In early January, I was honored to be the keynote speaker for the first annual Infidelity Survivors Anonymous Retreat here in Texas.
During the Q&A Session on Saturday afternoon, one of the participants wanted to explore why she still gets triggered sometimes—even after many years of solid self-care, relationship healing, and boundary work.
Like most betrayed partners, she sometimes gets triggered—and angry—when she sees another woman who fits the profile of someone her unfaithful spouse has been attracted to in the past.
As we explored her thoughts about these occasional painful incidents, what we discovered together is that at the root of these triggers was a lingering belief that somehow the betrayal she experienced in the past was a reflection on her—her value or worth.
When a betrayed partner perceives her unfaithful spouse’s past or current behaviors as reflecting on her in some way—meaning that the infidelity was due to something she did, something she said, or something she didn’t do, or didn’t say, or the way she looks—she will suffer.
You may be thinking, “Of course, I know it’s not about me.” But has the thought traveled from your head to the core of your being?
The belief that infidelity has something to do with you is the single biggest thought distortion for all betrayed partners.
Maybe you were told—by your spouse, your family, or others—that it was your fault. And unfortunately, there are countless cultural and societal messages that nurture the toxic mindset that women are responsible for the trauma and abuse they experience.
Like the partner who raised the question of why she still gets triggered, you may have already had done a lot of healing work. But chances are, this distorted thought—or lie—still pops up from time to time.
So, the one thought I invite you to embrace is:
My spouse’s preferences, choices, and actions are not about me—ever.
Of course, what your spouse does impacts you. And when it does, I hope you will own the power you do have to practice the best self-care you can to manage and reduce the impact.
But when you slip into the mindset that his (or her) choices are about you—about the way you look, what you did (or didn’t do), or anything else that is specific and personal to you—you are engaged in distorted thinking. And this kind of thinking will cause you more unnecessary distress, pain, and heartache.
So what to do?
When you start having thoughts that make infidelity and betrayal personal—meaning about you—try this simple reframe:
My spouse’s choices and actions belong 100% to him.
I am not responsible for what he chooses to do or not do.
Or you could simply say, “It’s not mine. I’m not going to pick this up and make it about me.” You can then re-direct your thoughts, attention, and precious time to life-embracing, pleasurable, and solution-focused activities.
Infidelity is never a reflection on you. Ever.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2018)
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