Don’t let bitterness and resentment eat you alive
Bitterness is what lingers after you get past the anger and resentment of infidelity. It hangs on because you can’t stop thinking about what happened and how much it hurt.
Overcoming bitterness is one of the hardest parts of feeling betrayed, but there is light at the end of this tunnel when you choose to walk toward it.
From experience, I learned that the emotions from betrayal by someone you love are deep and come in waves. My heart broke, and I cried until I could cry no more. The emptiness left me numb, unable to think clearly. Then, I put on a mask, pretending I was OK and went through the motions of my life.
Soon, I accepted the reality that my marriage was over.
Eventually, the fiery anger waned, the disappointment and hurt lessened, and the fear about what was to come next became more comfortable to bear.
What I didn’t expect was the lingering bitterness. That feeling that it was all so unfair. Despite how hard I tried to be a right partner, loving wife and supportive companion, the infidelity still happened.
That was the overwhelming concept I couldn’t get over – how unfair it was to me.
I found myself repeating this unfair story over and over. At first, it was in my head, then to anyone who asked how I was doing. It was as if the story never ended, and I would always be known as that bitter woman who could not move on. That was not who I wanted to be.
It became clear that overcoming bitterness was my next lesson.
Here are six steps you must take to get past bitterness and resentment after an affair, so infidelity doesn’t destroy your happiness:
1. Acknowledge that you feel bitter
That’s not always easy. Bitterness can mask itself as anger, resentment or disappointment. But recognising these emotions are present and real is the initial step in asking them to leave.
The biggest lesson to learn is that you have a choice about how you want to feel and who you want to become after the betrayal that hurt you so deeply
2. Admit who you are hurting by remaining bitter
Is it the person who betrayed you? Or is it you? Decide to stop hurting yourself. It’s one of the many choices you can make as you work on overcoming bitterness.
3. Explore why you hold onto the bitterness and what it is you can’t seem to let go
Perhaps you attached a part of your identity to being part of that relationship, and now it’s over. Maybe you are bitter because the dreams you had would no longer come true.
Once you recognise why you are holding on to the bitterness, you can dispel the myths about your identity and dreams, and it will be easier to let go.
4. Find the ‘silver lining’
Also easier said than done. But there is almost always something good to find in any situation that seems dire and dark. For instance, you may discover that being single again allows you to create your dreams and make them happen the way you want, without consulting anyone else.
Erin Connolly, a recent guest on Tips for the Transition, shares her perspective on overcoming bitterness. Her mantra became, “The plus side is…”
How she made that approach work for her and her daughter is an inspiring story.
5. Get help if you need it
Overcoming bitterness is not easy on your own because you are often stuck in your story. Allowing a professional to help you see more clearly where you are mired in the muck will make the journey back onto solid ground easier and empowering.
6. Remember that overcoming bitterness is a choice
The biggest lesson to learn is that you have a choice about how you want to feel and who you want to become after the betrayal that hurt you so deeply.
Changing your attitude about it, finding the light at the end of the tunnel, and releasing the feelings that keep you stuck in that story are life strategies that will serve you well when the next major life event turns your world upside down.
Making a choice is a powerful thing, and overcoming bitterness is a choice that will free you from the chains that bind you to betrayal and the myth that this is how your story ends. Choose wisely.
If you are living with a lingering bitterness, you may not like yourself much or even know who you are anymore. Making choices to move beyond the bitterness can be hard, and getting some guidance may be just what you need.
María Tomás-Keegan is a certified career and life coach for women and the founder of Transition & Thrive with María. Are you ready to explore how change can impact you and how to move through it with more dignity and grace? Get her free eBook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.
This article was originally published at Transition and Thrive With Maria. Reprinted with permission from YourTango.