Plus, 5 ways to deal when you’re ready to face the truth!
You’re in a relationship and everything is going well, until the ultimate betrayal occurs … he cheats.
Your mind goes crazy with questions, wondering how you missed it. Or maybe you kind of knew all along but didn’t want to face it. Or maybe it’s not you at all, but rather a friend who is sticking her head in the sand about her husband’s obvious indiscretions.
Why?! WHY do women pretend not to see what’s clearly happening in their relationship (even when everyone else around them sees the signs they’re ignoring)?
Well, you can basically thank your brain for protecting you with the defense mechanism known as … denial.
Denial protects us from pain
When we’re hurt, afraid, or highly stressed, our brains sometimes engages in a process of denial. It is a powerful defense mechanism that allows us to take in only what we can handle when we feel overwhelming emotion or pain. And, the betrayal of cheating is definitely deeply traumatic.
When emotional pain feels too great, the brain simply ignores the information in order to protect us from that reality. Denial is deeply subconscious, leaving us unaware that it’s preventing us from facing the truth.
Denial both helps and hinders us
As a protector of the psyche, denial is very helpful when we need to avoid an intense traumatic situation. Denial lessens the shock of something that is too difficult to process all at once, such as a death, an accident, or even the sudden discovery of your partner cheating.
You might need time to slowly digest a traumatic event. However, if denial lasts longer than a few weeks, you get stuck in a dishonest reality. It’s time to confront the truth, as painful as it may seem.
So if you think you’re in denial about your partner’s cheating, here are five ways to finally handle confronting the truth:
1. Trust that you can handle the (temporary) pain
Heartbreak and betrayal are incredibly painful, and something we all work to avoid. However, the brain and the heart have amazing capacities to heal.
All pain is temporary. You may experience giant waves of grief, anger, or sadness. Other days, you may just feel smaller, more tolerable pangs of emotion. They will vary in size, intensity, and duration, but it’s essential to feel them all in order to heal. Trust that you can ride the waves. And trust that you will land on solid ground again on the other side.
Though we say “I can’t handle this.” The truth is, we can. It just doesn’t feel very good. When you recognize that you can handle whatever life throws your way, you’re less likely to hide out in denial. And this is a helpful mindset to incorporate into your daily life for all of it’s stressors (whether there is cheating going on or not). Think of it as a preventative measure, to help avoid moving into denial with any possible future stress.
2. Focus on the facts
When you’re in denial, you see the evidence right in front of your face, but it just doesn’t connect. If you have any questions in your mind about your partner’s behavior whatsoever, or a friend has tried to raise your awareness of cheating, think about the specific facts you actually know.
Have you seen text messages between your partner and another person that seem suspicious? Have you seen strange charges on a credit card bill? Does he stay late at work more than usual? Does he openly flirt with other women in front of you? Does he seem secretive of his phone and e-mail?
Be willing to dig deeper if you have any shadow of a doubt. Ask a friend for an opinion outside of your own. You want to get grounded into reality, and not just lost in your own mind.
3. Listen to your gut
As women, we are incredibly intuitive. Society just bombards us with messages throughout our lives trying to convince us we’re insecure, over-reacting, emotional, or crazy. Even if you don’t have facts to support your doubts, pay attention to the “red flag” moments that tell you that something just isn’t right.
Intuition can sometimes feel vague, like a quick thought that pops into your mind that just won’t go away. A nagging sensation in your body that something is “off.” Intuition doesn’t feel anxious. It feels like a burst of information. If it repeats itself, that’s even more reason to pay attention.
4. Know your worth
Do you believe that you can’t find someone better than this man? Do you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself?
Most women who ignore their partner’s cheating behavior struggle with deeper issues around self-worth. Sometimes, these messages are not in your conscious awareness.
If you’ve ignored his cheating to avoid confrontation with your partner (or the possible loss of your relationship), it’s time to give your self-esteem a boost. You deserve truth, commitment, and respect in your relationship. If he’s not honoring the commitment the two of you made to one another, then trust that you do deserve better.
5. Believe in a brighter, more honest future
Finding the courage to confront the truth is difficult, especially after you realize you’ve been in denial about your man’s cheating ways.
Trust that, in the end, you really will be happy that you chose truth rather than ignoring something that brings you pain. A hard truth always trumps a pretty lie. You deserve truth. You deserve integrity in your relationship commitments.
You don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out to friends, a therapist, or a relationship coach for support as you step out of denial and face his infidelity head on.