In shock at this evidence of her husband’s cheating, Jackie didn’t know how to respond. Her initial reaction was to explain it away. Surely the calls must be about work projects or something else that was perfectly innocent. After talking with a friend, however, she became convinced that she needed to confront Martin about his behavior.
Infidelity is a difficult issue to contend with in any type of relationship. It creates many feelings of anger, rage, resentment, betrayal, fear, uncertainty, confusion, loneliness, abandonment, guilt, shame, sadness, helplessness, and many times even hopelessness. The trust that was once in the relationship has been destroyed, and the crucial question to be answered is whether that trust can ever be restored.
The betrayal creates grief for the loss of the relationship as it was prior to the infidelity. Since grief is part of the process in dealing with a cheating spouse, it is helpful to understand the stages of grief and how they might play out in rebuilding trust and safety in the relationship. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is known for her five stages of grief, and others have added to and modified her list.
Seven stages of grief that a person might go through with a cheating spouse are:
- Shock and Denial
- Hurt and Betrayal
- Anger and Blaming Others
- Bargaining, Guilt, and Shame
- Loneliness and Abandonment
- Depression and Blaming Oneself
- Processing Feelings to Acceptance
In the next few posts, I will talk about the importance of working through these stages before deciding whether the relationship can be saved or if it is time for the relationship to end.