ARTICLES

Discovering That Your Partner Has Been Unfaithful

Victoria Morrissey
Perth Counsellor
& Psychotherapist

Perth, Western Australia

The discovery that your partner is having or has had an affair can be a deeply traumatic experience. Your body and mind may go into shock. The experience of shock can cause physiological changes in your nervous system and in your cognitive functioning. Your moods and coping skills may swing in extremes, one moment feeling in control, determined and confident and the next feeling terror, helplessness, humiliation and abandonment.

Often the hurt partner may experience anxiety, disturbed sleep, and intrusive, distressing visual images. You may have difficulty concentrating and functioning in general. The psychological impact may cause you to question your perception of what is 'real', your identity and sense of self, and the authenticity of all of your relationships. It is not unusual for the hurt partner to become obsessed with the details of the affair, at times feeling anger, despair and even experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Some people feel a sense of shame and withdraw for fear of gossip and judgement. They may struggle to trust and confide in others. Others will feel so much anger that they want the world to know that they have been wronged.

The pain and betrayal that is felt may be like nothing experienced before. While experiencing this devastation, it is difficult to make any long term decisions regarding the future of the relationship.

Differences between Men and Women

There is some evidence that suggests, men and women react to infidelity partly in gender- typical ways. It is also the case that we are all individuals with varying experiences.

Some of the research indicates that in general women have more of a tendency to become depressed and launch an attack on themselves. Also that they are also more likely to want to understand the relationship and to work at rebuilding it. It suggests that men however, are more likely to end the relationship and move on. Men are also more inclined to experience anger and either act violently or imagine acting out forms of violence.

There is also research that indicates, women experience more distress by their partner's emotional involvement with other women while men report being distressed more by their partner's sexual involvement.

Where to from here

The shock and trauma caused by the discovery that your partner has been unfaithful can take months or years to process. You may feel as though you're going through the daily motions in a daze; there in body but not in mind. It's normal to feel in limbo and also to feel confused and insecure about what the future may hold. Support from family and friends can be comforting. At the same time you may receive conflicting advice which can add to your feelings of confusion. If your partner wants to stay in the relationship and work things out you may feel pressured. If you want to work things out and your partner wants to end the relationship the feelings of panic and abandonment may be overwhelming.

If you need support while dealing with the discovery of your partner's affair, or assistance to explore how you can make decisions about your future, Victoria can be contacted by telephone or email.



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