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Healing after Infidelity

April 04, 2020

Healing after Infidelity

For many individuals, the opportunity to enter into a relationship outside of marriage or a committed relationship has presented itself. It might be with a co-worker, new acquaintance, high-school fling, or an online contact. When a couple has committed to an exclusive and permanent relationship, engaging in unsuitable interactions can break trust and tarnish the marriage or long-term relationship. For those who believe in the permanence of marriage or commitment, finding a way to heal after these events is vital.

Defining Infidelity

The basic translation of infidelity is “unfaithful.” Being unfaithful might include a variety of actions, including emotional, physical, and mental choices. While physical infidelity can be the most obvious, including hand-holding, caressing, kissing, and sexual acts, it is not the only way to cheat. Engaging in an emotional affair can also cause damage to a marriage.

Upon being discovered, the person who is in an emotional affair may claim that it is just a “friendship.” However, it is different than making a new friend; an emotional affair includes deep conversations about matters that should be and previously were reserved for the spouse. Often, the person experiences a need to hide this relationship, but works to make sure that specific time and effort are put into it.

Healing after an affair is possible, and the following tips can help it along.  

For the Spouse who Cheated

  1. End the Affair – One of the quickest things that can be done to encourage healing and re-build trust in your long-term relationship is to stop talking to and seeing your previous lover. Promise to your spouse that you will not interact with this person anymore. If you work with the person, keep interactions professional and tell your spouse. You might want to look into getting a new job. Alternatively, consider blocking their contact info in your phone or computer.
  2. Be Honest – Speaking with your significant other is going to be difficult. If you want to build up trust, the best thing to do is to answer any question that they ask. If they find out details about the affair later, they might feel newly betrayed which can delay healing and reconciliation.
  3. Empathy and Patience – Betrayal is a difficult barrier to get over, especially if you are angry that your partner can’t “get over it.” Your choices had a strong effect on your significant other, causing pain and breaking trust; the sooner you offer them understanding, the better chance that healing can occur. Also, try not to expect a quick reconciliation as there will probably be a lot of tears, questions, anger, and conversations before you are completely forgiven.
  4. Own Up – Take responsibility for your choices and your part in the affair. Blaming your partner for anything that you believe led you to cheat on him/her will not bring healing. Apologize for what you did, and the pain you caused. Admit to what you have done wrong in the relationship, and commit to working on those issues.

For the Spouse who was Betrayed

  1. Ask Questions – While it may seem counter-intuitive, having more information can help bring about healing. The more you talk with your significant other, the more you can learn about what choices she made, and what choices she wants to continue to make. Your partner can use this time to re-build a sense of trust, as she chooses to embrace honesty as an important part in your relationship again. Questions may range from facts about the affair, to asking about the weak points in your own relationship that might need to be strengthened. You should also consider asking about what your partner wants for the future, including if she want to continue seeing the lover, repair your relationship, seek counseling, or something else.
  2. Control Your Emotions – This is an emotional situation, but adding intense reactions to your conversations with your partner will not be helpful. If you want to gain a sense of understanding and healing, practice taking deep breaths throughout the conversation. If your significant other sees that you are upset, it might prevent him from sharing all of the information that needs to be said.
  3. Focus on the Affair – Take time to focus on the affair and take a time-out if needed. Use this time to talk about your feelings with your partner: your worries, upset, shame, and feelings of betrayal.  As you move forward in repairing your relationship, it can be helpful to limit how long you talk about the affair. Try limiting conversations to 30 minutes, or so. Ask questions as they come up so that you do not develop a long set concerns or feel too upset. Your spouse might struggle with a sense of self during this time, so limiting conversation time can be productive for both of you.
  4. Focus on Your Relationship – It will be important to re-build a sense of intimacy with your partner, especially as he is distancing himself from his lover. Spend time together to help build connection and enjoyment around shared activities, fun events, and meaningful friends and family. Re-discover what your values and goals are and discuss these. Talk about the things that you want to work on together, to make your relationship strong.
  5. Find Support – Joining a support group or speaking with a counselor can help you process this situation. You might consider seeking individual support, or support that is geared for you and your significant other together. It might be helpful to include some friends or family members, especially if they knew about the affair. Healing the relationship will include having supportive family and friends who can encourage and help you practice forgiveness to your partner.
  6. Forgive – Forgiveness does not mean that you are okay with what happened. Take your time to process through your thoughts and feelings surrounding the affair. When you are ready, forgiving your significant other will help you to get rid of negative feelings and will help you to move forward. 

 

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