Infidelity: Stages of Grief
The loss resulting from infidelity is often followed by grief. This grief can be commonly divided into 5 stages.
On discovery of the affair, there is an initial period of shock and maybe denial. This may include making excuses for the betrayer or believing only what you want to hear. This is a perfectly normal reaction except where the denial extends beyond a feasible time. In cases where denial extends years and years, the betrayed person most likely has inwardly experienced all stages of grief silently and reached acceptance, but chosen to live a lie.
When the full impact of infidelity hits home, pure rage sets in. Anger can be directed to the betrayer or displaced incorrectly to others including the children, work colleagues or even God. This stage is a difficult one to pass through, and often violence becomes evident in what was a non-violent relationship.
Bargaining is the beginning of the decision making process where one or both parties look at offering negotiations. These bargains can be made with each other, with self or with a higher being and may include statements like “if she takes me back, I will never do that again” or “if you tell me where you are going, I might be able to trust you again”.
With the reality of the affair comes the knowledge of problems within the relationship that either can or can’t be worked out. Either way, one grieves for the relationship that once was which was less complicated and affair free. Depression has been described as a heavy cloud over your head which makes it difficult to function, enjoy life and even get up in the morning. Depression should be carefully monitored and addressed by professionals if needed.
The final stage is that of acceptance. True acceptance comes when functioning has returned and having acknowledged the incident in its entirety. Many people reach acceptance by being able to forgive all parties including self. Forgiveness is like freeing oneself from all the negative feelings associated with the infidelity and being able to move forward either within the relationship or external to the relationship. Forgiving is a difficult challenge for some and acceptance is not dependent on the ability to forgive.