I sometimes hear from wives for whom the discovery of the affair is still fresh. They have just found out and many of them are somewhat surprised at their feelings and reactions. I find that this is really common. In many different situations in our lives, we THINK that we would know what we would do in a given situation until it actually happens. And then all bets are off. I honestly was completely positive that I would divorce without question if I ever caught my husband cheating. And then it actually happened. And although that was almost what happened at first, I ultimately changed my mind.
I hear this over and over again. And the reason is that you can’t possibly know how you are going to react until the event actually happens. Women who always thought that they could be rational and a bit unfeeling become totally unglued. Or sometimes the opposite happens. The reaction is almost impossible to predict.
Which is why sometimes people question their reactions (or their lack of them.) They think that they aren’t responding appropriately or that there is something wrong with them. For example, someone might say: “I am shocked at my lack of reaction about my husband’s affair. I guess it would be one thing if I had suspected anything unusual, but it totally blindsided me. Even worse, I walked in on it – well sort of. Not that they were in the act or anything, but it was still pretty obvious. My husband couldn’t shuttle her out of there fast enough. I honestly would have thought that I would have wanted to do bodily harm to someone. But I just went into the den and locked the door. And I have had very little to say to my husband since. I have not screamed or yelled or had any emotional reactions. I always thought that I would feel very strongly, but honestly, I am not feeling much at all. What should I be feeling?”
I am certainly not a therapist, but I don’t think that there is any “right” or “wrong” feeling here. And I think that the best thing to do is just to allow whatever feeling that comes up to just be. In my own experience, my feelings were all over the place and they changed very quickly. Sometimes it was by the day. Sometimes it was by the hour. It was very frustrating, but after a while I learned to stop analyzing it or judging it and to just let it be. Frankly, those feelings that pop up at random and that are occurring so quickly are very hard to control. I found that I didn’t always have much say over my feelings. But I could journal them to get them out and I could also control my actions and reactions when I would force myself to pause.
Make no mistake about it. This is a lot to take in. It sometimes just takes some time before reactions and feelings begin to surface. There is nothing wrong with that. It also doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you. It means that you are human.
Sometimes, these changes in feelings (or the feelings that come forth when you didn’t expect them) can be confusing to your husband, your friends, you family, or yourself. You don’t need to make any apologies for this. And you don’t really need to discuss it if you don’t want to. If your husband should question it, you can tell him that there is no “normal” or natural reaction and that it may take a little while for you to process what is happening around you. But since you did nothing wrong, he should respect your need for time. You should be free to take all the time that you want.
In my experience, the feelings do eventually come – and all of them can surface over time – shock, fear, anger, grief, sadness, doubt, pity – the whole gamut. They are all normal. They may all come and go. You can cling to them or not. It’s totally up to you as to what you want or need at the time.
People often ask me for how long they should experience their feelings. That really does depend on many factors. Even in the best case scenario where you have a remorseful husband, a plan to heal, and a strong commitment, the feelings can hang around for longer than you may wish. There were times when I felt that I would always feel devastated. But here I am today pretty much healed and very happy in my life. It does get better. Healing does begin to move you forward. And you have to remember that there are many other things in your life to be grateful for. So take it one step at a time. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling. And know that while those feelings may change and evolve, they also should eventually get better.