Getting divorced after your spouse has an affair, or his or her sexual identity changes, can be extremely painful. People often fantasize about getting more money in a divorce settlement as revenge for being wronged, but in truth, courts do not resolve or judge human events like these. No-fault divorce means that the judge handling your divorce does not need or want to hear the details of your story. There may be no resolution for the spouse who is betrayed or disappointed, and no satisfying way to punish the person who caused the hurt.
Volumes have been written on coping when your spouse has an affair, and it is hard. Leaning on your children makes the divorce more painful for them. Therapy may help, and is certainly recommended. Exposing your spouse on social media won’t make things better–it alienates family members and invites ongoing Facebook warfare. Friends will listen . . . for a while.
How to heal from the betrayal when your spouse has an affair
First, decide if you will consider forgiving your spouse. If so, tell your spouse what actions he or she must take to be forgiven. If it is possible, this is a good course of action. If not, don’t ask any more of your spouse. Go your separate ways without attacking him or her again, if you can. Divorce frees you to live your own life.
Next, write a journal. Make yourself the hero or victim and your spouse the villain or offender. It can be cathartic to write your story, unedited by the other person. Share it privately, if you want, but not on the Internet. Make a pact with yourself to keep your journal for ten years. You’ll know by then whether it is important to you to preserve, or whether you have truly moved on and can shred it forever.
When the betrayal is that your spouse is gay, bisexual or transgender
When someone’s sexual identity changes during a marriage, it often feels like a betrayal to the other spouse. Finding out your spouse is gay or bisexual may be a complete shock, or it may come after years of suspicion and denial. You wonder if your spouse was ever really attracted to you, ever really loved you, and if he or she ever really wanted the family and home you both worked so hard to build. It can feel like your marriage was a fraud, that your spouse knew (or should have known) he or she was gay before marrying you.
Friends and family may sympathize with your spouse more than you, because coming out can be so hard to do. But it may have been hard on you, too. Especially if your spouse blamed you for the marital problems, lied about same-sex attraction, or made you feel crazy for thinking something was wrong. Sometimes a gay spouse asks you not to reveal the reason for your divorce, so you can’t share your true feelings while your marriage comes apart. Many people also feel ashamed that they didn’t know the truth during the marriage.
Recognize what you have lost
Your life and your spouse’s life change when you discover your spouse is gay, bisexual or transgender. You are losing your identity as part of a couple, your family as you know it, the life you had together and more. The stages of grief after the loss are like the grief after the death of a loved one. At the same time, it’s important to remember what caused your spouse to hide his or her identity for so many years. Children learn that showing desire for the same sex gets them scolded, punished and shunned. The more harm done to a child’s self-esteem this way, Don Clark writes in Loving Someone Gay, “the more predictably troubled a person will be and the more hampered in establishing a satisfying life.” Most gay, bisexual and transgender people have hidden who they are since they were very young.
Mindful thinking for the future
Post these thoughts where you will see them everyday:
Don’t let the deception and betrayal ruin the good memories you have.
Life is short.
Revenge is sweet but empty.
You can’t take it with you.
There is no price on happiness.
Money can’t buy love.
There but for good fortune go I.
Copyright 2018 Kelly & Knaplund.