How to Handle the Blow to Your Self-Esteem


“My self-esteem has taken a plunge,” Terry confided. “Never did I think that would happen to me! I’m at the pinnacle of my career, raised a family-three well-adjusted kids. Just when I should be able to bask in all that I’ve worked so hard for over the years, I find out about the affair. Now here I am, like some teenager, wondering if I’m attractive enough, smart enough, accomplished enough. It’s a real challenge to work on saving this marriage and the doubts I now have about that, when I’m also trying to deal with all of these self-doubts-it’s overwhelming. My self-esteem is completely eroded. How am I supposed to work on building a better marriage, when I feel like I’ve lost my sense of self?”

As you read Terry’s story above, you might have found that your experience mimicked some of what she was going through. You might have been moving through your life, accomplishing your goals, with your marriage serving as a comfortable, secure backdrop and foundation.

Then came the blow. Your spouse upended your marriage vows and the very foundation you relied on, and your belief in the life you had was shaken to the core, and with it, your self-esteem.

Suddenly, your inner conversation was, and probably still is, filled with questions of self-doubt about who you are and what you’re worth. Where you might have once stood tall and proud, you may now feel like a paler, more timid version of your former self.

If you’ve been injured by an affair, there are many layers of devastation to work through that are a result of learning of the affair. You may be struggling to overcome a multitude of complex feelings and thoughts, both on a personal level and in regard to saving your marriage-just like Terry.

Most of the focus after infidelity is given to the loss of trust that occurs, because trust is such an important issue in faithfulness. Today, however, I want to focus on the blow your self-esteem takes when you learn that your husband or wife cheated on you, and how it affects how you feel about yourself. In this blog, I want to share steps to help you reclaim a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Are any of the feelings expressed by Terry familiar to you? Here are other examples:

1. I look so tired all the time now, no wonder my spouse strayed.
2. With this paunch, my spouse probably isn’t attracted to me anymore.
3. If I hadn’t let our intimate time together get stale, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
4. My husband (or wife) is probably bored with me, since I rarely have anything interesting to say.

When you are haunted with words of self-doubt, it can be difficult to switch gears from tearing yourself down to being your own advocate. Your self-esteem may already have taken a beating just by the news of your spouse’s affair. Now you may be struggling with your own inner dialogue, which could be adding fuel to the fire that is devastating what’s left of your self-esteem.

Today I want to help by giving you steps to help you overcome your inner crisis.

Your Self-Confidence: A Crucial Component To Marriage-Building

If you are also trying to repair a damaged marriage amidst this inner turmoil, you suddenly find too many challenging questions on your plate. From healing yourself to healing your marriage, it’s a lot for you to take on all at once.

If you are trying to work, keep your kids going, maintain the household and all of the other myriad demands of life, there’s only so much of you to go around.

In the midst of all this, you need to take some time for yourself and work on rebuilding your self-esteem. Your self-esteem is an essential, crucial component of saving your marriage. To build a marriage that is stronger than what you’ve had, you will need a strong sense of inner self-confidence, and the courage to demonstrate your self-confidence. Here are some steps for you to take as a beginning to help you get through this crisis period.

Step 1: Commit to Yourself

Before you can commit yourself to saving your marriage and building it into a stronger relationship, first commit to this: to salvaging your self-confidence and building a stronger relationship with yourself.

Your self-confidence is damaged, and only you can repair it. Commit to making the effort to heal yourself, first and foremost. Your priority at the moment should be to focus inward as you work through this self-healing process.

Step 2: Define the Crisis

When you experience a crisis of self-confidence, you are already asking yourself many questions, as we observed in Terry’s story. The questions can cut to the core.

Submit to this self-evaluation. Ask yourself the hard questions. I encourage you to write down what you’re asking, and what your answers are to your own questions. Get it all out in the open, no matter what the question is, and no matter what your answer is in response.

Remember that you are the expert on knowing your thoughts and feelings. I am not saying that your thoughts or feelings are equivalent to or based on “the truth,” only that no one knows better than you what your thoughts and feelings are.

After you make an honest self-evaluation, analyze your information. Can you put a name to the inner crisis you’re experiencing? In order to cope with the crisis, you need to understand what it is.

Step 3: Cope with Confidence

After you do your self-evaluation, we can expect that you will understand more of your own motivations for tearing yourself apart. Now, your “job” is to argue with yourself against the negative thoughts and feelings.

For example, in the opening segment one of Terry’s questions was: “Am I accomplished enough?” But Terry already knew the answer and told herself, “I’m at the pinnacle of my career.” If one of your self-questions was whether or not you’re accomplished enough, ask yourself: “How exactly can my spouse’s affair take away from my accomplishments?”

This exercise will help you define your crisis of self-confidence, and then your “job” will be to question and argue against those self-defeating thoughts and questions. For some people experiencing a blow to their self-esteem after infidelity, there is something appealing about staying mired in the self-defeating thinking. It can create the illusion that you are taking care of “the problem,” because you are actively focusing on something and feel that you are somehow controlling things and making them better. But focusing on an illusion accomplishes nothing in the real world. You need to break free from this pattern.