Woman's hand leaning against a window.

6 Tips For Surviving Infidelity And Depression

Braving them one at a time is difficult enough. But surviving infidelity and depression together is downright heroic. After all, neither is particularly conducive to springing out of bed with a smile on your face and a list of self-care must-do’s on your calendar. On the contrary. Depression, betrayal from infidelity, and, God forbid, the combo platter are more likely to make you quit your job and invest in black-out curtains. “Wake me when it’s over!”

The topic of depression is sometimes tricky because the word “depressed” or “depression” is often used casually to intensify the description of a feeling. “That’s so depressing.” “I’m depressed because….”

But depression, in the clinical sense, is a pervasive negativity in thought, mood, and feelings. It’s a mental illness, not the inspiration for a greeting card. And it affects everything in your life – your thoughts, your feelings, your outlook, your energy, even your behavior.

To put it metaphorically, depression is your “mental climate,” not your mental and emotional “weather of the day.”

That doesn’t mean it has to last forever. Depression is, actually, quite treatable.

But, if we’re going to talk about depression in a clinical sense, there have to be criteria. And that’s why depression (or major depressive disorder) has a 2-week minimum on symptoms to warrant a diagnosis.

Treating depression relies on knowing what you have “lost” from your life in the way of normalcy.

What interests and activities have just ever-so sneakily disappeared from your mind and calendar? What basic self-care patterns have gone by the wayside or at least been completely interrupted?

How’s your health, your job, your social life, your ability to make decisions?

And what in the world does all this have to do with surviving infidelity and depression? Is there a connection between the two, both in symptoms and treatment?

Obviously being depressed doesn’t require the presence of infidelity.

But infidelity, if it occurs in your marriage, can understandably lead to depression. (And that’s true for the betrayer as well as the betrayed, believe it or not.)

When you think about the tsunami of negative feelings that accompany the discovery of infidelity, it simply makes sense. How long can you live with anger, sadness, guilt, shame, disappointment, fear, hurt, and abandonment as your breakfast-lunch-and-dinner menu?

Think about it. If you have been betrayed, of course you’re going to have disrupted sleep, nightmares, confusion, doubts, difficulty trusting anyone. You’ll also have a tendency to indulge spontaneous “flashbacks.”

Sound familiar?

Yes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t reserved for war zones. It refers to the stress that follows a trauma. And infidelity is a huge, shattering trauma to a marriage.

So how do you get through it?

Here are 6 tips for surviving infidelity and depression:

  1. Get help for yourself. Now.

    Surviving infidelity is bad enough. Dealing with depression at the same time, especially as a result of the infidelity, can be crippling.

    This is a time when making wise decisions – and avoiding rash ones – is critical. And being depressed can throw a monkey wrench into your entire thinking process.

    This is also a time when you don’t need to believe you’re alone or have nowhere to turn.

    You and your spouse may not be ready to go to couples therapy to work on your marriage. But you can go to therapy to take care of you.

    Regardless of the destiny of your marriage, you still have a personal destiny to fulfill. And having objective, professional companionship along the journey can be life-saving.

  2. Keep an open mind about using an antidepressant if your medical doctor thinks it could help.

    Pharmaceutical intervention may or may not be the right adjunct to your healing process. That’s a decision to be made between you and your doctor.

    Psychotropic medications are known to have neurotrophic and neuroprotective benefits that can help counter or block the long-term effects of emotional trauma.

    At least know that you have options to help support you during this difficult and draining time in your life.

  3. Get help for your marriage – as soon as possible – regardless of whether you intend to stay together.

    Whether you are determined to see your marriage through or are debating divorce, professional help can help you find clarity.

    The therapeutic setting can be the safest, most effective place to deal with something as painful and confusing as infidelity.

    And, if you do want to stay together but don’t know how when your trust is shattered, an intensive marriage retreat weekend may be just the right medicine.

  4. Talk, listen, learn.

    Healing from any kind of mental, emotional, and/or relational trauma necessitates getting what’s on the inside to the outside. All the feelings. All the stuff that’s playing “hard rock” in your head. All the negative messages. All the negative modeling.

    It all needs to come out if it’s ever going to be examined, redirected, healed.

    That means you have to put words to what’s destroying you on the inside. (And a good therapist or therapist team can help you do that.)

    It also means learning how to listen – yes, even to the person who betrayed you – so you can learn.

    Communication is always at the heart of any relationship. And learning how to communicate in a healthy, effective, mutually respectful way is essential.

  5. Become educated on depression – what causes it, how it presents, and how it’s treated.

    Knowledge is power. Cliche? Yes. But also true.

    In the case of surviving infidelity and depression, you may not know “what’s what” or “what’s causing what.”

    You or your spouse may have even been depressed before the affair. And that can make it difficult to distinguish what is directly related to the infidelity.

    But, by learning to recognize the signs of depression, you will have the power to get the help you need sooner than later.

    You will also be able to develop healthy coping skills to get you through the negative emotions related to your circumstances.

  6. Give yourself permission to experience joy – and responsibility to create it for yourself.

    Joy often comes in snippets. But so be it.

    When you’re struggling with surviving infidelity and depression, even the tiniest bits of joy are crucial.

    And just as crucial is your belief that you deserve to and can experience joy, even in the midst of suffering.

Everything about healing from infidelity may seem impossible. And, once you slip into depression, the path looks even gloomier.

But know that you can overcome both infidelity and depression.

The key lies within you – yes, even at a time when you feel you have nothing to give.

Take the first step: Believe that happiness still exists…and help is available to help you achieve it.

Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, contact her here.

Posted in

Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats