Self-esteem is an interesting topic when it comes to relationship recovery from an affair in your long-term relationship. There are two (2) key aspects to think about when it comes to self-esteem and infidelity in a marriage. The first is the impact of the affair on your self-esteem. The second is the impact of the affair on your partner’s self esteem.

If your wife is cheating or had an affair, or if your husband is cheating or has had an affair, how can you keep the relationship together and still feel whole and valid as a partner? What impact does cheating have on your self-esteem?  Read time: 2 minutes.

How Marital Affairs Impact Your Self-Esteem

The impact of an affair on your relationship will be unique to the relationship, of course. But most people with a partner who has cheated feel betrayed. The intense sense of a betrayal — the dishonesty surrounding the affair, as well as the cheating or infidelity — is what seems to do the most harm to the marriage dynamic.

  • It’s broken trust (betrayal) that seems to do the greatest harms, in terms of the dynamics between two people in a close relationship.
  • It’s the impact on self-esteem that seems to do the greatest damage to a person’s psyche, mental health and self-view.

Together, it’s a rocky experience that takes a huge psychological toll.

  • On the one hand, the dynamic of the relationship is something that can be healed if BOTH partners want to invest in healing, protection and repair.
  • On the other hand, the self-esteem impact is something that the betrayed partner will need to heal.

Ways to heal self-esteem after infidelity

Ways to heal your self-esteem after betrayal from an affair include examining self-views with a professional, to help

  • Navigate negative self-talk
  • Examine and reframe self-damaging interpretations
  • Rebuild and strengthen self-esteem
  • Reclaiming worthiness, leaning on trusted social networks
  • Developing emotional/psychological resiliency

Self-esteem after catching your husband or wife cheating

Finding out your partner/spouse has had, or is having, an affair, is traumatising to most individuals.

The emotions can feel overwhelming, and functioning in the day to day can also become impaired.  Professional help is usually essential, and leaning on a solid friendship/social support network is also helpful.  But expect to feel unsettled and emotional for some time after an affair; and seeking support can go a long way to helping you stabilize your emotions as you work through your sense of betrayal and relationship grief.

It’s often a time a person will seek professional help to navigate the vacillating emotions, and decision-making turmoil (confusion), that follows an extramarital affair.

Both the betrayal and the affair’s impact on self-esteem can be a very difficult time in life to navigate. get help now Book Your Call With Me

If this is where you’re at today, you’re not alone. Nearly 2 to 3 of every 10 couples (and realistically, probably more), will be dealing with an affair at some point in their marriage, especially if the sex has stopped in their relationship. It’s not a sign of weakness or defectiveness; it’s a sign you’re human, in a human marriage, and that life isn’t always the perfect fairytale we’ve been fed since children.  Relationships have frailties and times of stress. Overall, most can be healed by two willing, committed partners who take the right approach.

So while you’re apt to feel like the carpet’s been pulled from under your feet, or that you’re free falling without a parachute; there is hope after an affair. You may not think so at first, or even want to try that approach. That’s normal too. But in the long run, there are many considerations about what you’ll want to do after an affair has rocked your self-esteem and harmed your sense of trust in marriage.

Surprisingly, however, you can heal broken trust after an affair with:

  • the right approach and
  • two committed partners willing to engage in the right types of couples counselling
  • a willingness in each partner to accept their responsibilities for helping heal the marriage after the turmoil of an affair

A neutral, highly skilled (professionally qualified) couples coach / relationship counsellor can help ease the tensions during discussions between the partners in a relationship. They can help the couple learn how to repair the bond without adding more hurt to the discussions. It’s not negativing responsibilities in the marriage, it’s negating blame, and bringing the couple to open discussions about what happened, and why, and what it means. It’s about healing.

It’s not that discussing random infidelity or long-term affairs won’t be painful or emotional. It will, by nature. But with certain techniques facilitated by a highly experienced Couples Coach or good marriage counsellor, there’s a chance at full relationship recovery — even forming a stronger, more endurable bond.  And with divorces so tumultuous (and expensive), and nearly 1 in 2 couples calling it quits — it’s certainly worth giving it a try.  In my experience, 90% of relationships can be saved if the couple is willing to learn the skills required to repair the bond.

Those skills need to be learned by both partners. 

That said, relationship recovery will take effort, caring and time. It doesn’t tend to happen overnight, but it can be healed. And it’s a very worthwhile investment according to couples who I’ve helped along the way (over 3,000 couples on the brink of divorce were helped to repair their relationships).

The assistance of an expert relationship counsellor can help the couple move over hurdles and hurts in a way that honours both partners and eliminates blame (not responsibility, just blame). The healing will have begun in earnest, with a chance at full relationship recovery after an affair.  Book Your Call With Me

Back to self-esteem.

First, the impact of an affair (cheating, infidelity) on self-esteem is huge.

The frequent responses are that the person who was cheated on by their husband, wife or partner wonders:

  • what did I do wrong?
  • what could I have done better?
  • am I no longer sexually attractive or alluring to my partner?
  • am I boring / is my partner bored?
  • did I get too comfortable in the relationship?
  • was I blind to the affair / not paying attention to the signs?
  • was it a change in our sexual relationship that either led to, or resulted from, the affair?
  • was I stupid not to notice? (the answer is NO; while there are sometimes signs of an affair, people can be incredibly adept at hiding it, which is why people feel so betrayed when they discover, or are told about, their partner’s affair(s)

The fact is that affairs can happen for a number of reasons; and usually are a combination of reasons.

Blaming yourself is NOT the way to heal; and in fact, dealing with an affair can sometimes bring you into counselling that assists you to repair self-esteem that has always been a bit on the fragile side.  Of course two people in a relationship have responsibility for the relationship; but you are ultimately responsible for your self-esteem; and a good counsellor or coach can help you find your self-worth again (or for the first time, help your self-worth and self-esteem be solid enough to overcome and heal from the hurt of an affair by the one you trusted most)!  (My numbers are below. I offer a free-15 minute phone call booking to help you assess if your situation is one in which I can be of help re healing and recovery after an affair).

The key components of infidelity (which does NOT have to mean your relationship needs to end) include:

  • opportunity – random meeting or proximity (the work related affair)
  • gap in the primary relationship – feeling unseen or a lack of intimate bonding and appreciation
  • cultural upbringing – affairs were seen as acceptable by prior generations or cultures
  • lack of affection or intimacy; end of sex or not enjoying sex in the relationship, often due to underlying tensions rather than to the intimacy component itself (but sometimes both)
  • stress or crisis moment (a partner deciding they needed a social or psychological distraction instead of confronting the issues)
  • distance in the marriage

The frequent responses or reasons given by the person who cheated (had the affair in the mariage) may include:

  • Chance meeting made me feel ‘alive’ again and break up the day to day of life, work and parenting
  • I felt taken for granted by my partner
  • I was being criticised a lot and my affair partner wasn’t as critical
  • I no longer felt sexually appreciated in the marriage
  • The kids got in the way of sexual bonding or physical intimacy
  • We spent too much time apart
  • We didn’t have enough similar interests over time
  • It just happened (and I let it) – a decision to try to have two relationships, or more, at once, and take the risk
  • It was a way to force the ending of a less-than-satisfactory relationship
  • I was only in the marriage for the children’s sake

And surprisingly, all of these components can be worked through in a couple’s relationship. They can be explored and managed in a way that leaves the partners feeling loved, appreciated, cared for, sexually desired and close again!

The problem is that most people wait until it’s too late to seek professional guidance on ways to repair the bond, or reduce the distance gaps (emotionally, physically and sexually).

Don’t let that be you! Book Your Call With Me

Book a free confidential connect-call with Couples Coach Dee Tozer

Dee Tozer, Couples Coach and Psychologist

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Suggested reading: Does an affair or cheating mean the end of the relationship? Does cheating lead to divorce?