A spouse’s affair can make you lose your identity as you struggle with how to deal with infidelity and the idea of the other woman. It can be such a shock to the system, you really don’t know what’s what anymore: who are you? Who is your spouse? Who is this paramour of your spouse?

Many affair victims become consumed with curiosity about their spouse’s lover. It can become an obsession, and if you’re the victim, you may find yourself feeling competitive against this person.

Let’s look at some warning signs that you’re competing against the paramour – and how it may be pushing your spouse away from rather than toward you. Read more…

The Mystique of the Paramour

As the affair victim, you no doubt have very strong feelings about the person who cheated with your husband or wife. There are many terms you may have for them, the nicest of which may be “home wrecker.”

You find this person repulsive: they knew your spouse was married, and yet, with flagrant disregard – they went after them anyway. Their actions are vile and disgusting to you.

And yet, as you learn how to deal with infidelity and its emotional aftermath, you are haunted by images of your spouse with this person, and if you’ve seen (or worse, know) the paramour – the images are now linked to imbedded memories in your mind.

What can begin to happen, if you’re not careful, is that you build up a story about this person in your mind that doesn’t even begin to resemble reality. The details that you don’t know about them are what serve as the foundation for a certain mystique that grows up around them in your head: you begin to attribute qualities – yes, qualities – to this person that they may not even have.

For example, you may begin to believe the paramour:

  • Is a brilliant conversationalist.
  • Holds unsurpassed charm and wit.
  • Must be a sexual dynamo.
  • Has a charmed life.
  • Capable of being desirable 24/7.

Even when your words say one thing: “That dirty scumbag, all s(he) knows how to do is destroy someone else’s relationship. Probably can’t find a decent single person to take an interest in them…” your interior dialogue may be similar to those examples above.

It’s this inner conflict that may be driving away your spouse – and into the arms of another. This is not how to deal with infidelity, if it’s causing a further rift between you and your spouse.

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Signals that Too Much Energy is Focused on Paramour

First, let’s be clear: there is nothing you can do that forces your spouse to be a cheater. Deciding to indulge in an affair is solely the choice of the cheater. Also, not even a paramour can force someone who is married to sleep with someone else: If they do force them, it’s called rape, not an affair. So cheaters can’t get away with the excuse, “But s(he) pursued me…”

But those are the cheater’s actions and choices. What we want to look at right now are yours, and the question is: are you in some small way trying to compete with the paramour, or creating a fantasy person where none exists?

Let’s look at some things that may signal your thoughts about the paramour are getting out of hand:

Signal 1: Information Gathering

In this age of non-privacy where everyone’s life is spilled across the internet to various degrees, it’s quite tempting to do a little online research to find out more about this person. Have you found yourself doing this, and then obsessing over the things you find, blowing them into super-life-sized proportion?

Signal 2: Adopting the Paramour’s Interests

Did you find out that the paramour is a wine connoisseur, and now suddenly you have a strong desire to learn everything you can about grape varieties? Or maybe he is an athletic type: did you enter a running race even though you’ve never jogged a step, in order to prove your worth to your spouse?

Signal 3: Raging at Your Spouse

Are you hurling accusations at your spouse that aren’t based on fact, but rather, on the information you’ve gathered and woven into a storyline? This is especially detrimental. It’s one thing to hold your spouse accountable for their decision to cheat. But are you asking them to defend actions they’ve never taken, such as running with the paramour, or attending a wine festival with them?

These signals spell one thing: trouble for your marriage. The reason is, you’re beginning to lose your identity and getting consumed by fantasies. Even if it’s the cold, stark reality, you need to remain faithful to what makes you you – and remember, that’s who your spouse married, so your qualities need to be focused on. Here are some tips to do that:

Tip 1: Reroute Your Info Gathering

If you find yourself at the computer tempted to look up the paramour’s name once again, make yourself look up information about something that interests you. Immerse yourself in that for a while, and resist the urge to type their name. When you’re done researching things you like, get up from the computer and go do something else – anything, if it keeps you from fueling the paramour-mystique-fantasy.

Tip 2: Reinvigorate your Own Interests

You never cared for wine that much anyway, right? Or if you did, then re-establish your own interest in it. Don’t try to compete with the paramour’s interests: it’s like putting on someone else’s shoe that doesn’t fit. You won’t be happy, and it will be obvious to anyone around you. Your interests are just as interesting, if not more so, and if you can indulge those interests, you’ll be happier for it. This is a lot more alluring than forcing yourself to run a marathon when you don’t even like to run and are grimacing through a strict training regimen.

Tip 3: Redirect your Jealousy into Productive Talk

The next time you feel the urge to question your spouse about the affair details – make sure, first of all, that you want to know the details. Second, promise yourself that you won’t supply those details, based on fantasies and theories that have developed in your imagination.

Post-affair times are extremely difficult and it’s challenging to know what’s right and what’s wrong in your world. When you do choose to have a conversation with your spouse, do so when you aren’t feeling overwhelmed with the emotional backlash and/or in a state of rage. Develop the types of questions to ask your spouse that help you heal and move forward, not further add to your frustration and pain.

Affair pain can feel worse than an operation without anesthesia: it all but consumes you. Just be careful that you don’t fuel the flames by trying to compete with the paramour – who can never live up to the fantasy image that you may build up in your mind. They are a flawed person – and worse, possess a deep character flaw to have cheated with a married person – so they are not worth your time or energy. This is one time being selfish works, if it means focusing on yourself so you can heal from the affair.

My best to you as you heal through this post-affair time and move past the images and memories of your spouse’s affair.

Do you recognize in yourself an overwhelming curiosity about the paramour?

Have thoughts of the paramour consumed your days? How has that affected your healing process?

Do you find yourself competing with the idea of the paramour? What does your spouse say about this – does it make them uncomfortable?

 

Please share your ideas and personal experiences with other members of the community.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson

Editor-in-Chief

Marriage Sherpa

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