You knew that if you ever discovered an affair, you’d be angry, but why are you feeling shame? Shame is usually prompted by a sense of humiliation because a person believes he/she has made a mistake. So if anyone should feel shame, it ought to be your partner, right? After all, your partner is the one who behaved badly. But discovering an affair causes you to evaluate yourself. People have a tendency to wind and rewind the movie reels of their lives, looking for blame; they will often feel as if they had messed up somewhere. You’re not alone if you feel shame; it’s natural when something this important has gone wrong.
Feeling sad is a natural response to losing the affections of someone you love, but emptiness is different because it’s the absence of emotion. People are alarmed when they look inside and realize there’s nothing there. A feeling of emptiness is actually a psychological mechanism that kicks in during any period of shock; in some ways, it actually protects the mind. Given the time and resolution of the trauma, it usually dissipates.
You may have told yourself that if your partner ever cheated on you, you’d dump him or her in a heartbeat. Many people share that feeling. So why, when you feel that your partner has stayed, are you thinking about wanting him or her back more than ever? Separations between partners can generate an increase in attraction, and imagining your partner is someone else’s arms can stir a longing to pull you close together. And there’s a good reason why you feel possessive toward your spouse. He or she belongs to you — not as property, but as someone who has exclusively promised to partner with you for life.
There is a list of very strong emotions that a betrayed partner might have to confront, but there will also be a more pervasive sense of irritation with what your partner has done. As a spouse, you may just want to say to yourself, “really, could he/she be that stupid!” This isn’t just forgetting to put a stamp on the electric bill before sending it out; it’s a big lapse in judgment and behavior, and the mistake directly affects you. For good reason, you had higher expectations for your mate. Your partner’s behavior affected everything going forward and you know it’s just plain annoying!
Many people who discover a partner’s affair had sensed that something had been wrong but weren’t able to figure it out. Some have been seeing signs of it for months. Now that it’s in the open, you can finally begin to work on it. You didn’t want an affair to happen, but now that it’s out in the open, you and your mate can start to confront it.