You’ve just realized that your partner is or was having an affair and it feels like your whole world has turned upside down. A mixture of sadness, anxiety, and anger dooms your marriage and well, realistically, your whole life. The feelings after finding out are overwhelming. Many describe feeling broken inside.
It feels like your life before finding out was a lie and that is hard to swallow.
Questions pop in your head like:
Should I file for divorce? Are my children going to suffer the consequences? Co-parenting is tough… How will I go through life without him/her? Why did he/she do this to me? We had so many plans together… Will I be able to forget and recover trust after the affair? Can I forgive? And if I forgive, how will I know this won’t happen again?
And this is just the surface. The list of questions feels endless.
You may wonder if it’s worth trying to give the marriage a second chance, but feel conflicted since the bond that was supposed to be sacred, Trust, was broken.
Types of Betrayer
There are different types of betrayers:
- The explorer
The explorer is the one who likes to go out, flirt with an attractive person, invite a drink and then, sometimes, lead to a physical encounter. For the explorer, this is just a crazy night of sex and has nothing emotionally invested in it. They don’t see themselves as betrayers because they consider that love and sex are not tied together. This kind of betrayer has a different understanding of what monogamy means.
- The occasional lover
The occasional lover is one that develops an inappropriate relationship with an acquaintance or friend. In this relationship, both know about each other, and they know that sex is not exclusive because one of them –or both- has a formal relationship.
- The emotional lover
They may know each other, have their own partners and living stable relationships, but all of a sudden this friendship turns into something else… A romantic connection starts. These are two people who may fall in love and have a sexual bond, too. Secrets, feelings, and sex are distancing them from their spouses. The betrayer knows this will hurt too much and will carry bad consequences but at the same time, feels deeply connected to his/her new lover so he/she may feel conflicted.
As Marriage Counselor, I work with couples in crisis due to infidelity, regularly. Couples that come to see me want to find out if they can recover their marriage, what was broken. Over the years, I have seen many couples repair their marriage - while it is not an easy task and requires serious commitment, but it is possible.
There are 3 key steps toward the recovery process.
3 Key Steps:
- Understand the affair— This step is about answering all the questions that the betrayed spouse has, with the caveat of avoiding asking questions related to sexual encounters--the visual images can be more harmful than helpful in the healing process. This step is accomplished only if the betrayer shows remorse for his or her actions. The goal is for the betrayer to feel hope in that he or she will be able to forgive or accept the situation. Forgiveness or acceptance may not happen in this step as changes in the relationship are generally needed for the betrayed spouse to feel like the can safely do so.
- Address the individual and relationship issues that lead to the affair. Let me explain this step with a metaphor. When a person is sick, the problem is not the fever but what causes it--usually an infection or virus. Now, infidelity is the fever —the symptom, but we want to work on the reason that caused the infidelity —the sickness. That’s what the focus is in this step, so you can have a strong and healthy relationship again. Do either of the partners have individual issues of depression, anxiety, impulse control, substance abuse or trauma? At a relationship level, how is the communication, intimacy/passion, and conflict resolution?
- Connect consistently. Are there rituals and traditions keeping the relationship strong? In this step, the focus is on creating habits that nurture the relationship so that there are no more holes that lead to an affair or betrayal.
“Not all relationships are worth saving after an affair, but relationships do not need to end in divorce after one.”
If you choose to work at recovering the relationship, here are some tips on how to recover trust after an affair when you are the betrayed spouse.
How to Recover Trust After an Affair
- Analyze the situation
You have to have a good open conversation with your partner about what led to the infidelity. You will be the one deciding whether to stay or leave the relationship. Some reasons to stay will pop in your head like children, fear of loneliness, economic issues, etc. If you feel your partner deserves another opportunity, such as you deeply love him or her, and that the relationship is worth it for you, then you have the answer. The important thing is to really connect with what you want and not with what you are expected to.
- Don’t blame yourself
Don’t blame yourself for what happened. Don’t listen to those who tell you that you don’t value yourself because you are willing to give your partner a second chance. The decision is in your hands only.
- It’s not worth revenge
Deciding to pay him/her back in his/her own coin may seem tempting but it will only worsen the situation. The feeling of triumph that leaves revenge will last very little.
- Open the communication channel
Lack of open and sincere communication is one of the main reasons that research shows lead marriages to infidelity. If you want to save your relationship it is essential to open the channel of communication. Speak out and let your partner speak out, too. Talk about your feelings: fear, rejection, anxiety, etc. Do it in a calm way and allow him/her to express about him/herself as well. A friendly dialogue is very important to start working on your relationship and recovering trust.
- Ask what you need
If your intention is to get over and move on you will have to be patient with yourself. You may want to ask more questions than usual to your partner about his/her day, schedule, etc. If your partner really wants to work on your relationship he/she will allow you to ask questions and have access to things such as cell phone, emails, etc., to overcome the infidelity.
It is possible to recover from an infidelity and prevent future ones. It starts with a decision to save the relationship. Infidelity is a source of suffering for both spouses, and especially for the betrayed one that may feel unappreciated or humiliated. It is a time that healing is needed, as well as understand the root of the relationship and individual issues that lead to the affair.
- Analyze the situation
- In my experience working with couples that have gone through an affair or betrayal, many say at the end of a successful journey that their marriage feels more satisfying than ever. That is the power of change.
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To your relationship success!
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/Infidelity is a source of suffering