Affair Repair: Where to Start
One of the most devastating moments in any relationship is when there has been an affair. I don’t think I can overstate enough how profoundly traumatic it is to have that kind of betrayal in a close, intimate relationship.
There are feelings of hopelessness and despair.
I don’t know what to do. I’m damned if I stay, I’m damned if I go.
How can I possibly fix this? I can’t possibly save my marriage after this massive breach of trust.
There’s emotional exhaustion.
Every day is an emotional storm. Sometimes I feel like we’ve never been closer, and other times I feel like I’m sleeping with the enemy.
Will I ever be able to stop visualizing my partner with someone else? Can I ever feel special again? How will I ever forgive them?
You’re going to have all kinds of feelings and emotions. It is a roller coaster every day. For a long time.
So the first step in recovering from an affair is giving you permission to be where you are at this moment.
It is okay that you’re not sure if you want to work on the marriage. It is okay that you’re not sure if you’ll ever trust again. Let it be okay that you don’t know what you are thinking and feeling.
Early Decisions are Not Set in Stone
Feeling these strong emotions after an affair is normal. You’re just not going to act on them.
You need time to grieve for the loss of the marriage you thought you had, assess the damage, figure out how you feel about it. Then you need some time to heal and pull yourself together.
Only after all that can you decide if your marriage is something worth fixing. You don’t want to make permanent, life-altering decisions in an emotional state. You’re going to get in trouble almost every time when you do that.
So declare a moratorium on decision-making for at least six to twelve weeks after you discover the affair. This provides a period of safety where you can fully explore your thoughts and feelings.
How long you wait depends on your situation and how you respond.
I recently had a client whose wife was having multiple affairs for 15 years and practically prostituting herself out. Recovering from that probably will take more time.
But I had another client who went on a business trip and slept with someone while he was out of town. One time.
While both are traumatic, the recovery period could be completely different.
The key is waiting until you have your emotional state under control every day. However long that takes.
Ambivalence is Normal and Healthy
Another mistake I often see is clients who move through ambivalence too fast and give up.
Ambivalence is a part of the process when you’re depressed, and I can’t imagine a situation where there’s been an affair and you’re not depressed. Infidelity is tough stuff.
Let yourself be ambivalent and tune out while you process the emotions.
We call this “responsible distance taking.” Tell your partner you need some time away. You need some time to think about it and be ambivalent.
Just don’t ignore your partner and withdraw completely from the relationship. Your partner’s bad behavior is not a green light for yours. You can’t make them pay by staying in the marriage but not talking with them for six months, even if they hurt you.
That’s emotional abuse. That’s retribution. You don’t get that right.
Staying is Just Time to Heal
Tell yourself that staying doesn’t mean you condone your partner’s behavior. It doesn’t mean you are trapped forever in a bad relationship.
Staying just means you’re committed to the process of grieving and healing. You are committed to forging a new partnership.
Divorce Your Marriage—Not Your Spouse
We often tell people not to divorce your spouse, divorce your marriage and build a new one.
Is this relationship worth salvaging? And if not, is it worth trying to create one that is worth keeping?
Most affairs don’t end in divorce. Most affairs actually make it through and survive. The difference between a marriage that survives and one that doesn’t is the desire to save the relationship.
That’s the difference.
Is that something you’re interested in?
It may be hard to believe, but we find that if a couple is ready to partner together and change the dynamic of their marriage, they actually can have a better marriage after infidelity. An affair can be an opening for dealing with problems that have been festering in the marriage for a long time.
Get Ready for a Long Journey
Research shows that it takes between two and three years to recover from an affair.
This is not two or three sessions. This is two or three years.
That doesn’t mean you will be miserable all the time. But it does mean you will need to learn how to navigate the ebbs and flows that come as you grieve and rebuild. You will need to hold yourself responsible and accountable. You will need to learn how to forgive, how to partner again. You will need patience.
A partner having an affair is like a fox that got into the hen house. You have to clean up the mess, and then you have to find out where the fence needs fortifying.
Not every marriage with an affair is a bad marriage. An affair just means there is a gap somewhere.
Somebody let down their guard.
Repairing after an affair isn’t easy. But it is possible. And we can help.
We’re going to help you recover emotionally. Then we’re going to find out what happened, the dynamic that made the marriage vulnerable. And we’re going to help you fix it.
So if you find that you’re stuck in the grieving process, or the forgiving process or you just can’t close the gap, call or go online to schedule an appointment with us.
Most people need help to get through something like an affair…we, at The Marriage Place, are trained and equipped to help you recover and rebuild!
Affairs are tough stuff.