Learning that your partner has been dishonest or has had an affair can be one of the most devastating events to happen in your relationship. Most couples really struggle to repair their relationship after an affair. We do not recommend you try to heal from a betrayal alone. Getting help from a couples therapist experienced in affair counseling can make a huge difference.
An affair has shattered my life
The discovery of an affair is often a huge crisis and a storm of emotions for both partners. You may both experience simultaneous feelings of pain, guilt, fear of loss or abandonment, hopelessness, anger, embarrassment and betrayal.
However, infidelity research suggests that if a couple decides to try to repair, and they get the right kind of help from therapists experienced in healing affairs, they can make it.
Should you decide you want to try to repair, or explore that possibility, our goal as couples therapy specialists is to try to help you build an even stronger relationship.
Can our relationship survive this affair?
Most people need a tremendous amount of support after an affair has been discovered or revealed. It can be so helpful to have a safe, non-judgmental space to talk about the impact of what has happened, and begin to sort through your feelings.
You may also need to make a plan to try to heal together or get support and clarity if you are not sure. Our job is not to tell you whether you can or should rebuild your relationship.
However, when couples tell us they want to try to repair and rebuild, we hold onto that hope for you, and we work really, really hard to help you recover successfully.
What does it take to repair after an affair?
First, there are several misconceptions about the healing process after an affair. These myths are very common, but they are very problematic if your goal is to heal together.
Healing from an Affair Myths:
- Expecting it to get better very quickly
- Expecting one or a couple of apology conversations to be enough to “move on”
- The person who had the affair fearing that they will never be accepted or forgiven (and then giving up very prematurely)
- Avoiding the topic because it feels negative – “Why can’t we just move forward???”
These expectations can hinder the healing process for both partners.
People hurt by an affair will often explain that their pain or their fears are with them AT ALL TIMES. Strong partners avoid brushing aside these emotions, and instead learn to sit with them and talk about them.
The hurt person probably would like to find a way to just not hurt anymore, but there is no silver bullet for this.
Recovering and healing from an affair is not unlike grieving a death. We understand that someone who has just lost a loved one does not simple cry, say goodbye, and move along. Instead, we know that there are stages of grieving that are natural.
Using the image of waves on the sea shore, it is normal to have lots of waves of emotion come to you (sometimes small, sometimes large), often unpredictably. The key is for partners to learn to grow closer and comfort one another in those moments. The best scenario when you’re hurting from an affair is to have your partner understand and draw closer. You need someone to hold onto until the wave passes.
We are here to support you in doing this together.
What is “normal” when you are healing from an affair?
In the days, weeks and months after the discovery of an affair, emotions ebb and flow. Often, this feels like you are being yanked in opposite directions – between love and fear, longing and anger. This is normal!
You can anticipate needing to talk and process the event and the hurt repeatedly. Though this might seem disheartening, it is helpful to frame this as an opportunity to lean on each other for support in a way that you may not have before.
When feelings bubble to the surface and are expressed by one partner, it almost serves as a test for the safety of the relationship now:
- “Are you here for me now?”
- “Can I really turn to you when I’m feeling this world of hurt now?”
Maybe the answer to these questions pre-affair was “no.” This is now a valuable opportunity to strengthen your relationship and rebuild trust.
Affairs can be a form of trauma
Partners may experience the affair as a traumatic event, which may manifest throughout the healing process in various ways. This can include upsetting memories, flashbacks of the discovery of the affair, or hyper-arousal (difficulty concentrating, sleeplessness, irritation, or trouble sleeping).
Often, some kind of avoidance or numbing of emotions in the aftermath of an affair. However, avoidance of the affair and distancing from each other is rarely helpful in the healing process.
If it reaches the level of betrayal trauma, your relationship will likely require deep repair and strong support. You can reclaim the safety in your relationship, but this is the time to get the right kind of help, and lots of it.
It matters how the affair was discovered
It is also important to understand that the manner in which the infidelity was discovered may be a significant factor in your partner’s recovery.
If the affair was discovered as a result of your partner sensing that something was “off,” and then subsequently looking for information, it is natural for them to feel as though they can no longer trust you.
Alternatively, there may be feelings of embarrassment because they missed signs, or have decided to stay and work on the relationship. There can also be fears that they can no longer trust their instincts if they saw no signs, or downplayed them.
- Can you be empathetic to these reactions?
- Could you learn to approach their feelings with concern, and remain honest and open?
- Can you be patient when it takes time for them to begin to trust you again?
How to support your partner through the healing process
“Wounds don’t heal the way you want them to, they heal the way they need to. It takes time for wounds to fade into scars. It takes time for the process of healing to take place. Give yourself that time. Give yourself that grace. Be gentle with your wounds. Be gentle with your heart. You deserve to heal.” ~Dele Olanubi
First, check out our article on the Do’s and Don’ts to Survive an Affair.
The most significant action you can take in helping your partner recover from the affair is to be an unwavering and strong support to them, now.
Your words and actions will show them that you intend to be there for them every single time they are processing emotions – anger, sadness, hurt or fear. These are natural responses and feelings – can you be a source of consistent validation and understanding for them?
It is crucial to remember that healing is a process – it will take time. Your partner needs your consistency and patience in order to work through the hurt they are feeling.
It may also be difficult for your partner to reach out to you when they are feeling fearful or hurt. This makes sense because you hurt them. Can you be patient and empathetic when it’s hard for them to reach to you?
It is your response to all of these emotions that will either help support them through these feelings or completely shut down the communication and cause additional harm.
- Can you be loving, understanding and open?
- Can you dig deep and adopt a “whatever it takes” attitude?
If so, you probably stand a very good chance of healing your relationship.
What should we do if infidelity has occurred?
First, get some support from relationship therapists trained in affair counseling. Both individual therapy and couples therapy can be helpful, especially when the crisis of the affair discovery has just occurred. This is not a time to have wishful thinking about things getting better on their own or down-playing the impact.
Next, once you are through the crisis, and you you want to repair, it is important to understand what happened in your relationship.
Some infidelity indicates one partner has been unhappy and unsuccessful in reaching out or getting the response they want.
In other instances, the person who had the affair is someone who holds in their feelings for a variety of reasons. We need to get to the bottom of the lack of communication so that you are never in this place again.
Other affairs reveal compulsive behaviors that can harm any strong relationship, including out of control sexual behaviors or pornography addictions. These relationships may need specialized help to recover.
Lastly, if underlying problems are discovered, you must work together to solve those issues and build a stronger relationship. Understanding the root can help to ensure that you are never in this situation again.
Often, couples end up feeling that the complete rebuild of the relationship (as well as the intimacy that grows from deeply healing together) leads them to a renewed strength and closeness that they could not have imagined prior to the affair.
Our goal is to help you build a new, stronger relationship with your partner that is affair-proof.
You can recover from an affair.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy like we provide here at Thrive, is a comprehensive road map to help partners understand, communicate about, and heal from the pain of infidelity.
We encourage you to use this painful time as momentum and motivation to get the help you need and deserve. Don’t stay in a place where your relationship hurts so badly.
Please call us at 303-513-8975 or schedule an appointment to begin your recovery process today. Schedule Appointment