Journal the Hurt Away: A 10 Day Journaling Challenge when a Spouse Cheats

  Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Infidelity is the breaking of a pledge to stay faithful to a romantic partner, whether that promise was made as part of a marriage vow, a secret pact between lovers, or an unspoken assumption. Infidelity is a betrayal, but it does not always mean the end of a relationship; infidelity also happens in happy partnerships. 

As unfathomable as violating such pledges may seem at the moment, infidelity can be thrilling and tempting for the adulterer, bringing feelings of regeneration, rejuvenation, and joy. On the other hand, the betrayed partner may experience confusion, rage, doubt, pain, and heartbreak. Infidelity is pretty common, and when it occurs, it brings complex considerations, such as should you stay or should you go? Is it possible to restore faith? Is there no other option except to gather your belongings and leave?

You may be experiencing a rush of emotions if you've been duped. You might be depressed one minute and enraged the next. Shame, mistrust, bewilderment, and worry can result from a broken heart. Understanding and processing your emotions is an effective strategy to recover from prior trauma. 

According to Gabrielle Usatynski, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and founder of Power Couples Counseling in Boulder and Louisville, Colorado, clients who endure a partner's infidelity may satisfy the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some therapists have coined the term post-infidelity stress disorder to represent the emotional response to infidelity (e.g., ruminating thoughts, sleep issues, erratic behaviors, moods, health problems, despair).

Having the love of your life cheat on you is one of the most challenging things you can go through. Even if this doesn't lead to a breakup, it will surely put you through emotional and physical strain. To cater to the hurt, you need to commit fully to a relationship with yourself where you and your feelings always come first. 

According to sexologist Rob Weiss, Ph.D., "Damaged relationships don't heal overnight. Moreover, damaged relationships don't heal simply because one party wants them to." As difficult as it may appear, remember that you are in charge of your process, and any closure you require is totally up to you.

As always, we believe that the best method to overcome the pain of grieving is to be centered around getting better fully. One of the best ways to quantify and keep track of your journey is through journaling. In this challenge, we will provide you with ten steps and ways to overcome the hurt you are facing after finding out your spouse or significant other has been unfaithful to you. We will provide you with a well-thought-out journaling prompt that you write on with each step. These prompts and questions will allow you to deeply introspect and think about the situation and allow you to process your emotions completely. So without further ado, let's step into your ten-day journey!

Step 1: Work Through Your Feelings 

Astonishment, rage, and grief are frequent reactions when a spouse's infidelity is discovered. It takes time and a lot of effort to work through these emotions, and it's crucial to give yourself space to collect all of your ideas and feelings. Try writing what you'll say in your head, so you come across as authoritative rather than angry; approaching it with rage will lead to reckless decisions. Use methods like mindfulness, self-regulation, and seven-second breathing to help you manage your emotions. The first few days of reaction are where you set the tone of how you want to handle this ordeal in the future.

Question: If you had a second chance to react to the infidelity, what would you do or say differently?

As you absorb what happened, you'll probably feel various emotions. "Getting over infidelity generally follows the stages of grief: shock/denial; anger/defiance; bargaining; despair, remorse; and acceptance," Weiss explains. Work through your emotions rather than repressing them. Accepting responsibility for what occurred is critical to the healing process. Keeping a journal allows one to self-heal over time. 

Step 2: Do Not Blame Yourself 

It's all too easy to point the finger at yourself for what happened, but you're not to blame for your partner's conduct. While some self-reflection is healthy for personal development, spiraling into harsh self-criticism and excessive self-blame slows down the healing process. Place the responsibility entirely on the cheater, rather than blaming yourself or worrying about what could have been.

Question: Why do you think you should be wholly blamed instead of your partner? 

By answering this, you'll see how completely blaming yourself for someone else breaking a vow or commitment is complete nonsense. According to Rachel Sussman, a relationship expert, licensed psychotherapist, and author of The Breakup Bible, the most prevalent explanation for cheating is that they weren't getting their needs satisfied in the partnership. She adds they frequently mention things like "I was lonely" or "I was being ignored." 

The cheating partner may also rationalize their behavior by pointing out their partner's flaws, such as being overbearing, having a drug or alcohol problem, or inattentive. Some people may claim that their partner has been too preoccupied with work or the kids and no longer feel valued. Whatever the cause, it all boils down to blaming where it's due and not just on the hurt party. 

Step 3: Don't Lose Self-Esteem 

Amy Morin at Forbes says, "The private conversations you have with yourself can be either a powerful stepping stone or a major obstacle to reaching 'goals." 

Those pessimistic predictions might quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative self-talk can become downright self-destructive because your thoughts strongly influence how you feel and behave. Telling yourself that you'll never be successful or that you're not as excellent as other people lowers your self-esteem and prevent you from confronting your anxieties.

Question: What are good qualities you have that define you as a person?

It's time to become your own best buddy if you're attempting to endure an affair. Make a list of all the fantastic qualities you possess. You're generous, nurturing, and you've got amazing legs, etc. Once you've compiled your list of desirable qualities, repeat it aloud to yourself frequently. When your inner critic convinces you to believe lies about yourself, the inner critic triumphs, put a gag on the inner critic whenever it tells you that you aren't good enough! If you find yourself comparing both you and "other man or woman", you'll find yourself in a downward spiral of negativity where you can't land on your feet. It's very important to push out the negativity and use kind words when talking to yourself. Self-kindness won't make your painful thoughts or feelings go away, but it may bring some tiny solace in the midst of them.

Step 4: Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help

When you're dealing with something as life-altering as adultery, this kind of news may be emotionally and physically draining. For example, you might desire to block out the outside world and avoid seeing or speaking with anyone. You might notice that you're having trouble concentrating at work or that you don't have the energy or drive to look for yourself. When faced with adversity and disappointment, it's critical to practice self-love and self-care during these trying times and be around people you love and that love you. 

Question: If the people you love were going through the same thing, how would you help them?

"Betrayed partners need support for the trauma they've experienced, and that support should not (and really cannot) come from their cheating partner," explains Rob Weiss. "There is nothing worse than sitting alone after a betrayal with absolutely no one to turn to. [They] need support from empathetic others, people who understand what they're going through. Without that, it is very difficult for them to process and work through their emotions."

Step 5: Reflect On Your Relationship 

This is the most challenging phase, and it will determine whether or not you can both move on. "People can make poor choices at times," says Amanda D. Mahoney, a family and marriage therapist. The question then becomes: does that poor decision and/or symptom(s) have to determine the relationship's future? The answer is very dependent on the circumstances surrounding the incident. Unmet marital needs, poor communication, attachment issues, and old-fashioned gender stereotypes can be catalysts for an affair, which Mahoney has assisted couples in her clinic.

Question: What factors, both big and little, led up to your significant other cheating on you? 

According to Jen Elmquist, relationship specialist, infidelity is incredibly deep; there's a lot of depth and complexity to why individuals cheat and how you can go back to each other. She means to emphasize the importance of awareness. How could this happen? What happened to cause the breakdown? What aspects of our relationship made it possible for someone else to stroll through the open door? It'll be crucial to have that understanding in your relationship.

Step 6: Communicate After The Affair 

The irony of "communication after an affair" is that a lack of communication frequently marks infidelity-prone couples. Couples must now double down and talk while experiencing fury, contempt, shame, and guilt due to the infidelity problem – situations that would test even the most exemplary communicators. 

However, many things are often tied to a relationship, such as kids, pets, house, and even emotional contingencies. For this reason, you need to communicate with the other person for the sake of these things.

Question: What would you say to your significant other about how they made you feel if they were here? 

It's normal to believe that your cheating spouse bears responsibility for communication — heck, for everything. As if you didn't already have enough to deal with, now you have to find out how to talk to your spouse after an affair? You'll almost certainly think the scenario is entirely unfair, adding insult to injury.

If you utilize your communication with your spouse after an affair as an opportunity to express the impact of the affair on you, it will be most productive. Discuss your anger and underlying hurt, including what causes it, how it affects your life and health, and how it lays beneath other emotions. Talk about your worries and doubts. Discuss how your low self-esteem and self-worth are affecting you.

Step 7: Decide What's Next For You

After an affair, moving on requires deciding how you want to live your life. Do you want to break up with your lover or work on improving your relationship? Weiss recommends that you consider all of the following factors: "First and foremost, has the cheating ceased? Have the deceptions and secrets come to an end? Are there more positives in the relationship than negatives in general? Is it possible for the unfaithful partner to re-establish trust in the relationship? There is no one-size-fits-all formula for deciding whether to stay or go, but these questions can help." There are no right or incorrect answers to these crucial topics.

Question: Where do you see yourself five years from now in the future? How does your significant other fit in that vision?

Whatever others may think, your primary focus should be yourself. Break up with your relationship if, for example, your partner's actions are a deal-breaker for you. On the other hand, you may feel deceived and hurt by your spouse but still desire their presence in your life. "Betrayed partners should understand that it is normal to continue to love and care for someone, even after a betrayal," says Weiss. 

Step 8: Learn From The Experience

When 1,000 people were asked what constitutes "cheating," the results of a recent study commissioned by Deseret News were mixed. According to the majority of respondents, physical, sexual contact with someone outside of the relationship would always fulfill the criterion for infidelity (71 percent-76 percent). However, a minor majority (63 percent) believed that keeping an online dating profile or sending seductive messages to someone else should always be deemed infidelity. Hence, one of the things you can take away from this experience is to think about what you would do going forward with the same relationship or moving on to a new one. If anything, this experience will teach you more about your boundaries and red flags addressed in relationships. 

Question: What kind of commitment do you require from your significant other? What kind are you willing to offer yourself? 

According to Talal Alsaleem, infidelity recovery expert, all relationships, whether verbal or written, should have a contract that specifies the number of partners in the relationship... the emotional and sexual needs are expected to be fulfilled in this relationship. To what extent those needs are subjective to the partners in the relationship. It's crucial to have those well-defined boundaries moving forward in life. You shouldn't worry about it too much, however, as such things only come from life's good and bad experiences. 

Step 9: Consider Going To Therapy 

Knowing what to do or where to begin after an affair might be challenging. Consider talking with a competent therapist who can guide you through the process if the chats you're having with your partner aren't going anywhere. "The therapist's capacity to be a neutral party in the talk helps determine what underlying unfulfilled needs inside the couple's relationship can be addressed and processed," Mahoney explains. "During this exploratory period of therapy, couples have a higher ability to seek understanding, find compassion, and overcome problems and move forward."

Question: What are your thoughts on seeking help from a therapist?

It would also be beneficial if you met with a skilled specialist who could provide you with personalized ways for dealing with your new reality. You don't have to go through this alone, and having more people in your corner who support you can only help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's no reason to wait. Find a therapist who can empathize with you as you work through your daily struggles as well as your longer-term marital issues.

Step 10: Give It Time 

Infidelity is a terrible thing to happen, but it doesn't have to be fatal. It does, however, have a silver lining. As bad as it is to experience, as awful as it is to happen, infidelity may be a positive thing to help individuals alter their life. If handled properly, it has the potential to enrich people's lives, make them more resilient, and improve them in the long run. 

The days after the discovery of an affair is frequently excruciatingly painful. Both spouses must be fully committed to finding a path to rehabilitation and healing, even if they don't plan to stay together. 

Question: What kind of person were you before and are now after living through this ordeal? 

When challenging circumstances pass, we tend to forget what we've been through and take things for granted once more. If you write down the most critical aspects of your self-reflection journey, you will realize that you are not the same person you were while employed. That's not a bad thing because if you hadn't been free to finish what you started, you might not have found the courage to look yourself in the mirror and decide that you might live a better, more satisfying life.

To be clear, we at JournalOwl think journaling therapy is enjoyable and practical. You can sign up for a daily online journal to help you on your path of self-reflection on our website.

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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