One of the most devastating things that can happen to a woman is to be cheated on or left for a younger woman. It’s insulting, it’s humiliating, and it’s infuriating. In my clinical and personal experience, the women who’ve faced this situation feel they’ll never get over their pain – but they do. And if they consciously process their betrayal, they come through it stronger, more confident and happier women.
If this happens to you, know you will get through it, too. You’ll feel like you can’t, but you can. Acknowledge it won’t be an easy process. It will require you to recognize painful truths about the men you love and trusted, to manage the shame and judgment you feel from others and to pull yourself from the gutter where you feel you’ve been dumped.
In addition, don’t think your transformation from devastation to resolve will happen overnight. It often takes years and will track the five stages people go through when processing the death of a loved one. These stages include anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Unfortunately, you can’t go from anger to acceptance overnight. There’s a lot of ground you’ll need to cover in between. Give yourself the time and space to trudge it.
And while you’re trudging your road to a higher destiny, use the following five steps to enhance your journey. In them, you can stay on a healing path instead of falling into an emotional trap of self-pity and self-destruction.
1. Your anger is justified: Embrace it! In our society and culture, girls and women are taught that anger is “bad”. Nonsense! Feel your anger and express it in a safe and contained space. Don’t think you can banish anger from your life. It’s real and it’s yours. Get in touch with it and use it constructively. Exercise daily, scream into a pillow or blanket, buy a plastic bat and beat the heck out of an armchair. Discharge your anger OUT, don’t hold it in – or it will consume you.
2. Resist the urge to retaliate. This, of course, will take great resolve and the help of an army of friends and professionals. Your goal is not to “get even” with the cheating spouse. It’s to take charge of your life, reclaim your dignity, and move forward into new love, joy and adventure.
3. Be of service to other women. Yes, I know, this is another one that goes against your impulses. You’ll want to hide out from the world and lick your wounds (or plan your revenge), but these self-focused responses are self-destructive. Instead, focus on how you can be of service to other women who are in pain. Volunteer at a domestic violence center or work with other recovering women. By getting out of your own head, you’ll reclaim your dignity and a place of value in the world.
4. Don’t look to be saved. This is your chance to prove you’re a person of worth and dignity. You have everything you need to heal and grow from this betrayal. Instead of looking for others (and in particular other men) to save you, look for people who can help you hold your pain and devastation. In this regard, the word “hold” means they will be there for you with understanding, compassion and non-judgment. Typically, this is a good psychotherapist, but it may also be a good friend, clergy member or a support group.
5. Track your progress daily. Your healing process will occur in tiny steps, not gigantic leaps. Be mindful of this and ask yourself each and every day if you are working toward the solution or stuck in the problem. When you find yourself stuck in the problem (and you will get stuck there), lovingly pull yourself back to the solution like you’re training a puppy. By focusing on the solution, you’ll ensure the success of your future. Keep a daily journal or write a blog. Years later, when you’ve reclaimed love and lust in your life, you’ll value what you’ve written.
Above all else, never forget you have what it takes to succeed. In my practice, I’ve seen the most seemingly fragile women learn to thrive from the most horrific betrayals. Women are the smartest, most intuitive, loving and insightful people I know and work with. Know that these women are YOU and consciously love yourself through this difficult process.