Healing From An Affair
Did you just find out from your husband, boyfriend, wife or significant other about an affair? If so, chances are you are very upset right now. Discovering the person you love deeply has been cheating on you is one of the most devastating things a person can find out.
What can make matters worse is finding out about the affair on accident – such as walking into an intimate situation or reading a text message that wasn’t intended for you. We won’t try to sugarcoat it or use a bunch of flowery language in a ridiculous attempt to medicate the pain. Finding out about an affair sucks and it sucks hard, particularly if it happened with someone you know.
We know from experience that a bunch of different things are going on right now for you. First, there are all of the feelings you are trying to process, including the sting of betrayal and a deep well of anger. Plus, you are likely feeling intense sadness and confusion. Someone needs to let you know right now that what you are feeling is normal and so that is why we are mentioning it.
And while you may not be interested in this point right now, you should also try to develop awareness around what your mate is experiencing in this moment. You see, partners who cheat have their own pain to deal with. This point will become more important later but we just wanted to state this here so that you are not feeling like the only one who is hurting.
Overcoming the Affair
Upon learning of the affair, you were likely thrown into an emotional crisis. Most people are in our collective experience. The last thing you are probably thinking about in this moment is reconciliation. That’s understandable. Healing from an emotional trauma, such as the discovery or disclosure of an affair takes time. And while we wish we could “magic wand” away the hurt, we can say this – it will get better. How long it takes largely depends on you as a person, the dynamics of your relationship and your history.
At some point in time, you may be in a place where you are open to trying to salvage your marriage or relationship. If so, this article is for you. While there is no “cookie cutter” approach to fixing infidelity, there are 7 specific things that must take place in order for there to be any chance of successful repair. The brunt of the work will rest with your significant other however; it will require both of you to become actively involved in the healing process
With all of that now shared, what follows are 7 specific ways that people who have been cheated on work through an affair. These tips are specifically aimed at you – the person who has been betrayed. We have a companion set of suggestions for your other half (the cheater).
1. Allow time to process the affair
You just found out that the person you share a bed with has been having an affair. Processing and eventually accepting what has happened doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself time to let your emotions catch up with your thoughts. It is an incremental process.
Tip: If possible, avoid playing a mental tape of what happened during the affair. This means not allowing intrusive thoughts to take over your mind to the extent possible. Yes – you are going to be thinking about this but do yourself a favor and try to only stick the known facts.
2. Ask questions about the affair
You will no doubt have many questions about the affair. You are entitled to know the answers. We recommend asking factual questions that relate to who, what and when. Examples include who the person is, when cheating took place and what happened.
Tip: If you have many questions, it might be a good idea to write them down. It’s OK to jot down things that may seem silly. Later on, you can always review the questions and combine what feels write. It’s OK as well to find out what your partner is feeling right now – including how he/she feels about the person they had the affair with.
3. Set boundaries around affair particulars
In our previous point, we shared that you are entitled to know answers however; there are some things you may not want to know about. Examples include specific asking about specific intimate acts that will cause you to obsess. There are some things you are just better off not replaying in your mind over and over again. Think about it – do you really want a play by play on this?
Tip: If you must know about what happened sexually, focus your questions on broad generalities instead of the minutia. Knowing the basic essentials will be more than enough to process. Down the road, after some time passes, you may want to find out more details but right now – it is just too soon.
4. Expect to get blamed for the affair
This may seem like a cruel reality but many who have been caught having an affair will blame a partner for their behavior as a rationalization. This happens when someone is not able to take responsibility for their behavior. Don’t fall for it – particularly if you have been faithful and have “clean hands” so to speak.
Tip: If your mate starts to engage in the blame game, make one simple statement that clearly communicates the reality of their actions. An example might be: Nothing justifies what you have done. You need to take total responsibility here. Avoid getting into an argument over this further by ending the conversation. Avoid yelling, screaming or anything else that pulls you into a defensive posture. Only when your mate is able to own what he/she has done will real conversation be possible.
5. Communicate how affair has impacted you
Part of the healing process involves sharing what you are feeling. It is important that you communicate to your mate exactly how the affair has affected you emotionally and even physically. If you feel betrayed, say it. If you feel angry, mention it. If you are sick to your stomach, share it. It is much better to cleanse yourself of some of these feelings through catharsis than it is to hold them in.
Tip: When you are sharing feelings, avoid engaging in name calling. This is easier said than done but it is important. The goal here is to express what you are experiencing without turning into a World War III. Again, focus on feelings and communicate them honestly.
6. Get into therapy
As you go through the emotional roller coasting of processing the affair, particularly in the immediate days after finding out, you are likely going to be overwhelmed. Things will eventually improve but there will still be many days where you will have trouble focusing. Working with a therapist who is trained in relationships and affairs can help a lot. It is important to be good to yourself at this time by having a supportive place where your voice can be heard.
Tip: Find a therapist that you feel that can not only listen to you but also offer feedback. Here, we are talking about someone who uses an interactive and conversational approach. Right now, you don’t need your head shrunk – you need someone to validate your feelings and communicate with you like a human being.
7. Consider couple or marriage therapy
Should you decide to stay with your significant other, it might be helpful for the both of you to work with a couples therapist. We suggest this point because we know from experience that having a neutral third party present who is experienced with adultery issues can help to encourage the healing process.
Tip: If you are hoping to use marriage counseling as a way to help your partner “see the error” of his or her ways, think again! Relationship counseling isn’t designed to act as a baseball bat against your cheating partner. It is, however, designed to be a safe place for the both of you to communicate feelings and figure out how to move forward in the future.
Summing Things Up
The 7 items mentioned here have proven to be helpful to many who are trying to process and work through the aftermath of an affair. In addition to these points, we would like to recommend the following resource entitled, After the Affair by Dr. Spring. The great thing about this book is that the author offers insight from the perspective of the person who has been cheated on (you) and the person who has engaged in acts of infidelity (your mate).
If you have time, we encourage you to check out some of the other relationship books in our online bookstore. Surrounding yourself with supportive literature that universalizes your painful experience can bring a great deal of comfort to you at this time.
More than anything right now, it is vital that you lean into your circle of support. Don’t isolate and don’t hold it all in. Healing from this trauma will happen but it is going to take some time.