Affairs stir up a lot of different emotions in people. Shame is often an underestimated yet powerful feeling after dealing with infidelity. Whether you cheated on your partner or you were the one hurt, knowing that your marriage has been compromised by infidelity can leave you feeling humiliated and overwhelmed. How do you cope with something like that? If you are struggling, here are some tips on how to survive the social shame of infidelity.
What Is Social Shame?
Social shame is a shame that happens in front of others or when thinking about others. While shame is considered a self-conscious emotion, the things we perceive as shameful are often dictated by society and culture. With social shame, you may feel humiliation or embarrassment in front of others for something that happened.
For example, let’s say you go to the library after dealing with an affair. You head to the librarian to inquire about the self-help section and they ask you about what you need. Suddenly, you are reminded about the affair and feel burning shame, even though there is no telling that the librarian knows you had an affair.
How To Survive The Social Shame Of Infidelity
Being unfaithful is wrong, yes, but it is not something permanent. With hard work and diligence, you can correct the mistake and move forward with your partner. Handling the shame of infidelity is dealt with the same way.
Acknowledge Your Emotions
No one likes feeling guilty or shameful because of their actions. You may feel tempted to bury the negative feelings inside and never talk about what you did, but that is dangerous. Keeping emotions locked up can be poisonous. Hiding shame only makes it more unbearable.
In order to begin coping with the social shame of an affair, you must first give your shame a name. Yes, you hurt your partner. Yes, you made a terrible mistake. But that is yours to own, and it is important that you take responsibility for what you did.
Talk To A Therapist
Shame, especially when it is attached to cheating on your partner (or being in an unfaithful union), can be a difficult thing to discuss. The most painful point about social shame is that you believe that everyone is going to look down on you for what you did. You secretly believe that no one is going to comprehend your side of the story. That they will despise you for what you did.
That is why therapy—be it couples therapy or infidelity therapy—is such an incredible tool. Therapists do not take sides. They listen, they advise, and they help you find a solution within yourself. Speaking with a therapist will let you open up in ways you cannot with others. You can actively describe the reasoning behind your affair, and you can receive guidance for overcoming your shame in the healthiest way possible.
Address Negative Coping Methods
This may be another thing you have to discuss with a licensed therapist. Shame and negative self-talk can be part of your coping methods for problems. For instance, have you ever broken a glass or something valuable and beat yourself up over it for years? Do you resort to numbing the pain of your mistakes with alcohol and food? Or do you sink into depression?
These things will only make your poor self-esteem worse. As such, you need to assess—alone or with a therapist—your coping mechanisms and how to make them more healthy.
You Are Not Your Past Failures
Sometimes it helps to remind yourself that people make mistakes. Do not waste your life regretting what cannot be changed. Have faith. Forgive yourself and accept that you can move forward with the knowledge that you will never do something like cheating on your partner again. Self-condemnation for your actions is tempting, for sure. However, it is so much more liberating when you own up to your mistakes, tell yourself that you have today to be your best, and you devote your energy to love and light instead of shame.
It’s OK To Grieve
Prior to the affair, you may have had a lot of expectations for yourself and your relationship. Things had to be perfect. But then that promise of “happily ever after” hit the pothole called “infidelity.” Those hopes and dreams that you had are gone. For many, this is enough to send them spiraling into shame. You think, “I went and ruined it all. Now, what will people think?”
Rather than sinking into the shame of having a hectic chapter in your marriage or relationship, grieve what once was and let it go. You cannot return to the past normal. Say farewell to the image you had in your mind. Take a moment to mourn your losses and the person you were.
It’s time to embrace what you have now. You have each other still. You have today—so make it amazing.
Recover Your Marriage And Your Life With Couples Academy
Social shame is a paralyzing emotion that could leave you trapped in past mistakes. However, infidelity does not have to leave a permanent stain on your marriage. Shame is not set in stone. It is possible to move on and grow from the experience. Couples Academy offers therapy and couples counseling to those who seek to rise above the shame of infidelity. Together, you can build a future where your connection is stronger than ever. Give us a call today to learn how therapy can pave your way to affair recovery.