do with what’s really going on.
Like a reality TV show, there’s been an entire life happening behind the news you’re hearing about. When you indulge the story of others trying to survive infidelity and divorce, remember, you’re simply getting the highlight reel!
Don’t fall prey to the machinations of an angry and hurt partner. If you do, you’ll start making up dialogue and question your own partner’s behavior. You’ll follow along blindly and neglect your own self-care that includes enjoying and adoring your lover. It’s important to keep your thoughts clean and focused on what you want. Not on what your friend is dealing with. It’s actually not a healthy friendship when or if your marriage begins to fall apart because you’re not keeping a healthy boundary.
Equalize the power in all your relationships.
Just as important as it is to make sure you have boundaries with your friendships, it’s equally important to maintain the same footing with your lover. Whether you’re married or not. When power imbalances begin to occur – due to status, personality or health worries and fears begin to creep in. You wonder if your relationship is on an even keel asking: “Are they being faithful?” “What are they doing when they travel for work?” “Do they need me now that they’re earning more money than I am and I’m staying home raising the kids?”
When there’s a power imbalance between lovers, there are many parts of the relationship that are too easy to blame.
A spouse making more money or a lover able to travel are opportunities to break agreements at home. When status changes, it’s important to have a frank conversation. You may want to reevaluate the agreements and make sure the two of you are on the same page. Whether you’re comfortable renegotiating the terms and redefining the roles or not, doing so has to happen in partnerships. None of us have great relationships just because. Most of us have to spend time communicating not doing marriages by default. If you are just doing it by default, know you may be inviting trouble.
There’s no reason to invite in trouble! You can survive infidelity and divorce (of your friends!)
As those around you struggle with their relationships, reevaluating your own requires the willingness to own up to what’s not working. While also being able to keep others’ stories from affecting your commitments to one another. You can survive infidelity and divorce – especially when you don’t make others’ issues something for you to worry about.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of The Better Divorce and doingDivorce™ School – online coaching programs for those ready to shed the pain of breakups. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com.