Desperate feelings
by Peggy Vaughan

The emotional toll of dealing with affairs can be overwhelming—both for the person who had an affair and for the spouse who is trying to deal with the pain. This can (and often does) involve thoughts of suicide. This thinking usually simply represents a wish for the end of the suffering associated with dealing with the ramifications of this situation - but it is, of course, not a reasonable or responsible option.

However, "thinking" of it (in a moment of despair) is one thing; actually acting on the impulse is quite another matter. Any suicide attempt is serious—and needs to be treated that way. This means seeking immediate (and ongoing) professional help.

This Website is not a resource for the kind of help that is needed. However, we can usefully discuss the "thoughts of suicide" that are so common to those who are struggling with a partner's affair—including me. I'm not a therapist and certainly am not qualified to "help" anyone in a personal way, but I thought I'd share some of my perspective in case it might be helpful.

First of all, anyone in this position can be assured you're not alone and that as bad as it feels, it will get better. Of course, it won't just magically get better all by itself without your making the effort. It's a process of gradually getting more and more understanding about the whole issue of affairs in order to fight the intense emotional reaction to this experience. You will continue to have painful feelings, but you will need to deliberately focus on trying to think straight and gain more control of your thoughts. Gradually, your rational understanding of affairs will help diminish the emotions. At some point you'll finally have control of your emotions instead of them having control over you. So it helps to read everything possible in order to fill yourself with information, understanding and perspective in order to battle your emotions.

I do know and understand these feelings all too well. When I first just "suspected" my husband's affairs, I felt desperate and contemplated suicide. Here's a quote from Beyond Affairs, describing one night back in 1966:

    "I'd never felt such total rejection. I started I lay there, my fear turned to panic. I felt alone and helpless. All this seemed like a nightmare. I'd made James my whole life, and now he seemed to be rejecting me. I'd cried so much my head was bursting. I went to the bathroom to get some aspirin—and wished desperately that I had some sleeping pills. I wanted to die. I made it through the night, but I was shaken by the intensity of my emotions. It shocked me to realize I hadn't even considered my children or what might happen to them. In the light of day I tried to make sense of my feelings." (At that point, our children were 2 and 4 years old.)

    "Today I'm so thankful that caring about my kids allowed me to hang in until I was better able to cope. I spent years building up my strength to face all this. It was a long, gradual process of getting some control over my emotions. There's no way to rush this process, but it's important to hang in and work on getting stronger. These initial feelings seem to be part of the process."

In the years since I wrote the above in Beyond Affairs, I've heard from many people who share the same feelings of desperation and devastation. Part of that is reflected in the following passage from Chapter 4 of The Monogamy Myth, titled The Pain of Knowing:
    "A person who finds out for sure that their partner has been having an affair is likely to feel overwhelmed with emotions—pain, anger, embarrassment, resentment, bitterness, and a sense of loss. Despite the degree of suspicion or the nature of the confrontation, no one seems to be fully prepared for the pain of knowing the truth."
I hope some of this perspective helps make sense of some of the desperate feelings that are so common among those of whose who have struggled with this issue. But with time and effort, we can all get beyond it.

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