7 Steps to Healing After Affair
If you are reading this post, there is a good chance you recently got busted having an affair on your wife, girlfriend, husband or significant other. The topic of infidelity is something that comes up regularly among couples here at Center. We won’t lie to you – overcoming what you have done will not be easy, particularly if you have been having an affair at work or with a close friend.
Your mate is going to first need to process and accept that the affair has happened before any possibility of repairing the damage occurs. Bear in mind that the emotional pain you have inflicted is significant. In plain speak, getting caught having an affair scars the psyche and obliterates trust. Healing can’t be forced and doesn’t happen overnight.
After some time – and once the dust settles – it is going to take hard work on the part of both of you to medicate the wounds and repair the damage. This can only happen, however, if both of you are actively engaged in the healing process. By committing to the items mentioned here, it is possible to move through an affair and perhaps come through stronger on the other side.
Overcoming the Affair
Many couples find themselves in crisis once an affair comes out into the open. This makes sense when you consider physical and/or emotional infidelity is one of the main reasons a couple will seek out therapy in the first place. There really isn’t any blueprint for how to “get through” an affair. Each relationship is as different as the people who are involved.
What we can say is that generally speaking, there are 7 specific things that must take place in order for a marriage or relationship to survive an affair. These tips are offered here with the caveat that both you and your partner must be committed to change. In addition, the list of 7 mentioned below is not sequential in nature. Again, each relationship is unique so a standard “cookie-cutter” approach really isn’t going to work.
With all of that out of the way, here are 7 ways many couples work through acts of infidelity and cheating, including affairs. The suggestions made here are directed towards you, the person who has cheated.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. End the affair right now
Before anything else can happen, you must stop the affair – right now. This means agreeing to cut off all contact with this person and not doing it “half-way”. Here, we are talking about phone messages, texts, emails and other forms of communication. It has to be 100% done and over with.
If you are required to have contact with the person you have been sleeping with because of work related reasons, it is imperative that you keep all conversations strictly related to business. This person is no longer your “lover” and you should not be having even a whiff of dialogue that suggests otherwise.
FYI: Under this particular point, we highly recommend that you seriously consider transferring to another department or finding a new job elsewhere. We say this because no matter what – as long as the two of you are working together, your significant other is going to have question marks about what is truly going on. Anyone in their right mind would – including you if you are totally honest about it.
2. Be truthful about the affair
As difficult as it will be to do, you need to be totally honest about the events leading up to the affair and transparent about the specifics of what transpired. Research suggests that when the partner who has been cheating answers questions truthfully about all that has happened, the chances for healing and repair increase.
FYI: We know from experience as couple’s therapists that spouses often have “sixth sense”. If you try to hold anything back, there is a very good chance your mate will know. This point is particularly true if you have a history of cheating and have been caught before.
3. Show genuine remorse for affair
It is critical that you show remorse and empathy for your actions. This is part of the process of demonstrating you are sorry for what has occurred. This happens by taking the time to listen while engaging in acts of contrition – however they may present themselves.
FYI: If your wife or significant other goes through periods where they seem fine and then suddenly moves into a place of anger and sadness, this is normal. Grief is a very normal part of betrayal and you will need to be patient, sympathetic and understanding as part of the process.
4. Forgiveness for an affair isn’t instant
As mentioned earlier, your partner is going to experience as wide range of emotions. You can expect to ride an emotional roller coaster for a while. Here we are talking about sadness, tears, anger, rage, jealousy and resentment. You mate may also distance her/himself from you. Again – this is normal.
FYI: The worst thing you can do is minimize what your partner is feeling or make remarks that are designed to control feelings. Your significant other is going to need to process and discharge these emotions. This won’t be pretty and it won’t be comfortable.
5. Make time to talk and listen
As mentioned several times in this article on moving past an affair, the healing process (forgiveness) doesn’t happen quickly. You can, however, help to empower movement toward the positive by taking the time to listen to whatever concerns your mate might have and answering questions truthfully.
FYI: There are going to be times when your significant other seems to be asking the same question over and over. This is normal. The reason being is because your mate is trying to process all that has happened. Denial is a psychological defense mechanism that takes time to overcome.
6. Get into individual therapy
During the entire process of healing, you are going to be feeling a number of emotions as well. Here, we are talking about sadness, grief, guilt and shame. Talking to a therapist who has experience on issues related to infidelity can help you process these emotions so you don’t dump them on your mate.
FYI: If you decide to enter into individual therapy, you need to do this for you and not for your wife or significant other. The goal of counseling isn’t to “fix” you and magically make you monogamous. Rather, psychotherapy should serve as a conduit to deeper self-understanding and change. This is particularly true if you have a pattern of cheating over the course of your relationships.
7. Consider couples therapy
There is a very good chance that if your spouse or significant other decides to stay with you after your affair comes out into the open, she/he is going to want to go to couples therapy. We can tell you from experience that this can be a very good way to encourage the healing process.
FYI: Couples counseling isn’t designed to act as a sledgehammer to make you feel bad about yourself. It also isn’t a place you are going to be “ganged up” on. The goal is to have a safe place for both of you to process what you are feeling and integrate what has happened into your new reality.
Summing Things Up
You got caught having an affair. There is no doubt that you are feeling a magnitude of emotions that are difficult to experience. It is very possible that right now, you are in crisis. What is important that you know is the crisis is the point in time when change is most likely.
From the counseling perspective, someone needs to tell you that you are not a monster. All of us are human and make mistakes. This is particularly true in the context of relationships when you consider the number of people who cheat.
We also encourage you to think about the way you love and your love style. The way we attach to another in relationships doesn’t just occur through happenstance. There are a number of internal and external variables that influence the dynamic. This is why we encourage one-on-one counseling, particularly after an affair, as a way of gaining insight.