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How to Heal from Infidelity

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.

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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.

How to Heal from Infidelity

Ondina Hatvany, MFT

Ondina Nandine Hatvany, MFT is a licensed therapist with practices in San Francisco and Mill Valley. She is the Director of the Eating Disorders Program at the Community Institute of Psychotherapy in San Rafael. She works with food and weight issues by helping her clients develop a non-diet lifestyle and come home to their bodies. This means redefining the body from being the battleground or "shame container" to becoming the place of grounding and connection with both the self and other. She works with clients to talk about their problems instead of trying to stuff or starve the problems out of existence. Ondina believes this is the first step toward empowerment and living a fully embodied life. She may be reached at (415) 381-1065, [email protected] or

APA Reference
Hatvany, O. (2018). How to Heal from Infidelity. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 6, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.