Recovering from Infidelity
Most people think that talking about the affair with the spouse will only create more upset, but actually the opposite is true. Discussing the affair is the way to rebuild trust and intimacy.
It is important to deliberately focus on dealing with the affair and the fallout, not avoid it.
Don’t skip over this important repair stage: Time and patience are needed to rebuild the shattering of what was once the consensual reality. Discussing the evolution of the affair and being present for the aftermath allows for integration and understanding.
From understanding flows forgiveness, and this is what is needed for partners to become close again.
There is a big difference in healing time between “disclosed infidelity” versus “discovered infidelity.” It is much better for the betrayed partner to be told about the affair instead of discovering it accidentally.
In either case, it is fairly typical for the betrayed partner to have a post-traumatic type of response to the affair’s discovery. There can be a nearly obsessive need to hear every detail of what happened and how the affair evolved. It is important for the partner who had the affair to answer all these questions, sometimes again and again. It improves the chance of a solid repair.
All that being said, the single best indicator of whether a relationship can survive infidelity is how much empathy the unfaithful partner shows for the pain they have caused, when the betrayed spouse is working through their hurt and anger.
Remorse needs to be conveyed in both verbal and nonverbal ways. Just saying “sorry” won’t do. “Sorry” needs to be conveyed through the eyes, body language and actions wholeheartedly, again and again, until trust has been restored.
Other critical ingredients for healing are as follows:
- The betrayer needs to cut off contact with the third party, at least during the initial repair phase. This helps create a safe container for healing and trust to be restored.
- Make a commitment to honesty and ongoing open communication, even when honesty is uncomfortable and inconvenient. For instance, voluntary sharing about even a chance encounter with the third party will help rebuild trust. Honesty, in this case, means more than just “not lying”— it also means not withholding relevant information.
- Allow time to heal and believe it is possible for your relationship to recover. Believe it or not, 70 percent of all couples choose to stay and try and repair their relationship, even after infidelity.
Healing from an affair can fortify a couple’s bond exponentially if partners are willing and able to show up for the repair work. Couples do heal and move past infidelity and become stronger as a result. Repairing breaches in trust requires care and attention from both members of a couple.
The garden of your relationship can only be improved by maintaining and caring for it together.
Hatvany, O. (2012). How to Heal from Infidelity. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-heal-from-infidelity/00014104
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.