Betrayed partners often want to know whether there is hope after long-term sexual betrayal.
Hope is defined as:
a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
It’s interesting to note that the archaic definition of hope is: a feeling of trust.
While all betrayed partners might not agree about what they expect or desire to happen in the future, most would agree that what they hope for in their relationship is:
- Sustained fidelity, or the absence of unfaithful behaviors
- Honesty and transparency
- A fulfilling sexual connection
The simple answer is yes, there is hope.
In order for you to experience sustained fidelity, honesty, and a fulfilling sexual connection, both you and your unfaithful spouse will need to devote time and energy—both individually and as a couple—to activities and processes that will heal and restore your relationship. In Chapter 9 of Patrick Carnes’ book Facing the Shadow [3rd Edition]: Starting Sexual and Relationship Recovery (What Makes for Long-Term Success), he outlines the 9 characteristics of successful couples whose marriages survived discovery, disclosure, and beyond.
And while your unfaithful spouse has a role in making what you are hopeful for a reality, he (or she) should not be the sole source of your hope.
So, how can you sustain hope?
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the best thing you can do beginning now to keep hope alive is to focus on yourself.
When you practice good self-care, you will be much more capable of navigating the challenging journey you’re on. You will feel better, and when you feel better you will be more prepared to face the ultimate outcome of your situation—whether your relationship survives infidelity or it doesn’t.
One of the most dangerous mindsets that is guaranteed to bring you pain even if you’re not in a relationship impacted by infidelity, is to look to your spouse—or any other person—for your happiness or to determine whether or not you believe you are acceptable, likable, or lovable.
When you generate your own self-love, peace, and joy through good self-care, it’s like a vaccination. Self-love and self-acceptance protects you from being devastated or completely losing hope because another person disappointed you, or was unwilling or unable to show up for you in the way you wanted.
If this sounds difficult, it is!
My invitation to you is to look to yourself first when seeking hope. You can notice and acknowledge the progress of your spouse, which is also another source of hope. But first, find ways to love and honor yourself in exactly the same ways you want others to love and honor you. Practice the very best self-care you can, and ask for what you want in your relationship.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2018)
Survival Strategies for Betrayed Partners blog articles are protected by U.S. copyright laws, and may not be reproduced, distributed, or re-published without written permission of the author.
How does one forget 37 years of an unfaithful marriage that they have unknowingly lived in. The past keeps haunting me to where it is hard moving forward because l keep looking back.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Hi Brenda, 37 years is a very long time, and it makes so much sense that you would struggle to move beyond the pain of the past.
The short answer is that you may never forget, but you can choose to think and live differently today so that you can feel better, and not not be haunted and burdened by the past. If you don’t already, I hope you will find a therapist to work with who can support you to create the life you want and deserve.
You can find a list of therapists who are trained to work with betrayed partners on the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals website here, or the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists here.
Hugs, Brenda. 33 years married here and had no idea. But I am healing day by day with the help of a great counselor. My husband is sober and in recovery. It remains to be seen if he sticks with it. This is the hardest walk I’ve ever walked. My heart goes out to you.
I am so thankful to have found this blog. Today is 2 years since I caught my SA husband of 34 years cheating on me. He led me to believe for 1 1/2 years that it was an emotional affair, only to find out it was physical. He found out after 6 months of therapy that he is a sex addict. He tells me now that when he looks back he did not love her despite the things I read that he was saying to her via text and email. These words haunt me. I want to believe he didn’t love her because I know addicts lie to get their high, but I know what I read. He wanted me to think it was emotional because he was trying to cover up the sex. I want to believe him, but after all the years of lying I just don’t know.
He is in recovery and seems set on being the man that he says I deserve. I am grateful for that but I am stuck. I cannot get this woman out of my head. She was my sons age and he took her on a weekend getaway. It just rips my heart out thinking he was with her while I sat at home missing him.
I know I need to move on, and I know it’s up to me to just quit thinking about her. I don’t want to live in this headspace anymore. I think the reason this is so difficult is, my husband and I are high school sweethearts and we were each others first and only sexually… until this massage parlor girl he hooked up with for 6 months. I just wish she could feel some of the pain that she herself helped put on me. I know my husband was wrong but so was she. He tried to break it off with her when I caught him and she would not let him go. I wish she could feel what I feel and I am powerless. And then, I feel guilty for this because it’s not the way a Christian should behave.
So much more to this story, too much to write. I am doing great using my tools until I think of her. :(
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Sally, I’m glad you found the blog too!
I can completely understand why you are feeling so much pain and like your heart is being ripped out. Finding out about an affair or addiction or deception is truly devastating. And I love that even with all this pain, you see that your husband seems set on being the man you deserve and that you are grateful and want to move on.
I’ve found that what I focus on is of the highest importance, and is usually the roadmap to what I get more of. When I focus on the pain of the past, I get more pain. When I focus on my self-care and all the positive things about my husband and our relationship, I am happy.
How would it fit for you to make a conscious decision to deprive thoughts of the other woman from any oxygen whatsoever, and instead fill yourself up with some high quality self-care and focusing on what is going right with you, your husband, and your marriage?
Your question and your situation are too important and complex to resolve here. I would love to see you have more support to help you walk through how you might manage your situation and this specific trigger so that you can feel happier and move on. Please consider joining my partner’s online community so we can support you and give you more individualized support and guidance. You can get the details and sign up here.