There are many different paths the betrayed partner can take. In my experience, I see a few different outcomes for the betrayed spouse. There are always outliers, but these are some common patterns.
First, occasionally is the spouse who stays in the marriage and also stays angry, resentful, and continues to punish their partner. This happens less often and the true outcome is two miserable people staying in a marriage out of fear or obligation. These relationships can survive, but the betrayed partner may become highly controlling, short with their partner, and very unhappy.
Or the betrayed partner will stay in the relationship but keep their emotional distance from their partner as a way to protect themselves. This is a relationship that looks great on the outside and even pretty good if you look a little closer. But there’s distance and a lack of true intimacy. With this path of recovery, I see two happy-ish people who are together in being lonely on the inside. In these relationships, there is the potential for the betrayed partner to shift back into a connected relationship, but the willingness to open themselves back up the risk of trusting has to be present.
These two outcomes happen less common and take intensive treatment to change. The betrayed partner must have some willingness to accept this unwanted addition to their life story. They don’t have to like it, but there must be an acknowledgment and acceptance that it is.
And here’s the best, most common outcome I see. A couple will decide to be vulnerable, take risks, and stay in the discomfort that comes with recovery together. They realize the old marriage is gone and a new marriage has to be intentionally created. With these couples, I see the betrayed partner gradually become more themselves, more confident in their ability to survive very-bad-things, and proud of the work they’ve done to create a new relationship.
This partner uses the trauma of infidelity and changes the energy of the destruction to the energy of growth and creation.
Oftentimes, the betrayed will exhibit many symptoms of PTSD after the discovery of betrayal. They may experience:
Emotions that swing from one extreme to another
In the early stages of recovery, these are all normal.
However, what I sometimes see in the end stages of recovery for the betrayed partner is:
A person more authentically engaged in their relationship
A person who knows they will survive if this happens again
A person who knows they have the strength to recover
A person who knows they have the drive to take charge of their life
These betrayed partners feel joy, contentment, and are glad they made the decision to attempt the repair.
With therapy, talking with others, reading books, listening to podcasts, they learn to see the infidelity as something that belongs to their partner. The cheat was something that did not have anything to do with them. They see the infidelity not as demeaning or humiliating to them but saying speaking solely about their partner.
Infidelity can demolish relationships and also be something that can be more than just survived. For both partners.
I don’t like to use ‘always’ or ‘never’ statements, but I will here. No couple ever gets through recovery with complete grace. There is always at least one moment that people look back on and think “yeah, I wish I had done that differently”. Give yourself the gift of accepting your imperfections and accept, this process does not exist without a few moments you may wish you could take back.
If you have this type of moment in your recovery, I find they become neutralized with apologies. Owning your behavior and words, showing you are remorseful, and explaining how you’ll handle things going forward works to rebuild.
If you’re on the fence about whether to stay or go, let’s talk. You don’t have to figure this out alone.