I’m not making light of this or saying that it’s okay, but this type of injury to the marriage relationship is more common than you may think. About half the couples I work with have suffered the repercussions of an affair. In so many ways this is sad. Why do we hurt each other in this way? (That’s a blog for another day.) However, you may find comfort, because you are not alone.
Couples Can Recover From A Betrayal Like This
After the initial shock, the first step is decide if you want to try and work it out. Call is quits or stay in the relationship? Both need to decide. Either position is understandable and legitimate. If you are going to try and work through it, both need to commit to the process. This is a process of working through the pain to find healing.
This Is Not A Simple Process
Often couples will talk about the affair a little bit, offer apologies and forgiveness, then try to forget about it. This will not work. It may put a band-aid on, but it will not fix the problem.
Explore How Your Relationship Got Here
As a couple, you need to explore how your relationship got to this place. The affair did not make your relationship “bad.” The affair likely made it worse, but affairs don’t happen in healthy relationships. Please don’t hear me justifying the person who had the affair. Affairs are heartbreaking, but finding the bad guy or the good guy will not help you to recover and heal.
Have an honest conversation about where your relationship is at and how each of you contributed to it getting to that place. This is a time for reflection and understanding, not accusing. Sharing vulnerable emotions is tough stuff and often requires the help of a professional. If you really want to make your marriage work and you are not able to have these important conversations, isn’t your relationship worth the investment of a professional counselor?
Listen And Understand
After you get honest about where your relationship is and how it got there, it’s time for the hurt partner to share how the affair affected them. This part is tough! Often the partner who had the affair struggles to handle this. He or she already feels guilty and just wants to “get past it.” This step is very important.
The partner who had the affair must be able to hear and communicate their understanding about how their actions affected the other partner. The one who was cheated on needs to be heard. That partner needs to know that the one who had the affair is willing to empathize with the other. There needs to be a willingness to accept responsibility, genuinely apologize and promise to stay faithful.
It Takes Time To Rebuild Trust
Often after this step, the one who had the affair thinks it should be finished. It still takes time to rebuild trust and relationship. This deep and hard sharing must happen, however, there is still more work to do.
Now it’s time to work on your relationship and grow it to a healthy place. I am sure there are couples who have recovered from an affair on their own or with the help of friends or faith community, but most couples would greatly benefit from the guidance of a professional counselor. Many couples that think they have recovered may have just “stuffed” the feelings that will resurface later. If you both have decided that you want to work on the relationship, it is worth the investment to work through the issues and come to a place of healing and fulfillment.