If your husband is leaving your marriage for another woman, it can be devastating. Even if you were aware that the marriage was stale and perhaps had a fling of your own, you may feel knocked to the ground. Betrayal and violation of trust play a huge role in your pain, but, even more devastating is the sense of being rejected and replaced. That pain goes beyond the disappointment in your marital relationship and can strike your core in the most personal way. Feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt often plague the betrayed partner. Many women say, “It feels personal. It feels as if I wasn’t good enough!”
When infidelity is exposed in a marriage, the betrayed partner may find herself thinking obsessively about the other woman: who is she, what does she look like, is she younger, smarter, sexier than me? Do you imagine she is getting something that you didn’t? Do you imagine he treats her like a queen? Do you imagine their life together is idyllic? Notice how each question contains the word “imagine.” One of the most painful things women do to themselves is imagine something and then believe in it. When you do that, no one is hurting you, but you. This only complicates and extends the pain.
Let’s be clear here; he did not replace you with her. He replaced feeling middle-aged, bored and perhaps the banality of routine with a different, headier feeling. People usually cheat because they feel something is missing not just in the marriage but in the way they see themselves. And while both partners may bear some responsibility for the demise of the marriage, be clear that the infidel is solely responsible for his own behavior. Not every unhappy person goes outside of their marriage. There were other choices. This is his choice alone.
By focusing on her, you continue to feel badly about yourself. Obsess about her and you miss the big picture. Turning your anger at her only keeps you stuck in protecting him: she did not “steal” him away; he made a choice. His behavior is not your fault, nor is it hers. She did not break her solemn vows to you, he did. She is not a replacement, she is a symptom. He was looking for an antidote to feel better about himself. He could have gone to therapy, taken a class, changed jobs, gotten hair plugs or bought a sports car. Don’t imagine for a minute that she is getting the new-improved-version of your old-worn-out husband. She’s not.
Furthermore, relationships that start with infidelity often end that way. Consider his relationship status when you met him–was he involved with someone else? Or perhaps recently separated or divorced? Right there may be clues to why this happened–his coping skills did not change, the only thing that changed was the woman who got hurt.
Focusing on her merely depletes your energy. Refocus all the thoughts of her (and him) on you and your life. Use the pain as fuel to move forward. True, you did not choose this; but many events in our life are not of our choosing. We stay stuck when we lament “Why me?” and move forward when we say “Now, Me!”
Note: When the shoe is on the other foot, that is –when a woman cheats on her partner, the man is not immune to feelings of betrayal and obsession – he also goes through feelings of inadequacy and self doubt. He imagines he was replaced with a younger, more successful, toner version of himself. Think that men aren’t frequently the victim of infidelity? Well, think again. Recent statistics show the numbers of men and women cheating are growing every year. Some studies suggest approximately 60% of men and 50% of all women will have an extra martial affair.
Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice and is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback. Click here to purchase. Also available in paperback at Amazon.com and at local bookstores.