When you hear about an affair, generally you hear about it in the context of the affair resulting in the end of a marriage. What is rarely talked about openly are the many affairs that occur that do not end the marriage. When a couple decides to work through the affair and move forward together, they generally choose to keep it very private with only a few close friends being privy to the secret. My clients are often surprised to hear how many couples actually experience infidelity and continue to have a happy, satisfying marriage!
So, how do they do it? How does a couple actually heal from such a damaging event? Well, healing is not easy! I never give my clients false hope that this will be a smooth, easy process without a long road of hills and valleys. In fact, in order to heal, both members of the couple have to be willing to go through the process in order to heal effectively! With guidance and patience, however, a couple can actually end up with a stronger marriage than ever as they open up dialogue, sharing of feelings, and renewed commitment.
Some of the keys to success that I direct my clients to focus on are:
- The betrayed spouse should not be leading the healing! Oftentimes the unfaithful partner heals a lot more quickly than the betrayed spouse – leaving the betrayed spouse feeling alone in their healing. The unfaithful partner has been thinking about their wrongdoing for much longer and are relieved when the secret is out and they realize their spouse is staying with them. They are ready to put it behind them at the same time the betrayed spouse is just starting to make sense of it all! I ask in order to help the betrayed spouse heal, the unfaithful spouse needs to be consistently open to talking about it, read about infidelity recovery and offer solutions without being asked, proactively check in with their spouse and be supportive on a daily basis. The unfaithful spouse should take responsibility for being a partner in their spouse’s healing.
- Expect fear and doubt. When healing from infidelity, the betrayed spouse is often grieving their marriage as they knew it. A couple can go through weeks of good times only to find themselves in a significant setback with the betrayed spouse questioning if it is worth it to go forward. I work with my clients to look at what they still need from each other and normalize the ups and downs.
- Lastly, create a shared story of the affair. If the couple can together understand what led to the affair, how the affair played out, as well as what they each need to do to make their marriage stronger, this will help a couple move forward.
If you are struggling with the aftermath of an affair in your marriage, these are great tips – however, do not feel you have to figure this out alone. Having a therapist guide you will make the path much more clear and much less rocky.