What a week it?s been for Elin Nordegren. It is truly traumatic to discover that your spouse has been unfaithful, and even worse to see photos of his alleged multiple mistresses displayed across magazine covers and newspapers across the country. As details of her husband?s transgressions are revealed and confirmed, Elin?s sense of betrayal must be searing.
Infidelity is so intensely painful for the spouse who?s been betrayed because it represents a loss of perceived reality. You have believed that your spouse has been faithful and now you?ve suddenly lost the view you had of your marriage, your partner and your marital future. As with any other traumatic loss, it is common to go through several stages of emotions on the way to accepting what has happened and figuring out how you want to handle it. Here?s what Elin can expect now.
The 29-year-old former Swedish model may already be past the first stage: denial. It?s hard to deny the claims of the growing number of women who?ve come forward since stories first surfaced of the famous golfer?s affairs. But denial is a typical reaction upon first hearing that a spouse was unfaithful. Thoughts like ?No way! This cannot be happening to me!? are common. It?s normal to have moments of doubting it?s true, even if there?s plenty of evidence indicating that your spouse has been unfaithful. (Maybe these other women made it up? Maybe there is some mistake here?) Denial is the mind?s way of protecting itself from being completely overwhelmed with anxiety. It allows you to let in the bad news a little at a time.
Next often comes anger: ?I am furious! Why did this happen to me? Who?s to blame for this happening?? Anger will typically shift back and forth between the spouse and whomever he (or she) has been involved with. This is a dangerous time if you?re the partner who feels betrayed, as you may say or do things out of rage that you later regret.
As anger subsides, or even right along with it, depression settles in. It?s easy to feel sad and lost without the partner you thought you had. You probably feel hurt and betrayed, and it may seem like your life will never be the same. If you have children?as Elin and Tiger Woods do?you may feel depressed when you think about how this could affect them.
The last stage, acceptance, doesn?t always come. It is what one aims for? to accept that this very difficult thing happened, to try to understand why it happened and to realize that your marriage was not as you originally believed. Acceptance allows you to think more clearly when deciding if and how you can move on in your relationship. Acceptance allows you to participate more meaningfully in any therapy aimed at either ending the marriage amicably or repairing the relationship and changing whatever may have contributed to infidelity in the first place.
Many betrayed spouses feel some combination of all these feelings off and on, and sometimes all mashed together, for some time. Some people never really heal entirely from being betrayed, but time and good therapy really do help and go a long way toward self-repair. Hopefully Elin?and anyone else who finds herself in a similar situation?will get the help and support she needs to heal herself and her family.