Recovering From an Affair

The betrayal of an affair is one of the most painful and long-lasting hurts that can happen between married couples. And it’s no surprise that many who undergo this traumatic experience wish just to cut off the relationship. It may be because trust has been broken, and the betrayed party may feel that it’s impossible to regain that trust. 

We’ve seen many marriages disintegrating from the impact when infidelity is discovered. Questions grip our heart and it feels like they’re squeezing the life out of us: doesn’t he love me anymore? How can she do this? I won’t ever be able to trust my spouse again, can I? Has he told me everything, or is he still lying? Will I ever feel normal with her again?

Many years ago, one of our close friends were on the verge of a divorce: the wife had drifted so far away from her husband and turned to a school classmate. The atmosphere in the home was far from ideal, and here was someone she could relax and be herself with, and be loved for that. She and the man were already planning to run away together.

As a last recourse, she agreed to go through a marriage class with her husband. Through several heart-wrenching sessions, the marriage was saved—but it did not happen overnight. They had to work through their issues, and now they are stronger than ever and helping other couples build strong connections.

The good news is, many couples are able to bounce back, and report having a stronger intimacy. But just like our friends’ experience, it’s not an easy path. It requires hard work for both parties.

If your marriage bears the scars of an affair—or perhaps the wound is still fresh—we want to tell you, don’t give up! There’s hope!

While the issues in the marriage did not cause the affair, we need to admit that there have been problems in it that need to be addressed. Our goal is to identify problem areas and learn skills to build stronger connection.
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Steps to Recover from an Affair

Here are some action steps  that can help you recover from the blow of infidelity:

1. Don’t make quick decisions to end the marriage.

If you just found out about your partner’s infidelity, don’t make a hasty decision to file a divorce. Instead, spend the first days identifying how it makes you feel, and grieving what you lost. Don’t hurry the process, but recognize that you have been betrayed and it’s perfectly normal to feel pain and grief. 

2. Be conscious about taking care of yourself.

The discovery of an extramarital affair is an emotional roller-coaster, both for the offended and the offender. Take time to practice self-care by watching your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. If needed, find support from experienced professionals, such as a counselor, mentor, or pastor.

3. Consider couples therapy (rather than just individual sessions)

One of the biggest effects that an affair has on a marriage is the disintegration of trust. If we want to rebulid trust, couples therapy is a good option. 

Why? The person who had the affair most often had to lie to cover up his or her feelings and actions. During couples therapy, the betrayed spouse gets the chance to be the confidante once again, even with little baby steps that the partner takes in opening up his or her thoughts and emotions—including the struggle of giving up the affair. 

Of course, couples therapy will help only as long as the offending spouse has committed to end the affair. Throughout the sessions, he or she can verbalize the commitment, helping the other side heal, knowing that the spouse is choosing him or her and their marriage. 

4. Give time for the “truth” to come out. 

Once an affair comes out, we sometimes expect to hear the whole truth. The difficult thing is that the offending party rarely can tell everything in one fell swoop. More likely than not, there will still be mixed feelings, which include wanting to protect the spouse, the lover, or both. 

One reason why it’s difficult to disclose everything is that, when the offending partner decides to work on the marriage, he or she may be afraid of hurting the spouse more with the details. On the other hand, the betrayed partner may misinterpret it as more deceit. This puts them in a no-win situation. 

But when both parties understand that it may take time to share everything, it removes a lot of the pressure on both of them. A good therapist will help to guide them through the tangle of confusing emotions on the road to forgiveness and “atonement.”

5. Know that the affair did not happen because of issues in the relationship, but we still need to deal with these issues.

Blaming each other or blaming yourselves is a common and sad effect of affairs. Let’s be clear from the get-go: it’s the offending spouse’s responsibility for getting his or her needs met outside of marriage. But it also happened in the context of what was going on in the marriage.

While the issues in the marriage did not cause the affair, we need to admit that there have been problems in it that need to be addressed. Our goal is to identify problem areas and learn skills to build stronger connection.

Recovering From an Affair 

Again, we want to reiterate that healing takes time, but with the right tools and attitudes in place, we can build a stronger marriage. If you need support from couples counseling, feel free to reach out to us. 

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