How to Recover from Infidelity
As a couples therapist, I probably heard one statement more than any other: “I just don’t think I will ever get over this.” My clients often say this statement, who have recently learned their spouse has had an affair. The second most common phrase is, “I just don’t think I can ever trust them again.”
The initial shock of infidelity cuts deep. Knowing your partner has broken your trust in such a profound way can completely turn your world upside down.
Whether or not a couple can recover from infidelity depends on the two individuals and the bond they have already built. It also depends on the exact circumstances of the affair. Was it a drunken one-night stand on a business trip or an affair that lasted for years? Were love and intimacy involved, or was it merely a physical occurrence?
I can tell you that for couples who want to try and stay together, it will take work on both their parts. But healing can happen.
The Recovery Process
Recovery must begin with an absolute ending to the affair. If the affair continues behind the scenes, in my experience, the relationship is unlikely to succeed. All ties must be cut before the work can begin.
The second step to recovery is for the deceiver to move past defensiveness and guilt, so they talk openly and transparently about what happened. This is when the “guilty” party must be humble, acknowledge their wrongdoings, and answer their partner’s questions.
Next, there must be a shared understanding of what led to the affair in the first place. Were there issues in the marriage that led to the affair? If so, these will need to be tackled.
For the deceived spouse or partner to be able to begin healing, they will need to feel genuine compassion from their partner for having caused them pain. There is typically a knee-jerk reaction to not wanting to accept the cheater’s apologies or empathy. This can be seen as a way to “get back.” But understand that doing so only holds you back from healing.
The person that was deceived will also need to explore all of their feelings surrounding the betrayal. Usually, shock, rage, fear, sadness, and distrust are the primary emotions a person will need to work through.
At a certain point, you both will need to decide whether you will stay together. You will need to work on rebuilding that trust if you choose to.
As you can see, the recovery process is complex and will require you to work with a marriage counselor to help you navigate the intense emotions involved. But, through commitment and work, many couples can stay together and have a stronger bond.
If you would like to seek counseling for infidelity, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.