Coping with Infidelity, Part 1

coping with infidelity

While Canada does not keep official statistics on infidelity, many experts estimate that between one in four and one in five married people have experienced cheating. The affected people are our friends, relatives, co-workers, as well as ourselves. Coping With Infidelity is a four-part series that aims to remove the culture of silence and shame and start a conversation among readers about why cheating hurts so much and how to survive it. Our aim is to help others struggling with this to know that they’re not alone. The author has chosen to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of her children.

Part 1: Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster

Six months ago, I found text messages between my husband and one of his co-workers. His admission that they had been having a sexual affair for several months instantly and violently reshuffled the plans I had for the day, the immediate future and possibly the rest of my life.

As of today we are still together and trying to rebuild and recreate our marriage.

The immediate aftermath was hell, and the subsequent slow burn has been exhausting. But the worst part wasn’t the loss of trust or even drowning in grief; it was the emotional roller coaster that made me feel mentally unstable almost every waking minute.

After I found out, I was angry all the time: angry that he cheated, angry that my life was turned upside down, angry that I trusted him and he broke my heart. I called in sick to work, I cancelled plans, I parented from bed, I lied to my children, I sobbed in the shower. I messaged the other woman and stalked her on social media. I contacted a private detective. None of this made me feel any better and channeling my energy into despair, not recovery, also made me angry.

There were several cars on my roller coaster, each one worse and more damaging than the next. The primary emotions we feel after betrayal are grief, anger, hurt and confusion. For most of us there’s also guilt, fear and sadness. My husband is the kind of man who holds my hand in public; who tells me he loves me multiple times a day; who calls becoming a father the greatest thing that ever happened to him. I thought he was happy, I thought we were happy.

His affair came right out of the blue and had a profound impact on how I see the world and how I see myself.

If he’d left me when I found out, my roller coaster would probably have been more like a slow-moving trip through an abandoned, underground mine. Instead, his remorse and commitment to winning me back meant that there were peaks between the lows, high times during which I was often not just hopeful and optimistic about our marriage, but ecstatic.

It was like being in the eye of a hurricane that would toss me in the air and shake me around before putting me down in a completely different place every 12, 24 or 48 hours. I would go from feeling cautiously optimistic in the morning, to cruising short-term apartment rental ads in the afternoon. By evening I couldn’t look at him and by bedtime I wanted sex, and plenty of it. And I was cold, freezing cold, all the time. Two hot baths a day barely numbed the constant chill.

If you really want to feel like you’re losing your mind consider feeling grateful that the affair happened, because it’s bringing you closer together, only to be sobbing on your bedroom floor three hours later because you can’t stop picturing him on top of her, or because the texts you found are still playing on a loop in your head several months later.

When I started researching infidelity and how to cope I was craving information, connection and support, but what I found was a culture of silence and shame.

Feeling like I was supposed to be humiliated, supposed to be ashamed left me even more confused and disoriented. I did nothing wrong, what do I have to be embarrassed about? Despite the few extra pounds I carry around my middle, and the ten-year old granny panties I haven’t yet purged from my underwear drawer, I (usually) don’t buy into the notion that what am I or am not is why he cheated. The mess he’s made of our family is on him and no one else. And yet part of what powers the roller coaster is a constant refrain of “what if.”

When something unexpected and catastrophic happens, it doesn’t matter how many times people try to discourage us from obsessing over the reasons, our brains demand an explanation. I thought he was happy. I thought we were happily married. I thought I could trust him. I thought he loved me.

Facing the raw, alternate reality revealed by an affair is like watching the colour wheel on your Macbook spin endlessly. There is some sort of overload or system failure preventing you from continuing. Nothing can move forward, nothing makes sense, everything is stuck and nothing is working. All the things our friends and therapists want us to believe (namely, that it wasn’t our fault) cannot reconcile with the facts. If it wasn’t my fault, then whose fault was it? If it wasn’t about me then who was it about? If he wasn’t unhappy then why did he do it? Confusion and frustration become our default states of mind because we cannot make sense of something so bizarre. “Why did this happen, how could this happen” were my mantras for months.

In the immediate aftermath, my husband told the other woman it was over. He told me their rendezvous were infrequent and he blamed long-standing depression, untreated anxiety and alcoholism for his state of mind during that time. He hasn’t had a drink since that day and is now under the care of a mental health professional. So I also get to feel guilty for not recognizing where he was at, and wondering if this could have all been avoided if I’d told him to get help for his drinking instead of being frustrated by it.

Despite the fact that my husband and his ex-lover work for the same company, he says he hasn’t crossed paths with her since the day I found out.

Side note: the only thing worse than your husband cheating is your husband cheating and continuing to work in the same place “she” does. This situation, on top of everything else, felt like trying to distinguish the raging inferno of our marriage using thimbles full of water.

We’d spend a decent weekend together, pouring all our attention into the kids, trying to figure out how to be normal again, then in the hours before he was due back in the office the roller coaster would begin its slow climb to the top of mount crazy. It would teeter there until he didn’t answer his phone or was late getting home at which point the 100-mile an hour, out of control descent would begin.

The emotional roller coaster has been the most difficult part of this ordeal for me. The betrayal I’ll get over eventually and the anger will subside. The fear of telling my kids we were splitting up or of being a single parent was paralyzing, but not being able to control my emotions or predict my moods was even worse.

Losing me was scarier than losing him.

Ultimately, the pain we feel over infidelity is rooted in loss. Once I understood that I wasn’t just grieving a betrayal but rather the loss of my sense of self and belief in the world as a secure, predictable place, it was easier for me to understand why my roller coaster was always out of control. Naming and better understanding my various emotions and triggers (thanks to the help of a great therapist) allowed me to slow it down. Eventually I was able to give myself a break, to stop blaming … everyone… and realize that given what had happened, feeling unsettled and unhinged 95% of the time was actually pretty normal and expected.

This was the biggest part of the healing for me. The biggest relief and the most sure sign that I was going to be okay was finally being able to get off that ride; to exit the car and walk down the ramp knowing I’d survived.

Regaining my sanity doesn’t mean it no longer hurts, and it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods as a couple. Being betrayed this way has been like death by a thousand cuts: every insecurity I had, every voice in my head that screamed I wasn’t good enough, every movie loop that repeated the story of my inadequacies is breathing new life. Every bad thing I believed about myself is now front and centre in my brain screaming “I told you so” at the top of its lungs.

So in addition to rebuilding my marriage, I’m rebuilding myself.

Some good has come from this, most of it in the way I’ve come to know and believe in myself. It would have been nice to find this out via a yoga retreat or a great self-help book instead of being cheated on, but what can you do?

When life hands you a roller coaster you’ve just got to close your eyes and hold on tight.


Next up, part two of the series examines the stigma around adultery and why talking about it is still taboo. 




  1. Sarah on July 9, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Perhaps even more difficult: finding out the affair has happened with someone whom you thought was one of your best friends of over a decade. This is the situation I find my marriage in and we are trying to work it out. Hardest thing I have EVER done.
    Our kids were best friends, we played on the same sports team, she looked after my kids after school every day.
    I’ve Never felt so isolated and betrayed.
    My husband and I are at six months after me finding out. I’m hoping time makes it easier.

  2. Guest Author on July 10, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Oh Sarah. That is awful. My heart breaks for you. That’s a whole other level of betrayal. I’m so, so sorry you have to go through this. No one deserves to have their lives turned upside down in this way. Therapy has been a Godsend for me. I hope you’re getting some help too and looking after yourself as best you can. It’s a long road ahead. Wishing you strength. Xoxo

  3. Alicia on July 12, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Losing myself…

    That hit me like a ton if bricks after years if feeling like I am not the gentle loving person I used to be…

    Thanks for your writing ❤.

    I oray healing for our hearts. xo

  4. Sarah on July 12, 2017 at 2:07 am


    Thank you for writing that. I am
    sorry you have gone through what you
    did. My husband cheated on me with his coworker for our whole 12 year marriage. It is life altering and horrible, but good can come from bad.
    I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

  5. Shirley on July 12, 2017 at 3:05 am

    I too found a sexual text from one of my husbands co workers we live in the US and she lives in Canada. He lied at first then a week later he said yes it was a sexual affair. It has been almost six months since I found out. He says they are done she is 20 years younger than us with two kids of her own she said she was married but they are a common law couple that was the first of many lies between the two of them. He had no plan to ever be with her he has raised two kids already wanted no part of more kids. I am also glad it happened only because I am a better person now then I was 6 months ago not sure if the changes I have made would of happen other wise just wish it would of been in another way. We both feel happier together then we have in the past 10 years. I still have stressful times he travel with his work that is the hardest because that is when they would meet I worry it might happen again. He treats me great we have fun and are doing things we stopped doing years ago. I have forgiven him but forgetting the texts and the messages I read is the hardest part, what I want most from him is for him to say all the loving words to me that he said to her. He shows his love to me in many ways but the words just are never spoken so it makes me wonder his true feeling for me. I am so glad to have found your story looking forward to reading future stories. I want any help I can get to find true peace.

  6. Janina on July 12, 2017 at 3:59 am

    Thank you for this! I am going through the emotional roller coaster. He cheated for a year. I found out in January. I feel the worst now. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s almost like the shock has finally worn off and the magnitude of it all is hitting me like a ton of bricks now. Everything reminds me of it. Everything. It’s consuming. I think about each and every time I had doubts about a situation but just decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. So many times! We are also trying to work it out, I am just struggling so badly right now. I can talk to him freely about every feeling I have and I appreciate it but I feel like I can’t stop sometimes. I feel stupid for believing he can change because you always hear otherwise. I am so afraid of wasting my pre you’d time…I just can’t picture my life without him. This is hard.
    Thank you for putting words to feelings I couldn’t understand. Thank you for talking about something that not everyone can understand.

  7. Mary on July 12, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you for this. This is what happened to me. I even reached out to the person he was sexting at 1 am in the morning. She thought that I had the issue and not her. She continued to text my husband even after I asked her not to. My husband would ignore her texts after I intervened. She to this day doesn’t think there is a problem. She too has a child a year younger than mine. She thought it was okay to buy hockey tickets to a game that we were going to and sit in the same section. I helped her out because I didn’t know she and my husband were sexting at the time. I took her son and mine to the concession stand. I just couldn’t believe it! I made him make a choice as we had a 10 year old at the time. He said he wanted to stay with me. I asked for an apology from my husband in front of my son. I wanted my son to understand that this is not what you do. My husband knows he has to make up for it, because I’m not – I didn’t do any thing wrong. We are working on it. I’ve blocked her from the phones and his e-mail address has been erased. I e-mailed everybody saying the e-mail address will no longer be in use. I’m curious to hear your next article.

  8. Matt on July 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    This was a great read for me. Thank you for sharing. I did not have a sexual relationship but began a flirtatious text relationship with two women out of the blue. At the time, my wife was going through a depression that I did not recognize. It made her angry and numb and detached and, at least I felt like I was always doing something wrong. She didn’t find me charming or attractive at all. I never lost that feeling for her. When I was texted by a random person I worked with on a freelance project, and it turned into witty banter back and forth, it was refreshing. She wanted me. It felt great. I had no intention of ever meeting her in person, in fact, I wasn’t that physically attracted to her – but I was getting the kind of attention I craved. That was addictive. Our meaningless banter back and forth was a welcome distraction from the kind of texts I was getting from my wife (something I did wrong, something I had to do, something about the kid, something about plans, something about the house). She discovered a lurid text one night. I know even though I did not have any in-person encounters that I was cheating on my wife. Intellectually and emotionally. I didn’t recognize that at the time and thought it was harmless. It wasn’t. It’s been a year now and I don’t know how to win back her trust or get back to how we felt with each other at the beginning of our relationship.

  9. Mary on July 12, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Matt, I think you should be as flirtatious with your wife. You should show call her, text her as you did the other women. You probably like my husband texted your “friends” more than your wife. I think by being considerate towards your wife and suggesting date night and making all the arrangements yourself that would help. Cook dinner for her, get the kids a babysitter. You make all the effort in contacting the other women but you made no efforts in your marriage. That’s all.

    • Heather Dixon on July 12, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Hi Mary! While we can absolutely appreciate your feelings and where you’re coming from, it took a lot of honesty and courage for Matt to post his comment. I think mutual respect is key to this conversation, for sure. Thank you to both of you, and to everyone, for chiming in and getting such an important conversation going. Clearly, it’s a topic that has touched a lot of our lives. This is exactly what we were hoping to do – help others process the things they’ve had happen to them, talk about it, connect. We appreciate everyone for being so open and honest with us.

  10. Guest Author on July 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Matt, thank you so much for your comment. It takes a lot of courage to be that open and admit any kind of infidelity. I think my husband can definitely identify with a lot of what you said and one positive I’m trying to get from our situation is better communication between us. Keep working and be patient. Opening up and trusting again can be really hard, even if there wasn’t any physical contact. I wish you all the best and hope you guys can get things back on track. xo

  11. Guest Author on July 13, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Janina, I’m so glad you left a comment. You are not alone!!! The constant, yet out of the blue reminders are really, really awful. I’d be having a “good” day or good hour and then something would hit me and I would fall down the rabbit hole of depression and obsession. It’s awful and I’m so sorry you’re experiencing the same thing. I promise you it gets better. I hope you have some friends or family you can talk to??? Sending you love and strength. xo

  12. katie on July 14, 2017 at 9:26 am

    When she/he is pointing out every tiny imperfection in the relationship, she/he might be looking for grounds to break up to be with someone else, It could be because she/he doesn’t want romantic messages from another to get discovered. Any sort of sneaky behavior like this is a sign, It is not so typical of me to refer professionals online but I feel like I owe a lot to my hackdemon4 AT g mail. com who helped me track my cheating husband when he was having an affair, I got to find out that he has been lying to me for the past 5 months and seeing two other women. I was able to get direct access to his text messages, phone conversations and all social networks on his phone remotely : what was most amazing was that his recently deleted messages were retrieved by him. If you are getting less than you deserve in your relationship and want to be sure , there is no crime in that contact hackdemon4 @ g mail. com. tell him Katie refereed you.

  13. Guest Author on July 14, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Shirley and Sarah, thanks for reminding me I’m not alone. I love how we are supporting each other. When people don’t talk about or acknowledge infidelity it makes us feel like we’re the only ones. But we’re not (unfortunately). And I totally agree that it’s possible to have something good come from an affair. Really *&^% difficult, but possible. That is my focus too. Thanks for giving me hope that it IS possible and not a fantasy I invented to keep from losing my mind! xo

  14. Anne on July 15, 2017 at 4:00 am

    My husband cheated when I was 8 months pregnant with an acquaintance in our circle of friends. I found out several months after having the baby. The emotional roller coaster was unbearable as I was also failing at breastfeeding, so very tired, and obviously not feeling as sexy in my new body. A complete wreck to say the least. The betrayal I felt was x2 as this other woman knew me.
    Someone once compared being cheated on to grieving a death. The person you thought you were married to, who you thought would never break your trust, is now a stranger in your eyes. The faithful husband he once was is now dead. And you grieve for the loss of that man.
    Because we had a new baby and I couldn’t handle parenting alone, I let him stay to help. We went to marriage counselling. He was remorseful. The marriage counselor told me to go through the motions of marriage. Sleep in the same bed still. Hug often. Do not make the divide even bigger than it already is. And one day the actions will become genuine again.
    3 years post cheating and we are going strong. The feelings and intimacy do become real again. I still have reminders (I forever have a naked picture of the other woman burned into my mind), or I read an article like this…but the difference is now I don’t shut myself in the bathroom to cry. Now I can talk to him casually about it: “I read an article tonight about infidelity and it brought back memories. We’re in a good place right now but I don’t really feel like being intimate tonight”. And he’ll reply with understanding and another apology and we move on and can say something funny to break the mood a little.
    The one thing that still nags me is the wanting revenge feeling. My husband almost lost everything because he screwed up. He’s had to beg, and grovel, and jump through hoops to make me happy again. He’s done his penance so to speak. Yet the other woman, who knew me and knew he was married, she gets no repercussions? I’ve never given her a piece of my mind, we just cut her out of our lives immediately. And I fought every urge to confront her because I knew at the time I was emotionally unstable. 3 years later, I’m still unsatisfied in that regard.

  15. Jan on August 8, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I am struggling so. much with the emotional roller coaster. I can go from extreme rage to extreme pain — sometimes several times within the same day. I found out 5 weeks ago. We were best friends for so many years, and then together romantically for a decade-and-a-half. The sense of betrayal is beyond anything I can comprehend. I honestly do not know how to cope. I am broken. His affair was with a co-worker. Started as an emotional affair which turned into a sexual affair 2 months before I caught him. I found semen-stained underwear and viagra in his bag. They had sex six times. I heard their conversations. It makes me so sick. He ended things and we are seeing a counsellor but my faith and trust are non existent. I hate him. Everything he does is wrong. It’s too little. Not remorseful enough. He says he is sorry but also tries to blame shift and say 20 percent of the time we would fight. Neglecting the 80 percent of the time we were happy. I compare myself to the other incessantly. This is honestly a hell on earth like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve lost several family members over the years. I just can’t understand how someone I’ve loved, in some way, since we were teenagers could do this to me. Or our three young children. She is also married with 2 young children. They disgust me. They are morally bankrupt.

  16. Anonymous on September 30, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    I am happy that you were able to work through the crisis and that your husband ended the affair on the day he found out. I went through the tragedy of an affair, and the process was not so smooth or tidy. My husband did not make those promises and, in fact, did leave me for her. We divorced, but I carried the pain and the torch. After an endless cycle of pain and depression, suddenly the crisis ended, and we too were reunited and a year later remarried. It was a happy ending by all accounts, but I can tell you that 35 years after the crisis, the pain remains. An affair, even those with happy endings, scars one’s soul and taints future relationships for a lifetime. Yes, we can be happy again, and yes life goes on, but once we go through that despair, we carry the scars forever.

  17. Addie on June 21, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    Please help!! I haven’t confirmed him actually cheating but I have secretly found texts that lead me to believe that has happened or he wants it to. I don’t know whether to tell him or confront her, but it’s eating me up inside. I’m quite around him now, suspicious of everything, and want so badly for us to return to how we were. I know honesty with him is best, but I’m afraid he’ll react in a way that is mad I read his texts…and more afraid that what my gut is telling me is true. We have a blended family of 6 kids and it will not only rock my entire world and the love I have for him, it would tear apart our family. So I’ve taken one for the team and just allowed this to eat away at me. What would you do at the beginning of finding out and what would you suggest ? Maybe I just need a friend who has gone through this who can help me make sense of this all.

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