It must be cellular that men and women automatically feel humiliated when their partner cheats, even though they themselves have done nothing to be ashamed of. Too often, people feel embarrassed by their partners’ behavior, whether it’s domestic violence, emotional abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, gambling, or sex addiction, and too often, those addicts and abusers deny their wrongdoing and shift the blame onto their wives and husbands. It’s called “blaming the victim.” They sometimes maliciously act offended and play victim, which is called DARVO. But the truth is you’re never responsible for another person’s behavior. We’re only responsible for our own behavior and others are responsible for theirs.
Betrayal is a devastating assault upon our ability to trust—trust in ourselves, other people, our sense of justice, even God. It can affect our self-esteem if we let it. For some people, the worst part of adultery is the dishonesty – sharing our life with someone whom we discover has been living a lie day in and day out. We feel gaslighted and start to doubt our own senses, let alone our own attractiveness. Who was he or she, really?
We go over in our mind past intimate moments and wonder what was he or she thinking. We recall clues and doubt that we dismissed, and wonder what were we thinking! We realize that the reality we thought we had shared wasn’t—that we were actually living two separate lives. We become obsessed.
When the truth finally comes out, along with the pain is a sense of relief, because it validates what we intuitively suspected. But then we wonder did he or she love me all those years—was it all fake? Was I in love with a fraud? We may distrust our judgment in the future. Can I “love” again? Can I trust another man, or woman not to betray me?
When our partner was unfaithful with someone we know, care for and trust, we suffer betrayal by two people. Sadly, it happens that spouses betray one another with their mate’s housekeeper, best friend, or sibling. The pain of the double betrayal is horrendous.
Rebuilding trust can be a long process. (See “Rebuilding Trust“) Building bridges of empathy with one another can only begin when the betrayer takes responsibility. Sometimes, adultery is a symptom of problems in the marriage—a lack of open communication, sex, or emotional intimacy. Other times, it’s an act of anger or a way to stake out some freedom or independence in lieu of setting boundaries or expressing anger directly with one’s spouse. It can be viewed as an act of defiance. That doesn’t mean it’s the other person’s fault. It means that the relationship itself and both partners need help in changing their communication patterns and developing a healthier intimate connection.
Addiction is rampant in America—our codependent country – and sex addiction is rarely talked about. An addict’s family life is built upon shame and secrecy that eats away at everyone’s self-esteem.
We are never responsible for someone else’s behavior, nor does it reflect upon our worth. Only our actions reflect on us. Don’t allow someone else’s behavior diminish your self-esteem.
If you’ve been betrayed, stop every self-doubt that creeps into your mind. Your value and your self-respect aren’t tarnished one iota! Get support and Raise Your Self-Esteem.
After Adultery by Darlene Lancer, MFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Santa Monica, CA, and author of Codependency for Dummies