Can We Truly Heal After An Affair?
“What am I supposed to do? I have a constant pain in my gut. I can’t even look at my husband without getting nauseous or crying. Do I continue to cook his meals? Sleep with him? He wants to play golf this weekend. I’m thinking I want to separate. I don’t want a divorce, but I am ambivalent about staying and opening my heart to him again. Is there hope?”
YES, there is hope!
Most couples I’ve worked with who have successfully survived and thrived after an affair began the healing process with an overshadowing sense of ambivalence. Surviving infidelity is a profound opportunity to transform the damaged dynamics that led to the affair and to build a stronger, more secure and lovingly conscious relationship together.
Can Your Relationship be Salvaged?
Let’s make sure we’re on the same page:
- You have a lot invested in your primary relationship; just chucking it is not your first choice.
- Rather than making a hasty, reactive decision based on feelings of hurt, revenge, shock or abandonment, you are each willing to let the dust settle before making major life decisions.
- You both want to commit to work through the relationship and individual issues that caused the infidelity, and not call it quits with each other.
THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE:
In order to salvage a relationship after an affair, the cheating partner has to give up the lover or whatever the act has been, whether it be the Internet, the physical affair, or an emotional affair.
What You Must do as a Couple to Salvage Your Relationship
For the two of you to work on and salvage this relationship, there have to be two people willing to do that. “Mutual Commitment” to the process of healing is the foundational bedrock of successful “Relationship Rehab” and healing. It is a promise to continue investing in the relationship despite the hurt, the pain, the disappointment and yes, even the betrayal. It’s about remembering the GOOD of the past, the GOOD in each other, and holding onto the big picture and relationship vision of what you want to create together from this moment forward.
For the Unfaithful Partner
Be prepared – this will be a long road.
It is important for you to understand the pain you’ve caused and the damage your affair has created. Be empathetic. Your partner is probably going through post-traumatic stress; feeling shocked, confused, angry, hurt and highly sensitive. You have to be patient as your partner moves through their grief. Be ready to continually apologize, ask for forgiveness and say, “I’m sorry I hurt you” – once is not enough.
In order to heal your relationship with your partner, you will have to stand strong in your conviction that you want to make your relationship work, no matter what.
Are you really ready?
- Have you ended your affair?
- Have you figured out WHY you had the affair(s)?
- Do you truly take responsibility and deeply regret your deception and betrayal and sincerely want to make amends?
- Has your apology been given, believed and accepted?
- Are you willing to do whatever it takes to earn your partner’s trust back and rebuild your relationship?
- Are you ready to be faithful?
The more you hold onto the vision and commitment and show up with genuine LOVE each day, the quicker the relationship will calm down and feel safer. Keep saying over and over, “we will get through this” to yourself and your partner.
For the Betrayed Partner
This is an opportunity to rediscover your needs, desires and VOICE.
In order to begin the process of healing and rebuilding your relationship with your unfaithful partner, you have to re-channel your energy and focus from what has happened to you, how bad you feel, and how betrayed you are, to spending time honestly looking at:
- “What is it that I want?”
- “Who am I now that this has happened?”
- “What are my needs in this relationship?&
- “What kind of relationship do I want to have?”
There is no status quo anymore about what kind of relationship you want. Challenge the old rules, roles, and reasons for being together. This is a new beginning. What are you willing to give to create the relationship you want? You have to be willing to MOVE ON from the pain, heal the wounds of betrayal and start the process of forgiveness.
Are You Really Ready to Heal and Rebuild?
Underneath all this chaos…
- Do you still love your partner?
- Do you want to forgive you partner and build a better relationship?
- Have you explored your options (i.e. staying or choosing to leave), and how each would affect your life?
- Have you decided to stay for the right reasons?
- Have you told your truth, shared your feelings, cleared the air yet?
For Both Partners
There are reasons the affair happened, and NOW is the time to find out what they are. What pre-existing problems, behaviors and attitudes led to the affair happening? Without identifying why the affair happened, you’re greatly increasing the risk that there will be a repeat performance in the future. To objectively identify what went wrong, you have to both stop blaming the betrayer’s action as the cause of your unhappiness and each recognize the parts you played in the affair happening in the first place.
TOGETHER, as a team, you can FACE the weaknesses and change the temperature, intimacy, and emotional climate between you. Begin to take concrete steps to strengthen that relationship and see what develops. Put your cards on the table. Get the real issues and associated feelings out in the open where they can be addressed, analyzed, discussed, and worked through.
This article was adapted by Divorce Magazine with permission from the book Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love, and Affair-Proof Your Relationship, ® 2012 Sheri Meyers, Psy. D. Dr. Sheri Meyers is America’s leading love and intimacy expert.