When a certain situation triggers a relationship a crisis and all the pain and chaos that comes with that, we understandably want to stop the pain as quickly as possible. In a crisis, our human body is designed to go into “survival” mode, not into complex decision making. We are going into “fight and flight”, not “ponder and wonder”. The impact of someone else’s chaos can create negative health outcomes in yourself. You may or may not feel anxious or depressed by your loved one’s issues but may notice that you cannot sleep, overeat, or cannot seem to get to the gym. Not to mention that you feel you are the first catching whatever sickness goes around in the office. Research shows that people’s immune system is taxed if they are dealing with a crisis. In addition, because our body is busy with survival, the brain focuses on survival and not on complex decision making. In other words, in addition to dealing with the crisis, you may be affected by difficulties to concentrate, problem solve, and plan strategically what is best for you long-term. 

In other words: as you may deal with

(a) the crisis + (b) a stress response + (c) an impaired ability to make the best decisions that are in line with who you truly are = you have a lot going on. 

In these times, it is especially important to take good care of yourself: to empower yourself that you get to be your true best self despite of what you are dealing with. Here are some healthy things to engage in when in a relationship crisis:

(a) Healthy Attention To Restore Your Health And Problem Solving Will Start Moving You Out Of Crisis Mode Into Healing Mode

Even if the crisis may have been prompted by your significant other and it feels that you need to spend all of your resources on moving the person out of his/her chaos so that your crisis decreases, decreasing your stress response gets to be your first and most important task in this season: this will unleash you to come to the best decision that this complex situation requires. As it may feel impossible to do so, try one tool at a time. Studies show that experiencing sexual infidelity in a committed relationship creates an acute stress response that may put your mental health at risk. To gently move you from

For example, gently move towards slowing down and getting some rest (if sleeping feels impossible). If you cannot fall asleep, see your time as time of resting instead. Resting helps your body relax and replenish. Listen to the “Resting” script https://sexualhealthoc.com/rest/ instead of trying to fall asleep. Alternatively, look up and listen to Youtube “EMDR Bilateral Stimulation Music”. Listen to that music using your phone’s headset- the rhythm sent to your ears in an alternating fashion will calm down your brain., assertiveness strategies for healthy communication, or and stress relief activities such as relaxation resources.

It is equally important to calm the stress response by healthy breathing and by using your body’s built-in ability to release stress. The built-in ability to release stress is switched on when you alternate between moving your right side of your body and your left side of the body (yes, it sounds silly, but actually always works). You can do so by taking a brisk walk, cycling, or simply tapping your car’s steering wheel using your left vs our right hand. You may find a noticeable calming down of yourself once you have moved left side-right side-left side right side for about 26-30 times.

Again, why bother moving the left side and the right side of your body in an alternating fashion when you may feel that the floor of your house is missing upon discovery of your loved one’s behaviors? Well, I personally wish that you get through this situation, and so it is vital to attend to your needs in this crisis.

You may have a 1000 questions about what is going on- what brought you here, why your partner engaged in infidelity. You might experience a flooding of painful feelings, regardless of your personality and social environment. You might even feel ashamed or guilt and shame or confusions about the cause of your situation.

(b) Find Healthy Support In This Complex Situation:

You will not need to master this on your own! Instead of needing to figure out if family members can be trusted or will worsen the crisis with their responses to what is going on, look for a specialized counselor who assesses for the complexity of you are dealing with: Is the counselor/therapist assessing you/your significant other’s stress response? Is the counselor/therapist trained in assessing for addiction? Is he/she trained to be sensitive to your specific circumstances such as your cultural background, religious values? Are they taking a directive approach (“You should….” “You should not…”) or an approach that will allow you to make your best decisions at a pace you feel comfortable with? While the temptation can be to get in with a counselor right away instead of “interviewing” several counselors for your best fit, the truth is that a not-as-trained counselor may create a so called “medical or treatment induced” trauma due to a lack of information on the complexity of the issue.

(c) To Do: Equip Yourself For BEST Decision Making

Allow yourself the time to develop a roadmap for direction consequences in response to your loved one’s behaviors. A lot of counselors recommend to not make major decisions (e.g., change jobs, sell the house, divorce) within 4-6 months of a crisis. Instead, use that time to engage in reducing the stress response and use guided support to make sense of what happened.

Even if it feels counterintuitive to make a list of losses and casualties that come with a crisis, research shows that a couple affected by crisis can only generate hope if one first makes a list of the losses that occurred, grieve the dreams that were shattered, and fully acknowledge the damage that was done. Once there is ownership of the crisis, the couple will be able to start their healing process. Look for a professional who is trained to lead you through grieving, disclosures of problematic/secretive behaviors and betrayal trauma that may have led to or resulted from the crisis. For example, look for Clinical Specialists of Partner Trauma or a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist who offer “disclosure” workshops, intensives, or other structured ways to systematically guide a couple from crisis to healing. As paradoxically as it may seem, a guided dialogue promotes the ability to move from grievance to hope and the ability to cast a new vision and to truly re-romanticize and rebuild their relationship, if they desire. 

To Summarize:

Even if it may feel like the last thing possible, there is a way out of crisis mode into hope and healing. May you feel empowered to pursue this path as you are worth it!