Infidelity can be emotionally draining, as well as incredibly frustrating to go through.
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Beyond the heartbreak, one might suddenly be faced with a host of new challenges…
… What are the next steps?
… Can the relationship be salvaged?
If there is a great divide and no chance for reconciliation, there may be a need to pursue separation, which could come at a great cost, both emotionally, and out of pocket.
These conversations can lead to a spiral, spinning one’s heart and emotions out of control.
Some might even handle life after infidelity worse than others- a disorder called Post Infidelity Stress Disorder (PSID) manifests in the body in ways which can be similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and for infidelity can be incredibly traumatic.
Those experiencing PSID might find themselves reliving the traumatic memories over and over, questioning every area of life, feeling overwhelmed and possibly even experiencing physical symptoms like those similar to heart attacks.
Here are seven steps to walk you through life with Post Infidelity Stress Disorder.
1. Ask for help
This cannot be stated enough – ask for help. Professional therapists and counselors are trained to understand and help you process your trauma and grief. Family and friends can be supportive and a vital part of your community, but there are tools and skills that professionals can utilize to help you handle your emotions in a healthy way.
Some of these suggestions might relate to your partner, but often they will be tools to help you continue living life on the other side of trauma.
2. Stay focused on the now
There are countless things which can pull your attention one way or another- but your most important question is what needs to be handled in the moment.
- When was the last time you ate?
- What about a shower or change of clothes?
Be aware of your limitations, and choose to focus on being present when you need to be.
3. Know your triggers
What is going to be especially hard right now?
Are there situations, events, or conversations that you cannot enter into with any amount of peace?
You may not know what might effect you, and for those experiencing PSID, you may not know what is bothering you until you’re in the middle of it. It’s likely that you’ll need to face some tough conversations or experiences eventually, but when you can, give yourself grace to navigate those times as best you can.
In his book Transcending Post Infidelity Stress Disorder, Dennis Ortman explains that PSID can trigger anxiety, emotional numbing, and flashbacks, among other symptoms. You might not handle this grief in the same way that you’ve experienced trauma in the past.
4. Practice self-care
This is the perfect time to address some of your unmet needs, and care for yourself as you are walking through something difficult. Self care will vary according to the person; ultimately it is the process of caring for your body and mind with intention and love.
This might look like a massage or salon appointment, but it could also mean clearing an evening to enjoy a good meal and a rich book.
Stress has such a visceral impact on the body, a body that we need to make decisions with clarity and focus. Taking time to care for and nurture yourself can help you be a stronger part of any relationship in the future.
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5. Express yourself
Take time to express your emotions in a way that helps you process.
- write a letter
- or fill out a journal
- play some music
- take a dance class
- or try kickboxing to unleash anger
We all feel and express emotion in different ways, and it’s important to let those feelings out, instead of bottling them up.
This expression can be entirely private; no one but you needs to know why you’re suddenly invested in painting or drawing or composing music. But find a way to let the feelings inside of you pour out from within, instead of sitting to fester and burn.
If you don’t know where to begin, start with tools that you have, like a pen and paper. Doodle, write, draw, and explore what you might not be ready to vocalize.
6. Let the little things slide
When you’re in a high stress situation, what needs to give?
Does this mean letting dinner slide and ordering a pizza?
Letting your kids enjoy a bit more screen time than normal, in favor of some quiet time?
There are countless small choices that we make as a part of everyday routines. Ask yourself what the bigger priority at any given moment might be, and allow yourself the freedom to take the short cut.
It doesn’t need to be forever, but it can be helpful in the now.
7. Take the chance to grow
Growth will look different to each of us, and it might look different in each season. Take this time to read good books which can help you understand your passions and habits. Utilize the time and space you have to pursue things you might have longed to experience, but never did.
Emotional growth is a trait to nurture your whole life, and now is a prime opportunity to take the leap. Learn that language or hobby, book that trip, make that investment into you, and your future self.
We learn so much about ourselves in the process of deconstruction and the rebuilding of who we know ourselves to be. Great heartbreak and tragedy can unleash a vast expanse of knowledge about one’s self, and thus is an incredible time to ask big questions.
All too often, we’re searching for a quick fix for heartbreak. We long to rationalize our pain and seek justice, when sometimes all we need is a little patience and some time.
There is not always simple or easy answers found on the other side of infidelity, and brushing past pain can leave wounds unattended to for years to come.
If you’re in the middle of this experience, know that you are not alone in your pain, and that there is life and healing on the other side of trauma. Take the time to grieve and to grow, and look forward to new experiences and unexpected joy amidst shadowy places.
If you’ve survived or experienced the heartbreak of infidelity, share what helped you rise strong and stand tall on the other side.