Coping With Infidelity, Part 2: Enough with the Silence

Coping With Infidelity is a four-part series that aims to remove the culture of silence and shame around infidelity – and start a conversation among readers about why it hurts 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. Read Part 1 here.

Part 2: Enough with the silence

If you’ve ever rented a limo, you know there’s a glass partition that separates the driver from his passengers. It makes a distinct sound and is the adult equivalent of a toddler covering his ears and yelling “nah nah nah nah” when you start talking about bedtime.

That’s what it feels like to talk about infidelity.

I’ve spent the last few years blogging about every detail of my life. My kids, my job, my marriage, my Pinterest fails, even infertility… nothing was off limits. Then I found out my husband was having an affair with his co-worker and suddenly I felt like I was expected to keep quiet about one of the most devastating things that’s ever happened to me. Conversations would often go like this:

“So now I’m trying to figure out…”

Whir ….

“I’m not sure why he….”


“I feel like …”


Very quickly, I began to feel like I was being pitied not because my husband cheated and my whole world was in shambles, but because of the humiliation I surely felt at finding out I was second fiddle in my own marriage.

Partly out of anger, partly as an attempt to process my new reality, I wanted to tell everyone what had happened. “I’ve been wronged!”, “can you believe what he did to me?” and “he’s a lying bastard!” were the subtexts of every conversation. I was blatantly recruiting for team ME but I had other motivation as well. Almost immediately after emerging from the initial fog I was determined to prove I wasn’t humiliated. This was not an act, a façade or an attempt at bravery. It was the truth. As a writer, I believe if you’ve learned something you should share it, especially if it can help someone else. I use my voice every single day and absolutely refuse to let his actions take that away.

Adultery is a painful, deeply personal and emotional experience and, understandably, most women don’t share this openly. But what I don’t understand and cannot abide is the shame; the shame that clings to wronged women; the shame that tells us it’s 1950 and we did a shitty job of keeping our man happy, or that there must be something wrong with us if our husband cheated.

There’s a stigma around infidelity and it’s rooted in humiliation

Humiliation is a complicated thing and most people are very uncomfortable with it. We don’t know what to say, or do. It’s the elephant in the room. Humiliation is not a headache that goes away with aspirin, or a broken bone that can be reset. It’s awkward, deeply personal, and it exists outside the short, often perfunctory interactions that populate our lives. If you want to have a candid and honest conversation about adultery, you need to address the humiliation or lack thereof.

Admitting and processing the grief and hurt that comes with infidelity are incredibly difficult things to do, and most of us would rather conduct this business in private. Many of us blame ourselves too, and we often wonder if or how we caused our partner’s affair. Voicing our hurt can give it new life, and speculating on the how and why can open us up to more guilt, more self-recrimination. So we stay silent; some by choice, some by default because no one else understands or really wants to talk about it.

Even our most well-intentioned confidantes will often fail at helping us process the mess our lives have become. Like us, they want an explanation and someone to blame but we, the wronged party, know in our heart of hearts it’s not always that simple. Talking about our husband’s infidelity means wading into uncomfortable conversations about our marriages, habits, quirks and sex lives. Blech.

However, what’s so frustrating and so galling is that the stigma and shame associated with infidelity seem to cling to the wronged party as much, if not more, than the offender. Betrayed women are pitied and whispered about (often with good intentions) but people undeniably feel bad for us.

When I found out my husband was cheating I was (and still am) an independent working woman with a great job, two young children, and a life of friends and interests outside my husband’s. Until I found out, I was happy, self-assured and certain of my place in the world. Being the “victim” has been a difficult pill for me to swallow, and a label I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

People don’t like dealing with things they can’t understand

Part of the taboo around infidelity is built on the fact that affairs – especially those of seemingly happy couples – are confusing and shocking, and people don’t like dealing with things they can’t understand. When the affair is discovered it is so at odds with what we thought we knew that our entire sense of who these people are is turned upside down.

We think things like: “I had no idea he was like that,” or “I wonder why he cheated on her (subtext: what’s wrong with her?)” Our friends feel the same disorientation and confusion that we do and very few of them are prepared, equipped or willing to wade into that discomfort.

There were people who knew about my experience but were reluctant to engage in meaningful discussion, as though doing so would invite an affair into their own lives as well. There is a sense of “if it can happen to her, maybe it can happen to me.” But infidelity is not ebola. It’s not contagious.

In society at large, we talk about affairs using verbs like “cheating” and “messing around” which minimizes the real act and the impact of it.

My husband had sex with another woman. Multiple times.

He didn’t “stray,” he’s not a house cat. Let’s call it what it is and stop talking in euphemisms that only add to the “nothing to see here, everything is fine, let’s just ignore and move on” type of culture.

My husband’s affair has been the single most isolating experience of my life, including infertility and depression. My job as a writer is to tell stories, and I pride myself on being able to wade into discomfort in pursuit of truth.

Not being able to share my pain openly, or reach out in the name of shared understanding and experiences, is yet another thing his affair has cost me.


Next up: Faking My Way Through a Marriage Crisis



  1. Jan on August 8, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    I identify so much with this. My therapist has told me not to tell my kids, not to tell close friends and relatives given we are “working on it” and it could damage the children. Also — it would be humiliating if we reconciled and people knew. So I feel so entirely isolated and so hurt and I’m struggling so much. It is a horrible place to be.

  2. Tannis on August 10, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Wow, this article resonated hugely. Everything I’ve read and what Jan’s counsellor told her was the same. Don’t discuss cause if you reconcile and try you’ve now made it known and uncomfortable for those people including yourself. Well I spoke with my sisters, my mother, friends. Almost anyone who would listen. But all these people live in a different city so we are not interacting with them in person. My husband has thick skin, he knows what he did was wrong, the pain it has caused- has admitted it was a terrible mistake and though he wishes so many did not know he sucks this up and deals with it.

    But it has been and is still a very confusing time for me. That realization that I was put second for some other woman who he barely knew. Someone who made him feel alive again. It is hard to compete with those first few months of lust from a “new” relationship. We didn’t take care of our relationship while dealing with depression, isolation, two small kids and no support – infidelity happened. We both contributed to this mess that we are in. But he could have made a different choice than the one he made.

    everyday I wrestle in my head the fact he chose someone else, that he broke a vow and a bond and I wonder if we can really mend our relationship. Some days I think YES we can! Other days I think NO we can’t the damage is done. At the moment I don’t know if forgiveness is possible. Only time will tell. Hopefully time will heal these wounds.

    speaking out to my family and friends has helped in not feeling alone and having them rally to my side. Telling me they are there no matter how things turn out. Whatever future decisions get made they will be there for me if needed.

  3. Guest Author on August 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Jan and Tannis. It IS a horrible place to be and I believe healing comes in part from talking it through, and with time. I survived by giving myself what I needed in the moment without tying myself too much in knots about the future. Sending you both love and strength. Xo

  4. J on August 11, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this article. It IS humiliating and embarrassing. I haven’t told anyone for that reason. The roller coaster is so true. How does one get off this roller coaster? I’m sure it is different for everyone because the situations are different. It’s been many years and some days the tears don’t stop. You really do have to take it day by day. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not crazy and to the other readers for sharing your story.

  5. Guest Author on August 14, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    J, I promise the roller coaster will slow down. It was several months for me. 4, maybe 5. And now almost 8 months later I still have my days where I don’t want to communicate productively. I just want to sulk and rage and feel sorry for myself and not put one more ounce of effort into saving my marriage. But those days are rare. Whatever you decide to do I promise the hurt will become less raw and you’ll be able to function again. Don’t put pressure on yourself. This is a horrible, devastating experience and it takes a lot of time to move forward. xoxo

  6. Anne on August 28, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    We had to tell our circle of friends because he cheated with a woman in our circle. Every party/dinner invite had to be screened for her because I did not want to run into her. I have no idea of the gossip that probably occurred behind our backs. Only one husband in the group was upset that we aired our ‘dirty laundry’ (because his wife questioned him on his relationship with the other woman. She was a huge flirt with all the men). As embarrassing as it was to tell our friends, it was a necessity in our case so we could avoid her and honestly, venting to the girls was a type of therapy I needed. I needed some sympathy and hugs. I needed to hear stories of other betrayals. I needed to hear stories of hope. The worst thing that came out of airing our ‘dirty laundry’ is probably that no one will ever come to us for marriage advice. And no one will think we’re the perfect couple. So what? They’ll have a friend in me when they get cheated on (statistically it’s bound to happen). We’ll be the gold star couple for advice on how to survive infidelity! lol

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