Infidelity is one of the most challenging issues a couple can face. The depth of pain experienced by the partner who was cheated on can be excruciating. For those who are not able to move past this transgression, it can represent the death of the relationship. The breach of trust is simply too much for some to bear which is completely understandable. However, for those who want to try to get through it and rebuild their relationship foundation – there is hope. Make no mistake – it requires hard work and a commitment to the process.
If infidelity has occurred in your marriage/relationship and you’re both at least willing to try to repair the damage, there is hope. The fact that you’re willing to dig deep in an attempt to move on is a sign of how much you value each other and the life you’ve created. Keep in mind, cheating can not only be very damaging to the partner who was cheated on but shaming for the one who did the cheating.
Here are important points to consider if you’re interested in healing from an affair:
- Cease the affair: This may seem obvious but sometimes “obvious” is better off stated. It’s very hard to heal from infidelity and rebuild a relationship when there’s a third party still involved.
- There is no such thing as too much apologizing: The partner who cheated must be willing to apologize as many times as needed – and as sincerely as possible. They need to continue to take responsibility for wounding their partner and the relationship.
- Allow the wounded partner his/her feelings: There will likely be a wide range of emotions from the hurt partner, sometimes even seeming erratic and unrelenting. Remember that they are dealing with images, thoughts, suspicious thinking, anger, hurt and other swirling thoughts and emotions. Practice compassion.
- Learn how to communicate effectively: If you weren’t communicating well prior to the affair this must be changed. Effective communication between couples helps to build and maintain a strong relationship foundation. The foundation will need some serious repair after infidelity has occurred.
- Address the underlying issues leading to the affair: Once proper attention and healing has occurred for the person who was cheated on, the issues leading to the affair must be addressed. This is not excusing the behavior but rather looking at the big picture to help provide insight into the prior disruptions of attachment and emotional safety.
- Realize it takes time: A couple dealing with infidelity needs to understand that this is a process and can take a long time to work through. There is not formula to figure out, “how long.” It will depend on a lot of factors specific to who they are, what transpired, the length of time it occurred and so on. Patience and loving consistent behavior is paramount.
- Get help if needed. The pain and emotional reactivity that comes up for both partners in the wake of an afair can be overwhelming. A local couples therapist can help you navigate through.
After following these guidelines, nagging doubt or mistrust of the unfaithful partner might still remain. The wounded partner can still feel vulnerable. The one who cheated might be frustrated that it’s taking so long for his/her spouse is still on such an emotional roller-coaster. Stay aware of maintaining behavior that is kind, loving, loyal and supportive of each other. There is great potential for weathering the storm and coming out stronger at the other side. In either situation, if you both believe the relationship is worth fighting for, this is the first and most important step you’ve already taken towards the healing process.