“If I were you, I would be leaving my spouse immediately,” “How can you forgive him after what he did to you?” “She doesn’t deserve someone like you” “Are you seriously thinking of staying with that person?”
Surviving infidelity is very hard, but coping with your loved ones’ opposition to staying with your partner does not make things any easier. Regardless of the reasons motivating you to stay with your partner, having to hear an unending list of criticisms, opinions, and judgments can trigger feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, or isolation.
The good news is that there are strategies that you can start implementing. The techniques and skills will help you navigate this roller coaster of rebuilding your romantic life and dealing with your family.
This article will explore your loved one’s reaction when you decide to save your relationship. We will also discuss different coping strategies that may help you protect your mental health and your romantic life from outsiders’ opinions.
My Loved Ones Are NOT Ready to Forgive My Partner
There are times when families and friends can be a great support. Still, there are occasions when they inadvertently can make our healing process so much more complicated.
Our loved ones go through a difficult position when they witness the damaging effects of infidelity and are then asked to forgive the unfaithful partner. The more they love us, the harder it becomes for them to forgive someone who made us feel humiliated, crushed, and betrayed.
They had a lot of trust in your partner, and they could have never imagined that such a good person was able to do such a terrible thing. Or, they never liked your partner in the first place, and the affair is now reinforcing their thoughts.
In either case, it is not easy to watch a loved one suffer. Being asked to forgive the person who “caused” that suffering (*families tend to overlook the fact that infidelity is often the result of underlying couple issues).
You may have forgiven your partner, but now your family or friends have to go through their healing process. The challenging part is that some of them may not be aware of their suffering. In supporting you, they may have failed to see that they also felt betrayed, especially if they were close to your partner.
All those feelings of anger, revenge, disappointment, distrust can come to light in the form of disapproving your decision to save your marriage or relationship.
This journey is very different for everyone. Your loved one’s initial unwillingness to forgive your partner may an extra barrier to overcome during your affair recovery process. Before looking at helpful ways to address this situation, let’s explore the effects that family judgment can have on your well-being and relationship.
The more you know, the more prepared you will be to face any difficulties that may come your way.
Effects of Family Judgement on Couples Who Want to Save Their Relationship
“All we want is the best for you.” This phrase may sound cliché, but there is some truth in it. So often, family members will become too critical about your decision to save your relationship. This reaction may happen out of fear that you will get hurt again, worry that your children will be affected, or because of any past unresolved family issue.
Except for the last case, which may need more work, the first two reactions tend to be protective mechanisms. Just as in the beginning, you were afraid of trusting your spouse or partner again, now they may feel that same level of distrust, and it may take some time until they learn to trust again.
Infidelity affects romantic relationships, but its consequences can affect the dynamics of the entire family system and groups of friends. Understanding your loved one’s fears about your relationship may help you navigate family situations.
It is essential to be aware that not everyone processes their emotions in the same way. In other words, not everyone has the same personality and level of attunement with their feelings. Therefore, some people will be able to politely share their doubts or concerns about your decisions, while others will backlash.
For example, these reactive personalities may start making sarcastic or critical comments in front of you and your partner. Or, they may choose to outcast your partner from family gatherings or social events. Or, they may say that you are “weak” and “foolish” for making such a decision. Or they may even start reminding you about the affair whenever possible.
All this negative talk, mistreatments, and criticism can create toxic effects on yourself and your relationship. In fact, “Research… finds that one of the strongest indicators of whether a couple will remain together is the opinions and advice of the wronged partner’s social network of friends and family” (Psychology Today, Canada).
Families and friends can be your greatest allies to feel supported during challenging times. Still, their judgemental comments about your marriage or relationship can also bring you down in a second. So it would be best if you become aware of the potential adverse effects you may experience when your family disapproves of your decision to save your relationship. Some of these effects include:
- Self-doubt or Insecurities about your decision of saving your marriage and forgiving your partner.
- Anxiety over how you and your partner can reconnect with your family and social network after the affair.
- Feeling rejected or isolated either by your parents, siblings, children, best friends, or the people you care more about you.
- Low self-esteem. Believing that you are “weak” or “stupid” for accepting to stay with someone who humiliated you.
Helpful Strategies to Cope with Your Family Resistance
Let’s say that you have been able to heal or recover from your partner’s betrayal and save your relationship. Still, you may be in the position of having to deal with your family or friends’ opposition to taking that decision. So, what are some ways to protect yourself and your relationship from not falling into another dark hole? How can you cope with your family resistance?
Below we are going to share some tips that you can apply during and after your recovering phase. However, remember that none of these strategies is a substitute for therapy and counselling.
Avoid discussing your decision with every single member of your family.
Perhaps you talked about your spouse’s affair with each and all members of your family. Maybe you only confided that information to one or two close people. Regardless of what strategy you used at the very beginning, by now, you may have received some supportive or highly critical reactions. In most families or groups of friends, some people tend to be more empathetic, forgiving, and supportive than others.
One helpful thing you can do is try to be a bit selective in choosing with whom you want to share your decision to stay in your relationship. Then, even if your empathetic mother or brother does not agree with your decision, most likely, they will avoid creating drama out of it.
Suppose you and your partner are truthful in the commitment to saving the relationship. In that case, some of your family members will slowly begin to support your decision.
Remind Yourself About The Values Behind Your Decision
Why did you decide to forgive your partner or stay in your marriage? Was it for the well-being of your children? Was it for your financial or migratory situation? Perhaps, because of your religious or moral values? Or because your partner and yourself are genuinely working on resolving the unaddressed issues you had as a couple?
No one knows your relationship better than you. But when you are facing judgment or resistance from others, you must remain aware of your values. Not being very clear about the reason to stay with your partner will only increase your loved one’s worries and urgency to put an end to your relationship.
So, take some time to remind yourself about the “BIG WHY” behind your decision. As the psychiatrist, Victor Frankl once said, “when you know your Why, you can endure any How.“
When you know the reason behind choosing to stay in your relationship, the journey of overcoming your family and friends’ disapproval will become a lot easier.
You and your partner deserve respect and a break from all the affair-talk. Healing is a long process, and if everyone around you keeps talking about the past, it will be hard to move forward.
Sometimes setting boundaries can sound harsh, especially if we are not very good at creating them. But having to repeat your arguments to ears that are not ready to hear can make you feel exhausted and disempowered.
In the first strategy, we talked about being selective about sharing information with others. Yet, creating boundaries also implies limiting the time you spent talking to others about your relationship.
For example, has your sister been calling you for the past five days to talk more about your decision? Have you had to repeat the same things to her a million times? That may be an excellent place to start setting up some communication boundaries and redirecting the conversation to other topics.
Do Not Let Judgement Hold You Back
“What would my family think?” “What would my friends say? “Am I making the right decision?” Once you communicate with others about your decision to stay with your partner, be prepared to receive a torrent of opinions, advice, and, unfortunately, criticism.
Yes, you cannot please everybody, but the truth is judgment is painful when you are judged by the people you care about the most. So, how can you prevent from falling apart when people around you start talking about you and your spouse?
Remember that most people do not have the whole picture of your relationship nor the full knowledge of the progress you and your partner have made.
Second, as clinical therapist Julia Kristina says, “when someone has a judgment, it is not about us, it is about their own repressed or rejected parts of themselves, the things they feel insecure about, the things they don’t like about themselves and have kept hidden in the shadows.” (Stop Worrying About Being Judged, 2020)
Seek Help from a Counsellor or Therapist
Finally, the last, but NOT LEAST essential strategy to overcome your family’s disapproval about the future of your relationship, is to seek help from a couples counsellor or family therapist.
When is the appropriate time to do that? ANYTIME! Counsellors or therapists may provide you with guidance and help you to process your feelings at every step of the process. In addition, counselling can work as a great resource in the following situations:
- Helping you find appropriate ways to communicate your decision to your family (i.e., building up your confidence, courage, and assertiveness).
- Learning ways to cope with potential adverse reactions from your loved ones.
- Working on your self-esteem and self-confidence after surviving an affair and finding yourself judged by others.
- Addressing previous dysfunctional family dynamics triggered by this new situation (i.e., history of infidelity within the family, previous traumas, attachment dysfunction, scapegoating, substance abuse, etc.).
On a Final Note
Having to survive infidelity and your family’s disapproval about continuing with your relationship is not an easy endeavour. But rest assured that no one has to go through these experiences on their own. Suppose you -or your partner and you- need help overcoming this challenging situation affecting your life. In that case, we have a list of professional, empathetic, and kind therapists that would be more than happy to walk along with you through this journey of recovery.
Right now, we have available online counselling for those people and couples who have busy schedules or live farther away. We also have two locations in Vancouver and Toronto. If you want more information about how we can better serve you, please book a free 15-minutes phone consultation with us.