Infidelity is a destructive force in relationships. Partners that have been cheated on feel that their love or dedication has been tarnished and betrayed. The stages of grief that a person feels over cheating are the same as the stages of grief over any loss. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the grieving process with five distinct stages. These stages may not occur in a particular order and not everyone experiences all five.
This stage is often the first of the five stages you experience when your partner has cheated. People going through denial refuse to believe that their partner was disloyal and that the act ever occurred. Denial is a coping mechanism that softens the mental blow of your partner's infidelity. Being in denial for too long hinders the healing process.
The anger stage occurs when you realize the severity of your partner's betrayal and you feel the urge to retaliate with hostility. People in this stage may feel furious, frustrated and deeply upset. Any negative repressed feelings about your relationship arise and are expressed. Anger is a normal part of grieving, and it is healthy to show your feelings. However, if you act upon your urges to retaliate, do not do so in a manner that hurts you or physically harms others.
The bargaining stage occurs when you feel that you need to make any compromises to keep the relationship from ending. You feel that you can forgive and tolerate your partner's unacceptable behaviors. People in the bargaining stage downplay any previously bothersome habits or bad behavior. Exercise caution when in this stage of grief. If you and your partner stay together after you have made actual bargains to keep the relationship alive, you may have to put up with behaviors that you could not stand before.
Although depression is its own stage in the grieving process, it may occur throughout the entire experience. Your emotions are released and turned inward, making you feel constantly sad and upset. You may feel angry at yourself. People in this stage should try to seek help from understanding friends, family members or professional therapists if their depression does not go away. Depression can become a serious and destructive illness if left untreated.
Acceptance occurs when you fully acknowledge that your partner has cheated on you. You do not necessarily have to forgive your partner or believe that everything is OK at this point. Rather, it means that the emotional burdens that the cheating placed on you have been removed. People who have reached the acceptance stage can better survive their encounters with infidelity and the courses of their relationships after that point.
Sarah Clark has been writing since 1997, with work appearing in Northern Arizona University's "Student Life Organization Newsletter." She holds a B.A. in anthropology with a minor in art history from Northern Arizona University.