“I see her every week at church. There she is, sitting three pews in front of us: the woman who slept with my husband. I want to scream every time I see her. How can we work on rebuilding our marriage when I can’t avoid seeing that woman? There’s no such thing as ‘forgive and forget’ when I’m constantly reminded of his affair.”
It’s hard to restore the love, trust, and honesty back into your marriage when you are crossing paths with the “other woman.” Every time you see her, the images of the affair haunt you. The negative thoughts chip away at your self-esteem and you get so overwhelmed by anxiety that sometimes you even become physically sick.
These are normal feelings.
Because it’s not often realistic to move away, sometimes you have to face this person.
Over the years, I’ve seen how this works. Obviously, you want to do everything in your power to protect your emotions and your relationship, but what can you do?
I want to discuss what you can do TODAY, if you are faced with the awful reality that you are forced to be in the same room with the very person who tried to destroy your relationship.
I am going to teach you principles that you can use to protect yourself, your relationship, and your honor.
I know a woman who worked with her husband’s ex-paramour. This forced her to face the reality of the affair every single day. She dreaded going work and became nauseated in the woman’s presence.
Here is what I told her: You cannot allow this woman to see you hurt. That is why you need to act normally-even cheerfully, if you can.
I’ll explain why in a second.
But. this is just the first of 3 steps you can take RIGHT NOW to cope with seeing the “other woman.”
Step 1: Do NOT allow your spouse’s ex-paramour to see your pain.
That means covering your pain in front of the paramour or anyone in her social circle.
You are in a lot of pain right now. The affair was a traumatic event, leaving fear and anger in its wake. You feel deceived. You feel outraged. And you have every right to feel that way.
But let me reiterate this: Do not show your emotional pain to your spouse’s ex-paramour.
If you are at a party with your spouse, arrange this beforehand, and smile and hold his hand. If you are arriving at church, take his arm as you walk to your pew. This is not about being deceptive. This is not about “lying to yourself.” This is about showing your spouse’s ex-paramour that your marriage is far stronger and far more significant than the affair. Your outward affection toward your spouse sends clear messages to the ex-paramour:
“Our marriage means everything to us. The affair was a minor nuisance.”
“I’m the one with whom my spouse wants to spend his life. You were just a fleeting interest.”
The reason for sending this message is to leave the paramour with no hope for getting back together.
At home, you can talk about your pain.
With a counselor you can seek ways to repair the trust that your cheating spouse has violated. There are many, many places in which you can be upfront about your feelings.
Just don’t make your feelings apparent to your spouse’s ex-paramour.
She needs to know that she has no hope of ever continuing the affair. Do not let her think there is any chance your spouse would ever choose her over you. When she loses this hope, she will become less of a drain on your emotions. She will stop living rent-free in your head. Then, you can focus on what is truly important: saving your relationship.
Here is another way to cope with the situation, while protecting your heart and your pride.
Step 2: Be Positive Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
What if you have to face the ex-paramour alone, without your spouse? Maybe you and she belong to the same book club. Maybe you run into each other at the gym. What can you do?
You have 2 options. The first is to abandon your lifestyle and choose other places to enjoy your hobbies. Or, you could use advanced techniques to overcome the feelings that may make coping difficult.
One common technique I use and teach is a visualization exercise I call “Changing Your Vision.” In this exercise, you learn to stop the obsessive thoughts about encountering the ex-paramour. Here is what you can do.
Step 1: Find a time in your day when you can spend a quiet half-hour working on this visualization exercise. Be sure you’re in a place where you won’t be bothered or interrupted.
Step 2: Calm yourself. Allow your mind to clear and to relax.
Step 3: Bring the image of facing the ex-paramour to mind. This may be difficult, and it may be painful. But it is so important to face pain in order to overcome it.
Step 4: Once you have the vision strongly and vividly in your mind, begin to manipulate it. See if you can play it backwards, like when you hit the “rewind” button on your DVD player. Speed it up, then slow it down. Does this change your perspective, even a little bit? If so, “play” the vision several times more, manipulating it each time.
In this exercise, you are changing the way your obsessive thoughts work. You are realizing that your brain is generating these images of seeing the “other woman”-and that you are in charge of what your brain does. This exercise helps you break the rigid pattern of obsessive thinking.
Step 3: Always Take the High Road.
Imagine this: You’re at a cocktail party, and your host wants to introduce you to someone. It turns out-unbeknownst to your well-meaning host-that this “someone” is your spouse’s ex-paramour. The temptation to be catty is strong. You might be dying to say, “Oh, yes, I do know her, and I believe she knows my husband very well.”
Don’t do it.
A catty remark or hostile glance tells your spouse’s ex-paramour that you are not in control over your emotions, and that she possibly still has significant meaning in your husband’s life. In other words, it can send her the signal that she might still have a chance with your spouse. Maybe, she reasons, he will want a break from you and your angry attitude.
You need to be better than that.
So what do you do?
The most powerful statement you can make is to be casually nice. Do you have to engage this person in a long conversation? Of course not! Just smile, say “Nice to meet you,” and walk away to talk to a friend. You are showing her that she holds no power over you.
You aren’t going to have a lengthy chat with her, but you’re also not going to react angrily. You want to, you think you deserve to, but you shouldn’t.
You are a happy, healthy person. You are the one your spouse sleeps next to at night. You are the one he has chosen. Send this message with your polite smile and breezy attitude.
These are just a few of the principles you can begin using today if you are haunted by the shadow the of your spouse’s ex-paramour. Now, I’d like to hear from you.
What have you done to successfully cope with being around the ex-paramour?
Please share your insight with me and with other readers by posting a comment on this blog. Simply use the comment link below.