We never think that our relationship will experience the tragedy of an affair. No one ever expects it, but it happens to so many nonetheless. Often, both partners want to put the relationship back together again. Here’s the blueprint for recovery.
The First Thing To Do Is To Go To A Couple’s Therapist.
Yes, I am biased about this since I am a couple’s therapist. But I’ve seen so many people come to me years after an affair and the wounds are still raw. The couple once thought they had put the affair behind them, but they really had not. Either the betrayed partner never really got over it, or the person who had the affair never really let go of the passion, attraction or dreams evoked by the affair.
So, do it right. Get some help. You’re too close to the problem to see it clearly.
For The Person Who Feels Betrayed:
Your reactions may range from wanting to get the person back at your side at any cost, to kicking him or her out at the least provocation. And, you may cycle from one to the other throughout the recovery process.
You can figure on at least a year to really get over most of it. It is a grief process. You’ve had dreams crushed and trust shattered. It will take a long time. You need a resource network besides your partner. That means friends, family, minister, counselor. Grief is sadness, and often depression and anger mixed in. You need to hear repeatedly that your partner is sorry and really means it.
Your biggest problem is that your partner is going to believe that the two of you should just put it all behind you and get on with life. He or she will think that what happened really didn’t matter that much, that relationship with you is what really matters, and now it is recognized. Your partner will want to just move on. You are not going to be able to do that. That’s why you’re going to need the help of that therapist.
For The Person Who Had The Affair:
You may think you know what your partner is going through, but you don’t. You will typically get over the affair fairly quickly and expect your partner to do the same. It doesn’t work this way.
If you’re going to be successful you’re going to have to learn to say “I’m sorry” on a daily basis, ad nauseum, for at least a year. It will be very trying for you because you just won’t get it. You won’t get how wounded your partner is, and how long the recovery is going to take. You won’t want to take full responsibility for how much harm you’ve created. You’re going to feel like it is all about beating up on and blaming you.
But you’re going to have to learn to live with it all. It is called the consequences of your behavior. None of us like this very much. It is difficult. But it is the real deal. To be successful in this recovery you’re going to have to shoulder the responsibility and really become a “big” person.What a challenge you face!
Trust is merely my ability to predict your future behavior based on my observation of your past behavior. After an affair, trust has been ruined. Everything is brought into question. The partner who strayed needs to have the willingness to have all behavior now be totally transparent.
The only way to re-establish trust is to build up another large resevoir of past behavior that is trustworthy. The person who strayed always believes that trust should be re-established much more quickly than is actually possible.
Many couples successfully overcome an affair and use it as a challenge for deeper growth together. Many do not. Many couples embrace the pain and mature as human beings. Many do not.
Many couples have two partners willing to put in the grit, perseverence and love necessary to make it work. Many have only one person willing to do so.
Successful recovery from an affair can be the hardest thing you will ever do in your lifetime. Are you up to it?